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follow them carelessly, and take no pains of themselves about them.
But the subject seems as yet far from exhausted: for another, and a more common and more fatal excuse for neglecting God's call, still remains to be spoken of. Meanwhile, before I conclude for the present, one caution is most needful, not for yourselves only, but for us also. It is impossible that you or we should be obeying Christ's call, if we neglect our peculiar duties here—the following up your studies diligently on your part, the directing and assisting them actively and zealously on ours. But it is very possible that both you and we should attend zealously to these duties, and yet not be obeying Christ's call either. Irksome as the studies of the school are to many, there are some well capable of enjoying them,—there are some who can share with us in the pleasures of extended knowledge, in the delights of an active exercise of the understanding. You too, and we, are liable to feel the excitement of praise and distinction; academical honours, and a high reputation, are objects sufficiently tempting to all of us. God grant that they may not be a snare to us,—that we may not make an idol of talent or knowledge,- that we
may not desire to be clever, learned, and distinguished, rather than wise and good. I am sure that this is a danger against which we should pray earnestly, and watch carefully,—lest the fruit which we are rearing, like the fabled apples of Sodom, turn in our touch to rottenness. May God grant that we may all feel this, and, whatever progress we may make, that we may consider it as worse than useless if it beguiles us from our Christian watchfulness, our dread of sin, and counting all things but loss in comparison of the excellency of the knowledge of Christ.
MATT. X. 36.
A man's foes shall be they of his own household.
In my last sermon I spoke of two of those excuses which you sometimes make to your own consciences, for not obeying the particular call which God here addresses to you. And I then said, that there yet remained another excuse, more common than the rest, and far more mischievous, which I proposed to consider on another occasion. It is, indeed, an excuse which is one of the strongest supports of the cause of Satan, an excuse which will never be laid aside till sin and death are put down for ever: and, indeed, if it did cease to influence men's minds, earth would be at once changed into something almost heavenly; the greatest part of the wickedness which infests it would be done away with altogether. I mean that excuse by which we either plead the example and authority of our neighbours for our doing evil, or, for fear of their laughing at us and persecuting us, leave off to do good, and become even ashamed of appearing to care for it. In this state it may well be said, that “a man's foes will be they of his own household;" that nothing is so dangerous to his salvation as the principles and practice of other men with whom he is living in daily intercourse, nothing so much to be feared, as that he should make their opinions his standard, instead of the declared will of God.
This is a subject on which I have spoken often before, and on which I may speak often again. I know not, indeed, to what congregation a Christian minister could make frequent addresses, without finding it expedient to dwell upon this most besetting danger: I am sure that here it might be made the daily subject of our warnings to you, and yet not be mentioned too frequently. It is not too much to say, that scarcely a single day ever passes without my seeing some instance of its fatalpower: every day I observe some wickedness, or low principle or other, for which the everready excuse would be, that every one else
says or does the same. In proportion, therefore, to the strength and commonness of this feeling, must be the frequency and earnestness of
my attacks upon it: as you are, too many of you, the veriest slaves of each other's opinions, the veriest imitators of each other's conduct, so I must try to rouse you to something of a more independent feeling, and to break through that bondage which may most properly be called the bondage of sin and death. Nothing, I suppose, shows the weakness of
, human nature more than this perpetual craving after some guide and support out of itself,this living upon the judgment of others rather than on our own. And it is not to be disputed but that we do need a guide and support out of ourselves, if we would but choose the right one. All the idolatry in the world grew out of a just sense of human weakness: men looked at themselves and at the world around them; they felt how little they were, and by how much greatness they were surrounded; they saw how their bodies and their minds, their friends and their property, all the several elements of their happiness, were subjected to the control of causes wholly above their power to resist; and they turned, in their blindness,