Page images
PDF
EPUB

and finisher of our faith ; that whatever we may do, and whatever our missionaries may do, the heathen will never be enlightened except by the power of Him who first caused the light to shine out of darkness ; that not a soul will ever be quickened and saved except by that sovereign energy which raises the dead. Let then the pride of man be abased ; let every high thought be brought low, and let God alone be exalted.

[blocks in formation]

LUKE, xii. 16-20.- The ground of a certain rich man brought forth plentifully

And he thought within himself, saying, what shall I do, because I have no room where to bestow my fruits? And he said, this will I do, I will pull down my barns, and build greater; and there will I bestow all my fruits and my goods. And I will say to my soul, Soul, thou hast much goods laid up for many years ; take thine ease, eat, drink, and be merry. But God said unto him, Thou fool, this night thy soul shall be required of thee.

By reading the context, we learn the object as well as the occasion of this parable. Our Lord, surrounded by a great multitude, was engaged in one of those solemn addresses, the tendency of which is to cause man to forget his connection with this world, and to fix his thoughts on the momentous concerns of the soul and eternity. But though the Divine teacher was thus employed, and though, perhaps, thousands around him were the subjects of the emotions his preaching was calculated to produce; yet there was one of the company whose heart remained wholly engrossed with the interests of this world; and who, regardless of all rules of propriety, said to our Lord, “ Master, speak to my brother, that he divide the inheritance with me.” To this ill-timed interruption our Lord replied, “ Man! who made me a judge, or a divider over you ?" Then turning to his audience, he said, “ Take heed and beware of covetousness, for a man's life” or happiness “ consisteth not in the abundance which he possesseth.” This proposition our Lord proceeded to illustrate and support by the parable just read. It is not improbable that, though our text is introduced as a parable, yet it is strictly and truly a narrative of facts; and that our Lord could have stated both the name and the place of this man's abode However, as this could not subserve any useful purpose, he simply states the facts in the form of a parable; which we will proceed to illustrate and apply

The first thing which claims our notice is, the worldly circumstances of the man mentioned in the parable--he was rich and prosperous. “ A certain rich man.” The means by which he acquired his wealth are not particularly stated, and charity requires us to believe that his riches were attained by means just

and honorable. There are two statements in the parable from which we may infer that he had been distinguished for industry and economy. The first is, the productiveness of his lands; and the second, the address to his soul, “ take thine ease, eat, drink, and be merry.” The productiveness of his ground must have been the result of care and industry. And in the address to his soul, he seems to anticipate a course of ease and luxury to which he had not been accustomed. These statements warrant the conclusion, that industry and frugality were the sources of his riches.

Wealth is no mark of guilt, unless acquired by unlawful means. But, if a man become rich by injustice; by oppressing the poor; by defrauding the widow and fatherless; or by any abuse of divine bounty ; then indeed his wealth is stained with guilt; and it has a voice which cries to Heaven for vengeance on the soul of its possessor. Let such hear the words of James, “ Go to, now, ye rich men, weep and howl, for your miseries that shall come upon you: your riches are corrupted, and your garments are motheaten : your gold and silver is capkered, and the rust of them shall be a witness against you, and shall eat your flesh as it were fire. Ye have heaped together treasure for the last days. Behold, the hire of the laborers, which have reaped down your fields, which is of you kept back by fraud, crieth; and the cries of them which have reaped are entered into the ears of the Lord of Sabaoth.”

Wealth is an object peculiarly fascinating, from the independence which it promises, and from the respect and honor which it often secures to its possessor. But if you feel the desire of it becoming inordinate, if the desire render you restless, if it inspire resolutions of being rich at all hazards, then hear the words of Paul; “They that will be rich,” that are determined to be so at all events, “ fall into temptation and a snare ; and into many foolish and hurtful lusts, which drown men in destruction and perdition.” This solemn caution, calmly considered, might prevent that “covetousness which is idolatry.” But if your desire of wealth be suffered to grow and ripen into habitual covetousness, then is your condition hopeless indeed. Then the words of our Lord are applicable: “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God.”

But the man in the parable was not only rich, but also prosperous ; his grounds brought forth plentifully. Hence we learn, that it is not possible to judge of a man's moral state from his circumstances and condition in this world. This is a truth which unassisted reason could never have discovered; she would conclude that the favored sons of fortune must be the objects of the divine approbation. But the parable under consideration shows conclusively that the fact may be otherwise : and the same sentiment is uttered by the wise man, “No man knoweth either love or hatred, by all that is done before them. All things come alike to all: there is one event to the righteous and to the wicked; to the clean, and to the unclean ; to him that sacrificeth and to him that sacrificeth not.”

