Page images
PDF
EPUB
[ocr errors]

he solemnly avers, with the confidence of one who knows that it has failed as often as it has been made, and will prove eternally impracticable, • Ye cannot serve God and mammon.' Passing into the sanctuary, and marking the worldliness of the assembled hearers, he shows how necessarily, in such soil, the seed of the kingdom must prove unfruitful. Visiting the place of gain, and contrasting the burden of thick clay which the worshipper of mammon carries, with the narrowness of the entrance to the way of life, he exclaims, in accents of deep commiseration,

How hardly shall they that have riches enter into the kingdom of heaven!! Penetrating into the inmost circle of domestic life, and arresting the inmates in the midst of their household cares, he calls them to his side, and turns on them a look of pity as he reminds them, that while they are careful and cumbered about many things, 'one thing is needful.' He even lifts the curtain of eternity, and bids us approach and listen, while the voice of Dives from the deeps of hell, and the replies of Abraham from the realms of light, pronounce the moral of the tale of life. And taking his stand on the highway of the world, and surveying the busy crowds as they pass and repass, each one as eager as if he had just discovered the secret of happiness after a thousand failures, and were about to give it an instant trial, he points them upwards, and reminds them that the good they seek is there; that there is one thing to which every thing else desirable is appended; and that he exhorts them to seek first.

It is the misfortune of some to be afflicted with that kind of defective sight, which prevents them from seeing to an ordinary distance; they are unable to distinguish the most towering and colossal object if placed at a short remove, while the merest atom brought close to the eye is magnified as with the power of a microscope. An affliction analogous to this in the moral sight, but pregnant with incomparably greater danger, is the universal malady of mankind; and our Lord insists on the urgency of its removal. He finds them mistaking phantoms for realities, and realities for phantom ; calling an atom a world, and a world an atom ; practising on themselves an endless suc

[ocr errors]

cession of delusions; and he gives them the alternative of a remedy or death. He finds them absorbed in providing for the temporal future, and he urges them, as they respect their own rationality, not to omit eternity from their reckoning. He approaches them while gazing on the near perspective of time, and, by raising and extending the point of sight, he adds eternity to the view, and leaves them lost in the contemplation of a boundless futurity. In all his addresses on the future, he does not forget that we are mortal; but neither will he allow us in our attentions to the present to forget that we are immortal. As the worshippers of mammon make religion subservient to the world, so he requires the worshippers of God to subordinate the world to religion. Instead of exhausting ourselves in efforts after the bread which perisheth, he reminds us that there is angel's food, and urges us to put forth our chief endeavors after that. He finds us as in the midst of a spacious repository, crowded with an infinite variety of objects; some of which are adapted to the body only, while others might form a rich dowry for an immortal soul; some of them things that perish in the using, and others of them things that form the gold and currency of heaven, things on which God has stamped his image and superscription, and inscribed an infinite value. But however diversified their character, he finds them each soliciting the first and highest place in our esteem; and aware that we are in danger of lavishing our affections—those precious things which if given to God would bring us heaven in return-of wasting them on less than nothing and vanity, he draws near and expostulates, and entreats us that we cheat not our souls of eternal happiness by providing for them only an earthly portion, but that we select for them a good spiritual and immortal like themselves, suited to supply its important wants, and to gratify all their large capacities. Lay not up treasures on earth,' saith he, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal : but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through and steal.' And by exhorting us to establish our principal interest

C*

in heaven, he actually consults our peace on earth; "For where your treasure is,' he adds, 'there will your heart be also.' By choosing a heavenly treasure, our character and hopes, which are invariably modified by the object of our paramount regard, will partake of its celestial attributes; for it is both ennobling in itself, and lodged in the only part of the universe which is exempt from calamity and change; so that, while others partake of the littleness, agitation, and debasement, which belong to their earthly gods, we shall receive, by an anticipation, an impress of the greatness, and security, and stability of heaven; while, at the same time, our temporal mercies will be enjoyed with a superior relish, since we should feel that the loss of them would leave us still in the possession of cur real treasure entire and secure. In the

