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nor can it be expected that we should ever prosper in our spiritual concerns.
It may also be said of them when they shun not the occasions of spiritual decay. God has mercifully guarded us against the cares, the pleasures', the company of the worlde; and against the indulgence of any secret sinh. And it is of the utmost importance that we attend to these salutary cautions. But if we are unmindful of them, we certainly shew a very culpable remissness, and give advantage to our enemies to prevail against us.]
Under such circumstances they will infallibly“ become poor”
[They will lose their joy and confidence. Persons living in habitual watchfulness are often full of the most lively joy', and can look up to God as their Fatherk, to Christ as their Saviour, and to heaven as their homem. But these divine impressions are tender plants, which, if not duly watered, will soon wither and decay 2. They will also lose their health and strength,
[There is a health of the soul, as well as of the body: and as the one cannot be maintained in strength but by proper food and exercise, so neither can the other. The graces of the soul, if not duly cultivated, will soon languish. The faith will become weak, the hope faint, the love cold
and whatever good "things remain in us, they will be ready to die.” So poor will every one become, who dealeth with a slack hand.]
While the soul is exposed to such evils from remissness, we are assured, on the contrary, that, II. Diligence will enrich it
Christian diligence comprehends far more than a mere attention to outward forms, however regular
[It imports a seasonable attention to all duties. There are some duties which, in comparison of others, are easy : but Christian diligence makes no distinction on this account; nor does it make the observance of some an excuse for neglecting others; but endeavours to do every work, whether public or private, civil or religious, in its season'.
e Matt. xiii. 22. and vi. 21. f 1 Tim. v. 6. and 2 Tim. iii. 4. & 2 Cor. vi. 14–17.
h Prov. iv. 23. Heb. iii. 12. See the examples of Job, Job xxxi. 1. David, Ps. cxli. 3. and cxxxix. 23, 24. i 1 Pet. i. 8. k Rom. viii. 15.
1 Gal. i. 20, m 2 Cor. v. 1. n Gal. iv. 15.
o Ps, i. 3.
It includes also a conscientious improvement of all talents. Various are the talents committed unto men. influence, together with every mental endowment, are among those which a Christian will feel himself more especially bound to improve. He considers them as given to him for the purpose of honouring God with them, and of rendering them subservient to the good of men.
He therefore will not wrap any one of them in a napkin, but will so trade with them as to deliver them up with interest whenever he may be called to give up his account P.] Such diligence will infallibly enrich the soul-
[The exertion of our powers does not command success; but God invariably puts honour upon it, and makes it both the occasion and the means of communicating his blessings. Our diligence in cultivating the land cannot ensure the crop: yet it is by that, for the most part, that God replenishes our barns, and supplies our returning wants. Thus the diligent hand makes us rich in grace, in peace, in holiness, and in glory.
“To him that hath (that hath improved his talent) shall be given; and he shall have abundance.” Every grace is improved by exercise 9—from that improvement arises a passeth all understanding”--the whole man is thus progressively renewed after the divine image and an increased weight of glory is treasured up for the soul, when it shall receive its full reward ]
1. What a pitiable state are they in who never labour at all for the salvation of their souls !
[If remissness only will prove fatal, and that to persons who were once diligent, surely they must be poor
indeed who have never entered on their work at all! Let the gay and thoughtless well consider this: for every man shall receive according to his own labour. Nor shall it be sufficient to say at the last day, “ I did no harm:" the question will be, “ What improvement didst thou make of thy talent?" And if we have buried it in the earth, we shall be condemned as wicked and slothful servants.]
2. What reason have all for humiliation and contrition !
[If we consider the greatness of our work, and how little any of us have done in it, we shall find reason to blush and be confounded before God. Yes; while the world condemn us as "righteous overmuch," we should be condemning, and
p Matt. xxv. 15–18. 9 Matt. xxv. 29. r Isai. xxxii. 17. s 2 Cor. iii. 18.
2 Cor. iv. 17. 2 John, ver. 8.
even lothing ourselves for doing so little. What might we not have attained, if we had laboured from the beginning with the same anxiety and diligence as others manifest in their temporal concerns ? How low are the attainments of the best of us, not only in comparison of what they might have been, but of what we once expected they would be! Let us then trace our poverty to its proper cause, our own remissness: and “ whatever our hand findeth to do, let us henceforth do it with all our might."]
DCCLXXV. GOD's BLESSING, THE GREATEST RICHES. Prov. x. 22. The blessing of the Lord, it maketh rich; and he
addeth no sorrow with it. AMIDST the lessons of practical wisdom which we are taught in the Book of Proverbs, we find a continual reference to God as the source and the end of all. If we attempt to spiritualize the different moral apophthegms, we in fact pervert them, and apply them to a use for which they were never intended : if, on the other hand, we regard them solely in a moral view, without any relation to God, we fall exceedingly short of their true import. In explaining them, therefore, a proper medium must be observed; that we neither strain their meaning, on the one hand; nor enervate it, on the other.
