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employment, inasmuch as it is in conformity with the services Christ that you may be religiously occupied when occupied with your worldly calling, and that it is to close your eyes to the ordinance of God, to imagine that in working for the body you cannot also be working for the soul. We have further endeavoured to put forth the truth, that the distinctions of men in their temporal capacities have no corresponding distinction in their eternal; but that however various the situations which Christians occupy, the reward of the inheritance is proposed equally to all. The practical inferences from these several truths have been either drawn as we proceeded, or will suggest themselves to your own minds without any formal deduction. We wish you to feel what an every day thing religion must be if it be any thing but a name. It must wind itself into all the businesses of life; and since baptism hath made every Christian man a priest, it must consecrate the haunts of commerce, and hallow the toil for subsistence. It is an interesting thought to those whose occupations are most oppressive and incessant, that Christ is the master by whom the occupation is imposed—that St. Paul was serving him when making tents as well as in preaching sermons--and that he has recorded the integrity of the Christian minister and the faithfulness of the Christian domestic as suitable examples of the beautiful and encouraging truth to the inhabitants of a globe on whose soil rests the malediction of God, and to whom therefore labour is the most common lot. The ploughman in tilling land may be breaking up the fallow of his own heart; the mariner in steering the vessel may be making his way towards the haven of everlasting rest ; the tradesman as he weighs out his goods may be poising and trying himself in the balances of eternity; yea, the very servant as he attends his master, or prepares his meal, may be waiting upon God, and securing his own place at the marriage-supper of the Lamb.
Be it ours, then, to strive with all diligence to serve Christ in our respective vocations. If the vocation be humble it presents its impediments but does not oppose its growth in Christian graces: if it be more exalted it has its perils to admonish us as well as its dignities to ennoble; and we require the greater circumspection that we be not outstripped by those who are our inferiors in every thing but wrestling for chief places in the kingdom of heaven. God grant to all of us so to use the present world as not to abuse it-so to pass through things temporal, that we finally lose not the things eternal—to do whatsoever we have to do heartily, or from the soul; and then our Redeemer who is in heaven will account it as done to himself.
THE CHILDREN OF THE WORLD AND THE CHILDREN OF LIGHT.
REV. T. DALE, A.M.
" And the Lord commended the unjust steward, because he had done wisely : for the
children of this world are in their generation wiser than the children of light.”—LUKE, xvi. 8.
Both the order of these words, and the translation, differ from those in the original ; and as the variation will be of considerable importance in the view which we propose to take of the subject, we are anxious that it should be noted in the outset. The text will be preferably arranged and rendered thus : “ The children of this world are wiser than the children of light according to their own generation :” according, that is, to their own manner and form of life, to the principles which they have adopted, and to the objects which they pursue.
Wisdom, as understood in this passage, is of a two-fold character: it may consist either in the judicious selection of the end, or in the exact adaptation of the means. Perfect wisdom is the combination of the two-the selection of the best possible end, and the prosecution of it by the best possible means.
Those therefore are but partially wise who disparage appropriate means by the unworthiness of the end, or who detract from the excellence of an adequate and becoming end by the unsuitableness or inadequacy of the means.
From these premises we readily attain to a complete understanding of the characters which are opposed to each other in the text. The children of this world pursue an unworthy object, but they are quicksighted in their policy, and unwearied in their diligence, while they pursue it. The children of light, engaged in a matter of the highest importance that can be conceived, too often in the pursuit of it shew little judgment and less diligence. Conscquently, the children of this world are wiser than the children of light according to their own generation : in other words, the toys, and the baubles, and the vanities of time, are pursued with a strength of purpose worthy a better cause; energies and efforts are wasted on things which perish, which, rightly used, would avail to the saving of the soul.
For the benefit of the St. Ann's Society Schools.
It will be proper here, and may be profitable (God grant it!) that we on the present occasion discriminate accurately between the two characters—that we examine into the conduct, principles, and object of it; and that we, in conclusion, apply the standard of Scripture to ourselves, in order to determine whose we are, and whom we serve—what we are pursuing, and what we may expect : for wisdom will in the end be justified of all her children; and as the children of light will have their portion in unfading and unmeasurable day—so the ruin of the ungodly will afford through all eternity a fearful demonstration of the solemn truth, that the wisdom of this world is too often foolishness with God.
In regard to the great object of life, man, in every age of the world, and under every variation of life, of moral and intellectual light, does and will differ; but it seems to be universally admitted that he who lives without a specific and decided object is unworthy the name of man. Animal existence he shares in common with the brute ; and when intelligence, which is man's peculiar glory, is used for no better purpose than to direct or to diversify the indulgences of appetite, what is this but to turn his glory to shame?
