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grateful fear, that springs from the sense of the divine goodness, is a voluntary affection becoming a child of God, and cherished by him. "The fear of the Lord is his treasure." This watchfulness must be universal against all temptations to which we are incident by prosperity: otherwise we shall be guilty of a like folly with those that shut and fortify one gate, and leave the other open to the enemy. And it must be as continual as our temptations. "Blessed is the man that feareth always."
5. A moderate use of worldly things, is an excellent preservative from the evil adhering to them. It is a divine blessing, to partake of the gifts of God with contentment and tranquillity, especially it is sweet to taste his love in them. "God gives to a man that is good in his sight, wisdom, and knowledge, and joy:" that is, to use temperately and comfortably, outward blessings. But the flesh is the devil's solicitor, and persuades men with a freer fancy, and looser affections, to enjoy the world, than is consistent with the prosperity of their souls. When Diogenes observed with the many sick and languishing persons, the hydropic, consumptive, and other diseases, that came to the temple of Esculapius for recovery, and that after their sacrifices they made a luxurious feast, he cried out, is this the way to recover health? If you were sound, it is the speedy and effectual way to bring diseases, and being diseased, to bring death to you. It is applicable in a higher sense; the intemperate use of sensual delights, weakens the life and vigour of the soul in a saint, and certainly brings death to diseased souls, that habitually indulge their corrupt affections. The apostle saith of the licentious woman, "She that lives in pleasure, is dead while she lives:" an allusion to a torch that is consumed by its own flames. Sensual lusts are cherished and pampered by prosperity, and the carnal heart overrules the whole man. Our Saviour charges his disciples to beware of" surfeiting and drunkenness." The indulging the lower appetites, is natural to men, but chiefly incident to those in prosperity. * The great care of such should be, to use worldly things with that modesty and measure, that the divine part, the soul, may be untainted by them: that it may neither over-value nor over-delight in them. The first degeneracy of man is by sensual satisfaction. This expelled him from paradise, and keeps
* Utentis modest a non amantis affectu.
him out ever since. The excess of pleasures darken the mind, stupify the conscience, extinguish the radiancy and vigour of the spirit."Wine and women take away the heart." Hos. 4. 11. The apostle speaks of those who are abandoned to pleasures, they are past feeling;" Ephes. 4. 19. without a quick and tender sense of their sin and danger. That we may not in an unlawful degree use lawful things, we should always be ordered by the principles of fear and restraint, not indulging ourselves to the utmost of what may seem allowed: for to be upon the confines of sin, exposes us to be easily overthrown the next gust of a temptation. It is a divine command, that christians should "rejoice as though they rejoiced not, and buy as though they possessed not; and use the world as not abusing it." 1 Cor. 7. 30, 31. A christian should converse with the world, as a carnal person converses with heaven; he prays for spiritual blessings with that coldness, as if he had no desire to obtain them; he hears the word with that carelessness, as if he had no desire to profit by it; he performs other religious duties without a heart, as if he had no desire to be saved: such an indifferency of spirit in outward enjoyments, is our duty and safety. It is a prodigious disorder, and the great cause of the sins and miseries of men, that their affections are lavishly wasted upon trifles, their love, desires, and delights are let forth in their full vigour to the honours, riches, and pleasures of this world, but are wretchedly remiss to spiritual and eternal things. They would enjoy the world as their heaven and felicity, and use God for their necessity. And thus by embracing vanishing shadows, they lose the most substantial and durable good. It is a point of great wisdom to consider the several respects of temporal things, as they respect our sensitive part, and the present life, and as they respect our souls and the future state and to use them, that the outward man may be a more active and ready instrument of the soul in working out our own salvation.
6. Let the favour of God, and communion with him be most precious and joyful to us in the midst of prosperity. The highest esteem and most ravishing apprehensions of God, the dearest delight in him as the most excellent suitable good, and in whom the soul has the most intimate propriety, is the honour due to his
* Omnis humana perversio fruendis uti velle, & utendis frui. Aug.
