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ON WORLDLY DEPENDANCE.
PSALM XX. 7.
Some trust in chariots, and some in horses : but we will remember the
name of the Lord our God. When we look abroad in the world, we see a variety of pursuits eagerly followed according to the variety of characters which exist among men. Men, in general, are “ careful and troubled" about many things-many earthly things, to the neglect of the one thing needful. Some make their worldly business the pursuit of their life, little looking and preparing for that which is to come. Some make wealth, some make honour, some make pleasure, their chief occupation and calling, instead of devoting themselves to the concerns of the soul, in order to make their calling and election sure. Some, making gold their god, lay up for themselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal-to the careless disregard, or open and avowed contempt, of the treasure in heaven at God's right hand, incorruptible, and that fadeth not away. Others, less depraved and sordid, rest contented with a pleasing, self-satisfying sense of enjoyment; contented with the gifts of health and strength, and time, and earthly talents, without a desire after those good things above, which pass man's understanding, which God has prepared for all that love him,--without any constraining thought urging them to dedicate their time, their means, their influence, to God's honour and service,--without a prevailing conviction of the present necessity of " seeking first the knowledge of God and his righteousness," in order to be at all assured of enjoying that knowledge hereafter in glory.
Hence the Psalmist's complaint of the men in his days; hence the too frequent cause for complaint of many in our days, that they live as if earth was their only support-its sand the only sure foundation, without seeming to know, or knowing, not caring to consider, that there is a world to come, “a mansion in the skies," an eternal home, a neverending state of happiness or misery, awaiting their mortal career; without reflecting that “Jesus is gone up on high," “ that he has bruised Satan under him," that he ever liveth to make intercession; that in him is the only secure foundation, the only safe defence; that other foundation can no man lay than that is laid ; and that none other building of faith and trust than one based upon Him can resist the rains and winds, the storms and billows, of this world of trial. “ Some trust in chariots, and some in horses: but we will remember the name of the Lord our God."
The text suggests some remarks,
Its meaning. The walking by " sight,” rather than by “ faith;" the bending down to earth, rather than lifting the eyes to heaven; the
VOL. XVII, NO, VI.
digging for some fancied hidden ore below, instead of reaching forth unto a real and eternal treasure above; are things so common, so natural, as to form a striking feature in the conduct and character of the major part of mankind. The objects we find around us, administering to our temporal wants, conveniences, and comforts, naturally take up great portions of our time; and thus, alas ! too frequently engage a throne in our affections, and usurp the place of those purest and strongest desires and efforts which God demands, and heaven deserves. These objects, I said, naturally engage and interest us. And why ? Man is corrupt—so is the earth ; man is in bondage under a curse—so is the earth: for what read we? When man fell from innocence and obedience, and received his condemnation, the earth was cursed : “ Cursed is the ground for thy sake; in sorrow shalt thou eat of it all the days of thy life; thorns also and thistles shall it bring forth to thee; and thou shalt eat the herb of the field; in the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground; for out of it wast thou taken ; for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return." Earth, therefore, and man,- both suffer, are companions in punishment. Hence the unity and good understanding between them; hence one helping the other; and hence man naturally choosing and preferring, because most congenial to his depraved taste and liking, the friendship of earth, and service of sin, to the pursuit of heaven, and love of holiness.
