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our Lord's words, " How hardly shall they that have riches enter into the kingdom of God!" And St. James, “ Hath not God chosen the poor of this world, rich in faith, and heirs of the kingdom" ?" For three centuries they had no need to think of those words, for Christ remembered them, and kept them humble; but when he left them to themselves, then they did voluntarily what they had hitherto suffered patiently. They were resolved that the Gospel character of a Christian should be theirs. Still, Christ, in the Gospels, makes His followers poor and weak, and lowly and simple-minded; men of plain lives, men of prayer, not " faring sumptuously,” or clad in “soft raiment,” or “taking thought for the morrow.” They recollected what He said to the young Ruler, " If thou wilt be perfect, go and sell that thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven, and come and follow Me.” And so they put off their "gay clothing," their “ gold, and pearls, and costly array;" they "sold that they had, and gave alms ;” they “washed one another's feet;" they “had all things common. They formed themselves into communities for prayer and praise, for labour and study, for the care of the poor, for mutual edification, and preparation for Christ; and thus, as soon as the world professed to be Christian, Christians at once set up among them a witness against the world, and kings and monks came into the Church together. And from that time to this, never has the union of Church with State prospered, but when she was united also with the hermitage and the cell.
Moreover, in those religious ages, Christians avoided greatness in the Church as well as in the world. They would not accept rank and station on account of their spiritual peril, when they were no longer encompassed by temporal trials. When they were elected to the episcopate, when they were exhorted to the priesthood, they fled away and hid themselves. They recollected our LORD's words, “ Whosoever will be chief among you, let him be your servant;" and again, “Be not ye called Rabbi; for one is your Master, even Christ, and all ye are brethren ?." And when discovered and forced to the eminence which they shunned, they made much lament, and were in many tears. And they felt that their higher consideration in the world demanded
Mark 2, 23.
1 James ii. 5.
? Matt. xx. 27 ; xxiii. 8.
of them some greater strictness and self-denial in their course of life, lest it should turn to a curse, lest the penance of which it would defraud them here, should be visited on them in manifold measure hereafter. They feared to have “their good things'
their consolation” on earth, lest they should not have Lazarus' portion in heaven. That state of things indeed is now long passed away, but let us not miss the doctrinal lesson which it conveys, if we will not take it for our pattern.
Before I conclude, however, I must take notice of an objection which may be made. to what I have been saying. It may
be asked, " Are not these dangerous things the gifts of God? Are they not even called blessings ? Did not God bestow riches and honour upon Solomon as a reward? And did He not praise him for praying for wisdom ? And does not St. Paul say, 'Covet earnestly the best gifts ?!” It is true; nor did I ever mean to say that these things were bad in themselves, but bad for us, if we seek them as ends; and dangerous to us, from their fascination. “Every creature of God is good," as St. Paul says,
"and nothing to be refused *;" but circumstances may make good gifts injurious in our particular case. Wine is good in itself, but not for a man in a fever. If our souls were in perfect health, riches and authority, and strong powers of mind, would be very suitable to us: but they are weak and diseased, and require so great a grace of God to bear them well, that we may be well content to be without them.
Still it may be urged, Are we then absolutely to give them up if we have them, and not accept them when offered ? It may be a duty to keep them, it is sometimes a duty to accept them; for in certain cases God calls upon us not so much to put them away, as to put away our old natures, and make us new hearts and new spirits, wherewith to receive them. At the same time, it is merely for our safety to know their perilous nature, and to beware of them, and in no case to take them simply for their own sake, but with a view to God's glory. They must be instruments in our hands to promote the cause of Gospel truth. And, in this light, they have their value, and impart their real pleasure ; but be it remembered, that value, and that happiness, are imparted by the
3 1 Cor. xii. 31.
4 1 Tim, iv. 4.
end to which they are dedicated; It is "the altar that sanctifieth the gifts :" but, compared with the end to which they must be directed, their real and intrinsic excellence is little indeed.
In this point of view it is, that we are to covet earnestly the best gifts: for it is a great privilege to be allowed to serve the Church. Have we wealth ? let it be the means of extending the knowledge of the truth-abilities ? of recommending it-power? of defending it.
From what I have said concerning the danger of possessing the things which the world admires, we may draw the following rule: use them, as far as given, with gratitude for what is really good in them, and with a desire to promote God's glory by means of them ; but do not go out of the way to seek them. They will not on the whole make you happier, and they may make you less religious.
For us, indeed, who are all the adopted children of God our SAVIOUR, what addition is wanting to complete our happiness? What can increase their peace who believe and trust in the Son of God? Shall we add a drop to the ocean, or grains to the sand of the sea ? Shall we ask for an earthly inheritance, who have the fulness of an heavenly one; power, when in prayer we can use the power of Christ; or wisdom, guided as we may be by the true Wisdom and Light of men ? It is in this sense that the Gospel of Christ is a leveller of ranks: we pay, indeed, our superiors full reverence, and with cheerfulness as unto the LORD; and we honour eminent talents as deserving admiration and reward; and the more readily act we thus, because these are little things to pay.
The time is short; year follows year, and the world is passing away. It is of small consequence to those who are beloved of God, and walk in the Spirit of truth, whether they pay or receive honour, which is but transitory and profitless. To the true Christian the world assumes another and more interesting appearance, it is no longer a stage for the great and noble, for the ambitious to fret in, and the wealthy to revel in; but it is a scene of probation. Every soul is a candidate for immortality. And the more we realize this view of things, the more will the accidental distinctions of nature or fortune die away from our view, and we shall be led habitually to pray, that upon every Christian may descend, in rich abundance, not merely worldly goods, but that heavenly grace which alone can turn this world to good account for us, and make it the path of peace and of life everlasting
5 Matt. xxiii. 19.
THE SEASON OF EPIPHANY.
John ii. 11.
“ This beginning of miracles did Jesus in Cana of Galilee, and manifested
forth His glory; and His disciples believed on Him."
Tue Epiphany is a season especially set apart for adoring the glory of Christ. The word may be taken to mean the manifes. tation of His glory, and leads us to the contemplation of Him as a King upon His throne in the midst of His court, with His servants around Him, and His guards in attendance. At Christmas we commemorate His grace; and in Lent His temptation ; and on Good Friday His sufferings and death ; and on EasterDay His victory; and on Holy Thursday His return to the FATHER; and in Advent we anticipate His second coming. And on all of these He does something, or suffers something : but in the Epiphany and the weeks after it, we celebrate Him, not as on His field of battle, or in His solitary retreat, but as an august and glorious King; we view Him as the Object of our worship. Then only, during His whole earthly history, did He fulfil the type of Solomon, and held (as I may say) a court, and received the homage of His subjects; viz. when He was an infant. His throne was His undefiled Mother's arms; His chamber of state was a cottage or a cave; the worshippers were the wise men of the East, and they brought presents, gold, frankincense, and myrrh. All around and ahout Him seemed of earth, except to the eye of faith ; one