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observation of the wisest man, confirmed by universal experience. Pride makes men imperious and impatient, boisterous and stormy against all that offend them. Pride, anger, and revenge, like serpents twine and wreath about one another. Pride interprets an offence as an high contempt, and raises anger; and anger provoked, takes proportionable revenge to the conceived injury. We have a tragical instance of this recorded in scripture. 2 Kings 8. 12, 13. Hazael when foretold by the mourning pro phet, that he would stain himself with the innocent blood of the Israelites, "slay their young men with the sword, and dash their ehildren, and rip up their women with child:" he startled at it as an execrable cruelty? "And Hazael said, but what, is thy servant a dog that he should do this great thing? And Elisha answered, the Lord hath showed me, that thou shalt be king over Syria." When advanced to empire, he divested humanity. Pride armed with power is furious at opposition; and the flaming passion, like a frightful comet, presages and produces terrible effects. Thus it is evident how the lusts of the flesh are fomented by prosperity.
3. Prosperity inclines sinners to an impious neglect of God, which is a sin of the highest nature, and prolific of innumerable evils. All sin is an irregularity, either in the excess or the defective extreme, either in overvaluing and loving the creature, or in the disesteem and indifference to the Creator, and prosperity increases the aversion of the carnal heart from God, in the same degrees as it strengthens the propensity to the world. For the opening this, it will be necessary to consider the essential and eternal respects due from the reasonable creature to God. And they are four comprehensive of all the rest.
A solemn thankful recognition of him as the author of our beings, and all the comforts we enjoy. Supreme love to him. An humble fear of his displeasure. Entire obedience to his will. As in this regular universe, every kind of being has its proper end; so it cannot be denied, without the most evident absurdity, that God in all these respects is the chief end of man.
(1.) A solemn thankful recognition of God, as the author of our beings, and all our comforts, is continually due to him. The neglect of this is so contumelious to the majesty and glory of God, and so contrary to those most binding obligations to his merey and goodness, that it is an offence infinitely provoking. In
every transgression the authority of the Lawgiver is despised; but this immediately reflects dishonour upon the Deity. As a common felony is a breach of the king's laws, but treason not only violates his laws, but strikes immediately at his person and dig→ nity. Now prosperity inclines sensual persons to this wretched neglect of God. The world, with all its desirable things has the dominion and full possession of the understandings, memories, and hearts of men, and serious thoughts, with warm affections towards God are banished from them. It is the character of a wicked person, but most proper to him in his prosperity, "God is not in all his thoughts." Psal. 10. 4. Of this impiety there are several degrees: the highest is explicit atheism, a disbelief of God and his providence, of his being and bounty; and this is sometimes occasioned by plentiful prosperity. And the consequences are, pride that blasts the mind, as it were, with lightning, and confidence in the things of this world. Of this we have astonishing instances in the scripture. Nebuchadnezzar transported in a vain-glorious flush of joy, at the view of his magnificent works, breaks forth in those lofty insolent expressions; "Is not this great Babel that I have built, for the house of my kingdom, by the might of my power, and the honour of my majesty?" as if he had been raised by his own power, and did not owe his greatness to the King of heaven. Thus it is charged against the prince of Tyrus," Thy heart is lifted up be cause of thy riches; and thou hast said, I am a god, and sit in the seat of God; and thou settest thine heart as the heart of God." Ezek. 28. 2. He presumed that his throne for glory and stability was like the divine kingdom, that cannot be shaken, and forgot that he was a frail man in a mutable world. Plentiful prosperity is so strong à temptation to atheism, that a wise and holy saint earnestly deprecated it as a pernicious snare: "Give me not riches, lest I be full and deny thee, and say, who is the Lord ?" Prov. 30. 9. The carnal heart, in the full fruition of the world, is apt to ascribe all to the course of nature, or to hu man contrivance and endeavours, without any serious acknowledgment of the divine liberality and beneficence. Prodigious ingratitude, and equal folly! As if one should imagine that a fountain of water had not its original from the sea, but from the marble stones, through which it immediately and visibly springs.
Or as if it were requisite the hand of the giver should be as visible as his gifts.
Now although few arrive to this height of impiety in actual thoughts and open words; yet prosperous sinners are always guilty of an interpretative and virtual denial of God: they have not a solemn grateful remembrance of their benefactor and his benefits, and a due sense of their dependance upon him. It was the wise and holy counsel of Moses to Israel, "When they should be possessed of Canaan," a place of delight and profit, Deut 6. 12. "When thou shalt have eaten, and art full, then beware lest thou forget the Lord." The caution so enforced, intimates a sinful disposition in the carnal heart, in prosperity to neglect God. There may be a notional remembrance of him in the mind, a naked ascription of all good things to his providence, a complimental visit in exterior worship; yet without an inward cordial sense of our dear obligations for his most free favours. The apostle charges "the rich in this world, not to trust in uncertain riches, but in the living God. So foolishly are men prone to depend for protection, reputation, and provision of all things upon their estates, as if they were unconsumable, and neglect God their rock, who is the alone sufficient foundation of all our hopes and comfort.
