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when tempted to repine at their low estate, “ Whatsoever ye do, do it heartily as unto the Lord, and not to men; knowing that of the Lord ye shall receive the reward of the inheritance: for ye serve the Lord Christ.”
Now all our foregoing statements will be illustrated and confirmed by what we have to advance under our second head of dis
We have considered the fact asserted by the apostle, that even slaves, while performing the duties imposed by their slavery, were to be regarded as engaged in the service of Christ : we have now to consider the inference which he derives from the fact, “ knowing that of the Lord ye shall receive the reward of the inheritance.”
It is clear that the argument of the apostle, if we so call it, not only supposes that slaves as well as free men may gain entrance into heaven, but that higher recompenses may be reached through the patient discharge of the duties of one station as of another. The duties that devolved on the free-man might be very different from those which devolved on the slave; but forasmuch as one was not more in the service of Christ than another, both had the same power of obtaining the rewards of eternity. The apostle's argument must be considered as going to this length: if it stops short of this it holds that the distinctions in society have an influence on man's future portion: and this advances little or nothing to show the unreasonableness of dissatisfaction in those placed in an inferior condition. If the case was the same as in a kingdom or a household, where no amount of diligence on the part of those who hold the inferior, will make them equal with those who enjoy the superior, the slave might feel that he was injured by his slavery-yea, injured irreparably, because for eternity. But if the inheritance of another life lay as open to the slave as to the sovereign -if the position of the master gave him no advantage over the servant so far as the future was concerned, but both had the same recompense placed within their reach, St. Paul might well treat as unimportant the difference in human conditions, and exhort every class to the like diligence in performing its duties. Those whose duties in life are of a menial description may gain as high recompense hereafter as any who move in the first walks of society. There is a wide separation between the king and the peasant, but there is no reason to infer that such separation exists hereafter, supposing that both king and slave enter heaven. The king and the slave may either receive the same crown, or that on the head of the servant outshine that which the potentate wears.
And ought we to be surprised at such a statement as this ? We must perceive at once that if there be no respect of persons with God, he must afford different opportunities to different classes of securing to themselves the glories of immortality. If it be through his appointment that one man fills one situation and another another, there would be a manifest partiality; an undeniable respect of persons, if the higher recompenses of eternity were confined to those who had occupied the higher places in life, and the lower only were within reach of those who had filled the lower. We seem obliged to adopt one of two suppositions—either that there is no difference in future rewards (which is contradicted by the whole tenor of scripture), or that the difference has no connexion with the difference in present rank, but that the rewards are proposed equally to all, and are equally attainable by all. The least consideration would suffice to show the truth of this latter supposition. The degrees of greatness and happiness hereafter will surely be proportioned to men’s attainment on earth in the Christian character. The holier a man has become, the richer and more exalted will be his portion. It is holiness which constitutes his meetness or fitness for the inheritance of the saints, and it must be as the fitness increases that the recompense grows. And what is there to prevent the Christian, who fills the meanest place in society, from becoming as holy and as far advanced in the graces of the Gospel as another, more prominent in station and more dignified in office ? It certainly cannot be thought that influence, and rank, and wealth have a tendency to the fostering of holiness, or that they place their possessor in a more advantageous position for the culture of those graces which are loveliest and of best report. It might be readily shown that these things have all their attendant dangers ; so that if in one sense they open the paths to Christian eminence, in another they throw obstacles in the way . Thus there is in the divine dealings what we may call a system of balancing; if the situation affords greater opportunities for labouring for God, it has greater temptations : and thus, on the whole, it may be no more advantageous to personal holiness than one far more retired, and presenting a far narrower field of action. Hence we can readily understand that those who occupy these very different situations may be active and watchful, as candidates for heaven: so that the man of large resources who can give his thousands towards the endeavour to evangelize the globe, and the minister whose constant employment is in sacred things, and the merchant who must spend large portions of his time in worldly concerns, and the servant completely at the will of another, and whose every day is consumed in drudgery and toil—0. all these have each equal
opportunities and equal means of winning a high place in the celestial assembly.
It is the truth which was affirmed by Christ, when he said, “He that receiveth a prophet in the name of a prophet, shall receive a prophet's reward ; and he that receiveth a righteous man in the name of a righteous man, shall receive a righteous man's reward." Our Lord here plainly intimates that there shall be a difference in future rewards, for he speaks of “the prophet's reward,” and “the righteous man's reward;" evidently meaning that they will not be the same.
