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TO THE REVEREND
GEORGE GASKIN, D.D.
RECTOR OF ST. BENE'T GRACECHURCH.
WHEN I delivered the following Discourse
your pulpit, I did not foresee that the audience would require' me to print it. At the request of good people, I have already printed more sermons, and within a shorter time, than I intended or desired. The subject of this present one being almost as wide as the world of which it treats; I would have kept it awhile longer under my eye, for the chance of some farther improvements; but if your Congregation are disposed to accept it in its present imperfect state, I ought to submit without scruple to their good intentions. On one account, I am pleased with the accident : it gives me a fair opportunity of expressing my regard and affection for you, who serve the Church at large, hy dedicating your life, as Mr. Broughton, that eminent example of piety, did before you, to the business of Christianity, as well as to the other common offices of devotion and charity.
In return for the honour your Congregation have done me, I can wish them nothing better, than that they may distinguish wisely, and receive faithfully, the blessings they may derive from your ministry.
This Epistle is the smallest testimony due to your merits, from,
AND THEY THAT USE THIS WORLD AS NOT ABUS
ING IT. I COR. VII. 31.
To distinguish properly between the use of this world, and the abuse of it, is the part of every wise man; and happy will it he for him, if, when he knows this distinction, he makes it a rule of action, which doing, it will seldom fail to direct him. How common is it for men to render their lives insignificant to others, and troublesome to themselves, for want of knowing, and observing this plain distinction! The life of man is, and will be, short, when we do our best; and it must be often disturbed, by the ways of other people, over whom we have no power: but after all, most of the evils which man finds in this life, are of his own making. Natural and necessary evil may be great, but artificial evils are much greater : and so true is this, that if the case were properly related, with all circumstances, it would be generally found, that of those unhappy wretches, who drive themselves out of the world, the far greater number are brought to this extremity, by their abuse of it. They first spoil the world by their folly, then dislike it, and at last leave it in despair. Great effects often follow
from little causes; on which account, the nature of effects and causes in human life should be minutely observed, that we may know how to avoid the beginnings of danger : and if we cannot be so great, or so happy, as we may be tempted to wish, we may at least not be the authors of our own misery.
There are so many plain matters of fact to prove what I say, that the subject before us may be seen, and understood, by every person that will cast his eye upon it. It will be therefore profitable for us to survey some of the chief of those things, which this world presents to us; and having considered what their natural and proper use is, according to the intention of Providence; then to compare the conduct of men in respect to them, and note the effect that conduct must necessarily have upon themselves. By this rule, we may examine ourselves, and others; and having done so, we shall see better what human life is, and be taught how to use it.
The first thing which tbis world presents to, us, is Time, which God hath given to us all. To some ho gives nobility; to others wealth ; to others quickness of parts; but he gives Time to all. To have life is to have time, and time is given only for its use. It is divided into day and night: the day, being light, is intended for work and labour: and the night, being a time of darkness, is made for rest. All the useful creatures which God hath made, conform themselves to this division of their time. When the sun arises, the cattle go out to pasture; the birds of the air take wing in search of food. Even the flowers of the field open their eyes, to take advantage of the light, that shines upon them, and is bringing them to perfection. All creatures are well, and easy, when they follow this order of nature. The busy man that rises early to work, is cheerful in his mind; his family are living upon the fruits of his labour; and, according to the common course of things, his days will be prolonged upon the earth. He that uses his time as he ought, will have most of it to use. A regular life is commonly
a long life.
But now what is he that abuses his time? never happy; never truly at ease; but restless, because he is useless. If he be rich and idle, he can afford to turn night into day. When the night comes, nature tould shut his eyes; but folly keeps them open : and what is contrary to nature cannot be without injury to the health and spirits. He that is busy in the night, must rest in the day: if he be a poor man, his affairs go to ruin ; if he be a rich man, bis health and mind suffer. With irregularity he loses bis prudence, and with that he loses his fortune: for woe be to the man, who in a world of so much danger, is not careful to keep his head clear, and his wits about him. If the watchful man scarcely escapes, what must become of one who is stupid with sloth, or giddy with pleasure and dissipation ? A regular orderly life is generally prolonged ; an irregular life is shortened; and how often do we see, that he who lives in the world to no purpose,
is sent out of it before his time! The case is so plain with respect to the use and abuse of Time; that we may go on to another article; which shall be that of wealth.
What we call wealth has no intrinsic value of its own; it is valued for the sake of what it will procure; and when it procures nothing, it is worth nothing: but as its nature is, to answer all things; it gives us the command of all things. And what a noble opportunity is this ! The rich man has the means of iinproving himself in wisdom, and knowledge; he can