Page images
[ocr errors]

Thus he promises men this world and the glory and riches, and pleasures of it, if they will but fall down and worship him. Is the world his to give ? Are these things at his disposal ? The promise is a lie, and he never means to keep it; and cannot perform it if he would. He promises sinners impunity in transgression, happiness in sin, hope in death, and heaven beyond, live as they will. But does his promise falsify God's awful word: "Be sure your sin will find you out;" " the end thereof is destruction ?” Will be step in between God and the soul he has ruined, and shield him in the day of calamity ? He means no such thing. He knows that he has spoken lies, and that they will eternally undo those who take refuge in them; and that is what he wants. His object is to deceive men as to the guilt and consequences of sin.

He whispers in the ears of the young : Delay religion for the present : time enough yet a convenient season will come by and by : this haste and great ado about religion are needless : years hence, in old age, in a time of sickness, on your death-bed, you can repent just as well as now, and God will not refuse your repentance even at the last moment." Oh! into how many ears has this syren song been sung, to lull men's fears and prevail on them to put off the great concerns of eternity till he has them in his power. Was there a greater untruth ever uttered ? And does not the Devil know it? Is it not a wanton and malicious device to gain his dreadful end ? Has he not eternally ruined millions of souls by this very deception?

To another, the Devil says : " The gospel is well enough for the vicious, the profane, the lewd, the openly irreligious and wicked ; but you are honest and moral : you respect religion and observe its requirements; and what more is necessary? Your heart is not so bad : this regeneration that some talk about is not essential ; do as well as you can, and trust God for the rest.” And thus be applies the unction of flattery to men's consciences, and fills them with pride and selfrighteousness. But in all this he only acts out his true character. · He can counterfeit religion as readily as he can disguise sin : he has as many ways and means to induce men to trust in a false experience, as he has to lead them to dis·believe or neglect religion entirely. Probably as many are ruined by being deceived as to what religion is, and as to their personal experience of it, as by unbelief and neglect of it. The Devil takes advantage of the tendencies of the human heart, and when he can no longer keep the sinner away from religion, he will, if possible, substitute “another gospel” and make him satisfied with it.

Thus all the fair words and spurious hopes by which he allures men to sin, and retains them in his service, and palms off upon them a worthless experience, are cheats and lies ; there is nothing true and real in them. The Devil has no

authority to hold out such inducements—no power or will to make them good. They deceive men and are meant to de. ceive them; and under the specious promise of good, or impunity, make sure the damnation of the soul.

The Devil deceives men as to the real value of this world when once it is secured, as well as in reference to impunity in sin. Men's experience in the possession of wealth, power, rank, honor, pleasure, is a sad commentary on the doctrine which they have been taught to believe, and the expectations to cherish. The sigh of disappointment, wrung even from such, and their cry of “ Vanity, all is vanity!” shows the extent of the deception which has been practiced upon them. A long life of bitter experience is scarcely sufficient to correct our first impressions of the value of this world—make us see and confess, to our own hearts, that it is after all empty and vain. Why, what a fair and beautiful thing is human life, as the Deceiver paints it on the unpractised vision of the youthful mind! It is a perfect Paradise-a scene of enchantment. But alas ! how the illusion vanishes, as we come to encounter the stern realities of life, How one fondly-cherished hope after another fades and perishes, till all are gone -nothing more remains—and life without God is found to be an evil and a weariness, and the earth a desert with no satisfying good. Whither have fled the pleasures of youth that once were so alluring, and for which we were so willing to let “Christ and heaven go?" What bave become of the stores of wealth, the barns of plenty, the abundant experience of good, that were promised us in manhood? Whence are to come the mellow fruit and the quiet blessings of old age? We reach at length the brink of the grave and looking back over the waste of years, wonder if that be the life which our youthful fancy set out in colors so bright and fascinating.

And it is only by means of deception--making “ the worse appear the better reason”-holding out at every step the most alluring hopes, and disguising the odious character of sin, and hiding from view its certain and fatal consequences, that the Devil succeeds in ruining so many souls.

Sin itself is a monstrous lie ; there is no truth in it ; it is "the doctrine of devils." It is a lie against the being and every perfection of God ; against all the laws of rectitude and of nature, as well as grace : it is a lie against the peace and happiness o! the soul, and the universal good. The sinner is made the willing dupe and victim of a malicious lie from first to last. How mournful the spectacle! All bis hopes will perish and his works be destroyed, for they are false. Death to bim will be * a melancholy day,” for it will reveal the nature and extent of his deception. And bis eternity will be embittered by the taunts and torments of the infinitely odions and lying deceiver.

If the Devil is such a drceiver why will men trust bim? How can they take his word! How be duped by bis devices : since he has done nothing but de ceive and ruin men ever since be gained entrance into the world : why should he not be hated and detested as such a character deserves to be?

How can men serve such a master ! All his power is usurped. His character comprehends all meanness and vileness and infamy. His service is a hard one-his reward, disappointment, misery, eternal death! He cherishes towards us not one kind feeling: he desires to make us as miserable as himself; and no means are spared to accomplish it. To serve him is to enslave our souls, and gratity his fiendish pleasure, and make our destruction sure.

