« AnteriorContinuar »
cation cor. Let himidst of all them yield to detto
for this world, it is, as the general rule, found true, that "in keeping God's commandments, there is great reward.”
And so, on the other hand, the Bible forbids those vices that prevent the acquisition of wealth, or that waste it when required.
Set a man down-his voyage over-in the midst of the richest gold regions of the earth, and let him yield to certain kinds of temptation, and in the midst of all the wealth around him, he will still be poor. Let him, for example, abandon himself to intoxication—for mournful as is the fact, there are those so lost to every spark of principle and humanity-poisoners of men and panders to devils—as to be sending out intoxicating drinks with the tide of emigration—let him yield to the temptation thus set before him, and he will soon be unfitted for picking up the very gold that may abound at his feet, and most admirably fitted for quickly losing, even if he has found it. His brains being gone from his head, the gold from his pocket will speedily follow; be stolen away when he knows it not, or wheedled away in foolish bargains, by villains more sober, but less principled than himself, or recklessly squandered in guilty, sottish indulgence. Let the individual, again, give way to the excitements of gambling, a vice which the Bible forbids as well as intemperance, and a few short hours may dissipate the wealth that weeks, or months, or years may have gathered. And the same general remark may be made of the observance of the Sabbath: for it is only where the Sabbath is kept, that the morality of the Sabbath is found; and where it is habitually violated, there insults, robberies, drunkenness, gambling, violence, and a lawless and murderous state of life and manners, will soon abound; and on the Pacific coast, as here, there is no safety for the man, either as to property or success, who will trample on God's holy day. Such an one has deliberately “forsaken the Most High, and entered on the devil's ground, and is tempting the destroyer to tempt and destroy him," and provoking God to curse him for time and eternity. In all these and many other things, it needs but little reflection to satisfy us, that whether directly to the individual, or indirectly to him through the community where he dwells, “Godliness is profitable unto all things, having promise of the life that now is, as well as “of that which is to come.” Of the great principles of God's Word, faithfully carried out in practice, even the gold-seeker, if thoughtful and candid, will be constrained to say, that, as tending to permanent prosperity, “More to be desired are they than gold, yea, than much fine gold."
This is further true of the great principles of the Bible, because
2. They give directly the very blessings that men seek to obtain indirectly by the possession of wealth. No one but the miser (miserable in etymology and fact) seeks gold for its own sake. He, with insane and consummate folly, may live for wealth as in itself an end, robbing himself that he may save his gold, for it "throwing up his interest in both worlds—first starved in this, then damned in that to come!” But every one who has the sanity of common sense, seeks it only as a means to some end; and that end is happiness, or what the individual thinks will afford it. One foolishly supposes that inactivity and rest are synonymous with happiness; and seeks wealth, that when he obtains it, he may bave nothing to do but to vegetate in idleness. Another fancies it will be found in the indulgence of appetite, and another, in splendid living, another in influence over his fellow-men, and still another, in being known and talked of, and perhaps envied as the possessor of large estates; and each desires and toils for wealth as the means of attaining his favorite form of happiness.
Now, even if in all these cases, happiness were to be found in the things supposed, it is still true that two steps are requisite to reach it, and the first a step it may need years, or even a life-time to take, while the Bible offers either the same or a higher form of happiness to a single step, and that one which may be taken in a moment. Is wealth desired as affording peace within, or freedom from annoyance and vexation without ? “Great peace have they which love thy law, and nothing shall offend them.” Is it sought as conducive io dignity and exaltation? “Exalt” wisdom, "and she shall promote thee: she shall bring thee to honor when thou dost embrace her;" and "if any man," says Christ, “serve me, bim will my Father honor.” Is it followed as a means of procuring pleasure? Religion's ways "are ways of pleasantness, and all her paths are peace.” Is it wished as a provision for future necessities, or a security against future want? “Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you." Is it longed for as giving freedom from toil, anxiety, and care?” Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest;" " Rest from the vexations and labors and cares of the world, rest in the arms of infinite love, rest eternal in the paradise of God!" And all these blessings we have but to ask, that we may receive; while the wealth of this world, if ever so eagerly sought, is uncertain of attainment, and if attained, never, never gives the happiness that was expected from it, while the offers of religion are always present and avail. able offers, and in every case the blessedness she gives is satisfying and sure. Tested, then, by the end which men propose to themselves in seeking wealth, the Bible and the faith and sal. vation it offers, are “More to be desired than gold, yea, than much fine gold.”
