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- BY REV. GARDNER SPRING, D.D. “ Give us this day our daily bread.” This prayer regulates the amount of our wants, and the measure of our desires. We are instructed to ask only as we need ; there is danger in asking more. God may give more, but it is not safe to ask for more, lest he should say of us as he did of his restive and grasping people of other days : "I gave them their request, but sent leanness into their souls."
Wealth is desirable, not for its own sake, nor merely for the wants it supplies. In itself it is an abstract imaginary thing, and where it is possessed, not unfrequently creates more wants than it gratifies. It is desirable to augment influence and extend the facilities of doing good. That accomplished statesman and jurist, the late William Wirt, a name that will long be illustrious and venerated in American history, on this topic makes the following touching observation : " Excessive wealth is neither glory nor happiness. The cold and sordid wretch who thinks only of himself: who draws his head within his shell and never puts it out, but for the purpose of lucre and ostentation; who looks upon his fellow-creatures, not only without sympathy, but with arrogance and insolence, as if they were made to be his vassals, and he to be their lord ; as if they were made for no other purpose than to pamper his avarice, or contribute to bis aggrandizement : such a man may be rich, but, trust me, he ean never be happy, nor virtuous, nor great. There is in fortune a golden mean, which is the appropriate region of virtue and intelligence. Be content with that : and if the horn of plenty overflow, let its droppings fall upon your fellow-men ; let them fall like the droppings of honey in the wilderness, to cheer the faint and weary pilgrim."
It is a sad thought that wealth is considered essential to distinction. It is not so. The voice cf conscience, the voice of reason, the voice of God announces it not so. Wealth alone is not worth living for. Sigh not for wealth. Envy not the splendor of the affluent. The most wealthy are often most in want. “A man's life consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he possesseth.” No wise man will ever venture to pray that he might be rich. Let a man be thankful, if by exemplary diligence he can procure a comfortable living ; if with this he can be cheerful and happy, he has the earnest of more, and what is of much greater consequence, he has the pledge that more will not be his ruin.- Dr. Springs' Discourses.
PASTOR OF THE PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH, UNIVERSITY PLACE, NEW-YORK.
JUST MEN MADE PERFECT.
HEB. xii. 23.—“But ye are come- to the spirits of just men made perfect."
Between the dispensation of the Law, and that of the Gospel, there is an intimate connection, yet a manifest difference. The connection is like that which the beginning of a thing has with the end of it. The one was a preparation for the other, and bore the same relation to the other, as the breaking up of the field and the deposit of the winter grain in its furrows, bears to the golden harvest which is to be gathered under the heat of summer. We may ask, why the purposes of Jehovah toward his church should not have been accomplished without any such preparatory process: but this is like asking why the child was not born a man, or the seed a tree. Let it suffice to say that the law of Progress has been stamped upon the moral and natural worlds for reasons which can even now be vindicated as wise and good; and much more when the light of the heavenly future is made to fall upon the divine plans. But this, by the way. It is certain that the principles and designs of God's government of this world, have been progressively unfolded in its history, and that the full light of the evangelic dispensation had its beginning in the dim morning of the legal dispensation, in which were seen only the shadows of good things to come.
But if there be this intimate connection between the law and the gospel, there is also, as we have said, a manifest difference between them, amounting, in some things, even to contrast. Just so far as the first discoveries of a Redeemer went, so far the gospel was
preached before unto Abraham, and the blessings of the plan by which sinful men were justified through faith, were secured and enjoyed by ancient believers. But the brightness of the meridian day, is very different from the dimness of the morning twilight. The uncertain traveller fears the possible dangers of his road, and even harmless objects seem distorted and threatening. This is always more or less true of a state of imperfect knowledge; a timid imagination will often conjure up more dangers than really exist. But in respect to the imperfect knowledge of the first dispensation, there was room for more than the workings of a timid imagination. There was, in fact, a stern and awful severity in the revelations of the divine law and justice to ancient Israel, which made them oftentimes very appalling, especially to such as did not penetrate the purposes of mercy which lay bid in the prophecies and ceremonies of the Old Testament Church. The law more than the gospel-the just indignation of God against sin, more than the mercy of God toward the sinner, characterized that dispensation; and of consequence, the experience even, of the devout worshipper, partook more of the spirit of bondage.'