prospect of a national convulsion, it is not uncommon for the wealthy to transmit their property for security into other lands. And, 0, were there a country on earth perfectly exempt from all the changes which endanger property, that would be the envied land in which all would aim to invest their riches. But that blessed region, not to be found on the face of the wide earth, actually exists in the kingdom of God. Yes, by throwing open to us the gates of a heavenly commerce, he would give scope to our loftiest aims, security to our choicest treasures, and objects to our most capacious desires. Here, the affluent may embark their abundance :instead of living for themselves let them live for God, and they will be remitting their property to a world where it shall accumulate with abundant interest; they will be laying up a store for the future, on which they may live splendidly and gloriously for ever; they will be placing uncertain riches in a safe repository, and transmuting them into certain wealth. Let them acquit themselves as faithful stewards of the great householder; and as they dispense their wealth, it will direct its flight towards heaven, bearing on its wings the prayers and benedictions of those they have benefitted. Having made to themselves friends with the mammon of unrighteousness, when they die, those friends will welcome them into everlasting habitations. Here the humblest believer may employ his penury :--and he will find eventually that his single mite, his

[ocr errors]

cup of cold water, or his one talent, consecrated to God, has augmented into a treasure exceeding his powers of computation. For every sacrifice we make in his service he guarantees to requite us--not indeed as of debt; this the magnitude of the requital shows; but of his own exuberant munificence, he promises to repay us a hundred-fold in the present life, and in the world to come life everlasting. Every struggle against sin, every effort in the cause of benevolence, every holy principle exerted for God, he pronounces an element of future blessedness, and constitutes a claimant on his grace at the recompense of the just. Whatever is transmitted by the soul to the world above, is placed under the guardianship of omnipotence, is laid up securely by the throne of God. His seat is the centre of a circumference, within which nothing that impairs or destroys, can by any possibility intrude; and which itself remains unmoved and immutable while all besides is fluctuation and change.

It is not easy to speak of the claims of heaven and earth as needing adjustment, without seeming to countenance an erroneous impression that they are naturally at variance. But let it be borne in mind that originally they were one. The only quarrel which eternity can have with time, is, when it usurps an ascendancy which, by inverting all order, and doing violence to the first principles of our nature, renders the happiness of the soul impossible. Let the present defer to the future, let it fall into its proper place as the handmaid of immortality, and instantly they are one again; each is seen reciprocating its influence, and lending its aid to the other, to secure to us a blessed futurity, and to prepare us for it. But though all hostile opposition terminates with this new adjustment, it is not to be denied that difficulty still remains,—the natural and unavoidable difficulty of keeping the world from that dangerous domination which, having once enjoyed, it is ever impa. tient to regain. New habits are to be formed, powerful propensities are to be held at bay, old and indulged inclinations are to be denied, and enemies which we fondly thought we had laid dead at our feet, suddenly starting into hostility again, are again to be coped with and van.

quished; this is attended with a disheartening sense of difficulty which some have no sooner tasted, than they have declined the contest, and surrendered themselves at discretion,

Now, while our Lord, in various ways, takes cognizance of this struggle--for one of his great excellencies, as the founder of a new religion, was the most transparent simplicity and candor—while he even enlarges on the conflict, presents his followers with a plan of the battle, points out its imminent hazards, and exhorts them before entering on it, to count the cost,' he, at the same time assures them of such supernatural succors as shall enable their weak.. ness to do the deeds of omnipotence, and make perseverance infallible success. While he takes them to an eminence, and shows them the vast confederacy of evil arrayed against them, he reminds them that they struggle for an invisible world, that they fight in fellowship with all the children of the light, that more than angels are in their ranks, for he promises them the abundant aid of the Eternal Spirit. Their infirmities may be numerous, their sins may be mighty, their ignorance may seem invincible, but an almighty agent is employed for the special purpose of piercing that ignorance, overpowering that sinfulness, and surrounding them with an element of light and holiness.

And even beyond this, as he leads them to the field he proclaims, ' Be of good cheer, I have overcome the world ; your leader is a conqueror, advance to victory. The history of the first christians proves that he did not utter this inspiring address in vain. "By this sign they conquered. Though the world within and the world without were in arms against them, they could not be depressed. They fought in the presence of an invisible world. They surveyed the whole array of evil, looked calmly in the face of every foe, considered all that might happen, but to this triumphant conclusion they came, because he lives, we shall live also.' Like the earth on which they trod, and which continues to rollon in its orbit unimpeded by the earthquakes which rend it, and carrying all its atmosphere of storms along with it, so they, animated and impelled by the love of Christ, advanced in the course he assigned

« PreviousContinue »