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336 On Vigilance and Prayer. be perverted to maintain, that he will be selfishga thoughtless, or foolish; and, as far as relates to the distresses of his fellow-creatures, he will be ea for the most part, careless and unfeeling of
These then are among the temptations and, the sins, which spring from prosperity; against which we cannot watch with too much. vigil-, i ance, nor pray to be delivered, with too much
41 earnestness of supplication.
But the chief sin to which the rich and prosa perous, in this world, are exposed, is neglecte of religion, and forgetfulness of that God, who giveth us richly all things to enjoy. This, indeed, is a dreadful abuse of the divine love. In
TI stead of considering themselves as his “stewards and ministers for good,” many seem to think, that they were sent into the world to minister only to their own appetites and pleasures. Instead of reflecting that their responsibility to the Giver of all good will be in proportion to the talent bestowed, they “trust in uncertain
ches,” as the chief means of gratification; and, in the fulness of pride, deny their Maker; or, to use the striking language of Scripture, ask “who is the Lord ?"-But were they duly impressed with a sense of their duty, and did they “know the things that chiefly belong unto
their peace,” how very different would be their sentiments and conduct? They would be ever ready to approach the throne of Grace with hearts overflowing with praise and thanksgiving to the Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort ;—they would not cease to bless him for the honor which they received at his hands, in being thought worthy of husbanding a richer talent than the generality of their fellow-creatures ; – they would learn to look up to the Almighty Father with habitual gratitude and adoration, and reverence Him only as the great object of their meditations and desires. Thus would they be deeply impressed with his divine Love, and the heavenly precept of our blessed Lord, “ Freely have ye received, freely give," would never be forgotten. Then it would be their chief glory, instead of following the pomps and vanities of the world, to imitate, in an humble degree, the great Author of their being, and dispense the blessings which they received among those, who were intended to share them, and for the benevolent purposes for which they were bestowed. Duty would then be effectually practised on the one hand, and happiness enjoyed on the other. Good would be communicated from brother to brother, as the life-blood
circulates from vein to vein; and the rich man would then enjoy more permanent and delightful pleasure, even in this life, from his “labors of love," and the silent satisfactions of his own heart, than the worldling can ever hope for, from following the caprices of fashion, the amusements of vanity, and the gratifications of vice.
But from the strange perversion, which sin produces in the human heart, it often happens, that those blessings in the dispensation of Providence, which ought chiefly to make us remember God may be numbered among the common causes, that lead us to forget Him. These are the grant of existence, uninterrupted health, the supplying of our daily wants, unbroken spirits, and prosperity. Hence it is, that thousands are ready, under the pressure of calamity, or in the hour of danger, to cry out like the rash, enthusiastic Peter, when about to sink, “Lord, save me!" where there is one, who, for the enjoyment of ordinary, but substantial comforts, brings the free-will offering of praise and thanksgiving
Man, indeed, has but a little heart; and that is often selfish, and woefully depraved. As our blessed Lord declares, “he cannot serve two masters, for either he will hate the one, and love
the other ; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other,” Whatever attaches his weak, but headstrong passions, often directs the current of his days. The senses are ever open to gratification; and, as the prosperous man, like the centurion in the Gospel, may “say to one go, and he goeth; to another come, and he cometh ; and to his servant, do this, and he doeth it;" he is too often the slave of appetite and passion. Soon, therefore, he becomes wedded to the world ;-here is his “ treasure, and here his heart is also.'
The pleasure, indeed, which he enjoys, and the gratifications in which he revels, lie all before him. They require no efforts, but invite enjoyment; while the holy satisfactions of piety and virtue are the rewards only of vigilance and fortitude, or the fruits of long discipline, and much self-denial.
The present life is considered by the prosperous man, therefore, not as a pilgrimage, but as his resting-place and home; it is to him not a warfare, but a feast; not a school of discipline, but a continued banquet of pleasure; and he is ever ready to say to his soul, with the rich man in the Gospel, soul, “ take thine ease, eat, drink, and be merry,” without reflecting, that the very next night “his soul may be required of him.”
Such is the intoxicating power of prosperity on the minds of some, that they seem blind to the most obvious truths, and deaf to the loudest calls of wisdom and experience. In the midst of riotous and intemperate pleasures, wisdom and discretion may, for a season, be banished from the mind; but it would scarcely be thought possible, (if we did not know it to be true) that the melancholy reflection, which tells us “ we are but strangers and sojourners here, as all our fathers were,” should not recur with such effect as to wean our affections, at least, in some measure, from the world, and turn them unto the Lord our God; but so it is, that the prosperous too often shew by their sentiments and conduct, that they think only of the present, and disre. gard the future; though the one is every hour vanishing fast away,
and the other approaching with silent celerity.
Even of the vicissitudes of human life they are strangely regardless. They appear not to know that “ riches sometimes make themselves wings, and fly away;"nor to reflect, that though “they are now rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing; yet” (to continue