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THE EXCELLENCY OF RELIGIOUS WISDOM.
Fearing lest while setting forth to you the value of religious wisdom, I should by the use of so general an expression, have exposed you to the danger of entertaining but an uncertain and indistinct idea of that which I really intended, I have thought it right thus briefly to remind you, that your religion is Christianity, and what the most distinguished features of that religion are.
This, my brethren, is the religion," the beginning of knowledge;" the first and highest wisdom, which I exhort you as Christians to cultivate. All other knowledge, all other acquirements without it, will one day be found to be but "vanity and vexation of spirit;" but this will comfort and sustain you in all the trials which befall you in this troublesome world, and will lead you on, by the guidance of a lively faith and cheerful hope, till you arrive at that last hour, which shall set you free from the pains and anxieties of life, and disclose to you the entrance into that blessed abode, where you shall for ever participate in the glory and happiness of the Redeemer, whose "cross you have borne daily" upon the earth.
DIVES AND LAZARUS.
LUKE xvi. 22, 23.
And it came to pass that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels into Abraham's bosom ;—the rich man also died and was buried;
And in hell he lift up his eyes, being in torments, and seeth Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom.
AND are these then to be the respective conditions of the rich and the poor in a future world? What! are all the luxuries and pleasures and enjoyments of the wealthy to terminate in the pains and torments of hell, and the privations and distresses and diseases of the indigent to be exchanged for the fulness of joy, the repose, the satisfaction, the glory of heaven? Does so dreadful a reverse await the possessors of this world's short-lived happiness, so delightful a re
compense the sufferers under the light affliction of this momentary existence? Is it with so dismal a prospect before their eyes, that the seemingly favoured of the earth clothe themselves in their purple and fine linen, and sit down to feast at their sumptuous board; and with so cheering a hope that the outcast and wretched among men toil or beg for their, coarse garments and their scanty meals? Are earthly abundance and earthly destitutions both alike of so very brief endurance, -both alike to be repaid with such opposite conditions in eternity? Is the lordly reveller to be reduced to so abject a state, the humble supplicant at his door to be so highly exalted, that he, who was formerly petitioned for the mere wasted crumbs that fell from his loaded table, shall implore but so small a gift as a drop of water to cool his parched and thirsty tongue, and implore it of the very beggar whom he spurned, and implore it for ever without obtaining even that slight relief?
If this be indeed the truth, who then would be rich? Who would aspire after what are falsely called earthly advantages? Who would be cursed with the enjoyments of the world? Who would be cumbered with possessions, held only upon the condition of eternal ruin? Who would not rather prefer the most abject poverty,
the deepest affliction, the most desolate helplessness? Who would not, in that case, most cordially and sincerely exclaim with our blessed Saviour, "Blessed be ye poor! blessed be ye that hunger now! blessed be ye that weep now!""but woe unto you that are rich! woe unto you that are full! woe unto you that laugh now!"
But I do not intend to exaggerate, or to falsify the word of God; I do not wish to excite unfounded apprehensions in the rich, or undue confidence in the poor, as if happiness or misery in the world to come were the certain and inevitable consequences, the one of want, the other of wealth in this life;-as if heaven and hell were necessarily attached to the opposite extremes of external circumstances, in which it has pleased God to place men in this temporary theatre. I have no design to overstep the exact truth, which is simply this, that the offer of salvation is made to all mankind alike, without respect of persons, or distinction of classes; that in the distribution of God's favours, and in the awarding of God's punishments hereafter, there will be none of those questions, which so often determine men in their unjust preference, or rejection of their fellowcreatures, viz. as to the rank and quality and riches of individuals; but that all, high and low, great and little, rich and poor, stand in precisely
the same relation to God; that all are alike the objects of his love, that all alike should be the servants of his will, that all alike are encouraged with the same hopes, all alike threatened with the same fears, all alike, without exclusion or discrimination, included in the same gospel terms of redemption.
Here then, my brethren, is a fact, which at once exposes and condemns those two great errors which characterize respectively the two grand classes into which mankind may be divided. The errors I allude to are satisfaction with earthly prosperity, and discontent at earthly adversity. Here is a fact which annihilates at once the importance of the distinctions, from which those opposite feelings originate, and places all the world upon a level.
For of what real consequence is it whether worldly advantages be granted or denied? I see here assembled a congregation, composed of persons, on some of whom they are largely bestowed, from others almost wholly withheld. I see some on whom are showered all the comforts and conveniences and luxuries of life, without any labour or exertion of their own; others, who with all their toil, can scarcely procure the necessaries of existence, and who seem to be more the genuine descendants of that first sinner, on whom the