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execution. But he wishes he could not. He tries to dissipate such thoughts. They are very disagreeable to him. You have no delight in thinking of death and judgment; and what sort of pleasure heaven would afford you, if it were possible for you to arrive there, you may conceive by your present feelings. It would be a great punishment to you to be confined, for a month, to the company and acquaintance of truly pious persons. Their religious exercises and modes of conversation would be very irksome to you.—How disagreeable then would heaven itself be to you, where the service of God is the chief employment of the blessed for ever! Learn hence, that at present you are not fit for heaven, and that you need an entire change of heart, without which you never can arrive there.
But you know what you wish for, O men of the world. The Psalmist has expressed it: “ whose bellies thou fillest with thy hid treasure. They are full of children, and leave the rest of their substance to their babes."
You wish to be thus prosperous, as the men of the world formerly were, whose portion was in this life; who persecuted David, and treated him with much hatred and enmity. For this is the common way of such persons, from the dislike they have of godliness ;--there at least your wishes are not feeble or lazy. You can feel these subjects, and think of them with spirit; and both talk and act concerning them with life and earnestness.
The“ men of the world,” mentioned in the Text, were favoured, it seems ---FAVOURED shall I say,
, or ACCURSED with the gratification of their wishes? They were full of money, and enriched with large
possessions, and saw a numerous race of children, and had large fortunes to bestow on them all. You think this is life indeed; this is enjoyment; this is to live to some purpose.
And if you have success in your schemes, and find things to be with you, as the Psalmist describes them to have been with the men of the world, in his time, you seem to have done well. You will feel pleased with your own merit, and perhaps inwardly say,
my power and the might of mine hand hath gotten me this wealth.” I am not now. to speak of the empty, vain, and miserable state to which, after all, the greatest prosperity of this kind reduces you. My business is to show. you, from your own feelings, views, and practices, that you are "men of the world,” and, as such, unfit for the kingdom of heaven. You may
look back with a sort of triumph on your own management and industry; you may describe, with satisfaction, your artifices and address; your usefulness to the community; and your knowledge in business. You may take notice, with pleasure, from what low beginnings in life you have been raised thus high. You may talk of your money, your estates, your connexions, your rank and appearance in the world, the credit you are in, and the awe in which you hold mankind on account of your riches and consequence. But the soul cannot feed on such trash as this. Conscience itself is your accuser, and death is before you, and judgment. draws nearer and nearer ; and you have not the
, least relish, the least preparation for the state which is to come.' What is it to
What is it to you, that you will leave , a great fortune behind
your children in the
possession of it? What is it to you, that numbers, once your equals, are now far your inferiors ? Alas! what is all this to the happiness of the soul? “What shall a man give in exchange for his soul?” That is starving amidst all this opulence, and during all this success. But some of you are not so prosperous ; on the
; contrary, many have to struggle with difficulties. In cases of this kind, as “men of the world, who have their portion in this life.” you
envy and admiration, to those who have been more fortunate. You fret, and murmur, and live in great anxiety. So that in one case you are lifted up with pride ; and in the other, you are racked with discontent. Thus it is that poor persons may show, that they, as well as the rich, are “men of the world.” And; till they obtain a taste and disposition entirely new, entirely opposite to what they now profess, or, in other words, till the great, the divine, change of the new birth take place in them, they cannot be happy, either in this life, or in another. Such are the views, and such the state of mind of those who have their portion in this life.
2. Let us for a few moments turn our eyes to those who have their portion in a better world.
I am not going to represent either angels or saints in heaven. A real Christian, in this life, is far from being perfect. He may, in some qualities, and in
; some views, be even inferior to a “man of the world.". Moreover, he has faults, which
be seen and known; they are often not of an ambiguous nature; though it be still true that he is liable
; to frequent misrepresentation. Yet after all, there
is an essential difference of character between him and the “ man of the world." Men should not carry their scepticism so far as to make all alike. The difference between a Christian and a worldling, is as real, as that between the two different sorts of worlds to which they are hastening; as real as the difference between heaven and hell.
It is not a just method of coming at the truth of their characters, to rely on counting the virtues of the one, and the vices of the other, and on setting off good things against bad ones. Nothing but confusion of character arises from this mode of trial. Look at the heart of each. Search the ruling passion; the governing principle. There you see what men
The characters of men depend upon their habitual inclinations; in one word, upon their DISPOSITIONS. What we habitually and constantly wish to be, that we are in the sight of God, and so shall we be accounted at the day of judgment.
A real Christian's heart cries, 66 Whom have I heaven but thee; and there is none upon earth that I desire in comparison of thee.” He knows that his flesh and his heart will one day fail, but, nevertheless, “ God is the strength of his heart, and his portion for ever.' While he continues in this world, he is far from being what he wishes to be. He has the earnest of the Spirit indeed; but he has an ambition which this world can never gratify: its pleasures, honours, riches, he views with the eyes of a stranger. He sighs for that glorious redemption and liberty which he looks for above. Here he daily is burthened; and the most trying of all his burthens is his own corrupt nature. But he looks forward to a glorious day, when he shall behold his Saviour in righteousness. He expects to see Jesus, who at present sustains him with aid unseen, comforts him with promises of future good, and undertakes to guide him, unworthy sinner as he is, to glory. And if a taste of his pardoning love, and a glimpse of the light of his countenance be so pleasant now, what will it be to enjoy the fulnese of these things hereafter.
This then is the rest of a truly Christian character. He is supported, under present trials, with the prospect of immortality through Jesus. He, who constantly is so supported; and is longing, waiting, looking for his glorious appearing; and is, also by this prospect, animated to endure, has in himself a certain witness of his interest in Christ, and of a divine change of his affections. Let others look to what they please, he has “gladness of heart more than when their corn, and wine, and oil is increased.” If in this life only he had hope, he would, perhaps, be of all men most miserable*: but as his joy arises from the steady expectation of a happy immortality, it cannot be very materially affected by poverty, or by worldly crosses.
It must however be remembered, that it is not any confused sort of prospect that forms the heaven after which the true Christian pants. Heaven without Christ would be Hell to him. He means to « behold the presence of Christ in righteousness.” For it is in him that God becomes accessible, appears gracious, and is made visible to man:
The body itself is, in this life, a great incumbrance to
* 1 Cor. xv. 19.