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sinners;" but most injuriously. As he was designed for a
6. Intemperance will put us into the worst posture for Christ's coming to death and judgment. Who would not be afraid and ashamed to meet him in such an act of sin? And when we have such great events before us, and the time of them is ever uncertain, this thought should always be an effectual restraint from irregular indulgences. "The old world," Christ tells us, "were eating and drinking (that is, luxuriously,) till the flood came," and swept them away, Matt. xxiii. 38. O the dreadful surprise! And so he intimates it will be with many at his own coming, who shall say in their hearts, "The Lord delayeth his coming," and so embolden themselves to "eat and drink with the drunken," ver. 48, 49. But surely we should tremble at the thought of being found in the number, considering what follows, ver. 50, 51. "The Lord of that servant shall come in a day when he looketh not for him, and in an hour that he is not aware of, and shall cut him asunder, and appoint him his portion with the hypocrites: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth." Intemperance is, in itself, one of the worst preparations to bid him welcome; and, at the same time, it hinders men in every other branch of preparation; it induces them to put the evil day far from them, till it come at unawares.
Be persuaded, then, as Christ exhorts, to take heed to
yourselves in this matter, lest, at any time, you should exceed proper bounds in the indulgence of appetite. Many in this city are in peculiar danger, by the frequent occasions of feasting in the city companies, as well as in their own and their 'friends' houses, and especially in this season of leisure and more customary freedoms.* I believe you would find it your wisdom at all times to attend to the following directions.
Maintain a fixed detestation of intemperance, even the lowest degrees of it, as a thing unworthy of the dignity of your natures, vastly prejudicial to the interests of soul and body, highly displeasing to God, and peculiarly aggravated by the Christian light and privileges you enjoy.
Avoid, as much as you can, the society of the intemperate, at least make them not your chosen companions: "Be not amongst wine-bibers, amongst riotous eaters of flesh," Prov. xxiii. 20. Bad company in this, company in this, as in all other cases, is most pernicious; it leads people, by degrees, in compliance to evils, of which once they never thought. Scarce any are led at first by themselves to intemperance, but by some evil companions.
Allow not yourselves to proceed to the utmost bounds of things lawful. There is but a step between that and being transgressors, in this as well as other matters; and the transition is easy, and very likely to be made at one time or other, if we often venture to a precipice.
When you fall into the way of that which you know to be ensnaring, be peculiarly on your guard. That is the meaning of the direction: "Put a knife to thy throat, if thou be a man given to appetite," Prov. xxiii. 2. A man would not be eager of the richest dainties with a knife at his throat: so when we are aware of peculiar temptation, we should represent it to ourselves, to awaken fear of transgressing, lest our "table should become our snare." And in verse 31. "Look not upon the wine when it is red, when it giveth his colour to the cup, when it moveth itself aright." If you know appetite is apt to be too hard for you, you need not call in imagination to its assistance.
Take heed of giving way to the beginnings of intemperance. It insensibly steals on to higher degrees, and grows upon those who give it entrance. Sad instances, I believe may be recol
This was preached Dec. 30, 1722.
lected, within the knowledge of most, of persons once in appearance of the strictest sobriety and regularity, who, from small beginnings, which were not restrained at first, have sunk into the most perfect sottishness and sensuality, and been entirely lost to God, the world, and themselves. Intemperance eats like a canker, and too often increases with age; which should make young people especially very cautious of the least degrees of it.
And especially, see that you keep up in your souls the life and power of religion, that your time and thoughts be well employed, that you may not be under the temptation of having recourse to sensual indulgences to pass away your time: "Be sober, putting on the breast-plate of faith and love, and for an helmet the hope of salvation," 1 Thess. v. 8.; making use of your faith, and love, and hope, to fortify you against every allurement to intemperance. And "be filled with the Spirit; for "if ye walk in the Spirit," attending to and following his gracious influences, "ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh," Gal. v. 16.
PHIL. IV. fl. [last clause.]
---I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content.
T is a considerable branch of the duty which we owe to God and to ourselves, to have our affection to present enjoyments so moderated, that whether we have them or want them, whether we have a larger or a less share in them, we may yet enjoy God and ourselves. This is the contentment which the apostle could say in the text that he had attained. And a great thing it was, even for an excellent saint to be able to say so.
He let the Philippians know, in ver. 10. with what pleasure he received their kind contributions for the relief of his necessities. But then he was careful to acquaint them, that he meant not by this to intimate that he had been discontented before at the straitness of his circumstances, ver. 11. "Not that I speak in respect of want;" I can undergo even that, and yet be tolerably easy: For I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content. My mind can be competently suited to my condition, if my condition happen not, in all respects, to be suited to my mind.'
This is a very eminent part of the Christian temper, wherein we should all aspire to be able to say the same thing with the blessed apostle. And in the prosecution of the subject, I would,
I. Explain this disposition of mind. And,
I. THIS disposition of mind is to be explained: To be content in whatsover state we are.
I have already hinted, that the apostle only means this with reference to any sort of outward condition for this world. That is the proper province for contentment. It would ill become a man to say, 'In whatever state my soul is, whether it be under the reign of sin or of grace, whether it be in a state of acceptance with God, or under his wrath, yet I am content.' This is really the temper of too many thoughtless sinners; but it is very far from being commendable. All God's calls and warnings are designed to awaken them out of this security, that they may never rest contented, till they are in a safe state for eternity. Nor would it be much more proper for a good man to say, I am content with the degrees of conformity to God, and of victory over my irregular inclinations, which are already obtained.' It is certain St. Paul was of quite another frame, as he declares in this same epistle, chap. iii. 13, 14. "Forgetting the things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press towards the mark." He means no more in the text but this, that he was prepared to exercise contentment, whether he was in a high or a low condition in this world.
But what is this contentment in every state?
The word here used, ἀντάρχης ειναι, and αυταρκεια, which is used in another place for contentment, strictly imports a selfsufficiency; which can by no means be understood, when applied to any creature in separation from God, in whom all our springs are; but it imports a tranquillity of mind, which does not absolutely depend upon the things of the world, but that whatever our outward condition is our minds can have a foundation for rest and composure.
It would run too high for Christian contentment, to take a full satisfaction in any earthly state, to take up our rest in it, though it should be the best and most advantageous to our outward man, so as to have no lively desires after a better state, but to be ready to say, 'It is good to be here, I would live here always, if I might have my option.' The frame here recommended is, not to be contented with any state upon earth