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world then which God has appointed us to inhabit, is not to be regarded with absolute aversion, nor even with indifference. If we use the world as of no worth, we virtually declare its insufficiency to administer to our present comfort, we contemn its blessings, we impeach the goodness of our Maker. The bounties of heaven that are scattered around us to be enjoyed, are despised; every emotion of gratitude for them to our divine Benefactoris stified, and the very means of supporting our bodies while employed in the duties of religion, are neglected. This use of the world is a palpable abuse of it, and no less palpably inconsistent with the claims of that religion which we have described. That religion which teaches us to make the glory of God the end of all our actions, requires also that we seek our own and our neighbours well being, as well as honour God by acts of praise and thanksgiving.— Some degree of worldly enjoyment therefore, as inseparable from the subsistence of man, so far from being incompatible with that religion, is indispensable to its existence. These blessings, are given to us as the means of furnishing us with strength and activity, in the performance of personal and relative duties; of exhibiting to us the perfections of the invisible Creator, of exciting our lively gratitude to that unwearied Benefactor who provides so liberally for our comfort and our happiness, and in this way to prepare us for the song eternal; and thus we see a divine harmony between using the world as not abusing it, and the duties of that religion which the gospel inculcates. 2. If we would use this world as not abusing it, we must not regard it as the means of perfect happiness.— A single glance at the structure of the soul; and at the nature of the world, forces the conviction on every mind. that the world cannot make man happy. The amount of good which it can afford, much as it exceeds what we have reason to expect,
yet compared with that of which the soul is capable, is justly denominated vanity and vexation of spirit. Under what a lamentable practical mistake, then, are a great majority of men' In youth, in manhood, in old age, happiness from the world is the great object of pursuit. Though it perpetually eludes the grasp, yet disappointment only serves to renew the ardour of pursuit, or to change the path of search; never persuades to abandon the object. Now is this use of the world conformed to the true design of him that made it for man f If the whole world were gained, would the object aimed at, be secured P Would present happiness be enjoyed Is not God the only satisfying portion of the soul? Is net man a pilgrim on earth, and in the midst of his journey; and does either his present or his future happiness require that he look for his home, his rest, his complete enjoyment, while on his way to eternity ? Surely he is not subserving the end of his present condition, by using this world to satisfy the desires of that spirit which pants for immortality, and which can be satisfied only with the fulness of God. Reason tells us, that the good things of our earthly pilgrimage are given as mere refreshments by the way, to cheer our progress and animate our steps toward our Father's house; while the experience of six thousand years, decides, that to fix the heart on this world as our portion, is to tread the path of disappointment, of anxiety, of sorrow, of siu and of ruin. What then is there in the true and proper use of this world that is inconsistent with the demands of religion ? Is the religion, which requires us to estimate this world according to its true value in comparison with another, which would awaken us from the wretched dream, that to feed on ashes is the perfection of our immortal mature, which would check us in the pursuit of empty visions, which surrounds us with the substantial realities of eternity, and which directs us to fix the desires of the soul on the only object that can fill and satisfy them, is such a religion an enemy to human happiness P Does it bring disorder into the affections of the soul or defeat the end of our being, or does it prescribe to us that very estimate of the world, and that very use of it, which will alike contribute to our happiness here and hereafter 2 If then we would not pervert the world by direct and palpable abuse, if we would use it for the end designed by the Creator, let us yield implicitly to the authority of that religion, whose demands conform so exactly with the real good of man. 3. Another remark closely allied with the former, is that if we would use this world as not abusing it, we must not make it the occasion of exeiting or gratifying our animal appetites or selfish passions. That the true and proper use of the world is not to pamper the body with food, or drink, or other sensual indulgence, is obvious in its effects on the present well being of man. Contemplate the drunkard, wasting by the poison that he loves; listen to the oaths and blasphemies he utters, and mark the crimes he perpetrates. Follow him to his home, witness his broken hearted wife, and his starving children, see them terrified by his fury, or overwhelmed in anguish by his vices, behold his bloated visage, his trembling hands, his enfeebled frame; see his remorse and conscious degradation in the moments of sobriety, or what is more common, his restlessness to repeat his brutal indulg nee; consider thus minutely any course of sensual indulgence, and say, is this to use the world as not abusing it? Consider these things again, and say, is the religion which proscribes intemperate indulgence, incompatible with that use of the world, which reason approves P Surely he who was formed to be the companion of angels, is not doomed so to use the world in which he is placed, as to sink himself below the beasts that perish. Similar remarks apply to the selfish passions of man. Auger, revenge,
