Imágenes de páginas

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.

[blocks in formation]

Some sort of apology may be framed for them who seek to extract from the world, pleasure of one kind or other. But for those who know no pleasure, farther than adding house to house, and field to field, and calling them their own, it is hardly possible to frame any apology. Such persons are idolaters of the worst kind; for they have made the world their God. They daily worship and bow down before it ; and hold nothing to be mean or base, which can promote the enlargement of their fortune. He is an abuser of the world, let his possession of it be ever so ample, who knows nothing higher than the gains of the world. He is an abuser of the world, who sacrifices probity, virtue, or humanity, to its interests. He is an abuser of the world, who cannot occasionally retreat from it, to consider what character he bears in the sight of God; and to what issue his conduct will bring him at last. In a word, the world is then properly used, when it is generously and beneficially enjoyed; neither hoarded up by avarice, nor squandered by ostentation.

III. THE world is abused, by those who employ its advantages to the injury or oppression of their brethren. Under this class are included the worst and most criminal abusers of the world; who turn against their fellow-creatures those advantages with which it has pleased Heaven to distinguish them. It is a class which comprehends the sovereign who tyrannises over his people; the great man who depresses his dependants; the master who is cruel to his servants; every one, in fine, who renders his superiority of any kind, whether of wealth or power, innecessarily grievous to those who are his inferiours;

whose superciliousness dejects the modest; whose insolence tramples on the poor; whose rigour makes the widow and the orphan weep. Persons of this character, while thus abusing the advantages of the world, may, for a while, enjoy their triumph. But let them not think their triumph is always to last. Their turn shall come to be humbled as low as those whom they now oppress. For there is a vigilant eye in the heavens, attentive to observe their procedure. There is an impartial ear which listens to every just complaint preferred against them. There is an irresistible arm stretched over their heads, whose weight they shall one day feel. The sovereign of the universe characterises himself in the sacred writings, as peculiarly an adversary to the insolent and haughty. For the oppression of the poor, for the sighing of the needy, now will I arise, saith the Lord; I will set him in safety from him that puffeth at him. * I will come near to you in judgment; and I will be a swift witness against those that oppress the hireling in his wages, the widow, and the fatherless, and that turn aside the stranger from his right. He that oppresseth the poor, reproacheth his Maker. ‡ The Lord will plead their cause; and spoil the soul of those that spoiled them. S

After hearing these awful words, is it not strange, O men, at once infatuated and cruel! that you cannot use the world without abusing it to the distress of your brethren? Even supposing no punishment to be threatened, no arm to be lifted up against you, is there nothing within you that relents at the cir

* Psalm xii. 5.`
Prov. xiv. 31.

+ Malachi, iii. 5
§ Prov. xxii. 23.

cumstances of those below you in the world? Is it not enough, that they suffer their own hard fate, without its being aggravated by your severity and oppression? Why must the aged, the poor, and the friendless, tremble at your greatness? Cannot you be happy, unless you make them eat their scanty morsel in bitterness of heart? You happy!-profane not the word-what is such happiness as yours, compared with that of him who could say, When the ear heard me, then it blessed me: and when the eye saw me, it gave witness to me; because I delivered the poor that cried, and the fatherless, and him that had none to help him. I was a father to the poor. The blessing of him that was ready to perish came upon me ; and I caused the widow's heart to sing for *joy. How properly did such a man use the world, and with what just honour did he flourish in it! Unto me men gave ear; they kept silence, and waited for my counsel. The princes refrained talking. The aged rose and stood up. My root was spread out by the waters, and the dew lay upon my branch. Not only unknown to you are such pleasures of virtuous prosperity; but even previous to prepared punishment, be assured, that remorse is approaching to wring your hearts. Of the world, which you now abuse, in a short time nothing shall remain, but the horror arising from remembered crimes. The wages you have detained, the wealth you have squeezed from the needy, shall lie heavy on your souls. The stately buildings which your pride has erected, by means of violence and oppression, shall seem haunted by injured ghosts. The stone shall cry

* Job, xxix. 9 — 21.

« AnteriorContinuar »