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AND THEY THAT USE THIS WORLD AS NOT ABUSING IT. 1 COB. VII. 31,
A O distinguish properly between the use of this world, and the abuse of it, is the part of every wise man; and happy will it he for him, if, when he knows this distinction, he makes it a rule of action, which doing, it will seldom fail to direct him. How common is it for men to render their lives insignificant to others, and troublesome to themselves, for want of knowing, and observing this plain distinction! The Jife of man is, and will be, short, when we do our best; and it must be often disturbed, by the ways of other people, over whom we have no power: but after all, most of the evils which man finds in this life, are of his own making. Natural and necessary evils may be great, but artificial evils are much greater: and so true is this, that if the case were 'properly related, with all circumstances, it would be generally found, that of those unhappy wretches, who drive themselves cut of the world, the far greater number are brought to this extremity, by their abuse of it. They first -spoil the world by their folly, then dislike it, and at last leave it in despair. Great effects often follow
from little causes; on which account, the nature of effects and causes in human life should be minutely observed, that we may know how to avoid the beginnings of danger: and if we cannot be so great, or so happy, as we may be tempted to wish, we may at least not be the authors of our own misery.
There are so many plain matters of fact to prove what I say, that the subject before us may be seen, and understood, by every person that will cast his eye upon it. It will be therefore profitable for us to survey some of the chief of those things, which this world presents to us; and having considered what their natural and proper use is, according to the intention of Providence; then to compare the conduct of meq in respect to them, and note the effect that conduct must necessarily have upon themselves. By this rule, -we may examine ourselves, and others; and having done so, we shall see better what human life is, and be taught how to use it.
The first thing which this world presents to. us, is Time, which God hath given to us all. To some he gives nobility; to others wealth; to others quickness of parts; but he gives Time to all. To have life is to have time, and time is given only for its use. It is divided into day and night: the day, being light, is intended for work and labour: and the night, being a time of darkness, is made for rest. All the useful creatures which God hath made, conform themselves to this division of their time. When the sun arises, the cattle go out to pasture; the birds of the air take wing in search of food. Even the flowers of the field open their eyes, to take advantage of the light, that shines upon them, and is bringing them to perfection. All creatures are well, and easy, when they follow this order of nature. The busy man that rises early to work, is cheerful in his mind; his family are living upon the fruits of his labour; and, according to the common course of things, his days will be prolonged upon the earth. He that uses his time as he ought, will have most of it to use. A regular life is commonly a long life.
But now what is he that abuses his time? never happy; never truly at ease; but restless, because he is useless. If he be rich and idle, he can afford to turn night into day. When the night comes, nature would shut his eyes; but folly keeps them open: and .ivhat is contrary to nature cannot be without injury to the health and spirits. He that is busy in the night, must rest in the day: if be be a poor man, his affair go to ruin; if he be a rich man, his health and mind suffer. With irregularity he loses his prudence, and with that he loses his fortune: for woe be to the man, who in a world of so much danger, is not careful to keep his head clear, and his wits about him. If the watchful man scarcely escapes, what must become of one who is stupid with sloth, or giddy with pleasure and dissipation? A regular orderly life is generally prolonged; an irregular life is shortened; and how often do we see, that he who lives in the world to no purpose, is sent out of it before his time!
The case is so plain with respect to the use and abuse of Time; that we may go on to another article; which shall be that of 'wealth.
What we call wealth has no intrinsic value of its own; it is valued for the sake of what it will procure; and when it procures nothing, it is worth nothing: but as its nature is, to answer all things; it gives us the command of all things. And what a noble opportunity is this! The rich man has the means of improving himself in wisdom, and knowledge; he can obtain all the information he desires : he can buy light; light for his mind to see by; while others of less ability are obliged to sit in their own darkness. This is one great purpose, for which wealth is bestowed; but it is not the only one: for wealth is given to some for the sake of all: God is no respecter of persons, but appoints some as his stewards and agents, for the benefit of others. On which consideration, no man has a right to consider himself as an absolute proprietor, with power to dispose of every thing he has, according to his own will. No: the Creator is the only proprietor, who is possessor of heaven and earth: and when man giveth to any, he resembles God, who giveth to all. Not he that receives most is the greatest, but he that gives most, because he is most like to God; which consideration alone is sufficient to prove, that it is more blessed to give than t-o receive. What a divine pleasure is it, to see others relieved in their wants, or gratified in their expectations, by any thing we have to bestow. The mind that delights in this, can find no higher or purer pleasure upon earth: and it is a pleasure that does not end with this world, but reaches to a better; it lays up treasure in heaven. Such is the use of wealth. But the abuse of it does great mischief: for as it furnishes an opportunity of more wisdom, when well used, its abuse corrupts the heart, breeds idleness, and nourishes folly. Instead of making others happy, it makes the possessor himself miserable: it puts him into a dangerous situation, by multiplying his temptations, and his opportunities of sin: so that it might well be said, how hardly shall they that have riches enter into the kingdom of God! If he bestows that upon himself in wantonness, which he ought to bestow upon others; he becomes vain, ..selfish, and hard-hearted.' Instead of being loved, he is hated: for nothing is more odious than pride and selfishness: and how must that man feel in his own mind, who is sensible that nobody loves him ?. All his wealth will never make him amends, for such a loss. Wealth is therefore (as you will find all other things to be) either good or bad, the means of happiness or misery, according to the use that is made of it.
This will appear farther, when we consider the use of meat and drink, for the support of man's life. To the hungry man, what a comfort it is to eat; and to the thirsty and faint, how pleasant it is to drink. Great reason, therefore, we have, especially in this plentiful season, to be thankful to the author of all good, when he gives us food sufficient for us. But for what end is it given? To enable us to carry on the necessary business of life; and that our support may be such as our work requires. This is the use of food: man eats and drinks that he may work: therefore the idle man forfeits his right to his daily bread; and the Apostle lays down a rule both just and natural; that //' any man will not work, neither should he eat.
But no sooner do we fall into abuse and excess, than we are sure to suffer for it, in mind and in body; either with sickness, or ill-temper, or vicious inclinations; or with all of them at once. It is with men, as it is with cattle. If we feed a horse properly, he is able to work: if he be over-fed, he is high-spirited and kicks; and perhaps may break his own neck, as .well as that of his rider. We may know how necessary moderate living is to the temper, if we observe how high living disposes the mind to riot and mischief. Besides; it has an effect directly contrary to its nature: for as man is enabled to work, by eating what is
i fufiicient; he is hindered from working, and becomes