In the well known passage of which the text forms a part, the apostle points out the contrast between the two dispensations in this respect. On the one hand, he reminds the Hebrew Christians that they are not brought by the gospel into the midst of the appalling wonders which accompanied the re-announcement of the broken but changeless law of Jehovah: flames of fire, and blackness, and darkness, and tempest, and blasts of a trumpet, and an awful voice, speaking awful words: all of them tokens of authority, power and justice which caused even the man of God to say, “I exceedingly fear and quake” Over-topping Sinai with its terrors, they were summoned to behold Mount Zion, “eternal sunshine resting on its head," and, spreading on all sides of it, the heavenly city, the New Jerusalem, the beauty of holiness, whose glory all the symbols of earth fail to describe. Instead of terror-stricken Israelites, who entreated that the voice of words should not speak again its unendurable threatenings, they were bidden to behold an innumerable company of angels, their countenances radiant with joy, as they looked into the grand mystery of redemption: and mingling with them in holy brotherhood, the general assembly and church of the first-born, enrolled as citizens of heaven. Instead of God, the judge, executing justice against transgressors, they were called to behold God, the judge of all, surrounded by the ransomed and perfected spirits of just men: and finally-giving lustre to all, because the author of the reconciliation by which these once repellant
elements were harmonized-they are directed to look upon Jesus, the Mediator of this New Covenant, whose blood of sprinkling spake better things than the blood of Abel.
That the apostle means to present these things in contrast, there can be no doubt. Nor is the object he had in view at all doubtful He aims to animate the soul with all the hopeful emotions, which such an attractive group of objects would naturally awaken. Courage, joy and peace in believing, must follow from steadily contemplating the array of blessings provided in the New Covenant; and in the hope of at last participating in the fulness, the believing Hebrew to whom he was writing, would find the best support under the persecutions to which his faith was then exposing him.
Out of this brilliant collection of evangelic glories, I have selected one-with the hope that a more particular consideration of it than we should be able to give, were we to notice each of the fear tures of the picture, may animate our souls also, with similar anticipations. Our visit, to-day, shall be to heaven. And glad are we to get away, for a season, from the sights and sounds of the world we live in; for though a prison of hope, it is still a prison. We are not at home: we are not come to our heritage-and it is only wonderful that we should not, much oftener than we do, look forward with delight to the day of our discharge. It is for the purpose of quickening your desires, that we now call upon you, my brethren, to consider the holy group of just men made perfect, into communion with whom, faith brings us.
The subject before us, invites our attention-
III. To the NATURE of the condition enjoyed by the spirits of just men made perfect.'
I. The reality of their condition calls for a brief notice.
The first thing the mind needs to be assured of, is the fact of an immortal and spiritual future. All speculation as to its nature must be comparatively useless and inoperative, until we have attained to the conviction that it is a great truth—a certainty, not a mere possibility—a reality, not a dream of a hopeful imagination. And to reach such a conviction, so that it may act upon us with a force as great as the assurance we all feel that the sun will rise to-morrow, ought to be a principal aim of the soul. The more positive and definite our faith is in the glorious fact, that "there remaineth a rest for the people of God," the more will all our move. ments harmonize with the requirements of the gospel which reveals
it. The evidence upon which this truth is established, addresses itself to the whole man, to the heart as well as to the understanding. If I am to debate the question with any one, upon the ground of mere reason, I should feel that much of the success of the argument must depend upon the degree in which the higher instincts of human nature are in active operation within him. If he bas trained his understanding altogether in the school of material science, and much more, if he has educated himself in the school of sensuality, I should feel that the doctrine of a future spiritual holy life would have but a feeble hold upon his belief, because in either of the supposed cases, the moral instincts of the soul are deadened by neglect or abuse, and the doctrine is deprived of the powerful testimony which these instincts give. While on the other hand, if, as you will all admit, the highest specimens of our human nature are precisely those in whom the mental and moral powers have been most har. . moniously developed, it is no small presumptive proof of immortality, that it is with such minds that the argument for the perpetuity of our nature is most powerful. The impulse of Hope which prompts us to look for something good, and of Fear, which apprehends something evil, both point to the future. The warm affections which bind us together in the relations that compose this life, and which make the thought of a final and irreparable breaking of the bonds, appaling ; and the inveterate clinging to existence, coupled with longings after a higher state of knowledge, purity and happiness, what are these, but so many witnesses to the truth, that “though a man die, yet shall he live again ?” In all these, (as in other respects that we might name,) it is true, that "nothing This life unriddles, but the next.”
It is to this class of evidences that the word of God does most powerfully appeal. Our faith in the reality of the future life of the people of God-here called "just men made perfect"-does not rest exlcusively upon a divine declaration of the fact, in the sbape of a logical proposition : That we have, and if we had no other evidence of the fact, that would be enough. But in giving that assurance, the word of liod does not limit itself to a bare affirmation of it,but, taking it for granted rather, it weaves it into every discovery it makes of the character and will of God, and the relations of man. All is made to bear upon the grand fact that he is immortal. This lies at the basis of accountability. It is no less presupposed in the Law than in the Gospel. For when it is said that Jesus Christ brought life and immortality to light, it is not meant that he was the first to reveal this truth to the world, but only that he most fully exposed to view the nature of immortal life, and especially the condi