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placing the tree of the knowledge of good and evil in the midst of the garden of Eden, and then forbidding them to eat of it upon pain of death. This was owing to the evil suggestion of the great deceiver. He tempted them to misunderstand, to disbelieve, and to transgress the kind prohibition that God laid
them. He only forbade them to love the world and things of the world supremely, which he knew would dishonor himself and ruin them forever. From the same kind and benevolent motive, he now so repeatedly and positively forbids mankind to love the world supremely. He allows them to live in the world, and to use the world, but he forbids them to abuse it. To love the world supremely, is to idolize it, and abuse it, and render it vanity of vanities and a vexation of spirit. The world is perfectly adapted to make men holy and happy, when they love it, and use it in subordination to the glory of God. But when they love it supremely, and make it the source of their only and highest happiness, it totally prevents their loving and enjoying God, and deprives them of temporal and eternal happiness, and prepares them for future and eternal disappointment of all their fond desires, and hopes, and expectations. It is in mercy to men, that God forbids them to love the world supremely, and hew out to themselves cisterns, broken cisterns that can hold no water. God does not forbid the young or the old, the rich or the poor, to love the world supremely, to destroy, but to promote their happiness, both in time and eternity. And for this, they have abundant reason to be thankful.
2. Since God is good in forbidding men to love the world supremely, he must be equally good in requiring them to love him supremely. There is no other way in which it is morally possible to cure men of their supreme love to the world. They are naturally lovers of pleasure more than lovers of God. The world is exactly adapted to gratify their corrupt and selfish hearts. Though Christ has told them, and Solomon has told them, and the apostles have told them, and their own experience has told them, that the world is utterly vain as a source of happiness to rational and immortal creatures; yet they will not renounce their supreme love to it, until they love God supremely, and take him for their supreme portion. As supreme love to the world excludes supreme love to God from the heart, so nothing but supreme love to God, can exclude supreme love to the world from the heart. So long as the men of the world know no other source of happiness, they will love it supremely, notwithstanding they know it has disappointed, and will disappoint their hopes and happiness, which they have placed in it.
It is kind in God, therefore, to require them to love him su. premely, and derive their supreme happiness from the enjoyment of his favor, holiness, and blessedness. And as soon as they do love God supremely, they immediately renounce the world and the things of the world as vanity of vanities, and a vexation of spirit. This our Saviour illustrates by a pertinent and instructive parable. “The kingdom of heaven is like unto treasure hid in a field; the which, when a man hath found, he hideth, and for joy thereof goeth and selleth all that he hath, and buyeth that field. Again the kingdom of heaven is like unto a merchantman seeking goodly pearls: who when he had found one pearl of great price, went and sold all that he had, and bought it.” God knows that men will not renounce the world, until they have found and secured a higher and more permanent source of happiness in the love and enjoyment of himself. He knows they must renounce worldly, in order to enjoy spiritual happiness, and he graciously commands and invites them to do it. Ho, every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters, and he that hath no money, come, and buy and eat; yea, come buy wine and milk, without money and without price. Wherefore do ye spend money for that which is not bread ? and your labor for that which satisfieth not? Hearken diligently unto me, and eat ye that which is good, and let your soul delight itself in fatness. Incline your ear, and come unto me: hear, and your soul shall live.” God manifests his goodness in requiring men to love him supremely, because it is morally impossible for them to be completely and forever happy without giving him the supreme affection of their hearts. Man must love God supremely, or love the world supremely. If they love God supremely, they must be happy ; but if they love the world supremely, they must be wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked, and pierce themselves through with many sorrows. This is God's world, in which none can be happy, until they love him more than father or mother, son or daughter, houses or lands, or any of the good things which the world affords.
