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" Then he which had received the one talent came and said, Lord, I knew thee that thou art an hard man, reaping where thou hast not sown, and gathering where thou hast not strawed : and I was afraid, and went and hid thy talent in the earth: lo, there thou hast that is thine. His Lord answered and said unto him, Thou wicked and slothful servant, thou knewest that I reap where I sowed not, and gather where I have not strawed: thou oughtest therefore to haye put my money to the exchangers, and then at my coming I should have received mine own with usury. Take therefore the talent from him, and give it unto him which hath ten talents. For unto every one that hath shall be given, and he shall have abundance : but from him that hath not shall be taken away even that which he hath. And cast ye the unprofitable servant into outer darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth." -Matt. xxy. 24-30.
PREPARATION FOR HEAVENLY HAPPINESS. HOWEVER strong the attachment an earthly sovereign may conceive for one of his subjects, however ardent his desire to promote the individual's comfort and honour, all that he can do is to alter his external circumstances; he cannot change the bias of his mind, or give him mental and moral qualities which he does not naturally possess. He may exalt him in rank, but he cannot adapt him to his new situation, or cause him to enjoy it. He may assign to a weak, untutored man one of the principal offices of his government, but he cannot give him the capacity of a statesman, or the extensive knowledge of men and things which is requisite for the right discharge of a statesman's duties. He may place a coward at the head of his armies; he may constitute him generalissimo of all his forces; he may load him with titles. of dignity; but he cannot infuse into his heart one particle of courage. He can bring a rustic to his court, and give him
every opportunity to partake of its splendours; but if its forms prove burdensome, its politeness offensive, and its gaieties fatiguing, and the man sighs for the scenes to which he had been accustomed, the potentate himself cannot alter his taste : he has brought him to the palace, but he cannot enable him to enjoy it. Among the sources of vexation of spirit which kings have lamented, and which observers have noticed, this is one, that men have often through partiality been introduced to stations for which they were not adapted, and that an appointment intended to produce happiness and honour has brought only ridicule and misery on him who made, and on him who received it.
But it is not thus with the Almighty. He is “the God of the spirits of all flesh.” If he called a shepherd to the prophetic office, he bestowed upon him also supernatural endowments, so that he spake, not from his own resources, or according to his own will, but as he was moved by the Holy Ghost! If he called fishermen from their boats to preach salvation by the blood of Christ throughout all nations, he enlarged their knowledge, he elevated their thoughts, he invigorated their minds, and he enabled them, by his own Spirit, to speak in languages which they had never learned.
The Lord has prepared for men mansions of happiness in the heavenly world. This is gracious; this is wonderful: but had he done no more than this it would have been unavailing. He has removed obstacles which stood in the way of our entrance to those mansions. By the death of his Son, the Almighty has opened a way in which sinners may be pardoned, justified, and admitted to glory. This exhibits love, astonishing love, love worthy of the admiration of men and angels! But more than this was necessary, or we could never have been happy.
Preparation for heaven is necessary, as well as a title to admission; the appetite, as well as the provision; the ear for heavenly music, as well as the golden harp. We need to be “wrought for the selfsame thing," as the apostle Paul expresses it. As the wool for a garment needs to be " wrought" before it can answer the purpose of him who is to wear it; as the clay that Jeremiah saw was "wrought” by the potter, that from a shapeless mass it might become a useful vessel; as the stones for the construction of the temple were "wrought” by the workmen of Solomon, before they were brought to Jerusalem; so we need to be “wrought for this selfsame thing," by God. That it is of preparation for heavenly happiness that the apostle is speaking, the reader will perceive, if he will turn to the Second Epistle to the Corinthians, the fifth chapter, and the fifth verse, where the language occurs. The apostle was writing of the joyful expectation which he and his beloved brethren entertained of
ave beefwell as the
PREPARATION FOR HEAVENLY HAPPINESS.
and respecting this he adds, "Now he that hath wrought us for the selfsame thing is God.”
If the reader has not been in a similar manner prepared for heaven, he is just as unfit for the enjoyment of its happiness as an African savage is for the enjoyment of refined society, or an uneducated ploughman for the enjoyment of the pleasures of literature. The assertion may seem harsh; but let him who doubts it reflect a few moments, and see if it be not true.
