« PreviousContinue »
This skilful angler, I perceive, dresses his hook to answer both the day and the water; and just now has on a lucid fly, at which the trouts are taking very fast.
fast. In like manner, Satan manageth his temptations to answer the time, constitution, and circumstances, of every one : Sometimes he fisheth with a golden hook, and with this he caught Gehazi, Judas, and Demas, with thousands in every age.
When Satan draweth this hook along the surface of that shallow stream of human life called Poverty, the danger of it is most conspicuous ; for many, by too greedily snatching at it, like the fishes that are taken in an evil net, Eccl. ix. 12., come to be suspended by a rope, or gibbet, as a warning to others; but alas ! without grace all will not do; no man will be a warning to another. The devil so artfully manageth this hook, in such circumstances, alluring men to catch at it, by holding out to them the grandeur, usefulness, and convenience of riches, and what a noble thing it is to have money to swagger away with, and procure those pleasures which their hearts desire; persuading them, in order to obtain this great good,
they may steal, forge, plunder, and rob safes ly, without any eye seeing them; and, in order to quiet their consciences, telleth them, if such a practice be any sin, they may leave it off when they have got sufficient, and repent thereof time enough before they die.
Thus he draweth them into his snare: “ The love of money is the root of all evil,” saith the apostle, 1 Tim. vi. 10.; and what evil is there that the lovers of it have not committed for sake thereof? Hath it not made its deluded votaries commit the greatest of excesses; cast off all religion, betray their friends, the church of God, and even the Saviour of mankind, the eternal Son of God himself, who came to lay down his life a ransom for a guilty world?
Let such a thought as this ever make me set light by all the gold in the earth; nay, despise, and even hate it, farther than it serveth to glorify God, and procure a comfortable subsistence through life,
Although the evil of this hook be most perceptible when drawn along the shallow stream of life, viz. indigent circumstances, it is no less dangerous when drawn along the face of the smooth pool of prosperity : then it is that men too often set their affection on riches, esteemingthem the chief good; and the more they grasp after this golden hook, the more they are attached to them, till at length, with the fool in the gospel, they address their souls, Soul, thou hast “ much goods laid up
many years ; take “ thine ease; eat, drink, and be merry,' Luke xii. 19. But, ah! ere ever they are aware, their fond hopes of pleasure are blasted ; the many years they dreamed of are come to an end, and God saith to every such fool, “ This night thy soul shall be required of “ thee; then whose shall those things be “ which thou hast provided ?" Luke xii. 20. “ For what is a man profited if he shall gain “ the whole world, and lose his own soul ?
or what shall a man give in exchange for “ his soul ? Matt. xvi. 26.
There are another class of men who gape at, and swallow down this hook greedily : these are misers, who, like the horse-leech,
which hath two daughters, crying,
give,” are never satisfied with riches. Nor do they appear to do them any more good, or fill their desires one whit better than the blood or nutriment, which that reptile continually sucks, fills or satisfies it.
Such an insatiable thirst for riches, which satisfieth not, but only increaseth more thirst, is truly deplorable, and those men of all others are most to be pitied, whose insatiable thirst for riches continually tortureth their souls in this world, and destroyeth them in the next. “ There is one alone, and there is “ not a second; yea, he hath neither child
nor brother : yet is there no end of all his “ labour, neither is his eye satisfied with “ riches, neither saith he, For whom do I “ labour and bereave my soul of good ? This “ is also vanity ; yea, it is a sore travail,”, saith the wise man.
And “ there is a sore « evil which I have seen under the sun, “ namely, riches kept for the owners thereof " to their hurt." And “ there is an evil or which I have seen under the sun, and it is “ common among men : a man to whom “ God hath given riches, wealth, and ho
nour, so that he wanteth nothing for his
v soul of all that he desireth; yet God giva " eth him not power to eat thereof, but a
stranger eateth it: this is vanity, and is an evil disease,” Eccl. iv. 8. v. 13. vi. 1, 2.
While I am meditating, this angler has changed his hook, put on a bait, and sunk it with lead in the deep waters, giving the finny tribe an opportunity to swallow it in secret, without being obliged to come in view. Thus Satan often fisheth with the fleshly bait of uncleanness, in the stagnated pool of corrupt nature; holding it out as most delightful, and a thousand times more satisfactory to the flesh, than its deluded prostitutes have ever been able to find.
Yet sensual men lust after it, and greedily swallow it in the secret intrigues of carnality, and so for a momentary pleasure risk an eternity of misery and woe; at which incomparable folly the devil himself cannot fail to be struck, and for which he will upbraid them in hell through all eternity. Though now he tempt them to commit that sin which he himself was never capable of; whereby many are destroyed, whose deeds never come to the light to be reproved ; and even few of