3. It appears from what has been said, that this world is suited to make good men better, and bad men worse. Good men love the world in obedience to God, and bad men love the world in disobedience to God. Good men view every good gift and every perfect gift as coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variableness nor shadow of turning. Bad men overlook the hand from which all their temporal blessings come, and love the gifts and not the Giver. Good men love God supremely, and the good things of the world subordinately. They value life, and health, and property, and every species of outward prosperity, as means and motives of gratitude and obedience to God. All the good things of the world which they enjoy, raise their attention and affections to God, and serve to increase their holiness, happiness, and usefulness. These were the happy effects, which the expressions of divine goodness had upon David. He looked through all secondary causes, and saw the heart and hand of God in all the temporal good things with which he was favored and distinguished. These inspired his heart with gratitude and filled his mouth with praise. He says, “I will bless the Lord at all times: his praise shall continually be in my mouth. Bless the Lord, O my soul; and all that is within me, bless his holy name. Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits. What shall I render unto the Lord for all his benefits towards me ?” This is the language of the hearts of all good men under the reception of divine favors. But the blessings which
. God bestowed upon the sinners of Zion, produced directly opposite effects, and served only to blind their minds, harden their hearts, stupify their consciences, and prepare them for future and final ruin. This world is every way fitted to make good men better, and bad men worse. It is a good world to good men, and a vain world to vain men. Men have no ground to complain of God for making such a world as this in which they live, and filling it with ten thousand good things, which he has required them to use, and not abuse. If they use this world in obedience to his commands, it cannot fail to fit them for another and better world; but if they abuse it, it cannot fail to prepare them for another world of woe and wretchedness. Thus mankind have been, from age to age, using and abusing the world. Those who have used it obediently and gratefully,
. have made to themselves friends of the mammon of unrighteousness, who have received them into everlasting habitations ; while those who have disobediently and ungratefully abused it, have made to themselves enemies of God and of all holy beings to all eternity
4. It appears from the vanity and goodness of the world, that all who live in it are in a state of trial. This world is so full of good things and of evil things, that no one who lives in it can help choosing good, or choosing evil, or help doing good, or doing evil. This world is so full of agreeable and disagreeable objects, and of agreeable and disagreeable changes, revolutions, and events, that no one can help being thankful or unthankful for the various objects with which he is surrounded, and the various scenes through which he is called to pass. By these circumstances every person, without exception, is put into a state of trial, whether he will obey or disobey God, and enjoy his smiles, or suffer his frowns forever. Christ was in a state of trial as long as he lived in this world. This Satan knew, and therefore offered to give him all the good and glory of the world, if he would disobey his Father, forfeit his favor, and defeat the great and glorious work of man's redemption. But when he was tempted, he resisted and condemned the tempter for his presumption, fraud, and falsehood. Adam was in a state of trial before he sinned, and all his posterity, from age to age, have been in a state of trial ever since. God here exhibits himself and the world before the eyes of mankind, and gives them a fair opportunity to choose him for their portion, or to choose the world for their portion, and they cannot avoid making a choice, and a choice which shall determine their future and eternal destiny. Every person, whether young or old, whether poor or rich, whether low or high, is tried every day by all he sees, and hears, and knows, and enjoys, and suffers. His heart is continually in motion, and loves either God, or the world supremely, which renders him worthy of praise or blame, reward or punishment. After mankind have come into the world, they are obliged to be in a state of trial; for they are obliged to see the vast variety of beautiful and attractive objects with which they are surrounded, and to love them supremely or subordinately, by which they become either the servants of God, or the servants of sin. Whether they do or do not know, that they are in a state of trial, yet God is actually trying them, and preparing them to be vessels of mercy, or vessels of wrath. This world was made to be a place of trial to all mankind, and so long as they live in it, it is the most solemn and interesting situation in which they can possibly be placed. They have everything to gain, or lose in this short probationary state. Every creature, every object, and every event with which they are connected, may have a powerful influence in forming their characters and fixing their condition for eternity. This is a serious world, and it deeply concerns all who are living in it, to realize that their probationary state is rapidly coming to a final and solemn close, when they must give account of the things done in the body, whether they be good, or whether they be evil.
5. If this world will be as vain in time to come, as it has been in time past, then it is very unwise as well as sinful, for any to expect to escape the dire evils and calamities, which have commonly fallen to the lot of mankind. In times past, some of the richest have become the poorest; some of the highest have become the lowest ; some of the most prosperous have become the most disappointed, and some who expected a long life, have met an early death. The circumstances of mankind have always been suddenly and unexpectedly changing; and generally changing not for the better, but for the worse. Prosperity has generally gone before adversity, and given adversity peculiar pain and bitterness. The same dreadful changes and revolutions are to be expected by those who are placing their supreme affections and dependence on this vain and delusive world. They are pursuing a forbidden path, which naturally leads to dire disappointment and sorrow. God knows their hopes are vain, and has forewarned them of their folly. He says, “They that trust in their wealth, and boast themselves in the multitude of their riches; none of them can by any means redeem his brother, nor give to God a ransom for him; (for the redemption of their soul is precious, and it ceaseth forever.)—Their inward thought is, that their houses shall continue forever, and their dwelling-places to all generations. This their way is their folly.” It is the extreme of folly for them to act in contrariety to the declarations of God, the experience of all mankind, and to their own experience. They have always found the world to be vain. They have never obtained all the objects they have sought, and those which they have obtained, have never given them the satisfaction they expected from them, but been mixed with disappointment. The longer they pursue lying vanities which cannot profit, the more unwise, inexcusable, and wretched they are, and will be, until they seek and obtain the enjoyment of God.
6. The vanity of the world shows the duty and importance of early piety. The young are apt to imagine, that they ought to be excused from giving their hearts and lives to God. They seem to claim it as a right to rejoice in their youth, and let their hearts cheer them in the days of their youth, and to walk in the ways of their heart, and in the sight of their eyes, putting far away the thoughts of death and another world. But this is an egregious and dangerous mistake. God gives them no leave to live without him in the world, but commands them to remember their Creator now in the days of their youth, while the evil days come not, nor the years draw nigh, when they shall say, we have no pleasure in them. Yea, he solemnly declares, that for all the days they spend in vanity he will bring them into judgment. No blank in time or in duty, has God ever made or meant to make. The
live in God's time and in God's world, which he allows them to use, but not abuse. So long as they love the world, and the things