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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 members 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 superiours, 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 revel 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
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 of intemperate pleasure. I shall not recount all the better and more substantial enjoyments which they forfeit. Amidst the turbulence of riot, and the fumes of intoxication, unknown to them are the rational entertainments of regular life; the enjoyment of the face of nature; the pleasures of knowledge, and an improved mind; the pleasures of private friendship, and domestic
society; the conscious satisfaction which accom panies honourable labours, and the justly acquired esteem of those who surround them. All these they have thrown away; and in their room have substituted, what they think more high and vivid pleasures. But of what nature are those pleasures? Even in laughter the heart is sorrowful, and the end of that mirth is heaviness. *
At the bottom of the hearts of all men, there lies a secret sense of propriety, virtue, and honour. This sense may be so far blunted, as to lose its influence in guiding men to what is right, while yet it retains its power of making them feel that they are acting wrong. Hence remorse often gnaws the heart, which affects to appear light and gay before the world. Among the crowd of amusements, the voluptuary may endeavour to stifle his uneasiness; but through all his defences it will penetrate. A conscious sense of his own insignificance, when he sees others distinguished for acting a manly and worthy part; reflection on the time he has wasted, and the contempt he has incurred; the galling remembrance of his earlier and better days, when he gave the fair promise of accomplishments, which now are blasted; have frequently been found to sadden the festive hour. The noise of merriment may be heard; but heaviness lies at the heart. While the tabret and the viol play, a melancholy voice sounds in his ears. The wasted estate, the neglected halls, and ruined mansions of his father, rise to view. The angry countenances of his friends seem to stare him in the face. A hand
*Prov. xiv. 13.
appears to come forth on the wall, and to write his doom.
Retreat, then, from your dishonourable courses, ye who by licentiousness, extravagance, and vice, are abusers of the world! You are degrading, you are ruining yourselves. You are grossly misemploying the gifts of God; and the giver will not fail to punish. Awake to the pursuits of men of virtue and honour. Break loose from that magic circle, within which you are at present held. Reject the poisoned cup which the enchantress Pleasure holds up to your lips. Draw aside the veil which she throws over your eyes. You will then see other objects than you now behold. You will see a dark abyss opening below your feet. You will see virtue and temperance marking out the road which conducts to true felicity. You will be enabled to discern, that the world is enjoyed to advantage, by none but such as follow those divine guides; and who consider pleasure as the seasoning, but not as the business, of life.
II. THE world is abused, not only by an intemperate pursuit of its pleasures, but by a sordid attachment to its gains. This respects a set of men of very different description from the former, more decent in their carriage, and less flagrant in their vices; but corrupted by the world in no less a degree. For the world is often abused by the men of business, as much as by the men of pleasure. When worldly success becomes the sole object of their life; when the accumulation of fortune so engrosses them as to harden their heart against every feeling of moral obligation; when it renders them insensible to the calls of affection, and to the impressions of piety and religion;
they then come under the class of the covetous, whom it is said, the Lord abhorreth. *
The world, with its advantages, is a lawful object of pursuit to a Christian. He may seek, by fair industry, to render his circumstances affluent. Without reproof, he may aim at distinction and consideration in the world. He may bestow a considerable portion of his time and attention on the successful management of his worldly interest. All this is within the limits of that allowable use of the world, to which religion gives its sanction. But to a wise and good man, the world is only a secondary object. He remembers there is an eternity beyond it. His care is, not merely to amass and possess, but to use his possessions well, as one who is accountable to God. He is not a slave, either to the hopes or the fears of the world. He would rather forfeit any present advantage, than obtain it at the expence of violating the divine law, or neglecting his duty. This is using the world like a good man. This is living in it, as a subject of God, and a member of the great community of mankind. To such a man, riches are a blessing. He may enjoy them with magnificence, but he will use them with liberality. They open a wide field to the exercise of his virtue, and allow it to shine with diffusive lustre.
Very opposite to this, is the character of the worldly-minded. To them, the mere attainment of earthly possessions is an ultimate aim. They cannot be said to use the world; for to possess, not to use or enjoy, is their object. They are emphatically said in scripture, to load themselves with thick clay.