This will further appear, if we consider,
3. That the principles of the Bible, and only those principles, can make the possession of wealth a blessing. Give a man gold, all that his largest desires could wish, and yet let his principles bé wrong, his temper ungoverned, his appetites and passions uncontrolled, his conscience at war (as the sinner's conscience forever is) with his reason and better judgment, and his wealth will but minister to his unhappiness. Instead of being like the fire when kept in its proper place, a source of warmth, utility, and comfort, it will be like the same fire bursting forth, and kindling on, and wrapping the dwelling in flames, acting only to burn and destroy. Hoarding his riches, or using them only for self, not keeping them bright by good and holy uses, he will find that even in this world, “his gold and silver are cankered, and the rust (ah! the rust!) of them is a swift witness against him, to eat his flesh as if it were fire!" Selfishly and sinfully breaking the bond that should unite riches with benevolence, and wealth with usefulness, he has broken the bond between himself and happiness. Taking his treasures, like the prodigal, into the far-off and forbidden country of selfindulgence, away from his father's house and the sympathies of suffering humanity, he shall find they are but husks to his soul, and be a stranger to abiding happiness, till like the prodigal he resolves, “I will arise and go to my father!"
To the one, on the other hand, whose principles are right, whose temper is governed, whose appetites and passions are controlled, whose conscience is at peace with himself and God, whose life is benevolent, that is, to the real Christian--wealth, like any other gift of God, is a blessing. Such an one, through grace, has discovered that the true value of wealth consists in its proper use. He has found out the divine secret, that "it is more blessed to give than to receive." He keeps his gold from rust, and his sil. ver from canker by constant and holy use. Possessing it in a benevolent spirit, and using it to benevolent ends, he so improves the mammon of unrighteousness, as not only to make sure of God's favor for eternity, but to enjoy to the full all the happiness it can afford here on earth. For their influence, then, in making wealth, where possessed, a blessing even for this world, the principles of the Bible are “More to be desired than gold, yea, than much fine gold.”—Omitting, for want of time, several other thoughts that might illustrate and impress the lesson of the text, I remark, but
once. That e vend more questive gainive
4. That without the principles of the Bible, wealth is in vain, and in the end worse than in vain to the soul. Centuries ago it was asked, and the question is one of fearful meaning, "What shall it profit a man if he gain the whole world, and lose his own soul; or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul ?” Grant that the world could be gained, though well do we know it cannot, for at most we can pick up but a few of the sand-grains that compose it-grant that even the whole world could be gained, in a little while it will all be as nothing, and less than nothing, without God's favor and preparation for heaven. It will require but little to purchase the grave where we must soon sleep. It will be no comfort to the departing spirit to leave a little more by that , grave than is left by others. And if the universe were ours, as we pass to eternity, it could not blot out one single sin, or purchase God's favor, or bribe an entrance to eternal life. On the other hand, if misimproved, it would be the very ground of our condemnation, sinking us to the doom of him who asked, and asked in vain, in perdition, for a drop of water to cool his tongue !-Beware, then, of thinking too much of wealth. Seek it, if you will, as God's providence may permit, in the exercise of the virtues He enjoins, and for the ends His Word proposes; but see to it, that you seek first his kingdom and the righteousness thereof. Send forward your thoughts to the end of life, and follow after riches, only with the feelings, motives, and aims that you can approve then. However you may possess gold, see to it that it does not possess you. Beware, I charge you in Christ's name, beware lest you so desire, or seek, or use wealth, that the footing up of the balance sheet of your life shall read, “ Gained my wealth, but for. feited God's favor, saved my riches, but lost my soul !”
