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Thirdly: The general history of mankind. Does not the history of Christian evangelization to the present hour, show that not “many of the rich and mighty are called” ? There were two apostates in the first era of the Church,-Judas, and Demas, and it was the love of money that ruined them. There were but two rich men that evinced any love for Christ, and they were both cowards, Nicodemus, and Joseph of Arimathea.
THE MIND OF
II. THAT THIS IMMENSE DIFFICULTY IS SUFFICIENT TO AWAKEN,
THE THOUGHTFUL, THE MOST PROFOUND SOLICITUDE. “Who then can be saved ?" This question arose not from idle curiosity, not as a mere proposition for speculative debate, but as a profoundly anxious problem of the heart. There were three things perhaps which served to make the disciples supremely solicitous on this point at this moment : First: The transcendent importance of salvation to every
Having been with Christ for some time, they had heard His impressive teaching on the great question of the soul's salvation ; and having had themselves a spiritual foretaste of “eternal life,” they unquestionably felt that if a man missed salvation he missed everything in the universe worth having ; nay, that the very missing of salvation would make self, Christ, and the universe, an intolerable curse to the soul. If this was their impression it was right. “What shall it profit a man?” &c. And if this, moreover, was their impression, it was natural for them to feel the deepest solicitude in the question, “Who then can be saved ?" Another thing that, perhaps, would increase their anxiety on the question was :
Secondly: The commonness of that universal difficulty which Christ specified. They knew that whilst wealthy men were a very insignificant minority in every country and community, yet wealth-desiring and wealth-loving men abounded everywhere. Whilst few possessed wealth, nearly all men desired it, struggled for it, and worshipped it; and it was in a state of mind common almost to the whole race that the difficulty lay. They would probably thus reason,-Since wealth-loving is such an immense obstruction to salvation, and since all men seem to have more or less of this feeling in them, “ Who then can be saved ?” Where are the men to be found free from this money-loving impulse? Another thing that, perhaps would increase their anxiety on the question was: --
Thirdly : The rare excellencies of the young man who had just striven after salvation, but had fiziled. Here was a young man of considerable religious intelligence, of unblemished moral reputation, who had great respect for Christ, and a great desire for future blessedness; one too, whom Christ loved, who had made an earnest application for salvation, but who failed, and was gone away from Christ “sorrowful ! ”
Would they not reason thus,—If a young man of such rare excellencies, so distinguished in certain points of goodness from the great bulk of our kind, fail, who can succeed ?
We can thus account for their anxiety, would that we could adequately feel it! “Who then can be saved ?”
III. TAAT THE DIFFICULTY, THOUGH IMMENSELY GREAT, CAN BE OVERCOME BY GOD. “ With man this is impossible,” &c. Two remarks will serve to illustrate this :
First : That the salvation of any man, with this state of mind, is impossible to God as well as to man. So long as a man loves the pelf, powers, and pleasures, of the world he cannot be saved. The tree of life and the fruits of paradise cannot grow in such a heart, the springs of “eternal life” cannot wellup
from such a nature. In other words God Himself cannot save a man in his sins.
Secondly: That the salvation of any man, in any way, is impossible to all but God. He alone can overcome this wealth-loving power, as well as every other element in the soul that is antagonistic to salvation. He has done so in millions of instances, and will continue to do so, but never independently of the sinner's own agency.
Germs of Thought.
SUBJECT :-Fidelity Reviewed and its Reward Anticipated.
“I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith : henceforth there is laid up,” &c.—2 Tim. iv. 7, 8.
Analysis of Homily the Four Hundred and Sebenty-eighth.
EVERY word of God is pure, and all scripture is profitable. Yet inspired compositions are not all alike, either in their themes, their strains, or their adaptation to interest and profit their readers. Some portions of the Holy Book are like the better buildings of a city, the taller trees of a plantation, the lovelier objects in a landscape, or the brighter stars of the firmament. They attract general attention, afford peculiar pleasure, and are far more easily kept in remembrance. The frequent sight of these distinguished objects deprives them of the charm of novelty ; but it does not at all diminish their grandeur, their beauty, or their worth.
