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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 or enlarge 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 to at last. In a word, the world is then properly used, when it is generously and beneficially enjoyed; neither hoarded up by avarice, 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 abusers of the world; who turn against their fellowcreatures 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 dependents; 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 grievous to 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 oppress. 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. * I will 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 hte
*Psalm xii. 5.
+ Malachi, iii. 5.
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, O men, at once infatuated and cruel! that you cannot use the world without 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 pro
Prov. xiv. 31.
+ Prov. xxii. 23,
Job, xxix. 9-21.
perly 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 only 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
Habak. ii. 11.
tree. But he passed away, and was not. I sought 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 shewn 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 generous to our brethren; then, and then only, we use the world, as becomes men, and Christians. Within these limits, we may safely enjoy all the comforts which the world affords, and our station allows. But if we pass beyond these boundaries, into the regions of disorderly and vicious pleasure, of debasing covetousness, or of oppressive insolence, the world will then serve only to corrupt our minds, and to accelerate our ruin. The licentious, the avaricious, and the insolent, form the three great classes of abusers of the world.
* Psalm xxxvii. 35; lxxiii. 19.