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since they are secured by the “ promise of Him who cannot lie.”
On this account they are strikingly contrasted with earthly recompenses.
The most passionate votary of the world is never certain he shall possess an adequate recompense for all his toil, and care, and earthly sacrifices. How often does she mock her followers with delusive hopes, entangle them in endless cares, and exhaust them with hopeless and consuming passions; and, after all, assign them no compensation. After years of unremitting fatigue and unnceasing anxiety, the object they have pursued eludes their grasp, or appears as remote as ever, till, at the close of life, they are compelled to sit down in hopeless disappointment, and confess that they have “ sown to the wind, and reaped the whirlwind.” Of the many prizes which the world exhibits to human hope, there is not one whose possession is certain; nor is there a single desire with which she inspires her votaries but what is liable to become a source of anguish, by being disappointed of its gratification. Whatever be the immediate object of pursuit, success depends on circumstances quite out of our power; we are often as much injured by the folly of others as by our own. If the object which we are pursuing be highly desirable, others feel its attraction as well as ourselves; and we find ourselves engaged in a race where there are many competitors, but only one can gain the prize.
How different is it with heavenly rewards ! · In
relation to them, no well-meant effort is unsuccessful. We lay up as much treasure there as we sincerely and perseveringly endeavour to accumulate; nor is the success of our efforts liable to be defeated by the jealousy of rivals.
Our attempts to promote the benefit of our fellow-creatures are estimated according to their events rather than their intentions; and, however sincere and zealous they may have been, unless they are productive of some probable benefit, they are treated with neglect and ingratitude.
How different, in regard to the recompenses of Heaven! He will reward not only the services we have performed, but those which it was our wish to have performed. The sincere intention is recompensed as well as the deed.
“ Because this was in thine heart, and thou hast not asked riches, wealth, or honour, nor the life of thine enemies, neither yet hast asked long life; but hast asked wisdom and knowledge for thyself, that thou mayest judge my people, over whom I have made thee king: wisdom and knowledge is granted unto thee.” * The friendship of mankind is sometimes as much endangered by the greatness of the benefit conferred as by neglect; and, while little acts of attention and kindness cement the ties of friendship, such is the perverseness of human nature, that great favours weaken and dissolve them.
While they are sufficiently aware of the advantages that they derive, they hate the obligation which they entail; and, feeling themselves incapable of making an adequate return, they consult at once their pride and their indolence by forgetting it. But how different is it in relation to the Supreme Being: we can never lay Him under obligation; yet his kindness disposes, while his opulence enables him, to reward in the most liberal manner.
* 2 Chron. i. 11.
Many are so immersed in meanness and folly, that they have little care but to be amused: the voice of truth and the admonitions of wisdom are discord to their ear; and he who desires to conciliate their regard must not attempt to do them good, but must soothe their pride, inflame their corruptions, and hasten on their destruction. They are of the temper of Ahab, the king of Israel, who caressed the false prophets that lured him on to his ruin, whilst he avowed his hatred of Micaiah, because he “ prophesied evil of him, and not good.”*
The disinterested patriot, who devotes his nights and days to promote the interests of his country, may very probably fall a victim to its vengeance, by being made answerable for events beyond human foresight or control; and one unsuccessful undertaking shall cancel the remembrance of a series of the most brilliant achievements.
The most important services frequently fail of being rewarded when they are not recommended by their union with the ornamental appendages of rank or fortune. “ There was a little city, and few men within it; and there came a great king against it, and besieged it, and built great bulwarks against it: now there was found in it a poor wise man, and he by his wisdom delivered the city; yet no man remembered that same poor man.”* From these, and various other causes that might be specified, we see how uncertain are the recompenses of this world, and how delusive the expectations they excite, and to what cruel reverses and disappointments they are exposed.
1 Kings xxii. 8.
How different the reward which awaits us in heaven; how infallibly certain the promise of him that cannot lie; how secure the treasure that is laid up in heaven, which “rust cannot corrupt, nor thieves break through and steal!” They are not liable to the fluctuations of time and chance, but are secured by the promise and the oath of God.
II. The recompenses of heaven are satisfying. How far this quality is from attaching to the emoluments and pleasures of this world, universal experience can attest. They are so far from satisfying, that their effect uniformly is to inflame the desires which they fail to gratify.
The pursuit of riches is one of the most common and the most seductive which occupy the attention of mankind; and, no doubt, they assume, at a distance, a most fascinating aspect. They flatter their votary with the expectation of real and substantial bliss ; but no sooner has he attained the portion of opulence to which he aspired, than he feels himself as remote as ever from satisfaction. The same desire revives with fresh vigour; his thirst for farther acquisitions is more intense than ever ; what he before esteemed riches sinks, in his present estimation, to poverty; and he transfers the name to ampler possessions and larger revenues. Say, did you ever find the votary of wealth who could 'sit down contented with his present acquisitions ? Nor is it otherwise with the desire of fame, or the love of power and preeminence.
* Eccles. ix. 14, 15.
The man of pleasure is still, if possible, under a greater incapacity of finding satisfaction. The violence of his desires renders him a continual
prey to uneasiness; imagination is continually suggesting new modes and possibilities of indulgence, which subject him to fresh agitation and disquiet. A long course of prosperity, a continued series of indulgences, produces at length a sickly sensibility, a childish impatience of the slightest disappointment or restraint. One desire ungratified is sufficient to mar every enjoyment, and to impair the relish for every other species of good. Witness Haman, who, after enumerating the various ingredients of a most brilliant fortune, adds, “ Yet all this availeth me nothing, so long as I see Mordecai the Jew sitting
in the gate.
The recompenses of the world are sometimes just, though they never satisfy; hence the frequency of suicide.
III. The recompenses of heaven are eternal.