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by any laborious works or costly sacrifices of our
Let all men be exhorted against the love of pleasure. This is peculiarly necessary in the luxurious and artificial age in which we livean age which has forgotten the hardships and the sufferings which the men of an earlier era endured for Christ and his cause. Let those who listen to the temptations of self-indulgence remember the great law, that to live for pleasure is to destroy it-that to pursue pleasure as an object, is to make it flee from us. The same principle holds in the spiritual life. True happiness consists not in the indulgence of self in the lower pleasures of our nature, but in peace with God, a frugal and thankful use of His gifts, the restraint of the appetites and passions of the body, the enjoyment of lawful pleasures, incidentally and by the way; zealous efforts to do good to our fellow-men, and to extend the kingdom of the Redeemer. How striking the contrast between the apostle Paul and the rich Fool mentioned in the gospel. The apostle says, 'I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection.' The sensualist says, 'Soul, thou hast much goods laid up for many years, eat, drink, and be merry.' While the apostle denies his body, the sensualist gives license to his soul, and degrades it with surfeiting and drunkenness. And what is God's voice to him in return? Thou fool, this night thy soul shall be required of thee.'
Let Christians then be given to self-denial, shun all unnecessary indulgence and prodigality, arm themselves against the snares of the flesh, and turn all God's gifts to a pure and faithful use. To adopt the language of another: 'Self-denial does not consist in monkish austerity or ascetic rigour. It is neither a long pilgrimage with its hardships, a useless seclusion with its deceptions, a sour look with its disgusts, or a bare head and empty stomach, with their inconveniences. It is a holy, persevering, prayerful opposition to the desires, appetites, wishes, and tempers of corrupt human nature. It is submission to providence; it is resignation to affliction; it is preference of others. And in all this it is reasonable, manly, necessary;-reasonable to deny and oppose what is corrupt in its origin, baneful in its growth, destructive in its end-and such are nature and sin. It is manly; for thus is shown that the mind, the soul, the reason, holds the seat and sceptre of government, while the inferior passions obey. It is necessary for the discovery of our graces, the good of society, our own peace and salvation. It has been made by Jesus Christ a condition of discipleship.'
When we were with you, this we commanded you, that if any would not work, neither should he eat,' 2 Thess. iii. 10.
IN apostolic times some Christians imagined that the gospel released from the obligation of labour, and introduced universal ease and relaxation. This idea seems to have prevailed very extensively at Thessalonica, and was strengthened by the impression that our Lord was about immediately to appear. In these circumstances it was imagined to be unnecessary to attend to secular business, and many abandoned themselves to inactivity. Hence the apostle, after showing that the Saviour was not to appear again until the antichristian apostacy had come, and long reigned, proceeds to rebuke the idle and slothful Christians who dishonoured the name they bore, and to exhort to the most earnest activity in welldoing. He calls upon the Christian brethren in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ-so solemn does he account the casee-to withdraw themselves from every brother who walked disorderly: and the disorderly walking consisted in Christians working not at all, but being busy bodies.' He speaks strongly on the subject. He 'commands' them, in virtue of his apostolic authority, to disown all connection with such persons, and reminds them of a rule which he had previously established, that if any would not work, neither should they be allowed to eat. So far from regarding them as proper objects of almsgiving, he looked upon them rather as persons who should be starved into labour-compelled to exert themselves, in short, as befitting subjects of discipline. In the course of his earnest appeal he refers to his own example, and from it calls to diligence. He reminds the Thessalonians, that while he lived among them he gave no countenance to the 'disorderly;' that, on the contrary, he did not eat any man's bread for nought, but wrought with labour and travail, night and day, that he might not be chargeable to any; and that though he had a perfect right to a maintenance from the gospel, he preferred to earn a livelihood by menial toil, to prevent men saying that he was mercenary. The disorderly, then, are exhorted and commanded in the name of Christ to cease to be busy bodies-going about from house to house, living upon others, and to work with quietness, and to eat their own bread, implying that the bread upon which they had hitherto been subsisting could not rightly be called their own, but another's.
