Page images
PDF
EPUB

269.

SERMON XVIII.

DISSIPATION.

II. TIMOTHY, iii. 4.

LOVERS OF PLEASURES MORE THAN LOVERS OF GOD.

IN

is, "

a time of much licentiousness in principles and manners, a discourse on DISSIPATION will not be thought unseasonable. It will be peculiarly applicable to the young people, whose language too frequently

Rejoice in thy youth, and let thy heart cheer " thee in the days of thy youth; and walk in the us ways of thine heart, and in the sight of thine eyes.”

In discoursing on the love of pleasures, it is propofed, first, to give some sketches of this character. Secondly, to offer some cautions against the follies, vices and miseries involved in it. Thirdly, to recommend the opposite character.

We begin with some sketches of this character, Lovers of pleasures

Religion forbids no pleasures which are worthy of intelligent creatures, designed for an immortal exiftence: It forbids such only as are injurious and dishonourable to ourselves, and to all with whom we are connected. Pleasures, innocent in themselves, become criminal when pursued beyond certain bounds. Every creature of God is good. It is his gift that we have power to enjoy our portion. Unremitting application fatigues and wastes both body and mind. Inter

miflion and amusements are needful to restore their vigour-not less so than taking rest by sleep. They are innocent and useful.

Amusements become sinful, when any duty of pie. ty, or any moral obligation, is postponed to them ; yea, when we do not return from them with more cheerfulness to the duties of our general or particular calling. They are sinful, when they take up an undue proportion of our time, stealing away the attention which should be bestowed on useful pursuits, and our highest concerns. Such fondness for amusements gaining strength, they at length are pursued as an employment. Business is laid aside, or attended in mere subserviency to the love of pleasures. Every excess in things lawful perverts them into an occasion of fin : It emboldens and impels to things unlawful.

Different amusements are adapted to persons of different habits, professions, occupations, stations and periods of life: But a commanding passion for them is an abuse of our faculties. An infipid round of pleasures, or laborious investigation of new ones, betrays frivolity, to say no worse. What just thoughts can have place in such a mind? This frivolousness of character appears in a fondness for splendour in buildings, furniture, apparel, attendants, and tables spread with every luxury and delicacy. The pleasure which depends on being gazed at, which is indebted to the courtesy of the world, what is it?

Solomon reviewed with deep regret the period of his life, when the pursuits of pleasure were his object. “ I said in my heart, Go to now, I will prove thee “ with mirth; therefore enjoy pleasure. I made me

great works : I builded me houses : I planted me “ vineyards : I made me gardens and orchards, and I “ planted trees in them of all kinds of fruits : I made “ me pools of water: I gat me servants and maidens“ I had possessions of great and small cattle. I gat me “ men-fingers and women-fingers, and musical instru

ments of all forts. Whatsoever mine eyes desired, “ I kept not from them; I withheld not my heart “ from any joy.” No one could be supplied with the means of pleasure more than he. No one could have made more thorough trial of all its various sources. His magnificence was insupportable to his subjects. The luxuries and delicacies of nature and art, the fplendour of his court, corrupted his heart; and, on cool reflection, he exclaimed, Vanity and vexation of spirit !

The lovers of pleasures not only pursue to excess such as are lawful, but are addicted to those which are unlawful—to intemperance and luft-to all filthiness and fuperfluity of naughtiness.

There is a species of pleasure lefs gross, but, perhaps, not much less criminal, which is too prevalent. I refer to the vice of gaming. If to consume days and nights in a practice so pernicious be not criminal, tell me what is.

The love of pleasures implies a denial of religion, at least in practice. The name of religion has indeed been introduced to sanction every lust and passion. Myftical Babylon hath glorified herself, and lived deliciously. What acts of wanton lust, what sensual indulgence, what usurpations and barbarities hath she not practised in God's name? The kings of the earth have given her their power, the gold, precious stones and pearls, the purple and scarlet with which she was long enriched. By her forceries were all nations deceived; and in ber is the blood of prophets and saints. Distinguished for ambition, cruelty and luft, given to pleasure, fhe yet kept up the form of godliness; yea, undertook to open and shut heaven at her will.

But the lovers of pleasures not infrequently avow the cause of infidelity. They assume the name of freethinkers; and talk with as much confidence on the fide of infidelity, as if it had been demonstrated that religion is founded in fraud; because they are ignorant of its history, evidence and effects. They catch at every cavil against it, and are listless to every proof of it. Thus a life of diffipation is attempted to be justified by a stupid scepticism. Or if a direct disavowal of reli. gion is thought ineligible, the system which opens hea. ven to all men is adopted.

II. We proposed, SECONDLY, to offer some cautions against the follies, vices and miseries involved in the love of pleasures.

The early stages of life are most addicted to the purfuit of pleasure. The appetites and passions are then strong, and experience is wanting. In every choice and pursuit, wisdom directs to pause, and consider the end, before we determine. Will pleasures compensate the time and cost? Will they bring the desired good? They are superficial : They are but for a season. The pain of review overbalances the enjoyment. The end is bitterness. These things will clearly appear on obfervation and attention.

Who will plead for pleasures which must defeat the ends even of animal life, and degrade man, in point of enjoyment, below the beasts that perish? Who will plead for such indulgences as muft impair, and even destroy, the capacity for the pleasures of society? Who will say that it is a privilege to live without reflection on the past, or forethought for the future? Or is it a worthy part to cherish the pride, or emulate the wiles, of Satan? or to accept from him the glory of this world?

We are answerable for the employment of our time and powers. Shall they be wasted in useless and vain amusements ? The morning of life especially is the opportunity to sow the good seed, which shall afterwards spring up in fruit advantageous and honourable to the sowers; joyful and beneficial to their friends and mankind. It is the season to form and fix habits of thinking and acting with propriety; of application to employments adapted to your talents and circumstances—the season to be on the watch against the al.

lurements and snares of sin, seduction from bad company, bad books, and inward corruption—the season to lay a good foundation for the succeeding stages of life. Laudable habits, formed in youth, Itrengthen with years. lllaudable habits, at that period, presage worse and worse. It is the part of wisdom to guard against the beginning of fin, which, like strife, is when one letteth out water. It is easier to shun its paths than to retreat from them. Every advancing step in them increases the difficulty of a return. Those who venture to the utmost limits of what is lawful, are within the territories of vice before they are aware. The dividing line is not observed. Suppose they refolve to stop at this line: The thought of proceeding thus far is presumptuous. Luft has already conceived; and it may be expected that sin will immediately be brought forth. Pray that the thought may be forgiven: It calls the tempter, who, without a call, is ever ready to get advantage of us. He beguiled Eve: Her first answer to him was, “ Of the fruit of the tree which " is in the midst of the garden, God hath said, ye “ shall not eat of it, nor touch it, left ye die.” Satan may tempt; but the tempted are guiltless until he has their consent. In every assault of his upon our Saviour, he was repulsed, and foon compelled to fly. His second suggestion reached the heart of our mother Eve. “ The woman faw that the tree was good for “ food, and that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree “ to be desired to make one wise.” Thus allured, " she immediately took of the fruit, and did eat." In the avidity with which she viewed it, luft had conceived.. The transition was quick and easy to the overt act. This parley with the tempter originated the wickedness and misery in which the world lies. Every pleasure, consistent with his supreme good, is allowed to man.

But his heart is set on pleasures which admit no virtuous principles to take root; or check the growth and kill the feeds of them, as do

« PreviousContinue »