Page images

fondest of it. A fondness for three or four hundred pounds a year is the same slavery to the world, as a fondness for three or four thousand; and he that craves the happiness of little fineries, has no more renounced the world than he that wants the splendor of a large fortune.

You hate the extravagance of dress, but if you cannot depart from your own little finery, you have as much to alter in your heart as they that like none but the finest of ornaments.

Consider therefore, that what you call moderate desires, are as great contrarieties to religion as those which you reckon immoderate, because they hold the heart in the same state of false satisfactions, raise the same vain tempers, and do not suffer the soul to rest wholly upon God.

When the spirit of religion is your spirit, when heavenly-mindedness is your temper, when your heart is set upon God, you will have no more taste for the vanity of one sort of life than another.

Farther, imagine to yourself, that if this pretence in favour of moderate desires, and little fineries, had been made to our blessed Saviour when he was upon earth, preaching his doctrines of renouncing the world, and denying ourselves.

I dare say your own conscience tells you, that he would have rebuked the author of such a pretence with as much indignation as he rebuked Peter, Get thee behind me, Satan, for thou savourest not of the things that be of God.

Now the spirit of Christianity is the same spirit that was in Christ, when he was upon the earth; and if we have reason to think such a pretence would have been severely condemned by Christ, we have the same reason to be sure, that it is as severely condemned by Christianity.

Had our blessed Saviour, a little before he left the world, given estates to his apostles, with a permis

[ocr errors]

sion for them to enjoy little fineries, and a moderate state in genteel show and equipage, he had undone all that he had said of the contempt of the world, and heavenly-mindedness, such a permission had been a contradiction to the most repeated and common doctrines that he had taught.

Had his apostles lived in such a state, how could they have gloried only in the cross of Christ, by which the world was crucified unto them, and they unto the world? How could they have said, Love not the world, nor the things in the world, for all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, the lust of the

eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world.

Had they lived in a little estate, in a moderate show of figure, equipage, and worldly delights, how could they have said, that she that liveth in pleasure is dead whilst she liveth?

How could they have said, that they who will be rich, fall into a temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and hurtful lusts, which drown men in destruction.

For it is not the desires of great riches, but it is the desires of riches, and a satisfaction in the pleasure of them, that is the snare and the temptation; and that fills men's minds with foolish and hurtful lusts, that keeps them in the same state of worldly folly, as they are whose desires are greater.

Lastly, Had the apostles lived in that manner, how could they have said, that whatsoever is born of God, overcometh the world?

For certainly he who is happy in the pleasure and figure of a small estate, has no more overcome the world than he that is happy in the splendor of one that is greater.

Thus therefore matters stand with relation to our blessed Saviour and his apostles; the doctrines they taught made it impossible for them to take any

part, or seek any pleasure, in the show, and figure, and riches of this world.

One would think that this one reflection was alone sufficient to show us what contempt of the world, what hearenly affection, we are to aspire after.

For how blind and weak must we be, if we can think that we may live in a spirit and temper which could not possibly be the spirit and temper of Christ and his apostles ?

Another pretence for worldly care, and labour after riches, is to provide for our families.

You want to leave fortunes to your children, that they may have their share in the figure and show of the world. Now consider, do you do this upon the principles of religion, as the wisest and best thing you can do, either for yourself or your children?

Can you be said to have chosen the one thing needful for yourself, or the one thing needful for them, who make it your chief care to put them in a state of life, that is a snare, and a temptation, and the most likely of all others, to fill their minds with foolish and hurtful lusts.

Is it your kindness towards them, that puts you upon this labour? Consider therefore what this kindness is founded upon, perhaps it is such a kindness, as when tender mothers carry their daughters to all plays and balls; such a kindness, as when indulgent fathers support their sons in ail the expense of their follies, such kind parents may more properly be called the tempters and betrayers of their children.

You love your children, and therefore you would leave them rich. It is said of our blessed Saviour, that he loved the young rich man that came unto him, and, as an instance of his love, he bid hiin sell all that he had, and give to the poor. What a contrariety is here? The love which dwelleth in you, is as contrary to that love which dweit in Christ, as darkness is contrary to light.

We have our Saviour's express command to love one another as he hath loved us; and can you think that you are following this love, when you are giving those things to your children, which he took away from his friends, and which he could not possibly have given them, without contradicting the greatest part of his doctrines ?

But supposing that you succeed in your intentions, and leave your children rich, What must you say to them when you are dying? Will you then tell them, that you have the same opinion of the greatness and value of riches that you ever had; that you feel the pleasure of remembering how much thought and care you have taken to get them? Will you tell them, that you have provided for their ease and softness, their pleasure and indulgence, and figure in the world; and that they cannot do better than to eat and drink, and take their fill of such enjoy-. nients as riches afford? This would be dying like an atheist.

But, on the other hand, if you will die like a good Christian, must you not endeavour to fill their minds with your dying thoughts? Must you not tell them, that they will soon be in a state, when the world will signify no more to them than it does to you; and that there is a deceitfulness, a vanity, a littleness, in the things of this life, which only dying men feel as they ought?

Will you not tell them, that all your own failings, irregularity of your life, your defects in devotion, the folly of your tempers, the strength of your passions, and your failure in christian perfection, has been all owing to wrong opinions of the value of worldly things; and that if you had always seen the world in the same light that you see it now, your life had been devoted to God, and you would have lived in all those holy tempers and heavenly affections, in which you now desire to die?

Will you not tell them, that it is the enjoyment

of the world that corrupts the hearts and blinds the minds of all people, and that the only way to know what good there is in derotion, what excellence there is in piety, what wisdom in holiness, what happiness in heavenly affection, what vanity in this life, and what greatness in eternity, is to die to the world and all worldly tempers ?

Will you not tell them, that riches spent upon ourselves, either in the pleasures of ease and indulgence, in the vanity of dress, or the show of state and equipage, are the bane and destruction of our souls, making us blindly content with dreams of happiness, till death awakes us into real misery?

From this therefore it appears, that your kindness for your children, is so far from being a good reason why you should so carefully labour to leave them rich, and in the enjoyment of the state and show of the world, that if you die in a spirit of piety, if you love them as Christ loved his disciples, your kindness will oblige you to exhort them to renounce all self-enjoyment of riches, as contrary to those holy tempers, ani that heavenly affection, which you now find to be the only good and happiness of human nature,

CHAP. VI. Christianity calleth all Men to a State of Self-denial

and Mortification. YHRISTIANITY is a doctrine of the cross, that

teaches the restoration of mankind to the favour of God, by the death and sacrifice of Jesus Christ.

This being the foundation of the Christian religion, it shows us, that all persons, who will act conformably to the nature and reason of Christianity, must make theniselves sufferers for sin. For if there is a reasonableness between sin and

« PreviousContinue »