Thomas Chalmers

Lectures on Romans
ROMANS, viii, 35 - 39.

"Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written, For thy sake we are killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter. Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors, through him that loved us. For I am persuaded, that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord."

To have the precise understanding of this passage, you should remember that the love of Christ in ver. 35, and afterwards the love of God in ver. 39, may be understood in two senses - either as signifying His love to us, or our love to Him. The whole context seems to decide for the first of these meanings - as in that part of it which goes before, it is of God’s dealings with, and regards to His elect; it is of His being upon their side; it is of the surrender that He made in their behalf, when He gave up His Son unto the death, and with Him shall freely give them all things; it is of Christ dying and interceding for our good; it is of the love that is felt in heaven and is pointed downwardly to earth, and not of the love that is felt on earth and is pointed upwardly to heaven - that the argument is held: And in that part of the context which follows, it is still of Him who loved us that he speaks. Notwithstanding however, we shall find, I think, on a narrower examination of the whole passage, that our love to Him is embraced therein, though it be His love to us that is more directly and obviously expressed by it.

You will observe that there is nothing in all the adversities which Paul enumerates, that would in the first instance tend to effect a separation between Christ’s love to us and our own persons. The tribulation and the distress and the persecution and the famine and the nakedness and the peril and the sword, to all of which the Christians of that day lay so peculiarly exposed - there was nought in these that could of themselves alienate the regard of the Saviour from those who had enlisted themselves as His followers and friends; but every thing, on the contrary, to enhance the interest and the tenderness which He felt for them. But though they did not effect such a separations yet they might indicate it. At least, they who were weak in the faith might be discouraged into such a conclusion. They might be led to infer, that, as the ills and adversities of life were the portion of those who embraced the Saviour, there could be little love on His part towards those whom He had the power to rescue from these, but did not choose to put it forth. When they saw that it was for His sake they were so pursued even unto the death, their courage and their confidence might have given way, and they have stood in doubt of there being any regard on Heaven’s part towards them. The terrors and trials of that distressing period might have prevailed against them; and they, trusting no longer to the affection of Christ for their persons or their interests, might have renounced their faith and along with this their affection for the Saviour.

Now St. Paul in the passage before us, is bearing up his own mind, and that of his converts, against the despondency of this unbelief. He, as as it were, is not suffering himself to think, that all these dark and lowring adversities manifest either the decay or the dissolution of any love for them on the side of their merciful High Priest. He comes, in fact, to the very opposite conclusion. "Nay in all these things, we are more than conquerors through him that loved us.” He looks back to the great fight of afflictions that they had formerly been involved in. He recalls the manifold escapes, or, what is more characteristic of victory, the occasions on which they had been armed with intrepidity for the contest, and were enabled to face all the hostilities and hardships of the Christian profession and to endure them. And he connects the inspiration of all that courage by which they had been upholden so nobly, with Him from whom it descended. They were conquerors, only through Him that loved them. It was He who nerved them for the conflict. It was He who gave them either wisdom to overcome argument, or strength to suffer under the inflictions of personal violence. It was a moral warfare in which they were engaged, and in this He enabled them to conquer. It was a struggle between pain and principle; and He so succoured and sustained the latter, as that they could bid defiance to the fiercest assaults of the former - causing the spiritual to prevail over the animal nature; and between these two elements, the infused heroism of the new man and the creeping fearfulness of the old, enabling the grace to make head in this internal conflict against the corruption and to carry it.