The increasing wealth of this rich man was a source of perplexity to him. “ He thought within himself, What shall I do? I have no room where to bestow my fruits.” As he who increaseth knowledge increaseth sorrow, so he who increaseth his worldly substance procures for himself additional cares and perplexities. Indeed, the rich cannot render their wealth productive without trusting its management to others : and here their cares and anxieties begin. “What shall I do?" Where is the man that I can trust? Where, and how will my property be secure, and most productive ? These, and similar inquiries occupy their minds, and distract their hearts. And where

[ocr errors]

trusts are reposed, a thousand fears and alarming suspicions arise. This department must be seen to; and that agency must be watched; and in this way the unhappy possessor is kept in a state of perpetual solicitude. To all this must be added disappointed hopes and blasted prospects, arising from unfavorable seasons, wasting commerce, unfortunate debtors, designing knaves, and a thousand adverse circumstances. These cares and disappointments multiply upon the unhappy possessor of wealth ; they drive sleep from his eyes, and often extort the melancholy exclamation, “ What shall I do ?” Let the industrious and virtuous poor, who enjoy a competency, survey this faint exhibition of wasting perplexity, and say whether they can envy the man of the world the pleasure and ease of wealth ; let them look on it, and learn to thank Heaven for the peace and security of competency. “And having food and raiment, let them be therewith content.”

There is one way in which this rich man might have relieved himself of his perplexity; that is, by “ giving to the poor.” Had he resolved on feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, and honoring God by administering to the spiritual as well as temporal wants of his fellow men, he had been relieved from the cares of his superabundance, and his righteousness had been remembered with God: but unhappily his perplexities led to very different results. He resolved, “ This will I do, I will pull down my barns and build greater, and there will I bestow all my fruits and my goods."

It is proper that the rich should deliberate on the best method of securing their increasing wealth. But at the same time'let them remember the words of our Lord.—“ Make to yourselves friends of the mammon of unrighteousness; that when ye fail, they may receive you into everlasting habitations." In this way they might lay up for themselves treasure in heaven. The Scriptures teach that “he who giveth to the poor lendeth to the Lord;" and that “he will repay it again.” This, then, is the way to render estates secure and productive. Solomon says, “Honor the Lord with thy substance, and with the first fruits of all thine increase, so shall thy barns be filled with plenty.” And the Prophet Isaiah adds, “ The liberal deviseth liberal things; and by liberal things shall he stand.” If we believe in the doctrine of divine Providence, we cannot hesitate to receive these sayings. We believe that our health, our capacity for business, our facilities for acquiring property, are all from God. Is it not, then, consistent with these principles that we consider ourselves as only stewards of the divine bounty?

The objects of this rich man's resolutions were his own personal ease, luxury, and pleasure. "I will say to my soul, Soul, thou hast much goods laid up for many years : take thine ease, eat, drink, and be merry." Whatever may have been his former character and course of life, he now appears determined on a life of ease and sensuality; he says to his soul, “ eat, drink, and be merry.” What a madman! How appropriate to him was the appellation of " fool !" He resolves to quit the course which had secured 10 him health and independence! He thinks to free his heart from anxiety and care by eating, drinking, and making merry! No wonder the God of wisdom should say, “Thou Fool!" Can the fruits of the earth satisfy the immortal mind ? What kind of earthly possessions, or what amount of them, can fill the desires, and set the soul at rest? Alas! every sublunary thing exclaims, “ Satisfaction is not in me !" and all experience corroborates the testimony, “ Vanity of vanities; all is vanity.” How extremely wretched, then, is the condition of such as seek their portion in this life? What certain disappointment awaits those whose highest pleasure is found in the gratifications

of sense! The beasts of the field have greatly the adyantage over most human sensualists': their powers of this kind are more ample, and their indulgences are not followed by such a train of frightful and afflictive maladies !

The course to which this rich man urges his soul is such as must inevitably terminate in the loss of all that is valuable on earth, as well as in heaven. Health, reputation, peace, and even life, will soon be lost to such as give themselves up to eating, drinking, and making merry. The life of the epicure must necessarily be short. He cannot retain credit with the sober and active portions of the community ; his health cannot withstand his habits of excess ; his property will waste like the snow before the vernal sun; and he will finally quit the scene of his luxury and pleasures unhonored and unlamented! Truly, “ the pleasures of sin are but for a season."

The exercises, the joys, and the hopes of religion are the proper food of the soul : they are the pleasures of the rational mind. Here, to adopt the language of inspiration, here is, “a feast of fat things." The Christian has every way the advantage over the mere sensualist. It is his to enjoy the bounties of Providence. He makes the creatures of God to subserve his happiness, while he becomes the slave of none. . He eats and drinks ; but, using the things of this life as not abusing them, he defiles not the temple of God, bat preserves it unto "sanctification and honor.” And “blessed are the undefiled—who walk in the way of the Lord.” But can the sensualist who has been born and educated in a Christian land be happy? Could he but see the relation which he sustains to God and eternity, he would turn pale, and would confess himself the most wretched and degraded of men !

