Imágenes de páginas

in the most simple states of society-savage life, of the sluggard left to themselves, yield nothing overrun with indolence, and utterly averse to any save weeds, thorns, and thistles; but apply exertion, unless some strong appetite calls for its industry, and forth with they wave with golden exercise. So it is of men in more civilized society; corn, and he that tilleth his land has plenty of as soon as they are released from the conflict with bread.' In harmony with this, the earth itself, the world, which business or condition may and sun, moon, and stars, are not stationary-they demand, they sink into indolence and self-indul- are the subjects of unwearied motion—of ceaseless gence. Indeed the hope of realizing these for the beneficial revolutions. Rising to their great Auevening of life, is often one of the prompting thor and Sustainer, how active is the providence motives of their temporary activity. Even reli- of God! He worketh hitherto,' and his workgious men are far from being free from such ing forms no breach of the sabbath rest. When temptations they frequently yield to them. Not to upon earth, and now that He is in heaven, how refer to the sloth of the convent or the monastery energetic and unwearied the labours of the Son in popish countries, how often are Christians dis--and how powerful and ceaseless the operations posed to retire from the warfare of the great world into a little circle of their own, where they meet with no contradiction—are respected, and indulged, and indolently pursue their own tastes and likings. This may apply to Christians, in the middle and higher ranks of life; and even among those who are compelled to labour for their daily bread, how much sloth is seen even in religious duties in reading the word-and in prayer: how little pains are employed to shut out the world, and to fix the attention on the exercise in which they are engaged. What carelessness in reading the word! How little selfdenying study and effort to understand it as compared with many other books! What roving of the mind in prayer! how easily is it disturbed with any new circumstance, or supposed engagement, so that the words are little better than a form!

of the Spirit! How untiring also the service of the angels and archangels around the throne! And when all above, beneath, around, in heaven, and in earth, are full of motion, shall redeemed man alone be idle?

In accordance with the sentiments before us, we are informed, that the hand of the diligent not only maketh rich, but shall bear rule; that the man who is diligent in business shall stand before kings. The patriarchs were active in business, and though holy men, with what wealth and honour did God enrich them! And in how many other cases has He, in all ages, fulfilled his promise? Let Christians then be exhorted to industry in all their callings, whether secular or religious. Industry in the things of the world may indeed be carried too far. It may pass into hasting to be rich, which is destructive. It must therefore ever be kept in subordination to God, and the It is well for all, and especially Christians, to soul, and salvation; but within these limits it is bear in mind, that all our powers of body, soul, most important, favourable alike to outward, and mind, are capable of activity, and were evi- mental, and spiritual health; while in all circumdently designed for unwearied exercise. Even in stances and situations, its opposite is an unmithe state of innocence our first father Adam was tigated evil, the parent of various temptations to dress the garden and keep it; and if this was and crimes-fatal both to pure morals and spiritdesirable and obligatory, then, how much more ual religion. Let us view sloth not only as an important is labour now in a state of temptation evil-the friend of savage life, with its ignorance, and sin. The fourth commandment says, 'six degradation, helplessness, and woe, but as sin days shalt thou labour.' The government of against God-a violation of the great law of God is evidently founded upon the principle of nature-ingratitude for the active powers and labour. Men do not succeed in this world by sloth-by indolently doing nothing, but by industry, and not fits and starts of industry, which would be injurious both to mind and morals-by intoxicating with success-but by slow and steady application, often without much intellectual energy. All nature testifies to the same great law. God speaks to the sluggard through the ant, whose ways he exhorts him to consider, and be wise without guide, overseer, or ruler, providing her meat in summer, and gathering her food in harvest. The fields, too, like the garden

capacities with which we have been favoured— one of the iniquities which brought down upon Sodom the wrath of Heaven. Let us shun its earliest snares-let us resist its first temptations. And among these let us specially number bad company. The same wisdom of God which assured the industrious man of plenty, declares, but he that followeth vain persons, shall have poverty enough.' Vain persons are evidently irreligious men, indolent schemers, seditious censurers of government-those who will not work themselves, and who lay all the blame of their misery

grand charms, to the natural man, but it is otherwise with the religion of God. Under all dispensations, it is the religion of restraint upon the lower appetites and propensities of our nature. It aims at bringing man up to a holy, spiritual, and heavenly character, and in order to this, it is essential that he deny and mortify the merely sensual. There is indeed a degree of pleasure connected with the senses, which the law of God approves: and this is a testimony to His condescending kindness. For instance, He has made the use of food pleasant. He might have provided that it should answer its end without any accompanying enjoyment. True religion gives no countenance to the self-imposed sufferings of self-righteousness. It sanctions a lawful and thankful use of God's gifts; but it encourages self-denial as an important virtue and mean of spiritual good, and calls upon Christians to be moderate in their use even of things in themselves lawful.

