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increased in goods, and need nothing, and knowest not that thou art wretched, and pitiable, and poor, and blind, and naked.”
4. The Good Shepherd's Counsel. How sweet it is to know that there is no disease in the church which the Head of the church cannot heal; that there is no case so desperate which he cannot minister to, and that this infallible Physician is not to seek, but ever standeth at the door seeking entrance to us for his sure and certain remedies. There is no God like unto our Savionr ; and never, never was a people entreated as we are during this the day of our merciful visitation. You 'have heard the lukewarmness of this Laodicean minister ; you have heard how loathsome was his spiritual estate to the heart of Christ, who was ready to spue him out of his mouth; you have heard how his soul boasted of his riches, and rested in his own sufficiency, and you have likewise heard how false and treacherous he had proved, both to his Lord, and to the flock of his Lord; hear now the grace and forgiveness, the counsel and earnest pleading of that rejected Master; and remember that he who thus speaks is the Lord of heaven and earth, the Almighty Ruler of the universe. “ I counsel thee to buy of me gold tried in the fire, that thou mayest be rich; and white raiment, that thou mayest be clothed, and that the shame of thy nakedness do not appear; and anoint thine eyes with eye-salve, that thou mayest see (ii. 18). He condescendeth to address him in the language of his own favourite pursuits, saying, “I counsel thee to buy of me gold that hath been purified with fire, that thou mayest be rich." This I consider the same as our Lord's exhortation, “ Lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal” (Matt. vi. 20). And again; “ Sell that ye have, and give alms : provide yourselves bags which wax not old, a treasure in the heavens that faileth not, where no thief approacheth, neither moth corrupteth” (Luke xii. 33). And to this same heavenly treasure, the Lord referreth in' the parable of the unjust steward, when he saith, * If therefore ye have not been faithful in the unrighteous mammon, who will commit to your trust the true riches ? ” (Luke xvi. 11.) As to the
expression, “having been tried in the fire," while I look upon it as chiefly intended to complete the figure for expressing riches which will not corrupt, I think at the same time that it hath a real allusion to that fire of judgment which is to try every man's work of what kind it is (1 Cor. iii. 13); as the fire receiveth the earthy ore, and delivers forth the metal pure and precious, so the fire of judge ment shall purify all creation, and deliver it forth incorruptible, undefiled, and that fadeth not away. And in that world to come, I believe there will be things more precious than others, which shall be for beauty and for ornament, as is set forth in the description of the heavenly Jerusalem, whose foundations and gates, and very streets, are described as constructed of the gems, precious stones, and pure metals of the earth. Moreover we find that the angels include “riches ” in their sevenfold ascription unto Christ in the heavenly state, Rev. v. 12: “ Worthy is the Lamb that was slain, to receive power and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honour, and glory, and blessing.” What they ascribe in adoration to Christ, we may not think beneath us to hope for a share of in glory; and therefore, when I hear the Lord counselling the Laodicean angel, to buy of him gold that hath come purified out of the fire, I am not ashamed to believe, that there is a real thing promised to him, if he will pay the price for it; which price is, to receive it thankfully and freely from the hand of Christ. But it may be said, What use of riches in the world to come ? and in what will those riches consist? I answer, as I have often answered, It is not given to me to understand, nor yet to explain, in what way the Lord will constitute the details of his kingdom, but because I cannot reach unto this, I am not permitted to explain away as mere figures of speech, the precious promises of Christ. It is said in this very Book, concerning the new Jerusalem, “that the kings of the earth do bring their glory and honour into it;" and in divers parts of the Old Testament, it is prophesied of Christ in the age to come, that all the kings of the earth shall bring him tribute. " And he shall live, and to him shall be given of the gold of Sheba: prayer also shall be made for him continually, and daily shall he be praised ” (Psalm lxxii. 15). And in the Epistle to the Hebrews, when the
Apostle would comfort the church suffering under spoliation by their enemies, it is by setting before them a better and enduring substance in the heavens, in the faith of which, they were able to make the sacrifices of earthly goods which God required of them.
had passion of me in my bonds, and took joyfully the spoiling of your goods, knowing in yourselves that ye have in heaven a better and an enduring substance" (Heb. x. 34). So I find it with respect to every thing else. If Abraham be required to leave his country, it is to look for a city whose builder and maker is God. If the Apostles are required to forsake all, it is that they may sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.
