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and the more exquisite because his master was honoured in all the good that was done. Such a steward the true Christian feels himself to be: and his final account, also, he contemplates with joy; assured that his stewardship shall be both approved and rewarded in that day.] From this subject I would take occasion to suggest
two important lesSONSLearn,
1. In what spirit to address yourselves to every duty in life
[Be not contented to perform a duty; but look for the blessing of God upon every thing you do. Without his blessing you will have but little comfort in your own souls. I will not hesitate to say, that in every line whatever, from the highest to the lowest, the man who acts to God and for God will be the happiest man. Others, it is true, may exceed him in wealth; but he will have no reason to envy them; for they have sorrows which will not come near him"; and he will have “a joy with which the stranger intermeddleth noto."] 2. What to look for as your chief portion
[Earthly things are not to be neglected. Your worldly calling, whatever it may be, should be diligently followed. But the blessing of God should be the one object to which all others should be subordinated. Nothing, either on earth or in heaven, should, in your estimation, bear any comparison with that P. If the question be put, “Who will shew us any good?" your unvaried answer should be, "Lord, lift thou up the light of thy countenance upon us.” Then will
“ durable riches?.” And whilst those who seek any other portion will, “in the midst of their sufficiency, be in straits,” you, in whatever straits you are, will have a sufficiency for your support and comfort both in time and in eternity.]
n Ps. xci. 7. o Prov. xiv, 10. p Ps. lxxi. 25. q Ps. iv. 6.
r Prov. viii. 18. $ Job xx. 22.
PORTION OF THE WICKED AND THE RIGHTEOUS CONTRASTED.
Prov. xi. 18. The wicked worketh a deceitful work : but to him
that soweth righteousness shall be a sure reward. TO a superficial observer the wicked appear to have a far better portion than the righteous : for it is certain, that, in respect of earthly things, the
wicked have the larger share ; whilst the righteous, whether poor or not in this world's goods, are objects of general hatred and contempt. But, if we examine more attentively, we shall find that the advantage is decidedly and universally on the side of the righteous: for the wicked man, how prosperous soever he may be, “worketh a deceitful work,” but to the righteous, however depressed he may be for a season, shall be a sure reward.
Let us notice the contrast which is here formed between the righteous and the wicked ; I. In their characters
Though “the wicked” are not distinguished in this place by any appropriate description, yet they are sufficiently marked by standing in contrast with the righteous, whose characters are accurately defined.
“ sow righteousness,” which the other neglect to sow. 1. Let us consider this distinction-
[The sowing of righteousness imports, that the person so engaged deliberately and with diligence endeavours to fulfil the will of God; and that he does so with a view to a future harvest. The great "commandment" under the Gospel being, " that we believe in the name of the only-begotten Son of Goda,” he makes that his first concern. He comes to Christ daily as a self-ruined sinner, and looks to him as the appointed Saviour of the world. He seeks to be washed in his blood from all his sins, and to be renewed by his Spirit after the Divine image. In a word, his daily consolation is, “ In the Lord have I righteousness and strength." The aim of his soul is also to “walk in all things as Christ walked;" to cultivate altogether “the mind that was in him;" and so to approve himself to God in the whole of his conduct, that in the last day that testimony may be given him from the lips of his applauding Judge,“ Well done, good and faithful servant; enter thou into the joy of thy Lord."
“ The wicked," on the contrary, has no such thoughts, no such desires. An interest in the Saviour is not of any great importance in his eyes, because he feels no need of it, and concludes of course that he possesses all that is requisite for his acceptance with God. As for “ mortifying his earthly members," and "crucifying the flesh with the affections and lusts," that is a work to which he is utterly averse. He rather studies a 1 John iij. 23.
b Isai. xlv. 24.
to gratify himself, and to follow the bent of his own carnal inclinations. He may not indulge in gross sins: but he is altogether earthly: and whatever he may have of religion, it is a mere form, that engages not his heart, not is in any respect the delight of his soul.
In a word, the one looks forward to a future harvest, and sows with a view to that; the other looks no further than to this present world, and has all his desires bounded by the things of time and sense.]
2. Let us see how far this distinction is confirmed by the word of God
[This is the very distinction which St. Paul himself makes between the carnal and the spiritual man; “ They that are after the flesh do mind the things of the flesh; and they that are after the Spirit, the things of the Spirito.” The one " seeks his own things, and not the things that are Jesus Christ's 4:" the other “lives not unto himself, but unto Him who died for him and rose again."
It is here particularly to be noticed, that the Scriptures do not make the distinction to consist in outward acts, but in the inward habit of the mind : the wicked is not necessarily distinguished by open irregularities; but he makes self the end, and aim, and object of his life; whilst “the righteous liveth altogether for, and to, his God.”]
