Sidor som bilder
PDF
ePub

caution for them, as for the people at large, but founded on reasons the truth of which made it as specially applicable in some sense to them, as the reason already considered, had made it generally so to the people at large. The resumption therefore, of the thread of our Lord's discourse would thus be effected with no violence of transition; and should it further appear, that even the general topic of the previous address to the people, is prosecuted, only to be applied to the disciples with a peculiar and exclusive reference to them-our admiration of the happiness of the transition will be proportionably increased; because, while the same particular argument continues to be enforced, the design and intention of the discourse from the first, which we have seen was exclusively meant for the disciples, will be resumed and enforced also.

The method and distribution of the component parts of this division, too, resemble those of the divisions which have preceded; so far as to consist of the statement of precepts or cautions, on the one hand, and of the proper arguments by which they are rendered binding, on the other: with this difference, however, in the particular drift of the general statements themselves, that some of them concern a certain principle of action, and the rest, its natural, practical effects. One part of the discourse, therefore, is directed to the eviction of the principle, the other, to the designation of its effects; the former, if I mistake not, from verse 22-31, the latter, from 32-34.

This general principle, thus found to be inculcated as the proper spring or peculiar motive of action which was to regulate accordingly the conduct of the hearers, that is, the disciples of our Lord

himself, under particular circumstances; is the principle of an exclusive reliance on the care and providence of God, for what they would otherwise be obliged to procure and provide for themselves-the supply of the necessary wants of life. The practical consequence to their conduct, to which they are considered especially bound, as to the natural effect of an exclusive reliance on the care of Providence in their own behalf-is the obligation to use and dispose of those means in behalf of others-under the conviction that they were no longer necessary to themselves-which without that conviction, they must have considered necessary, and would have been obliged to reserve, and to appropriate, for their own support. The former is confirmed by a variety of pertinent arguments, which leave no doubt of the truth and reasonableness of the principle of action; the latter is illustrated by a variety of apposite modes of describing its operation, which fully clear up, and specify intelligibly, what ought to be its direct, legitimate effect in practice.

With regard to the proper object of this reliance on the one hand, in the presence and possession of which, as an habit of mind, the power and activity of the principle, in its influence to a corresponding mode of conduct, are supposed to consist; it is represented as the daily supply of the necessities of nature-as the constant possession and enjoyment of whatever is requisite to the possession and continuance of life, in the ordinary sense of the term. Now as the possession and continuance of mere life or animal existence, depend upon the union of σμa kai ux," of body and soul;" that is, of body and the animal principle of the human soul, as contradis

66

66

tinguished to the spiritual; the wants or necessities of mere existence may be reduced to the two general particulars of τριφὴ καὶ ἔνδυμα, “ of food and clothing;" as virtually comprehending every thing, necessary to the soul as such and to the body as such, in their present state of existence-because actually the two things which are most indispensable to the being and well-being of both; food, as the most essential to the wants of the soul, and clothing, as the most needful for the necessities of the body.

66

With regard to the specific object of the practical directions, on the other hand, as proposed to the observance of persons supposed to be actuated by such a principle as that of an absolute reliance on the care of Providence in their own behalf; it is, to inculcate a sense of the duty and propriety of alienating every thing, which under ordinary circumstances would be the means and instrument of procuring the supply of their natural wants in behalf of its possessors, as unnecessary and superfluous for any such purpose as that, but still to be disposed of in some way agreeable to its natural use and application; and therefore, exclusively for the benefit of others, because no longer for that of its possessors. These means and instruments, under ordinary circumstances, it is manifest, are money or property; whatever, in short, is known by the name of wealth or possessions in general: and the object of the practical rules of duty subjoined to the eviction of the general principle of conduct, is to impress upon the hearers the obligation of making that use of money or property, in behalf of others, as no longer necessary to their own support, which without an

absolute reliance on the care and providence of God for themselves in particular, they must naturally have made of their own means, for the supply of their own wants.

Now they, who are required to place an entire dependence on the care of God for a certain purpose, are of course required to renounce all dependence upon themselves, at least with a view to the same effect; and they who are required to renounce all dependence upon themselves, for the supply of their own wants, on the strength of a persuasion that they may confidently look to God for it-and who, in the consciousness of that conviction, are supposed to be further obliged to part with all that they possessed or might possess, in behalf of others, which under ordinary circumstances, they must have reserved for their own support; are to be considered as placed, and as acting like men who are conscious of being placed, not under the ordinary, but under the extraordinary, providence of God.

If then, it can be shewn that the arguments which enforce the eviction of the principle, on the one hand, are such as necessarily imply an absolute and total reliance upon God, and as absolute and total a renunciation of reliance on themselves, for this particular purpose, the due supply of the necessaries of life; and that the precepts which inculcate the practical consequences of the principle, on the other, go to the extent of enjoining the total and absolute resignation of property-supposed to be previously possessed, and previously available to the support of its possessors-for the benefit and advantage of others, as no longer necessary for their own; it will follow that the disciples of our Lord, who

are addressed in this instance as the persons required to entertain the conviction on the one hand, and to act up to its practical obligations on the other, are addressed as persons who knew already, or should know hereafter, that they were placed under the protection of an extraordinary Providence; which by relieving them of all care in their own behalf, would leave them free to act as the reason of the case might require, with regard to the disposal of their property in behalf of others; and make it incumbent upon them so to do.

Our attention therefore, must be directed to the proof of these two assumptions, with a view to shew the truth of the consequence resulting from them also, in describing and characterising the particular situation of the hearers immediately concerned in receiving such assurances, and observing such directions; if the latter were ever to be acted upon in the strength and persuasion of the former. It is necessary only to premise, that as the object of the reliance prescribed, whether it be upon God or on themselves, is restricted to the supply of the most indispensable of the wants of life; and that of the practical directions resulting from it, is simply the disposal in behalf of others, as no longer necessary for themselves, of those means, which, without good reason to depend on the care and providence of God in their own behalf, the possessors must have appropriated to the supply of their own wants; the conclusion deducible from such premises, respecting the situation of the parties addressed, supposes them to be actuated by such a principle, no further than as authorized to rely upon an extraordinary providence for the provision of the simplest and most

« FöregåendeFortsätt »