« VorigeDoorgaan »
is without stain, was never put to any but a sacred ufe. It was then a theatre of divine glory, as indeed it is still ; but not a scene of human guilt, as it is now. It was in. tended for a place of trial, however, in which man was left to the freedom of his own will; and therefore it was capable of being abused. Thence came that facrilegious attachment to the world, from which it is so much our in. terett to be effectually delivered. But to explain this matter a little more at large, the world must be crucified to the believer in the following respects; which, though I confess triey all come at last to the same thing, yet I think it is proper and necefiary to mention distinctiy .
1. ris it is tbe subject and occasion of, or a temptation to sin. It is very plain, that however taultless and excellent the whole works of nature and providence are in them: felves, from the corruption of our nature they become the food ot carnal aitection, the fuel of concupiscence. - The very liberality of Providence, and rich provision made for the supply of our wants and the gratification of our appetites, becomes a temptation to grofs sensuality, and criminal indulgence. This is well described by the apostie Jonin, 1 Ep. ii. 16. “For all that is in the world, “ the luit of the fiefh, and the lust of the eyes, and the “ pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world." In this view, we ought to hold it in the utmost abhorrence. But now is this to be done? By seriously considering the unhappy and powerful influence it hath in foliciting us to evil. inltead of being taken with its charms, we ought to dread their force, we ought to be sensible how unequal we are to the conflict, and how unable, without fuperior strength, to keep ourselves from its pollution. .
When we see persons in honor and power, and are tempted to envy their distinguished rank in life, we ought to consider how naturally exaltation tends to intoxicate the mind, how few are able to bear honor or reputation with humility, and how little reason we have to confide in our own steadiness and resolution. When we see the fplendor of a rich and affluent state, we ought to consider the strong temptation which commonly arises from riches, to con. tempt of God, oppression of others, fensuality of temper, and forgetfulness of eternity. Suffer me, on this subject, to make every man his own reprover. How few are there in a rich and affluent state, whose conduct in the application of riches you can wholly approve! Are you not con. ftantly blaming them for covetousness and oppression on the one hand, or prodigality on the other ? How is it, then, that you entertain no fufpicion that you yourselves would be led astray by the same means? Is not this a strange infatuation, and blindness to divine truth, even where every word of the Spirit of God is ratified by daily experience ? . When we fee and are tempted to envy the votaries of pleasure, those who live delicately and fare fumptuously every day, we ought to consider, what a dangerous en. snaring thing appetite is, how it steals upon men insensibly, and at last enflaves them absolutely; how hard it is for the most cautious to set proper bounds to it, as well as how dreadful and fatal the excefsive indulgence of it. To crucify the world, then, as a temptation to fin, is not to consider its charms by themselves, but always in connection with their probable effects. This seems to have fuggested the wife and well-conceived prayer of the prophet Agur, Prov. xxx. 7, 8, 9. "Two things have I required • of thee, deny me them not before I die. Remove far “ from me vanity and lies; give me neither poverty nor “ riches, feed me with food convenient for me : left I be “ full, and deny thee, and say, Who is the Lord ? or left " I be poor, and steal, and take the name of my God in “ vain,” On the same thing is founded the advice of Solomon, with regard to the fin of sensuality : Proverbs xxiii. 31. “ Look not thou upon the wine when it is red, “ when it giveth his colour in the cup, when it moveth it“self aright."
2. The world must be crucified to the believer, as it would be his supreme felicity and chief good. This is no otherwise to be distinguished from the former consideration, than as the general course and stream of our affections differs from particular acts of transgression. It is very necellary, however, to attend to it; for there are many un, der the habitual government of a worldly mind, who do not think themselves, and who perhaps are notjustly charge able with gross acts of irregularity and excess. I bleed inwardly to think, how many of the ordinary professors of religion are here included. How many are there, who, if conscience would be faithful, must confess, that the favor of God, his worthip, his fabbaths, his people, are not their fupreme delight! Yet that this is ellential to real religion, or rather is the substance of all true religion, I think we have repeated assurances in the holy fcriptures. It is plain from the language of the Pfalmift, Pfal. lxxiii. 25: “ Whom have I in heaven but thee? and there is none “ upon earth that I desire besides thee." It is plain from the sum of the moral law, Luke x. 27. “Thou shalt love “ the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy “ foul, and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind "and thy neighbor as thyself;" as also from that trying passage, Matth. x. 37. “ He that loveth father or mother “ more than me, is not worthy of me; and he that loveth * fon or daughter more than me, is not worthy of me."
