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unmeaning, commonplace, unworthy of the greatness and sanctity of the subject. It must be left, therefore, to the conscience of each person. And so it may be dismissed ; once more saying, that what has been here thrown out is practicable for all persons, in whatsoever rank of life, even for the very highest in this earthly state; for the most burdened with worldly relations and offices; for the most encumbered with household cares, and the like; because, after all, it depends chiefly upon the secret mortification and impoverishment of the heart, which may be perfect, even when the natural expressions of it in act and deed are not permitted.
But there are others, as has been said, on whom the providence of God has laid no greater charge than to provide the little which is necessary for their own subsistence; and they may much more closely approach the example of our Divine Master. Suppose a man to receive an inheritance greater than his personal needs ; what hinders his making the poor
to be usufructuaries of his estate, and himself the steward, whose recompense is his own food and raiment ? He need do no violence to the context of society; he may leave all things in their natural channel. The legal securities of his possessions would remain untouched. They might be bequeathed to his lawful heirs; only he would forsake his life-interest for the love of Christ, and to follow the example of His holy poverty. Perhaps the very suggestion may be thought almost fanatical, or at least to be a treason against the prerogatives of a refined selfishness by which the world is ruled. Nevertheless, there is in it more of reason, reality, sound sense, Christian prudence, than in the popular theory and practice of ordinary life. It is capable of being demonstrated by a severer and more certain proof than any worldly projects will admit, to be
wise, cautious, forecasting, and in the highest degree expedient to the man that adopts it for his rule of life, and even to the world. This is taking the lowest ground. But let us not forget that there are higher reasons which will occur hereafter. Hitherto we have spoken only of those who are rich in this world, because to them the imitation of the poverty of our Lord inay seem at first sight impossible. It is hardly necessary to do more than to say, that to those who are actually poor, His example is a singular consolation. It elevates their inevitable condition into an opportunity of following His footsteps in a path which leads to great perfection.
2. Another reason for His choosing so bare and destitute a condition was, that He, by His poverty, might set us an example of deadness to the world. The gifts and allurements of the secular state are among the chief dangers of Christ's servants. There are very few that can resist the offers of wealth, ease, elevation, power, and the like. The world is strangely versatile and seducing, and is at the best a dangerous friend. Prosperity destroys not fools only. There is something peculiarly subtil and persuasive in high station, titles, and appointments, and in full homes, fair prospects, abundant incomes. What but this does St. John mean by saying, “Love not the world, neither the things
, that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, are not of the Father, but are of the world."*
It was to be the note of Christ's true followers, “they are not of the world, even as I am not of the world.”+ In our baptism we renounced it. And He, foreseeing its peculiar subtilty, and the trial of His Church, especially in the days when the * 1 St. John ii. 15, 16.
+ St. John xvi. 14.
world was to come into its fold, stamped for ever in His own example the visible tokens of perfect deadness to the secular state, by choosing for Himself a life of poverty. Though he was rich, yet for our sakes He became poor.” He gave Himself for us, " that He might deliver us from this present evil world."* And in His own visible example He showed openly the work He came to do. He stood out from the world, apart from all its powers, gifts, and greatness. He had no share in it, and it had nothing in Him. In the full tide of life He was as dead to it as upon the Cross. It was simply colorless, tasteless, powerless. He was there to counterwork the whole mystery of this tempting world, and to abolish all its lures. And this He did first by Himself. He stood aloof from it, disengaged and free to rebuke, warn, condemn, abase it. And such is the condition on which alone we can overcome the world. Just in the measure in which we accept its favors, and consent to be honored, gifted, enriched by it, we give it hostages or make ourselves its hirelings. I am not speaking of gross worldliness, ambition, and covetousness. They are self-condemned. I mean that far more insidious form of worldliness, in which interest and advancement seem to coincide with the line of duty. Men think they ought to refuse nothing that comes to them: as if all offers'were necessarily from God; as if, by indirect means at least, and through the agency of the world, Satan could not in some measure fulfil his words, “all these things will I give thee.” Now it is a remarkable fact, that many men to whom the world seems to open itself that they may set themselves in its very heart, in places of the greatest power, influence, popularity, lose their real force in the measure in which they advance into it, and are simply powerless when they are at the highest point of apparent
* Gal. i. 4.
mastery. The world knows with whom it bas to do, and lays its ambush for those who in secret are still alive to its While they seein to be carrying God's kingdom into the very core of the world, they are only taken in a snare. Their admonitions, reproofs, and rebukes, with how much soever of human emotion and effect, fall very light upon it. The world hires them as eloquent orators to grace a feastday, or “as one that hath a pleasant voice, and can play well on an instrument,” to drive away the vexing spirit, when, in spite of itself, it is disquieted. In the turmoil and onward movement of its affairs, when the blood stirs, and plans are laid deep, and great casts are ventured, for pleasure, or gain, or self-exalation, the voice of the charmer is drowned, or rudely bid to be still, and he himself cast out. A pitiful lot; full of humiliation and heart-breaking when any deep or noble thought is still in a man!
What might not such have been and done, if only they had been dead to the world, had refused its offers, and used no powers but those which God bestowed, or they themselves had wrung by force from the world itself! This is another great lesson set us in the poverty of our Lord: so to die to the world, that it cannot find the price at which to buy our submission. This is the secret of strength and steadfastness : when the prince of this world hath nothing in us, nothing to which he can speak smooth things through the eye, or through the ear; when for us gold has no brightness, and honor is a burden, and high office wearisome to bear, and the multitude of followers make us long to be forgotten, and the manifold duties of exalted station are irksome to the soul whose single intention is to be united with the presence of God, then we are beginning to learn what it is to be dead to the life of the world. And this temper is an absolute condition to the doing of any great
and high service for Christ in His Church. There is a poverty of design, a weakness of purpose, an uncertainty and vacillation about all who still harbor a secret affection for the world. Howsoever high their theories or aspirations, there is some sidelong glance at the opinion, or judgment, or standard of others, which mars the singleness of their aim ; some remote interest which pulls them back ; some calculation of results, some forecasting of consequences, which make them seldom true to their present position or to themselves. But the man that covets nothing, seeks nothing, looks for nothing, nay, that would refuse and reject the solicitations of the world, unless they bore on them some sure and expressive marks of his master's hand, is above all worldly power. He is truly independent; out of the reach of hope and fear; self-resolved, and, next under God, lord of his own spirit.
3. And once more: the example of the Son of God was no doubt designed to show us the relation between poverty and holiness, The very state of poverty is a wholesome corrective of many subtil and stubborn hindrances of our sanctification. Let us embrace it with gladness. Let us, when the choice is before us, choose it rather than to be rich. In His awful warnings on the danger of riches, our Lord neither meant to say that rich men could not be saved, nor that the abuse of riches alone is dangerous ; but that the very possession of them is full of peril. They intoxicate the heart; they raise its pulse above the natural beat, and make the desires of the mind flushed and feverish. Even the blameless and upright among rich men are full of artificial feelings, false sympathies, unreal standards of what is necessary, becoming, and right. Riches take them out of the universal category of man, and train them up in a sickly and unnatural isolation from the real wants,