These are not words without meaning, the inventions of a luxuriant fancy, to set forth the one truth, that we shall be happy. Such loose interpretations are fatal to God's word, and to our own salvation. Nor yet are they to be understood in the latter merely, as if they signified very gold and very silver, used for purposes of exchange and merchandize ; but they are to be spiritually interpreted, and yet according to the letter, as signifying, that in the world to come there shall be varieties of dignity and preferment, varieties of possession and influence; one appointed over ten cities, another over five : in one word, varieties of reward and condition, which are purchased by the greatness of our self-denial for Christ's sake in this world, and have a certain correspondence with the dignities, possessions, and riches, which are enjoyed here, so that by means of the forms of present things, the forms of future things are capable of being expressed in words. Yet while the relations and proportions of the present world are carefully to be studied and observed, we would be wide of the truth, if we were to suppose that in the substances themselves, and the use of them, there will not be the greatest change for the better, yea and very perfection. When the Lord would exhort the young man to sell all, it is by the consideration of having treasure in heaven ; when the Lord would counsel this Laodicean minister to remove his heart from worldly riches, it is by counselling him to buy gold tried in the fire which would make him rich indeed : and thus I believe people with possessions ought ever to be addressed.
There is no desire of the human mind which is not implanted there by the Creator's hand, and intended by him for his own service. The present world, through sin, hath become all unworthy of these the innate desires of the human mind; wherefore God requireth us to satisfy ourselves with the enjoyment of him, and to abstain from worldly delights, until, having purified both the flesh and the world, he shall restore them to the soul as her fit habitation and rightful possession. As if the son of a holy father, educated in all virtue, should be cast upon a land of savage people, who delighted in pursuits of cruelty, sensuality, and lust; which abhorring he would with strong resolution abstain from, and if he could not profit the people, at least not destroy himself, but patiently wait until the providence of God, which cast him into such bad company, should deliver him thence; yet would he not cease the less to cultivate within himself those high capacities of enjoyment which for the present lay reserved within his own bosom. Even so, man's regenerate soul abideth alone, in this unregenerate world, living on hope, its life hidden with Christ in God, its high capacities waiting for high objects on which to exercise themselves ; and, because it knows of a glorious body, and a holy kingdom about to be revealed, preserving itself in this waste howl. ing wilderness of its pilgrimage, unpolluted from the world ; according as it is written, “ Nevertheless we, according to his promise, look for new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness. Wherefore, beloved, seeing that ye look for such things, be diligent that ye may be found of him in peace, without spot and blameless" (2 Pet. iii. 13, 14). But the time is coming, believe me, when every faculty of the soul of man being served by every member of the body of man, shall exercise itself with diligence and with enjoyment, on every object within the dominion of man, which is the outward world; and from the sweet harmonies between creation and flesh, between flesh and spirit, between spirit and God, shall grow that ineffable peace, and joy, and holiness, wherein consists the blessedness of the saints in glory. I do therefore look upon this counsel of Christ to the Laodicean minister, as containing in it the promise of full enjoyment to that desire of possession which he was
now bestowing upon the unworthy dust of this earth. • Come, come and trade with me,' saith Christ, and I will furnish thee with the true riches. Come, come and buy of me; for I am the Beginning of the creation of God. All is mine, all that the Father hath is mine, and I will give it unto thee. Why spendest thou thy money for that which is not bread, and thy labour for that which satisfieth not ? hearken diligently unto me, and eat that which is good, and let your heart delight itself in fatness.' Gracious Lord ! these treasures we will seek; we will forsake all and follow thee. And when we are poor, then are we rich, for all things are ours: whether things present, or things to come, all are ours; for we are Christ's, and Christ is God's.
If any one now do ask of me, And how are these better riches to be purchased, and what is the price? I answer in the language of the Lord,“ Sell all that you have, and give alms, and provide for yourselves bags which wax not old, treasure in the heavens that fadeth not.” They are to be purchased in the way of barter and exchange. Give to Christ now, in order to receive from him hereafter. But where is he, that we might give to him? “ Inasmuch
ye did it unto one of these my little ones, ye have done it also unto me. He that shall give a cup of cold water unto one of the least of these, shall not lose his reward ;" but be that shall feed them when they are hungry, and give them drink when they are thirsty, and clothe them when they are naked, and visit them in prison, and comfort them when they are sick, shall enter into the kingdom prepared from the foundation of the world, for Christ the poor one, and for the benefactors of Christ's poor companions.-It is not that I would prescribe voluntary poverty as a law of the Gospel ; nor is it the base doctrine of purchasing heaven by our good works, which I would commend, but it is that truth which is at the bottom of both these errors ;--the truth that, according as we serve God and Christ with our minds, our bodies, and our substance here, shall be our degree of honour and power hereafter. This is God's manner of enforcing self-denial ; and therefore I make it mine, that I may walk in his footsteps. It is not profitable to God that a man should deny himself any enjoyment, but it is profitable to him.