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often observe. Those abuses manifest themselves in various forms; but in general may be classed under three great heads.
I. THEY are abusers of the world, who intemperately give themselves up to its pleasures, and lead a life of licentiousness, riot, and dissipation. Amidst the wealth and luxury of the present age, it will be admitted, that persons of this description are not unfrequent, who, being opulent in fortune, and perhaps high in rank, think themselves entitled to pass their days in a careless manner, without any other object in view, than the gratification of their senses and passions. It shall be granted, that they are not obliged to that exact œconomy and attention in their manner of living, which the state of fortune may require of others. Gaiety shall be permitted to them; change of scene, and variety of amusements. But let them not forget that as men and mem bers of society, not to say professors of the Christian faith, they are bound to stop short in their career of pleasure, as soon as it becomes disgraceful to themselves and hurtful to the world. By the train of life which they lead, they defeat every purpose for which Providence bestowed on them the blessings of prosperity. They sink every talent which they possess, into useless insignificancy. They corrupt the public manners by their example, and diffuse among others the spirit of extravagance and folly. They behave in a manner altogether unsuitable to the condition of the world in which we live; where we are exposed to so much change, surrounded with so much distress, and daily behold so many affecting scenes, as ought to awaken serious reflection, and chasten dissolute mirth.
With indignant eyes, the sober and thinking part of mankind view the luxury and riot of those abusers of the world. To them are owing the discontents of the poor, their disaffection to their superiors, their proneness to disturb the peace of the world. When the poor behold wealth properly used, they look up with respect to them who possess it. They rest contented in their station, and bless the just and the generous, from whose munificence they receive employment and reward. But when they behold those men of pleasure dissipating, in vice and folly, the fortune which their forefathers had honourably earned; when they behold them oppressing all their dependants merely that they may level in luxurious extravagance, then their hearts swell within them; with murmurs of sullen grief, they eye their own mean habitation and needy family; and become prepared for robbery, tumult, sedition, and every evil work.
The conduct of such abusers of the world is not only pernicious to the welfare of society, and to the interests of virtue; it is equally ruinous to themselves. I shall not insist on the loss of reputation, the waste of fortune, the broken health, and debilitated frame, which are the well-known consequences of a life
of intemperate pleasure. I shall not recount all the better and more substantial enjoyments which they forfeit. Amidst the turbulence of riot, and the fumes of intoxication, unknown to them are the rational entertainments of regular life; the enjoyment of the face of nature; the pleasures of knowledge, and an improved mind; the pleasures of private friendship, and domestic society; the conscious satisfaction which accompanies honourable labours, and the justly acquired esteem of those who surround them. All these they have thrown away; and in their room have substituted, what they think more high and vivid pleasures. But of what nature are those pleasures? Even in laughter the heart is sorrowful, and the end of that mirth is heaviness.*
At the bottom of the hearts of all men, there lies a secret sense of propriety, virtue, and honour. This sense may be so far blunted, as to lose its influence in guiding men to what is right, while yet it retains its power of making them feel that they are acting wrong. Hence remorse often gnaws the heart, which affects to appear light and gay before the world. Among the crowd of amusements, the voluptuary may endeavour to stifle his uneasiness; but through all his defences it will penetrate. A conscious sense of his own insignificance, when he sees others distinguished for acting a manly and worthy part; reflection on the time he has wasted, and the contempt he has incurred; the galling remembrance of his earlier and better days, when he gave the fair promise of accomplishments, which now are blasted; have frequently been found to sadden the festive hour. The noise of merriment may be heard; but heaviness lies at the heart. While the tabret and the viol play, a melancholy voice sounds in his ears. The wasted estate, the neglected halls, and ruined mansions of his father, rise to view. The angry countenances of his friends seem to stare him in the face. A hand appears to come forth on the wall, and to write his doom.
Retreat, then, from your dishonourable courses, ye who by licentiousness, extravagance, and vice, are abusers of the world! You are degrading, you are ruining yourselves. You are grossly misemploying the gifts of God; and the giver will not fail to punish Awake to the pursuits of men of virtue and honour. Break loose from that magic circle, within which you are at present held. Reject the poisoned cup which the enchantress Pleasure holds up to your lips. Draw aside the veil which she throws over your eyes. You will then see other objects than you now behold. You will see a dark abyss opening below your feet. You will see virtue and temperance marking out the road which conducts to true felicity. You will be enabled to discern,
• Prov. xiv. 13.
that the world is enjoyed to advantage, by none but such as follow those divine guides; and who consider pleasure as the seasoning, but not as the business of life.
II. THE world is abused, not only by an intemperate pursuit of its pleasures, but by a sordid attachment to its gains. This respects a set of men of very different description from the former, more decent in their carriage, and less flagrant in their vices; but corrupted by the world in no less a degree. For the world is often abused by the men of business, as much as by the men of pleasure. When worldly success becomes the sole object of their life; when the accumulation of fortune so engrosses them as to harden their heart against every feeling of moral obligation; when it renders them insensible to the calls of affection, and to the impressions of piety and religion; they then come under the class of the covetous, whom, it is said, the Lord abhorreth.*
The world, with its advantages, is a lawful object of pursuit to a Christian. He may seek, by fair industry, to render his circumstances affluent. Without reproof, he may aim at distinction and consideration in the world. He may bestow a considerable portion of his time and attention on the successful management of his worldly interest. All this is within the limits of that allowable use of the world, to which religion gives its sanction. But to a wise and good man, the world is only a secondary object. He remembers there is an eternity beyond it. His care is, not merely to amass and possess, but to use his possessions well, as one who is accountable to God. He is not a slave, either to the hopes or the fears of the world. He would rather forfeit any present advantage, than obtain it at the expense of violating the divine law, or neglecting his duty. This is using the world like a good man. This is living in it, as a subject of God, and a member of the great community of mankind. To such a man, riches are a blessing. He may enjoy them with magnificence, but he will use them with liberality. They open a wide field to the exercise of his virtue, and allow it to shine with diffusive lustre.
