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ported by it. Be a companion of them that fear God, and of them that keep his precepts*. You well know, that in the sight of God they are the excellent of the earth; let them therefore be all your delight+. And that the peculiar benefit of their friendship may not be lost, endeavour to make the best of the hours you spend with them. The wisest of men has observed, that when" counsel in the heart of a man is like deep waters; that is, when it lies low and concealed, a man of understanding will draw it out. Endeavour therefore, on such occasions, so far as you can do it with decency and convenience, to give the conversation a religious turn. And when serious and useful subjects are started in your presence, lay hold of them, and cultivate them; and for that purpose let the word of Christ dwell richly in you§, and be continually made the man of your counsel ||.
§. 6. If it be so, it will secure you, not only from the snares of idleness and luxury, but from the contagion of every bad example. And it will also engage you to guard against those excessive hurries of worldly business, which would fill up all your time and thoughts, and thereby choke the good word of God, and render it in a great measure, if not quite unfruitful¶. Young people are generally of an enterprising disposition: having experienced comparatively little of the fatigue of business, and of the disappointments and incumbrances of life, they easily swallow them up, and annihilate them in their imagination, and fancy that their spirit, their application and address, will be able to encounter and surmount every obstacle or hindrance. But the event proves it otherwise. Let me intreat you, therefore, to be cautious how you plunge yourself into a greater variety of business than you are capable of managing as you ought, that is, in consistency with the care of your souls, and the service of God; which certainly ought not on any pretence to be neglected. It is true, indeed, that a prudent regard to your worldly interest would require such a caution; as it is obvious to every careful observer, that multitudes are undone, by grasping at more than they can conveniently manage. Hence it has frequently been seen, that while they have seemed resolved to be rich, they have pierced themselves through with many sorrows**, have ruined their own families, and drawn down many others into desolation with them. Whereas, could they have been contented with moderate employments and moderate gains, they might have prospered in their business, and might by sure degrees, under a
Col. iii. 16.
*Psal. exix. 63. Psal. cxix. 24.
+ Psal. xvi. 3.
+ Prov. xx. 5.
divine blessing, have advanced to great and honourable increase. But if there were no danger at all to be apprehended on this head, if you were as certain of becoming rich and great, as you are of perplexing and fatiguing yourself in the attempt, consider, I beseech you, how precarious these enjoyments are. Consider, how often a plentiful table becomes a snare, and that which should have been for a man's welfare, becomes a trap*. Forget not that short lesson, which is so comprehensive of the highest wisdom; one thing is needfult. Be daily thinking, while the gay and the great things of life are glittering before your eyes, how soon death will come, and impoverish you at once how soon it will strip you of all possessions, but those which a naked soul can carry along with it into eternity, when it drops the body into the grave. Eternity! Eternity! Eternity! Carry the view of it about with you, if it be possible, through every hour of waking life; and be fully persuaded, that you have no business, no interest in life, that is inconsistent with it for whatsoever would be injurious to this view, is not your business, is not your interest. You see, indeed, that the generality of men act as if they thought the great thing which God required of them, in order to secure his favour, was to get as much of the world as possible; at least as much as they can without any gross immorality, and without risking the loss of all, for making a little addition. And as if it were to abet this design, they tell others, and perhaps tell themselves, they only seek opportunities of greater usefulness. But in effect, if they mean any thing more by this, than a capacity of usefulness, which, when they have it, they will not exert, they generally deceive themselves; and, one way or another, it is a vain pretence. In most instances men seek the world, either that they may hoard up riches, for the mean and scandalous satisfaction of looking upon them while they are living, and of thinking, that when they are dead it will be said of them, that they have left so many hundreds or thousands of pounds behind them; very probably, to insnare their children, or their heirs, (for the vanity is not peculiar to those who have children of their own :) or else, that they may lavish away their riches on their lusts, and drown themselves in a gulph of sensuality, in which, if reason be not lost, religion is soon swallowed up, and with it all the noblest pleasures which can enter into the heart of man. In this view, the generality of rich people appear to me objects of much greater compassion than the poor: especially as when
both live (which is frequently the case) without any fear of God before their eyes, the rich abuse the greater variety and abundance of his favours, and therefore will probably feel, in that world of future ruin which awaits impenitent sinners, a more exquisite sense of their misery.
§. 7. And let me observe to you, my dear reader, lest you should think yourself secure from any such danger, that we have great reason to apprehend, there are many now in a very wretched state, who once thought seriously of religion, when they were first setting out, in lower circumstances of life; but they have since forsaken God for mammon; and are now priding themselves in those golden chains, which in all probability, before it be long, will leave them to remain in those of darkness. When therefore an attachment to the world may be followed with such fatal consequences, let not thine heart envy sinners*; and do not, out of a desire of gaining what they have, be guilty of such folly as to expose yourself to this double danger of failing in the attempt, or of being undone by the success of it. Contract your desires; endeavour to be easy and content with a little and if providence call you out to act in a larger sphere, submit to it in obedience to providence, but number it among the trials of life, which it will require a larger proportion of grace to bear well. For be assured, that as affairs and interests multiply, cares and duties will certainly increase, and probably disappointments and sorrows will increase in an equal proportion.
