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reach us. We are safe, and ought to be confident, “ though a host of men encamp against us :" for “ the Lord of Hosts is with us, the God of Jacob “ is our refuge." “ All things are ours, if we be “ Christ's :" we need not fear, though the earth be removed. “Death is our gain :" and this single effect of godliness infinitely exceeds in value the ideal philosopher's stone, the power of changing inferior metals into gold. Even “ the day of
judgment and perdition of ungodly men” will be the season of the believer's complete redemption, to which we may now look forward with joyful hope. “O Lord God of hosts, blessed is the man “that trusteth in thee?"
But riches are valued as the materials of future enjoyment. “Soul, thou hast goods laid up for
many years ; take thine ease, eat, drink, and be merry: but God said, thou fool, this night “shall thy soul be required of thee.”? Our present life is short and uncertain; “ Man goeth to “ his long home.” On our journey we only want enough to bear our expenses : yet many a traveller groans, through a great part of the road, under the weight of an useless burden, which he must leave behind him on the shore, when he embarks for his eternal residence !- If riches yield little additional enjoyment during youth and health, they will fail still more in old age. Then the relish for every pleasure becomes languid, “ desire fails,” the organs of sensation wear out; but the passions retain their impotent dominion, unless subdued by divine grace.
“ Can thy servant taste what I
Luke xii. 16–21.
“ eat, or what I drink? Can I hear any more the “ voice of singing men or singing women?”1 The aged sinner resembles the sapless trunk of an old tree, when the branches are lopped off or withered. He clings to a joyless life from dread of death : yet the thought that he must soon die will intrude, and interrupt his expiring comforts. He becomes a burden to himself, and often to others : 'and, the greater his wealth is, the more reason has he to suspect that many wait for his death with concealed impatience.
Alas, and is this all! The sanguine youth, the active man of business, looked forward, in scenes of peril and fatigue, with the cheering expectation of affluence or preferment, and of tranquil enjoyment in declining life, as the reward of intense application. But how great is the disappointment even of the successful! Most of the candidates terminate their course before the expected season of
repose, or languish out their lives in pain and sickness : the highest prize in this poor lottery has been described ; while an eternal state is unprovided for! “Vanity of vanities, vanity of vanities ! “ saith the preacher, all is vanity!"
“But the hoary head is a crown of glory, if it “ be found in the way of righteousness.” The consistent Christian will not greatly regret the loss of pleasures which he has long comparatively despised : for he has resources in communion with God and the consolations of the Holy Spirit. Even if poor in this world, he commonly engages the cordial affection of some valued friends, whose so
1 2 Sam. xix. 35.
ciety and attention solace the eve of life. Bodily pains and the loss of relatives are rendered tolerable by faith and humble resignation : while the near approach of death, and the prospect of heavenly joys, reconcile his mind to transient sorrows and separations. Past experience of the Lord's faithfulness and mercy inspires gratitude and confidence ; which are rather increased than impaired by the consciousness of his own unworthiness.“ His outward man decayeth ; but the inward “man is renewed day by day.” Consolation often abounds “when flesh and heart are failing.” Thus he meets death with composure, and then enters on that “fulness of joy which is at the Lord's right “ hand for evermore." And is not then “godliness with contentment great gain ?"
When the lovers of this present world are silenced, in respect of these reasons for desiring increasing wealth ; they excuse their conduct by pleading their families : and doubtless we ought to endeavour that our children may be provided for, and enabled to maintain themselves, when we shall be taken from them. But the desire of advancing them much above our own station in the community is injurious to them, both in respect to their temporal comfort, their character for prudence and good behaviour, and the interests of their immortal souls. How can any one greatly labour to enrich his children, if he do not himself idolize riches? How can he vindicate such an attempt, who believes the words of Christ; “It is “ easier for a camel to go through the eye of a
needle, than for a rich man to enter into the king“dom of God:” But a pious education, an edify
ing example, many fervent prayers offered by religious parents for their children and with them, and the little spared from superfluous expenses to relieve the indigent, constitute a treasure of superior value: while habits of industry and frugality, the result of right principles, will, by the blessing of God, be far more advantageous than ungodly riches, inherited with the encumbrance of the crimes with which they have been acquired.
Neither can wealth enable a man to be useful to his friends and relatives, in any way or degree that may be compared to the advantages derived from godliness. To be capable of conversing in a pious and prudent manner with our acquaintance, of exhibiting religion before them in an amiable example, of recommending them to the Lord in our daily supplications, and of using divers means to render them wise unto salvation ; these things when accompanied with uniform endeavours to serve them in their temporal concerns, will render us far greater blessings to them than superior affluence could do.—And, though men flatter themselves with the imagination, that they should do much good when they are grown rich; yet, supposing the best, (which rarely happens,) the most liberal use of ungodly wealth seldom compensates the effect of corrupt principles and a bad example, thus varnished over. On the other hand, the godly man, however poor, is a light in his neighbourhood and “the salt of the earth.” He restrains the vicious, encourages the drooping, promotes piety and righteousness, professes and adorns the gospel, and in all respects is a blessing to every village, city, or nation in which he resides. The Lord preserved all who sailed with Paul in answer to his prayers : ten righteous persons would have preserved Sodom: and the scripture fully warrants me to say, that our national preservation hitherto is vouchsafed in answer to the prayers, and for the sake, of the pious remnant among us.-In all respects and in every view, “godliness with con“ tentment is great gain,” yea the greatestof gains; “ It is profitable for all things ; having the promise “ of this life and of that which is to come.
III. Let us then conclude with some practical instructions.
Many young persons, being brought in the way of religion, think that godliness may be very proper in old age; as at that time of life people have little to do, and have no relish for juvenile pleasures. They perhaps allow that it will sometime be needful for them also; but they wish to defer the distasteful task to a more convenient opportunity. In the mean while, they purpose making a trial of the world; being determined not to believe that all is vanity and vexation, unless convinced by experience. The opinion, therefore, that religion is irksome and joyless, proves in this case a most fatal delusion of Satan. All desire present satisfaction; and few are willing to forego it for a distant and invisible felicity. Hence arises a procrastination that generally proves fatal. But, could we convince men that genuine piety would best promote their present satisfaction, one great obstruction to the gospel would be removed. You, my young friends, have doubtless found already, that disappointment and disgust often succeed to sanguine expectation: be persuaded therefore