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sleep," and, “in much wisdom is much grief, and he that increaseth knowledge increaseth sorrow ?." But however this may be, at least these outward advantages do not increase our happi
Let me ask any one who has succeeded in any object of his desire, has he experienced in his success that full, that lasting satisfaction which he anticipated? Did not some feeling of disappointment, of weariness, of satiety, of disquietude, after a short time, steal over his mind? I think it did; and if so, what reason has he to suppose that that greater share of reputation, opulence, and influence which he has not, and which he desires, would, if granted him, suffice to make him happy? No; the fact is certain, however slow and unwilling we may be to believe it, none of these things bring the pleasure which we beforehand suppose they will bring. Watch narrowly the persons who possess them, and
you will at length discover the same uneasiness and occasional restlessness which others have ; you will find that there is just a something beyond, which they are striving after, or just some one thing which annoys and distresses them. The good things you admire please for the most part only while they are new : now those who have them are accustomed to them, so they care little for them, and find no alleviation in them for the anxieties and cares which still remain. It is fine, in prospect and imagination, to be looked up to, admired, applauded, courted, feared, to have a name among men, to rule their opinions or their actions by our word, to create a stir by our movements, while men cry,
Bow the knee,” before us; but none knows so well how vain is the world's praise, as he who has it. And why is this? It is, in a word, because the soul was made for religious employments and pleasures ; and hence, that no temporal blessings, however exalted or refined, can satisfy it. As well might we attempt to sustain the body on chaff, as to feed and nourish the immortal soul with the pleasures and occupations of the world.
Only thus much, then, shall I say on the point of worldly advantages not bringing present happiness. But next, let us consider that, rather, they are positively dangerous to our eternal interests.
Many of these things, if they did no other harm, at least are
2 Eccles. i. 18.
injurious to our souls, by taking up the time which might else be given to religion. Much intercourse with the world, which eminence and station render a duty, has a tendency to draw off the mind from God, and deaden it to the force of religious motives and considerations. There is a want of sympathy between much business and calm devotion, great splendour and a simple faith, which will be to no one more painful than to the Christian, to whom God has assigned some post of especial responsibility or distinction. To maintain a religious spirit in the midst of engagements and excitements of this world is possible only to a saint ; nay, the case is the same though our business be one of a cha. ritable and religious nature, and though our chief intercourse is with those whom we believe to have their minds set upon religion, and whose principles and conduct are not likely to withdraw our feet from the narrow way of life. For here we are likely to be deceived from the very circumstance that our employments are religious ; and our end, as being a right one, will engross us, and continually tempt us to be inattentive to the means, and the spirit in which we pursue it. Our LORD alludes to the danger of multiplied occupations in the Parable of the Sower: “He that received seed among the thorns, is he that heareth the word, and the cares of this world and the deceitfulness of riches choke the word, and he becometh unfruitful.”
Again, these worldly advantages, as they are called, will seduce us into an excessive love of them. We are too well inclined by nature to live by sight, rather than by faith ; and besides the immediate enjoyment, there is something so agreeable to our natural tastes in the honours and emoluments of the world, that it requires an especially strong mind, and a large measure of grace, not to be gradually corrupted by them. We are led to set our hearts upon them, and in the same degree to withdraw them from God. We become unwilling to leave this visible state of things, and to be left on a level with those multitudes who are at present inferior to ourselves. Prosperity is sufficient to seduce, although not to satisfy. Hence death and judgment are unwelcome subjects of reflection to the rich and powerful ; for death takes from them those comforts which habit has made necessary to them, and throws them adrift on a new order of things, of
which they know nothing, save that in it there is no respect of persons.
And as these goods lead us to love the world, so again do they lead us to trust in the world : we not only become worldly. minded, but unbelieving; our wills becoming corrupt, our understandings also become dark, and disliking the truth, we gradually learn to maintain and defend error. St. Paul speaks of those who “ having put away a good conscience, concerning faith made shipwreck 3.” Familiarity with this world makes men discontented with the doctrine of the narrow way; they fall into heresies, and attempt to attain salvation on easier terms than those which CHRIST holds out to us. In a variety of ways this love of the world operates. Men's opinions are imperceptibly formed by their wishes. If, for instance, we see our worldly prospects depend, humanly speaking, upon a certain person, we are led to court him, to honour him, and adopt his views, and trust in an arm of flesh, till we forget the overruling power of God's providence, and the necessity of His blessing, for the building of the house and the keeping of the city.
