Page images

But, my brethren, I find a strong inclination to make another remark, though perhaps it may be thought of too refined and abstract a nature. It is, that the danger of affluence in leading to contempt of God, arises from the nature of all sin as such. The original and first fin.of man was plainly affecting independence. They desired and expected to be as gods, knowing good and evil. And still sin properly consists in withdrawing our allegiance from, and throwing off our dependence upon God, and giving, as it were, that esteem, love and service to ourselves, in one shape or another, that is due only to him. Now observe, that affluence nourishes this miftake, and suffering kills it. The more every thing abounds with us, the more our will is fubmitted to, and our inclination gratified on every subject; the more we look upon ourselves as independent, and forget our obligations to God: Whereas, on the other hand, disappointments and calamities


and make us remember what we are.

Was not the proud monarch of Babylon inspired with this delusive fenfe of independence, when he expreffed him self thus': ' At the end of twelve months he ' walked in the palace of the kingdom of Baby< lon. The King fpake and said, Is not this * great Babylon that I have built fôr the house • of the kingdom, by the might of my power,

and for the honour of my Majesty! But mark the more powerful word of the King of Kings.

( While

open our

[ocr errors]

" While the word was in the King's mouth,

there fell a voice from heaven, saying, O King Nebuchadnezzar, to thee it is spoken, the

kingdom is departed from thee! That this is the proper source of worldly greatness, may be fęen in the temper such persons usually acquire and settle in , which is pride, insolence, and contempt of others. Nay, it appears still more clearly in some few instances, in which the intoxication comes to its height, and the poor deluded mortal literally aspires to be confidered and treated as God. It may feein incredible, but we have the most authentic evidence that history can afford, that fome men have demanded and received divine worship. This was the cafe, not only with Alexander the Great, who was really an illuftrious prince, but with some of the latter Roman Emperors, who were the meanest and bafest of all men. No wonder, then, that profperity makes men neglect God, when it prompts them to sit down upon his throne, and rob him of the service of his other subjects.

Before I proceed to the other part of the Prophet's argument, fuffer me to make a few remarks for the improvement of what has been already said. And,

1. See hence the great malignity and deceitfulness of sin. It hardly appears more strongly from any circumstance than that which has been the subject of this discourse, viz. that the gifts of God, in the course of his providence, are so


far from exciting our gratitude, in proportion to their number and value, that, on the contrary, those who receive most' are usually most pro

fane.' They make his favours instruments of rebellion against him, and return contempt for his indulgence, and hatred for his love.

Let us not take occasion from this to gratify our own envy, by particular or personal reproach against those who are great, or have become rich amongst themselves ; but let us act a far wiser and juster part, and be humbled for the finfulnefs of our nature, and warned of the deceitfulness of fin. We may

We may feel the seeds of this difpofition in us all. You find the wise man charging a similar ingratitude upon man in general. Because sen

tence against an evil work is not executed 'speedily, therefore the heart of the fons of men ' is fully set in them to do evil. And do you not observe every day, nay, has it not turned into a proverb, that we think light of our mercies, spiritual and temporal, when they are common and abundant ? And what is the true and proper interpretation of this, but that the greater God's goodness is to us, commonly the less is our gratitude to him?

2. Let me beseech you to make a wise improvement of the advantages you enjoy over one another. Let them excite in you a holy emulation to testify your sense of fuperior blessings, by superior piety and usefulness. Do you excel others in any respect ? Are you successful in

trade? dence

[ocr errors]

trade? Have you risen to reputation? Are you
exalted to offices of dignity? Are you endowed
with capacity of mind? Can you remember the
time when those were your equals who are now
your inferiors ?- Do not look with infolence upon
others, making odious, and perhaps unjust com
parisons. Do not fwell in pride and self-com.
placence, as if by your own power you had made
yourselves to differ, but rather look the other
way to God, who is the maker both of rich and
poor, and pray that your thankfulness and duty
to him may exceed that of the poor man, as
much as his liberality to you exceeds what he has
thought proper to bestow upon him. This af-
fords me an opportunity of relating a little piece
of private history, that happened in Great Britain,
and appears to me very worthy of remembrance,

conducive to the ends of edification.
A gentleman of very considerable fortune, but
a stranger to either personal or family religion,
one evening took a solitary walk through a part
of his own grounds. He happened to come near
to a mean hut, where a poor man with a nume-
rous family lived, who earned their bread by dai-
ly labour. He heard a voice pretty loud and con-
tinued. Not knowing what it was, curiosity
prompted him to listen. The man, who was pi-
ously disposed, happened to be at prayer with his
family. So foon as he could diftinguish the
words, he heard him giving thanks with great af-
fection to God, for the goodness of his Provi-

dence, in giving them food to eat, and raiment to put on, and in fupplying them with what was neceffary and comfortable in the prefent life. He was immediately, no doubt, by Divine power, ftruck with aftonifhiment and confusion, and faid to himfelf, Does this poor man, who has nothing but the meanest fare, and that purchased by fevere labour, give thanks to God for his goodness to himself and family, and I, who enjoy eafe and honour, and every thing that is grateful and desirable, have hardly ever bent my knee, or made any acknowledgment to my Maker and Preferver! It pleased God, that this providential occurrence proved the mean of bringing him to a real and lasting sense of God and religion.

Let all perfons in health, quiet and plentiful circumstances, learn from the preceding discourse, what it is they ought clearly to guard against.Pride, fecurity, forgetfulness of God, are peculiarly incident to that state. "Lo this,' faith_the Lord to Jerusalem, ' was the iniquity of thy fifSter Sodom, pride, fulness of bread, and abun

dance of idleness was in her, and in her daugh

ters, neither did she strengthen the hand of " the poor and needy.' A serious reflection on the obligation such lie under to God for what they have received in their continued dependence upon him, and the instability of all earthly things, would save them from the hurtful influence of worldly profperity. To enforce this, I shall only read the apostolic charge to Timothy.


• Charge


[ocr errors]
« PreviousContinue »