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THE PURSUIT OF WEALTH AND WORLDLY DISTINC
TION UNLAWFUL TO THE CHRISTIAN.
MY DEAR FRIEND, Your remarks, in our late conversation, on the importance of Christians avoiding extremes, have induced me afresh to search what the Scriptures teach us as to the walk in this world of one who desires to act as a disciple of Christ. The collating of some texts on the subject has been an interesting, and, I trust, profitable employment to myself. And I am disposed to lay them before you and others who thankfully and unreservedly acknowledge all Scripture to be given, that the man of God may be thoroughly furnished to all good works; and who desire to be taught therein all the duties that spring from love to our Saviour. But, before turning to particular texts, I would notice your caution as to the desirableness of avoiding extremes. Now, I fully grant that the Christian profession has often been dishonoured by zealous persons taking a strong view of some part of revealed truth, and giving it prominence and peculiar importance, to the neglect of other portions of the sacred oracles. Indeed, almost every page of ecclesiastical history furnishes some evidence of this tendency in our fallible minds. Yet, we must say, “ Let God be true,” though every man were found a liar. This word supplies rectifying principles for all our waywardness, ignorance, and folly, alike adapted for correction as for instruction : and we are charged to add knowledge to our faith. May the Lord grant us a single eye, that our whole body may be full of light !
God has been pleased to confirm his testimony by numerous declarations. Indeed, there is probably not any doctrinal or practical truth which rests only on a single statement in the inspired volume. But, surely, if we find a line of conduct prescribed by the concurrent testimony of evangelists and apostles, and beautifully marked also by the analogy of faith, we are bound to walk therein, though our path may be very solitary, though few whom we love as brethren accompany us, and though we may be exposed more than ever to the scorn of a world that never fails to count the rich happy, and praise men when they do well for themselves. Had we lived in the days of St. Paul, I am sure that, judging by the dictates of our fleshly minds, we should have considered him going to a dangerous extreine, when, after enumerating his external advantages, he declared that he counted all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus his Lord. Far be it from me to recommend any particular line of conduct, until we are fully persuaded that it is according to the true and faithful sayings of
THE PURSUIT OF WEALTH UNLAWFUL TO THE CHRISTIAN.
God. And I would here express my deep conviction, that service to the Lord should be cheerful service, rendered by no constraint but that of love to him : its perennial spring being the grace we have ourselves received overflowing in grace to others. Persons may listen to some self-denying truth, and adopt it from imitation, human persuasion, or from a lingering desire to establish a righteousness of their own. Such individuals, in times of persecution or tribulation, often fall away; having no root in themselves. They received doctrine from men, and not as it is, in truth, the word of God, which they are bound to maintain, from solemn responsibility to him, leaving the consequences in his mighty hand. But if we have indeed known the love of Jesus in dying for us, is it consistent with that grateful love which counts none of his commandments to be grievous, if we suffer our natural repugnance to the daily cross to deter us from honestly enquiring, “ What wilt thou have me to do ?” I believe the answer from the word of the the Lord to such an enquiry would be, that many practices, sanctioned by the example of professing Christians, are connected with the friendship of the world; and that our long-cherished ideas on these subjects have been fostered in various ways, but not taught us by the Spirit of God. Axioms of human wisdom have been continually repeated, till we have forgotten from whence they originated. Nor are ministers of the Gospel exempt from the contagion: they add a word to the text, and then not unfrequently promulgate it, as if they were giving the law of the Lord. For instance, they warn men against the inordinate love of the world, as though a moderate love of it were suitable for a Christian. They not unfrequently even recommend eagerness in the pursuit of wealth, by very high encomiums on the directing of a few rivulets from the golden stream towards evangelising the world. They advise their hearers against the spirit of covetousness; but seldom is the unaltered text to be found in their sermons:-“ They that will (desire to) be rich, fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and hurtful lusts, which drown men in destruction and perdition. Sincere and pious men may, probably, have got into this loose way
of quoting and applying Scripture, from mingling together in their thoughts and memories the precepts of the Old and New Testament. They know that all Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for instruction in righteousness: and not having perceived the entire distinctness of the Mosaic and Christian dispensations, they do not rightly divide the word, nor observe the peculiar character of Jewish blessing. Promises of earthly prosperity are thus applied as if they were the inheritance of the faithful in Christ Jesus. Our Lord himself teaches
us, in his sermon on the Mount, that there is a positive contrast between the law given by Moses and his own self-denying precepts, when he says, Ye have heard that it hath been said by (or rather, to) them of old time; but I say unto you.
