Page images
PDF
EPUB

138

READING OR HEARING THE SCRIPTURES.

sincere milk of the word”—that we may thereby “grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.” We shall “search” in the spirit of meekness :-and may He who hath “hidden these things from the wise in their own eyes—and the prudent” in their own conceit-mercifully reveal to us his saving truths :—May the Holy Spirit “open our understandings, that we may understand the Scriptures :”—and may He give us grace so to apply them to our hearts by faith-that, whether in prosperity or adversity—in health or sickness -in life or death—we may have “joy and peace in believing”-yea,—that we may evermore

rejoice in the Lord—and joy in the God of our salvation.”

SERMON XII.

ON LOVING PLEASURE MORE THAN GOD.

2 TIMOTHY, III. 4.-"Lovers of pleasures more than

lovers of God.

Of all the attacks that are made on human virtue, none are more disguised-none more fatal -than those which assume the form of pleasure: and therefore it is that we are so frequently warned in scripture against the danger of an enemy, at once so alluring and destructive. In order that we may be able to discern this realthough often unperceived foe, and to reject, with christian forbearance, the palatable poison offered to our taste, I shall enquire into the meaning of the word pleasure;—endeavour, by divine aid, to explain what it is to love pleasure more than God ;—and conclude, by exhorting my present hearers, as they value their precious their immortal souls, to take heed to themselves, and, before the day of grace is past, resolutely adopt a better—a safer rule of action.

Mankind, in general, divide the pleasures of this life into innocent and guilty. Now, though this definition might be supposed sufficient to teach them what to indulge, and what to reject, yet, so fallible is human judgment—so prone to error and self-deceit the heart of fallen man,that, far from being rigid in an application of the rule, the lovers of pleasure are seldom accurate; but too often include in the number of harmless amusements, such as, were they subjected to strict examination, would be found unfit for the enjoyment of rational and accountable beings : and allowing that some more cautious individuals exclude from the catalogue, pleasures of a doubtful nature,-yet even they are too frequently unsuspicious of the danger attendant on those usually denominated innocent; and consider not, that what, to a certain degree, may be harmless,-in excess, may be sinful; and that those things which are not in themselves blameable, become so, when preferred to objects of higher estimation. Now, by the term “pleasures,” in the text, we are not to understand that the Apostle meant actual sin;—yet that he condemns such a strong attachment, even to what is not sinful, as gives it a preference to more valuable—more exalted considerations.

Regarding pleasure then, in the most favourable and liberal sense, let us enquire what is to be understood by “being lovers of it more than lovers of God.” Neither here, nor in any

other part of scripture, are we forbidden to enjoy innocent delights, provided they be enjoyed in moderation, and not allowed to interfere with the most important even of our secular concerns, -much less with our duty and love to our beneficent Creator. It is of the utmost consequence, with respect to recreation, to ascertain what is proper, and what is improper, in order to determine its guilt or innocence. This is plainly discernible, whenever two opposite inclinations come in competition, by observing which is the governing principle. We may also compare their force, though they operate at different times ;-by remarking the different measures of alacrity and joy that accompany their distinct exercise, and the regret and annoyance

which we experience when disappointed of any expected indulgence. We should therefore institute a kind of competition between our attachment to pleasure and our love of God; or at least take pains to examine the respective influence of each principle on the heart, before we can determine whether we are indeed lovers of pleasure more than lovers of Him;—and even then, lest we deceive ourselves in this important enquiry, we should constantly seek the sure guidance of that Holy Spirit, which can alone give us “a right judgment in all things,”—alone lead us “into all truth.” A cheerful enjoyment of the

وو

bounties of providence, and a participation of the rational joys of friendship and society are by no means sinful;—but, with respect to time, mode, and expense, they must be regulated by due attention to age, rank, and circumstances ; and in no instance clash with positive duties, much less interfere in the smallest degree with spiritual and eternal objects. The christian may partake in moderation of the innocent gratifications which the world affords, but must not be led captive by them. He need not refuse those comfortable accommodations which are offered him in his journey through life ; but he should neither seek them with anxiety, nor resign them with regret. Pleasure may cheer him after fatigue, or refresh his spirits when unduly dejected; but it must not engage his best affections, nor engross the greater portion of his time. Yet, such alas! is human frailty,—such the infatuating nature of pleasure,—that, without continual watchfulness, it will at length insensibly engross the mind ; and what might at first have been considered innocent, may, by habit, acquire such an ascendancy, as to predominate over every better principle. To ascertain, then, whether we are guilty of this excess, we must have recourse to the self-examination already suggested,—and impartially ask our own hearts, whether the world so far engage our attention, as to draw us off from religious exercises, and

« PreviousContinue »