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did not wish to be the means of saving any of them, “but it displeased him exceedingly, and he was very angry” that God did not destroy them all ; yet the unfeeling prophet preached the word of God to the people, and that was the seed which produced the abundant harvest. But if they had known his cruel disposition towards them, would they have “repented at the preaching of Jonah”? The knowledge of his character would have hardened their hearts against his message.
But the blessing of God, the unction of the Holy One, resting upon ourselves as well as upon his word, must add much to the power of the most popular preacher. It gives an ease, grace, and force in the delivery of a sermon that no human qualification can supply. It hallows, elevates, and ennobles all our gifts and talents, and deepens and widens our love and sympathy. It gives an impressive tone to the voice, a telling expression to the countenance, and helps to regulate and chasten the motions of our hands and
This is the crowning grace of the truly popular preacher ; and, whatever else we fail to obtain, let us see that we secure this.
ART. IV.-SECULARISM, FROM THE OLD TESTAMENT
They that trust in their wealth, and boast themselves in the multitude of their riches; none of them can by any means redeem his brother, nor give to God a ransom for him: (for the redemption of their soul is precious, and it ceaseth for ever,) that he should still live for ever, and not see corruption. For he seeth that wise men die, likewise the fool and the brutish person perish, and leave their wealth to others."Psalm xlix. 6-10.
idea some have made an ingenious addition to its title. They have inscribed at the beginning of it, Al-Muth-upon death, or concerning death. These two words they take from the close of the 48th Psalm, which words, they say, should not be at the end of that, but at the commencement of this. They read the last verse of the foregoing Psalın so as to spare two words, “For this God is our God for ever and ever; he will be our guide,”— the other two words they shift on to the head of this Psalm, to signify that it is upon death. This may possibly be the right position for the said words. It does not affect the matter much. Whether we rob the end of the previous Psalm to enrich the title of this or not, we must admit that death is really the chief argument or subject. From what the author says about wisdom, and wise men and fools, you might suppose that wisdom was the chief theme; and you would not be wrong But if you combine both you get the full idea. The wisdom of life consists in acting with a prudent forecast of death. “ So teach us to number our days that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom." Psalm xc. 12. A hearty recognition of our mortality is a powerful aid to good morals. Forgetfulness of death makes men worldly, proud, presumptuous, oppressive, atheistic, and reckless of moral obligation; yet they cannot by ignor it free themselves from its stroke. Irrespective of their negligence it will come upon them, and will be all the more terrible in consequence of their previous disregard. “Oh that they were wise, that they understood this, that they would consider their latter end.” Deut. xxxii. 29. Both rich and poor are too oblivious of death. But the rich having the comforts of life in such abundance are under greater temptation to shy the unwelcome thought, and entrench themselves behind their affluence. This is charged upon them in this Psalm. The section we have in hand requires us to treat of, I. THE CHARACTER OF THESE SECULARISTS.
This appears in verse 6 : “ They that trust in their wealth, and boast themselves in the multitude of their riches." Also their character is hinted at in other parts of the Psalm, particularly in the fifth verse. Some throw the sixth verse into construction with the fifth, rather than with the seventh, which the received pointing favours. By this device they make the rich man to be the supplanter there spoken of. According to this punctuation rich men are,
1. Oppressive. This is a charge that has held against the class as a class through all time. And it is a likely element to incorporate itself into the character of the rich. It is a sin besetting the whole brotherhood, and which can only be resisted by vigilance and care on their part. The general tenor of Scripture runs on upon this idea. Foreseeing the wickedness of men in this particular, the Scriptureforbade those in power to takeadvantage of personsin humble circumstances. Hence the abundance of precept against oppression, and especially against the oppression of the godly, whose character disposes them to be unresistive. The cautions would not have been there if there had not been a strong probability of the thing being done. The strong are under temptation to oppress the weak because they have power on their side, and can do it with present advantage. Of course it was kind of the Lord to fill his book up with admonitions of this nature. It was kind to the poor and defenceless; but it was kinder still to the opulent, to set them on their guard against a sin to which their position exposed them. The world was not so improved in New Testament times as to render the precepts against oppression needlesss. The cautions on this subject make quite a figure in later Scripture. We may instance the outspoken plainness of one writer, who has been called the Christian moralist. He reprimanded the Christians of his day when he observed how they bowed to the rich, and sought them out the best seats in their synagogues, leaving the poor to stand in the aisles, or behind the door, or to sit down on the hassock or the stone steps. He demands of them if this is becoming in the worship of God, in whose sight one man is as good as another. He tells them that they have not copied this partiality from the Lord. “Hearken, my beloved brethren, Hath not God chosen the poor of this world rich in faith, and heirs of the kingdom which he hath promised to them that love him? But ye have despised the poor. Do not rich men oppress you, and draw you before the judgment seats ?” James ii. 5, 6. This is a sharp witness, but true. Some rich men do avoid this sin, even some unregenerate rich men. Of course, it is to be expected that a Joseph of Arimathea will befriend the truth when it falls down in the street, and will give its crucified friends a decent burial. A rich Nicodemus, who sits at the council-board, will pluck up courage, though he is in the minority, to speak a word in court in favour of the victims of oppression. It remains true, however, that the law often winks at the wrongs done to the simple poor. Nay, the law is sometimes made the positive minister of the wrong. Mischief is even framed by a law. Under colour of justice the iniquity of supplanters takes effect.