And here it is of great practical importance to remark, that the way in which God often manifests His protecting and fatherly care of us, is, not by obtaining for us the safety of a flight; but, better and nobler than this, the triumph of a victory. In plainer words, he may neither withdraw the calamity from us, nor us from the calamity; but, leaving it to bear with full weight upon our spirits, He pours a strength into our spirits which enables them to bear up under it. It is in this way frequently, that He makes good the promise of not suffering us to be tried beyond what we are able to bear. He does not lighten the suffering, but He adds to the strength; and, as it were, cradles us, by the education of a severe spiritual discipline, into a state of spiritual maturity. After that the apostles had been threatened by the Jewish rulers to desist from preaching, they did not pray that no more threats might. be uttered, or that the power of executing their menaces should be taken away. They did not pray for a deliverance from the outward trial; but for a supply of inward resolution, that they might he upheld against it. "And now, Lord, behold their threatenings: and grant unto thy servants that with all boldness they may speak thy word.” And so with Christians of all ages. They estimate the kindness of God towards them by His spiritual, rather than by His temporal blessings. They count not that God has separated or withdrawn Himself, because His earthly comforts have abandoned them. The most distressing. separation to them were to be abandoned by the aids of His grace. That they fell into suffering, were to them no indication of His faded or expiring regards for them; but, should they fall into sin, this were the sad and sorrowing evidence of an angry or of a withdrawing God. When He puts some dark adversity to flight, this may prove that He has made them to be safe. But higher far when He discharges this adversity upon them, and they come out, of erect and unhurt spirit, from the onset and the uproar of its violence - this proves that He maketh them to conquer, and to be more than conquerors.

The great object in fact with every true Christian, is, not that the life of sense shall be regaled with pleasures or protected from annoyance; but, above this and ulterior to this, that the life of grace shall flourish and advance under all the varieties whether of sensible pain or sensible enjoyment. In the prosecution of what may be termed this higher game, there is at least secured to him that which according to Lord Bacon forms one chief ingredient of human happiness - even heroic feelings or heroic desires. The man you will observe whose heart is thus set, has a loftier aim than those of an every-day character, and he may be said to expatiate in a loftier region. They are certain moral and spiritual points that he tries to win; and that, in the face of certain hurts or hazards to which they are exposed - and in this higher walk of profit and loss, you will at once see, how wholly dissimilar his engrossments are from those who travail in the ordinary pursuits and speculations of merchandise.

It is most true that he may so travail and yet be a Christian; but there is all the distance in the world between him who diligently labours after riches as the ultimate landing-place on which his heart does terminate, and him who while not slothful in business yet fervent in spirit labours to keep that heart with all diligence. They look wholly different ways; and must be variously affected by the same events, according to what that is which mainly occupies them. Now a man is never overset, never plunges into helpless and irrecoverable despair, but on the giving way of that which he holds to be his main interest; and hence you will perceive, that the same visitation of calamity which should make one man feel that he is undone, might give to another a sense of noblest independence - in that he has met the poverty or the pain with a spirit unhurt, if not bettered by the collision; and that, in the triumph of a faith which looks onward and ahead of all that is visible, he can rise superior to the disaster and trample it beneath him.

Ver. 38, 39.
Before taking our conclusive leave of this subject, I should like to unfold if I could, how it is that our love to God and God’s love to us act and react the one upon the other. There is an ambiguity in the general expression - the love of God - that causes it to be significant of either of these two affections; and we do think, that, in order to arrive at the full spirit and meaning of the passage which is before us, reference must be made to both of them. For, in the first place, our persuasion of God’s love to us, is of all other things the most fitted to keep alive within us our love to God. It is just in fact the spiritual process of faith working by love. We believe in the love that God has to us, and we love Him back again. It is His good-will to us acting upon our gratitude to Him - a good-will however which must be perceived and trusted in, ere the responding emotion is awakened in our hearts. Apart from the view of Christ, and apart from the conviction of God’s good-will to us in Christ, we could not possibly love Him. The heart would be preoccupied with another affection, which should keep love from entering; for if it be true that love casts out fear, it is just as true that fear keepeth out love. Now while the view of God in Christ awakens love, the view of God out of Christ awakens terror. We then see Him as a lawgiver armed to destroy us - a God of sacredness whose hostility against sin is unappeased and unappeasable - a judge sitting in the high state of His affronted dignity, and roused by the jealousies of His holy nature to an act of vengeance on the creatures who had renounced His authority, and cast despite and defiance upon His throne. It is thus that the thought of God tirs up images Qf dread and disturbance in the bosom, amid which the love of God most assuredly cannot dwell; and it is not till this dark imagery gives place to another view and another aspect of the Divinity - it is not till the Mediator steps between, and we see that economy of wisdom and grace by which the Law has been disarmed yet the Lawgiver has been pacified - it is not till we behold Him as God in Christ, through whom truth and mercy have met together, and good-will to men has been made most firmly and harmoniously to unite with glory to God in the highest - It is then, and not till then, that the great moral revolution is brought about in the sinner’s heart, of a love for that Being whom he before stood afraid of; and of kindest regard for that awful but now amiable Deity, who, in the gospel of Jesus Christ, stands forth in all the graces of His manifested kindness towards a guilty world.

