A PASTOR will find that worldly-mindedness is one of the most universal diseases of his flock and the most difficult to be cured.
People see an absolute necessity of taking care for themselves, and "duty obliges them to provide for their families.
But then this care very often increases beyond necessity, and what was at first a duty becomes at last a sin; when Christians begin to set their hearts upon the world, to place their happiness in its favours, to dread its frowns, and to depend upon it as a good security against future evils.
Now the consequence of such a love for the world will be, that many Christian duties must give place to worldly business the very commands of God shall often be broken to gain worldly ends; men shall make a mere idol of the world; love and fear and think and depend upon it more than upon God, and will at last be so bewitched and blinded with it that they shall not see the sin and vanity of all this, until the approach of death opens their eyes, and then they see the folly of their choice, but see too that it is too late to make a better.
In short, it is hard to live in the world and not to love it; and nothing in nature can prevent or cure this disorder, but a sincere belief of the Gospel and a resolute practice of the duties of Christianity.
For the Christian religion lets us know that while we are in this world we are in a state of banishment;--that here we have no abiding place;--that God has made our life short, on purpose that we may have no pretence to set our hearts on this world;--that it is a dreadful thing for a man to have his portion in this life;--that a man's true happiness does not consist in the abundance of the things which he possesseth;--and that God hath ordained that all things here shall be uncertain and full of troubles, that we may be led more easily to set our affections on things above, not things on the earth.
And forasmuch as it is found by sad experience that the more men have, the more fond they will be of the world, Christians should be often advised to receive its favours with a trembling hand, and to remember that the more a man has, the more he must account for, the greater danger he is in, and the more pains he must take to preserve himself from ruin;--for it was not for nothing that our Lord said, How hardly shall they that have riches enter into the kingdom of heaven!
In short, there is no greater hindrance to piety than the love of the world; God therefore having made that and the care of our souls the great business of our lives, He has bound Himself to take care of us, and that we shall want nothing that is necessary for this life.. Take no thought, saith our Lord, for your life, what ye shall eat; nor for your body, what ye shall put on. Does not your heavenly Father feed the fowls of the air? Does He not know that ye are better than they, and that ye have need of these things?
Let not therefore Christians flatter themselves with the hopes that worldly business will excuse them from serving God; our Lord has already told us what sentence such people must expect1: Not one of those men shall taste of My supper. That is, those that were so taken up about their oxen, their fields and their worldly business, that they would not mind their Lord's invitation.
And indeed our Lord tells us in another place, that the very word of God will be lost on those whose hearts are full of the cares of this world, which choke the word, and it be-cometh unfruitful.
But then Christians have another way of deceiving themselves, and that is, with the hopes of reconciling a love for the world with the love of God.
And yet our Lord Christ assures us that they are as utterly inconsistent as light and darkness; that no man can serve two masters; and that whoever will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God.
To conclude: All Christians are by their profession obliged not to love the world.
They are also obliged to use all proper means to prevent this love, which would otherways ruin them.
Especially, they are obliged to great watchfulness and earnest prayers for God's grace to keep them from becoming slaves to the world;--from placing their confidence or happiness in it;--from taking delight in the possession of it;-- from distracting cares about it;--from taking unjust ways to better or secure their portion in it;--from being extremely grieved at the loss of it, or unwilling to part with it, when God so orders it;--from a hard heart and a close hand, when the necessities of the poor call for it. And lastly, from being diverted, by the hurry of this world, from the thoughts of the world to come. ,
For what will it profit a man, if he should gain the whole world and lose his own soul?--Remember Lot's wife.