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SERMON XIV.

2 TIM. ill. 4.

LOVERS OF PLEASURES MORE THAN LOVERS OF God.

To

what period of time, and to what particular persons, the sacred writer here alluded, it is neither easy nor material to determine. But there is a question which it is very material, and I doubt but too easy, for most of us to answer; whether the description in the text may not be justly applied to ourselves? In whatever sense we take the word PLEASURES, whether as denoting those which are in themselves criminal, or those which only become so by excess and abuse, it is surely doing ùs no injury to say, that that we "love them more than God." At present, I shall confine myself to that sort of pleasures, which are usually styled innocent; and in a certain degree, and under proper restrictions, undoubtedly are so; I mean the gaieties and amusements of life.

If we are not lovers of these pleasures more than lovers of God, if our piety is greater than our dissipation, it must be great indeed. If we served our Maker with half that zeal, half that alacrity and perseverance, with which we pursue our amusements, we should be the most pious nation this day upon earth. But how far this is from being the case, at least with respect to a large proportion of almost every rank of men amongst us, is but too apparent. It is not the LIVING GOD, it is PLEASURE that they worship. To this they are idolaters; to this they sacrifice their time, their talents, their fortunes, their health, and too often their innocence and peace of mind. In their haste to enjoy this life, they forget that there is another; they live (as the Apostle expresses it)" without God in the "world*," and their endless engagements not only exclude all love, but all thought of him. However carefully right principles of religion may have been originally planted in their breasts, they have no room to grow up. They are choked with the pleasures of this world, and bring no fruit to perfection. Invention

* Eph. ii. 12.

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Invention seems to have been tortured to find out new ways of consuming time, and of being uselessly employed. And there has appeared so wonderful an ingenuity in this respect, that it seems almost impossible for the wit of man to invent, or the life of man to admit, any further additions to this kind of luxury. There are thousands, even of those who would take it very ill to be called vicious, who yet from the time of their rising in the morning to the time of their going to rest at night, never once bestow a single thought upon eternity; nor, while they riot in the blessings of Providence, vouchsafe to cast one devout look up to the gracious Author of them, in whom they live, and move, and have their being."

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Many, I know, would persuade themselves and others, that there can be no harm where there is no actual vice; and that, provided they step not over the bounds of virtue, they cannot be guilty of an excess in pleasure.

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Acts xvii. 28.

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But is it true, in the first place, that the man of gaiety never does step over the bounds of virtue? Are all those things which go under the name of amusements as perfectly innocent as they are generally represented to be? Is there not one diversion at least (as it is called) and one so predominant in the higher ranks of life, that it has swallowed up almost every other, which is big with the most fatal mischief? A diversion which, far different from the common run of amusements, has no foundation in our natural appetites; no charms to captivate the fancy, or the understanding; nothing to make glad the heart of man, to give him a cheerful countenance, and refresh him after the cares and fatigues of duty; but runs counter to reason, sense, and nature; defeats all the purposes of amusement; sinks the spirits instead of raising them; sours the temper instead of improving it; and, when it is carried to its utmost lengths, takes such entire and absolute possession of the soul, as to shut out every other concern both for God and man; extinguishes every generous sentiment; ex

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cites the most malignant passions; provokes to the most profane expressions; brings distress, sometimes ruin, upon its wretched votaries, their families, friends, and dependents; tempts them to use unfair, or mean, or oppressive methods of retrieving their affairs; and sometimes to conclude the dismal scene by the last fatal act of desperation. I do not say that gaming always produces these effects; or that it is to all persons, in all circumstances, and in all its various degrees, equally pernicious and unlawful. But it has always a natural tendency to these effects, it always exposes, ourselves and others to great danger, and can never be ranked among our innocent amusements. Yet as such it is every day more and more pursued; nay has even appropriated to itself the name of play; for what reason I know not, unless to play with our lives and fortunes, with happiness temporal and eternal, be the most delectable of all human enjoyments,

But putting this strange unaccountable passion out of the question; do not even our most allowable diversions sometimes end in sin, though they may not begin with it? Does

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