Let but this persuasion find entrance into the bosom; and it will clear away the distrust and the alienation, and I will add the hatred, that had before the possession and the mastery therein. It is the exprest persuasion of the apostle in our text. He believed the love of God in Christ towards him; and, retaining this belief in the midst of disasters and of trials which would have shaken the confidence of other men - just as he kept by the persuasion that these dark and lowring appearances did not indicate any separation of God’s love from him, so neither did they effectuate any separation of his love from God. It was the strength of his persuasion in God’s love to him, that so settled and secured his love to God. It was because his persuasion in the love of God did not give way, that his love to God did not give way. It was a persuasion brought to the trial and that stood its ground against it - and just by the very force of that sentiment which made Job say, that "though He slay me yet will I trust in Him." There was a storm that might well have made his conidence to falter. There were, in those days, a desertion and a dreariness in the profession of the gospel, by which God meant to discipline the spirit of its converts; but which by the eye of sense might well have been interpreted into the manifestation of His displeasure. And it was because faith prevailed over sense - it was because the persuasion of God’s love to him availed the heart of Paul, like an anchor of hope that kept him attached and steady amid the conflicts and fiercest agitations of this world’s violence - it was because, like Abraham of old, he staggered not out of his belief, for all that seemed menacing in the persecutions and cruel sufferings of that tempestuous age - it was because, notwithstanding of these, he still held by the confidence that God’s love was not separated from him - that neither was his love separated from God. There was nothing, I have already said, in all these adversities, that could effect the separation of God’s love from Paul and his disciples. The very most which they could do, would be to indicate or to make them fancy such a separation - after which, and when driven from their trust, they would lose their hold of the very principle by which their love was alimented; and thus although there was nought in this world’s fortunes which could have any immediate effect in separating God’s love from them, they might be of powerful effect in separating their love from God.
It is not to be imagined indeed, that the creature can have such influential operation on the mind of the Creator, as to detach His affections from those to whom they had been given; but it may have influence enough upon their mind to detach their affections from Him - after which, no doubt, He ceases His regards from those who have thus cast Him off. Their prayers for aid in the hour of temptation lose all efficacy, because no longer raised with the faith of those who utter them. The love of God in Christ will never fail those who keep a firm and confiding hold of it. But they let go their hold, and so fall away; and thus, not because of the power which this world’s fortunes have over the mind of God, but because of the power which they have over the minds of men, there may come to be between these two parties a complete and conclusive separation. It is on these considerations, that we deem it the best practical way of closing our lengthened elucidations upon this passage, shortly to urge upon you the tendency which there is in the world and in its fluctuations to separate you from God; and how, making head against this tendency, you should retain the love of Him in your hearts, and so retain His love towards you, under all the varieties whether prosperous or adverse of this present scene. For you will observe, that, in Paul’s enumeration of those influences which he stood determined to resist, but which certainly exposed to hazard the steadfastness of his love to God, there is room allowed, not for the assaults of adversity alone, but for the wiles and the blandishments of prosperity. He says that neither life nor death should separate him from the love of God - that neither things present nor things to come should do it - that no creature of any kind whatever should do it - All giving reason to believe that he had in his eye, what was agreeable to the life of sense and which might seduce our love from God, as well as what was painful or terrifying and which might cause that love to perish in a storm of calamity. And what we now propose is, to attend a little to each of these distinct influences, that you may beware alike of both, and suffer neither the joys nor the griefs of your earthly pilgrimage to separate you from God.

