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wherewith to procure decent clothing; and yet from carelessness and indolence should go on as before; as ragged and miserable as ever. We might well say of such an one, Wherefore is there a price put into the hands of a fool to get what he stands in need of, seeing he has no heart to it ;—he has no heart to try after a more decent way of life?
Wisdom is what we all stand in need of as principal thing ®;" and indeed as “the one thing" that is really “needful o." And God has put into our hands a price wherewith to get it. Life, with all its blessings and opportunities, is the price” or means which God has put into our hands, that we may procure the wisdom, whereby we should become wise unto salvation, through faith which is in Christ Jesus ". If we do not spend our life and use its various opportunities in procuring this necessary treasure, then we are like the fool who continues in his rags and filth, though the money wherewith to procure decent clothing is actually put into his hands.
The opportunities which God has entrusted to us for acquiring Divine wisdom are such as to leave us without excuse if we neglect them. He has given us souls which are capable of reflection, choice, exertion, and improvement. He has placed us in circumstances which are admirably suited to train and discipline us. When man had disabled himself by sin from using his natural powers, He made provision for restoring us to freedom and virtue, by the gracious covenant which He made with us in Jesus Christ; and He has brought us by baptism into His holy Church, and within the reach of her wise instructions and her continual consolations. He has given us His holy Scriptures, and His blessed sacraments, and His appointed ministry to counsel and direct us.
Why is it that so many who are possessed of all these advantages for gaining Divine wisdom, fail to
8 Prov. iv. 7.
9 Luke x. 42.
10 2 Tim. iii. 15.
avail themselves of them? The reason is that they have “no heart to it.” They have no heart nor desire for the great treasure itself, nor for the pains which must be taken in acquiring it. When they hear of the noble freedom which is the gift of Heavenly Wisdom to her children—its calmness, its healthfulness, its dignity—they see in it nothing that is attractive. It seems to them harsh and stern. Its strictness, severity, and patience, seem to them repulsive. The Apostle indeed tells us that Christ is made unto us wisdom'; but the poor “ fool” (so Scripture speaks of all who walk by sense, in the sight of their own eyes) sees in Him no beauty that he should desire Him. He has 66 no heart” to the Cross, the crucifixion of sin. He loves darkness rather than light, the folly that is natural to him more than the wisdom that is from above. He cannot bear to sacrifice his sloth, and lusts, and passions ; nor to continue day by day in the paths of prayer and self-denial. And so it comes to pass that the “price” which was put into his hands is useless so far as he is concerned. He might as well not have had it;-nay, it would have been far better for him never to have had it,—than to have had it, and turned it to no account.
Give me grace, O Lord, to " buy the truth, and sell it not.." Let me buy it at the sacrifice of carnal ease, and selfish pride, and the love of any forbidden indulgence. Let me not sell it for all that this world can give, or Satan may offer. Let me value rightly the opportunities of this day of life which will so soon be over; and give me an understanding heart * » to use those precious opportunities to good purpose.
1 I Cor. i. 30.
2 Isa. liii. 2.
IV.-THE HORSE RUSHING TO THE BATTLE.
“I hearkened and heard, but they spake not aright: no man repented
him of his wickedness, saying, What have I done? Every one turned to his course, as the horse rusheth into the battle.” Jer. viii. 6.-See also Prov. xxix. 1.
How the horse rusheth to the battle is described in the book of Job. “ Hast thou given the horse strength ? hast thou clothed his neck with thunder? Canst thou make him afraid as a grasshopper? the glory of his nostrils is terrible. He paweth in the valley, and rejoiceth in his strength: he goeth on to meet the armed men. He mocketh at fear, and is not affrighted; neither turneth he back from the sword.
The quiver rattleth against him, the glittering, spear and the shield. He swalloweth the ground with fierceness and rage: neither believeth he that it is the sound of the trumpet. He saith among the trumpets, Ha, ha; and he smelleth the battle afar off, the thunder of the captains, and the shouting.”
Thus does the foolish sinner rush blindly into danger. He is warned of the peril that might overtake him at any moment; but he mocks at the warnings which he receives. He is visited with Divine judgments which are intended to awaken him to a sense of his true condition : but he will not believe in the reality of that solemn account which he will have to give, and that sure destruction which is the end of the course that he is taking. He will not be persuaded to turn back; but led onwards by excited feelings and ungoverned passions, he blindly rushes into whatever is calculated to weaken the little hold which reason and conscience still have upon his conduct.
God has endowed us with the gift of reason that we may consider our ways and turn our feet unto His testimonies. Learn we then that we speak aright," when, reflecting on our past transgressions, we say, 6 What have done?” And as God is graciously pleased to hearken for these words of repentance and self-accusation, let us turn to Him without delay; and henceforth “ walk circumspectly; not as fools, but as wise:" with a due concern for the great
5 Job xxxix. 19-25.
6 Ps. cxix. 59.
alternative, eternal life, or endless misery.
V. -THE SUDDEN LIGHTNING.
“As the lightning cometh out of the east, and shineth even unto the
west; so shall also the coming of the Son of man be.” Matt. xxiv. 27. See also Zech, ix. 14. Luke xvii. 24.
The sudden flash, which brings so near to us the thought of an awful power that might consume us in a moment, should remind me of my Saviour's coming; which He has Himself compared to the lightning that cometh out of the east, and shineth even unto the west. He came at first “in great humility;" and many years passed by before He “manifested forth His glory?," that His disciples should believe on Him. But when He shall come again, He will be seen in the clouds of heaven." “ Every eye shall see Him, and they also who pierced Him.' From one end of heaven to the other, His presence will be made manifest; and His coming will be as sudden as it will be terrible to the wicked. He will consume " that Wicked” with the spirit of His mouth, and destroy him with the brightness of His coming o.
We are wise if we accustom ourselves to see the lessons and warnings of that great event in whatever may serve to remind us of it; in the swelling buds which indicate the approach of summer; as well as in the sudden lightning which speaks to us of Divine judgments. If we discern
• discern the face of the sky”
7 John ii. 11.
8 Rev. i. 7.
by the natural signs of foul weather or fair; we know that we shall be justly condemned, if we discern not “the signs of the times?;" and a devout mind will see such “signs” in many and many an event or object, which is unnoticed by the worldly and the careless.
VI.-THE AXE LAID TO THE ROOT OF THE TREES.
“ And now also the ax is laid unto the root of the trees: therefore every
tree which bringeth not forth good fruit, is hewn down and cast into the fire.” Matt. iii. 10.-See also Isa. v. Matt. xxi. 19, 20. Luke
xiii. 6-9. John xv. 6. The Church of God is often likened to a vineyard or garden of fruit-trees, from which the owner looks for fruit in due season; and too often finds none. He is unwilling, however, to relinquish his hope of a return for all his labour; and continues, year by year, to prune, with the greatest skill, as well as patience, the plants which so ill repay his toil. At length he determines to lay the axe to the root of the unfruitful trees. He will no longer satisfy himself with lopping off the luxuriant branches, but will cut down the trees themselves, which only cumber the ground. In the parable of the fruitless fig-tree, the owner of the vineyard is represented as saying to the dresser of the vines, “ Lo! these many years I come seeking fruit on this fig-tree, and find none; cut it down, why cumbereth it the ground?” However high and stately may be the tree, and however green and luxuriant its foliage, the time comes when the owner is tired with waiting for fruit, and trying the effect of only cutting off branches; he determines that he will lay the axe to the root, and remove the tree itself from the ground which might be so much better filled.
Thus had God waited, for many generations, in the
2 Matt. xvi. 3.