upon the rulers of the nation. Such persons, systems of the world may, with some excepit is said, shall have poverty enough. There tions, encourage it. Indeed, this is one of their are always not a few of this description of character. While they live they are the victims of discontent and the demagogue, and are ready for deeds of spoliation and murder; but they soon become exposed to disease, and seldom live long. Now it is said that he who followeth after such persons, shall have poverty enough. Nothing else could be expected. A man shares in the fate of the companions he chooses. If the companions of the wise are safe and honoured, they who follow the irreligious and slothful shall have their award. How certainly are evil companionships the sources of ruin. The bitter shipwreck of early hopes-the broken hearts of parents the prison, the scaffold, are witnesses to the solemn truth, and the present is no exception to the rule, the companion of fools shall be destroyed.' Let us ever remember that the society of God, the friendship of Christ, the companionship of the faithful, form the noblest security of industry, and the best protection against the idle and injurious, and all who would deteriorate its blessings.


'He that loveth pleasure shall be a poor man; he that loveth wine and oil shall not be rich,' Prov. xxi. 17.

[ocr errors]

It is scarcely necessary to refer to passages of scripture condemnatory of the love of animal pleasure. It is said, He that loveth pleasure shall be a poor man; he that loveth wine and oil shall not be rich.' The heaviest penalty here is simply poverty, and though brought on in the most painful way-excess and dissipation-many may still think it by no means intolerable. But much more than outward poverty is included in the punishment. There is poverty of soul— poverty as to God and eternity. The apostle Paul says of the persons who make their belly their god, that their end is destruction.' And yet, is it not to be feared, that not merely the worldly who mind earthly things, but that many Christians, professed and real, scarcely know what self-denial means? They seem to think that if they have the pecuniary resources, and abstain from what is directly sinful, they may indulge their fleshly tastes as they please— spend their time in unnecessary sleep, or frivolous reading, or the pursuit of the fine artswithout any one having a right to find fault. Is not this much to be deplored? Is it not at variance with the mind and will of God? Is it not injurious to spiritual character and useful

Most persons readily understand what is meant by the love of pleasure. It consists in the indulgence of the senses, the appetites and passions of the body, and those tastes of the mind which border upon and minister to them. It is opposed to restraint, self-denial, and to what savours of the spiritual and divine. In short, it consists in the indulgence of that part of our nature which is common to us with the lower creatures, or which is allied to it. Philosophers and moralists, even in pagan countries, have counselled against this self-indulgence. They see that, besides involving in many outward evils poverty and crime-it relaxes the tone of the mind, weakens the moral sense, and obliterates the grand distinctions between man and the brutes. Hence many of them, under such im-ness? Does it not rob us of many precious pressions, have denied themselves to the pleasures of sense, and exercised a mental selfcontrol, such as is fitted to make not a few Christians ashamed of themselves.

As might have been expected, true religion forbids the love of pleasure. The false religious

hours and opportunities, and unfit the mind for turning to advantage those which remain? Does it not in effect convert the free grace of the gospel into licentiousness?-spending an easy self-indulgent life, because Christ has died for the guilty, and we are not called upon to seek for heaven

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 case-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 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 activityhody, 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?

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

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 him that stole steal no more: but rather iet 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 his apostles. Paul, with all the care of the churches on him, and well entitled to a separate provision, worked with his own hands as a tentmaker for his daily bread, often, it is believed, during the night. The regular employments of industry have a closer connection with the progress of piety than many imagine. How soon does a man, who is otherwise good, become the source of unhappiness to himself and mischief to others, if he be of an active temperament, and have no fixed occupation! How speedily is his religious character deteriorated, and his best energies wasted!

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 present 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

selves, in order that they may be liberal to others, and especially to the cause of God. It is generally, if not universally, allowed that Christians should not be selfish, but should be public spirited and generous givers. This is well. But with the great mass of professors, here the duty ceases, and they give only out of their superfluity, or according to their greatest convenience. Hence their charity contains no sacrifice, and affords but a slender proof of religious character. What is it to give away what costs little? How different is the principle, that even the man who had once been a thief is 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!

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.

[ocr errors]


And if thy brother be waxen poor, and fallen in 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

« AnteriorContinuar »