We are by nature dissatisfied with the government of God. His law is thought to be too strict. The love of self-gratification leads us to break through the limits he has prescribed. If we say we have not sinned, we deceive ourselves. If we have sinned, why was it, but that we were inclined to that which was forbidden, or disinclined to that which was commanded. All men are naturally averse to unreserved submission to the will of God. Even if they admit that it is right as a general principle, they make exceptions in certain cases, where their own inclination is strongly opposed to his directions. But in heaven the Divine ascendency is thoroughly established. In heaven the will of God is the presiding will that governs all. A heart under the influence of sinful inclinations would make residence in heaven intolerable to its possessor. Heaven would be to such a person a world of restrictions. He would inwardly dislike those regulations, in the perfect observance of which others were rejoicing. The disposition must be changed, or the man could not be happy in such circumstances.
We are by nature dissatisfied with the character of God. His determination to uphold his law we are apt to think harshness; and his righteousness we deem severity. Consciousness of guilt rakes men shy of their Maker, so that a recollection of his power and majesty occasions pain. There is a dissimilarity of character between God and an unconverted sinner that must be removed, before they can delight in each other. How is this to be effected ? God cannot change. The sinner must be changed, then, if ever they harmonize. The man must be prepared for heaven, before he can enter into the spirit of the blessed assembly so far as to keep the first and great commandment, --" Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind."
We are by nature devoid of taste for purely spiritual pleasures, which are the pleasures of heaven. Private prayer, praise, and study of the Scriptures, are not the enjoyments to which the heart of man is naturally addicted. If you find no happiness in these exercises, reader, what would the heavenly state be better to you than a long, very long sabbath-day? If all the pleasures for which you have any taste are connected with your bodily organs, what could be your pleasures as a disembodied spirit ? If all the studies in which you take an interest relate to the
objects of sense, what a dull world would you find that whence these things are all excluded? You must learn to love religion—not merely to submit to religious exercises as a taskbefore you can find happiness in heaven.
Love to Christ is the mainspring of heavenly blessedness. The apostle Paul's desire to depart was, that he might be with Christ. If you have no strong affection for Christ now, if you do not value that sort of intercourse with him which may be enjoyed in this world, if you do not take a lively interest in the spread of his gospel and the extension of his kingdom, with what satisfaction could you enter into the engagements of the blessed, or join in their songs? What could you do in heaven? With whom could you converse ? With angels? They are zealous for God's glory. With the spirits of just men made perfect? They are full of gratitude to Christ. With God himself? You would regard him as your controller—the awful God! while he would see in you a traitor at heart, a dissatisfied guest at his table. The inhabitants of heaven would have no sympathy with you, nor you with them. You need to be " wrought for this selfsame thing" by God.
Fellow mortal, whose life is a vapour, how awful will it be to die unfit for that happiness which God has prepared for them that love him! Your eyes will soon close on the scenes that now delight you: your ears will cease to be pleased with the sounds of earthly music: science, literature, worldly pursuits, will cease to occupy your thoughts; and if you have no taste for heavenly pleasures, how wretched will be your state! Preparation for heaven is possible, however, for you. It is attributed in Scripture to the word and to the Spirit of God. " That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit." Christians, true Christians, are “born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth for ever.”* You' possess that word: believe it. The renewing influences of the Divine Spirit are given to all who seek them earnestly through the mediation of Christ. Ask, and you shall receive. Thus will you be made “ meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light."
“ Heaven is a place of rest from sin ;
But all who hope to enter there,
Which shall their souls for rest prepare.
“ Clean hearts, O God, in us create ;
Right spirits, Lord, in us renew!
Now do thy will as angels do."
“Ruth said, Intreat me not to leave thee, or to return from following after thee: for whither thou goest, I will go; and where thou lodgest, I will lodge: thy people shall be my people, and thy God my God."-Ruth i. 16.
SELF-RESPECT. It is true that man is a sinful, and therefore a miserable being. His life here is short, composed of helpless infancy, of laborious manhood, and of decaying old age. Even this period is uncertain ; for scarcely a fourth part reach the last stage of human existence on this earth. This has led some to look upon man as a higher species of animal only, as a creature of circumstances, and subject to an irresistible fate. Many, on account of the disappointments, difficulties, and trials they meet with, become tired of their existence; life is a burden to them; and they give themselves up to dissipation, melancholy, or self-destruction. The Divine word by no means softens the description of the guilt, the misery, the helplessness of man, but paints them in darker colours, in reference both to the present and the future. It says to him in effect, “You are indeed in an unhappy and awful condition, and ten thousand times more sinful and perilous than you imagine.” But while it calls upon him to abhor and humble himself on this account, it says not, “ Abandon yourself to ruin; give yourself up to despair! You are of no further use to yourself or to others. Your case is hopeless, and you must look upon yourself as for ever lost !” No! It says, “ You are yet of value. You cannot be described as irrecoverably lost.