Page images
PDF
EPUB

66 No man

ed with proverbs and aphorisms ; and here we find detached sentences, which by their brevity are easily remembered, and by their - significancy furnish mate. rials for the mind to unfold and apply. And of all these, perhaps no one is more important and interest. ing than the passage which I have read. a can serve two masters : for either he will hate the

one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the “ one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God « and mammon."

One word only requires explanation. What is mammon? It is commonly supposed to mean only riches ; but as the Bishop of London has observed in his Lecture upon this Chapter, the original seems more extensive, and leads us to consider it as comprehending every thing capable of engaging the affections, and of gaining the confidence of men of worldly minds.

It is a Syriac word importing treasure, gain. Whatever therefore is gain to you, is mammon, whether it be wealth, or power, or: fame, or sensual pleasure. Whatever you idolize, whatever you place in the room of God, whatever leads you to op pose his nature and his will concerning your duty and your happiness, according to the design of our Saviour, falls under this denomination. Subtilty of interpretation is always, and minuteness of decision is generally to be avoided in expounding the Scripture ; words are used in a popular sense ; and they would become less useful, if they were rendered less general. The force of an impression which would otherwise have been made, has often been diminished by means of those exceptions, qualifications, restrictions, dis

tinctions, which have so much abounded in commentaries and sermons, and through which the Spirit of the Sacred Writings is suffered to evaporate.

This being premised, we proceed to call your serious atten . tion to three things.

1. No MAN CAN 'SERVE TWO MASTERS; YOU CANNOT SERVE GOD AND MAMMON. This is clear ly expressed.

II. ONE OF THESE YOU WILL UNAVOIDABLY SERVE. This is fully implied.

III. YOU OUGHT TO SERVE GOD. This is fairly inferred. Consider what I say, and the Lord give you understanding in all things. Amen.

I. “ Write the vision, and make it plain upon ta. “bles that he may run that readeth it.” This order the inspired penmen have obeyed. They have made things clear in proportion as they are momentous ; and such is the perspicuity with which many of the principles of religion are laid down in the Scripture, that we should deem it impossible for them ever to be misunderstood, did we not know how easy it is to perplex a rule by which we dislike to walk, and remember what a power there is in the passions to pervert the dictates of the understanding, and to baffle the admonitions of conscience. For instance. What can be more fully, more unambiguously expressed than the determination before us ? " No man can serve “ two masters : for either he will hate the one, and - love the other ; or else he will hold to the one, and

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

despise the other : ye cannot serve God and mam.

mon.” Nevertheless there are many who contrive to elude the force of this maxim, or who seem resolved to make a succession of awful experiments to try. the certainty of it. The number of this mixed tempo. rizing race of Christians is constantly encreasing; and while they are bringing destruction upon their own souls, they are injuring the cause of the Gospel, and counteracting the labors of faithful ministers ten-fold more than those who make no pretensions to religion.

They have a name to live, while they are dead." They wear “the form of godlines,” while they “ de.

ny the power thereof." They are equally remote from the excesses of the profane and the fervours of the pious. They refuse to the passions what would disturb conscience, and to conscience what would disturb the passions. Endeavouring to reconcile an earthly and a heavenly life together, they waver between truth and error, conviction and appetite, duty and inclination; and divide their affections and services between God and the world. Some moments they give to devotion ; they pray, they unite with the holy assemblies, they sometimes approach the table of the Lord. When this is done they have another master to serve ; they leave the house of God, and occupy places of dissipation; they relish the follies and comply with the manners of a sinful age; and as the eye follows their career, you see them dropping one distinction after another till they are undistinguishingly blended with the crowd.

Nor are these persons wanting in excuses to palliate, if not to justify their practice. They allege that it

HH h

1

CANNOT.

renders religion less objectionable ; that it keeps up an intercourse which renders them useful; that-but I disdain to enumerate such pleas of worldly-mindedness--they will not abide the day of trial ; they are all as tow before the flame; the declaration of our Lord and Saviour consumes them. For observe, my brethren, upon what he lays the stress of his reasoning. It is the IMPOSSIBILITY of the case.

He does not say, You shall not, You must not, You ought not, but

yous “ No man CAN serve two masters, · Ye CANNÖT serve God and mammon.”

There are however four cases in which you may serve two masters ; but these exceptions will only render the general rule, the more remarkable, and will also help us to understand it. For, first, you may serve two masters successively. There are some who have lived in various families; and they have served the gentle and the froward, the evil and the good. Christians once served divers lusts and pleasures, and now they serve God; but they did not serve both at the same time"; this was impracticable, “Being then " made free front sin, ye became the servants of righ

teousness. For when ye were the servants of sin, “ye were free from righteousress.”. Secondly, you may serve two masters by serving one of them in reality, and the other in pretence. But while you truly love the world, will God be satisfied with appearances and professions? Is he deceived? Can any disguise conceal you from his eye? Will he not abhor you the more for your hypocrisy? And will not such a course of dissimulation be a life of meanness, embarrassment, and misery; in which you will offer violence to nature,

and perpetually dread the detection of your real charácter? Thirdly, you may serve two masters unequally. While devoted to the one, you may occasionally attend the other.; but you cannot be engaged to him also, you cannot serve him constantly, you carnot make his service your business, cannot be entirely at his disposal. But nothing less than this does God Tequire of all those who serve Him. Fourthly, you may serve two masters when they are on the same side, and differ only in degree. Thus you obey parents and magistrates, and God too: for in obeying them, you obey him ; he has commanded it. - But it is otherwise when two parties hostile to each other, require you to espouse their jarring interests, and each says, My son, give me thy heart.” Now this is the case with the masters here mentioned. For mammon is not subordinate to God, nor does it enjoin the same things. Their orders are diametrically opposite. The one commands you to walk by faith; the other, to walk by sight; the one, to be proud, the other to be humble; the one, to cleave to the dust, the other to have your conversation in heaven; the one, to be all anxiety, the other, to be careful for nothing; the one, to be content with such things as you have; the other, to enlarge your desire as hell; the one, to withhold, the other, to give, to be ready to distribute, willing to communicate. Now what is to be done in a case like this? If the mind be full, it can hold no more. Human faculties are not infinite. The operations of the soul are limited. We cannot remain in a state of equilibrium between contrary attractions, without preferring one to the other. Hence we always take'a

« PreviousContinue »