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MATTHEW vi. 25 30.
" THEREFORE I SAY UNTO YOU, TAKE NO THOUGHT FOR
YOUR LIFE, WHAT YE SHALL EAT, OR WHAT YE SHALL
The sermon from which these words are taken fully verifies the testimony of the officers, that never man spake like Jesus Christ. The fact is confirmed by the importance of the doctrines—the sublimity of the morals—the purity of the motive--the divinity of the discoveries—and, not least of all, by the appropriate figures in which he enforced on the audience the duties they must perform. His eye was a moral instructor of his tongue: hence He illustrated the truths of religion by objects that were open to observation. He sees the husbandman pursuing the toilsome yet necessary labours of the field, and He delivers to them the parable of the sower. He sees the flocks of sheep feeding on the side of the mountain, and He says, “ I am the good shepherd; the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep.” The vine bends beneath its luscious load, then saith Jesus, “I am the true vine, and my Father is the husbandman." The Jews were oppressed by the Roman yoke, and barrassed by the burdensome rights of the law-“Come unto me," saith the Son of God, “ all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn of me, for I am meek and lowly in heart, and ye shall find rest to your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” The birds are singing in the air, the flowers are adorning the face of the earth, and with the melody of the former in his ear, and the beauty of the latter in his eye, He sends his people to both, that they may learn to repose on the never-failing providence of their “ Father who is in heaven."
You are aware, my brethren, that our Lord is discoursing against covetousness, and that He has illustrated the necessity of setting our affections on the treasures which are above, by two natural and apposite images, drawn from life. The words of my text are designed to meet the suggestion which unbelief may offer. By the particle “ therefore,” they are connected with the preceding observations, and are evidently intended as an inference from them. “ Therefore, or seeing, that ye cannot serve God and mammon, do not serve the latter by taking thought for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink, nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on." The whole passage which I have read as my text, is an earnest dissuasive from anxiety, enforced by many powerful and affecting considerations. Let us consider it, therefore, in this light.
I. THE EVIL WHICH WE ARE DIRECTED TO AVOID.
Here I need not detain you but a few moments. When our Lord enjoins us to “ take no thought for our life," He simply admonishes against that excessive concern about the world which would lead us to commit the sin of serving manimon. “ A thoughtfulness for the future is by no means improper : there is a degree of foresight which Christian prudence requires; and they who go forward without due deliberation will involve themselves in difficulties.” “ A prudent man foreseeth the evil, and hideth himself; but the simple pass on and are punished.” Thus the Saviour accosted and advised his brethren: “ When I sent you without purse, and scrip, and shoes, lacked ye any thing? and they said, Nothing. Then said he unto them, But now he that hath a purse, let him take it, and likewise his scrip; and he that hath no sword, let him sell his garment, and buy one."* Hence it appears, that there are circumstances and occasions when the providence of God should be trusted absolutely, and if so confided in, it will not fail to supply our necessities. But this is not our duty in ordinary cases, for the disciples were afterwards commanded to adopt proper means for their subsistence. The exhortations of Scripture are perfectly decisive on this point. “Let him that stole steal no more; but rather let him labour, working with his hands the thing which is good, that he may have to give to him that needeth.”+ Erample, likewise, enforces it. Thus testified the apostle Paul, not for the sake of boasting, but for the vindication of the truth, and the purity of motive by which he had been actuated: “I have coveted no man's silver, or gold, or apparel. Yea, ye yourselves know that these hands have ministered unto my necessities, and to them that were with me. I have showed you all things, how that so labouring ye ought to support the weak, and to remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he said, it is more blessed to give than to receive." And does not necessity teach us the same truth? Is it not ordained by the Moral Governor of the world, that “ in the sweat of his brow man shall eat his bread ?”
* Luke xxii. 35, 36.
† Ephes. iv. 28.
As there is, therefore, no question on this matter, what is the import of the caution? To determine precisely how far we may go, and where we should stop with reference to the world, is neither necessary or possible. The Saviour is not speaking of “ treasures" in the text, but of the necessaries of life-food, raiment, and even existence itself. It was the manner in the east to speak in bold and striking language, which, to an English ear, may sometimes convey an improper meaning. The words, however, which we have before us, “ take no thought for your life,” according to the idiom of our tongue, are the same as to say, “ be not distressed about futurity.” Do your best in your several occupations, and leave the result. Well had it been for multitudes if they had listened to this instruction. Excessive anxiety with respect to worldly things, not only springs from the root of covetousness, but promotes that baneful disposition in the heart. Many a niggardly temper has been gradually formed by distrustful apprehensions of future indigence. Besides, it is hurtful to the mind; it tends to make us discontented and fretful. It leads us to overlook present
• Acts xx. 33-35.
mercies, and is therefore destructive to the growth of gratitude and the spirit of cheerfulness, which the Christian religion calls on us to indulge.
II. WE PROCEED TO NOTICE THE POWERFUL CONSIDERATIONS BY WHICH THE SAVIOUR ENFORCES THE PRECEPT.
“ Is not the life more than meat, and the body than raiment? Behold the fowls of the air: for they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feedeth them : are ye not much better than they? Which of you by taking thought can add one cubit unto his stature? And why take ye thought for raiment? consider the lilies of the field how they grow : they toil not, neither do they spin: and yet I say unto you, That even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.” Now in these words there are four reasons distinctly stated against this worldly solicitude, which we are all too apt to cherish. The first is drawn from the power of God,—the second, from his providential care and bounty,—the third, from the futility of excessive anxiety,—and the last, from the beauty of nature.
First. The power of God, as displayed in our creation and preservation. “ Is not the life a greater gift than food, and the body than raiment?”* As much as to say, Who was it first made you and fashioned you? Who formed the wonderful and fearful mechanism of your. bodies? Who infused the breath of life into your nostrils, and subjected you to all the warts of bread and clothing which ye feel? Is it supposable that He who framed such a curious structure will suffer it to perish for want of support and covering? Surely, brethren, from this consideration we see the ability of our Creator to sustain us.
* Dr. Campbell.