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which render it a proper preparation not only for a good life, but for a comfortable and happy death. The great improvement 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 occasion, 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 errours; 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.
On the USE and ABUSE of the WORLD.
1 CORINTHIANS, vii. 31.
- They that use this world, as not abusing it.
THE 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 higher 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 improving 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 unnecessary 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 the 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 selfdenial, 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 stations. 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 too often observe. Those abuses