Obrazy na stronie
PDF
ePub

thou shalt eat bread.” What then! Should I be authorized in separating you to the right and to the left, and saying, “come out you happy rich from among your miserable neighbours,-go and enjoy the blessings that are provided, and thank God that he has favoured you so highly above your fellow-mortals ;—but ye wretched hewers of wood, and drawers of water, and tillers of the ground, go and pine in envy at those who sit at ease in the midst of their possessions, and curse the day whereon you were born to so hard and afflicted a state !".-No, my brethren, upon the

” authority of the gospel I set aside, and overlook all those petty distinctions of outward circumstances, as entirely as the differences that may exist among you in colour, or feature, or stature, or strength, or sex, or age; and I say, you are all in God's estimation exactly equal; you are all his children, without precedence of one before another; all born to the same hope of immortality; all heirs of the same redemption by the blood of a Saviour ; all equally honoured temples of the same sanctifying spirit. I say that there is not one man among you more favoured of God, as to his capability of attaining the only true happiness than another; that if the one half of you were kings and the other half beggars, you would all be on an equality in this respect ;-that such ex

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

to

altation and such lowliness would put no more separation between you than the varieties of your different complexions ;-that, high or low as you may stand in the world, the same Redeemer died for you all, the same gospel is preached to you all, the same repentance and faith and holiness are required of you all, and the same heaven open you

all. Who then is the happy man upon earth? Is it the rich, the powerful, the honoured ? Nay, but the christian. And who is the unhappy man? Is it the poor, the helpless, the despised ? Nay, but the wilful and the unrepentant sinner.

Here is the real, and important, and permanent distinction between man and man; all other differences are disregarded by God now, will be blotted out for ever by death, remembered no more at the day of judgment, revived no more in eternity. It is but a temporary dissimilarity of condition, that is now for wise purposes permitted to exist. In heaven there will be multitudes of the once poor,-in hell multitudes of the once rich. Numbers, who shall have shared with Dives in his " good things,” will be partakers with him in his torments; numbers, who shall have resembled Lazarus in his “ evil things,” will be united with him in the happiness of Abraham's bosom. When we all come to stand before the tribunal of Christ, stript of our earthly appen

[ocr errors]

dages, undistinguished by any external marks of superiority among the thronging crowds, who will then press forwards with anxious hearts to receive their irrevocable sentence of life or death eternal- what will then be the value of crowns, and splendid palaces, and gorgeous apparel, and lofty titles, and extensive lands, and accumulated wealth, and popular applause, and all the other empty trifles, “the vain pomp and glory of this world,” which now so win the affections and dazzle the eyes of men ? They will be but as so much dust in the balance of God's justice; they will attach not one grain of weight to the suit of the sinner, who enjoyed them; they will add not one atom to their happiness, if pardoned, nor diminish one pang of their misery, if condemned.

I know how little novelty there is in all such observations; I know with what tedious frequency they are repeated; I know how usually they pass for common and unmeaning declamation; and I know with what close and loving affection the very persons, who have so continually heard them uttered, and who perhaps are not seriously disposed to deny the justice of them, still cling to the paltry baubles with which they are amused, with what tenacity they hold them, with what reluctance and grief they part with them, with what devotion they worship them, how inseparable from happiness they esteem them. But, my brethren, is there wisdom in such feelings? Is there truth in such opinions? Is there prudence in such attachments ? Is there religion in such affections? Would it be profitable to gain the whole world, at the loss of your own souls? Nay, would it be of any importance, if you gained the whole world, even though you should not thereby make so great a sacrifice ? Is it of the very slightest consequence whether your possessions and enjoyments be great or small ? For what is the end of them? The same as was the end of the pleasures and afflictions of those two persons in the parable, under whose characters our blessed Saviour has described the two great classes of mankind, of which I have been speaking ;-—“It came to pass that the poor man died," _“the rich man also died and was buried.' Where was the inequality then? In the grave all are equal there the distinctions of life are obliterated. But are they never to be renewed ? In the resurrection will not the great resume their right of precedence, as before,—and the humble sink to their original level, and stand at their accustomed distance ? If it be so, at all events it will not be by the same rules which determined their comparative rank in this life; truly, the distance between them may be (and in

many cases will be) very much greater than even it was in the world; but the order may be inverted, the humble exalted, and the exalted abased. So it is represented in the story of Dives and Lazarus; there it is the poor man, who is carried by angels into Abraham's bosom, the rich man who in hell lifts up his eyes, being in torments.

This brings me back then to my former question ;-Are these opposite conditions in another world the necessary consequences of riches and poverty in the present ? Most surely not. Not the necessary consequences, as being the just and natural recompense of either state; for the rich and poor are equal in the sight of God, and have an equal offer of salvation. But, my brethren, though not the necessary, they are, I fear, the probable consequences; probable, by reason of the contrary effects that riches and

upon the heart; probable, because wealth is a temptation to worldliness, indigence a spur to piety; probable, because the rich have a stumbling block in their road to heaven, which lies not in the path of the needy. For what is it that makes men irreligious ? Not often, a sincere disbelief of the gospel ; not a conscientious rejection of the doctrine of a future life; not a wilful opposition to the truth; not a bar

poverty have

« PoprzedniaDalej »