« ElőzőTovább »
ruin. I now proceed to make some application of what has been said, to all orders and degrees of men, that allow themselves in the violation or neglect of this duty.
And, first, let me ask the thoughtless spendthrift once again, what can be the consequence of his running in debt with all the world, but utter ruin both to himself and others? If the persons you deal with, are honest and indigent, how can you answer it to your humanity, to bring misery and destruction upon them? What is most provoking, and indeed insufferable upon this head, is, that those who allow themselves in this conduct, often pass upon the world under the character of goodnatured men; and you shall often hear it said of such a one that "he is no-body's enemy but his own." But the real truth is, that every vicious man, whatever he may be in his intentions, is, in effect, an enemy to the society he lives in; and more particularly a vicious good-nature is one of the cruelest characters in life. It is kind only where it ought not; it is kind to every vice and every villany; it is indulgent to every thing but ho nesty and innocence; and those it is sure to sacrifice wherever it comes. A good-natured villain will surfeit a sot, and gorge a glutton; nay, will glut his horses and his hounds with that food, for which the venders are one day to starve to death in a dungeon a good-natured monster will be gay in the spoils of widows and orphans. Good-nature, separated from virtue, is absolutely the worst quality and character in life; at least, if this be good-nature, to feed a dog, and to murder a man. And therefore, if you have any pretence to good-nature, pay your debts; and, in so doing, clothe those poor families that are now in rags for your finery; feed him that is starving for the bread you eat, and redeem him from misery that rots in gaol, for the dainties on which you fared deliciously every day. And, besides the good you will do to others by those acts of honesty, you will do infinite good to yourselves by them. Paying of debts-is, next to the grace of God, the best means in the world to deliver you from a thousand temptations to sin and vanity. Pay your debts, and you will not have wherewithal to purchase a costly toy, or a pernicious pleasure.-Pay your debts, and you will not have what to lose to a villanous gamester. Pay your debts, and you will not have wherewithal to feed a number of useless horses, or infectious harlots. In one
word, pay your debts, and you will of necessity abstain from many fleshly lusts, that war against the spirit, and bring you into captivity to sin,' and cannot fail to end in your utter destruction, both of soul and body.
On the other hand, if the men you deal with, and are indebted to, are rich and wily,-consider, they supply your extravagance with no other view but to undo you; as men pour water into a pump, to draw more from it. Consider, they could not afford to trust you, if they did not propose to make excessive gain by you; and if you think at all, think what it is to lose a fortune by folly; to purchase superfluous and pernicious vanities, for a short season, at the hazard of wanting necessaries for the tedious remainder of a mispent life. Time, which sweetens all other afflictions, will perpetually sharpen and inflame this; as the gaiety and giddiness of youth go off, the wants of age will become more sharp, and more inconsolable, to the last day of your lives; and severe reflection will double every calamity that befals you. And therefore the son of Sirach well advises, [Eccles. xviii. 33] Be not made a beggar by banqueting upon borrowing; for thou shalt lie in wait for thy own life.' And again, the same Wise man most excellently observes, That he that buildeth his house with other men's money, is like one that gathereth himself stones for the tomb of his burial:' he erects a sure monument, not only of his folly, but of his ruin; and the consequence is the same from extravagance of every kind; but with this difference, that the ruin, derived from wine and women, is the most dreadful of all others; as it involves you at once in the double distress of disease and Who amongst you can at once bear the united racks of hunger, and infection, and an evil conscience? and yet this is what you must feel, although it be what you cannot bear; the torments of hell anticipated! to be deprived of every blessing, and to be immersed in misery.
Thus much for the youthful extravagant. In the next place, let me apply myself to the man of quality, that is guilty of this vice, although these are too often the same persons. If ye will not consider what ye owe your creditors, and how to pay them, I beseech you calmly to reflect and consider what ye owe to yourselves, to your family, to your country, to your king. Was it for this that ye were distinguished above others of the
same rank, only to be more eminent in infamy? Was nobility bestowed upon your ancestors as a reward of virtue; and do ye use it only as a privilege for vice? Is superior worth degenerated into superior villany? If ye had any remains of modesty, ye would renounce the titles and the fortunes of your ancestors, with the virtues that attained them. Ye would blush to take place of a beggar that had virtue. Will ye yet pretend to be better men than others, when ye have renounced your humanity, when ye are no longer men, but monsters? It is not expected of you, that ye should perform acts of heroism and generosity; that ye should reward virtue, and support merit in distress. Alas! these expectations are long since vanished, and seem only the boasts of fabulous antiquity. But methinks it might still be expected of you, that ye should do common justice; that ye should not be worse than the rest of mankind, because ye think yourselves better; at least expect to be called so, and treated as such. Surely it might still be expected of you, that ye should pay your debts, and keep your promises; and, in truth, ye would not be void, either of dignity or dependents, if ye did even this. Mankind are already too much prejudiced in your favour, and would not fail to pay you sufficient regard and reverence, even if you did them no good, provided ye did them no mischief. But if ye expect to be esteemed, not only without generosity, but even without justice, ye are indeed unreasonable, and will be sure to be disappointed.
