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Instability in Religion.

Instability in Religion.

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" Unstable as water, thou shalt not excel." — Genesis, xlix. 4.

" Unstable as water, thou shalt not excel." — Genesis, xlix. 4.

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Published by: GLENN DALE PEASE on May 04, 2013
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial


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ISTABILITY I RELIGIO.REV. E. SCOBELL, A.M." Unstable as water, thou shalt not excel." — Genesis, xlix. 4.If we throw a stone into the water, altliough at first certainly it divides tliesurface and gives it a new impression, yet, after a few circling eddios, tranquillityis restored, and no mark remains of its recent motion. If you launch a boatupon the stream, instead of its remaining a fixed weight upon it, it rolls andmoves with the rolling current. If we cast our eyes upon the ocean, tliatmighty world of living waters, how changeable is the scene that comes beforeus ! Every breeze that blows varies even its colour, while its waves exhibit to usnothing but tumult and commotion.ow all this is, in reality, what it is intimated to be in the text — an emblemand a picture of several amongst the children of men. Whenever a new objectcomes before some people, it makes, like the stone cast into the Mater, animpression upon them at first ; it engages their attention ; they are, probably,pleased with it and delighted, and fancy that they have discovered the treasureof true satisfaction. But again, like the stone, after a few circling eddies — that is, after a few observations, after a few gratifications and short acquaintance — the novelty is over; something fresh catches the attention, and the formerobject departs without leaving a single mark or vestige behind.You shall see other people, like the boat upon the stream, quite at the mercyof the fickle current. They never fix to any thing: thev are without a rudder,without ballast, without any of the other requisites of good management. 'I'liesurface upon which they rest is soft and variable ; and thereon, without allowingany confidence to be placed in their firmness and stability, they rock about withevery momentary agitation of the water.Thirdly, there are others completely like the sea. Such people never continuein the same mind for a month, nay, sometimes not even for a day together — andthat too upon subjects of the greatest possible concern and importance. owthey view life and the world under one colour, and now under another; onewhile they are full of hope, and energy, and self-satisfaction ; at another timethey are absorbed in gloomy presentiments, and anxieties, and melancholy : oneday they represent this life as every thing; the next they speak against it as of no kind of importance or value at all : and all this, not from any change of circumstances; nor indeed from any one good cause, as relates to themselves, isthis alteration in their opinions, but from an innate principle of unsteadiness,and from the temper and humour they happen to be in at the moment of formingthem.
Q2228 IMlAUd.ITY I RELIGIO.ow, look at siicli men in tlieir pursuits, and in their occupations; anil therethev are just the same as they were in their opinions j tliere is a perpetualvariation. 'I'ake their studies for instance. To-day, perhaps, tiiey are full of the importance and necessity of the knowledge of a particular subject, and theyfollow it up with the greatest ardour and alacrity. They read, and note, anddiscuss, and apply, and really are making all the improvement that so praise-worthy a zeal deserves and ensures. When you observe them a short timeafter, this object is all laid by, and they are now distractedly fond of sometbiiigelse, and are directing all their endeavours after the attainment and enjoymentof it, until even this soon gives way possibly to some new vocation, whichobliterates the past, and absorbs all tlieir care and attention.Observe such persons once more — observe them in their attachments; andwhat are they in this respect? The very same — inconstant and fickle. Theyselect a person from their acquaintance as their more particular associate andintimate companion : they cultivate his regard, they extol his merits, and theyappropriate him to themselves ; and then, from some trifling misunderstanding — nay, frequently, not even so much, from mere whim and caprice, from beingtired of one, and captivated perhaps by another, they break through the tiesthat held them together, and pass by, if they meet their former friend, as if theyhad never been acquainted.ow, my brethren, you will observe that, in these three several instances, itis not so much the variety that is to be blamed, as the being constant to none.There is not, nor can be, any harm in having several opinions, many objects of pursuit, or a long list of friends. Ir this respect, simply as such, there is nofault to find : but the fault is in this — in being of a restless, wandering,wavering disposition — setting your affections upon many things in succession,and loving and pursuing constantly none. Just like waves of the sea, which,rolling closely the one after the other, the hinder one pushes the former uponthe rocks only to come himself the next moment to the same termination.ow, of such persons and of such conduct, what say reason and experience?ay, what say the Scriptures? for they all hold one universal language. " Adouble-minded man is unstable in all his ways :'' and in the text — "Unstableas water, thou shalt not excel." ever was a truer sentence than this. Afickle unsteady person never can arrive at true improvement, or do himself anylasting and final good. o one can depend upon him, nor indeed can he haveany very great dependence or confidence in himself All his principles andopinions are hasty, prejudiced, unguarded, and uncertain : all his pursuits in
knowledge are superficial and inconclusive; and for the very best of causes — he never gives himself time to improve steadfastly and properly, which is theonly way of true improvement; before he half gains one object he changes itfor another; flies, or rather flutters about from point to point ; and witli thebest of abilities, poesibly, if rightly directed, he knows a little of everything,and nothing wellAnd as to friends — who ever knew an unstable man to have many of them ?The very qualities which are most absolutely essential to real friendship, arequalities to which he is a perfect stranger. Fidelity is the only pass-word toearthly friendship, as well as to heavenly. He who wishes to make a goodfriend himself, or to find friends in others, must not be too fond of new faces-he must not be " unstable as water," changing as the wind changes. rufll'Miperhaps by the slightest bi-eez.e, or colil and calm wlicn pressing occasionsI'STABrLITY I RELIGIO. 229tlemand his interference and exertion. In short, it is the same all through life :whoever hopes to do himself any real good must steadily direct all his endeavoursto one point ; he must not trust alone to superficial knowledge of this kind,or superficial knowledge of tiiat : life is hardly long enough — so difficult a thingis sound acquirement — to gain one branch of knowledge thoroughly and well.Therefore general information is lawful, because it is all we can have upon mostpoints : but excellence is an object of steady growth ; it can only arise fromthe fixed purpose and the regular habit of applying, and investigating, anddetermining, and then persevering.But I come now to the most useful bearing in this argument: and that is theadaptation of it to higher, and to spiritual designs.If the sentiment in the text, my brethren, be a true one in affairs of this worldhow much more true is it in things connected with that world which is to cornelIf a man cannot excel in a trade, a profession, or science without study, appli-cation, and perseverance ; if a man cannot, and with very just cause cannot, wewill say, become either a good scholar or a skilful architect, provided he willnot submit to the rules of the art, and if he only attend by fits and starts ; how,let me ask, can he reasonably expect to become a good Christian by the samemeans? What is it that exempts Ciiristianity from that careful attention thatbelongs to every other pursuit? What is it that induces us to hope that thefoundation and superstructure, the knowledge, the experience, the application,the comfort of religious truths, are all to be acquired by a few trifling fancifulattempts, just according to a momentary burst of feeling, or a capricious use of accidental opportunities ? Is it that religion is of no importance, and thereforeneeds not take up much of our time? Brethren, what can be so important?What can, or what ought, to excite a half — nay, a thousandth part of the con-

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