The call of the patriarchs partook both of a heavenly and earthly nature. Abraham became heir of the world by promise, yet had not so much as to set his foot on. He was prospered in outward substance, being very rich in cattle, in silver and in gold; yet at the same time he dwelt in tabernacles, looking for a city which hath foundations, whose maker and builder is God; confessing with the saints who had gone before him, that they seek a habitation, that is, a heavenly country. By faith Jacob, when he was a dying, blessed both the sons of Joseph ;" but the benediction related to the earthly inheritance: “Let them grow into a multitude in the midst of the earth."
And Joseph's commandment concerning his bones alike showed, that he looked by faith to his descendants' settlement in the land, which God had given by promise to Israel-a land flowing with milk and honey, where they were to be endowed with every blessing in basket and in store. The godliness of the Christian has indeed promise of the life that now is, and of that which is to come; but the only possession guaranteed to him of a temporal kind is, food and raiment (a stranger's* not an Israelite's portion in the Old Testament), the things needful for the body, and contentment therewith, whilst walking in the path that Jesus trod.
Earthly promises and gifts to the Jews were doubtless typical of the better things reserved for us; and therefore, like the temple-service, and every part of the history of that chosen race, they are full of spiritual instruction to Christians. The good land, the land flowing with milk and honey, was God's promise to them, and therefore the proper object of an Israelite's faith; as was unbelief in them when they despised the inheritance set before them, that they might possess it; they were redeemed from bondage in Egypt, and led by the peculiar guidance of Jehovah, through a waste howling wilderness; and the things that happened to them are ensamples to us; and are written for our admonition during our pilgrimage to the heavenly Canaan, those mansions in the Father's house which Jesus is gone to prepare for us. But a careful examination of Scripture will shew, that God's dealing towards the Jews was quite distinct in its present character of blessing, from the “heavenly calling” of believers in Christ; and that these children of God were to be gathered out as witnesses on earth for their
* See Deut. x. 18.
rejected Saviour, to be hereafter joint-heirs in his glory, during that future period of millennial felicity, when Jerusalem shall be literally established, a praise in the earth; and the promises of temporal felicity to Israel shall be unfailingly realised by grace, their sins and their iniquities being remembered no more; when God, their own God shall bless them, and all the ends of the earth shall fear Him. Obedience was the condition on which depended the blessings of the covenant made with the Israelites at Mount Sinai, and we know how soon these blessings were forfeited; but in that awful hour, God remembered his holy promise to Abraham his servant, and He pardoned their sin, and gave his people the lands of the heathen, that they might observe his statutes, and keep his laws; but it is humiliating to observe how few and transient were the seasons when Israel walked in the way of the Lord; so that even during most of their history, prophetic judges, prophets, or other special witnesses for the truth, were raised up, of whom the world was not worthy; and these, in faithful testimony against the sins of their nation, were examples of suffering affliction, and of patience, being destitute, afflicted, tormented; but, self-denial, as the universal obligation of the godly, had no place among the sacred precepts, until Christ descended from heaven, and dwelt amongst men, pleasing not himself, leaving us an example that we should follow his steps. The subjoined comparison of texts may serve to show, that the very things which were given of God to the Jews, and therefore rightly enjoyed by them, are not so given to us; but that we are to be separated in principle and in practice, from a world that despised and crucified the Lord of glory. May this survey of our relative positions lead us to pursue the examination much further, and into many more particulars ! I feel persuaded that the search will prove deeply instructive, in opening out to us our path of obedience, and I think also, that astonishment will fill the mind at our past ignorance of much which God has unfolded in His word ;--may He give unto us the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Jesus !
