« PreviousContinue »
All your mercies, then, are in the hand of God, who can give or withhold, continue or withdraw them at his pleasure. But there is something more ftill : your life itself is in his hand. Though outward things were ever so stable in themselves, they are altogether precarious as to us. We know not what a day or a night may bring forth, or at what time our souls shall be required at our hands. This surely ought, and if it be seriously attended to, certainly will weaken our attachment to the things of a present world; according to the inference drawn from it by the apostle Paul, 1 Cor. vii. 29, 30, 31..“ But this, I say, “ brethren, the time is short. It remaineth, that both
they that have wives, be as though they had none; and “they that weep, as though they wept not; and they " that rejoice, as though they rejoiced not; and they " that buy, as though they possessed not; and they that “ use this world, as not abusing it: for the fashion of this “ world passeth away."
(3) Consider that there is really much more real fatisfaction to be found in a crucified than in an idolized world. This to many will appear a contradiction ; but it is a great and certain truth. It is impossible for any person to pass ever so little the limits of duty in the use of the creatures, but it is to his own prejudice. This I do not mean only of its after consequences, but even in point of prefent comfort. There is a more genuine sweetness in those things that are used with moderation and self-denial, as the gospel requires, than in any finful gratification. But if this holds even with regard to the simple enjoyment, it holds much more strongly when we consider the benefit of a fanctified world. He that, from a humble fenfe of the divine mercies, can rise to a grateful acknowledgment of the giver of all good; he who is thereby inspired with a holy zeal to serve him in his generation, and values no temporal blessing, but so far as it may be useful in promoting the glory of God, and the good of others, has a delight from them, infinitely superior to what arises from the licence of criminal indulgence. He enjoys his mercies without fting, he possesses them without the fear of losing them; nay, he can even rejoice in the surrender it.
Telf, as a part of the will of God. Is this fabulous, my brethren, or extravagant? I hope not. I believe and trust it is matter of real experience to the children of God. Did the Pfalmift David say, it was good for him that he was afflicted ? did the apostles of Christ take joyfully the spoiling of their goods ? did they rejoice that they were counted worthy to fuffer fhame for his name? I hope that many others will rejoice, that they have been enabled to use their fubftance in feeding the hungry and clothing the naked, and other useful purposes. I am persuaded, that a pious and liberal mind tastes a more exquisite delight in relieving a poor family, than in the most costly and fumptuous entertainment; and that he who values his reputation only for his usefulness, will give thanks to God for the esteem in which he may be held; and when reproached for doing his duty, will have a pleasure in submitting to it without complaint, greater than the proud and selfish can possibly receive from the daily incenfe of flattery and praise.
4. In the last place, As this subject has the most intimate connection with the power of religion, I shall conclude with offering to serious perfons a few particular directions for their daily practice.
(1) Remember that your great care ought to be the one thing needful. Salvation is your great work, heaven is your home, the world is but your passage to it. If you can keep this constantly upon your minds, you will immediately perceive the danger of the world, as a temptation to fin. You will not be able to forget, because you will daily feel, what influence it hath in helping or hindering you in your journey heavenward. A traveller who hath his thoughts still fixed on the place of his deftination, and is anxious to get forward, will sensibly feel every incumbrance from the weather, or the way, by which his progress is retarded. It is by misrepresentation that the world leads us astray; true and just apprehensions of our own state, would keep our affections in their juft measure with regard to it.
(2) Be particularly upon your guard against the unfanctified use of lawful comforts. A perfon who hath any principle of conscience, would be filled with horror at the thoughts of grofs sin, such as uncleanness, injustice, or sensuality; yet such may be in great danger of placing their affections upon the world, and resting on it as their portion. Their houses and lands, their children, their name and reputation, may incroach upon them, and usurp dominion in their hearts. Be careful, therefore, habitually to improve these to the glory of God; learn to give him thanks for them, as the blessings of his providence, and to serve him by them, as they are talents or opportunities of usefulness, for which you must render an account in the day of judgment.
(3) Be attentive to the course of Providence, and improve the characters and conduct of others to your own profit. If you see one man grow proud and self-fufficient as he grows rich, if you see him forgetful of God while he continues in prosperity, tyrannical to others because they are in his power, then fear lest you also be tempted. If you see wealth suddenly poured in upon any persons make them anxious, quarreliome, and impatient, then mode. rate your desires of prosperity, and “ be content with “ such things as you have.” It is very common to enu. merate and censure the faults of others, that we may nourish our own pride by the comparison; but it is infinitely more beneficial, to improve the weakness of others for our own humiliation. What is the ordinary style in conversation? Were I such a person, had I his estate and posfeffions, I should not grudge to be more liberal to the poor ; I would do fomething for the public; I would do every thing for my friends. Truly you do not know what you would do. Were you raised to the same situation, perhaps you would be ten times more proud and covetous than the man you blame. And as you would observe the sins of others, fu observe the ways of God towards them. If an oppressor is at last overtaken in his wickedness, if he is held as a wild bull in a net, and, instead of humility, it produceth nothing but the rage of impatience and despair ; adore the righteous judgment of God, and be sensible that neither mercies nor trials will change the heart, unless they are accompanied with the power
of divine grace. If
it pleaseth God to bring down any from riches to poverty, or from honor to disgrace, remember that he visits his people in mercy for their correction, and his enemies in ven. geance for their punishment; so that, whether you are the one or the other, you have no charter of security from the same calamities.
(4) Think much of mortality, and the innumerable fufferings which are every where to be seen among our fellow-creatures. The wife man tells us, Ecclef. vii. 2, 3. “ It is better to go to the house of mourning, than to
go to the house of feasting: for that is the end of all men, " and the living will lay it to his heart. Sorrow is better “than laughter : for by the sadness of the countenance " the heart is made better.” There are some who, from mere tenderness of heart, and a strong attachment to senfual delight, are not able to look upon scenes of misery and distrefs. They fly from them, therefore, and deceive themselves into a dream of security by intoxicating pleafures. But, my brethren, it is infinitely better to fortify yourselves against the fear of death, by faith in him who is the resurrection and the life ; and then the frequent obfervation of others in affliction, will have the nobleft and most falutary influence in mortifying worldly affections. You may also sometimes fee the triumph of faith in the joyful departure of believers, which is one of the most edifying and comfortable fights that any Christian can be. hold.
(5) In the last place, I would recall to your minds, and earnestly recommend to your meditation, what made a principal branch of the doctrinal part of this subject, “ the « cross of Christ.” By this the believer will indeed crucify the world. Reason and experience may wound the world, so to speak; but the cross of Christ pierces it to the heart. Shall we murmur at the cross, when our Redeemer bore it? Are not the thoughts of what he suffered, and what we deserved, sufficient to eradicate from our minds every the least inclination to what is provoking to him? Are not the thoughts of what he purchased, fufficient to deftroy in our hearts the least difpofition to place our happiness here? The thoughts of the cross of Chrik are strengthening as well as instructive. We are drawn as it were by the power of sympathy, emboldened by his example, and animated by his conquest. Is not the Christian, when he is in full contemplation of this great object; saying, “O most merciful Saviour, shall I any
more idolize that world which crucified thee? shall I be afraid of their scorn who insulted thee? shall I refuse any ' part of his will, who, by the cross, has glorified thee ?"
Let us conclude by attempting to say, in faith, what God grant every one of us may be able to say in the awful hour of the last conflict : “ O death, where is thy sting! “ O grave, where is thy victory! The sting of death is “sin, and the strength of fin is the law; but thanks be to “ God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus