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11. Distraction, in St. Paul's sense, is nearly allied to, or rather the same with Dissipation: consequently, to attend upon the Lord without distraction, is the same as to attend upon the Lord without dissipation. But whenever the mind is unhinged from God, it is so far dissipated or distracted. Dissipation then in general may be defined, The uncentring the soul from God. And whatever uncentres the mind from God does properly dissipate us.
12. Hence we may easily learn, what is the proper, direct meaning of that common expression, a dissipated man. He is a man that is separated from God, that is disunited from his centre, whether this be occasioned by hurry of business, by seeking honour or preferment, or by fondness for diversions, for silly pleasures so called, or for any trifle under the sun. The vulgar, it is true, commonly confine this character to those who are violently attached to women, gaming, drinking; to dancing, balls, races, or the poor, childish diversion of "running foxes and hares out of breath." But it equally belongs to the serious fool who forgets God, by a close attention to any worldly employment, suppose it were of the most elegant, or of the most important kind. A man may be as much dissipated from God, by the study of the Mathematics or Astronomy, as by fondness for cards or hounds. Whoever is habitually inattentive to the Presence and Will of his Creator, he is a dissipated man.
13. Hence we may likewise learn, That a dissipated life is not barely that of a powdered beau, of a petit-maitre, a gamester, a woman-hunter, a play-house hunter, a foxhunter, or a shatterbrain of any kind; but the life of an honourable Statesman, a Gentleman, or a Merchant, that is without God in the world. Agreeably to this, a dissipated age, (such as is the present, perhaps beyond all that ever were, at least, that are recorded in history) is an age wherein God is generally forgotten. And a dissipated nation, (such as England is at present in a superlative degree,) is a nation, a vast majority of which have not God "in all their thoughts."
14. A plain consequence of these observations is, (what some may esteem a paradox,) That Dissipation, in the full, general meaning of the word, is the very same thing with Ungodliness. The name is new; but the thing is, undoubtedly almost as old as the Creation. And this is, at present, the peculiar glory of England, wherein it is not equalled by any nation under heaven. We, therefore, speak an unquestionable truth when we say, There is not on the face of the earth, another nation, (at least that we ever heard of,) so perfectly dissipated and ungodly; not only so totally without God in the world, but so openly setting him at defiance. There never was an age that we read of in history, since Julius Cæsar, since Noah, since Adam, wherein Dissipation or Ungodliness did so generally prevail, both among high and low, rich and poor.
15. But still, blessed be God!
"All are not lost; there be who faith
There are some, 1 trust more than seven thousand, yea, or ten times that number in England, who have not yet bowed either their knee or their heart, to the god of this world; who cleaving close to the God of heaven, are not borne away by the flood, by the general, the almost universal torrent of Dissipation or Ungodliness. They are not of the mind of gentle Crispus,
Qui nunquam direxit brachia contra Torrentem:
"Who never attempted to swim against the stream." They dare swim against the stream. Each of them can truly say, Non me, qui cætera vincit Impetus, et rapido contrarius evehor orbi.
If they cannot turn the tide back, they can, at least, bear an open testimony against it. They are, therefore, free from the blood of their ungodly countrymen: it must be their own head.
16. But by what means may we avoid the being carried
away by the overflowing stream of Dissipation? It is not difficult for those who believe the Scripture, to give an answer to this question. Now I really believe the Bible to be the Word of God: and on that supposition I answer, The radical cure of all dissipation, is the "faith that worketh by love." If, therefore, you would be free from this evil disease, first, "continue steadfast in the faith;" in that faith which brings "the Spirit of adoption, crying in your heart, Abba, Father;" whereby you are enabled to testify, "The life which I now live, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me." By this faith you" see him that is invisible, and set the Lord always before you." Next, "building yourselves up in your most holy faith, keep yourselves in the love of God, waiting for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ, unto everlasting life." And as long as you walk by this rule, you will be superior to all dissipation.
17. How exactly does this agree, (though there is a difference in the expression,) with that observation of pious Kempis: "Simplicity and purity are the two wings, which lift the soul up to heaven. Simplicity is in the intention, purity in the affection." For what is this but (in the Apostle's language) simple faith working by love? By that simplicity you always see God, and by purity you love him. What is it, but having, (as one of the ancients speaks,) "the loving eye of the soul fixed upon God?" And as long as your soul is in this posture, dissipation can have no place.
