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rounding multitude, begged that he would interpose his authority with his brother, in order to oblige him to divide the paternal inheritance with him; but, as this decision properly belonged to the magistrate, our blessed Saviour, who did not come into the world to settle worldly affairs, but to attend to those things which concerned the immortal soul, declined the task, with this reply, Man, Who made me a judge, or a divider over you? He took occasion, however, from hence, in the most solemn manner, to caution his hearers against covetousness: for he observed that neither the length nor the happiness of life depended on the largeness of possessions: ‘Take heed,” said he, “and beware of covetousness; for a man’s life consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he possesseth.’
And to enforce this important exhortation, he placed before them, in the strongest, and most alarming point of light, an example of the most bewitching influence of wealth in the parable of the rich glutton, who was suddenly cut off in the midst of his projects, and became a dreadful example of the folly of amassing the riches of this world, and depending on the goods of this life, without any regard to the government of God, or the interests of the immortal soul. This wretched man, forgetting his mortality, made preparations for a long and luxurious life, pleasing himself with the thoughts of a long succession of sensual enjoyments: but, alas! whilst he was providing repositories for his vast riches, he was arrested by the king of terrors, and hurried, without time for consideration, into the eternal world. The parable which our great Redeemer put forth on this occasion, is contained in these words: ‘The ground of a certain rich man brought forth plentifully: and he thought within himself, saying, What shall I do, because I have no room where to bestow my fruits? And he said, this will I do: I will pull down my barns, and build greater; and there will I bestow all my fruits, and my goods. And I will say to my foul, soul, thou hast much goods laid up for many years; take thine ease, eat, drink, and be merry. But God said unto him, thou fool, this night thy soul shall be required of thee: then whose shall those things be which thou hast provided?”
What an awful summons was this! How unexpected, how alarming, how dreadful! The man lying on his bed, full of anxiety, care, and solicitude, not to acquire wealth, but how to make room to lodge it, and how to cnjoy it, doubtless thought, that riches gave him a title to every gratification and enjoyment which the world can afford, or the sense and appetite of man partake of: his restless thought ranges through the wide fields of . dissipation and pleasure, and such numerous scenes of imaginary delight presson his ravished senses, he knows not where to fix. In the midst of this pleasing perplexity, a strange messenger strikes at his breast. Who is it that thus alarms him? It is the great king of terrors, he comes commissioned to destroy, the case admits of no refusal or delay. Is there no refuge! is there no deliverer! Call the physicians: they instantly attend, but with looks solemn and sad. What! is there no hope? So often as you have partook of my bounty, and such obligations as you are under to me. They all, with grief, declare the case beyond their art.—Then say, how long I have to live.—The compass of the night concludes your earthly race.—How short the warning, and with what hasty steps the dread destroyer advances to stop my breath! But is there no way to appcase him, and engage him to hold his hand? Will he not be persuaded? He makes no agreement nor league with any. Will not pity excite him, or petitions move him 2 He knows no pity, and he hears no prayers. Will not my riches bribe him? Riches are unavailable in the hour of death; nor will mountains of gold delay the awful stroke one moment. But how many wretched creatures are there, who would be glad of his friendly aid to destroy a loathed existence? Why then should he attack one who had such vast prospects of pleasure and delight before him, and gloried in the expectation
of many happy years to come? He acts according to his commission from above, and the awful stroke no mortal can escape or evade a moment. Then all is over! let me think who shall be my heir. But reason failed; and, before that important point could be settled, the poor dehuded mortal expired. And now, instead of a long succession of sensual delights, an awful eternity presents itself to view, and the poor soul is terrified and plunged into the depths of despair and horror, at the prospect of judgment to come. A dark night of horror in an instant overwhelms that soul, which had promised itself so much ease and pleasure; and, instead of eating, drinking, and making merry; instead of gay scenes of dissipation, and a variety of sensual delights, eternal tortures, unspeakable thirst, weeping, wailing, and gnashing of teeth, must be the portion of this miserable being to all eternity.
So is he, added our great Redeemer, that layeth up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God. Thus shall he be taken away from all that his soul desireth; thus shall he be torn from all his temporal prospects and pleasures; none of his beloved enjoyments shall follow him; naked as he came shall he depart out of the world; nor could all his riches, could he take them with him, be able to procure him the least comfort or respite in this world of horrors. How should this reflection awaken us from our pleasing dreams of comfort and happiness, in this world of misery, this vale of tears; how should it convince us of the uncertainty of all sublunary good, and the utter impossibility of the things of this world to satisfy the soul, or make us truly happy: how should it alarm us, when planning fancied schemes of worldly pleasure or advantage, without the least consideration of the great Disposer of all events: how should it reconcile us to the disposal of infinite Wisdom, when our portion of temporal things is small and scanty; and we are surrounded with difficulties and troubles, without the assistance of the great King of the universe, all our promises of security arc vain and foolish; he can reuder
all our labours abortive; and the richest and most opti. lent person, when they think themselves secure, and are planning schemes of pleasure and gratification, may, in a moment, be stripped of all their possessions, and torn from all their comforts; when the soul, naked and defenceless, and clothed in all its guilt, will enter into an awful eternity, and be brought, trembling and astonished, to the throne of its offended Maker.
Our blessed Saviour, having delivered this awakening parable, proceeded to apply it to his disciples; and from hence took occasion to warn them of an over solicitous care, concern, and desire after the things of this world. He rather advised them to trustin God, whose fatherly care extends itself over all his creatures: the fowls of heaven are fed by his bounty, and the lilies are clothed in brighter hues, and more glorious raiment than the greatest monarch. If, therefore, argued the blessed JEsus, the great Governor of all things so carefully provides for the inferior part of his creation; if he feeds the ravens and clothes the lillies; surely the children of men have the highest reason to depend on his all-preserving, and all-supporting goodness; especially those who have the well-grounded hopes, that the great Eternal Maker and supporter of all things, has appointed them to happiness in a future state, have little reason to doubt that he will not provide them all that is necessary for their comfort and support in this: Fear not, said he, little flock: for it is your Father's goodpleasure to give wou the kingdom. At the same time, he gave his disciples another precept, particularly calculated for those times in which the profession of the gospel exposed men to the loss of their substance: sell that ye have, said he, and give alms; provide yourselves bags; which wax not old, a treasure in the heavens, that faileth not, where no thief approacheth, neither moth corrupteth: for where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.
Having thus exhorted them to the disengagement of their affections from the things of this world, he advised them to be at all times ready for the discharge of their duty: Let, said he, your loins be girded about, and your lights burning; and ye yourselves like unto men that wait for their lord, when he will return from the wedding; that when he cometh and knocketh, they may open unto him immediately.
This was spoken in allusion to the customs of the eastern countries, where anciently great entertainments were made in the evening; and on these occasions, servants demonstrated their diligence, by watching, and keeping their loins girded that they might be ready to open the door on the first knock of their master: nor was it uncommon for the master, in order to reward such a servant, to order him a repast, and sometimes even to give it him with his own hand. In allusion to which custom, our blessed Saviour added, ‘Blessed are those servants, whom the Lord, when he cometh, shall find watching: verily, I say unto you, that he shall gird himself, and make them to sit down to meat, and will come forth and serve them.