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THE PURSUIT OF WEALTH AND WORLDLY DISTINCTION UNLAWFUL TO THE CHRISTIAN.
MY DEAR FRIEND,
YOUR remarks, in our late conversation, on the importance of Christians avoiding extremes, have induced me afresh to search what the Scriptures teach us as to the walk in this world of one who desires to act as a disciple of Christ. The collating of some texts on the subject has been an interesting, and, I trust, profitable employment to myself. And I am disposed to lay them before you and others who thankfully and unreservedly acknowledge all Scripture to be given, that the man of God may be thoroughly furnished to all good works; and who desire to be taught therein all the duties that spring from love to our Saviour. But, before turning to particular texts, I would notice your caution as to the desirableness of avoiding extremes. Now, I fully grant that the Christian profession has often been dishonoured by zealous persons taking a strong view of some part of revealed truth, and giving it prominence and peculiar importance, to the neglect of other portions of the sacred oracles. Indeed, almost every page of ecclesiastical history furnishes some evidence of this tendency in our fallible minds. Yet, we must say, "Let God be true," though every man were found a liar. This word supplies rectifying principles for all our waywardness, ignorance, and folly, alike adapted for correction as for instruction: and we are charged to add knowledge to our faith. May the Lord grant us a single eye, that our whole body may be full of light!
God has been pleased to confirm his testimony by numerous declarations. Indeed, there is probably not any doctrinal or practical truth which rests only on a single statement in the inspired volume. But, surely, if we find a line of conduct prescribed by the concurrent testimony of evangelists and apostles, and beautifully marked also by the analogy of faith, we are bound to walk therein, though our path may be very solitary, though few whom we love as brethren accompany us, and though we may be exposed more than ever to the scorn of a world that never fails to count the rich happy, and praise men when they do well for themselves. Had we lived in the days of St. Paul, I am sure that, judging by the dictates of our fleshly minds, we should have considered him going to a dangerous extreme, when, after enumerating his external advantages, he declared that he counted all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus his Lord. Far be it from me to recommend any particular line of conduct, until we are fully persuaded that it is according to the true and faithful sayings of
THE PURSUIT OF WEALTH UNLAWFUL TO THE CHRISTIAN.
God. And I would here express my deep conviction, that service to the Lord should be cheerful service, rendered by no constraint but that of love to him: its perennial spring being the grace we have ourselves received overflowing in grace to others. Persons may listen to some self-denying truth, and adopt it from imitation, human persuasion, or from a lingering desire to establish a righteousness of their own. Such individuals, in times of persecution or tribulation, often fall away; having no root in themselves. They received doctrine from men, and not as it is, in truth, the word of God, which they are bound to maintain, from solemn responsibility to him, leaving the consequences in his mighty hand. But if we have indeed known the love of Jesus in dying for us, is it consistent with that grateful love which counts none of his commandments to be grievous, if we suffer our natural repugnance to the daily cross to deter us from honestly enquiring, "What wilt thou have me to do ?" I believe the answer from the word of the the Lord to such an enquiry would be, that many practices, sanctioned by the example of professing Christians, are connected with the friendship of the world; and that our long-cherished ideas on these subjects have been fostered in various ways, but not taught us by the Spirit of God. Axioms of human wisdom have been continually repeated, till we have forgotten from whence they originated. Nor are ministers of the Gospel exempt from the contagion: they add a word to the text, and then not unfrequently promulgate it, as if they were giving the law of the Lord. For instance, they warn men against the inordinate love of the world, as though a moderate love of it were suitable for a Christian. They not unfrequently even recommend eagerness in the pursuit of wealth, by very high encomiums on the directing of a few rivulets from the golden stream towards evangelising the world. They advise their hearers against the spirit of covetousness; but seldom is the unaltered text to be found in their sermons:- "They that will (desire to) be rich, fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and hurtful lusts, which drown men in destruction and perdition." Sincere and pious men may, probably, have got into this loose way of quoting and applying Scripture, from mingling together in their thoughts and memories the precepts of the Old and New Testament. They know that all Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for instruction in righteousness: and not having perceived the entire distinctness of the Mosaic and Christian dispensations, they do not rightly divide the word, nor observe the peculiar character of Jewish blessing. Promises of earthly prosperity are thus applied as if they were the inheritance of the faithful in Christ Jesus. Our Lord himself teaches
us, in his sermon on the Mount, that there is a positive contrast between the law given by Moses and his own self-denying precepts, when he says, Ye have heard that it hath been said by (or rather, to) them of old time; but I say unto you.
The call of the patriarchs partook both of a heavenly and earthly nature. Abraham became heir of the world by promise, yet had not so much as to set his foot on. He was prospered in outward substance, being very rich in cattle, in silver and in gold; yet at the same time he dwelt in tabernacles, looking for a city which hath foundations, whose maker and builder is God; confessing with the saints who had gone before him, that they seek a habitation, that is, a heavenly country. By faith Jacob, when he was a dying, blessed both the sons of Joseph;" but the benediction related to the earthly inheritance: "Let them grow into a multitude in the midst of the earth." And Joseph's commandment concerning his bones alike showed, that he looked by faith to his descendants' settlement in the land, which God had given by promise to Israel-a land flowing with milk and honey, where they were to be endowed with every blessing in basket and in store. The godliness of the Christian has indeed promise of the life that now is, and of that which is to come; but the only possession guaranteed to him of a temporal kind is, food and raiment (a stranger's not an Israelite's portion in the Old Testament), the things needful for the body, and contentment therewith, whilst walking in the path that Jesus trod.