incomparable perfection. The holy psalmist often declares his transcendent valuation, and inflamed affection towards God; "How precious are thy thoughts unto me, O God!" Psal. 139. 17, 19. (no artifice of words could fully express it) "how great is the sum of them? If I should count them, they are more in number than the sand; when I awake I am still with thee." As if he breathed not oftener than he thought of God with reverence and complacency. Thus also he despises all that carnal men pursue with violent desires, in comparison of God's favour, "There be many that say, who will show us any good?" that is, a sensual good, for nothing is pleasant to them, but what appears in a fleshly fashion. "Lord, lift thou up the light of thy countenance upon us. Thou hast put gladness in my heart, more than in the time that their corn and their wine increased." Psal. 4. 6, 7. The carnal man, who is a stranger to spiritual joys, has a sweeter relish of carnal things, than a saint that has a new nature, that deadens the appetite to dreggy delights: and in the vintage and harvest there is a spring-tide of carnal joy: yet David feels a more inward joy and cordial contentment in the fruition of God's favour, than a natural man has in the flower of his worldly felicity. Nay, he prizes the favour of God before life itself, which is our most precious possession in this world. "Thy lovingkindness is better than life, therefore my lips shall praise thee." Psal. 63. Communion with God, is the beginning of heaven, and differs from the fulness of joy that is in the divine presence above, only in the degrees and manner of fruition. As the blushes of the morning are the same light with the glorious brightness of the sun at noon-day. The natural man is averse from this heavenly duty, and most in prosperity. It is the observation of holy Job; "They spend their days in wealth; therefore they say to the Almighty, depart from us; we desire not the knowledge of thy ways." It is the malignant property of worldly things, to deface the notions, and cause a disrelish of sublime and spiritual things. The objects that pleasantly affect the carnal faculties, draw the soul from God. This is the principal and universal temptation of the present world, by the corruption of our hearts, and never so dangerous as in our prosperity. It is a rule in building, that chief care must be taken for the contriving of windows, for the transmission of a liberal light to refresh the inhabitants. Now to build in a plain where the heavens are
open on all sides, and the pure light shines, it is easy to make the house convenient: but to raise a luminous fabric in a city thick set with houses, and straitened for room, requires art, and the building must be higher: thus a person that is surrounded with the honours, riches, and pleasures of the world, that are so apt to darken the soul, and to exclude the influences of heaven, has need of holy skill to preserve a free communication with God, and to be always receptive of his grace. Then holy duties should be frequent and fervent, wherein the soul ascends to God by raised desires, and God descends into the soul, by the operations of his sanctifying and comforting spirit. And as we see in nature, the flowers of every kind open their leaves to the rising sun, to be revived with his vital heat; so we should every day open our hearts to God in prayer and praises. And since all his mercies invite and conduct us to the blessed author, and temporal benefits are sensible arguments of his love; those who most richly enjoy them, are obliged infinitely more to value and delight in the giver, than in the gifts themselves. If the "heart be set upon riches," which it is very apt "to be when they increase," or upon pleasures, God is neglected and vilified: and though many are not openly vicious and profane, yet so pleasantly the things of the world insinuate into their affections, that they cannot "taste how good the Lord is;" a sad indication of their unregenerate state: for the divine nature in a saint, inclines him to God as his supreme good, his only treasure and exceeding joy; and as soon as he begins to breathe the life of holiness, he dies to the vanities of the world. And when prosperity alienates the heart from God, it is as surely destructive, as when it draws forth the sensual appetites into exorbitant and foul actions. A consumption kills as surely as a calenture. Those who abuse the favours of God to impiety and luxury, throw themselves headlong into the bottomless pit; and those who in their abundance are remiss and cold towards God, gradually descend thither: for God will not be our joy for ever in heaven, if he be not our exceeding joy upon the earth.
But when in the midst of prosperity the soul is filled with a noble admiration of the divine excellencies, when it tastes incomparably more sweetness in the love of God, from whence outward blessings are derived, than in the things themselves, when the chief joy arises from the contemplation of his favour in
Christ, whereby we are pardoned, and preferred to be his brethren, coheirs with him of the immortal and undefiled inheritance, then we know how to abound. Our Saviour commands his disciples not to "rejoice that spirits were subject to them," Luke 10. 20. though an admirable testimony of his favour, but that "their names were written in heaven." Much less should this perishing world be the matter of our joy, in comparison of our title, and the blessed hope of heaven. Spiritual joy purifies and fortifies the soul against the ensnaring and corrupting allurements of the world. "The joy of the Lord is their strength;" that of which he is the author and object, is both productive and preservative of the vigour of the soul, to resist the charms of the world. It is said of Orpheus, when he passed by the Syrens, who by their charming voices subdued men to sleep, and then destroyed them, that he played on his harp, and the sweet sound made him despise their singing, and prevented the danger. The fable is fitly moralized: joy in the Lord, as our portion, and that infinite sweetness that is in communion with him, makes such an impression upon the soul, that the ensnaring and destructive pleasures of the world are abhorred in comparison with them. That firm peace and pure joy, "passes the understanding," our most comprehensive faculty; whereas all the pleasures of the world do not satisfy our senses.
7. When riches and power are employed for the glory of God and the good of others, they are a happy advantage to those that possess them. All benefits are virtual obligations; and the greater our receipts are, the greater our accounts will be. God has a sovereign right in all things we have, and they are not to be employed merely for our pleasure and profit, but according to his will, and for his honour. It is true, he enjoys his own eternity, his own glory and blessedness, to which there is no possibility of accession: his essential glory cannot be increased, but his declarative glory may be more manifested in the eyes of men; and he strictly requires that we should use his gifts, so as to show forth his glory, to declare how highly we value his glory, and how ardently we desire and endeavour that others should bless and praise him. Thus men in high dignity should govern their greatness so, as to make it subservient to this blessed end, that the wisdom, power, holiness, justice, and mercy of God, may be manifested in their administration. And those who enjoy a pre