And therefore, my brethren, as ye expect mercy, and protection, and blessing, from God; do justice and judgement to all you have to deal with; and be merciful after your power: for the righteous Lord loveth righteousness; and whatsoever good any man doeth, the same shall he receive of the Lord. So that a man shall say, Verily, there is a reward for the righteous; verily, there is a God that judgeth the earth.
SECOND SUNDAY IN ADVENT.
THE LAST JUDGEMENT.
2 COR. v. 10.-For we must all appear before the judgement-seat of Christ, that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad.
[Text assimilates with the Gospel of the Day.]
THESE words present to our view the great event, which is to determine the fate of all mankind. No article of Christian faith is more clearly ascertained in Scripture, is of greater importance in itself, and more worthy to dwell upon our minds, than this, of the final judgement of God. It adds solemnity to every part of religion: it introduces an awful seriousness into our thoughts, by placing in the most striking light, the close connexion between our present behaviour and our everlasting happiness or misery. In the Gospel it is described with so many circumstances of awe and terror, as may, to many, render the consideration of this subject dark and disagreeable. But we must remember, that though religion be often employed to soothe and comfort the distressed, and though this be one of its most salutary effects, yet this is not the only purpose, to which it is to be employed by Ministers of the Gospel. In the midst of that levity and dissipation, with which the world abounds, it is necessary to awaken the giddy and unthinking, by setting before them, in full view, all the dangers they incur by their conduct. Knowing the terror of the Lord,' adds the Apostle, in the verse immediately following the text, we persuade men.'
Numerous are the presumptions, which even reason furnishes for rendering it more than probable, that, at the conclusion of human things, God will render to every one according to his works.' They may serve to strengthen our faith; but on mere reasonings our faith rests not. God in his mercy has given us surer light in an article of so great importance. Let us now advert to the consideration of the discoveries, which the Gospel of Christ hath made to us, relative to a future judgement.
You all know how often we are assured in the New Testament, that God hath appointed a day, in which he will judge
the world in righteousness;' a day and an hour which no man knoweth, but which is fixed in the counsels of Heaven. In the sacred writings, a very particular account is given us of the whole procedure of that solemn day, accompanied with an assemblage of circumstances of the most awful and terrific nature. The scene is such as forbids all attempts to heighten, or even to do it justice by human description. Beneath such a subject all imagination sinks. The efforts of the declaimer or the poet, are here alike in vain.—We are informed in the Gospel of the present Sunday, that the Last Day shall be ushered in by 'signs in the sun and signs in the moon and stars; upon the earth, distress of nations with perplexity; the sea and the waves roaring; men's hearts failing them for fear, and for looking after the things which are coming on the earth; for the powers of Heaven shall be shaken.'-We read, in other passages of Scripture, that the sound of a trumpet shall be heard, at which the dead shall rise out of their graves. The sign of the Son of Man shall appear. He shall come in a cloud with power and great glory, and all the holy Angels with him. A great white throne shall be set, and he shall sit thereon in his glory. Be. fore Him shall be gathered all nations. Books shall be opened, and the dead shall be judged out of the things, which are found written in the books. He shall separate the righteous from the wicked, as a shepherd divideth the sheep from the goats; and he shall set the righteous on his right hand, and the wicked on his left! Then shall he say to them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. To them on his left hand he shall say, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the Devil and his angels; and these shall go into everlasting punishment, but the righteous into life eternal.' [Luke xxi. 25. Daniel vii. 9. Matth. xxv. 31.] Whether every one of the circumstances here set forth is to be understood in a strictly literal sense, or with some measure of mysti cal and allegorical interpretation, it is not easy to determine, nor is it essential for us to know. Regard must be had to the figurative style frequently employed by the sacred writers, of which we find so many examples in the prophetical writings and the Book of Revelation, wherein those spiritual divine things which are above our conception, are set forth under such repre sentations of sensible objects and appearances, as are most calcu