« PreviousContinue »
"reapeth". And so it has been, and must ever be; it is no more than must be looked for in "the course of nature. This therefore I can
But this is not by any means the whole, nor even the most striking feature, of the matter; "and how am I to understand another point?"Come whosoever may at any time to do the "service of the Lord's house, I find that all
come making just the same professions, and "speaking as it were a common language. All "call us by the name of brethren; all speak to "us about our souls; all come declaring a regard "and kind concern for us. If it be no more "than a stranger for a single day, he uses more
or less the like words. And none can doubt "that such kind words are pleasant in them"selves; but are they true? Is there good
ground on which I may be reasonably sure "that all and each of these new teachers should "have real care for me? What bond is there to "fasten any such regard upon them, or what security to make me satisfied that verily the case may be as they profess? Is it according "to the ways of men, that thus a number and "succession of quite different persons-one
a John iv. 37.
going and another following-should all be able to conceive and feel such love and such
good will as they avow, for persons who are "mere strangers; who were unknown to them "but yesterday, and in a few short years, or " months, or even days, may—as to intercourse"become unknown again?"
Such questionings or other corresponding ones are natural, and deeply interesting. The answer to them will conduct us to some thoughts which very much concern us all.
It is not then to be denied, that if we look at life and duty only in the light in which the multitude of careless men too commonly do look at them, it is a most unlikely thing, that any such concern as is professed for Christian flocks by those who minister unto them should in reality be felt. If we judge only by what seems to be men's natural rule and standard, we may go further, and pronounce it to be a thing quite out of the question.
For, what is it which we must see to be the way of men in such respects? In general—whom do they love? whom care they for? and what are they pursuing? It may too truly be affirmed, (and in a larger sense than was, perhaps, immediately intended by St. Paul,) that "all seek
"their own, and not the things that are Jesus "Christ's "." Men-speaking generally-care for and are busied with their own; their own concerns their own advancement-their own friends-their own connexions. Few in comparison take any notice or feel care for strangers; few shew affection or concern for others, except for such as they have tried and known, and who have gained some hold on their regard, for interest's or for acquaintance' sake. We find the infinitely greater number of mankind proceeding, in effect, upon the maxim, that "charity begins "at home." In truth, with multitudes it both begins and ends there. Not that there is not to be found some natural kindness every where: no doubt there is a great deal, scattered here and there-and God be praised for it! But still, concern and love for others not belonging to us is the exception rather than the rule. The rule, or general case, is that which has been represented; the many "seek their own ;"-follow their own ways, and indulge their own inclinations. Even if they had the disposition to do good to others, and to be interested in their welfare, some will imagine that they have no time for it; and some, that they have no ability. They find themselves b Phil. ii. 21.
obliged to shift as best they may, by their own efforts, for themselves; and therefore they leave others to maintain the like struggle, and to do the same.
And let it be allowed, that, when we speak with reference to thoughts and things of this world only, this course is not unnatural; nor is it, in a certain reasonable measure, wrong. There are some points, in which it is not found without its just excuse, or even commendation.
For instance ;-it is evidently the appointment and the will of Providence, that man, in general, should live by industry and honest labour. So far then as by such a course, combined with a becoming but not over-anxious forethought, a Christian shall be found providing for his own household, in due remembrance of his Maker's will, such care both for himself and those belonging to him is right, and a discharge of bounden duty.
Again; both reason and the Scripture alike forbid us to become "busy-bodies";" unnecessary interferers with other men's business; intruding into interests or matters of a private nature,
See more at large, Sermon VII. 2 Thess. iii. 11. 1 Tim. v. 13.
Cf. Luke xii. 14.
which concern us nothing.
So far as we refrain,
then, from this sort of needless and uncalled-for intermeddling, and give our chief attention rather to our own concerns, we need not fear that such a quietness is wise, and right also.
Again; there is a sourness and a churlishness in some men's natures, which leads them to refuse or to suspect advice or kindness, even when afforded properly, and thus cuts off the possibility of rendering them service. A seeming disregard of others therefore, when we meet with dispositions of this unmanageable kind, is unavoidable. It may be pain and grief to us to see such natures, and we may wish to serve them; but we cannot: there is no channel of approach to them; and we must take precaution for ourselves with such persons, lest, if we strive to draw too near to them, they should in any manner" turn and rend use."
These instances will be enough to show that it is not the whole of men's care for themselves, to the comparative neglect of others, that is to be condemned, in gross. There are unquestionably cases where we may not, and there are cases where we cannot, go beyond the bounds of minding quietly our own business.
• Cf. Matt. vii. 6.