Let Christians now listen to the full and earn
est counsels addressed to the Thessalonians, as not less applicable to many now, and in every age of the Christian church. There may, at present, be no temptation to imagine that Christianity releases from the obligations of labour; still not a few require to be reminded that it calls to the utmost diligence in our proper callings, and in works more directly religious. True Christianity, by exercising the intellect, and making man thoughtful; by stirring conscience, and expanding the heart and affections on new and great objects, naturally quickens the whole man into activitybody, soul, and spirit. It not only gives new views of the importance of time, and a deeper sense of responsibility and greater zeal in one's proper calling-that families may be suitably supported and educated; but it makes a man diligent, that he may have wherewith to give to others, and to contribute to the extension of the Redeemer's kingdom on the earth. Accordingly, how unweariedly active were Christ and his apostles. Nothing could equal, far less surpass, their selfdenying and incessant labours. None ever toiled to amass wealth, and attain to fame, as they toiled for the glory of God and the salvation of souls. On the other hand, who needs to be told of the evils of indolence and idleness, especially in a Christian? To the man spiritually they are most injurious. It is when idle we are most exposed to a thousand temptations of Satan, and are least prepared to resist them. What Christian does not know that it is when inactive, doing nothing, his mind is most distracted-his happiness most disquieted. And how mischievous does he become to others. With no occupation on his hands, he does not know how to employ his time pleasantly, and so he passes into a busy body,' interferes with the time and pursuits of others carries idle gossip from one house to another, till he has stirred up quarrels among Christian friends, and perhaps sown schism in the church of which he is a member. Thus does he spend his own weariness upon others. Is it necessary to remind you how idleness disparages Christianity in the eye and estimation of the world, and even of heathenism?
they truly are in pursuing such a course, as thieves and robbers, at least as gross violators of the eighth commandment. Does their conduct further the wealth and outward estate of their neighbour? Does it not rather seriously hinder them, and the well-being of the church of Christ besides? Let Christians, then, like their Master, be active and persevering in labour. This is conducive to health of body and of mind. It is not less subservient to happiness, outward and spiritual. It is essential to honesty. It leads to honour and to usefulness-contributes to satisfaction in the hour of death, and in the prospect of eternity. The opposite spirit and conduct are condemned by the solemnly expressed command and authority of the Lord Jesus Christ; constitute rebellions against God, and the great law of nature. 'In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread.' They also justly expose to the discipline of the Christian church, to the charge of being disorderly, and to being treated as one with whom no company is to be kept, that he may be ashamed; moreover, they expose to the wrath of God in the world to come.
Let all then, and especially Christians, shun the spirit and the practice of indolence, whether as to secular or religious things. Let them beware of being mere busy bodies in the church of Christ, meanly living like mendicants upon the benevolence of others, and repaying their kindness by stirring up strife among brethren. Let them seriously consider the apostolic maxim, that if a man needs to work for his bread, and do not work, neither should he eat. Let them regard themselves what
'Let him tha♦ stole steal no more: but rather let him labour, working with his hands the thing which is good, that he may have to give to him that needeth,' Eph. iv. 28.