Another charge against secularists is that they are,
2. Ungodly. They trust in their wealth—a clear token of ungodliness. God is the proper ground of trust. To trust in anything short of him is a slight and an offence, of which he fails not to take note. In an age when temporal retribution was more common than it is now, or needs to be now, because of the world's advanced condition, such trusters in the creature were made examples and beacons of warning. “The righteous also shall see and fear, and shall laugh at him. Lo! this is the man, that made not God his strength, but trusted in the abundance of his riches, and strengthened himself in his wickedness” (marg. substance.) Ps. lii. 6, 7. Wealth unjustly acquired is not trustworthy. A blight is due to it for the wrong done in getting it. Nor is it to be trusted, however righteously acquired, by heirship or industry, or penurious care, or by the special blessing of Providence. The good of it is to keep care out of the mind, and enable its possessor to be bountiful to the needy. It is often perverted to the very opposite, and increases care, and makes men less generous than they were when their means were more limited. The only way for rich people to save themselves from the curse of wealth is to put it from them in the shape of benefactions, and as they grow richer, to increase their generosity in proportion. “Charge them that are rich in this world, that they be not high-minded, nor trust in uncertain riches, but in the living God, who giveth us richly all things to enjoy. That they do good, that they be rich in good works, ready to distribute, willing to communicate; laying up in store for themselves a good foundation against the time to come, that they may lay hold on eternal life." 1 Tim. vi. 17-19. If it were not wicked to trust in wealth, it would still be foolish and unsafe, as it is subject to so many casualties and accidents. It loses value, attracts the hand of violence, is at the mercy of the elements, is open to fraud and treachery and trade-panics, and to many a nameless liability. Who would trust a thing that has a thousand wings, and can take itself off in so many directions! Of this folly atheistic worldlings are guilty. They make their gold a substitute for God. It is further charged upon them that they are
3. Proud. They “boast themselves in the multitude of their riches.” They boast themselves. It is an inward exercise or a private soliloquy they indulge in on their own skill and cunning and contrivance, by which they have raised themselves to opulence. In all which they have acquired they can see nothing but their own hand. A wealthy saint holds his possessions as the gift of God. A rich sinner looks on his as the monument and triumph of his own dexterity and industry. Some will perhaps acknowledge the stars as having contributed to their elevation, or a blind something or nothing called fortune. Most of them are better pleased, however, to give the credit to their own hand, as the efficient agent. They boast themselves. Self-praise is the idea of the word, and this confined to the individual's own breast. So much is signified by the reflexive conjugation the original verb appears in in this place. The charge brought against them is, not that they boast to others, a thing which they are in danger of doing also, but that they boast themselves to themselves, and in themselves. They feed their pride by luxuriating in their minds upon the great estate they have come to. As a matter of fact they boast to others also, and expect others to admire them on these extrinsic grounds. So Haman did. (Esther v. 11.) So Ahasuerus did. (Esther i. 4.) So Nebuchadnezzar did, (Dan. iv. 30.)
Proceeding on with our exposition, we have next,
II. THE IMPOTENCY OF THEIR WEALTH. This is affirmed in the seventh and ninth verses, which we read consecutively, losing sight of the eighth, which lies in a parenthesis, and rather confuses the sense. Let the reader drop the eighth verse out of notice, to be lifted after, and join close together the two verses it lies between, and he will find the sense to run clear and easy : 6 None of them can by any means redeem his brother nor give to God a ransom for him
That he should still live for ever and not see corruption.” We call attention to
1. The emphatic expression, “ None of them can by any means." This is a circumlocution to express impossibility. The phrase leads us to think of several devices, as, if one were to fail, another and another, and still more might be tried. Perhaps we get the whole meaning if we say it cannot be done by money. If any earthly thing was of avail money would effect it. In the esteem of worldlings money is almighty. See how weak it is ! Pitted against death it is as feeble as an infant's arm. If wealth would exhaust itself to its last shilling it cannot turn aside the inevitable stroke; no, not by any means. This expression has its proper counterpart in the original text, where there is an idiomatic doubling of the word redeem. The doubling is a common device to give intensity. Mark also
2. The persons supposed to redeem and to be redeemed. “None of them can by any means redeem his brother.” And who is the rich man's brother? Another rich man. To come at the right notion we must keep within the circle of opulence. To suppose “his brother” to be poor would send us wide of the mark. It would make a benevolent sense to insert a word and read : 6 None of them can by any means redeem his poor brother.” It is not often that a rich man has a poor brother, or, if he has, he lives at a great remoteness—be scarcely knows where, or cares to know. He has no clue to him, and is barred from access. The kindred of a rich man are all rich people. In an affair of redemption a rich person and a poor person are customarily the necessary factors, the abler one coming to the help of the other. In this instance we must banish such a thought from our minds, or it will blind us from apprehending the true meaning of the passage. The notion put before is one rich man coming to the rescue of another. A rich man is the agent of the action supposed. Another rich man is the object of the supposed action, and should be benefited by it, if it could be done. The children of fortune, favoured and elevated, are considered brothers, not because of kindred connection, but on account of rank, or position, or likeness of character. They are one in spirit and purpose. Rhetoric is accustomed to put into family groups such as are of one mind and aim. Moral relationship is as strong a bond as the family tie. “He also that is slothful in his work is brother to him that is a great waster.” Prov. xviii. 9. Poor people are brethren to each other. So the ambitious wealthy are a distinct family, and recognize each other, and render brotherly