To these more precious and impressive portions of the inspired word, the text, now to be considered, belongs. We are familiar with its phraseology, and we may be well acquainted with its origin, its meaning, and its application. Still it may be useful to reflect upon it, not simply as the language of its particular writer, but as language which may be appropriated by others on their coming to the close of their earthly existence.
This passage forms an epitomized record of Paul's past life and labors; and an expression of the confidence he felt concerning his future happiness. The epistle containing it is' believed to have been the last which he wrote ; and it was written from Rome, where he was then suffering "trouble, even unto bonds.” On his first visit to the imperial city, he went as a prisoner, and we are indebted to that imprisonment for several of the epistles bearing his name. After his release, in A.D. 58, but little is known of his personal history. We may, however, be sure that the eight or ten years of his remaining life would be devoted to the service of his Saviour. Believing himself a debtor to rude and barbarous nations, as well as to the civilized portions of the world, he may have spent some of these years in discharging the debt wbich be acknowledged. But we have no traditions from which we can determine the spheres in which he labored. One thing is certain, that he returned to Rome, and there received the crown of martyrdom. Long before this second visit, Christianity had gained so many converts that those who were concerned for the maintenance of heathenism became seriously alarmed at the progress of the new religion. To arrest its course, its enemies were ready to resort either to calumny or to violence,- to use either the false tongue or the hurtful sword. Incendiarism, in the burning of Rome ; atheism, in renouncing the worship of the gods; immoral practices and inhuman rites at their secret meetings ; were some of the crimes imputed to them; and for the expiation of which the Roman populace demanded the shedding of their blood. The Emperor's gardens were turned into a circus, in which the calumniated Christians were publicly tortured for the gratification of their sanguinary persecutors. It was while these atrocities were being perpetrated, that Paul returned to Rome. Why he ventured back at such a time we know not; but it seems nearly certain that, soon after his arrival, he lost his liberty, and that his imprisonment was much more close and severe than it had been on the former occasion,
Timothy was then at Ephesus taking the oversight of the Church that Paul had planted there. The apostle, having but little prospect of getting to Ephesus again, desired his “son in the faith” to come to him in Rome without delay. He had not been without companions to sympathize with him in his bonds ; but they had left him one by one.
had forsaken him from his love to the present world ; “Crescens was gone to Galatia, Titus unto Dalmatia;” so that his only remaining attendant was Luke. He wished Timothy to come and bring with him Mark, who was now "profitable to him for the ministry,” that they might comfort him in his trouble, and aid him in his work. Whether his wishes were gratified, and whether Paul and Timothy ever saw each other again, are matters on which we have no information.
This letter to Timothy was evidently written under a strong presentiment that his own end was near,—that “the time of his departure was at hand ;” and he assured his distant fellow-laborer that he was quite prepared for the worst that might befall him. Alluding to the custom of pouring wine on the head of the animal before it was offered in sacrifice, he said, “I am poured upon, ready to be offered;" — almost in the very act of being sacrificed in the cause of the Gospel. But to meet and alleviate the distress which such a statement would occasion, he tells Timothy what were his reflections on his past career, and what his anticipations concerning his future condition. “I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith : henceforth there is laid up,” &c. One part of the text is strictly retrospective; and this reference to the past is made in metaphorical terms. The second part is prospective; and to describe that prospect, the apostlé employs language which was suggested by one of the most popular customs of the ancient world.
Adopting this natural division of the text we are led to consider :
I. THE VIEW HERE GIVEN OF A LIFE CONSECRATED TO THE SERVICE OF CHRIST. To illustrate such a life, and to render the retrospect of it more vivid and clear, Paul employed the most striking and accurate similitudes. Among the ancient Romans there was a class of strong, athletic, men, called gladiators, who fought with swords in