THE apostle does not content himself with calling upon Christians to shun fraud. As the true way of mastering its temptations, he exhorts to a line of conduct which destroys the incentives to dishonesty; he calls to active labour, and that for the most benevolent ends. How noble is the spirit of true religion! It will not be satisfied with mere negatives. It aims at positive attainments, and these of the highest character. Rather let him labour, working with his hands that which is good.' The apostle requires the Christian who had once stolen, henceforward to labour, and that hardly and severely, with his hands, in an honest employment. True religion is no encourager of idleness or laziness, but eminently the reverse. It is the friend of active labour, physical, intellectual, moral, and spiritual. These are all conducive to its sound and healthful exercise. Many false religions, and corruptions of the true, directly or indirectly encourage indolence. The dreamy speculations of the Hindoo, and the innumerable saints' days and mendicant orders of the
church of Rome, are of this character. But it yet, understood by professed believers; and that is not so with living Christianity. Its author is, the duty of all labouring and denying themwas devotedly active and unwearied; so were selves, in order that they may be liberal to his apostles. Paul, with all the care of the others, and especially to the cause of God. It churches on him, and well entitled to a separate is generally, if not universally, allowed that provision, worked with his own hands as a tent- Christians should not be selfish, but should be maker for his daily bread, often, it is believed, public spirited and generous givers. This is during the night. The regular employments of well. But with the great mass of professors, industry have a closer connection with the pro- here the duty ceases, and they give only out of gress of piety than many imagine. How soon their superfluity, or according to their greatest does a man, who is otherwise good, become the convenience. Hence their charity contains no source of unhappiness to himself and mischief to sacrifice, and affords but a slender proof of reliothers, if he be of an active temperament, and gious character. What is it to give away what have no fixed occupation! How speedily is his costs little? How different is the principle, religious character deteriorated, and his best that even the man who had once been a thief is energies wasted! to labour with his hands, for the express purpose that he may be in circumstances to be liberal? What a noble activity is this! How high and worthy its motive, and how blessed the fruit!
The apostle, however, is not contented merely with exhorting to abstinence from theft and actual labour. These are great points gained. But the labour needs to be well directed. Apart from this, it may become an intense pursuit of the world, and estrange that soul from God which once knew him, and encourage avarice besides. Multitudes of the world are, unhappily, too active and laborious. Not that it is desirable they were idle: that would make them more dangerous; but that their energy were well regulated. Accordingly, Paul calls upon those of the Ephesians who had at one time been dishonest, to labour-working with their own hands-in the first instance, of course, to provide for their families; but with the ultimate object of having something to give to him that needeth,' to make restitution of what they had stolen, and to minister to the necessities of the saints and of the church of Christ.
The claims of Christianity upon those who receive it are high and universal. In the sent case there is no relaxation of the demand because the man had once been a thief. It is not said, 'Less is expected or required of those who have formerly been very degraded; they are released from the obligations of higher duty.' No. The thief is required to work for the express purpose that he may have wherewith to give. And why? For this, among other reasons, that giving is not what too many represent, a mere duty, far less a burden, but a privilege and a happiness, and Christianity would not deprive any of its disciples of the joy which belongs to them. It would have them all to be happy, and, if possible, those the more—who were once peculiarly the slaves of sin and misery. In the counsel here given to a particular class in the Ephesian church, we recognise a great Christian principle of the highest value, little, alas! as
Were the members of the Christian church generally to labour, and deny themselves that they might have wherewith to give, what immense resources would be immediately obtained for the objects of humanity and religion! Though the Christian church were to receive no accession to her present numbers, yet were all to do their duty by the principle which has been stated, what an immediate provision would there be of men and money for the propagation of Christianity. Instead as at present of being every now and then hampered and restrained, how would she be able to avail herself of her advantages to the uttermost, and pursue the work of faith and labour of love till it covered the earth! Never will Christians acquit themselves fully of their obligations, till they act upon the principle before us. Under God, the general adoption and faithful practice of it will be one of the means of ushering in the glory of the latter days. It will show that the church is in earnest for Christ and for souls, while it will provide means for conveying the gospel to the perishing.