And moreover, these temporal advantages, as they are considered, have a strong tendency to render us self-confident. When a man has been advanced in the world by means of his own industry and skill, when he began poor and ends rich, how apt will he be to pride himself, and confide, in his own contrivances and his own resources ! Or when a man feels himself possessed of good abilities; of quickness in entering into a subject, or of powers of argument to discourse readily upon it, or of acuteness to detect fallacies in dispute with little effort, or of a delicate and cultivated taste, so as to separate with precision the correct and beautiful in thought and feeling from the faulty and irregular, how will such an one be tempted to self-complacency and self-approbation! how apt will he be to rely upon himself, to rest contented with himself; to be harsh and impetuous; or supercilious; or to be fastidious, indolent, unpractical; and to despise the pure, self-denying, humble temper of religion, as something irrational, dull, enthusiastic, or needlessly rigorous !
3 1 Tim. i. 19.
These considerations on the extreme danger of possessing temporal advantages, will be greatly strengthened by considering the conduct of holy men when gifted with them. Take, for instance, Hezekiah, one of the best of the Jewish kings. He, too, had been schooled by occurrences which one might have thought would have beaten down all pride and self-esteem. The king of Assyria had come against him, and seemed prepared to overwhelm him with his hosts ; and he had found his God a mighty Deliverer, cutting off in one night of the enemy an hundred fourscore and five thousand men. And again, he had been miraculously recovered from sickness, when the sun's shadow turned ten degrees back, to convince him of the certainty of the promised recovery. Yet when the king of Babylon sent ambassadors to congratulate him on this recovery, we find this holy man ostentatiously displaying to them his silver, and gold, and armour. Truly the heart is “deceitful above all things;” and it was, indeed, to manifest this more fully that God permitted him thus to act. God “ left him," says the inspired writer, “to try him, that he might know all that was in his heart *." Let us take David as another instance of the great danger of prosperity; he, too, will exemplify the unsatisfactory nature of temporal goods : for which, think you, was the happier, the lowly shepherd or the king of Israel? Observe his simple reliance on God and his composure, when advancing against Goliath: “ The Lord,” he says, “that delivered me out of the paw of the lion and out of the paw of the bear, He will deliver me out of the hand of this Philistine.” And compare this with his grievous sins, his continual errors, his weaknesses, inconsistencies, and then his troubles and mortifications after coming to the throne of Israel ; and who will not say that his advancement was the occasion of both sorrow and sin, which, humanly speaking, he would have escaped, had he died amid the sheepfolds of Jesse ? He was indeed most wonderfully sustained by Divine grace, and died in the fear of God; yet what rightminded and consistent Christian but must shrink from the bare notion of possessing a worldly greatness so corrupting and seducing as David's kingly power was shown to be in the instance of so great a Saint? The case of Solomon is still more striking ;
4 2 Chron. xxxii. 31.
01 Sam. xvii. 37.
his falling away even surpasses our anticipation of what our Saviour calls “the deceitfulness of riches.” He may indeed, for what is known, have repented; but at least the history tells us nothing of it. All we are told is, that “King Solomon loved many strange women ...
• , and it came to pass when Solomon was old, that his wives turned away his heart after other gods; and his heart was not perfect with the Lord his God, as was the heart of David his father. For Solomon went after Ashtaroth, the goddess of the Sidonians, and after Milcom, the abomination of the Ammonites." Yet this was he who had offered up that most sublime and affecting prayer at the Dedication of the Temple, and who, on a former occasion, when the ALMIGHTY gave him the choice of any blessing he should ask, had preferred an understanding heart to long life, and honour, and riches.
So dangerous, indeed, is the possession of the goods of this world, that to judge from the Scripture history, seldom has God given unmixed prosperity to any one whom He loves. “ Blessed is the man,” says the Psalmist, “ whom Thou chastenest, and teachest him out of Thy law?.” Even the best men require some pain or grief to sober them and keep their hearts right. Thus, to take the example of St. Paul himself, even his labours, sufferings, and anxieties, he tells us, would not have been sufficient to keep him from being exalted above measure, through the abundance of the revelations, unless there had been added some further cross,
thorn in the flesh ®,” as he terms it, some secret affliction, of which we are not particularly informed, to humble him, and to keep him in a sense of his weak and dependent condition.
The history of the Church after him affords us an additional lesson of the same serious truth. For three centuries it was exposed to heathen persecution; during that long period God's Hand was upon His people : what did they do when that Hand was taken off? How did they act when the world was thrown open to them, and the saints possessed the high places of the earth ? did they enjoy it? far from it, they shrank from that, which they might, had they chosen, have made much of; they denied themselves what was set before them; when God's Hand was removed, their own hand was heavy upon them. Wealth, honour, and power, they put away from them. They recollected 6 1 Kings xi. 1. 4, 5. 7 Psalm xciv, 12.
8 2 Cor. xii. 7.