From the conduct of this rich man we learn the fatal propensity of sinners to deceive themselves. He says, “ Soul, thou hast much goods laid up for many years." Yes, it is this infatuating hope of many years to come which renders thousands so improvident of present time and privileges, and so unmindful of future and eternal interests. Let them once apprehend that they are standing on the verge of death, and that a few hours will introduce them into the presence of their Judge; and they take the alarm, and instantly become all solicitude about the interests of the soul! The world is now a mere trifle, its pleasures and possessions lose all their charms. They stand ready to make any sacrifice, and to weep rivers of blood! They summon the ministers of the sanctuary ; they call for the emblems of the broken body, and the shed blood of the neglected Savior; and their tongues become eloquent in the language of penitence. But why all this hurry of movement now? Alas ! they discover the work of years before them; and but a few fleeting moments in which they can work ! “O that men were wise, that they understood this ; that they would consider their latter end."

Contemplate now the sudden and unexpected end of the wretched man in our text. While he was flattering himself with the prospect of many years of ease, pleasure, and enjoyment, God said unto him, “ Thou fool! this night thy soul shall be required of thee.” This man appears to have wholly neglected God: his single object had been the attainment of riches; riches which he now purposes to spend in ease and luxury. But mark, on the very day he resolves to finish his toils, and to begin his pleasures ;-on that very day God calls him to account! He promised himself many years : perhaps he felt no symptom of decay, nor infirmity of body; on the contrary, he possessed all the energy, and the flow of spirits naturally resulting from an active lise. Surely if any man could promise himself many years of earthly happiness, he was the

man'; but “ God said unto him, this night thy soul shall be required of thee." This must have been heavy tidings to a man who had busied himself in prcparing for a long life of ease and happiness! And how terrible also must have been the consternation excited in the bosoms of his relatives and friends! Medical talent and wisdom might have been summoned; but what could this avail when the decree had gone forth?

How uncertain at best is our stay on earth : how feeble is our hold on life! Our youth, our health, our condition in life, our place of residence avail us nothing: they promise no security against the shafts of death. The time, and place, and manner of our death are in the hands of God. Whenever He shall pronounce the decree, inexorable death will execute the sentence:

This night thy soul shall be required of thee.” Death, under the most favorable circumstances, is a period of great solemnity. The hour, even to the good man, is a trying hour. What then must it be to the man who is taken by surprise ? to him who has never thought of God, of heaven, of sal-. vation, of death, and of eternity, but as objects at the greatest distance ? Death, indeed, is an evil which might be endured, and to which we mighti submit, if there were not eternal considerations connected with it. Looking upon death as simple extinction of life and consciousness, we might perhaps i assume confidence to meet it with composure. But when we consider it as an event which places the soul before Him who is of purer eye than to look on sin, and who can by no means clear the guilty ; when we consider that iti separates us for eder from all the means of grace and salvation ; when we consider that “as the tree falls so it lies," then, indeed, death becomes a subject: the most lerrific and alarming to sinners; and this is the only correct view of the subject; for “after death is the judgment."

Let us now briefly advert to the total loss which the miserable man sus. tained when God summoned him out of life. God said, “Whose shall those things be which thou hast provided ?" We see here his dreadful reverse of fortune. One moment he finds himself surrounded by every thing that can minister to his vanity and appetite ; but the next he sees the whole departing from his grasp, receding from his view! One moment his heart swells with the pleasing consciousness that every thing is his ; but the next his spirits sinks down with the painful assurance that every thing is lost! His toils arg. ended; but so likewise are his enjoyments! He takes one exulting view: of his only means of happiness; but mark ! God draws over him theo curtains of death, saying, “ It is thy last !

“Whose shall those things be which thou hast provided ?" Perhaps soms worthless and ill-deserving heir stepped forth, seized the fruit of his labor,rioted on it for a season, and then dropped unprepared into eternity, to curse the unhappy wretch who had furnished him with the means of self-pollution: and destruction.

Is this, then, the dreadful result ? Do men toil and economize to lay up: zhat of which they shall never themselves partake ; and which may become the fatal source of crime and ruin to their thoughtless and improvident heirs ! Then let the busy and active, who are led on only by the prospect of wealth and independence, consider well what they do. Let them anticipate the terrible consequences which may result from the affluence to which they aspire. We do not say that the calamities which befel this rich man were the natural result of his wealth. They resulted from his want of piety. Whether a man be rich or poor, if he be wanting in this, he will sustain a total loss in the

« PreviousContinue »