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to judge unfavourably of ourselves, if this be not always the privilege of our devotions. It is chiefly a sedate and composed frame of spirit that we must study to cultivate; arising from grave and sober thoughts; from serious and penitent recollection of past errors ; from good purposes for the future; and from a deep sense of the approaching events of death and immortality. Penetrated with such dispositions, you have ground to come to the altar of God with humble trust and joy; under the belief, that you are approaching, through the great Redeemer, to that merciful Creator, to whom, in the high and holy place of eternity, the devout aspirations of his servants on earth are ever acceptable and pleasing.
ON THE USE AND ABUSE OF THE WORLD,
1 CORINTHIANS vii. 31.
- They that use this world, as not abusing it.The world is always represented in Scripture as the great scene of trial to a Christian. It sets before him a variety of duties, which are incumbent on him to perform ; and, at the same time, surrounds him with many dangers, against which he has to guard. The part which is proper for him to act may be comprised in these two expressive words of the text, using the world, and not abusing it ; the significancy and extent of which I propose now to explain. The subject is of the higher importance, as in the world we must live; and according as we use, or abuse it, it will prove either our friend, or our greatest foe.
It is natural to begin with observing, that the Christian is here supposed to use the world; by which we must certainly understand the Apostle to mean, maintaining intercourse and connexion with the world ; living in it as one of the members of human society; assuming that rank which belongs to his station. No one can be said to use the world who lives not thus. Hence it follows, that sequestration from the world is no part of Christian duty; and it appears strange, that even among those who approve not of monastic confinement, seclusion from the pleasures of society should have been sometimes considered as belonging to the character of a religious man. They have been supposed to be the best servants of God, who, consecrating their time to the exercises of devotion, mingle least in the ordinary commerce of the world; and especially who abstain most rigidly from all that has the appearance of amusement. But how pious and sincere soever the intentions of such persons may be, they certainly take not the properest method, either for improving themselves, or for advancing religion among others. For
this is not using the world, but relinquishing it. Instead of making the light of a good example shine with useful splendor throughout the circle of society, they confine it within a narrow compass. According to the metaphor employed by our Saviour, after the candle is lighted, they put it under a bushel. Instead of recommending religion to the world, they exhibit it under the forbidding aspect of unnecessary austerity. Instead of employing their influence, to regulate and temper the pleasures of the world, by a moderate participation of those that are innocent, they deliver up all the entertainments of society into the hands of the loose and giddy.
The various dangers which the world presents to one who is desirous of maintaining his piety and integrity, have given rise to this scrupulous caution concerning the use of the world ; and, so far, the principle is commendable. But we must remember, that the virtue of a Christian is to be shown in surmounting dangers which he is called to encounter. Into the post of danger we were ordered by Providence, when we were brought into this world. We
were placed as soldiers on the field of battle. It is there that our fidelity to our great commander must appear. The most signal virtues which adorn and improve the human character are displayed in active life. There, the strength of the mind is brought forth and put to the test. There, all the amiable dispositions of the heart find their proper exercise : humanity is cultivated; patience, fortitude, and self-denial, come forward in all their forms; and the light of good men's works so shines before others, as to lead them to glorify their Father which is in heaven.
It may be assumed, therefore, as a principle justified by the text, and by the whole strain of Scripture, that to use, and in a certain degree to enjoy, the world, is altogether consistent with religion. According to the rank which men possess in society, according to their age, their employment, , and connexions, their intercourse with the world will be more or less extended. In private life, they use the world with propriety, who are active and industrious in their callings; just and upright in their dealings; sober, contented, and cheerful in