§. 8. On the whole, learn by divine grace, to die to the present world; to look upon it as a low state of being, which God never intended for the final and complete happiness, or the supreme care of any one of his children: a world, where something is indeed to be enjoyed, but chiefly from himself; where a great deal is to be borne with patience and resignation; and where some important duties are to be performed, and a course of discipline to be passed through, by which you are to be formed for a better state; to which as a christian you are near, and to which God will call you, perhaps on a sudden, but undoubtedly, if you hold on your way, in the fittest time and the most convenient manner. Refer therefore all this to him. Let your hopes and fears, your expectations and desires, with regard to this world, be kept as low as possible; and all your thoughts be united, as much as may be, in this one centre, What it is that God would, in present circumstances, have you
*Prov. xxiii. 17..
to be; and what is that method of conduct, by which you may most effectually please and glorify him!
The young Convert's Prayer for divine Protection, against the Danger of these Snares.
"BLESSED God! In the midst of ten thousand snares and dangers, which surround me from without and from within, permit me to look up unto thee with my humble intreaty, that thou wouldst deliver me from them that rise up against me*, and that thine eyes may be upon me for good! When sloth and indolence are ready to seize me, awaken me from that idle dream, with lively and affectionate views of that invisible and eternal world, to which I am tending! Remind me of what infinite importance it is, that I diligently improve these transient moments, which thou hast allotted to me as the time of my preparation for it!
"When sinners entice me, may I not consent‡! May holy converse with God give me a disrelish for the converse of those who are strangers to thee, and who would separate my soul from thee! May I honour them that fear the Lord§, and walking with such wise and holy men, may I find I am daily advancing in wisdom and holiness! Quicken me, O Lord, by their means; that by me thou mayest also quicken others! Make me the happy instrument of enkindling and animating the flame of divine love in their breasts; and may it catch from heart to heart, and grow every moment in its progress!
"Guard me, O Lord, from the love of sensual pleasure! May I seriously remember, that to be carnally minded is death ¶! May it please thee, therefore, to purify and refine my soul by the influences of thine Holy Spirit, that I may always shun unlawful gratifications, more solicitously than others pursue them; and that those indulgences of animal nature, which thou hast allowed, and which the constitution of things render necessary, may be soberly and moderately used! May I still remember the superior dignity of my spiritual and intelligent nature, and may the pleasures of the man and the christian be sought as my noblest happiness! May my soul rise on the wings of holy contemplation, to the regions of invisible glory; and may I be endeavouring to form myself, under the influences of divine grace, for the entertainments of those angelic spirits, that live in
Psal. lix. 1.
5 Psal. xv. 4.
+ Jer. xxiv. 6.
Prov. xiii. 20.
Prov. i. 10.
Rom. viii. 6.
thy presence in a happy incapacity of those gross delights, by which spirits dwelling in flesh are so often insnared, and in which they so often lose the memory of their high original, and of those noble hopes, which alone are proportionable to it!
"Give me, O Lord, to know the station in which thou hast fixed me, and steadily to pursue the duties of it! But deliver me from those excessive cares of this world, which would so engross my time and my thoughts, that the one thing needful should be forgotten! May my desires after worldly possessions be moderated, by considering their uncertain and unsatisfying nature; and while others are laying up treasures on earth, may I be rich towards God! May I never be too busy to attend to those great affairs, which lie between thee and my soul; never be so engrossed with the concerns of time, as to neglect the interests of eternity! May I pass through earth with my heart and hopes set upon heaven, and feel the attractive influence stronger and stronger, as I approach still nearer and nearer to that desirable centre; till the happy moment come, when every earthly object shall disappear from my view, and the shining glories of the heavenly world shall fill my improved and strengthened sight, which shall then be cheered with that which would now overwhelm me! Amen."
The Case of spiritual Decay and Languor in Religion. Declensions in Religion, and Relapses into Sin, with their sorrowful consequences, are in the general too probable, §. 1, The Case of Declension and Languor in Religion described, negatively; §. 2. and positively: §. 3. as discovering itself, (1.) By a Failure in the Duties of the Closet, §. 4. (2.) By a Neglect of Social Worship, §. 5. (3.) By Want of Love to our Fellow-christians, §. 6. (4.) By an undue Attachment to sensual Pleasures, or secular Cares, §. 7. (5.) By Prejudices against some impor tant Principles in Religion; §. 8. A Symptom peculiarly sad and dangerous, §. 9, 11. Directions for Recovery, §. 11. Immediately to be pursued, §. 12. A Prayer for one under spiritual Decays.
§. 1. IF I am so happy as to prevail upon you in the exhorta
tions and cautions I have given, you will probably go on with pleasure and comfort in religion; and your path will generally be like the morning light, which shineth more and more until the perfect dayt. Yet I dare not flatter myself with an
Luke xii. 21.
+ Prov. iv. 18.