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LUKE xii. 16-20.

And he spake a parable unto them, saying, The ground of a

certain rich man brought forth plentifully : and he thought within himself, saying, What shall I do, because I have no room where to bestow my fruits? And he said, This will I do : I will pull down my barns, and build greater; and there will I bestow all my fruits and my goods. And I will say to my soul, Soul, thou hast much goods laid up for many years ; take thine ease, eat, drink, and be merry. But God said unto him, Thou fool! this night thy soul shall be required of thee: then whose shall those things be, which thou hast provided?


It is not possible that too great caution can be exerted by the ininisters of religion, lest their instructions should not apply with sufficient closeness to the varieties of character of which human society is composed. There is a prevalent disposition in men to evade the direct and personal reference of the truth, and an ingenious readiness in availing themselves of whatever method may assist them to escape its pressure on the conscience and the heart. This is one of the sad fruits of the moral corruption of our nature. Hence, mere general statements on subjects respecting spiritual interests, do not comprehend all that is to be desired in the exercises of Christian teaching, as they afford easy opportunity for the operation of the tendency and habit so much to be deplored. It is well to distinguish and particularize; to seek occasions for singling out the classes which are found in the sphere of existence, and for making the principles of religion bear upon the several cases they present; and to aim that the message of God shall be invested with an individual direction, so that each being shall esteem himself the object, as if a solitary auditor listening to the voice of the accuser-Thou art the man.” To be eminent in this mode of address, is doubtless to attain the highest excellence in the vocation of the gospel ministry.



The Son of God, to whom the teachers of Christianity must ever look as their model, gave, in the course of his public instructions, many remarkable instances of the close application of truth, stated to be so important. Besides uttering the comprehensive maxims of religion, he employed appeals bearing most pointedly on the different orders of men among whom he walked, so that there was no art by which they could be sheltered from the stroke. Either by direct addresses, or by narratives known under the title of parables, which relating the history of characters generally fictitious, ingeniously conveyed the verities he was anxious to inculcate, he compelled attention from those who would otherwise have been unmoved and careless, and aroused the consciences which would otherwise have slumbered undisturbed. Without introducing the many forcible examples that might be quoted, it is sufficient to observe that this method pre-eminently formed the character of his ministry, and that the teachers of his word in every age, should anxiously imitate the course of Him who best knew how to reprove the transgressions, and to conquer the heart, of man.

A parable is now selected, and has been read, containing one interesting specimen of that plan of public inculcation, to which we have adverted. It was intended immediately for the benefit of those who were possessors of worldly substance, and who, while eager for its preservation or increase, gave themselves no concern after the attainment of “ the true riches.” It was delivered in consequence of a dispute respecting property, probably conducted with intemperate warmth, and brought to him with a request that he would decide. “One of the company said unto him, Master, speak to my brother, that he divide the inheritance with me.” In the determination of the question, he refused to interfere. “He said unto him, Man, who made me a judge or a divider over you ?” Then seizing the occasion for the purposes of moral improvement, he published an important exhortation connected with an important truth, suggested by what had passed. “ He said unto them, Take heed, and beware of covetousness; for a man's life consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he possesseth.” The exhortation and the truth were illustrated by the solemn narrative placed before you, which must have been felt powerfully by the persons whose conduct produced it, and which conveyed momentous illustration to all.

In a discourse recently delivered, * we attempted, to show the value of the “ heavenly substance,"—the portion of the people of God. In contrast with that, we desire to exhibit the vanity of mere worldly possessions, and their attendant abuse and perils, when held apart from the sanctifying grace of the Divine Spirit. It need scarcely be mentioned, that in this subject, the rich are peculiarly concerned. They require “great plainness of speech;” and guilty and contemptible indeed would he be, occupied in the ministry of the gospel, who, from the fear of offence, would hesitate to use it. While with all fidelity, the word of exhortation is directed to these, let none refuse the principles now to be stated, which possess universal interest, and will be found of universal importance. Those principles will be educed by regarding the case of the person described in the parable, in the points of view to appear in the progress of this discourse. --Observe,



* See preceding Sermon.

He was a person in circumstances of worldly prosperity,-he was “a rich man;" and he was in circumstances of increasing prosperity,—“his ground brought forth plentifully.” He was receiving a large accession of property, and an accumulation in the sources of opulence and influence. The providence of God had permitted the execution of his plans, and the success of his labours, and was still granting to him “rain from heaven, and fruitful seasons;" and if he were disposed now to pause, and consider aright concerning his enjoyments, abundant reason would be found for thankfulness to Him, whose power might have withheld or blasted, but whose goodness had bestowed and preserved.

The attainment of circumstances like those now before us, is the matter of general and ardent desire. Men judge that to opulence numerous advantages and pleasures are attached; and there is truly, about the station to which it introduces, much, that, on ordinary rules of calculation, is adapted to urge an eager, a persevering, and a devoted pursuit. Poverty exposes to many personal inconveniences and privations : wealth is known to procure many personal comforts and indulgences. The arrangements of human society have connected poverty with civil inferiority and meanness; and have made wealth one principal path to distinction and power,-giving it a title to


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