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If poverty, with Saul, has killed her thousands, riches, with David, have killed their ten thousands. There is a sore evil which I have seen under the sun, namely, riches kept for the owners thereof to their hurt, Eccl. v. 13. Earthly riches are called thorns, and well they may; for, as thorns, they pieree both head and heart; the head with cares in getting them, and the heart with grief in parting with them. O the souls that riches have pierced through and through with many sorrowst o the minds that riches have blinded! O the hearts that riches have hardened! O the consciences that riches have benumbed t o the wills that riches have perverted! O the affections that riches have disordered and destroyed! Earthly riches are very vexing, very defiling, very dividing, and to multitudes they prove very ruining.
It was a wise and Christian speech of Charles the fifth to the Duke of Venice, who, when he had shewed him the glory of his princely palace and earthly paradise, instead of admiring it, or him for it, only returned him this grave and serious memento, ' These are the things which make us unwilling to die.'
5. The riches of Christ are unsearchable riches. This is plain from the text; Unto me who am less that the least of all saints, is this grace given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ. There are riches of justification, riches of sanctification, riches of consolation, and riches of glorification in Christ. All the riches of Christ, are unsearchable riches. A saint with all the light that he has from the Spirit of Christ, is not able to search to the bottom of these riches. Nay, suppose that all the perfections of angels and saints in a glorified estate, should meet in one noble breast, yet all those perfections could not enable that glorious creature to search to the bottom of Christ's unsearchable riches, Doubtless when believers come to heaven, when they shall see God face to face, when they shall know as they are known, when they shall be filled with the fulness of God, even then they will sweetly sing this song, 0 the height, the depth, the length, the breadth, of the unsearchable riches of Christ As there is no Christ comparable to this Christ, so there are no riches comparable to his riches. O but such are 'not the riches of this world; they may be reckoned, they may be fathomed.
9. The riches of the Lord Jesus Christ are permanent and abiding riches; they are lasting, they are durable riches.
That is a choice scripture in Prov. viii. 18; Riches and honour are with me; yea, durable riches and righteousness. The Hebrew word that is rendered durable riches, signifies old riches 'All other riches are but new; they are but of yesterday, as it were. O but with me are old riches, durable riches.' All other riches, in respect of their fickleness, are as a shadow, a bird, a ship, an arrow, a dream, a post. This Valerian, Valens, and Bajazet, three proud emperors found by experience; and so have many kings, and generals, and nobles, as scripture and history abundantly evidence. Earthly riches are very uncertain, they are ever upon the wing; they are like tennis balls, which are banded up and down from one to another. As the bird hops from twig to twig, so do riches from man to man. This age can furnish us with multitudes of instances of this nature.
7. They are the most useful riches, to sweeten all other riches, mercies, and changes, which bespeaks the excellency of these riches above all other riches.
The more useful any thing is, the more excellent it is. Now the riches of Christ are of all things the most useful to poor souls. When the soul is under the guilt of sin, nothing relieves it like the riches of Christ. When the soul is surrounded with temptations, nothing strengthens it like the riches of Christ. When the soul is mourning under afflictions, nothing comforts it like the riches of Christ. When state, friends, and trading fail, nothing makes a Christian sing care away, like the riches of Christ. The riches of Christ sweeten all other riches that men enjoy. If a man be rich in parts, or rich in grace, rich in faith, rich in knowledge, rich in wisdom, rich in joy, rich in peace; or if a man be rich in temporals, rich in money, rich in wares, rich in jewels, rich in lands; the glorious and unsearchable riches of Christ sweeten all his riches, and the want of these riches imbitters all the riches that men enjoy. When men's consciences are enlightened and awakened, then they cry out, ' What are all these worldly riches to us, except we have an interest in the riches of Christ.' As Absalom once said, What are all these to me, except I see the king's face?
I have read of one, who upon his dying bed called for his bags, and laid a bag of gold to his heart, and then cried out, ' Take it away; it will not do; it will not do.'
There are three things that earthly riches can never do; they can never satisfy divine justice, they can' never pacify divine wrath; nor can they ever quiet a guilty conscience. And till these things are done, man is undone. The crown of gold cannot cure the head-ache; the honourable garter cannot cure the gout; the chain of pearls about the neck cannot take away the pain of the teeth. O but the unsearchable riches of Christ give ease under all pains and torments.
