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34. From many of the preceding circumstances we may learn, Thirdly, what is the genuine tendency of riches : what a baleful influence they have had in all ages, upon pure and undefiled religion. Not that money is an evil of itself: it is applicable to good as well as bad purposes. But, nevertheless, it is an undoubted truth, That the “ love of money is the root of all evil :” and also that the possession of riches naturally breeds the love of them. Accordingly, it is an old remark,
Crescit amor nummi, quantum ipsa pecunia crescit. “ As money increases, so does the love of it,” and always will, without a miracle of grace. Although, therefore, other causes may concur, yet this has been in all ages the principal cause of the decay of true religion in every Christian community. As long as the Christians in any place were poor, they were devoted to God. While they had little of the world, they did not love the world : but the more they had it, the more they loved it. This constrained the Lover of their souls, at various times to unchain their persecutors, who, by reducing them to their former poverty, reduced them to their former purity. But still remember, riches have, in all ages, been the bane of genuine Christianity.
35. We may learn hence, Fourthly, How great watchfulness they need who desire to be real Christians, considering what a state the world is in! May not each of them well say,
Into a world of ruffians sent,
walk on hostile ground:
And rav’ning wolves surround.” They are the more dangerous, because they commonly appear in sheep's clothing. Even those who do not pretend to religion, yet make fair professions of good-will, of readiness to serve us, and, perhaps, of truth aud honesty. But beware of taking their word. Trust not any man, until he fears God. It is a great truth,
“ He that fears no God, can love no friend !"
Therefore stand upon your guard against every one that is not earnestly seeking to save his soul. We have need to keep both our heart and mouth as “ with a bridle, while the ungodly are in our sight.” Their conversation, their spirit is infectious, and steals upon us unawares, we know not how.
Happy is the man that feareth always" in this sense also, lest he should partake of other men's sins! “O keep thyself pure !” “ Watch and pray, that thou enter not into temptation!”
36. We may learn from hence, Lastly, what thankfulness becomes those who have escaped the corruption that is in the world, whom God hath chosen out of the world, to be holy and unblamable.“ Who is it that maketh thee to differ?" "And what hast thou which thou hast not received ?” Is it not “ God [alone] who worketh in thee both to will and to do of his good pleasure ?” let those give thanks whom the Lord hath redeemed and delivered from the hand of the enemy.” Let us praise him, that he hath given us to see the deplorable state of all that are round about us : to see the wickedness which overflows the earth, and yet not be borne away by the torrent! We see the general, the almost universal contagion; and yet it cannot approach to hurt us! Thanks be unto him " who hath delivered us from so great a death, and doth still deliver!” And have we not farther ground for thankfulness, yea, and strong consolation, in the blessed hope which God hath given us, that the time is at hand, when righteousness shall be as universal as unrighteousness is now? Allowing that “the whole creation now groaneth together,” under the sin of man; our comfort is, it will not always groan : God will arise and maintain his own cause. And the whole creation shall then be delivered both from moral and natural corruption. Sin, and its consequence, pain, shall be no more: holiness and happiness will cover the earth. . Then shall all the ends of the world see the salvation of our God. And the whole race of mankind shall know, and love, and serve God, and reign with him for eyer'and ever!
THE END OF CHRIST'S COMING.
1 John v. 8.
“ For this purpose was the Son of God manifested, that he
might destroy the works of the devil.”.
MANY eminent writers, heathen as well as Christian, both in earlier and later ages, have employed their utmost labour and art, in painting the beauty of virtue. And the same pains they have taken to describe, in the liveliest colours, the deformity of vice; both of vice in general, and of those particular vices which were most prevalent in their respective ages and countries. With equal care they have placed, in a strong light, the happiness that attends virtue, and the misery which usually accompanies vice, and always follows it. And it may be acknowledged, that treatises of this kind are not wholly without their use. Probably, hereby, some, on the one hand, have been stirred up to desire and follow after virtue, and some, on the other hand, checked in their career of vice; perhaps reclaimed from it, at least for a season. But the change effected in men by these means, is seldom either deep or universal. Much less is it durable: in a little space, it vanishes away as the morning cloud. Such motions are far too feeble to
overcome the numberless temptations that surround us. All that can be said of the beauty and advantage of virtue, and the deformity and ill effects of vice, cannot resist, and much less overcome and heal one irregular appetite or passion.
“ All these fences, and their whole array,
One cunning bosom sin sweeps quite away.” 2. There is, therefore, an absolute necessity, if ever we would conquer vice, or steadily persevere in the practice of virtue, to have arms of a better kind than these, otherwise we may see what is right; but we cannot attain it. Many of the men of reflection among the very heathens, were deeply sensible of this. The language of their heart was that of Medea :
Video meliora proboque,
Deteriora sequor : How exactly agreeing with the words of the Apostle, (personating a man convinced of sin, but not yet conquering it) “ The good that I would, I do not; but the evil I would not, that I do.” The impotence of the human mind, even the Roman philosopher could discover : “ There is in every man,” says he, “ this weakness ; (he might have said, this sore disease,) “Gloriæ sitis, thirst for glory. Nature points out the disease; but nature shews us no remedy.”
3. Nor is it strange, that though they sought for a remedy, yet they found none. For they sought it, where it never was, and never will be found, namely, in themselves, in reason, in philosophy :-broken reeds :-bubbles : smoke! They did not seek it in God, in whom alone it is possible to find it. In God! No; they totally disclaim this : and that in the strongest terms. For although Cicero, one of their oracles, once stumbled upon that strange truth, “Nemo unquam vir magnus sine afilatu divino fuit;" (there never was any great man, who was not divinely inspired.) Yet in the very same tract he contradicts himself, and totally overthrows his own assertion, by asking, “Quis pro virtute aut sapientia gratias dedit Deis unquam?"
Who ever returned thanks to God for his virtue or wisdom? The Roman poet, is, if possible, more express still : who, after mentioning several outward blessings, honestly adds,
Hæc satis est orare Jovem, quæ donat & aufert:
We ask of God, what he can give or take :
Life, wealth : but virtuous I myself will make. 4. The best of them either sought virtue partly from God, and partly from themselves; or sought it from those gods who were, indeed, but devils, and so not likely to make their votaries better than themselves. So dim was the light of the wisest of men, till “ life and immortality were brought to light by the Gospel ;" till “ the Son of God was manifested to destroy the works of the devil.”
But what are “ the works of the devil” here mentioned ? How was “the Son of God manifested" to destroy them? And how, in what manner, and by what steps, does he actually destroy them? These three very important points we may consider in their order.
I. And first, what these works of the devil are, we learn from the words preceding and following the text : “We know that he was manifested to take away our sins," ver. 5. “Whosoever abideth in hini, sinneth not: whosoever sinneth, seeth him not, neither knoweth him,” ver. 6. “He that committeth sin is of the devil; for the devil sinneth from the beginning. For this purpose was the Son of God manifested, that he might destroy the works of the devil,” ver. 8. “ Whosoever is born of God, doth not commit sin,” ver. 9. From the whole of this it appears, that “ the works of the devil” here spoken of, are sin and the fruits of sin.
2. But since the wisdom of God has now dissipated the clouds which so long covered the earth, and put an end to the childish conjectures of men, concerning these things, it may be of use to take a more distinct view of these works of the devil,” so far as the Oracles of God instruct us.