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2. In a time of general prosperity, we should seek the reviving of religion. It is a common saying, and a more common feeling, that nothing can be done for reviving religion in a busy season. Is this so ? Has God subjected us to temporal necessities and laws which conflict with our spiritual wel. fare? The farmer at certain seasons must be engaged in husbanding his crops ; is this incompatible with the due performance of religious duties? Is there any such necessary conflict between the temporal and the spiritual ? Viewing the busy season as a temptation, you should resolve that you will not be drawn off from God. But why not regard your increasing prosperity with gratitude as sent from God, and make it a new incentive to activity in His service? Do not bargain with conscience to serve the world so hard, and so long, with the promise of serving God when you shall have nothing else to do. Let others see that in being diligent in business you are working for God. Do not conduct your business on selfish principles; and while you are making money, give, give, Give, as God prospers you.
3. Men of the world may understand what we mean when we call upon them to give up the world and become Christians. We do not ask them to give up their business, unless that business is an immoral and unlawful one. We do not ask them to be any less industrious and thrifty. But we show them how they may subordinate their business to a higher end; and instead of toiling for self and pelf, may labor for an object that shall last forever. We show them how they may ennoble life, and enjoy it, and link it to heaven besides. What is it to make money ? For whom do you make it? What shall it profit you, to gain the whole world, and lose your own soul ? Oh, live to do good! live for God—then shall you live forever, and when you are gone hence, your works shall follow you in lines of fadeless glory to the skies.
THIS LIFE MAN'S SEASON OF PROBATION FOR
"For we must all appear before the judgment-seat of Christ, that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done. whether it be good or bad.”—2 Cor. 5: 10.
This life is man's season of probation for eternity. That this doctrine is taught by the apostle in my text is evident. He uses the term “in the body," to signify continuance in the present life. He says: “ Therefore we are always confident, knowing that, whilst we are at home in the body, we are absent from the Lord. We are confident, I say, and willing rather to be absent from the body and to be present with the Lord.” He esteemed it desirable that his present life should terminate, because then he should enter heaven to enjoy the beatific presence of Christ. But he believed that to be prepared for that enjoyment, he must continue to be faithful in his sacred calling. “Wherefore,” he says, “we labor, that whether present or absent, we may be accepted of him.” He then expresses the same sentiment in a general proposition: "For we must all appear before the judgment-seat of Christ, that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad.” All must appear before Christ to be judged; and those who shall have done good, or obeyed the gospel in their life-time, will be accepted; but those who shall have done evil, or disobeyed the gospel in their life-time, will be condemned. An additional evidence that the apostle meant here to teach that this life is man's season of probation for eternity, is given in the words which he subjoined, “Knowing therefore the terror of the Lord, we persuade men.” That this life is a season of probation for eternity, is confirmed by the following considerations :
I. Man's nature is adapted to such a state of probation. He is a moral agent. He is capable of distinguishing between right and wrong, and of choosing or refusing. When the law of God
is clearly exhibited to the mind of man, his conscience approves of it, and he is convinced that he ought to obey it. When he transgresses it, he is conscious that he does wrong, that he renders himself blameworthy, and that he ought to have rendered obedience. Or when the gospel is intelligibly presented to him, he cannot do otherwise than assent to it as being worthy of acceptation. He is conscious that he ought to accede to its terms, and gratefully accept the great salvation. Man has not only ability to act as a moral agent, but he is susceptible of retribution. He is a proper subject for reward or punishment. He is conscious that he ought not to be accepted and rewarded unless he does right; and that he deserves to be condemned and punished when he commits sin.
Man's nature, therefore, is adapted to a state of probation. He has ability and capacity to do right, and receive reward; or to do wrong, and receive punishment. Since, moreover, man is an immortal being, he is by nature adapted to be in this life a probationer for eternity. According to the character which he forms here, whether holy or sinful, he will be fitted either for a state of happiness or misery in eternity.
