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any real advantage, it is their curse, their snare, and destruction.
Had there been any other lawful way of employing our wealth, than in the assistance of the poor, our Saviour would not have confined the young man in the Gospel to that one way of employing all that he had.
Was there no sin in pampering ourselves with our riches, our Saviour had not said, Woe unto you that are rich, for ye have received your consolation !
Had a delight in the splendor and greatness of this life been an innocent delight for people of birth and fortune, he had never said, Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Had worldly mirth, and the noisy joys of splendor and equipage, been any part of the happiness of Christians, he had never said, Blessed are they that mourn, for they shall be comforted.
Thus does it appear, from almost every part of Scripture, that a renunciation of the world, and all worldly enjoyments, either of pleasure or pride, is the necessary temper of all Christians of every state and condition.
I know, that to all this it will still be objected, that the different states of life are things indifferent in themselves, and are made good or evil by the tempers of the persons that enjoy them. That a man is not necessarily vain and proud, because he lives in great show and figure, any more than another is necessarily humble and lowly in mind, because he lives in a low estate.
It is granted that men may be of a temper contrary to the state in which they live; but then this is only true of such as are in any state by force, and contrary to their desires and endeavours.
A man in a low estate may be very vain and proud, because he is in such a state by force, and is restless and uneasy till he can raise himself out of it. If the same can be said of any man that lives
in all the splendor and figure of life, that he is in it by force, and is restless and uneasy till he can lay all aside, and live in an humble, lowly state, it may be granted, that such a man, though in the height of figure, may be as humble as another in starving circumstances may be proud.
But nothing can be more false than to conclude, that because a man may be in a low estate, without having lowliness of mind, which estate he is in by force; that, therefore, another may live in all the height of grandeur, the vanity of figure, which his fortune will allow, without having any height or vanity of mind, though the state of life be according to his mind, and such as he chooses before another that has less of figure and show in it.
Nothing can be more absurd than such a conclusion as this; it is as if one should say, that because a man may be an epicure in his temper, though he is forced to live upon bread and water; therefore another, who seeks after all sorts of dainties, and lives upon delicacies out of choice, may be no epicure.
Again, Who does not know that a man may give all his goods to feed the poor, and yet want charity? But will any one therefore conclude, that another may keep all his goods to himself, and yet have charity?
Yet this is as well argued as to say, that because a man has nothing to spend he may yet be proud; therefore, though another may lay out his estate in vain expenses, he may yet have true humility of mind.
For as the man in a low estate would be truly what his estate is, if he liked it, and had no desires that it should be otherwise than it is; so for the same reason, if those who live in pleasures, in show and vain expenses, live in such a state out of choice; we must talk nonsense, if we do not say that their minds are as vain as the vanity of their state.
Again, Those who talk of people being humble
in a state, that has all the appearance of pride and vanity, do not enough consider the nature of virtue. Humility, and every other virtue, is never in a complete state, so that a man can say, that he has finished his task in such or such a virtue.
No virtues have any existence of this kind in human minds; they are rather continual struggles with contrary vices, than any finished habits of mind.
A man is humble, not for what he has already done, but because it is his continual disposition to oppose and reject every temptation to pride. Charity is a continual struggle with the contrary qualities of self-love and envy.
And this is the state of every virtue; it is a progressive temper of mind, and always equally labouring to preserve itself.
Those therefore who suppose that people may be so finished in the virtue of humility, that they can be truly humble in the enjoyments of splendor and vanity, do not consider that humility is never finished, and that it ceases to exist, when it ceases to oppose and reject every appearance of pride.
This is the true state of every virtue, a resisting and opposing all the temptations to the contrary vice.
To suppose therefore a man so truly humble, that he may live in all the appearances of pride and vanity, is as absurd, as to suppose a man so inwardly sober that he need refuse no, strong liquors; so inwardly charitable, that he need not avoid quarrels; or so holy, that he need not resist temptations to sin.
Lastly, The necessity of renouncing the world in whatever condition of life we are, besides what appears from particular commands, may be proved from those great degrees of holiness, those divine tempers, which Christianity requires.
Christians are to love God with all their heart, with all their soul, with all their mind, and with all their strength, and their neighbour as themselves.
Now it is absolutely impossible in the nature of the thing, that we should practise either of these duties in any Christian sense, unless we are so born of God, as to have overcome the world.
A man that has his head and his heart taken up with worldly concerns, can no more love God with all his soul, and with all his strength, than a man who will have his eyes upon the ground, can be looking towards heaven with all the strength of his sight.
If therefore we are to love God with all our heart, and with all our soul, it is absolutely necessary that we be first persuaded, that we have no happiness but in him alone; and that we are capable of no other good, but what arises from our enjoyment of the divine nature.
But we may be assured, that we never believe this truth, till we resign or renounce all pretentions to any other happiness. For to desire the happiness of riches, at the same time that we know that all happiness is in God, is as impossible as to desire the happiness of sickness, when we are assured that no bodily state is happy but that of health.
It is therefore certain, in an absolute degree, that we are as much obliged to renounce the world with all our heart, and all our strength, as we are obliged to love God with all our heart, and all our strength.
It being as impossible to do one without the other, as to exert all our strength two different ways at the same time.
It is also certain, in the same absolute degree, that we unavoidably love every thing in proportion as it appears to be our happiness; if it appears to be half of our happiness, it will necessarily have half the strength of our love; and if it appears to be all of our happiness we shall naturally love it with all our strength.
The Christian religion therefore, which requires the whole strength of our nature to aspire after God, lays this just foundation of our performing this duty, by commanding us to renounce the happiness of the world, knowing it impossible to have two happinesses, and but one love.
And indeed what can be more ridiculous than to fancy that a man, who is labouring after schemes of felicity, that is taken up in the enjoyments of the world, is loving God with all his soul, and all his strength ?
Is it not as absurd, as to suppose a man that is devoted to the sports of the field is at the same time contemplating mathematical speculations with all the ardour of his mind?
Let any one but deal faithfully with himself, consult his own experience, the inward feelings of his mind, and consider whether, whilst his soul is taken up with the enjoyments of this life, he feels that his soul is loving God with all its force and strength; let any man say that he feels this strong tendency of his soul towards God, whilst it tends towards earthly goods, and I may venture to depart from all that I have said.
Nothing, therefore, can be more plain than this, that if we are to fill our soul with a new love, we must empty it of all other affections, and this by as great a necessity as any in nature.
The love of God, as I have said of every other virtue, is never in any complete state, but is to preserve and improve itself by a continual opposition and resistance of other affections.
It is as necessary therefore continually to renounce the world, and all its objects of our affections, in order to form the love of God in our hearts, as it is necessary to renounce and resist all motives of self-love and envy, to beget the habit of charity.
And a man may as well pretend that little envies are consistent with true charity, as that little