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their chains with a sort of loyal pride, and kiss the feet that are planted on their breasts. What a fearful picture of grinding superstition and of human degradation !
If, then, we wish to buy the truth, let us be sure that it is the truth that we buy ; for we may see, in the very case we have now cited, that falsehood may prove fatal to our best interests, both as men and as Christians. Let us, therefore, stand fast in the liberty wherewith Christ has made us free; and, in the exercise of that liberty, let us carefully examine the nature of those principles that are held forth to us, before we adopt them.
2. Having thus tested and ascertained the genuineness of the article, the next step that the buyer is called upon to take is that of appraising it, or forming some estimate of its value. The price put upon it is high-the highest, indeed, that can be demanded for anything in this world. For it is offered only on one condition, and that is, the sacrifice, or, at least, the free surrender of all we have. Like certain stock transactions, a large instalment must be paid in at once, and the whole of the rest of our substance is to be kept in hand, as it were, to answer the calls of the creditor. And there is this peculiarity connected with it, that it is quite as much within the reach of the poorest as of the richest. While the price is the same to all, the advantage in this case is on the side of those who have least to give, for they are only required to give what they have, be it more or less. As the same rule applies to the rich, they have, in a manner, a greater sacrifice to make, a heavier stake to lay down, in order to secure the prize. Hence, when the bargain is concluded, they are both placed on the same level. As it was with the manna-gatherers of old, so is it here : “He that had gathered much had nothing over, and he that had gathered little had no lack.” And, therefore, as the apostle says, “there is an equality.”
That these are the terms or conditions on which the truth is to be bought, is clearly intimated by our Lord in two of His parables. “The kingdom of heaven,” He says, “is like unto a merchantman seeking goodly pearls, who, when he had found one pearl of great price, went and sold all that he had, and bought it.” And again, “The kingdom of heaven is like unto treasure hid in a field, the which when a man has found, he hideth, and for joy thereof goeth and selleth all that he hath, and buyeth that field.” The first of these parables speaks of those who are seeking after wisdom, who are directly engaged in this high department of spiritual commerce, and who, in the midst of the many goodly pearls which come to them in the course of their traffic, find one that is worth all the rest, and for which, therefore, they are willing to pay down the whole of their fortune,-finding infinitely more satisfaction and profit in that transcendent pearl than in all their precious gains. For although the truth consists of many parts, every one of them more or less valuable, yet they all converge to one point, which contains the entire sum of these parts, and combines them in their fullest perfection. As man is the king of the creatures, as the sovereign is (morally and politically) the king of men, so Christ, who is the King of kings, is the King of truth. And being thus the great central Light—the incarnation of Wisdom, He is the perfection of excellency, and the perfection of beauty. To Him, therefore, the words of Solomon apply in the highest sense; for the blessings held forth to us in Him are more precious than rubies, and among all the things that we desire there is nothing which is, for a moment, to be compared with them. Here, in short, we shall find “the one thing needful;” and that which the poet of Olney said of the Father may be also said of the Son
" Thou art of all Thy gifts Thyself the crown:
Give what Thou wilt, without Thee we are poor,
The other of our Lord's parables to which we have referred, viz., the treasure hid in the field, represents the case of those who, without seeking after wisdom, come upon it accidentally, as it were; perceiving how great a treasure it is, they are ready to part with all their possessions in order to obtain it. But is this sacrifice actually required ? Are we really called upon to give all that we have in exchange for the truth as it is in Jesus? To many, this may seem a mere figure of speech, but it is not so; for we find it literally exemplified in the history of the primitive Church. We read that, “as many as were possessed of houses, or lands, sold them, and laid the price at the feet of the apostles ; and the story of Ananias and Sapphira shows how those were dealt with who kept back any part of the price that was demanded. It was not simply for the purpose of trying him that our Lord told the rich youth to go and sell all that he had, and then to come and follow Him. He was but laying down the fundamental rule of discipleship; for He had declared, over and over again, that He would have no followers who were not pre
pared to make this sacrifice; that “whosoever loved father, or mother, or houses, or lands, more than Him, were not worthy of Him." It was on this express understanding that the whole of His disciples went, when they cast in their lot with Him; and Peter brings out that fact distinctly, when he says of himself and his brethren as a body, “Lo, we have left all and followed Thee.” But they were no losers by the bargain. On the contrary, it yielded them a rich return, both presently and prospectively. What their Master promised they found to be true: "Every one,” says He," that hath forsaken houses, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for My name's sake, shall receive an hundred-fold, and shall inherit eternal.” Such, then, are the terms on which this treasure is offered to us; such is the only condition on which the truth can be bought.
3. But, in order to conclude this transaction, there is yet one other step which requires to be taken. We must close with the terms on which the article is offered. It is not enough to ascertain its value; if we wish to buy it, we must appropriate as well as appraise it, before we can look upon it as ours.
