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[There is nothing urged with greater confidence to deter young persons from a religious course, or to draw them back again to the world, than example. They are told from time to time what such and such persons do; and can this be wrong? But whoever they are who are proposed to us for examples, we have only one question to ask; Did they regulate their conduct according to the revealed will of God? and was it the one labour of their lives to walk as Christ walked? If this was not the case, it signifies not who they were, or what they did: “ their way was their folly;" and instead of taking them as examples to follow, we should rather regard them as monuments to warn us against impending ruin. If the number and respectability of the persons be urged, let us remember, that to walk according to the course of this world, is to walk according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience." « Christ died to deliver us from this present evil world :" we must therefore leave the broad road that leadeth to destruction, and walk in “ the narrow way that leadeth unto life.” True it is, that “ if we do well unto ourselves in advancing our own temporal interests), men will speak good of us": but it is of little consequence what men speak or think: nothing will be of any lasting benefit to us, but the approbation of our Godø.]
2. Cleave to Him who alone is able to redeem our souls
[If man cannot redeem his brother from temporal death, much less can he the soul from spiritual and eternal death: the price required for that is more than all the creatures in earth or heaven are able to pay. But Christ has paid the mighty ransom: with his own precious blood," he has redeemed us from sin and Satan, from death and hell. Seek him then, and you are richer than ten thousand worlds could make you. In him you have " durable riches, and righteousness.” Go to him, and he will give you gold tried in the fire, that
you may be rich.” After him your desires cannot be too ardent; your expectations from him cannot be too enlarged; your dependence on him cannot be too entire and confident. On that side you need not fear excess. And if the world deride your way as folly, regard it not: they will soon alter their sentiments: the moment they enter into the eternal world, they will know infallibly who were wise and who were fools: and when they meet you at the judgmentseat of Christ, they will say, “ We fools counted their life madness :" their reproaches then will be turned upon themselves, and their one subject of lamentation will be, that they ver. 18. s 1 Cor. iv. 3, 4.
“approved the sayings” of a blind ungodly world, instead of the infallible sayings of their God. This is the way to walk not as fools, but as wise:” and, so walking, you shall surely ere long have the plaudit of your Judge, "Well done, good and faithful servants ! enter ye into the joy of your Lord.”]
THE DEGRADED STATE OF MAN. Ps. xlix. 20. Man that is in honour, and understandeth not,
is like the beasts that perish. MAN, when first he came out of the hands of his Creator, was perfect; and fit to be God's vicegerent, if I may so speak, in this lower world. God
all the rest of the creation under him, and
him dominion over all the work of his hands. But, from the time that man fell, he became degraded in all his faculties, and in many respects like unto the beasts that perish. True, possessing reason, he still held a superiority over them in those things which belong exclusively to the province of reason : but, in every thing which depends on grace, he was reduced to a level with them. To man converted by the grace God this superiority is restored: but to man in his natural and unregenerate state, even though he be exalted to the highest pinnacle of honour amongst his fellows, this humiliating declaration is fully applicable : “Man that is in honour, and understandeth not, is like the beasts that perish.”
He is like them,
In things pertaining to the body, man is far inferior to the brute creation, being excelled by one or other of them in every faculty and power. In agility and strength he is not to be compared with myriads of beasts, both tame and savage : and in all the senses he falls exceedingly below them. His sight, his smell, his taste, his hearing, his feeling, are in no respect equal to that which exists among the different orders of beasts and birds and insects; so that, in all that is corporeal, they are superior to him. In what is intellectual, doubtless he retains his superiority;
though, after all, in ten thousand instances, instinct in them leaves him far behind, and enables them to discern and execute things without number which man with all his attainments can never reach. But it is in things relating to the soul that I am to speak of him: and in these he will be really found as stupid and brutish as the very beasts.
[The beasts do discern, for the most part, what is conducive to their welfare, and distinguish it from that which would prove injurious. But, waving this, I will admit that the beasts discern not the comparative value and excellency of the things around them. And what, I would ask, are the views which men have of sin and holiness, of heaven and earth, of time and eternity? I ask not what their speculative notions may be, but what their practical views? Who, in his unregenerate state, regards all earthly things as vain, empty, worthless? Who looks upon
sin hateful and abominable? Who affects holiness as the perfection of his nature, and as a source of the sublimest bliss? Who accounts every thing as dung and dross in comparison of the favour of God, and the enjoyment of the divine presence? Theoretically, it is true, men know better than the beasts; but practically not a whit more than they; yea, they sink below the beasts in proportion as they act directly contrary to the plainest dictates of their judgment. Unconverted men, notwithstanding they acknowledge a supreme Being, act as much without a reference to his approbation as the very beasts: and hence David describes and addresses them in these humiliating, but most appropriate, terms: “ They say, The Lord shall not see; neither shall the God of Jacob regard it. Understand, ye brutish among the people : and ye fools, when will ye be wise? He that planted the ear, shall he not hear? He that formed the eye, shall he not see a ?” Nay, more, the pious Agur, cast down on account of the remains of these infirmities within him, exclaimed, “ Surely I am more brutish than any man, and have not the understanding of a man b." I think, then, that the assertion in my text is thus far made good; and that not only are the lowest of the people in the state described by him, but the highest and most exalted upon earth. In this respect there is no difference between men; for all, without exception, are practically, and by nature, as the beasts that perish.]
