Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

The other circumstances mentioned in the text; the society to be enjoyed in that future state of being. With you I shall drink of the fruit of the vine in my Father's kingdom. In how amiable a light does our Saviour here appear, looking forward to a future re-union with those beloved friends, whom he was now leaving, as to a circumstance which should increase both his own felicity and theirs, when they met again in a happier world! Thus, in the most affectionate manner, cheering their drooping and dejected spirits; and by a similar prospect providing for the comfort of his followers in future generations, when they shall be about to leave the world.

The expressions in the text plainly suggest a joyful intercourse among friends, who had been separated by death, and therefore seem to give much confirmation, to what has always been a favourite hope of good men; that friends shall know and recognize each other, and renew their former connections, in a future state of existence. How many pleasing prospects does such an intimation open to the mind! How much does it tend to compensate the vanity of life, and to mitigate the sorrows of death! For it is not to be denied, that one of the most bitter circumstances attending death is, the final separation from beloved friends. This is apt equally to wring the hearts of the dying, and the surviving; and it is an anguish of that sort, which descends most deeply into the virtuous and worthy breast. When surrounded with an affectionate family, and weeping friends, a good man is taking his last adieu of all whom he held most dear on earth; when, with a feeble voice, he is giving them his blessing, before he leaves them for ever; when, for the last time, he beholds the countenance, he touches the hand, he hears the voice, of the person nearest his heart; who could bear this bitterness of grief, if no support were to be ministered by religious hope? If there were no voice to whisper to our spirits, that hereafter we, and those whom we love, shall meet again in a more blissful land ? What higher view can possibly be given, of the benefit redounding from this divine institution, than its affording us consolation in such situations of extreme distress, by realizing to our souls the belief of an immortal state, in which all the virtuous and worthy shall be re-united in the presence of their common Lord ?

Thus I have set before you many considerations, arising from the sacrament of our Lord's supper, which render it a proper preparation not only for a good life, but for a comfortable and happy death. The great improvemeut to be made of the subject is, to bring to the altar of God such dispositions of heart, as may give us ground to hope for this blessed effect. Let us approach to the sacrament with the same seriousness of frame, as if it were the last time we were ever to partake of it; as if we were now making provision for a journey to that land whence none return; as if we were never to drink, in this manner, of the fruit of the vine, until that day when we drink it with those whom we have loved in our Father's kingdom.— God only knows to whom this may be truly spoken! God knows who, of this assembly, shall never have opportunity to approach again to the sacred table, and to meet with their brethren, on such an occasion, in the courts of the Lord's house ! Whatever our doom is to be, whether we are appointed for life or for death, such is the frame of mind which now best becomes, and will most improve us in partaking of the holy sacrament.

Let me caution you, before I conclude, against judging of the propriety of your disposition in this solemn act of worship, solely by the warmth of your affections and the fervour of your devotion. This state of heart, how desirable soever it may be, cannot be at all times possessed. It depends in some measure on natural sensibility. All are not equally endowed with warm and tender feelings. Even they who are susceptible of the highest degrees of pious and virtuous sensibility, cannot, on every oc. casion, command that happy temperature of mind. We are not, therefore, to judge unfavourably of ourselves, if this be not always the privilege of our devotions. It is chiefly a sedate and composed frame of spirit, that we must study to cultivate ; arising from grave and sober thoughts; from serious and penitent recollection of past errors ; from good purposes for the future; and from a deep sense of the approaching events of death and immortality. Penetrated with such dispositions, you have ground to come to the altar of God with humble trust and joy ; under the belief, that you are approaching, through the great Redeemer, to that merciful Creator, to whom, in the high and holy place of eternity, the devout aspirations of his servants on earth are ever acceptable and pleasing.

VOL. II.

SERMON XLVI.

ON TITE USE AND ABUSE OF THE WORLD,

They that use this world, as not abusing it.

1 CorintHIANS, vii. 31.

TUE world is always represented in Scripture as the great scene of trial to a Christian. It sets before him a variety of duties, which are incumbent on him to perform and, at the same time, surrounds him with many dangers, against which he has to guard. The part which is proper for him to act, may be comprised in these two expressive words of the text; using the world, and not abusing it ; the significancy and extent of which, I propose now to explain. The subject is of the highest importance, as in the world we must live: and according as we use, or abuse it, it will prove either our friend or our greatest foe.

It is natural to begin with observing, that the Christian is here supposed to use the world ; by which we must certainly understand the Apostle to mean, maintaining intercourse and connection with the world ; living in it, as one of the members of human society ; assuming that rank which belongs to his station. No one can be said to use the world who lives not thus. Hence it follows, that sequestration from the world is no part of Christian duty; and it appears strange, that even among those who approve not of monastic confinement, seclusion from the pleasures of society should have been sometimes considered, as belonging to the character of a religious man. They have been supposed to be the best servants of God, who, consecrating their time to the exercises of devotion, mingle least in the ordinary commerce of the world ; and especially who abstain most rigidly from all that has the appearance of amusement. But how pious and sincere soever the intentions of such persons may be, they certainly take not the properest method, either for improv

ing themselves, or for advancing religion among others For, this is not using the world, but relinquishing it. Instead of making the light of a good example shine with useful splendour throughout the circle of society, they confine it within a narrow compass. According to the metaphor employed by our Saviour, after the candle is lighted, they put it under a bushel. Instead of recommending religion to the world, they exhibit it under the forbidding aspect of unnecessay austerity. Instead of employing their influence to regulate and temper the pleasures of the world, by a moderate participation of those that are innocent, they deliver up all the entertainments of society into the hands of the loose and giddy.

The various dangers which the world presents to one who is desirous of maintaining his piety and integrity, have given rise to this scrupulous caution concerning the use of the world ; and, so far, the principle is commendable. But we must remember, that the virtue of a Christian is to be shown, in surmounting dangers which he is called to encounter. Into the post of danger we were ordered by Providence when we were brought into this world. We were placed as soldiers, on the field of battle. It is there that our fidelity to our great commander must appear. The most signal virtues which adorn and improve the human character, are displayed in active life. There, the strength of the mind is brought forth and put to the test. There, all the amiable dispositions of the heart find their proper exercise : humanity is cultivated; patience, fortitude, and self-denial, come forward in all their forms: and the light of good men's works so shine before others as to lead them to glorify their Father which is in Heaven.

It may be assumed, therefore, as a principle justified by the text, and by the whole strain of Scripture, that to use, and in a certain degree to enjoy, the world, is altogether consistent with religion. According to the rank which men possess in society, according to their age, their employment, and connections, their intercourse with the world will be more or less extended. In private life, they use the world with propriety, who are active and industrious in their callings; just and upright in their dealings; sober, contented, and cheerful in their station. When the circumstances of men allow them a wider command of the enjoyments of the world, of those enjoyments they may freely partake, within the bounds of temperance, moderation, and decency. The highest situations of rank and opulence ought to be distinguished by dignity of character; by extensive beneficence, usefulness, and public spirit; by magnificence, without ostentation, and generous hospitality, without profusion.

We shall have a clearer view of the proper use of the world, when we contrast it with that abuse of the world, which we o

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 economy 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

« AnteriorContinuar »