And this requires some pains and labour on the part of the purchaser. For the truth is not an external thing, that can be secured and set up at once, like a piece of furniture; but a system of doctrine and discipline, which needs to be carefully studied, thoroughly grasped, and diligently improved. Hence, he who seeks to have and to hold it must devote much time and attention to the acquirement of it. He must “ learn to scorn delights, and live laborious days." It must, in short, be the great theme of his thoughts, and of his enquiries, and, like the psalmist, he must meditate upon it day and night. But as our time will not allow us to dwell on this point, we shall now go on to the second part of our text, and look at the advice that is there given us.
II. "Buy the truth,” says the wise king of Israel," and sell it not." From what has been already said, it is very plain that it can never be sold, except at a very serious loss. Still, there are often foolish bargains made, even with respect to matters of the highest importance, and, therefore, the caution here inculcated is by no means unnecessary. But how, it may be asked, can the truth be sold? Of course, the buying and the selling in this case are both to be understood in a figurative or metaphorical sense. By the one, we are to understand the importance of securing
the great treasure here spoken of at any cost, however great, and the folly of parting with it, however tempting.
Now, there are many ways in which the truth may be sold. We cannot enumerate them all, but we may single out a few of the most common and most comprehensive.
1. First of all, it may be sold, or sacrificed, from a spirit of mere cowardice. There are some in every rank of society,—but especially among the rich and the prosperous,—who regard the truth with no friendly eye, because they have a suspicion that it does not look with a very favourable aspect towards them. If these men were to speak out their real thoughts, we should find them saying of it what Ahab said of Micaiah the son of Imlah, "I hate him, because he does not prophecy good concerning me, but evil.” Secretly convinced of the contrariety there is between the spirit which dwells in them and that which the truth inculcates and requires, they are always ready to misrepresent and revile it, “ speaking evil of things that they know not." Now, there are those who do know these things, who have received Christian instruction, and who make a Christian profession, that will yet stand by and allow this to be done without a single word of dissent, for fear of losing the favour, or incurring the censure, of these unprincipled haters end revilers of the truth. They will not only hide their own opinion, but will sometimes go so far as to join with them in their malignant and unhallowed work. It is not necessary for us to characterise such conduct as this. The folly, the treachery, the contemptable cowardice of such individuals must be manifest to all men; and sure we are that there is no man, with any sense of propriety or common integrity about him, who would not despise such individuals, and say that they were unworthy of being trusted in any transaction or relation whatsoever. Who would care to have them as friends ? Who would be so blind to his own interests as to employ them as servants ?
2. But we remark, further, in the second place, that the truth may be sold from a feeling of false charity and selfish complaisance. There are, as we know, a number of points connected with it on which different views are held by different parties. I speak now of those views which are held to be of so much importance that they have been the means of separating professing Christians into conflicting sects and denominations. So far as they relate to matters of mere outward form, -matters, I mean, that do not affect those broad principles of fundamental truth on which all evangelical denominations are essentially agreed, -I am disposed to give way to the modest charity that can be held to be consistent with a good conscience. But there are points of difference that touch the very vitals of the faith,-points as diametrically opposed to each other as truth and error can possibly be, as irreconcilable as Christ and Antichrist; and yet on these points there are some who are found quite ready to say that, although Christ must be right, Antichrist may not be very far in the wrong,
,--that, although the truth must be true, the error that denies this may not be false, after all. There are persons who think that charity requires them to believe that all Churches are equally good, and all kinds of principles equally true. If those who possess them are sincere in believing them, they have as good a chance of being saved as those who are the soundest in the faith,—Mohammedans, Hindoos, Papists, Ritualists, Unitarians. The men who hold this convenient creed are very pleasant, social, easy-going men. They wish to stand well with all classes. If they are in business, they find it an advantage : it enlarges the sphere of their custom; if in public life, it extends the circle of their influence; they never make an enemy; all men speak well of them—they are social favourites, and revel in the delights of goodbodyism. They even, in certain cases, join with others in disparaging and reviling what they themselves believe to be the truth. It is not necessary for us to characterise such conduct as this. The folly, the treachery, the contemptible cowardice and poltroonery of such individuals must be manifest to all men. Those who are capable of acting in this manner are totally unworthy of being trusted in any transaction or relation whatso
He who is unfaithful in that which is least will also be unfaithful in much. He who steals a penny would steal a pound; and the man who gives away the smallest article of what has been entrusted to him, would give away the whole of his master's goods, if he could safely do it.
3. But I remark further, in the third place, that the truth may be sold by being accommodated to what is called “ the spirit of the age.” I do not now speak of the form in which the truth is presented, or the mere phraseology in which it is expressed. Every age has its own peculiar fashions in this as in other things ; and to these, every wise man, who wishes to avoid the affectation of singularity, must seek to conform. It is not, however, to matters of taste and fashion that I allude, but to matters of faith and principle.