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SERMON XXIII.

NEUTRALITY IN RELIGION EXPOSED.

Mat. vi. 24.

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 despise the other. Te cannot serve God and mammon.

HERE is something in the Scripture suited to 'every taste except a sinful one. The Bible indeed is so pure, so holy in its Author, its principles, and its design, that it is the easiest thing in the world to account for infidelity and error; they are the natural opposition of men of corrupt minds. But with regard to others, every peculiar turn of mind may be indulged, and the fame end may be secured by various means. Some are fond of history ; and here we have narrations placing before us striking characters and occurrences. Some love a series of proof and a process of argumentation ; and here we have frequent fpecimens of close reasoning. Some take pleasure in imagery and comparisons ; and here we have a pleni. tude of parables and metaphors. And some are charm.

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ed with proverbs and aphorisms; and here we find detached sentences, which by their brevity are easily remembered, and by their significancy furnish materials 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. “ No man 6 can ferve two masters : for either he will hate the

one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the 6 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 sen. sual pleasure. Whatever you idolize, whatever you place in the room of God, whatever leads you to oppose 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 attention to three things.

I. NO MAN CAN SERVE TWO MASTERS; YOU CANNOT SÉRVE GOD AND MAMMON. This is clearly expressed. . ... .. ...

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

Liver:;.', III. You ought to serve God. This is fairly inferred. Consider what I say, and the Lord give you underltanding in all things. Amen..........

1. « Write the vision, and make it plain upon tas « bles, that he inay run that readeth it.” This order the inspired penmen have obeyed. They have made things clear in proportion as they are momentous ; and fuch is the perfpicuity with which many of the principles of religion are laid down in the Scripture, that we should deem' it iinpossible 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 expreffed than the determination before us ?' " No man can serve 6 two masters : for either he will hate the one, and “ love the other ; or else he will hold to the one, and

6 despise the other : ye cannot serve God and mam6 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 temporizing 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 godliness," 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 difturb 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 fervices 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 malter 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

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renders religion less objectionable ; that it keeps up an intercourse which renders them useful; that-but I disdain to enumeraae 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 obferve, 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 you CANNOT. “ No man CAN serve two masters, Ye “ CANNOT 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 from sin, ye became the servants of righa teousness. For when ye were the servants of sin, " ye were free from righteousness.” Secondly, you may serve two masters by ferving one of them in reality, and the other in pretence. But while you truly love the world, will God be fatisfied 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 diffimulation' be a life of meanness, embarrasment, and misery ; in which you will offer violence to nature,

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