First then as to the effect of that which regales and satisfies the life of sense, in withdrawing our hearts from their love to God. There is nothing, we admit, in it, that should induce the suspicion of God’s unkindness or hostility against us - or that should make us cease to be persuaded of God’s love to us, and so to uphold the love of our gratitude to Him back again. We may continue to believe as before; and, in as far as faith worketh by love, it may be thought that there is every security we shall love as before. But in regard to the operation of faith upon the character, there is a most important principle laid down by the apostle in one of his epistles to the Corinthians. He there speaks of our believing in vain, unless we keep the truth so believed in our memory. The use of our faith in any truth, is that we may ever be recurring in thought and in remembrance to that truth, for the purpose of our ever and anon keeping its appropriate moral influence close upon the heart. Without this, it would appear, that the faith is of no use to us. There are a thousand things which we at one time believed, and which we would believe again were they called up to the remembrance, but which now he as forgotten things in the mind’s dormitory. Our faith in them is of no further use. There are many events, through the years that have gone by, of private and personal history, which we believed at the time on the testimony of others - many of which we have read, and read with conviction, in books of public and political information - many propositions of science so demonstrated as to carry our firm assent to their truth, and all of which have now faded and escaped from the memory for ever. We once believed in them, and, were they recalled into the mind’s presence, we should believe in them again. But ceasing to be thought of, all their practical influence has ceased also; and the very same holds, and is indeed expressly affirmed by the apostle, of the truths of Christianity. It is of no use that on some one day they have been acquiesced in - if day after day they are not adverted to. Even the death of Christ it would appear loses its efficacy for salvation, if it be not kept in remembrance. And even though we should have once believed the love which God has to us - this, if not dwelt upon in thought and cherised as our habitual recollection, is of no effect to perpetuate or keep alive our love to Him back again.

You will hence understand the hazard to which this affection is exposed from prosperity. It does not make us cease to believe that God has a yet unseparated love to us; but it makes us cease to think of it. Ye are satisfied with things present, and we look no farther. Or we dwell on the bright and golden hopes of the things that are to come, and the mind so occupied ceases to have God in its habitual contemplation. It is thus that both things present and things to come, neither of which the apostle was determined should separate his love from God, do in point of fact separate and withdraw the affections of many from Him, who is the fountain of all that they have and all that they hope for. The mind is otherwise engaged than with the thought of Him. The heart is otherwise engaged than with the love of Him. It is taken up with sensible things, and forgets the unseen God on whom they all are suspended. The apostle, by way of contrasting two habits of the soul which are opposite and incompatible, says of one set of men that their conversation is in heaven, and that thence they look for the Saviour; and of another set of men, that they mind earthly things. Now the effect of our prosperity is to engross the mind with earthly things; and to withdraw its conversation and its lookings from Heaven, and from all the benevolence which is there. We cease to love the God whom we have forgotten. He is out of mind, and so out of heart. He is dispossessed as an object of thought, and so is dispossessed as an object of affection. What is not present to our view, is not of power to stir up our emotions; and, not because prosperity has shaken us out of any belief that we ever had in God’s love to us, but because it hath stolen us away from the thought of it, therefore oar love to Him waxeth cold.

