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all important duties to perform in life, to the faithful discharge of which is attached the promise of a recompense of such value that the heart of man cannot conceive its magnitude and duration.
And now, that we may learn rightly to estimate human life, and that we may be prepared fitly and resignedly to leave it, adopting to ourselves the words of our text, “ For me, to die is gain,” whenever our end seems to approach, or shall arrive, I will here take a summary view of human life itself, and of those objects in it which daily engross the attention of the worldly-minded man, and show how unworthy they are of that value which he puts upon them.
First, then, let us observe that human life is a possession, if it may be so called, of precarious and limited tenure: we hold it this day, but cannot be certain that we shall hold it to-morrow; and under all circumstances it is given us but for a while.
In the general Epistle of St. James we find the following observations : “ Go to
now, ye that say, To-day or to-morrow we “ will go into such a city, and continue
“ there a year, and buy and sell and get “ gain : whereas ye know not what shall be
on the morrow. For what is your life? “ it is even a vapour, that appeareth for a “ little time, and then vanisheth away The law of our nature speedily brings human life to its close : it is usual in Scripture, and in other writings, to compare the life of man to that of the flower or of
vegetable nature; “ All flesh is as grass, and all “ the glory of man as the flower of
grass withereth, and the flower thereof “ falleth away."
Indeed, when the end is fully come, it matters but little whether the space run out be that of a flower or of a human life : it matters not at all in comparison with eternity.
By death, therefore, we pass from a precarious and short life to one which is neither perishable in its nature, nor exposed to fatal accidents, but certain and eternal.
And then what are the worldly objects that occupy the thoughts and excite the efforts during this short life, and to the worldly-minded man seem to give life its value, or impart to it its zest" ?
St. James iv. 13, 14.
11 Pet. i. 24.
I. Ambition is one general head under which the passions are classed, and ambition, whether acting in high or humbler stations, has frequently effected what are thought great objects in the world; but what is its ordinary effect upon the mind which is actuated by it ? Does it produce satisfaction ? What is the usual course of the ambitious man? The objects after which he strives occupy and engage the vigorous season of his life. Rarely does he attain the whole or even the greater part of them. But were every wish gratified, what then remains to the ambitious man but to bid adieu to the mighty work which he has perfected ? Age is creeping fast and should the powers of his mind remain unimpaired, whilst his earthly frame totters,
m“ Audire, atque togam jubeo componere, quisquis
Ambitione mala aut argenti pallet amore,
Hor. Serm. II. üi. 77.
his sagacity will then point out to him that the elements of dissolution have been inevitably worked up in the fabric which he has constructed, that it will fall to decay soon after himself; and in fact, that in labouring for an earthly object, he has laboured but in vain. This, then, is the ordinary satisfaction of the ambitious man at the close of his life.
II. Whatever has been said concerning ambition applies with tenfold force to avarice, or the desire of accumulating wealth : riches are more easily dissipated than the objects to which ambition attaches itself. They must be guarded with greater vigilance; for they are more exposed to fraud and violence. There is hardly any passion of which Scripture more strongly points out the guilt and folly than the inordinate love of money.
“ He heapeth up riches,” says the Psalmist, “ and cannot tell who shall gather them.”
“ Labour not to be rich," says the Wise Man: cease from thine own “ wisdom. Wilt thou set thine eyes upon
that which is not ? for riches certainly
“ make themselves wings; they fly away as
an eagle toward heaven"."
Covetousness is said in the Epistle to the Colossians “ to be idolatry,”, and the two crimes are coupled together by Job.
“If I have made gold my hope, or have said to “ the fine gold, Thou art my confidence; if “ I rejoiced because my wealth was great, “ and because my hand had gotten much; “ if I beheld the sun when it shined, or the
moon walking in brightness, and my heart “ hath been secretly enticed, or my mouth “ hath kissed my hand; this also were an
iniquity to be punished by the judge ; for “ I should have denied the God that is “ above." In one respect covetousness and idolatry most strikingly and painfully resemble each other : that riches can no more afford support or relief to him who is about to quit the world, than can the lifeless idol stretch forth its hand to rescue its worshipper from disease or death. Riches “ profit not in the day of wrath,” saith Solomon, “ but righteousness delivereth from
* Prov. xxiii. 4, 5.
Job xxxi. 24-28.