[blocks in formation]

RELIGION IN BUSINESS. * Not slothful in business; fervent in spirit; serving the Lord."--ROMANs 12 : 11

The revival of business is now the common topic of conversation with business men. There is no more complaining of “ a dull season," of "nothing doing ;" but every sort of business is active, and there is promise of a season of unusual prosperity. For one, I am glad of it. As a Christian minister, I rejoice in it; for dull times in business are apt to be dull times in everything. Though in a season of general distress, many may turn their thoughts to religion and eternal things, yet it is in a time of general prosperity that the cause of Christ, as a whole, noves forward. Then it is that men build churches, schools, and colleges, plant missions, send forth evangelists, distribute freely the Word of God, in short, push forward with vigor all th: enterprises of benevolence. The opening of a railroud through a certain county in Massachusetts wiped off soin half--dozen churches froin the list of beneficiaries of the Hone Missionary Society. It revived business ; it brought trade and money to the doors of the people, and thus gave them the means of supporting the institutions of the gospel. The sime process is going forward in other States, both North and West. Religion has an interest in the railroad, the canal, the factory, the mine, the ship, the steamboat, the machine, the plow, the anvil, and the loom. Where the fruits of industry and commerce most abound, there religion may look for her largest tribute ; as also, in turn, where religion is best sustained there the arts and occupations of civilized life are most flourishing. Therefore, let not Christians look upon the reviving of business as of course a hindrance to the revival of religion, nor eel that nothing can he done to revive religion in a busy sea

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

Let them not set religion in opposition to all the temporal interests of men ; neither let them separate their own business from their religion, and attempt to carry each forward at intervals only, and distinct from the other. While we congratulate our fellow-citizens on the revival of business, let us turn their thoughts to the higher blessing of the reviving of religion; making the return of temporal prosperity the occasion of gratitude to God and of renewed activity in his service. In so doing, we shall carry out the spirit of the apostolic precept in our text.

I am aware that some understand by “ business" here, the work of Christreferring the exhortation to “religious activity," rather than to “ the active performance of our several vocations." The word translated business means properly, haste, zeal, activity, diligence ; and hence it comes very naturally to denote industry, labor. The meaning of the apostle may then be expressed as follows : As to diligence, activity, labor, do not be remiss or slothful—do not grow weary or indolent. Thus taken, it is a general precept, corresponding with that given in Ecclesiastes, 9 : 10, " Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might." In this view of the text, we may say with Dr. Chalmers, " Whether we retain the word business or render it into any other of the relative terms, there is no mistaking the sense of this first clause, which is not to be sloth. ful but diligent; and that whatever the business may be, if an expedient and a lawful one. The question whether it be a sa"red or secular employment which is here referred to, will not

imbarrass him whose honest aim is to leaven with the spirit f the gospel every hour of his life, and every work which he puts his hand to. The man who studies to observe all things whatsoever' Christ hath commanded him, will still feel himself religiously employed when following the precept- Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might. He will see no difficulty in making the advice here given to be of universal application, who aspires to a conformity with the sayings-Whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God ;''Whatsoever ye do in word or in deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus.' We

e may, therefore, apply the text, at least in its spirit, to secular business. Not only in the work of the ministry, not only in labors of brotherly love, or of benevolence towards mankind, but in the daily vocations of life, in our every-day business, we are to be “not slothful ” but diligent.

In order to a full development of this idea, I remark

1. The Christian religion favors activity and diligence in business. In this remark it is implied, of course, that the business is in itself lawful ; not lawful merely according to the statute-book of the state or code of commerce, but lawful according to the great moral law of benevolence which extends to all the conduct and relations of life.

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

A business whose direct tendency is to injure the community in property, health, or morals, like the sale of intoxicating drinks, though it may be licensed by the civil authority, is in violation of the law of love, and is, therefore, an unlawful business. There is no commendation of such business in the Word of God; no exhortation to faithfulness and diligence therein; but, on the contrary, the curse of God is upon it and its gains "Wo to him that giveth his neighbor drink, that puttest thy bottle to him, and makest him drunken...... the cup of the Lord's right hand shall be turned to thee, and shameful spewe ing shall be on thy glory;" The very house built by such gains is accursed. For the stone shall cry out of the wall, and the beam, out of the timber shall answer it ; wo to him that buildeth a town with blood, and establisbeth a city by iniquity!" Any business which tends to injure mankind is un lawful, and is disallowed of God. But whatever business is of a useful tendency, whatever contributes in any way to the wellbeing of mankivd-physically, intellectually, socially, or morally—that it is not only lawful for us to engage in, but being engaged in it, we are commanded to follow it with diligence, The scriptural rule is, that every man shall have some useful occupation, and that he shall be industrious in his calling.

Paul, in his letters to the Thessalonians, says: “We beseech you, brethren, that ye study to be quiet, and to do your own business, and to work with your own hands, as we commanded you, that ye may walk honestly toward them that are without, and that ye may have lack of nothing.” And again : "For even when we were with

this we commanded

that if any would not work neither should he eat. For we hear that there are some which walk among you disorderly, working not at all, but are busy bodies. Now them that are such we command and exhort, by our Lord Jesus Christ, that with quietness they work, and eat their own bread.” He then refers to his own example. Though he might have called upon them to support him while he was laboring for their good, yet, for example's sake, he“ did not eat any man's bread for naught, but wrought with labor and travail night and day, that he might not be chargeable to any." The Bible nowhere tolerates laziness, Both the Old Testament and the New abound in exhortations to diligence. The book of proverbs is a manual of industry, "Go to the ant, thou sluggard ; consider her ways and be wise." " The soul of the sluggard desireth and hath nothing : but the soul of the diligent shall be made fat." • He that is slothful in his work is brother to him that is a great waster.” “Seest thou a man diligent in his business? He shall stand before kings; he shall not stand before mean men.” Christ condemns sloth in his own service, as in the sentence of the wicked and Blothful servant in the parable of the talents : He was ever active in doing good, and doubtless before entering on his publio


« PreviousContinue »