The meaning, therefore, of the Scripture terms “earthly," " worldly," as applied to mankind, who live as if in dependance on earth, and devotedness to the world, is this, that we are by nature prone to give our minds, our desires, and our affections, to earth and its concerns, rather than to God and his ordinances; that as all gross or material substances, so man has a great tendency downwards, to mix himself up with, and amuse himself most with, the perishable and polluting things of time and sense ; that the mind of man, in its unrenewed state, is like a weight, “ whose natural bias is earthward, and which nothing but a power independent of it can cause to ascend heavenward ;” that the desires are carnal and sensual, rather than heavenly and spiritual ; that the affections are inordinately set upon the intercourse, indulgences, provisions, and dependencies of this world, without any thing like a reasonable and equal share being applied to the privileges, interests, promises, and encouragements, of another which is far higher, holier, and happier. For look at the nature of the benefit derived, or expected to be derived, from earth, and its associations. It is imperfect, therefore unsatisfactory ;-perishable, and therefore uncertain; consequently, in both respects unworthy the pursuit of rational and immortal souls. The imperfection and perishable nature of worldly good, will be seen by only examining the lives of those who seem to follow and delight in it. What does it avail in the salvation of their souls? for a whole world may be gained to the loss of the soul. What does it effect in leading them to Zion, to the New Jerusalem, to Jesus, the Mediator of the New Covenant, “ to the innumerable company of angels and glorified saints;" to that kingdom where “ nothing entereth that defileth;" to present them spotless before the throne of God, * washed and sanctified, and meet for glory? What will it profit in the hour of death, and the day of judgment, on the great morning of the resurrection, when the secrets of all hearts shall be disclosed before men and angels, to have been, all the day long in the sunshine of life, digging deep in the clods of earth, and pleasing one's self in picking up toys, and coins, and gems; toys, not for God's children; coins, not of God's kingdom, not of the realm of glory, not impressed with the Lord's image, nor passable in his dominions : gems, sparkling only for a moment, always leaving a mist upon the eyes of a beholder; not those royal jewels which adorn the crown of righteousness, which shine with light eternal, whose brilliancy discloses heaven to the spectator, God seated on a mercy throne, Jesus the Intercessor at his right hand, where there is fulness of joy, and pleasures for evermore. These imperfect trifles, (and the best things of the world deserve no better name compared with divine things,) these trifles of earth are unsatisfying in themselves and in their effects, to the temporal as well as to the eternal wants of man.
In riot and dissipation, in buoyancy and energy of animal spirits, in fervour of health, in sprightliness and joy of prosperous circumstances, there may appear, to an inexperienced observer, a degree of happiness very enviable, a degree of excellency very enchanting. The mind lively
-the body vigorous—appetites indulged-desires accomplished-wants supplied-pleasures gratified-all, for a time, seems to go on smoothly and well, as to worldly felicity. But draw aside the veil which hides the heart, and which is ever drawn aside to the searching eye of God. Behold the indwelling corruption-behold the valley of “ dry bones ;" yea, “dead men's bones, and all uncleanness; behold the impure fountain—the heart—whence are “ the issues of life," unqualified by the waters of the living streams which flow through Christ from the mercy-seat of God-unrenewed by the saving influences of the Spirit of Truth. Troubled waters there rage in secret, in the retirement of all, save self and conscience; there and then these waters might be observed (and God observes them) troubled with fear, remorse, dissatisfaction, disappointment, impatience, discontent, and other bitter passions. Turbid and muddy waters there send forth those fumes in private emotion which they had collected in the ardour of the day's excitement; there are the dregs of earth at the bottom; there pain broods, and sin and evil, unsubdued, penetrate and pervade the mass between.
Again-draw aside another veil—the veil of health and prosperity ; (and this, too, in the course of human life, may be, and is, sooner or later drawn aside by God.) Draw aside the veil of health, and behold the worldling laid prostrate on a bed of sickness, perhaps of death. Oh! what can be his soothing consolations in those dreary hours ?what the balm to his benumbed and aching spirit? Does he seek the god of this world, the prince of the powers of the air, for solace in his affliction? Alas! he never stands by his subjects and friends in their distress. In their distress he shuns their weary pillow. Miserable comforters, truly, are all his emissary spirits ; physicians of no value ; yea, " accusers," who are busy in adding a sting to past sins and present disquietudes; false, deceiving in the giddy moments of sunshine-deserting in the grievous hours of sorrow, dismay, solitude, and anguish. Can he repose on the bosom of his Saviour and his God; that God whom he never knew; or knowing, never loved ? While he has not loved nor honoured his God and Saviour, can he look back on his past life with any degree of hope or confidence, of peace or consolation, at the thought of mercy slighted, opportunities neglected, and the pleasures of sin embraced and gloried in? Can he look to the future without doubt and dread of God's just indignation?
Draw aside, then, these two veils which hinder the man of the world, the despiser of godliness, from being exposed to general observation as to his true character, condition, and prospects; and you see the deadening tendency, the impure and perilous nature, the paralysing ill effects of that worldly dependance which we are now considering. “Some trust in chariots, and some in horses: but we will remember the name of the Lord our God.”
The text suggests a few remarks,
Secondly, On the right use of the world, without abusing it, or being polluted by it. It is the trusting in the chariots and in the horses, (alluding to worldly goods in general,) which in the text is condemned, but not the use of them. They are useful in themselves, as means and helps ; not profitable, but perilous, as dependencies.
