Зображення сторінки

part of mourning and self-abasement, to abstain from

pleasant bread," and from “ wine that gladdens man's heart, and oil that makes him of a cheerful countenance.

The outward practice ought to agree with the inward feeling ; there should not be the taste for enjoyment when there was the profession of deep sorrow: it would not be “such a fast as God hath chosen, a day for a man to afflict his soul,” if he indulged himself in those gratifications which the soul delights in.

But still less would it be a fast acceptable to God, if the outward show of mortification was attended with no correspondent feeling of the heart: if the signs of mourning concealed thoughts of pride and self-complacency within : if men disfigured their faces, that they might appear unto men to fast, whilst no humble, no penitent feeling was raised towards God, no sorrow for transgression entertained in the heart, no purpose of obedience designed.

But the Father who seeth in secret, will reward the self-condemning penitent, who dares "not so much as to lift up his eyes to heaven," and says, “God be merciful to me a sinner!”? and who, because he feels thus, has no taste for the indulgences of life, and refuses them, as unsuited to his state of inind. He will also reward the self-inquiring Christian, who, in the course of his conflict against sin dwelling within him, might find by experience, that the indulgence of one appetite provoked another, and that the more he restrained his bodily inclinations, and refused to gratify them, the better he was able to serve God in all things, and bring into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ. Therefore he might determine with himself to fast, i. e. to eat sparingly, and of the simplest things, such as are least likely to provoke a sinful thought or action. Or he might regulate himself according to a rule which has been recommended by eminent Christians, and "deny himself” in something every day; on the principle of the Apostle, where he says, “ All things are lawful unto me; but I will not be brought under the power of any:"I will not make them necessary to me. But this would be a matter between himself and God ; his nearest friend would not be aware of it; much less would he proclaim it to the multitude. And such abstinence, grounded on the right exercise of reason, and pursued for the sake of acquiring selfcommand, is as surely approved of our heavenly Father, as the pretence of it is condemned. So the Lord declares,

6 See Isa. lviii. 5.

7 Luke xviii. 13.

17. “ But thou, when thou fastest, anoint thine head and wash thy


18. “ That thou appear not unto men to fast, but unto thy Father which

is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly."

He who seeth in secret, will at the great day of account, lay open much hypocrisy which had here, perhaps, received unmerited applause, and will reward those unseen acts of piety and self-denial, which have been here practised in his faith and fear,” practised for the purpose of preventing transgression, not with the vain design of atoning for transgression ; practised that “the flesh might be subdued to the spirit," and kept ready to obey “ his godly motions.” 6. With such sacrifices God is well pleased.” They are proofs not of hypocrisy, but of sincerity. For if we indeed lament our past offences, and grieve over our daily infirmities, we shall be no more disposed to pamper those appetites by which they have been engendered, than one would be disposed to go to the house of feasting,” who was mourning over the death of a dear friend.

8 1 Cor. vii, 12.



MATT. vi. 19-23.

19. “ Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and

rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal : 20. “ But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth

nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor

steal. 21. “ For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.”

When the patriarch Jacob received the unexpected tidings that his son Joseph, whom he had long mourned over as lost, was yet living, and enjoying a post of high honour in the land of Egypt, we are told that the heart of the aged parent revived ; and he exclaimed in a transport of delight, “ It is enough: Joseph my son is yet alive; I will go and see him before I die.” Joseph was his treasure; and his heart was there, where Joseph was. To leave his place of abode ; to enter upon a wearisome journey ; to visit an unknown country, was nothing to him :- Joseph was yet alive, and he might go and see him before he died. Most persons who have lived some years in the world will understand this : They have been absent from that object which was dearest to them on earth; and where the treasure was, there was their heart also.

Our Lord's words are designed to turn the desires and feelings of the heart into the right direction, Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where they cannot long profit you ; but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, which shall be yours after many days. Let your chief thought, your


purpose, be to attain “ that world and the resurrection of the dead." Judge of earthly things, not as they are pleasing or

1 Gen. xlv. 28.


profitable now, but as they will promote or hinder your first business, which is the salvation of the soul. As St. John has repeated, in other words, his Lord's exhortation ; “Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world : For the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, are not of the Father, but of the world. And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof; but he that doeth the will of God, abideth for ever.

The danger, therefore, against which we are here warned, is not merely the sin of covetousness. The precept forbids that any earthly object shall so possess the heart as to furnish its ruling motive. To the ambitious man, reputation, advancement in honour and station is the treasure. To the proud man, the reverence paid to him by the submission of others; to the lover of earthly gratifications, the enjoyments of the world are the treasure, as much as the increase of his substance to the lover of riches. The seeker of pleasure ; the ambitious man; the man whose grand concern is to advance himself or his family; all these lay up their treasures upon earth, as much as he who makes wealth his idol. If our heart is so earnestly set upon any of these worldly things, that we seek them more diligently than we seek heaven, then they are our treasure, the principle of our life is wrong, and we are following an object which leads to disappointment and ends in death.

This is further illustrated by an example: 22. “ The light of the body is the eye: if therefore thine eye be single,

thy whole body shall be full of light. 23. “But if thine eye be evil, thy whole body shall be full of darkness.

If therefore the light that is in thee be darkness, how great is that

darkness !”

The light of the body is the eye : the eye leads and directs the motions of the body; and what the eye is to the body, such is, to the man, the ruling desire of

2 1 John ii. 15.

of life is wrong

the heart; the principle of action. If the eye be evil, fails or misleads, the whole body is full of darkness ; so, if the principle of action be wrong, the whole conduct

Therefore, if it is the principle of a man's life to lay up treasures on earth, to set his affections there, the light in him is darkness ; he works by a wrong rule, he “ labours for that which satisfies not ;" he will find himself deceived at the last. How great is that darkness which misleads the whole life!

But if his eye be single, if his first object be that which the Gospel prescribes, to lay up treasures in heaven, then his whole body shall be full of light : this principle will reduce all the concerns and affairs of life into proper order, and show them in their true colours, their real magnitude.

The rich worldling, in the parable, betrayed his ruling principle when he said, "Soul, thou hast much goods laid up for many years; take thine ease, eat, drink, and be merry. Such was the light he followed ; and how soon it ended in darkness! “ Thou fool, this night thy soul shall be required of thee : then whose shall those things be which thou hast provided ?"

St. Paul, on the other hand, showed a very different principle, when he said concerning himself, “ The Holy Ghost witnesseth in every city, saying, that bonds and afflictions abide me. But none of these things move me, neither count I my life dear unto myself, so that I might finish my course with joy, and the ministry which I have received of the Lord Jesus, to testify the gospel of the grace of God.”.

Thus his eye was single, looking to one object only ; and his whole body was full of light : his

whole conduct was directed by a right principle. To “finish his course with joy,” to obtain that * crown of righteousness” which the Lord the righteous judge shall give

3 Luke xii. 17-19.

4 Acts xx. 23.

« НазадПродовжити »