discontent, envy, pride, and avarice, are the appropriate operations of a selfish spirit, as that spirit is excited and put in action by the world.— Counteract that insluence of the world which excites the spirit of selfishness, and none of these passions would invade the breast of man. That the indulgence of these passions are necessary to the present well being of man, in any condition in which he can be placed, none will affirm. Will anger make him happy? Will discontent or fretfulness, or an open contest with God under adverse events, make him happy? Will pride, or envy, or revenge, make him happy : Will avarice which hoards or desires useless wealth, make him happy P Will any one, or all of these selfish passions as continual or occasional inmates of the bosom of man, secure “the soul’s calm sunshine P” Every one's own heart tells him, that the real sacrifice is not to renounce these tempers, but to cherish them, that to use the world as the occasion of their excitement is to abuse it, and that in all the diversified conditions of man, there is no way of deriving an equal measure of enjoyment from the world as by cultivating meekness, humility, forgiveness, submission, compassion, benevolence. What then, in this department of life, are the requisitions of true religion ? Are we ill-treated by our fellow men, we are to think of the bright example of him, who when he reviled, reviled not again; and are to render good for evil, blessing for cursing. Are we called to endure adversity and affliction, we are to reflect on the vanity of the world, reminded that all that befalls us is of God's appointment, summoned to a cheerful submission to his will, made to reflect that we need correction, and urged to profit by the strokes of our heavenly Father's hand. Are we blessed with prosperity, we are to check our expectations from it, to consider of how little consequence is all earthly good, to guard against its power on our hearts, to awaken gratitude to our divine Benefactor, and to be quickened in pursuit of that higher and nobler good, which is secured by the covenant of his promise. Are we applauded and caressed by the world, we must see to it, that we are not overcome by this most dangerous temptation, and cherish a higher regard for the favour of God than for the honour that cometh from man. Do we possess wealth, talents, influence, or other means of doing good in this world of sin and suffering, we are taught that these are entrusted to us by that God whose stewards we are, to be used for the glory of him who has said, “occupy till I come;” that we are not to bury one talent, lest we incur the doom of that servant, who ventured on the awful experiment; that neither pride nor avarice nor sensuality, are to measure our beneficence, nor appropriate our possessions; that we are not to amass useless wealth, for posthumous distinction, or as the means of indulgence and ostentation to our children, that we are to open our hand wide to the poor, to be rich in good works, willing to distribute, ready to communicate, and that it is more blessed to give than to receive. These instances are sufficient to shew, what are the demands of Christianity, in all the conditions in which men are placed in the world, and to enable us to decide whether its claims come into competition, with any real interest which the world creates. They shew us that if we can be satisfied to use the world as not abusing it, to use it in such a manner as to derive from it under every condition of life, the highest measure of good which it can afford, we shall instead of finding our path crossed by the requisitions of religion, find ourselves walking in the very path which God has marked out for us. 4. It is to be enquired how far the necessary business of the world is compatible with the devotional duties of religion. That much care and labour are necessary to provide for the comfortable supply of our own wants,
and of the wants of those who are dependant upon us, cannot be rationally denied.
Tosay nothing then, of the incongruity of supposing that God should require a portion of time to be allotted to prayer and other exercises of devotion, and that he should place us in a world, where our own comfortable subsistence, necessarily prevents obedience to his requirements; the point of enquiry now is, whether a true and proper use of the world, necessarily occupies the whole of our probation. If the only proper use of the world, is to pursue with insatiable eagerness, its honours and its riches, to despise a low situation though amply comfortable, and to grasp at all the possessions that the utmost effort can accumulate, then indeed man has no time for religion. But to justify such a use of the world the plea of necessity cannot be made. Indeed reason and experience both decide that a moderate indulgence of the good things of this life, is the part of true wisdom. To sit loose to the world in our affections, is the surest way to derive from it the highest measure of good. All beyond is the vexation of care, and the torment of anxiety: and having food and raiment, and the ordinary portion of other worldly comforts, we have not only reason for contentment, but for gratitude.
“Man wants but little here below, Nor wants that little long.”
