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the state of the world, prove it in a manner too plain to be denied. We not only see that those, who are born and educated from their infancy in the higher ranks of life, are most prone to reglect the duties of religion ; but thofe who, from a low or meán condition, are remarkably raised in the course of providence, do often change their temper with their state, and show the unhappy influence of riches in leading them to a forgetfulness of God. Are there not some who were regularly in God's house when they but barely subsisted, who have not time for it now, when they are busy. and wealthy? Are there not some families, where the worship of God was constant and regular in early life, while they were undistinguished, and now it is no more to be heard in their fumptuous palaces and elegant apartments ? Shall I fay, that any worm of the earth is become too considerable to fall down before the omnipotent Jehovah ? .
I may add, as being of great importance in the present subject, that fuch changes do often take place gradually and insensibly, very much contrary to men's own expectation, fo that we really do not know ourselves, nor can we determine before trial, how far we would resist or yield to the force of temptation. The prophet Elisha foretold to Hazael the cruelties he would be guilty of when raised to an higher station ; to which he replied with disdain and abhorrence, " What, is thy fervant a dog, that he should do
of this great thing? And Elisha answered, the “Lord hath shewed me that thou shalt be King “over Syria. The conduct of the children of Ifrael in their prosperity is but an emblem of the general conduct of the children of men. - But • Jeshurun waxed fat, and kicked. Thou art waxSed fat, thou art grown thick, thou art covered "' with fatness : Then he forsook God which made ' him, and lightly esteemed therock of his falvation.'
What hath been said might be sufficient to . fhew the propriety of the Prophet's prayer ; for if such hath been often; or generally, the influence of worldly greatness upon other men, why should any be so confident as to presume it would be otherwise with themselves ? But perhaps it may afford matter of useful instruction to enquire a little further into the subject, to trace the causes of this, effect, and shew how, and why riches become an inducement to irreligion and profaneness, for this will best enable us to apply the remedy. . When I speak of examining the causes of this effect, I confess that no reason can be given for it, but what, reflects great dishonour upon human nature in its present state. Were we to judge of the matter by the dictates of found reason, we should naturally expect to find it directly contrary. God is the author of every blessing which men poffefs, and his gifts should lead us to gratitude and acknowledgment. It seems natural then to suppose, that those who are most highly favoured in the course of pro
vidence, should discover the greatest sense of obligation, and be ready to make every dutiful return. One would think, that though the poor should be impatient, surely the rich will be content and thankful. Is not this reasonable ? Had any of you bestowed many favours upon others, would you not expect that their gratitude should bear fome proportion to the number and value of benefits received? Had any of them been remarkably diftinguished from the rest, would you not expect from them the most inviolable fidelity and attachment ? Strange, that our conduct should be so directly opposite in the returns we make for the goodness of our Maker! That those who are distinguished from others by the largest poffeffions, and the greatest fulness of all temporal mercies, fhould be the most prone to wickedness of all forts; but especially, that they should be peculiarly inclined to forgetfulnefs and contempt of God. Yet so it is in truth. But however dishonourable it is to human nature, let us search into it a little, and perhaps we may discover the cause of impiety in persons in affluent circumstances, and the danger the Prophet would avoid, by attending to the following observations:
1. An easy and affluent fortune affords the means, not only of pampering our bodies, but of gratifying all our lufts and appetites. They are as strong probably in perfons of inferior stations ; but providence has rendered the gratification:
more difficult, and in some cafes impossible. Many work through necessity, who would be as idle and slothful as any, but for the fear of want. These will be the first and readiest to reproach the rich, and call them idle drones, who revel in that abundance for which they never toiled; and to put to their own credit that which is wholly owing to the restraints under which they are laid. Many are generally fober, because they cannot afford the charges of intemperance, who want nothing but the means, to riot in the most brutal sensuality. But to persons of great wealth, the objects of desire are always placed in full view, and are evidently within their reach; so that the femptation has uncommon force, and few are able entirely to resist it.
- 2. The indulgence of pleasure insensibly induces a habit, and leads men to place their happiness in such enjoyments. Habit, you know, is very powerful, and while the habit acquires ftrength, the power of resistance is gradually weakened. Thefe gratifications consume so much time, that there is little left to reflect upon God and our relation to him. I reckon it none of the least temptations to persons of high rank, that not only their self-indulgence, but the attendance and obfequiousness of others so engrosses their attention, and wastes their time, that they have few opportunities of calm and sober reflection ; or, at least, can easily escape from it, and take refuge in company and amusement. Add to this,
that a great variety of sensible objects and enjoye ments render the mind, not only less attentive to things of a spiritual nature, but indeed, less able to understand them.
3. Observe further, that when the better part is thus neglected, and no care taken of the cul-. tivation of the mind, every vice will spring and shoot up in the foul, as briars and thorns do up-. on uncultivated ground. Sin, my brethren, is. natural to us ; it is the produce of the soil ; if it is not destroyed, it will not die ; if it is but neglected, it will thrive. Now, whenever persons fall under the power of vice, they, begin first to excuse, and then to vindicate it. Those who are under the government of lust, foon find it would be their interest that there was no such .. thing as religion and virtue. Whatever we wish, we are easily led to believe to be true. Loose and. atheistical principles then find a ready admittance, and are swallowed down greedily. This is a : short sketch of the steps by which people in: affluent and easy circumstances are often led todeny God, and to say, 'Who is the Almighty.:
that we should serve him, and what profit ! should we have if we pray unto him ??-Loose principles are, at first, more frequently the effect, than the cause of loose practices; but when once they have taken deep root, and ob- . tained full dominion in the heart, they have a dreadful and fatal influence on the devoted vicetim.