Page images

and sincere in the pursuit of truth, he is en

countering, or rather encouraging, all the evils 2 of "a doubtful mind," and losing himself in the labyrinths of error. Religious belief is not merely the result of ratiocination ; but is connected with the virtuous and pious propensities of the mind. Hence, the apostle Paul, from a profound knowledge of the subject, and also of human nature, says,

• With the heart,”-not, merely with the understanding,—“ with the heart man believeth unto' righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.”

On taking a retrospective view of the subject i under our present consideration, we may observe, that every condition of life is calculated to try our virtues, and to prepare us for a future state of just retribution after death. Evil things, and good things, whatever we may choose to class under these comprehensive terms, are, by the justice and wisdom of God, equally made the tests of our sincerity, and obedience to his divine laws. Under the severe affliction of extreme poverty, and hopeless disease, there are few, I fear, who discover that meekness of spirit, that peaceful resignation, and apparent trust in the mercy of God, which secured to Lazarus the blessings of immortality; but there are many, most assuredly, who exhibit in their lives and manners much of the luxury and ostentation, the vanity and pride, the profligacy and voluptuousness, of the Rich Man in the Parable. It is well, also, if, with the surer promises, the brighter hopes, and the more awful sanctions of the Gospel of Christ, they do not partake of his accommodating scepticism, and licentious infidelity.

A prodigality of expenditure, an ambition to vie with superiors in the vanities of fashion, and a certain stylishness of living, constitute one of the prominent features, and is, if I may so say, the epidemic vice of the age in which we live. To support this empty pride and ostentation, every effort is exerted, and frequently every source of income is exhausted, or forestalled. The evil, therefore, would be sufficiently great, if it served only to engender that selfishness, which leaves no room in the heart to feel for others, and, indeed, no ability to discharge many of the offices of Christian love. Yet, if they have any hopes or fears, which extend beyond the grave, they should remember, that if it has pleased God to give them wealth, they are not to render it worse than lost treasure, by spending it, as the care

less and voluptuous man in the Parable did ; but are required to be “ rich in good works." “No man liveth unto himself," says the apostle; and, admitting there is a profession and belief of religion, the divine command is, “That he who loveth God, love his brother also.” To the man, therefore, who can spare nothing from his own selfish pleasures and luxurious gratifications, and who leaves himself neither time, nor money, to do good in his generation, I would say, remember the fate of the Rich Man in the Pa. rable; and consider that, in the awful account, which our Saviour Christ gives of the last judg. ment, one of the grounds of final condemnation is, “I was an hungered, and ye gave me no meat; I was thirsty, and ye gave me no drink; I was a stranger, and ye took me not in: naked, and ye clothed me not; and in prison, and ye visited me not."

Such is the alarming danger of this vain and sinful passion, if it produce only a cold, unfeeling heart for the wants and distresses of our fellow-creatures, attended with what may be called a negation of virtue, and a real inability « to give to him that needeth :" but more. serious evils accompany it; and these are so

numerous, that, were I to attempt to state them, I should far exceed the limits of a discourse.

Suffice it to say, in a few words, that means for supporting an expensive establishment, when once formed, must be regularly provided : but profits are always contingent; while the usual disbursements of a numerous household are constant and certain. If, therefore, "to-morrow is not like to-day, and even more abundant," every expedient is resorted to, from the dread of failure and distress.-Hence, the sober pursuits of commerce are now often converted into desperate adventures, or games of chance. In the long train of mischiefs, all emanating from the same source, may be enumerated ruinous speculations, schemes for supporting fictitious capital, fraud, forgery, bankruptcy, and if not suicide, the most atrocious crimes.

The lamentable effects of such vice and folly are severely felt by the community at large; but on children that are grown up, they cannot be sufficiently deplored. The sons often feel themselves in the situation of the discarded Steward in the Gospel ;—too proud to beg, and too idle to work. Their future lot, therefore, if not desperately wretched, is hazardous in the

extreme; while the daughters, bred up in a state of delicacy and indulgence, which seryes only to deprive-them of their native energies, and with a shew of accomplishments, which frequently prove an impediment, rather than any encouragement, to the humble pursuits of honest industry, are left in such a condition of helpless poverty, and wretched dependence, as, in many cases, inevitably lead to their degradation and ruin. *As the great practical lesson, to be derived from the subject of our present meditation, let every one consider the nature and the of

value the talent, which it has pleased God to entrust to his care, and study to improve it to the best advantage; neither scattering it carelessly abroad, like the good seed, that was picked up by the fowls of the air, nor yet " wrapping it up in a napkin," or hiding it under ground. Let us remember, that whether rich, or poor, prosperous, or afflicted, there are certain virtues and duties, adapted to our respective conditions, which constitute our warfare with the world, and our responsibility in the sight of God. So far from embarking in an open course of sinful passions and pleasures, our best virtues and attainments should be accompanied with humi

« PreviousContinue »