Very opposite to this, is the character of the worldly-minded. To them, the mere attainment of earthly possessions is an ultimate aim. They cannot be said to use the world; for, to possess, not to use or enjoy, is their object. They are emphatically said in Scripture, to load themselves with thick clay. Some sort of apology may be framed for them who seek to extract from the world, pleasure of one kind or other. But for those who know no pleasure, farther than adding house to house and field to field, and calling them their own, it is hardly possible to frame † Habakuk, ii, 6.
* Psalm x. 3.
any apology. Such persons are idolaters of the worst kind; for they have made the world their God. They daily worship and bow down before it; and hold nothing to be mean or base, which can promote the enlargement of their fortune. He is an abuser of the world, let his possession of it be ever so ample, who knows nothing higher than the gains of the world. He is an abuser of the world, who sacrifices probity, virtue, or humanity, to its interests. He is an abuser of the world, who cannot occasionally retreat from it, to consider what character he bears in the sight of God; and to what issue his conduct will bring him at last. In a word, the world is then properly used, when it is generously and beneficially enjoyed; neither hoarded up by avrice, nor squandered by ostentation.
III. THE World is abused, by those who employ its advantages to the injury or oppression of their brethren. Under this class are included the worst and most criminal obusers of the world; who turn against their fellow-creatures, those advantages with which it has pleased Heaven to distinguish them. It is a class which comprehends the sovereign who tyrannises over his people; the great man who depresses his dependants: the master who is cruel to his servants; every one, in fine, who renders his superiority of any kind, whether of wealth or power, unnecessarily grevious so those who are his inferiors: Whose superciliousness dejects the modest; whose insolence tramples on the poor; whose rigour makes the widow and the orphan weep. Persons of this character, while thus abusing the advantages of the world, may, for a while, enjoy their triumph. But let them not think their triumph is always to last. Their turn shall come to be humbled as low as those whom they now op- · press. For there is a vigilant eye in the Heavens, attentive to observe their procedure. There is an impartial ear which listens to every just complaint preferred against them. There is an irresistible arm stretched over their heads, whose weight they shall one day feel. The sovereign of the universe characterises himself in the sacred writings, as peculiarly an adversary to the insolent and haughty. For the oppression of the poor, for the sighing of the needy, now will I arise, saith the Lord; I will set him in safety from him that puffeth at him.* Iwill come near to you in judgment; and I will be a swift witness against those that oppress the hireling in his wages, the widow, and the fatherless, and that turn aside the stranger from his right. He that oppresseth the poor reproacheth his maker. The Lord will plead their cause; and spoil the soul of those that spoiled them.§
After hearing these awful words, is it not strange, Oh men! at once infatuated and cruel! that you cannot use the world with• Psalm xii. 5. Prov. xiv. 31. § Prov. xxii. 23.
Malachi, iii 5.
out abusing it to the distress of your brethren? Even supposing no punishment to be threatened, no arm to be lifted up against you, is there nothing within you that relents at the circumstances of those below you in the world? Is it not enough, that they suffer their own hard fate, without its being aggravated, by your severity and oppression? Why must the aged, the poor, and the friendless, tremble at your greatness? Cannot you be happy, unless you make them eat their scanty morsel in bitterness of heart?-You happy !—profane not the word-what is such happiness as yours, compared with that of him who could say, When the ear heard me, then it blessed me; and when the eye saw me, it gave witness to me; because I delivered the poor that cried, and the fatherless, and him that had none to help him. I was a father to the poor. The blessing of him that was ready to perish came upon me; and I caused the widow's heart to sing for joy.* How properly did such a man use the world, and with what just honour did he flourish in it! Unto me men gave ear; they kept silence, and waited for my counsel. The princes refrained talking. The aged rose and stood up. My root was spread out by the waters, and the dew lay upon my branch.-Not ouly unknown to you are such pleasures of virtuous prosperity: but even previous to prepared punishment, be assured, that remorse is approaching to wring your hearts. Of the world, which you now abuse, in a short time nothing shall remain, but the horror arising from remembered crimes. The wages you have detained, the wealth you have squeezed from the needy, shall lie heavy on your souls. The stately buildings which your pride has erected, by means of violence and oppression, shall seem haunted by injured ghosts. The stone shall cry out of the wall, and the beam out of the timber shall answer it. When you lie on the bed of death, the poor, whom you have oppressed, shall appear to you as gathered together; stretching forth their hands, and lifting up their voices against you, at the tribunal of Heaven. I have seen the wicked great in power, and spreading himself like a green bay-tree. But he passed away, and was not. Isought him, but he could not be found. They are brought down to desolation in a moment, and utterly consumed with terrors. As a dream when one awaketh, so, O Lord, when thou awakest, thou shalt despise their image.‡
THUS I have shown what it is to use and what to abuse the world. When, according to our different stations, we enjoy the advantages of the world with propriety and decency; temperate in our pleasures; moderate in our pursuits of interest; mindful of our duty to God, and at the same time, just, humane, and ge nerous to ur brethren; then, and then only, we use the world, # Psalm xxvii. 35. lxxiii. 19.
Job, xxix. 9-21.
+ Habak ii. 11