It becomes every one who pleads the press of occupation, the calls of business, and the cares of life, to enquire, why his time is thus engrossed. Is it a matter of absolute necessity? If not, it is a matter of choice without necessity; and what right has any man to involve himself in a multiplicity of useless cares, to bind around him the chains of incessant occupa-. tion, and plead that he cannot exempt himself from the bondage, which neither God nor nature has created 2– Let him farther enquire, does he find no time for unnecessary relaxation of
amusement: Let him ask how many of his precious moments are actually devoted unnecessarily to sleep, to sloth, to the gaieties and pleasures of life? Let him ask what is the result of his entire absorption in the business of the world P Is it barely a competent and comfortable livelihood P Is it not wealth, more than enough for the supply of every reasonable want Can he shew this result of his occupied hours and days, as that which dire necessity obliged him to secure ? Can the eye of reason, can the eye of God be imposed upon by the display of useless treasures, as proof that no time has been wasted And to place the enquiry on its true ground, does he honestly believe that he has a real desire for the duties of devotion ? Is he well satisfied, had ample time been surnished, that he should have found himself attracted to communion with God by prayer and devout reading and meditation ? Would it not even then have been a tasteless occupation; and after all, is not the real reason that he has found no time for devotional exercises, that he wished to find none * Surely in all these cases, (and it is believed that mone can be found, which are not virtually comprised in them,) the plea of necessity drawn from the occupations of life must be utterly unavailing. No man who knows what it is to use this world as not abusing it, can say without a blush, that he has no time for intercourse with his God. It might be shewn indeed, that as dependant on the divine bounty for every degree of wordly prosperity, we can devote no portion of our time to the object with better advantage, than to thank him for the past success with which he may have crowned our efforts: and to supplicate his guidance and his blessing on our suture toils. He is the being whose goodness lengthens out the brittle thread, of life, and draws around us our circle of blessings: he is the being whom we have offended, and whose mercy we need ; he is the be
ing without whose care, we sink to hopeless perdition, without whose promise, our hopes for eternity vanish in empty dreams; without whose power creation dies. How preposterous, how impious then the plea, that the cares and business of time, leave no moments to devote to the great purpose of learning his will and of seeking his mercy and his grace. Finally, it only remains to enquire, whether the necessary business of the world, can be pursued under the constant influence and control of religious principle. It is easy to see how a direct reserence should be had to the will and glory of God, in acts of religious worship, but how this can be the constant state of the mind, in the ordinary and necessary business of the world, is of more difficult apprehension. The compatibility of religious principle with the ordinary business of the world, as that business is actually pursued by the great body of mankind, may be doubted. If the business in which we are engaged be unlawful in itself, if it be pursued by unlawful means, if the loose maxims of trade which are prevalent, and which are real maxims of dishonesty, are adopted; if our object be to overreach by falsehood, or decoy by deception; if we are aiming to secure a large portion on earth as our highest good, and using every advantage in our power to reach the object of our desires, then it must be consessed, that our business is utterly incompatible with the purity and dominion of religious principle. But if we are willing in the business of life, to use the world as not abusing it, if we are willing to pursue a lawsul calling by lawful means; if we are as willing to be governed by the principles, as to enjoy the reputation of strict homesty; if we are willing to limit our desires, to be moderate in our pursuit of the world, then why may we not yield ourselves to the influence of holy motives P. There are not a few who must labour for a subsistence and who must, for this purpose, devote by far the greater portion of their time to worldly concerns. Not a few submit to their lot as a mere matter of necessity, and go through with a daily course of honest toil, from no higher motives than to supply their wants, to procure the humble comforts of life, or to improve their earthly condition. Why may not a similar course be pursued from higher and purer motives: Is God has made it not only a matter of necessity but of duty, that we should be diligent in business, then surely when occupied in that business, we may serve and glorify him. As saints and angels in heaven, by the circumstances of their condition, are called to glorify God in songs of adoration and praise, so too may the husbandman, the mechanic, or the servant glorify Ged in his humbie and laborious calling. Each performs in such a case the duties of his condition, and no less truly does he who keeps in view the honour and glory of God in the ordinary concerns of life, act under the influence of religious principle, than he who unites in the songs of heaven. It is not the nature of the employment, by which the question whether God may be glorified by it, is to be decided, but the fact that he has or has not made it our duty. It is not that in the business of the world we propose to ourselves our own well-being as a subordinate end, that duty towards God is not performed; that we do not propose his glory as our ultimate end, and yield to it as our governing motive. Let the aim, the ultimate object, be something beyond all that sense or worldly prudence, or selfish feelings, or natural affection, would suggest: let there be that habitual regard to the will of God, which shall lead us in all suitable measure to practice self-denial, and to act as we should not act merely for our own gratification; let us propose an end above that of worldly men, even when the action as distinct from the principle might be the same : let us be ever looking to God for support, thanking him for success, acting always under his eye, as bound to consult his will, and to promote his glo
ry; then shall we glorisy God, not only when in the sanctuary, not only when we bow our knees before him in the closet, but while occupied in the common business of life. And is this impossible? Does the very nature of worldly avocations preclude all thoughts of God? Can we keep constantly on the mind, our own worldly interest or reputation, or the wishes of an earthly parent or friend, and do nothing inconsistent with this end of our conduct, and is it utterly impossible to regard in like manner the glory of our heavenly Father, the pleasure of an Almighty Friend?— The plea is vain. It is a practicable duty, it is a reasonable service that we should always move about under a controling influence of the will and glory of that God who is always with us. Thus such an impression, reduced to a settled principle of action, would sanctify all our conduct. It would set a sacred stamp of moral excellence even on the minutest parts of human action. In the bold imagery of the Prophet, “holiness would be written on the bells of the horses.” In the industrious and active business of the world, in all the necessary relaxation from its toils, when we eat and drink or retire to rest, no less than in prayer and praise, all we do would flow from the purest and noblest motives that move the activity of angels, or the energies of God. Thus between the true use of this world and the holy duties of religion, there is an exact and a divine coincidence. Say not, reader, to excuse your disobedience to the divine requirements, that propriety authorises this, law ulness justifies that, and necessity demands another thing, and that these are inconsistent with an habitual regard to religion; nothing is prope, nothing is lawful, nothing is necessary, from which religion must be, or is actually separated. Nothing is proper, nothing is lawful, nothing is necessary, which cannot be done, which is not done, to glorisy God. There are no conflicting claims between God and the world, between