'And if thy brother be waxen poor, and fallen is decay with thee, then thou shalt relieve him; yea, though he be a stranger, or a sojourner: that he may live with thee,' Lev. xxv. 35. AMONG the laws of the Jewish code, there are few more interesting than those which regard the poor. Selfish and narrow-minded as the people were, their laws indicate and enforce
the greatest tenderness to human suffering-forted and assisted. But in case any through such tenderness as we look for in vain among hard-heartedness should plead, that many who the heathen who surrounded them, or the most solicit charity are not of the same nation with distinguished nations, whether of ancient or themselves, and so have no claims on their kindmodern times, unless where they have been ness, the Jewish law adds, that though he be blessed with the faith of the gospel in some mea- a stranger, or a sojourner'—a Gentile-and that sure of purity. Nor is this tenderness limited merely passing through the country, and thereto human suffering. It extends to animal suf- fore having of all men the least claims, still he fering the suffering of the inferior creation. is to be relieved. No charity, surely, can be The Jewish law expressly forbids every thing like more comprehensive, and yet it is the charity of cruelty; even a kid is not to be seethed in its the despised Jewish law. It would be well if mother's milk; no wonder then that the poor are all other, and especially all Christian nations, Especially care for. But how interesting a pecu- could point to the same benevolence themselves. liarity is this of the law of God, and how worthy of his character, as the God of goodness and love! The injunctions to kindness to the poor are the more remarkable among the Jews, when it is remembered that every Jewish family (with the exception of the tribe of Levi, otherwise provided for) had a share in the land, which though capable of being lost or forfeited for a season, was always restored on the year of jubilee; a singular institution, which only the belief of supernatural authority could have maintained. Such an institution rendered poverty the more inexcus-oppressors. able, and might have tended to harden the Jews against the poor. Hence the wisdom, as well as the kindness of the injunction: And if thy brother be waxen poor,' &c. The injunction has the force of law. It is not a mere recommendation. It is a commandment, as binding as any in the decalogue, and is most comprehensive-no exception is specified-at the same time the terms in which it is conveyed are very affecting, 'If thy brother be waxen poor, and fallen in decay with thee.'
Men are unwilling to acknowledge any relationship to the poor-they would account it degradation to have beggars styled their brothers and sisters; but such is the tie which the Jewish law recognises, and it is the recognition of it which softens the heart, and draws forth the exercise of true charity. If men could see in the destitute the relationship of brother and sister, they would be far more tender and liberal than they usually are. The word of God describes the poor as our brethren. We are partakers of the same nature, are susceptible of the same feelings where there is privation, and know not how soon the circumstances of the destitute may be ours, how quickly the most opulent may be involved in all the horrors of want! In such circumstances, surely we must be forward to relieve. The poor are not an inferior and degraded class to be despised. They are brethren, objects of sympathy, to be com
Many passages could be quoted from the Old Testament scriptures which breathe the same spirit with the great law before us; for instance, oppression is strongly and severely forbidden: He that oppresseth the poor to increase his riches, shall surely come to want. Rob' not the poor, neither oppress the afflicted, for the Lord will plead their cause, and spoil the soul of those that spoiled them.' Here God is represented as the Advocate of the oppressed, and as inflicting certain retribution on their
In like manner, He is exhibited as the friend of the stranger, the widow, and the fatherless, all of whom are frequently exposed to poverty. The Lord doth execute the judgment of the fatherless and widow, and loveth the stranger in giving him food and raiment. A father of the fatherless, and judge of the widow, is God in his holy habitation; the Lord preserveth the stranger, and relieveth the fatherless and widow.' What a beautiful, tender, and affecting character is that of Jehovah, the God of the Jews! How unlike to the idols of heathenism! yea, how unlike to the hard-heartedness and cruelty of many professed Christians! In gleaning the vintage, and reaping the corn harvest, they were expressly commanded not to make a clean riddance of the corners of the field, but to leave a portion for the poor and the stranger. And in regard to the widow and the fatherless, it was solemnly declared, Ye shall not afflict any widow or fatherless child. If thou afflict them in any wise, and they cry at all unto me, I will surely hear their cry, and my wrath shall wax hot, and I will kill you with the sword, and your children shall be fatherless.' The very poverty, and absence of human protectors, which should call forth the deeper sympathy in behalf of the widow and her children, are frequently the very things which provoke the aggression of the cowardly and heartless. To meet this, God represents himself as specially the judge of the widow, and the father of the fatherless, and
denounces against their oppressors the heaviest of peculiar tenderness to the poor. Our blessed
From the views to which our attention has been called, let us feel fresh inducements to be kind and tender to the poor. If the law of Moses, under a comparatively dark dispensation, was so clear and strong in its requirements, let not Christians, under their noble dispensation, be cold-hearted and illiberal. There are many other ways of aiding the poor besides the mere gift of alms, which in too many instances is open to abuse. We may do much by advice, by instruction, by finding employment for the poor-by caring for their children, by withdrawing them from evil example, and putting them in a way of being useful. In short, even in the worst cases we may do good. Let us in all act the part of genuine friends.