II. Man's condition in this life is adapted to a'state of probation for eternity. He has opportunity to do good or to do evil. He
selfishness, love or hatred, faith or unbelief, piety or impiety, obedience to God or rebellion against him. He not only has, as before stated, ability to distirguish between right and wrong, and a consciousness that he ought to obey the law of God, and accede to the terms of the gospel; but such is the condition in which he is placed that he is of necessity constantly deciding the question whether he will obey or disobey, accede or refuse. I now speak of the condition of man wbile he has a knowledge of the Scriptures. He knows what his duty is to God, his fellow-man and himself. Motives are presented to induce him to do his duty. At the same time his heart is tried by temptations. In this condition he cannot suspend his moral agency. He must voluntarily conform to the rule of moral rectitude, or voluntarily act in violation of it. If he is a sinner he must either repent, or persist in transgression; he must obey the gospel in the exercise of faith, or continue in unbelief; he must yield to the authority and espouse the cause of Christ, and stand with him, or continue to resist his authority and oppose his cause. Thus every person upon whom the light of revelation shines is forming a moral character, either holy or sinful; is laying up a treasure either of heavenly blessedness with the saints in light, or of wrath against the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God. Nor are those only who have the Scriptures in a condition which is adapted to a probationary state : "for,” says the apostle, “when the Gentiles, who have not the law, do by nature the things contained in the law, these having not the law are a law unto themselves; who show the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, and their thoughts the meanwhile accusing, or else excusing, one another.” Accordingly, moral obligation rests upon the pagan world, and they are constantly forming a character as probationers for eternity.
III. The comparisons by which the Scriptures represent this life, plainly teach that it is a season of probation for eternity. This life is compared to seed time. “Be not deceived," says the apostle, “God is not mocked : for whatsoever a man soweth that shall he also reap. For he that soweth to the flesh, shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth to the spirit, shall of the spirit reap life everlasting. And let us not be weary in welldoing; for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not.” In this life men sow their different kinds of seed. Some sow to the flesh. They occupy their time and talents in gratifying the carnal mind. They are caterers to the selfishness, pride, covetousness, or licentiousness of their own hearts. Their harvest time will come ; and as they have sowed to the flesh, they will of the flesh reap corruption. Their portion will be the wages of sin-the second death. Others sow to the Spirit. They occupy their time and talents according to the dictates and under the influence of the Spirit of grace. They too will have a harvest. They will of the Spirit reap life everlasting. As during the appropriate season, the seed is sown, springs up, and is matured for the harvest; so, during this life, man forms his character as a probationer for the final judgment,—that harvest which will be at the end of the world, and the consequences of which will be the retributions of eternity.
Of similar import are the parables of the ten virgins and that of the talents. When the virgins were called to go out to meet the bridegroom, the wise having taken oil in their vessels, were in readiness “when at midnight there was a cry made, behold the bridegroom cometh; go ye out to meet him.” Whereas the foolish, having neglected to prepare for the event, when they afterward came, saying, “ Lord, Lord, open unto us,” received the reply, “Verily, I say unto you, I know you not.” Also the three servants, to one of whom were given five talents, to another two, to another one, were placed on probation; and when their term was expired, their lord came to reckon with them. The two former had been faithful to their trust, and had gained as much as had been committed to them; to each of whom his lord said, “Well done, thou good and faithful servant; thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things; enter thou into the joy of thy lord.” But the other servant, under pretence that his lord was severe and oppressive, went and hid his talent in the earth; and when his lord came to reckon with him, said, “Lo there thou hast that is thine." To whom his lord just. ly replied, " Thou wicked and slothful servant;" and commanded, «Cast ye the unprofitable servant into outer darkness, there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” What instruction did our Saviour design to communicate by these parables, except that mankind are put on trial, and that when the term of probation shall have passed, they will be rewarded or punished according as they shall have been faithful or unfaithful ?
Likewise, the parable of the rich man and Lazarus was evi. dently designed to convey the same instruction. The rich man employed his treasures to gratify his pride and voluptuousness; he was hard-hearted and unmerciful. He regarded not the cry of poverty and distress. Lazarus was afflicted with poverty and disease, but possessed qualifications for heaven. He died, and was carried by angels into Abraham's bosom. The rich man also died, and was buried; and in hell he lifted up his eyes, being in torments. Their lifetime was the season of their probation, They received their retribution in eternity. To the rich man, when he said, “Send Lazarus that he may dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue; for I am tormented in this flame ;" Abraham replied, “Son, remember that thou in thy lifetime re. ceivedst thy good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things; but now he is comforted and thou art tormented.”
Another comparison which is employed in the Scriptures, is that of the Olympic games ; in which comparison, the motive presented to man to be faithful, zealous, and persevering in the service of Christ, is likened to that which influenced the competitors in those games. The apostle says, “ I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.” Again, “Know ye not that they who run a race run all, but one obtaineth the prize ? So run that ye may obtain. And every one that striveth for the mastery is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a corruptible crown, but we an incorruptible.” But when will the faithful receive that crown? The same apostle informs us when he says, “I have fought a good fight: I have finished my course: I have kept the faith. Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord the righteous Judge shall give me in that day; and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing." This shows the reason why he said at another time, “We are willing rather to be absent from the body and to be present with the Lord." He be. lieved in accordance with the Lord's parables which have been considered, that this is the season of man's probation, and that in eternity he will receive his corresponding reward.