This effect of prosperity in making us forget God and His love, by fastening our regards upon other objects, is palpably evinced by the state and tendencies of almost every heart throughout the winged hours of a free and festive holiday - when we give ourselves wholly up to the fascination of things present; and, amid the glee and bustle and vivacity of our successive enjoyments, not the futurities alone of an eternal world, but even all the futurities of our earthly pilgrimage are forgotten. We just ask you to compute how much or how little of God there is in the bosom that is thus animated - whether it is not really true, that the exhilarations of such a day banish all thought of Him; and though the lake or the landscape on which you make delighted excursion be of His workmanship; and the happy faces by which you are surrounded be lighted up by a life and a spirit that He has breathed into every moving creature; and all the luxuries by which your various senses are regaled to the uttermost have been scattered from the hand of Him, who hath opened it wide, and poured them liberally forth on the face of a world, which He hath most bountifully stocked and most beauteously adorned - Yet we ask you, on your own recollection of the joyous party and all that gladdened them in the shape of nature’s brilliancy without, or the music and the dance and the plenteous hospitality and the costly decorations and the ring of merry companionship within - we would just ask, if, amid the turmoil of all these bright and busy images which are then made to occupy the heart, there has been room during one short minute of the whole protracted gratification for the thought of God as your reconciled Father, of God as the friend to whom all the glory and the gratitude should arise

Now the life of a prosperous man is one lengthened holiday. His business is the game, and the successful game at which he plays. His rapidly succeeding centages are the stakes that have been won by him, and which lead him onward to bolder adventures than before. His bills and his bargains and his lawsuits, are the moves and the checks wherewith he carries the enterprise to a fortunate termination. In launching a speculation, there are felt by him the sport and the high-blown spirit of the race; and, in its run and prosperous return laden with spoils and with profits, there is felt by him all the exultation of victory. Between the gains of the counting-house and the hours of evening enjoyment with his family - between the calls of his urgent business and the delights of his summer recreation - between the season at which he hardly and heartily labours, and the season at which he relaxes amid the beauties of his magnificent retreat arid the blandishments of expensive luxury - We see nought in the life of a thriving citizen, but that still its reigning character is that of a busy and protracted holiday - a life taken up to the full with the interest and the urgency of present things - where that which is seen dispossesses the heart of all regard to that which is unseen - where, in the hurry and the splendour and the successive evolutions of one thing to delight and occupy the heart after another, the thoughts of God and of His love are kept at a wide and habitual distance from the bosom; and, without once caring whether the love of God be separated from you, you have, abandoned your feelings to the force and ascendancy of things present, and so separated yourselves from all love to God.
And in such a life there are not only things present, but things to come, that withdraw our hearts from the love of God. Man lives in futurity. The desire which stretches forth to a distant good has far greater mastery over the heart, than the delight wherewith it regales itself in the good which is actually realised. The charm of a coming prosperity, has more power to fascinate and detain the heart from every other object, than even all the joys of our existing prosperity. The mind is still more engrossed with the prospects of a speculation that is yet afloat, than with the actual proceeds of a speculation that is now terminated. And it is this, I imagine, which must constitute the main hazard to your souls, of that walk on which many who now hear me are to be found - hasting perhaps with too much eagerness after the wealth that perisheth - giving, it may be, every affection and energy within you, to some fancied sufficiency that you have not yet attained, and the possession of which you hold to be enough for happiness - fastening all your thoughts and regards on this object which is placed below, and so of necessary consequence shifting them away from every object that is above - occupying the mind with that which is earthly, and in that very proportion withdrawing the mind from that which is heavenly.

