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loved and pursued, become criminal and destructive. Nor is it necessary to follow an uninterrupted round of trifling recreations and pleasures. Men of the world may act on the idea that cessation quickens, enjoyment. They may either abstain altogether from amusements, if it is not done from religious motives, and supported by a consistent piety; or they may partake of them with moderation, or with draw from them for a season, that they may return to a life of vanity with a keener relish. Even a sort of religion, so far as a regard to some external duties extends, is compatible with a neglect of genuine piety. There may be a decent religion in very worldly persons; which is meager, cold, occasional, proud, formal; sustained for the sake of example to inferiors, to satisfy conscience and to compensate for sin; which is neither earnest nor spiritual, which means little and effects less. This is the general idea of what may be termed the system of this world. Proceeding according to this, the world has its maxims, occupations, amusements, applause, disapprobation, estimate of good and evil, and terms of admission to its society and friendship. The sum of it is, that if the
governing principle remain in force--THE MINDING OF THE FLESH-every thing else is tolerated by them, whether it appears to incline towards decency
and public virtue on the one hand, or towards open irreligion and profligacy on the other.
It will be easy to gather from these remarks the OBJECT to which this system is tacitly directed by its followers. It is that of countenancing each other in the ways of religious indifference and folly. Such men are cowards when alone. Conscience accuses; guilt disturbs. They flee when no man pursueth. But when hand joins in hand, they can face the danger. When the rich, the great, the wise, the learned, the acute, the powerful unite in certain plans of life, certain amusements; certain maxims; men conclude that all is right. They thus contrive to forget the calls of religion, to exclude reflection, to silence conscience, to escape retirement, to lose themselves in engagements and occupation, to fill up the void which sin has made, to frame a scheme of sensual happiness, and to do without God and serious religion. In the hurry of company, crowds, tumult, dress, conversation, business,
peculations, rank, power, enterprise, and the love of admiration, the passions are excited, time consumed, the remaining scruples of religious feeling overcome, and the sensuality of the earthly heart gratified and confirmed.
The DECEITFULNESS of this course of the world is remarkable. Men fall into it almost imperceptibly; the stream carries them along.
They merely follow the example of others. The descent is easy and gradual. One generation succeeds another in the same round of thoughtlessness or laborious trifling. They go on without trouble, contrivance, or direct intention, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind. Multitudes of such persons have no idea how far they have departed from the paths of real religion, do not suspect whither the course which they pursue will lead them, and are highly displeased with those who warn them of their danger. Nor are plausible delusions wanting to draw on the too willing travellers. Religion is traduced by many around them as enthusiasm, and separation from the follies or spirit of mankind as misanthropy; the intoxicating pleasures of sense are represented as excusable at least, if not blameless; the tumult of dissipation as innocent enjoyment; and the impure and often destructive fascinations of public and social diversions as allowable recreations and liarmless amusements. An intense devotion of heart to earthly cares and employments is further considered as the discharge of necessary duties : whilst the pleas of family connexions, dependence on others, general custom, the laws of honour, station in life, and good intentions, unite with the dread of reproach and the fear of man, to lead the multitude forward in unsuspected captivity. Thus the deceitfulness of
the world is its strength. It first blinds and, then ruins men. And as it has always the multitude on its side, it has no difficulty in softening things by giving them spurious names, in establishing corrupt maxims, erecting a delusive standard, diffusing around every object a false atmosphere, and rejecting the friendly interference which would detect the illusion, and deliver men from its influence.
Need I then stop to speak of the FORCE of the world? It diffuses itself, like the waters of å mighty flood, on every side. None but they who are born of God ever really overcome it, It has been the same in all ages and circumstances. If it be impeded and obstructed in one channel, it bursts out in another. It bears down the restraints of education and conscience, and overflows the embankments which law or morals or religion may erect. Where it cannot flow in a full torrent, it insinuates itself by a secret course. The young and amiable, whom religion especially addresses, and whose hearts, yet tender, might be thought most susceptible of piety, are hurried along, as well as the aged and infirm, from whose feeble but anxious grasp all earthly objects are escaping. The acute and penetrating, whose minds, enlarged by science, might be supposed to be engaged in higher pursuits, and who cannot but detect•the miserable folly of a worldly life,
mingle in the throng with the uneducated, the frivolous, and the gay. The disappointed still press onward in the train, only to renew their disappointments. The very ministers of the sanctuary are in some instances not altogether free from the infection, and confirm by the exhibition of a low standard of religious feeling and instruction, the errors of the unthinking multitude. Even those who, in the spirit of a proud philosophy, openly inveigh against the trifles of life, submit to the tyranny of them. Erected, in a word, upon the foundation of a corrupt heart, the spirit of the world acts with a force which nothing short of the energy of true and spiritual religion, derived from the almighty grace and boundless love of Christ Jesus, can effectually withstand.
Such is the general course of the world. Such its principle, its system, its object, its deceitfulness, and its force. In every age it presents these common and prominent features. Man is an apostate creature, and the course in which he naturally walks is carnal, earthly, ignoble; almost as much inferior to the dignity of his origin, as it is below the grandeur of those heavenly expectations which ought to fill and elevate his soul. Still there are varieties arising from the different circumstances of mankind which deserve a separate notice.