Nugas, the Scythian king, despising the rich presents and ornaments that were sent unto him by the emperor of Constantinople, asked him that brought them, whether those things could drive away calamities, diseases, or deaths; looking upon all those presents as no presents, that could not keep off calamities from him. Verily, all the riches and glories of this world cannot keep off the least calamity, neither can they make up the want of the least mercy. But the riches of Christ do both keep off calamities, and make up the want of all mercies that the soul craves or needs. All which speak out the excellency of the riches of Christ above all other riches.
IV. We come now unto the uses of this point.
And the first use that we shall make, is a use of exhortation, to exhort you all, seeing Christ is so rich, to labour to be spiritually rich. O labour to be rich in grace.
In the handling of this use, I shall propound this method; 1. I shall lay down some considerations that may provoke your souls to labour to be rich in grace; 2. I shall propound some directions or helps, to help you to be rich in grace, which is as much a mercy, as a duty; 3. I shall lay down some propositions concerning the soul's being rich in grace; 4. I shall shew you how you may know whether you are the persons that are rich in grace, or not.
1. I shall begin with the first, and be a little the more large upon it, because it is a point of mighty weight and concernment, and then be the more brief in the three following particulars
For the first, by way of motive, I shall only propound these following considerations to provoke your souls to labour to be rich in grace. 'Laborandum,' was the motto of an emperor, and must be every Christian's.
First; consider that the more rich the soul is in grace, the higher the soul will be in joy and comfort.
It is the greatest measure of grace, that ushers in the greatest measure of joy and comfort into a believing heart. Christians, have you tasted of the consolations of God? Have you at times sat down and drunk of these wells of salvation? Are your hearts carried out for more of those waters of life? Then labour to be rich in grace. A little star yields but a little light, and a little grace will yield but a little comfort; but great measures of grace will yield a man not only a heaven hereafter, but also a heaven of joy here. Divine comfort is a choice flower, a precious jewel, and only to be found in their bosoms who are rich in grace. Spiritual comforts are such strong waters, that weak Christians are not able to bear them. Great measures of grace carry with them the greatest evidence of the truth of grace; and the clearer evidence there is in the soul of the truth of grace, the higher will joy and comfort spring. The soul is apt to hang her comforts on every hedge, to shift and shark in every bye corner for comfort; but as air lights not without the sun, and as fuel heats not without fire, so neither can any thing soundly comfort a Christian without the God of grace, without his being rich in grace. Great measures of grace carry with them the greatest evidence of a man's union and communion with God; and the more a man's union and communion with God are evidenced, the more will the soul be filled with that joy which is unspeakable and full of glory, and with that comfort and peace which pass understanding. In great measures of grace a man may read most of the love and favour of God; and the more a man sees of the love and favour of God to him, the more high the springs of comfort rise in him. In great mea
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sures of grace, as in a crystal glass, the soul sees the glorious face of God shining and sparkling, and this fills the soul with joy. Then had the churches rest throughout all Judea, and Galilee, and Samaria, and were edified; and walking in the fear of the Lord, and in the comfort of the Holy Ghost, were multiplied, Acts ix. 31. The more their graces were increased, the more their comforts were augmented.
'If one drop of the joy of the Holy Ghost should fall into hell, it would swallow up all the torments of hell,' says Austin. O! who would not then labour to increase in grace, that he may abound in joy? The promise lies most fair before their eyes, who are rich in grace; their interest in it is most clear; and they rarely go without it, unless it is by taking part sometimes with Satan against their interest in Christ; or sometimes through the power of unbelief, which indeed cuts off all the comfort of the soul; or by looking after other lovers; or by not hearkening to the voice of the Comforter. Christians, you often complain of the want of joy and comfort. O! do but abound in grace, and you will not complain of the want of comfort. 'Without delight the soul cannot live,' says, one, ' take away all delight, and the soul dies.' Let this that has been spoken, provoke every Christian to labour to be rich in grace.
Secondly; consider this, you have singular opportune ties, and choice advantages to be rich in grace.
There is a price put into your hands; but where are your hearts? In former times God gave out grace by drops, but now by flagons. Opportunities, if not improved, will, as that sword which Hector gave to Ajax, be turned into your own bowels. This will be a sword in thy bowels, that there has been soul-enriching opportunities, and thou hast neglected them, and turned thy back upon them. The thoughts of this will one day be the scorpion that will vex thee, the rod that will lash thee, the thorns that will prick thee, and the worm that will gnaw thee. The stork, says the prophet, knoweth her appointed times, and the turtle, and the crane, and the swallow observe the time of their coming; but my people know not the judgment of the Lord, Jer. viii, 7, The market for your souls