We do not suppose that you have admitted a wrong belief all the while into your understanding. If you once gave credit to God’s testimony of His love to you in Christ Jesus, the likelihood is that on the question being put, you will profess the same credit still. You are not sensible of any such revolution in your opinions on this subject, as should either change or in any way impair the orthodoxy of your creed. The thing is credited as before, hut it is not attended to as before. When the mind does come into contact with the doctrine, it just entertains it as it wont, and judges of it as it wont; but then it is not so habitually in contact with it as it wont. We do not complain that now you think of it erroneously, but we complain that now you seldom or never think of it at all. The love to you of God in Christ is seldom present to the eye of the mind, because the eye is elsewhere directed; and so it is that your love back again waxes cold. When the good-will ceases to be seen - the gratitude ceases to be felt. The object is not kept in the memory, and so the affection which that object is fitted to awaken is not kept in the heart. When the one disappears the other dies away; and it is this which explains the decline and at length the utter extinction of Christianity with many, whose notions were all evangelical and even continue to be so - but whose zeal, fervent and declared as it may at one time have been, is now scarcely ever felt, just because the things which awaken zeal are now scarcely ever thought of.

The man does not understand the things differently from before, but he does not look to it so frequently as before. He is otherwise taken up. The engagements of business have gotten the entire hold of him. The multitude of his prospects and affairs and brooding speculations wields an entire and absolute mastery over his spirit. He lives under the power of things that are to come, but they are not he things of faith and eternity. They are altogether the things of a perishable world - the coming profits of some goodly adventure - the coming result of some keen and busy negotiation - the coming market, whose sales might elevate his fortune to that of the most affluent and honourable among the citizens. In the turmoil of such engrossments as these, the man has never changed his creed - he has had no time for it. He is every way as sound and evangelical as ever - and if one time the professor of a strict and serious orthodoxy, may he still have name to live, while in spirit and in reality he is altogether dead. And thus we have not to go back to the apostles’ days - that we may witness the power either of present or future things to separate the heart from the love of God. We see the vivid exemplification of it around us; and as much we fear on the walks of peaceful and prosperous merchandise, as in any bygone age of persecuting violence - as much in the seduction of this world’s good, as in the terrors of this world’s dark and menacing adversity.

But we mistake the matter, if we think that sensible things derive their power to alienate the heart from God, only from the deceit and the blandishment which be in prosperity, It should never be forgotten, that there is no other way in which we can be made to love God than by our looking to His love for us - no other way by which we can keep ourselves loving Him habitually, than by our looking at Him habitually. Whatever then withdraws the eye of our mind from Him, will withdraw the regards of our heart from Him; and we just ask you to think, whether the things that distress or terrify the spirit, have not to the full as great a mastery over the attention, as the things that satisfy and regale it. Have not grief for some actual adversity, and fearful anxiety for a coming one, have not these as great a power of engrossment as either the present delight or the bright and joyful anticipations of prosperity? They affect the mind differently it is true; but each may in its turn take up the mind wholly and exclusively, and so be alike mischievous in keeping the thoughts at a distance from God. And it argues an enlightened discernment by Scripture of the human spirit and all its mysteries, that, while it pronounces of this world’s riches how they beset the entrance of the kingdom of heaven, it also affirms that there is a sorrow of this world which worketh death; and you do well to notice that in the parable of the sower, where the heart of an engrossed and overcrowded man is compared to the ground that is overrun with thorns, and on which the vegetation of the good seed is stifled and destroyed - you do well to notice, that they are not merely the riches and the pleasures, but also the cares of this life, which choke and hinder from ever coming to maturity the good seed of the word of God.

Such then being the effect of crosses and adversities on your spiritual condition - is it the safe plan for you as Christians to lengthen out or to contract the line of your exposure to them? Ought you not to pause ere you comply with the invitations for some new enterprise, that shall bring along with it a train of hazards and anxieties and fearful misgivings, ere the termination be arrived at; and perhaps after all a termination of defeat and disaster that may utterly overwhelm you? We know little of the details of your merchandise; but we know enough to affirm, in the general, that, if your means be limited, the field of your operations ought proportionally to be moderate and manageable - that what is true in the business of other things is also true in the business of trade, you ought not to meddle with matters too high for you - that every risk which you cannot meet with your own property, and every daring adventure by which that of others is brought to hazard, should be avoided as unlawful. This much we know; and that nevertheless there is an insidious temptation that is perpetually operating, and by which the ambitious and the unwary are led into a higher game than they are adequate to all the chances of - that oft there is a floating vision which dances before their eyes in the shape of some goodly or gainful speculation, and by which they suffer them selves to be lured into a sea of troubles - that thus their cares and their concerns are greatly multiplied; and the ground on which they stand, now become more precarious than before, is felt as if it tottered under them; and in expedients for putting off the evil day, and shifts for temporary credit, and devices and disguises innumerable, they flounder from one difficulty to another - with a heart wholly oppressed and overcharged.