But then he just as plainly intimates that the reward may as well be attainable by others besides those who had borne the particular office. The prophet's reward might be won by a man who had not himself been a prophet: if he received a prophet in the name of a prophet, then, whatever his own office in life, he became entitled to the prophet's reward. He might be a slave; one of that despised class to whom St. Paul addressed our text, and who stood, therefore, apparently the furthest removed from those invested with the high dignity of being prophets of the Lord. But nevertheless, it was equally within his power, by an act of Christian faith and compassion, to annihilate at once the vast separation, and to place himself on a level with the prophet, as a competitor for the recompenses of heaven. And thus has the clergyman no necessary superiority over the very meanest in his congregation, when once judged by the everlasting prizes which are set before each. All the duties of the one are indeed of a high and spiritual character; whereas those of the other have no visible connexion with religion : yet may any amongst you, though nothing more than a servant, gain as great eminence in heaven as any of the ministers of the church, whose high employment it is to publish the Gospel of redemption. O, it is not necessary for a man's spiritual advancement, that his profession in life requires him to be conversant with spiritual things, and that his very trade as much obliges him to familiarity with theology, as the profession of the lawyer with jurisprudence. The risk is not to be computed that a clergyman will gradually sink into a mechanical Christianity; that, having constantly to handle great truths, he will grow insensible to their greatness; and that, called frequently to visit sick beds, he will acquire a sort of professional apathy, and be little moved by what would stir others to the most serious inquiry. They know nothing of human nature who do not acknowledge that we are apt to grow indifferent to that to which we are most accustomed; and that the very circumstance of our being, as a matter of business, in contact with what is solemn, is likely to weaken the thinking powers. And we are sure that of all
avocations there are few fraught with more peril to the soul than the clerical. The fear is, that the Bible may become to the clergyman nothing more than a repository of texts; and that, in continually searching it for subjects of public address, he may overlook the materials for his own personal instruction. In his zeal to exhort others to amend their lives, he may be very apt to neglect his own; and though engaged in exhorting others to trimming their lamps, he may never suspect how applicable to himself are those words of the church—“ They made me keeper to the vineyards ; but mine own vineyard have I not kept.”
We speak of the dangers attending the call of the clergyman, in order to show that if he had ampler opportunities for labouring for God than the servant with whom we bring him into contrast, he has also greater difficulties and temptations; so that there is no reason, from the professions of the different individuals, why the one should advance further and faster in holiness than the other. If the reward is to be proportioned to the holiness, the prophet's reward may be reached by the meanest of those among whom he prophesies. And this is not the alone reason why the recompense of the master is within reach of the servant. The master may be vastly helped and sustained by the servant: the servant has apparently nothing to do with preaching the Gospel; but it may be in answer to his prayers that the Gospel is faithfully and successfully preached in the neighbourhood. We have so great a confidence in the prevalence of prayer, that we reckon it in the power of the poorest of our hearers to aid us in our preparation for the pulpit, to strengthen us lv. every pastoral visit, and to uphold us in every effort for the spread of Christian knowledge. And if the servant can thus do so much of the prophet's work, why should he be excluded from the prophet's reward? There is a beautiful community of employment, which ought to prepare us to expect a community of recompense. The servant may be instrumental by his prayers to the enabling the clergyman to cast down the strong holds of ignorance and unbelief; and thus he may be acting silently through every sermon and through every labour of his minister. The clergyman, by his prayers and instructions, on the other hand, may be supporting the servant in all the duties of his station; so that the minister may have much to do with those straight-forward habits and that conscientious industry of the servant, which are winning the approval and the confidence of his employer. In this manner, it is not too much to say, that the servant works as the clergyman, and the clergyman works as the servant; and, therefore, neither is 't too muca to say that the clergyman and the servant may strive for the same recompense, and thus the prophet's reward be attained by those who never bore the prophet's office.
In this way it is that Christianity, though altogether opposed to those levelling theories which disaffected men industriously broach, places the highest and the lowest on a par in the competition for eternity. Christianity is the best upholder of the distinctions in society: and he can have read his Bible to little purpose who does not see the appointment of God that there should be rich and poor in the world, master and servant; who does not perceive that want of loyalty is want of religion, and that there is no more direct rebellion against the Creator than resistance to any constituted authority, or the endeavour to bring round that boasted equality in which all shall have the same rights, or, to speak more truly, in which none shall have any. But if Christianity makes it sinful to repine against servitude, it gives a dignity to the servant who would still remain in servitude. It tells the servant, that if faithful here, he may rank with his master hereafter, even though the employment of the master has been the advancement of Christ's cause on earth. And 0, it should be a surprisingly cheering thing to those who have to wear away life in the meanest occupations, that, as immortal beings, they are not one jot disadvantaged by their temporal position, but may make as much progress in the Christian race as those placed at the very highest summit in the Christian office. And the cottager who is never heard of, except in his own petty village, and whose only business is with the spade and the plough; and the artisan, who, week after week, must pursue the same dull routine, turning the wheel or throwing the shuttle; and the servant, whose days are consumed in the drudgeries of the kitchen ; there is not one of these who need envy the missionary who is diffusing the blessings of the Gospel in heathen lands, or the philanthropist, whose charities are spreading happiness in the parish: for so fixed is the principle that others besides the prophet may win the prophet's reward, that if the missionary or the philanthropist were to visit the cottager, or the manufacturer, or the servant in the kitchen, he would be bound to regard them as his rivals for the prizes of eternity, and to say to them with a fine confession of spiritual equality—“Whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men; knowing that of the Lord ye shall receive the reward of the inheritance."
There is little that we can have to add in bringing to a condusion this great subject of discourse. It has been our endeavour to show that there is a sacred character around every lawful