So we speak regarding man only as a rational being. How far such a view will be confirmed when responsibility is also taken into the reckoning will come before us more appropriately in a subsequent portion of the discourse. We simply insist at present on the necessity that a reasonable being should live to some definite purpose : and if there are those with whom the intelligence of the man goes little further than the intellect of the brute, who are proof against all argument, and insensible to all persuasion, it is evident that they fall into the very lowest ranks of the children of this world ; they possess not even the shadow of that apparent wisdom which, however plausible, is found to be delusive and deceptive. Our argument with the children of this world will be, not that they are without an object, but that they have erred in the choice of it; that they have merged the concerns of eternal duration in the interests of time, and the indulgence of sense ; that as to the only portion which can be adequate to the wants of a spiritual and immortal nature, they are walking in a vain show, and disquieting themselves in vain. Were this world all, and were man the only judge, they might do wisely; but the wisdom of the generation that passes is one thing, and the wisdom of eternity that endures is another ; for in eternity God is judge, not man, and the world is not everything, but nothing.
The children of this world, then, as opposed to the children of ‘ight, are those with whom the main object of life has an exclusive
reference to the present precarious existence, and whose minds are occupied and engrossed by the concerns of the world that passeth away. Nor is the principle of this definition at all affected by the measure of their aspirations and their aims. One, for example, who is engaged in traffic, may profess to be engaged in a bare competency, while another may be bent on the accumulation of more than princely wealth. One who is aspiring after honour may confine himself to a local or partial pre-eminence; another may seek to control a nation, or agitate the world. One who is ambitious of fame may court the ephemeral distinction of popular applause, which dies on the breeze that it swells; another may spend his days in solitude, and occupy his nights in meditation, that his name may be pronounced with reverence in distant lands, and go down to remote ages with the honour which a grateful posterity will pay to those who have enlightened or improved mankind. In these there is no essential evil: the evil arises from the fact that they are misapplied, and that, consequently, the preferment of them is the virtual degradation of that which is intrinsically far more valuable and important; honour, fame, or affluence, being pursued to the forgetfulness of the soul, and He whom the soul ought first to serve being dishonoured and defrauded thereby.
It is true this line of reasoning does not apply to all the children of this world; for there are some, strange as it may seem, in these evil days, who will exercise all the power and all the intelligence of the soul to prove that the soul itself has no existence. There are some who will contend, with an unholy vehemence, for the dignity of dust, and argue that man was created, or that he created himself, or that he sprung fortuitously into existence—no matter which—merely to fret and fume his hour on the stage of life, and then to moulder into nothingness. With such there can be no true enjoyment of life, or, if weighed in the balance, is too often comprehended in the one brief maxim, “ Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die:” and all the brilliancy of genius, and all the refinement of taste, can find in such no worthier employment than to wreathe the bowl with flowers, and decorate their passage to the grave.
Too many must be ranked among the children of this world who would shrink from the profession of impiety and absurdity like this; who would neither impute folly to God as though he made all men for nought, nor debase themselves by imagining the materialism of mind; many who pursue an unworthy object from the absence of reflection, and who are practically serving Mammon only because they would defer their obligation to serve God. It is these last alone who are generally to be found amongst the
assembly of sabbath worshippers ; and to such shall we only now address ourselves; to men whose conduct would seem to infer the superiority of the body, while their creed acknowledges that superiority of the soul which distances all reckoning—its immortality; men who are strangely content with the short-sighted policy of substituting the means for the end, never considering that a time is approaching when the end will be weighed in the balances of the sanctuary, and if it be found wanting will become the source of irremediable woe. How can it be otherwise, when men“ choose darkness rather than light, because their deeds are evil ?”
Here, however, it may be objected by some, that the lord commended the unjust steward, because he had done wisely. Yes, but it is the lord who speaks in the parable—the rich man who was the master of the unjust steward; and who may be supposed, without doing any violence to the context, to have shared his views of worldly policy, and to have spoken in reference to them alone: the text is the comment of Jesus himself, and we must beware of confounding the two. The ground of the commendation is expressly stated and explained : “ The lord commended the unjust steward because he had done wisely.” But there is limitation in the comment which completely justifies the view which we have taken:
The children of this world are wiser than the children of light, according to their own generation.” And what is “ their own generation ?” What was it in the day of Christ? The Lord describes it, in the most emphatic terms of reproach, as “an evil and adulterous generation :” “ a perverse and wicked generation :” a generation which was about to reject the Son of Man, and consequently to reject also the counsel of God against themselves ; a generation on which already rested the curse of blindness, and on which will come down hereafter the curse of blood. And if these vehement expressions may be thought to require some qualification in the present day, because the temptations presented to the corrupt nature of man is now of a different character-because there is now more of sensual indulgence, and less of sanguinary and malignant persecution—whose wisdom, according to the generation of this world, is a wisdom which does not extend its views beyond that which is palpable and perishable. A man, for example, who absorbs existence in the pursuit of wealth does not expect to carry it with him to the grave: he knows, when he reflects, that naked as he came out of his mother's womb, naked must he return thither again. He only puts away the contingent nearness and the eventual certainty of that return. He calculates on the continuance of life, that he may not be compelled to think of the probability of death. In every such case, therefore--every case in which the