Take heed then, my brethren, to this important truth. If the world would keep its distance, fo to fpeak, it might be esteemed, and used, in its proper place, and to its proper end; but if it will needs pretend to be what it is not, and to promise what it cannot give, we must take it for a deceiver, and hold it in detestation. Your Maker form: ed you for his own glory: He must be the rest and consolation of your fouls, or they never shall have reft; he must be their happiness, or they shall be iniserable for ever. But if the world would seem to be your home, if it promiseth you content and satisfaction, if the possession of it is the ultimate end at which you aspire, so that you do not hear tily, and with affection, look any further, it is ufurping its Creator's throne; and therefore down with the idol; and tread it in the dust.
Is not this the great question with regard to us all, Whether the objects of faith, or of sense, things present or things to come, God or the world, has the poffeffion of our hearts? A believer who will thankfully receive and use the blessings of a present world for their proper end, will notwithstanding hold it, and all its poffeffions, in the high
est degree of contempt, when compared with the one thing needful. He will say, from the bottom of his heart, in the presence of an all feeing God, “ Lord, let we never have e my portion in this world only. The glory of a throne, " the most inexhaustible mines of gold and silver, without “ thy favor, I would not only despise, but abhor.”
Whence arifes this disposition in the believer ? From a conviction of the unsatisfying nature of all earthly enjoy. ments; from an inward persuasion of this truth, That " the world, in its best state, is altogether vanity;" from a sense of the infinite disproportion between the possession of the creature, and the favor of the Creator; but, above all, from a deep and abiding conviction of the precari. ousness and uncertainty of all earthly things. However undeniable it is, that the fashion of this world passeth away, few there are who live under the strong and lively practical impression of it. The deceived hearts of finners.be. lieve the contrary. How well are they described by the Psalmift, Pfal. xlix. II, 12, 13. “ Their inward thought " is, that their houses shall continue for ever, and their " dwelling-places to all generations; they call their lands " after their own names. Nevertheless, man being in “ honor, abideth not: he is like the beasts that pe“ rifh. This their way is their folly ; yet their poste. “ rity approve of their fayings !" One would think, nothing more should be necessary to crucify the world, than to reflect upon the many descriptions given us in the word of God of its uncertain duration; Psal. xxxvii. 35, 36. “ I have seen the wicked in great power; and “ spreading himself like a green bay-tree. Yet he passed “ away, and lo, he was not; yea, I fought him, but he “ could not be found.” IS. xl. 6. “ And the voice said,
Cry. And he said, What shall I cry? All flesh is grass, 6 and all the goodliness thereof is as the flower of the field.” I Mall only add our Lord's description of the sudden call of a wordly man to death and judgment; Luke xii. 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21. “ And he spake a parable unto them, « saying, The ground of a certain rich man brought forth “ plentifully. And he thought within himself, saying, “ What shall I do, because I have no room where to bec “ ftow my fruits ? And he said, This will I do ; I will Vol. I.
- 4 A
“ pull down my barns, and build greater; and there will “ I beltow all my fruits, and my goods. And I will say “ to my soul, Soul, thou hast much goods laid up for many “ years; take thine ease, eat, drink, and be merry. But “ God said unto him, Thou fool, this night thy foul shall “ be required of thee; then whose fhall those things be
which thou hast provided ? So is he that layeth up trea“ sure for himself, and is not rich towards God.”
3. The world must be crucified, as it pretends to be necessary to our felicity. This is chiefly directed against those who love the world to excess, though at the same time they at least pretend to love God more. They seem to have chosen God as their supreme; but it does not appesr, that they have chosen him as their fufficient portion. The world still bulks so much in their eye, that they know no happiness or comfort of which it makes not a part. They fee, or think they fee, the insufficiency of the world, without the favor of God, as a refuge when the world fails ; but they can no more rest satisfied in God without the world, than in the world without God. I have no doubt, you will be sensible there are many amongst us in this condition : nay, I am afraid there will be not a few within themselves secretly justifying this character and conduct. They will say, "Is it possible to deny, that the
world is necessary to us while we continue here? is it not • fo to you as well as to us? and therefore why should it * not be regarded in this light ?'
To all such I answer, The world, in a certain proportion, is indeed necessary to us; but this proportion is not to be ascertained by us. It must be left to the disposal of infinite wisdom, without any conditions. When there is a divorce or separation between the believer and the world, it is entire and complete, without reserve or limitation. He gives up all as the object of carnal affection, that he may receive again, for a nobler purpose, that measure which seems necessary to the sanctified will of God. He is just in the situation of a man who, having contracted obligations which he is unable to discharge, has surrendered his all into the hands of another; and has no further use of what was formerly his own, than as much, or as