So, in general, the trusting in temporal things; the placing of our best affections, or the building of our best hopes upon them; the making them the main business, instead of secondary and auxiliary to eternal things; this it is which Holy Scripture, and the religion of Christ, positively, unexceptionably, and unhesitatingly condemn.
We have the sure testimony of the word of God, that this world's goods may be possessed, yea, enjoyed to his glory,-in doing good, in showing forth God's praise, in extending the knowledge of God's name, in supplying the necessities of the poor and needy,--so long as we remember to give God the praise, and not ourselves; so long as we employ the talents committed to us, as stewards for God, and not to please ourselves; as giving God thanks, and not sounding a trumpet to attract the applause of man; as dependent upon Divine bounty, and not to make ourselves appear great in the eyes of our fellow-creatures ; as dispensers of that good to others, which we would acknowledge that we ourselves owe to God, the giver of all good, the possessor of all things both in heaven and earth, in whom alone we live, and move, and have our being.
Yes, too, we have the testimony of man-of an eminent divine, and experienced Christian, (Dr. Watts,) in his simple, yet elegant and expressive language, declaring that
“ Religion never was design'd
To make our pleasures less."
No, truly. Our real pleasures ; our pure, tranquil, temperate, cheering pleasures, are not less when we have made God our trust, and discarded the world from the throne of our confidence—but far greater; yea, entirely new, because they could never, without the grace of God, have been experienced. The pleasures of godliness are the only real pleasures that are solid and enduring; they are based upon the only sure principle of all real spiritual enjoyment, viz. the love and favour of Almighty God. It may readily be seen, that whatever gratification occurs which
is not warranted by divine law, nor consistent with divine holiness, nor originating in divine love, nor tending to the divine glory in some degree or other; this cannot be consistent with godliness and trust in our heavenly Father. The Christian will regulate his enjoyments and his use of the world, by such reflections as these : viz. Shall I, by entering into this society, by indulging in this recreation, by following this pursuit, endanger the good of my soul? Shall I be estranging myself from God, from holiness, from peace and joy in believing ? Shall I be putting myself in a state in which I cannot consistently and conscientiously pray God's blessing upon me? Or shall I be showing forth his praise, by letting my light so shine before men that they may see my good works, and so be led to glorify my Father in heaven? and shall I even be taking care lest my good be evil spoken of, letting my moderation be known unto all men, being temperate in all things as one who must give account, preserving the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace ?
It has pleased Almighty God that earth should furnish many comforts to its inhabitants. We, creatures of time, heirs of mortality, subjects of many sorrowsmpoverty, infirmity, want, sickness-should indeed be blind if we denied ourselves, and spurned those reasonable, salutary, and temperate assistances which the bounty of God dispenses to soothe, to cheer, to gladden, and uplift us amid the roughnesses and intricacies of our earthly course.
Who will deny the use of " the chariot and the horses” spoken of in the text ? But who will dare to assert that he ought to trust in them? But what says the believer in Jesus ?-" Trust in the Lord, for in the Lord Jehovah is everlasting strength,"—the Rock of our salvation. And what says the Psalmist, who had great experience both in worldly and in spiritual provisions? He was a great king—had a nation at his command—wealth, armies, ministers—to serve at his word, and to supply his need. What says David? “There is no king saved by the multitude of an host : a mighty man is not delivered by much strength: a horse is a vain thing for safety, neither shall he deliver any by his great strength. Behold, the eye of the Lord is upon them that fear him, upon them that hope in his mercy: to deliver their soul from death, and to keep them alive in famine: our soul waiteth for the Lord; he is our help and shield.” (Ps. xxxiii. 16-20.) “I will not trust in my bow, neither shall my sword save me: through thee will we push down our enemies : through thy name will we tread them under that rise up against us." (Ps. xliv. 6, 5.) “I will love thee, O Lord, my strength : the Lord is my rock and my fortress, and my deliverer: my God, my strength in whom I will trust: my buckler, and the horn of my salvation, and my high tower.” (Ps. xvii. 1, 2.)
"My father, my father, the chariots of Israel, and horsemen thereof!" exclaimed the enraptured Elisha, when he beheld the prophet of God borne aloft to heaven in a whirlwind, and caught up in the bright and fiery chariot. But neither Elijah who was carried, nor Elisha who saw him carried, and so exclaimed, trusted and depended on the chariot and horsemen, on the whirlwind and the brightness, for safe conduct to glory. But they triumphed in the majesty and power, in the love and purpose, of their great Jehovah ; who truly does what he wills with his own, " in