But man resembles the beasts also, II. In his habits
[See what are the habits of the brute creation! All are intent on that only which will gratify their sensual appetites; a Ps. xciv. 7-9.
b Prov. xxx. 2.
and all look to present gratifications, without any regard to the future. And what is the state of man, of every man, by nature, whether he be old or young, rich or poor, learned or unlearned? Is not every one living for himself, and seeking the things of time and sense, rather than those which are apprehended only by faith, and relate altogether to eternity ? I grant that some are prosecuting chiefly intellectual pursuits: but still it is for themselves, and not for God, that they do it: and if I admit that they soar with the eagle, instead of wallowing in the mire as swine, I still recur to my text, and say, that, whilst living for themselves, and not for God, they are only as the beasts that perish. A man that is taught of God affects higher things than these. He soars far beyond the sun and all created systems, how many or remote soever they may be: he rises to God himself. Contemplating all His glorious perfections, searching into all His eternal purposes, admiring all the wonders of redeeming love, and anticipating the fruition of God himself; this is the constant habit of his mind, and the most eager pursuit of his life, from day to day. “ Eye has never seen, nor ear heard, nor heart conceived, the things which fill his soul.” None can appreciate the engagements of his soul, till they themselves are born from above, and taught by the Holy Ghost: for “ he searcheth the deep things of God," which none but those who are taught of God can know, or conceive, or estimate. But to such habits, I say again, the unenlightened man is as great a stranger as the beasts. “ He is of the earth earthy,” even as the beasts themselves are. And this I say of the wise and learned. What, then, are the generality of men ? St. Jude says of them, that, instead of seeking heavenly things, "they speak evil of the things which they know not: but what they know naturally, as brute beasts, in those things they corrupt themselves.” And he knows but little of the world, who does not know, that “this witness is true."]
The same resemblance holds good, III. In his end
[This perhaps is the point more immediately referred to in my text. “Men's inward thought,” he observes, “ is, that their houses shall continue for ever, and their dwelling-places to all generations: they call their lands after their own names. Nevertheless, man being in honour abideth not; he is like the beasts that perish
For, when he dieth, he shall carry nothing away with him: this glory shall not descend after him.” To the same effect Solomon also speaks: said in my heart, concerning the estate of the sons of men,
c 1 Cor. ii. 9, 10.
d Jude, ver. 10.
e ver. 11, 12, 17.
that they, if God manifested it to them, might see that they themselves are beasts. For that which befalleth the sons of men, befalleth beasts; even one thing befalleth them: as the one dieth, so dieth the other; yea, they all have one breath : so that a man hath no pre-eminence above a beast: for all is vanity. All go unto one place; all are of dust, and all turn to dust again."
But we must not confine our attention to the mere circumstance of the mortality of each. The Psalmist had in his mind the thoughtlessness of men respecting any thing beyond this life ; agreeably to what he says, in another psalm ; “ A brutish man knoweth not, neither doth a fool understand this ; that when the wicked do spring as the grass, and when all the workers of iniquity do flourish, it is that they shall be destroyed for ever8.” Here is their folly, their stupidity, their brutishness: an eternal world is revealed to them; and they will not consider it: heaven and hell are opened to their view; and they will do nothing to avoid the one or obtain the other. Could they indeed die like the beasts, without any future state of retribution, it were happy for them : and such is the state of mankind at large, that there are very few, comparatively, who would not welcome annihilation as a rich and acceptable boon. But to the bar of judgment every soul will be summoned ere long; and “all must receive, at the hands of their Judge, according to what they have done in the body, whether it be good or evil.” If in other things, then, they are reduced to a level with the beasts, in this they fall far below them ; inasmuch as, with an intellect capable of appreciating eternity, they act as if they had no more interest in it than the beasts themselves. ] SEE, then,
1. What a difference there is between an intelligent Christian and all others !
[I will take the one from the lowest, and the other from the highest, walks in life; and say that the intelligent Christian, however mean, resembles God; whilst the worldling, however elevated, is like the beasts that perish. In his understanding, the regenerate man sees things as they really are, and knows that the things which are visible and temporal are not worthy of a thought in comparison of those which are unseen and eternal. In his habits, too, he seeks not the things which are on earth, but those which are in heaven, where Christ sitteth at the right hand of God. And in his end, he goes to a world of blessedness and glory, where he shall abide for ever in the bosom of his God. His unenlightened
f Eccl. iii. 18—20.
8 Ps. xcii. 6, 7.