To unfold to you the passage before us, I will shew, I. In what respects “the blessing of God” may be
said to “ make us rich”— This effect may well be ascribed to “ the blessing of God,"
1. Because it is in reality the only source of all wealth
[Men are apt to ascribe their success in life to their own industry, and to the wisdom which they have exercised in the management of their affairs. But this is to rob God altogether of the glory due to him. The people of Israel were guarded against it by God, who particularly cautioned them not, when they should be established in Canaan, to arrogate any thing to themselves; or to “say in their heart, My power and the might of my hand hath gotten me this wealth :* for that "it was God alone who had given them power to get wealth a.” Who sees not how often men fail even in their best-concerted efforts ? Success depends, in fact, on so many contingencies, which it is altogether beyond the power of man to control, that the wisest and most industrious of men must of necessity rely on God alone; even as the husbandman, who, though he can plough and sow his land, can command neither the clouds to water it, nor the sun to fructify it with his invigorating rays. No man therefore, however successful, should “sacrifice to his own net, or offer incense to his own dragb;" but all must give glory to God alone, “who maketh poor, or maketh rich; and bringeth low, or lifteth up; who raiseth up the poor out of the dust, and lifteth up the beggar from the dunghill, to set them among princes, and to make them inherit a throne of glory."] 2. Because it is itself the greatest of all wealth
a Deut. viii. 17, 18.
[What can be compared with the blessing of God upon the soul? If we succeed in life, it is that which constitutes our chief joy; or, if we fail in our earthly pursuits, it is that which will compensate for the loss of all. The poorest man in the universe is rich, if he have the presence of God with his soul: and the richest man in the universe is poor, miserably poor, if he be destitute of that great blessing. Behold Paul and Silas in prison, their feet fast in the stocks, and their backs torn with scourges; and yet singing praises to God at midnight! Were they poor? They were rich, truly rich; as were the Hebrew youths, when, in the fiery furnace, the Lord Jesus Christ came and walked with them. To the eye of faith Lazarus was rich, though he subsisted only on the crumbs which fell from the rich man's table. And had he been offered an exchange of condition with his opulent benefactor, he would have disdained the offer, and called himself incomparably the richer man.
So, in having God for our portion, we are truly rich. St. Paul, under such circumstances, accounted himself the richest man in the universe: and so he was; for, " though he had nothing, yet he possessed all things e.” And in like manner of us also, even though we are at this moment destitute of bread for the morrow, it may with truth be said, that “all things are ours, if we are Christ's!.” Thus, if we can say, “ The Lord is the portion of my inheritance and my cups," we may account ourselves richer than those who have crowns and kingdoms at their command.]
But we are especially informed by Solomon what is, II. The peculiar happiness of the person so enriched
With all other riches there is a mixture of sorrow to embitter them
[As for riches obtained by iniquity, the curse of God is b. Hab. i. 16. c 1 Sam. ii. 7, 8. d Dan. iii. 25. e 2 Cor. vi. 10. 1 Cor. iii. 22, 23. & Ps. xvi. 5.
them h. But where there has been nothing of rapacity or dishonesty in acquiring them, yet, if the blessing of God be not upon the soul, there is much care in the preserving of them, much grief if they be lost, and little but disappointment and dissatisfaction in the use of them. In truth, they are entitled to no better name than “vanity and vexation of spiriti.” Let the whole state of mankind be candidly surveyed, and it will be acknowledged that the most wealthy are far from being the happiest of men: for, partly from the tempers generated in their own bosoms, and partly from the collision into which they are continually brought with persons envious, or proud, or dishonest, or in some way disobliging, it may well be doubted whether the pain occasioned by their wealth do not far exceed any pleasure which they derive from it. It was a wise petition which was offered by Agur, "Give me neither poverty nor riches; but feed me with food convenient for mek."
But there is another view, in which riches are far from affording any solid satisfaction; and that is, on account of the responsibility attached to them. They are talents to be improved for God: and, whether wasted in extravagance, or hid in a napkin, they will bring down nothing but a curse in the day of judgment. “Go to now, ye rich men,” says St. James,
weep and howl for your miseries that shall come upon you. To those who have amassed wealth, he says, “ Your gold and silver is cankered; and the rust of them shall be a witness against you, and shall eat your flesh as it were fire: ye have heaped treasure together for the last days.” To those, on the other hand, who have wasted their money on personal gratifications, he says, “ Ye have lived in pleasure on the earth, and been wanton; ye have nourished your hearts, as in a day of slaughter?."]
But where God gives his blessing with wealth, “he addeth no sorrow with it."
[There is then no conscious guilt in the acquisition of it; no anxiety in the preservation; no disappointment in the use; no grief in the loss; no dread of the responsibility attached to it. On the contrary, “God has given to his people all things richly to enjoy m:" and they have a rich enjoyment of every thing, because they enjoy God in it. They receive it all as his gift : they taste his love in it. They consider it, also, as a means of honouring God, and of doing good to man. A benevolent steward, who should be sent by his master to dispense his bounties to a famished multitude, would feel great delight in all the comfort which he was thus empowered to bestow : he would view his master as the author of the benefits, and himself only as the instrument; but his pleasure would still be exquisite, h Jer. xvi. 11. Hab. ii. 6-11.
i Eccl. ii. 26. k Prov. xxx. 8.
1 Jam. v. 1-5. m 1 Tim. vi. 17.