« AnteriorContinuar »
bob; he had a serious education, but stifled all convictions; at last he could not bear to be alone, his conscience so tormented him, because of the rapacious means in which he had heaped up his riches; and you well knew poor Mercator, who was once a tall professor, and who, when he came to die, said to his surrounding family, “My children, I have procured you all, what the world calls, good fortunes; but I fear I have lost my own soul.” Ah, my dear Sir, how many, “while they have coveted
money, have first erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows;" and some at length have plunged themselves into perdition, 1 Tim. vi. 9, 10.
Secundus. But this has never been the case with any of the real people of God. “We know, that all things work together for their good.” And the Lord has promised, that “he will keep them from falling."
Fidelio. True. I do not mean to call in questior. "the immutability of the Lord's counsel” and covenant. “He is abundantly willing that the heirs of promise should have strong consolation.” But, my dear friend, suffer me to observe, that the tried saint is the true saint, as the old Puritans used to say; “Blessed is the man that endureth temptation;" and nothing has made more discoveries than the touchstone of prosperity. It has brought to view the concealed deceitfulness of the heart of hypocrites; not that I mean to say you are insincere. Also it has too often injured the real people of God. When Hezekiah was “magnified in the sight of all, his heart was lifted up; and there was wrath upon him,” 2 Chron. xxxii. 25, 26. And how was David drawn aside into a confident presumptuous spirit, Ps. xxx. 6. And I be: lieve therefore it is generally seen, from Scripture and
experience, that, respecting the lot of his people, as the Lord has put power, wealth, and consequence into one scale, he hath put some weighty trial into the other, to keep the balance even.
Secundus. You think then, I now see that I am not what I was. But who can charge me with any irregularity? Am I not a constant attendant at our place of worship when I am in town? And I hope I am not backward in advancing my mite to several charities.
Fidelio. My freedom hurts you: I do not mean to accuse, to reproach, but to warn you: But if I am not so happy as to make myself understood, I will take my leave.
Secundus. Proceed. I will not interrupt you again with my petulance. You have thought much more on this subject than I, who am more deeply interested, have done.
Fidelio. Remember your promise. I must then remind you, that covétousness is a frequent attendant on growing wealth. And therefore God says, “If riches increase set not your heart upon them," Psal. lxii. 10. I have known some, who were once very compassionate, kind, and good to the poor, out of a small store, who, since they have grown rich, look upon the poor with a haughty spirit of disdain, and steel themselves with hard-hearted arguments against their suffering cases. Many, who were once temperate in all things, have yielded to excesses they would before have trembled at; “their tables have become their snare;" and though they are not chargeable with drunkenness, "yet have been overcharged with surfeiting,” which blunts, confuses, and disorders the faculties of the mind.
Noah planted a vineyard, and gathered the fruit therea of; it became a temptation to him, Gen. ix. 20, 21; and I fear this has been especially the snare of those who have entered into clubs, political societies, music meetings,corporations, &c. Have we not often seen new and gay connexions, the consequences of rising fortunes, great snares? How was Solomon's heart“turned away?" 1 Kings ix. 3. How many, once plain, grave, and decent persons, as they have got up in the world, have by degrees become thoughtless; light and trifling in their spirit and conversation; and they and their families (though the forms of religion, have not been given up) have gone into fashionable and dissipating amusements; and the card table, the concert, and the theatre, are not only visited, but even vindicated by them. Once, they kept up constant and lively family devotion in their houses; but now they have not time and leisure, at most not oftener than once a day, or it may be once a week. The bustle of business, and late rising of the family,prevent morning prayer; and at night, company at home, or engagements abroad, break the lovely order once seen in their houses. No wonder that the conversation and conduct of children in such families should become frivolous, frothy, and, in short, like the rest of the world; and that they should discover enmity against, and throw contempt upon every thing seriously religious, while perhaps some aged relative, or serious servant, who loved, “the good old ways," feels and laments the sad alteration.
Secundus. Sad indeed, where matters are come to such a pass!
Fidelio. But where things are not so bad, there may be secret departure in heart from God; a sad declension as to the life and power of religion; a backwardness to a close converse with God; a shyness at the throne of grace; a misgiving of heart that all is not right between him and us; a servile fear of him; and an unwillingness to look into our spiritual state and frame; all which make it unpleasant to visit the closet of devotion, and induce a careless, hasty, superficial performance of duty, just to satisfy the demands of conscience; and what is the consequence? a worldly, trifling spirit, eager to catch at any thing, not immediately unlawful, to amuse the thoughts, and to join in any conversation that is not searching and spiritual, and endeavoring to avoid the most serious, plain, and faithfu, friends.
Secundus. My dear Fidelio, you have touched my very case, you have faithfully drawn my picture. I am the man.
I have endeavored to evade your design; but I thank you for so kindly compelling me to come to the point I wished to avoid. It is not with me as in months past. As I have increased in worldly comforts, I have been insensibly removed from peace; I have grown in pride and presumption, and have forgotten spiritual prosperity. Tell me how I shall recover the strength I have lost. Leave me not without your friendly counsels.
Fidelio. I rejoice to see your spirit so melted. What can I advise better than, in the language of our Lord, Remember from whence thou art fallen, and repent, and do thy first works, Rev. ii. 5.
The blessed doctrine of God's unchangeable love, which you hinted at in a wrong place, and, I was afraid,
for a wrong purpose, may well encourage you in
your return to him, Hosea xiv. 1; Jer. iii. 12, 13, 14. It is good in prosperity to "remember former days;" to look back to our father's house, acknowledging the good hand of our God upon us, crying out,“what am I?" Cultivate, my friend, a liberal spirit, and lay by for the poor, as God has prospered you. This is a good way to preserve what you have gained, and to get good interest upon it; I mean the blessing of the Lord, without the bitter addition of sorrow, Prov. X. 24. Ever remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he said, “It is more blessed to give than to receive, Acts
xx. 35. Whenever any of God's people have prospered one way, in his all-wise and all-gracious administration, he generally embitters their earthly comforts in another way, Jest their hearts should be divided,” and drawn away. You have, my dear friend, your abatements and trials: A worm is in every gourd. Instead of giving way to peevishness and repining, admire, esteem, and bless his faithful care, in not giving you up, in (may I use the language?) bestowing so much attention and pains on you. You should humbly ask, “Shew me wherefore thou contendest with me?" and earnestly pray that he would, by his good Spirit in your conscience, give a clear and determinate answer, correspondent to his gracious designs. Above all, Secundus, keep ever in view the uncertainty of all worldly possessions, many affecting proofs of which we have all around us. Remember the nearness of a dying moment; and the account to be given of your stewardship. But I must take