Earthly promises and gifts to the Jews were doubtless typical of the better things reserved for us; and therefore, like the temple-service, and every part of the history of that chosen race, they are full of spiritual instruction to Christians. The good land, the land flowing with milk and honey, was God's promise to them, and therefore the proper object of an Israelite's faith; as was unbelief in them when they despised the inheritance set before them, that they might possess it; they were redeemed from bondage in Egypt, and led by the peculiar guidance of Jehovah, through a waste howling wilderness; and the things that happened to them are ensamples to us; and are written for our admonition during our pilgrimage to the heavenly Canaan, those mansions in the Father's house which Jesus is gone to prepare for us. But a careful examination of Scripture will shew, that God's dealing towards the Jews was quite distinct in its present character of blessing, from the "heavenly calling" of believers in Christ; and that these children of God were to be gathered out as witnesses on earth for their
* See Deut. x. 18.
rejected Saviour, to be hereafter joint-heirs in his glory, during that future period of millennial felicity, when Jerusalem shall be literally established, a praise in the earth; and the promises of temporal felicity to Israel shall be unfailingly realised by grace, their sins and their iniquities being remembered no more; when God, their own God shall bless them, and all the ends of the earth shall fear Him. Obedience was the condition on which depended the blessings of the covenant made with the Israelites at Mount Sinai, and we know how soon these blessings were forfeited; but in that awful hour, God remembered his holy promise to Abraham his servant, and He pardoned their sin, and gave his people the lands of the heathen, that they might observe his statutes, and keep his laws; but it is humiliating to observe how few and transient were the seasons when Israel walked in the way of the Lord; so that even during most of their history, prophetic judges, prophets, or other special witnesses for the truth, were raised up, of whom the world was not worthy; and these, in faithful testimony against the sins of their nation, were examples of suffering affliction, and of patience, being destitute, afflicted, tormented; but, self-denial, as the universal obligation of the godly, had no place among the sacred precepts, until Christ descended from heaven, and dwelt amongst men, pleasing not himself, leaving us an example that we should follow his steps. The subjoined comparison of texts may serve to show, that the very things which were given of God to the Jews, and therefore rightly enjoyed by them, are not so given to us; but that we are to be separated in principle and in practice, from a world that despised and crucified the Lord of glory. May this survey of our relative positions lead us to pursue the examination much further, and into many more particulars! I feel persuaded that the search will prove deeply instructive, in opening out to us our path of obedience, and I think also, that astonishment will fill the mind at our past ignorance of much which God has unfolded in His word;-may He give unto us the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Jesus!
Conditional Promises to a Jew dependent upon Obedience.
Deut. xxviii. 1. And it shall come to pass, if thou shalt hearken diligently unto the voice of the Lord thy God, to observe and to do all his commandments which I command thee this day, that the Lord thy God will set thee on high above all nations of the earth.
Conditional Promises to a Christian Connected with Discipleship.
2 Tim. iii. 12. All that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution.
John xv. 19. If ye were of the world, the world would love his own; but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you.
Deut. xxviii. 2, 3. And all these blessings shall come on thee, and overtake thee, if thou shalt hearken unto the voice of the Lord thy God. Blessed shalt thou be in the field.
Deut. xxviii. 5. Blessed shall be thy basket and thy store.
Deut. xxviii. 7. The Lord shall cause thine enemies that rise up against thee to be smitten before thy face: they shall come out against thee one way, and flee before thee seven ways.
Deut. xx. 4. For the Lord your God is he that goeth before you, to fight for you against your enemies.
Deut. xxviii. 8. The Lord shall command the blessing upon thee in thy storehouses, and in all that thou settest thine hand unto; and he shall bless thee in the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee.
Deut. xxviii. 13. And the Lord shall make thee the head, and not the tail; and thou shalt be above only, and thou shalt not be beneath; if that thou hearken unto the commandments of the Lord thy God, which I command thee this day.
Deut. iv. 40. Thou shalt keep therefore his statutes and his commandments, which I command thee this day, that it may go well with thee, and with thy children after thee, and that thou mayest prolong thy days upon the earth which the Lord thy God giveth thee for ever.
Character of Jewish Blessing. Num. xiii. 17. And Moses sent them to spy out the land. Ver. 21. So they went up and searched the land. Ver. 23. And they came unto the brook of Eshcol, and cut down from thence a branch with one cluster of grapes, and they bare it between two, upon a staff; and they brought of the pomegranates, and of the figs.
Num. xiii. 26. And they went and came to Moses, and Aaron, and to all the congregation of the children of
John xv. 20. Remember the word that I said unto you, The servant is not greater than his Lord. If they have persecuted me, they will also persecute you.
John xvi. 33. In the world ye shall have tribulation, but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.
John xviii. 36. Jesus answered, My kingdom is not of this world: if my kingdom were of this world, then would my servants fight, that I should not be delivered to the Jews: but now is my kingdom not from hence.
Mat. xviii. 1-4. At the same time came the disciples unto Jesus, saying, Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven? And Jesus called a little child unto him, and set him in the midst of them, and said, Verily I say unto you, Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven. Whosoever therefore shall humble himself as this little child, the same is greatest in the kingdom of heaven.
Mat. xi. 29. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart and ye shall find rest unto your souls.
Mat. xvi. 24, 25. Then said Jesus unto his disciples, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me ; for whosoever will save his life shall lose it and whosoever will lose his life for my sake, shall find it.
Character of Christian Blessing. John xvi. 13. Howbeit, when He the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak : and he will shew you things to come.
Eph. i. 13, 14. In whom (Christ), also after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that holy Spirit of promise, which is the earnest of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession.