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D IS COURSE
I KINGS XVIII. 21.
AND ELIJAH CAME UNTO ALL THE PEOPLE, AND
SAID, HOW LONG HALT YE BETWEEN TWO
These words of the prophet were addressed to his countrymen, the jews, to shew them the extreme folly of halting between two opinions in religious matters, and mixing the worship of idols with the worship of God. Religion implies an intire devotion of the affections to some being, whom we suppose both able and willing to help us in our distress.
He must, therefore, be all-powerful, all-knowing, and allgood. If not all-powerful, some other being might prevent his good intentions: if not all-knowing, he might overlook or
forget our wants : and if not all-good, he might not be inclined to relieve them. Reason, therefore, tells us, and tells us in language which can neither be overlooked nor mistaken, that the object of divine worship is one, independent, perfect being" the only wise and true God.” But, so it is, that the case hath evermore happened otherwise with those nations, however knowing in other respects, who have received no divine revelation. The learned Egyptian, the polite Athenian, the eloquent Roman, the ingenious Chinese, were equally subject to this astonishing weakness with the blunt unlettered Theban, and the barbarous inhabitants of South America and the Cape. But what is more extraordinary, the jews themfelves, to whom were committed the oracles of God” were strongly inclined to this unreafonable worship. And this marks its original: the vices they had in common with the gentiles made them forget that “ God, who is a spirit," and run with eagerness to those impure rites with which the gentiles celebrated their idolatry. It is certain that the people of Ifrael were remarkably idolatrous, when the prophet addressed them in the words of the text : and surely no words could be better adapted to the occasion. 'Tis as if he had said to the assembled people ; " Ye know that • it is impossible to follow two contrary
principles with equal zeal and sincerity;
to worship those idols whose religious • rites lead directly to impurity, and that "" God, who is a spirit, and who will be
worshipped in spirit and in truth.” “ Chuse
ye this day, therefore, whom ye will serve:” * halt no longer between two opinions.” I • am commissioned by the eternal God to give
you sufficient evidence of his power : wor
ship then either " the God of Israel,” or " the gods of the nations whom you
have I chosen.” “ For the Lord your God is a jealous God:” he will not divide his empire with another : he will not bear a rival in your affections:
must either be wholly * his, or forsake all interest in him."
Such was the address of the venerable prophet to his misguided countrymen. Permit me to apply it to my own. We are D 2
not indeed, blessed be God! in such a lamentable estate as these Israelites, either as to ignorance or immorality : but we are certainly very bad as to the latter; and, as to matters of opinion, there must be something very wrong to produce, or even not to check such a sensual course of life, as the nerality of christians are engaged in. Yet the new Testament was, I apprehend, never better understood, than at this time that it is so very ill praftised. How, you will say, can this happen ? can a man know what is good, and chuse what is ill? or, at least, if passion should sometimes overcome his reason, can he persist in a course of wrong
action for any considerable time, perhaps to the end of his life? The truth of the matter seems to be this ; though, by the diffusion of learning, and the extinction of vulgar superstitions, the human mind is relieved from the burthens under which it formerly staggered, and is even strengthened, so as to know and understand the terms upon which it shall be accepted, yet, we are not fincere and unmixed in our christian profeffion; we “ halt between two opinions."
The education and manners of the world are now so exceedingly corrupt, and we are so early impressed with the importance of pleasure, (for that is the name given to a certain round of dissipation,) and the necessity of gain to support those pleasures, that the minds of our young people are either intirely engaged with one of these things, or regularly divided between them. Hence it must happen, that the affections are prejudiced at a very early age, and being strengthened by habit, our reason is intoxicated; and often awakens not from its delirium, till it is roused by some severe affliction, or alarming sickness. For, barely to acknowledge a truth, has little or no effect upon our conduct, unless we feel that we are interested in it; then our affections take the matter in hand, and will not let
us alone till they have made us act according to that conviction. If I was informed, though upon the best authority, that the king had made a confiderable grant to a man I never heard of before, I should have no other ideas about