18. It is with great judgment, therefore, that the great and good Bishop Taylor, in his "Rules of Holy Living and Dying," (of whom Bishop Warburton, a person not very prone to commend, used to say, "I have no conception of a greater genius on earth, than Dr. Jeremiah Taylor,") premises to all his other rules, those concerning purity of intention. And has he not the authority of our Lord himself so to do? who lays it down as an universal maxim, "If thine eye be single, thy whole body shall be full of light." Singly aim at God: in every step thou
takest, eye him alone. Pursue one thing: happiness in knowing, in loving, in serving God. Then shall thy soul be full of light; full of the light of the glory of God, of his glorious love, shining upon thee from the face of Jesus Christ.
19. Can any thing be a greater help to universal holiness, than the continually seeing the Light of his Glory? It is no wonder then, that so many wise and good men have recommended, to all who desire to be truly religious, the exercise of the Presence of God. But in doing this, some of those holy men seem to have fallen into one mistake : (particularly, an excellent Writer of our own country, in his letters concerning "The Spirit of Prayer :") They put men, wholly unawakened, unconvinced of sin, upon this exercise, at their very entrance into religion: whereas this certainly should not be the first, but rather one of the last things. They should begin with repentance, the knowledge of themselves, of their sinfulness, guilt, and helplessness. They should be instructed next, to seek peace with God, through our Lord Jesus Christ. Then let them be taught to retain what they have received, to "walk in the light of his countenance;" yea, to walk "in the light as he is in the light," without any darkness at all, till "the blood of Jesus Christ cleanseth them from all sin."
20. It was from a full conviction of the absolute necessity there is, of a Christian's setting the Lord always before him, that a set of young gentlemen in Oxford, who, many years ago, used to spend most of their evenings together, in order to assist each other in working out their salvation, placed that question first, in their scheme of daily selfexamination, "Have I been simple and recollected in all I said or did? Have I been simple? That is, setting the Lord always before me, and doing every thing with a single view of pleasing him? Recollected, that is, quickly gathering in my scattered thoughts, recovering my simplicity, if I had been in any wise drawn from it, by men or devils, or my own evil heart? By this mean they were preserved from dissipation, and were enabled, each of them to say,
"By the grace of God, this one thing I do, (at least, it is my constant aim,) I see God: I love God: I serve God: I glorify him with my body and with my spirit."
21. The same thing seems to be intended by two uncommon words, which are frequently found in the writings of those pious men, who are usually styled Mystics. I mean, Introversion, and Extroversion. "Examine yourselves," says St. Paul to the Corinthians, and in them to the Christians of all ages, "Know ye not that Christ is in you, except ye be reprobates ?" That is, unbelievers,
unable to bear the touchstone of God's Word. Now the attending to the Voice of Christ within you, is what they term Introversion. The turning the eye of the mind from him to outward things, they call Extroversion. By this' your thoughts wander from God, and you are properly dissipated: whereas by introversion, you may be always sensible of his loving Presence. You continually hearken to whatever it pleases your Lord to say to your heart. And if you continually listen to his inward voice, you will be kept from all dissipation.
22. We may, lastly, learn hence, what judgment to form of what is frequently urged in favour of the English nation, and of the present age, namely, that in other respects England stands on a level with other nations, and the present age stands upon a level with any of the preceding. Only it is allowed we are more dissipated than our neighbours, and this age is more dissipated than the preceding ages. Nay, if this is allowed, all is allowed. It is allowed that this nation is worse than any of the neighbouring nations: and that this age is worse, essentially worse, than any of the preceding ages. For as Dissipation or Ungodliness is the parent of all sin, of all unrighteousness; of unmercifulness, injustice, fraud, perfidy; of every possible evil temper, evil word, or evil action; so it, in effect, comprizes them all. Whatsoever things are impure, whatsoever things are of evil report, whatsoever things are unholy if there be any vice, all these are included in Ungodliness, usually termed Dissipation. Let not, therefore,