In view of the subject we have been considering, we are ad. monished in closing,
1. To beware of a covetous spirit.—The proper pursuit of wealth, as we have seen, is not only permitted but encouraged by God, as developing the character, cultivating the virtues, and giving us the very discipline that we need in probation and for eternity. But, on the other hand, of all astringents, covetousness is the strongest : of all vices, the meanest. More than all others, it degrades the character, and belittles and debases the entire soul. It is the blight of every generous and manly and kindly feeling; the root of all evil; the object of some of the fiercest woes denounced in the Word of God. It violates the entire moral law, for it is the love of self at the expense of both God and our neighbor. It destroyed Ananias and Sapphira; cast down Balaam from the glory of the prophets, and sent Judas from the apostleship to perdition. Many it makes careful and troubled about other things, so that they neglect the one thing needful; and sends them away, sorrowful, from the Saviour, because they will not give up the world for him. Too often, alas! it divides even the professed disciple's heart, so that while he prays, “Thy kingdom come,” his gifts do not keep pace with bis prayers. More than all things does it tend to bind us to the world, generating envy, discontent, and the feverish anxiety of possession; leading if not to disgraceful, yet too often to that decent selfishness which may ruin the soul. “The love of mo. ney," says another, "will, it is to be feared, prove the eternal overthrow of more professors of religion, than any other sin, because it is almost the only one that can be indulged while a profession of religion is sustained.” Many there are that "did run well for a season,” but like Bunyan's professed pilgrims, Mr. Graspthe-world, Mr. Money-love, and Mr. Save-all (names that may well stand for living realities), they have turned aside, at the call.
gracelicht of every generoume of the fiercest Wow.fo
ment for etcarful, and you, and shall revealar richess only for more
of Demas to look at the mine of silver; and like them, they have either fallen over the brink, or gone down to dig, or have been smothered by the damps of the place, but whichever it may be, they are no more seen in the pilgrim's path!
And as deep as is the guilt of the covetous, so dark will be their doom hereafter. The day is near-it is speeding as on the lightning's wing—when, if covetous, your riches shall be corrupted, and your gold and silver cankered, and their rust shall be a swift witness against you. At the bar of judgment, your excuses shall be swept away. Having made gold your hope you shall be left to despair. Having laid up treasures only for self, God shall class you with the fool. Your riches shall testify to your folly, and the heavens shall reveal your iniquity, and the earth rise up against you, and hell open to receive you, and there, with the fearful, and unbelieving, and abominable, you shall lament for ever, that your very prosperity you have made your ruin !
Beware then, of the spirit of covetousness, in whatever form it may appear. Prevent or cure it, by cherishing its opposite. Expand the soul with benevolence, and it cannot be contracted by the evil before us. Make it the abode of the good spirit of charity, and the evil spirit of selfishness will depart. Bear in mind that you are God's stewards, and that on all you have he has written, - Occupy for me till I shall come.” Forget not that if above all things you will be rich," you will "err from the faith and pierce yourself through with many sorrows." Remember the example of Christ, and the tender, touching thought, that "though he was rich, yet for our sakes he became poor," and be moved by the melting appeal of his life to be followers of Him. Reflect, that a benevolent spirit, is but a part of religion, and if destitute of the former you also are of the latter. Remember the wants and woes, especially the spiritual wants and woes of others, and by all the freeness with which you have received, cherish the spirit that will ever lead you freely to give. And remember, too, that God's claims are upon you, and his bar of judgment just before you; and so live, wherever you may be, that when at last your stewardship is reviewed, the reward of the faithful, and not the doom of the unfaithful may be yours!
Our subject also suggests,
2. That the circumstances of our country, especially in view of the present emigration to its western coast, are such as call for much prayer and effort on the part of every patriot and Christian.
-Cotton Mather tells us, that when he was once in the midst of a sermon “On the voice of God in the thunder," a message which he received that his own house had just been struck by lightning, "gave a sensible edge to his discourse!”—And so the personal, the deep personal interest that so many have in the vast emigration alluded to, should give “a sensible edge” to their sympathies, and prayers, and efforts. The emigrants who are going forth, are not