Page images

fetters, and such as we are not willing to be S e'r m. freed from. Fear and terror, pain and misery, XX. do indeed ruffle and discompose the spirits of men, but they do not leave that deep impreffion upon the conscience; for we are apt to resist and struggle with them to the last: But the allurements of ease and pleasure gain upon us by those inclinations that are most intimate to our nature, and make their way through our hearts; which difference of the temptations that affault us in our way to heaven, is well represented in the fable, by the contest between the sun and the wind, which should have the greatest force and influence upon the traveller; the gradual heat and warmth of the sun brought to pass effectually, what the ruder violence of the wind could not effect. And thus it is with the sunshine of prosperity, it dissolves all the powers of our souls, it enervates and breaks the strength of all our refolutions, and too commonly leaves us nothing but faint and languishing desires of virtue and goodness, just enough to keep us in in a good opinion of it, but not to influence us strongly to the practice of it.

2. Another great disadvantage of a wealthy and prosperous state is, that it supplies all the sinful inclinations of our natures with objects to gratify them; want of opportunity hath kept thousands in innocence, which from thence hath been improved into folid virtue and holiness. But riches and honours supply


SER M. men with fewel for all their lufts; they lay

XX. before us all the allurements of this world, and mvply all our vicious inclinations incessantly, and

give us opportunities for indulging them all ; they beset us round with temptations, and strow gins and traps in our way; so that we meet them at every turn, and it is impofsible for man with his ordinary strength to be so perpetually on his guard, as to contradict and overcome them all.

3. Another thing which makes the charms of ease and plenty so unconquerable, is the tendency they have to gain upon our affections. We have a natural abhorrence of those things which are any way the occasion of pain or grief to us, and it is easy to set ourselves against them when they would draw us into fin: But when temptations are agreeable to the inward inclinations of body and mind, and are apt to engage all our affections, and take fast hold of all our passions, it is very hard to shake them off; they cling about us and kill us with a preposterous fondness; they blind our understandings and deprave our judgments, so as to carry our reason along with them into all manner of fin:. And when once they have brought us into a love of the world (which they seldom fail to do) then the love of God and religion iş not in us, (i. e.) they take away all just regard to the service of God and the prefervation of a good conscience: This is the reafon of our Saviour's saying that is bard for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of heaven,

(i. e.) as he himself explains it for them that Se RM.
trust in riches; but this makes it a little easier XX.
bnly in appearance, because it is hard for them in
not to trust in their riches: It is the most un-
likely thing in the world, that a rich man
should not in a great degree place his confi-
dence in his riches, and rest

upon them ;

them ; and it is very hard for him to conquer or avoid those temptations which they neceffarily bring upon him; it is

very rare they do not let their hearts upon them, for where their treasure is tberé will their hearts be also: Therefore we are often warned in scripture against this love of the world, and bid to set our hearts on things above, and not to be conformable to this world; but that we should be transformed in the renewing our minds.

4. The last thing which renders the temptations of a wealthy and prosperous condition so dangerous, beyond that of a lower rank, is the tendency it hath to make men thoughtless of another world. Necessity and want, and all manner of afflictions are apt to make men think and reflect; they wean them from all the pleasures of this life, and put


upon thinking of another world; but plenty and ease make people careless and negligent; they divert all thoughts of death and judgment, and of that endless state of happiness or misery that is to follow them. In troubles and affictions all men are apt to call upon God, and apply themselves for mercy and assistance; but in their prosperity they forget him, and themVOLI. IL.



[ocr errors]

SER M. felves too; as it is represented by our SaXX. viour in the case of the rich man in the Gof

pel, whose thoughts were all so taken up in the management of his stores, that he had no leisure to consider of the time when his soul should be required of him. This is a very general case among us, and it is ordinary to see people so intent and eager upon getting of wealth, that they are ever in a perpetual hurry, and in a restlefs, greedy pursuit of it: So that every thing is time lost that doth not some way promote their worldly interest. Thefe are the very men in the parable, who, being invited to the wedding-supper, had no leisure to come and


their attendance: And there. fore the poor and the maimed, the halt and the blind were invited in; those who had nothing else to do, and so little worldly business, that they could not tell how to dispose of themselves.

And thus we see how poverty and a low condition are often the greatest mercies in this world, as being a means to dispose men for virtue and holiness: so that riches and honours are fo often a curse upon those who have them, that it is not easy to tell when they are not fo. And this brings me to the third thing I proposed, which was,

3. To thew wherein the wisdom of God appears, in proposing the truths of the Gospel to men after such a manner, that they should be hidden from the great and prudent men of this world, and be revealed unto Babes. This

would of close arH 2

[ocr errors]

go to make

would appear very plainly if I had but time SERM to Thew at large, how it could not have been XX. otherwise from the present condition of our infirmity, and the nature of those things which

up the body of a religion if they will have any; and how they must live a life of faith, if they will have any religion at all. But I shall at present give you only one obvious reason, which abundantly justifies thé wisdom and goodness of God in this manner of dispensation, and that is,

That, if the Gospel was not thus contrived, it had not been a religion for all the world; the revelations of God were designed for the salvation of all men, and therefore they must have been adapted to all sorts and conditions, to all ages; fexes, and degrees of men; that which was designed for all men must have been plain, and obvious, and intelligible to the most natural reason of a man; and therefore those wise men of the world; who are apt to despise it for being so, must necessarily lose the benefit and advantage of it. Had God given us a religion which was dark and ab: struse, made up of science and demonstration, and that sort of evidence and worldly wisdom which the Greeks sought after formerly, and our modern opposers of revelation require from us now; it had been a religion but for a very small number of men: For very few even of those who inlift upon this are capable of understanding it rightly if they had it. Had God given us a religion made up


« PreviousContinue »