A similar difference will be found between them, II. In their end
The wicked follows a mere shadow, which eludes
[He seeks for happiness, and hopes to find it in the path which he has marked out for himself. But “ he worketh a deceitful work,” which invariably disappoints his hopes. Whatever be the gratification afforded him, it is transient, and brings no solid satisfaction with it. Whether his pursuit be more sensual, or more refined, it still leaves in the bosom an aching void, which the world can never fill. Solomon tried every thing that was within the reach of mortal man, intellectual as well as sensual ; and, after a full experience of it all, declared it all to be “ vanity and vexation of spirit.” And, if there be a man in the universe who is able from experience to give any other testimony respecting it, we will be content that that man shall walk in his own ways, and not in the ways of God. But we have no fear that this concession will be productive of any evil; for there is not a man in the whole world that will presume to avail himself of it, since there is no man whose conscience does not tell him that the creature altogether is a broken
c Rom, viii. 5. d Phil. ii. 21. e Rom. xiv. 7, 8.
cistern, and that no true happiness can be found, but in Christ the fountain of living waters.] The righteous, on the coutrary, have a sure reward
[The seed he sows may lie a long time under the clods, and may seem as if it were buried for ever: but it shall spring up in due season, and bring with it a harvest of solid joy. The Scripture attests, that "the work of righteousness is peace', and that “in keeping of God's commandments there is great reward." And so it is invariably found. This “reward is sure" on two accounts: one is, that his success is independent of all casualties: and the other is, that it is secured to him by the promise of God himself. Happiness as arising from earthly things may be altogether destroyed by disease or accide pains either of body or mind: but spiritual happiness is independent of all these things, and often derives a zest from those very things which seem most calculated to subvert it.
If look to a future state, where the wicked, notwithstanding all their neglect of heavenly things, hope to have a portion with the righteous, we shall see the text fulfilled in all its extent. What surprise and anguish will seize hold upon the wicked the very instant he opens his eyes in the eternal world! Conceive of “ the Rich Man” summoned from his carnal indulgences into the presence of his God: how little did he imagine but a few days before in what such a life would issue!! How deceitful had his work been, and how delusive all his hopes ! But the righteous is sure to find his hopes realized, and his highest expectations infinitely exceeded; for God's express determination is, that “whatsoever any man soweth, that shall he also reap: he that soweth to the flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption; and he who soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlastingi.”] See then, 1. The wisdom of true piety
[Wisdom consists in pursuing the best ends by the fittest means. Now I would ask, What end is to be compared with eternal life? And by what other means can it be sought, than by those mentioned in the text? Let me then entreat you to • walk, not as fools, but as wise, redeeming the time:” for now is the seed time; and you will to all eternity reap according to what you sow: “ if you sow iniquity, you will reap vanity :" if you sow the wind,
you plow up your fallow ground, and sow in righteousness, you shall reap in mercy,” both in this world and the world to comem.
f Isai, xxxii. 17. & Ps. xix. 11. h Luke xvi. 23. i Gal. vi. 7,8. k Job iv. 8. Prov. xxij. 8. 1 Hos. viii. 7. m Ilos, x. 12.
Let me however add, that you must not be sparing of your seed: for, "if you sow sparingly, you will reap sparingly; but if you sow bountifully, you shall reap also bountifully".") 2. The folly of neglecting the immortal soul
[Men will deride piety, because it is cultivated by few; and applaud worldliness, because its advocates are many. But the broad road is not at all the safer because it is trodden by so many, nor the narrow way the less safe because it is trodden by so few. Each path will have its proper termination, and issue in the state that God has assigned to it. Can any thing then be conceived more foolish than to put our eternal happiness on such an issue, that it cannot possibly be attained but at the expense of God's veracity? Truly if such conduct were pursued in reference to this world, it would be accounted not only folly, but madness itself. It is represented by Solomon as a " laying in wait for our own blood, and lurking privily for our own lives P,” yea, and as a “ being in love with death itself". Let me then urge all of you now to seek “ the one thing needful :" and let me encourage you to it by this consideration, that, “if you sow in tears, you shall reap in joy: and if you now go on your way weeping, bearing precious seed, you shall doubtless come again with rejoicing, bringing your sheaves with you"."]
n 2 Cor. ix. 6. o Matt. vii. 13, 14. p Prov. i. 18. 9 Prov. viii. 36. r Ps. cxxvi. 5, 6.
CHRISTIAN LIBERALITY ENCOURAGED.
Prov. xi. 25. The liberal soul shall be made fat: and he that
watereth shall be watered also himself. IF only we be careful to divest our statements of every thing which carries with it the idea of merit, it is scarcely possible to speak too strongly in praise of liberality, as lovely in itself, and as acceptable to God. To speak of it as contributing in any degree to justify the soul before God, would doubtless be a fatal error; but as rewardable, and certain to be rewarded both in this life and the life to come, we ought to speak of it: and the squeamish jealousy which is entertained on this head, and which fears to declare all that God's blessed word contains upon the subject, is, in my apprehension, extremely erroneous and unbecoming.
The words which I have just read will lead me to