(2.) Supreme love to God is an indispensable duty from men upon the account of his most amiable excellencies and benefits. "Thou shalt love the Lord with all thy heart, with all thy soul, with all thy strength, and with all thy mind; this is the first and great commandment, and consequently a coldness and indifferency to God, much more a strong aversion from him, is a sin of the most heinous nature: now prosperity has a special malignity to disincline the heart from God. The supreme love of God includes an act of the understanding, a transcendent. esteem of his favour; "thy loving-kindness is better than life;" it inspires the soul with ardent desires after him; "my soul follows hard after thee;" it produces the most joyful satisfaction in communion with him. The thoughts of God are unspeakably "precious and sweet;" the ordinances, the blessed means of conveying his grace, are highly valued; and sin that displeases and separates from God, is hated as the greatest evil. Now the soul must be refined to a heavenly temper, to some degrees of
angelical purity, before it is capable of light to see his spiritual excellencies, and love to enjoy them. And if the soul does not make the body heavenly and spiritual, the body will make the soul earthly and fleshly. From hence it is that the affluence of things pleasing to the senses, fastens the carnal heart to the world as its happiness and heaven; it darkens the mind, and vitiates the affections, that the soul" can neither taste nor see how good the Lord is." It is the universal character of men in the carnal state; "they are lovers of pleasure, more than lovers of God." And a remisser degree of love is comparative hatred. A sin of astonishing guilt, and not less odious to God, and damning in its nature, though little observed and resented by carnal men: for the highest dishonour of God is complicated with disobedience in it. A sin that deserves and inflicts the sorest punishment; for God alone, whose goodness is infinite, can make us perfectly and eternally happy: * and the spiritual separation from him is such an invaluable loss, that when truly understood, is the foundation of the heaviest sorrow.
(3.) The fear of God, is a most distant affection from the heart of the foolish sinner in his prosperity. The fear of reverence, and the awful esteem of God, that proceeds from the reflection upon his glorious greatness, is a grace that remains in heaven the angels in all their bright degrees of excellence cover their faces before his throne. The fear of circumspection that restrains from displeasing him upon the account of his justice and power, is a proper affection to men in the present state. The blessed in heaven are above this fear, being confirmed in a state of unchangeable perfection and felicity: the damned in hell are below this fear, in that no change can make their condition worse: but it is most useful and congruous in this middle state, This fear of God is "the beginning of wisdom," the first and chiefest part of it in respect of order and dignity. For the true notion of wisdom, consists in the foresight of evils, in the choice and use of effectual means to avoid it, and it is the best wisdom that avoids the greatest danger. This fear is the principle of conversion from sin to holiness; exciting us to make God our friend, who is so dreadful an adversary, so holy and just, that he will not connive at sin, and spare the guilty and impenitent;
An non pæna satis est te non amare? Aug. Conf.
and so powerful, that with one stroke he can utterly destroy his most stubborn enemies. Carnal security is directly opposite to this fear of God, and nothing does more harden and fortify men in security, than a prosperous state. The voluptuous and sensual are without apprehension of danger, till imminent and in their view. "Because they have no changes, therefore they fear not God. Psal. 55. 19. Uninterrupted prosperity tempted them to atheistical security and as none are solicitous and in anxiety, lest the sun, whose presence is the support and beauty of the world, should not arise in the morning, because its regular course is established and constant; and it would be a miracle contravening the order of nature if it should be stopped; thus the long enjoyment of plenty, and ease, and peace, renders men constantly secure and fearless, as if the tenor of their prosperity were invariable, and no evil could disturb it; or at least they will set back the expectation of evil at a great distance, like those profane scorners mentioned by the prophet, "they say, the vision he sees is for many days to come, he prophesies of the times afar off," and with a brutish stupidity, slight the divine threatenings. And from hence it follows, that none are so rebelliously and boldly disobedient, as the prosperous sinner; which is the fourth thing to be considered.
(4.) Entire obedience is due to the supreme lawgiver, who is able to save and destroy for ever: yet he is mercifully inclined to pardon the infirmities of men, and greater sins retracted by repentance. There are sins of ignorance, when a man dashes blindfold against the law; and of sudden surreption, when there is no time to deliberate, and for recollection; and the best are not exempted here from sins of this nature: there are sins of deadly malignity, when men are careless of God's commands, and indulge their lusts, though not without some remorse. But the prosperous sinner is usually most presumptuous, he sins with a high hand, and incurs a greater guilt, and shall be exposed to greater punishment. When the fear of God is extinguished, luxury takes the reins, and breaks through the hedge of the law, without feeling the wounding thorns, the fearful threatenings in it; and drives on through all the degrees of sin. It is the aggravation of the Israelites' ingratitude; Jeshurun waxed fat, and kicked; and lightly esteemed the rock of his salvation." Deut. 32. 15. They were like beasts high fed, that become fierce and