Page images
PDF
EPUB

In the enjoyment of domestic relations, the rule laid down, “Let those who have wives be as though they had none,” is not to be understood as if it excluded the gratification of social feelings, the pleasures of tenderness, or the judulgence of domestic happiness. The religion of Christ is not like the philosophy of the Stoics, who refused themselves indulgence in order that they might not be afflicted by its loss. That they might not endure pain, they deprived themselves of pleasure. Such is not the Christian scheme. It allows us, it enjoins us, to receive the bounties of our heavenly Father with pleasure and thanksgiving; to enjoy them for the Lord's sake, the liberal and kind donor of them all.—“A good wife is from the Lord.” We are exhorted to rejoice in the wife of our youth. We are required to love our wives even as our own selves. We are to look round upon our domestic comforts, and with hearts filled with gratitude, to acknowledge in them the goodness of God, and to enjoy them with thanksgiving to him. But how, then, are we to be preserved from worldliness of mind, and from misery when we are deprived of our comforts? I answer, by the principle already laid down; by a deep and abiding impression of the superiority of things spiritual and eternal. In this respect, they that have wives will be as though they had none; that is, in comparison of the happiness ready to be revealed, all that is enjoyed in this life should appear to us as but a drop in the ocean: the addition of it should appear to us as nothing, and the removal of it should appear to be equally unimportant, when compared with the great things which God has laid

up

for thein that love him. We should look to God, while we adore him for having made our cup run over with blessings, and say, “These temporal mercies, O Lord, and all I enjoy, I enjoy from thy mercy and bounty. But these are but the smallest part of thy goodness; these are but as the drops which precede the shower. In the gift of thy beloved Son, and eternal life through him. I behold the infinite extent of Divine goodness. While, therefore, I value these temporal blessings, Olet me value, in an infinitely higher degree, spiritual and eternal ones! Give me just conceptions to understand the relative value of thy several gifts, and to prize them accordingly. The things which accompany salvation, be these the objects of my hope and joy. These are divine; these perish not with the using; these are eternal; these are worthy of an immortal soul to enjoy, and worthy of God to bestow. Let me, therefore, while 1 enjoy all my domestic and temporal comforts with pleasure, and with additional pleasure because I receive them from thee; let me still consider them as subordinate and inferior to the blessings which Christ has purchased. While I have them let me consider well their nature: they are transitory and vain; let the chief desire of my soul, therefore, be towards those things that are above."

My brethren, are such our views of happiness? Are our prayers to God of this description? Do we preserve this moderation in our enjoyment of temporal happiness? Do we consider well, not only what a fleeting and brittle thing it is, but also how inferior to that which is enjoyed in Christ? Are we, therefore, watching over ourselves with a godly suspicion? Are we afraid and jealous lest transitory and worldly things should, from their being congenial to our nature, make too deep an impression on our minds, and acquire too high a value in our esteem? Are we endeavouring to have our enjoyment of the world sanctified to us? We shall then know the meaning of the Apostle, for we shall enter into his feelings, when he says, “The time is short. Let those who have wives be as though they had none; and those who weep as though they wept not, and those who use this world as they that used it not, for the fashion of it passeth away. We shall know, I. say, what he means: for we shall know how the blessings of this world can be enjoyed as the gift of God, and, therefore, not to be despised; but at the same time as a snare to our souls, and therefore to be used with

caution; as fleeting, and, therefore, not to be over-valued; as nothing in comparison of eternity, and therefore not to hold the first place in our esteem.

Apply the same principle to the losses we must expect to meet with in life. There are many ways by which the men of the world bear up against the crosses they have to endure in it. Sometimes selfishness helps them; they love their own happiness too much to allow their misfortunes to trouble them. Sometimes the necessity of bearing what they cannot help, will endue them with a resemblance of patience, or rather of insensibility. Others trust to time and the diversion of their thoughts and the fixing of their attention upon some new object of pursuit. But these are not the Christian modes of bearing calamities. A Christian weeps, but it is as though he wept not; for he feels that the time is short. He sets eternity before him. He compares what he has lost, with the blessings he enjoys and hopes for in Christ. And though he feels and. weeps, yet it is like one who has only lost what he expected to lose, and what is trivial in comparison of the superior blessings he enjoys.

You see, my brethren, the value of the Gospel. It is intended to be our remedy against the calamities of life. Praver, therefore, and devout meditation, instead of rendering is gloomy and miserable, as many erroneously imagine, are intended by him who best knows what is the life of man, to shield us from the ills of life, and to endue us with solid and abiding consolation.

Let me address your feelings. You know that you hold all your temporal enjoyments by a precari

You that have wives, and in them all that gives enjoyment to life, consider how soon the stroke of death may tear them from you.—You that have children, and whose hopes of happiness are fondly wrapped up in them, remember how they may prove a parent's curse instead of his blessing. You that are buying and increasing your possessions, and you that are

ous tenure.

[ocr errors]

using the world in all the eagerness and hope of possessing in it complete happiness, know that the time is short, and that the fashion of the world passeth away. Hear, I bessech you, the warning voice of your Creator, anxious to secure your happiness, by taking off your expectations from a false foundation, to build them upon one that is safe and solid. He bids you to rejoice, under the deep impression of the superior value of eternal things. He does not forbid you to weep, but he tells you to weep as though you wept not; considering how trifling your loss is, compared with the blessings which perish not with the using.

I know, indeed, that nature still fondly cleaves to the world, and the things of it, as the only source of joy. I know how backward the heart ever is to receive the testimony of God while it contradicts our present experience. I am aware of the difficulty of overcoming sense by the views of faith. But let the multitudes of those who suffer in extreme anguish, and of those whose sufferings are too acute for nature to survive, teach those whom the word of God instructs in vain. Let them see what is the lot of man, and what may be their lot. Now they may be flourishing in health and strength, blooming in honour and wealth. But did you never see the tree full of blossoms stripped at once and blasted by a sudden blight! So are the youthful sometimes struck: so are the proud and mighty often brought down. I wish only that you should have, in the hour of calamity, such a resource, that, with Job, you may say, “The Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away, blessed be the name of the Lord.” I want you only to receive the stroke with patient submission, and to say, "I thank God, I sorrow not as those that have no hope.” Would to God those whose tears are their meat day and night, might know that there is a way of weeping as though they wept not, of bearing sorrow without being overcome by it. The knowledge of eternal things in and through Christ can give you this. In vain will you seek it from philoso

phy. It is to be found only in Christ, and in communion with him. His peace is such as the world can neither give nor take away. Let me, then, my brethren, exhort you all; for you are all liable to sufferings; let me especially exhort you who are under the stroke of affliction or the pressure of poverty, to embrace that Gospel which the beloved Son of God came down from heaven to make known to man.

Let me persuade you to seek acquaintance with God by faith and by prayer. So will you be able to glory in tribulations. So will you rejoice with a joy unspeakable; while, amidst all the troubles of life, you look for and hasten unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, and with him of perfect felicity.

[blocks in formation]
« PreviousContinue »