Whoso hath this world's goods, and seeth his brother have need, and shutteth up his bowels of compassion from him, how dwelleth the love of God in him? My little children, let us not love in word, neither in tongue; but in deed, and in truth,' 1 John iii. 17, 18.
Lord may, indeed, be said to have sanctified poverty by his own example, choosing its state of privation rather than a state of secure, competent wealth. Poor as he was, he manifested the utmost kindness and liberality to the indigent, incessantly labouring for the good of the suffering, however unable to repay him. He commended the poor widow who cast in her mite into the treasury, and called upon the young man, the sincerity of whose professed attachment he wished to ascertain, to sell all, and give to the poor. He enjoins his followers, also, when they would make a feast, to call not those who are able to return the compliment, but the poor, the maimed, the lame, and the blind, assuring them that if they did so they should be blessed, and receive an ample recompense at the resurrection of the just.
The spirit of kindness thus shown by the Master in behalf of the poor, he imperatively requires on the part of all his faithful servants. As Chris
tianity naturally leads to the acquisition of wealth; apart from this outlet there would be no small danger of Christians becoming covetous and worldly-minded. Hence while it enjoins men
them to be liberal as regards others, especially to to be self-denied, as regards themselves, it requires the pious poor. It is evidently the pious poor of whom the apostle speaks. He had been setting forth the duty of Christians loving one another, and had declared that this was the test of Christian discipleship: an infallible proof that we had passed from spiritual death to spiritual life. He had also referred, as an illustration of and inducement to Christian love, to the case of Christ, who laid down his life for his people, which he con
IN the former exposition we contemplated the kind consideration of God for the poor under the Old Testament dispensation. Comparatively narrow and obscure as that dispensation was, He under it gave to charity the force of a law, and that in terms the most tender. We have now to contemplate the same duty under the more perfected dispensation of the New Testament, and as might have been expected, there is no diminu-verts into an argument why Christian brethren tion in the obligation; on the contrary, it is confirmed and enforced by new arguments. True Christianity conduces to the increase of wealth. It stimulates the mind, and makes industry and frugality sacred duties, and saves from many costly vanities and sins. Hence the countries where its influence is most powerful, are most noted for their enterprise, industry, and resources. On the other hand, corrupted Christianity, such as Popery, tends to poverty. It lowers the mind as a whole. Its superstitious observances, such as saints' days, impoverish; and the priesthood have an interest in keeping the people poor in their means, that they may be dependent and enslaved in their judgments. But Christianity is not, on this account, a worshipper of wealth, or a despiser of poverty. It crucifies the inordinate love of wealth, directs money into useful channels, and breathes a spirit
should be prepared to hazard life itself for each other; and then having pointed to so high a standard of love, he proceeds to rebuke those who would not make even a small sacrifice of money for the relief and comfort of their Christian brethren. Appealing to their consciences, as in the sight of God, the apostle asks, ‘But whoso,' whatever professed Christian, hath this world's goods, and seeth his brother have need, and shutteth up bowels of compassion from him;' has ample and satisfactory evidence of his Christian brother's necessity, and yet refuses to relieve him, 'how dwelleth the love of God in him?' Is it possible that he can know any thing of the love of God in his own soul? No! If he truly loved God, which he professedly does, he would love the Christian who is formed not only after God's natural, but after his moral image. If he loved