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“live: turn ye, turn ye from your evil ways, for why “will ye die?” Thus doth the Gospel address the sinner, propose salvation to him, urge his acceptance of it, and leave every one without excuse, “who will “not come unto Christ, that they may have life;” but through pride and worldly affections pour contempt on the wisdom, truth, and mercy of God. The Lord waits to be gracious, and therefore he prolongs, according to his sovereign holy purposes, our lives from day to day. At length the appointed period arrives; the scene closes, and death fixes the final happiness or misery of every individual, according as he hath, or hath not, embraced this salvation; is, or is not, found ready. Our situation in this world, and its connexion with eternity being thus ascertained, we perceive what that event is, for which we are to be ready. As rational and accountable creatures; as sinners guilty, polluted, and condemned; as dying, yet to live after death to all eternity, in the joys of heaven, or the torments of hell; as under a dispensation of mercy and grace, by which all things requisite are freely given for Christ’s sake to every one that asketh for them; be ready, prepare to meet your God, your Creator, and Judge, whenever by death, he shall summon you into his presence.—We next enquire, II. In what this readiness consists? Surely it consists not in the acquisition or posses. sion of wealth.-Yet numbers act as if this were the one thing needful: as if they had lived to good purpose and die happy, who leave behind them, fifty or a hundred thousand pounds! This grand object engros
ses their thoughts, affections, time, and attention: to this all other pursuits are postponed, all other interests subordinated: for this the exercise of piety and charity must be contracted or neglected; too often justice disregarded. Six busy days afford no leisure for religious exercises, and transmit them jaded to the sabbath, as their day of relaxation and refreshment; or a day of weariness more intolerable than all the rest. “When will the sabbath be gone, that we may set “forth corn, making the shekel great, and the ephah “small, and falsifying the balances by deceit?” “Take heed and beware of covetousness, for a “man’s life consisteth not in the abundance of the “things that he possesseth:” neither the comfort, credit, usefulness, or length of it. Anxieties, suspicions, snares, and temptations alone, are multiplied with increasing wealth. “How hardly shall they that “have riches enter into the kingdom of heaven! It is “easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a nee“dle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom “of heaven.”—Men may express their astonishment at such declarations, as the disciples did, and exclaim, “Who then can be saved?” But the answer is put into our mouths, “The things which are impossible “with man are possible with God.” Some, who are rich in the world, are also rich towards God; some with whom “riches increase, set not their hearts upon “them;” they are rich “in good works;” “ and even “by their faithfulness in the unrighteous mammon,” (in getting, keeping, and spending of which, men commit so much unrighteousness,) “they lay up trea“sure in heaven.” But comparatively these are but Vol. III. - D
few: and none who love and trust in riches, and expect an accession of felicity from increasing wealth, rather than from increasing holiness, can be in the way of salvation; "for if any man love the world, the love "of the Father is not in him." "And they that wiJJ *' be rich" (being exposed through that covetous desire,) " fall into temptation, and a snare, and into di'.' vers foolish and hurtful lusts, which drown men ixa <* destruction and perdition:—" for the love of money "is the root of all evil."
Moreover riches, not being properly our own,, but committed to our stewardship, not only do not ward off, or retard the stroke of death; but, when not faithfully improved, they render its approach in every respect unspeakably more formidable.—" Give an ac"count of thy stewardship; for thou mayest be no "lenger steward." They who tenaciously keep possession of their riches, till death produces a reluctant separation, get little thanks from surviving heirs; who generally, in their turn, find them a pregnant source of jealousy, contention, and ill-will, and an occasion of additional sin and temptation.—A traveller, who approaches, in order to cross, the ocean, bowed down under a heavy burden of such things, as afford him neither present enjoyment nor prospect of future emolument, and as must very shortly be left behind upon the shore; and who assiduously and anxiously endeavours to increase his load; forms no unapt emblem of a character and conduct, but too commonly observable. I mean the character and conduct of such, as have already more than adds to enjoyment, nay» much that burdens them with solicitude, and be
sets them with temptations and snares: who may very soon, and must ere long, leave all behind them for ever: and yet " there is no end of all their labour," in adding i. their useless and troublesome abundance.—But can Uiis be a rational conduct? a suitable preparation for a dying hour?—Yet is not this the very preparation many of you are making? Are you thus eagerly pursuing wealth? Exulting in your success, or murmuring under disappointment? Or, like the covetous man in this chapter, saying " Soul take "thine ease, eat, drink, and be merry, thou hast "goods laid up for many years?"—And now, should God say, "Thou fool, this night, thy soul shall be "required of thee:" the justice of the sentence and of the cutting rebuke, must be evident to your conscience; nor would your superfluous wealth prove the least source of comfort, or alleviation of your awful condition.
Neither was his preparation in the least degree better, "who was clothed in purple and fine linen, and "fared sumptuously every day;" who made choice of these for his good things, and looked for no higher pleasures. The luxury, the elegance, the pomp, and pride of life, which form so great a part of the business, conversation, ambition, and indulgence of those, who can, and those who cannot, afford them; however their doting admirers may defend their innocency, doubtless form a miserable preparation for a dying hour. Such an attention to animal gratification and external embellishment, prostitutes the affections, and debases the dignity of the rational and immortal soul: betrays a grovelling and trifling mind; and is utterly inconsistent with the simplicity and spirituality of the christian religion. The wealth thus lavished (if ereditors have not a claim to it,) demands a better improvement: the time ought to be redeemed to better purposes: and each professor of the gospel ought, by his example, to bear testimony against the prevailing extravagancy and folly of a luxurious, dissipated age and nation, and by no means to give a sanction to it. Nor can he, whose satisfaction lies in such things, point out any favourable distinction between himself, and that rich man, who lived thus splendidly and luxuriously, and when he died, "lifted up his eyes in "hell being in torments."—Yet are not even some present thus engaged? Are there not those among you, who are more eager to possess, and more ambitious to excel, and more afraid and ashamed to be outstript in, these things, than in righteousness and true holiness? Do not some spend twice the time about these baubles, that they do in secret devotion? Perhaps ten times the money, which they can afford for acts of charity? And is this the spirit, temper, and conduct of a christian? Let conscience determine, if it be not callous. Are these trifles? The world accounts them not so; for they sarcastically observe that religious people in their way, are as fond of the indulgences and distinctions of the world as others; which I am sure is no credit or "adorning to the doctrine of •' God our Saviour."—I say, are not some thus conducting themselves? For I bless God, we have many honourable exceptions to the general depraved taste of the age. But, which of the two characters, (they whose care is to put on Christ, and to be adorned