Even had fortune smiled on their aerial voyage, there would, as we have already endeavoured to show, have been, in the prosperity that crowned it an influence to war against their souls. But in the calamity which crosses it, there may be a tenfold hostility; and when we look to the sadly beset and bewildered man, as he writhes in secret under the necessities that encompass, or ruminates on the sad explosion of disgrace that is before him - when we think of the way in which his heart is occupied, and that positively there is not room in it for any thoughts of God - when we consider thought as the aliment of affection, and that we can only love our Maker in as far as we have time and space for the leisurely and undisturbed contemplation of His love to us, when we compute the manifold distractions of such a misguided individual, and the constant weight or agitation that he upon his spirits, then we can no longer wonder, that, in reference to the things of faith and of an eternal world, his soul should have been utterly dispossessed as if by the violence of fierce invaders, that other thoughts and other feelings should wholly monopolize him; and that, with an outset perhaps of seemly professorship, he should at length, because pierced through with many sorrows, have separated between himself and all sacredness, and become an alien and an. apostate from his God.

There is danger to your soul from the abundance of this world’s cares, as well as from the abundance of this world’s comforts; and therefore it is that you should avoid all wanton or unnecessary exposure to the former, even as you ought to be vigilant and sedate and sober-minded amid the blandishments of the latter. That there is a power in earthly sadness, as well as in earthly joy, to dispossess the heart of its love for God, may be exemplified by what we sometimes see in a case of forlorn widowhood. It has occurred that the sufferer under such a bereavement has been irrecoverably woe-struck, and so abandoned herself to helpless and hopeless melancholy - wholly unable to lift her spirits up from their dejection, and, with a determination somewhat like impracticable sullenness, utterly refusing to be comforted. That under a grief so immeasurable and absorbing there are very many things which now cease to interest her, is not marvellous; but what most indicates the dispossessing power of this affection, is that now she should cease to love her own children - that even to those whom nature had so powerfully endeared to her, her heart has become cold and alienated; and, immovably fixed as it is on the departed object of her tenderness, all its affinities with present objects have been broken. This is rare we admit; but it proves what force of separation there is in grief, if, even once or at any time, the strong parental attachment has been thereby discovered: And much more does it prove how possible it is, that an affection at all times so slender as that of love to the unseen Deity, should give way under the power of a similar visitation - how in grief for the loss of fortune, there might be a force at least equivalent to that of separating us from the love of God - how that which though rarely is the cause of a literal suicide inflicted upon the person, may frequently be the cause of a moral and spiritual suicide inflicted upon the soul; and so, by hasting to be rich, have many fallen into teniptation and a snare and erred from the faith; and, just because they pierced themselves through with many sorrows, have they also drowned themselves in destruction and perdition.