Conditional Promises to a Jew dependent Conditional Promises to a Christian Con
nected with Discipleship. Deut. xxviii. 1. And it shall come 2 Tim. iii. 12. All that will live to pass, if thou shalt hearken dili- godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer gently unto the voice of the Lord thy persecution. God, to observe and to do all his com- John xv. 19. If ye were of the mandments which I command thee world, the world would love his own ; this day, that the Lord thy God will but because ye are not of the world, set thee on high above all nations of but I have chosen you out of the the earth.
world, therefore the world hateth you.
Deut. xxviii. 2, 3. And all these John xv. 20. Remember the word blessings shall come on thee, and that I said unto you, The servant is overtake thee, if thou shalt hearken not greater than his Lord. If they unto the voice of the Lord thy God. have persecuted me, they will also Blessed shalt thou be in the field. persecute you.
Deut. xxviii. 5. Blessed shall be John xvi. 33. In the world shall thy basket and thy store.
have tribulation, but be of good cheer ;
I have overcome the world. Deut. xxviii. 7. The Lord shall John xviii. 36. Jesus answered, cause thine enemies that rise up against My kingdom is not of this world : thee to be smitten before thy face: if my kingdom 'were of this world, they shall come out against thee one then would my servants fight, that I way, and flee before thee seven ways.
should not be delivered to the Jews : Deut. xx. 4. For the Lord your but now is my kingdom not from God is he that goeth before you, to
hence. fight for you against your enemies. Mat, xviii. 1-4. At the same time
Deut. xxviii. 8. The Lord shall came the disciples unto Jesus, saying, command the blessing upon thee in Who is the greatest in the kingdom of thy storehouses, and in all that thou heaven ? And Jesus called a little settest thine hand unto ; and he shall child unto him, and set him in the bless thee in the land which the Lord midst of them, and said, Verily I thy God giveth thee.
say unto you, Except ye be converted, Deut. xxviii. 13. And the Lord and become as little children, ye shall shall make thee the head, and not not enter into the kingdom of heaven. the tail; and thou shalt be above only, Whosoever therefore shall humble and thou shalt not be beneath; if himself as this little child, the same that thou hearken unto the command- is greatest in the kingdom of heaven. ments of the Lord thy God, which I Mat. xi. 29. Take my yoke upon command thee this day.
you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart : and ye
rest unto your souls. Deut. iv. 40. Thou shalt keep Mat. xvi. 24, 25. Then said Jesus therefore his statutes and his com- unto his disciples, If any man will mandments, which I command thee come after me, let him deny himself, this day, that it may go well with thee, and take up his cross, and follow me ; and with thy children after thee, and for whosoever will save his life shall that thou mayest prolong thy days lose it: and whosoever will lose his upon the earth which the Lord thy life for my sake, shall find it. God giveth thee for ever. Character of Jewish Blessing.
Character of Christian Blessing. Num, xiii. 17. And Moses sent John xvi. 13. Howbeit, when He them to spy out the land. Ver. 21. the Spirit of truth, is come, he will So they went up and searched the guide you into all truth: for he shall land. Ver. 23. And they came un- not speak of himself; but whatsoever to the brook of Eshcol, and cut down he shall hear, that shall he speak : and from thence a branch with one cluster he will shew you things to come. of grapes, and they bare it between Eph. i. 13, 14. In whom (Christ), two, upon a staff; and they brought also after that ye believed, ye were of the pomegranates, and of the figs. sealed with that holy Spirit of promise,
Num. xiii. 26. And they went and which is the earnest of our inheritance came to Moses, and Aaron, and to all until the redemption of the purchased the congregation of the children of possession.