If then there be danger to the soul, both from success in business and from its crosses and misfortunes - what, it may be asked, should they who are immersed in the prosecution of it do? Not withdraw from their callings certainly; but so regulate and restrain and rectify, as that their callings shall not withdraw them from the love of God. There must be a way of being not slothful in business, and yet of being fervent in spirit; and, lest we should be charged for having dealt in this important question with generalities alone, let me conclude with one plain and practical direction to you. The thing which separates your love from Christ, is, that, with so much of the earthly to think of, you think but little and perhaps never of His love to you. What I hold to be indispensable for the preservation within you of spiritual life, is that you clear out for yourselves a season, and that too a frequently recurring season, of contemplation and prayer. In the constant appliance of sensible objects and sensible interests to your heart, all the grace that is in it must wither and decay; and, unless you take up the sentiment of the apostle, and desire with him, that neither things present nor things to come, neither the pride and prosperity of life nor the death of all our worldly hopes, nor any creature whatever shall have power to separate you from the love of Christ - your religion may perish, amid the many urgencies by which you are surrounded. What I hold to be your peculiar necessity is, that you so arrange as frequently to escape from these urgencies. It were well that you had many a breathing time, and for this purpose it is not enough that your Sabbaths be hallowed to the exercises and the studies of sacredness - you should have many a hallowed moment through the week - you should have a morning and an evening sacrifice - you should train your spirit to the work of oft retiring within itself, and oft raising up its faculties that it may lay hold of God. Even’ in the heat and bustle of the day there might be room for the occasional aspiration; and though nought more disparaging to Christianity than to fancy it a religion of days and forms and stated punctualities, yet, beset and occupied as many of you are, I hold that the highest principle, as well as the highest prudence, is involved in your set and regular observations of sacredness.

The soul might else move adrift among the countless influences that are ever and anon bearing upon it; and such is the actual opposition between all the things which are in the world and the love of the Father, that the drift is away from God. To recover those thoughts of God and Christ which the world would dissipate - along with the stray thoughts to recall the stray affections, and so maintain and constantly renew a fellowship of heart with the Father and the Son to light again and again the flame of sacredness within, and so to keep it from expiring utterly - to lift yourselves from the deadness and degradation of the things that are beneath - I am aware of no better expedient than that you have your times of communing through the Bible and prayer with the things that be above, and that you determinedly adhere to them. Let not the urgencies of business separate you from those precious minutes, which you should give to the remembrance of God’s love to you in Christ Jesus; and then the fortunes of business, whether prosperous or adverse, shall not be able to separate your hearts from that love which you owe to God in Christ Jesus back again. Pray unceasingly for His grace to overcome the, world, and you shall be more than conquerors through Him that loved you.

It is high time to break away from this world’s entanglements - to dispossess your heart of things present, and turn them to the things that are to come; and that not to the coming things of your earthly pilgrimage, but, overleaping these and the death which is beyond them, to look onward to the awful realities which lie upon the other side. If you have not yet made the movement from the habit of walking by sight to that of walking by faith, it is a movement which must be made ere you die - else the life eternal, which is only to those with whom all old things have been done away and all things have become new, you shall never never realise. And it concerns you all to understand, that, by every day of postponement, you are getting more helplessly implicated in the slavery of sense and of sin than before - that if you seek not first the kingdom of God, every other thing which you seek and set your affections upon just widens your distance from Him the more - that the love of all which is in the world separates and alienates the heart the more irrecoverably from Him who made the world - that thus in every footstep you make, there is a farther departure from the Being whose favour is life, but whose frown is endless and irremediable destruction: And, more particularly, may every fresh speculation in which you engage, and that constant trooping of successive cares and hopes and interests from one mercantile engrossment to another, so multiply the ties by which you are rooted and fastened down to a perishable scene - that wheu at length overtaken and torn forcibly away from it by the last messenger, you shall be found to be wholly of the earth and altogether earthly - overrun with carnality, and having a full part in the saying that the carnal mind is death.

I ask you, not to be hermits and to abandon either the world or its business, but I ask you to be aware of the evil of it. I ask your instantaneous and habitual recurrence to the objects of faith, that the objects of sight may no longer have the ascendant over you. I ask you so to retire and separate yourselves from the love of things present, that you may not be separated from the love of God - not to give up the use of the world, but so to use it as not to abuse it - not to cast away from you the good things of this life, but, by your habitual regard to the better things of another life, to strip them of their power, so as that they shall not be able to separate you from the high interests of an accountable and imperishable creature.

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