Brethren Archive

Vanity Fair

by John Dickie


    WHO that reads at all has not often read the immortal story of Bunyan's Pilgrim; and what reader of it has not been forced to admire the skill of the artist, when, with his unequalled pencil, he delineates the bustle of Vanity Fair,—-with the scenes and sounds of which we are all so perfectly familiar?  But we have each a much deeper interest in the picture than that which arises merely from our admiration of the artist's skill.  By the thoughtful man, his very weightiest duties, his gravest and most lasting interests, are solemnly felt to be all intimately connected with the business, and the pleasures, of Vanity Fair.  Nothing can more seriously concern each of us, than the consideration of what is our actual attitude in the midst of the bustle. Do we comport ourselves as citizens of the town; or do we act as persons whose looks, and words, and ways declare plainly that they are merely pilgrims passing through it, on the way to the Celestial City?

    The town of Vanity is the oldest in the world, its charters dating as far back as the fall of Adam.  The fair, too, "is no new-erected business, but a thing of ancient standing."  There is no place through which the heavenly pilgrim passes, on his journey, that is so full of jeopardy to his best interests as this town of Vanity; while, at the same time, the straight road to the heavenly city, which may on no account be forsaken, lies right through the midst of the crowded fair.  Not, then, by external withdrawal from it,—-for in this case we must needs go out of the world,—-but by our being made strong in the Lord, shall we be enabled to withstand in the evil day.  The aspect of the fair, indeed, is continually changing, as we see when we compare Christian's experience in the town with that of her husband; but whether religion or irreligion be the prevailing fashion of the hour, the town of Vanity is always full of danger to a truly heavenly-minded man.  As Mr. Contrite, a sojourner in the town, said, "He that lives in such a place as this, and has to do with such as we have, has need of an item to caution him every moment of the day."  And though in certain parts of the town, "for our town is large," religion occasionally becomes fashionable for a season, yet the true fearers of God are "but a few when compared with them on the other side." 

    The town of Vanity is co-extensive with the wide world, "this fair-skinned but heart-rotten world, the vain, vain, feckless world," as Rutherford designates it.  And the fair that is held in the town is being daily held over the whole earth, this immense city of the living.  But why call it the city of the living; is it not rather a necropolis, a city of the dead?  Not to speak of spiritual death, how many times more numerous are the corpses beneath its surface than the living men and women who trifle away life above them?  The city is one vast cemetery; and to the thoughtful pilgrim, the fair looks  as completely out of harmony with its surroundings, as if the revelries of Bartholomew or Donnybrook were being indulged in a churchyard.  Every step of each bustling buyer and seller is planted on human relics, while the merryandrew performs his antics on some tombstone for a stage.  Nothing but sheer "heroical defect of thought" prevents the obtrusive question, "Should we then make mirth?"

    From the exigencies of the allegory, the writer was constrained to place the City of Destruction, and the town where this fair is held, sufficiently wide apart; but when we gather the spiritual lessons, we have to remember that the City of Destruction and the town of Vanity are the same.  It is in the doomed city, over which divine judgments already hang suspended, that the revelry and idle activities of the fair-frequenters are being carried on.  Not only do they traffic and riot above the ashes of the dead, but they do it underneath the glimmer of the sword,—-the awful sword of vengeance, already furbished and sharpened, and uplifted in the hands of the slayer.  And though now and again, a single individual may, like Christian, become alarmed, and may hasten to escape, the majority of the citizens are at perfect ease, and continue, without any forebodings, to hold their fair all the year round.  They mock at the threatened danger, though it be God who foretells it; and they abandon themselves without restraint to their mirth and their business. 

"Fantastic chase of shadows hunting shades!
The gay, the busy, equal though unlike;
Equal in wisdom, differently wise:
Through flowery meadows, and through dreary wastes.
One bustling, and one dancing into death."

    All kinds of worthless rubbish are highly valued and eagerly bought in Vanity Fair. Shadows are counted to be the only solid substance.  "At this fair are such merchandises sold as houses, lands, trades, places, honours, preferments, titles, countries, kingdoms, lusts, pleasures; and delights of all sorts, as whores, bawds, wives, husbands, children, masters, servants, lives, blood, bodies, souls, silver, gold, pearls, precious stones, and what not.  And, moreover, at this fair there are at all times to be seen—-juggling, cheats, games, plays, fools, apes, knaves, and rogues, and that of every kind."

" I sum up half mankind,
And add two-thirds of the remaining half.
And find the total of their hopes and fears
Dreams, empty dreams."

    The wares that are sold in Vanity Fair seem at first sight to be astonishingly diverse; but this variety fits the traffic for every style of taste; and, indeed, the spirit of all the buyers and the sellers is the very same.  The reeling pleasure-seeker with his cup in hand, the plodding merchant with his ledger and his money-bags, the praying Pharisee who thanks God that he is not like either of these two,—-these are all but allotropic forms of the same essential substance. Until a man be born from above, whether religious or irreligious, he is equally of the earth earthy.

    But with all this infinite variety of wares, there are a few things which one never meets with in the fair,—-things that would not be taken even as a gift by any habitue, whether pleasure-seeker, merchant, or religionist.  The truth, for one example, their inquiring for which made Christian and Faithful be looked on as utter bed- lamites.  And, in general, there is neither supply nor demand for all the very best things.  The fine gold of heaven is less valued than the coarsest clay of earth; and the exceeding great and precious promises of God are not negotiable, being accounted less trustworthy than the flimsiest, oft-detected knaveries of the father of lies.  "It is God alone whom the world does not love," says the gentle Fenelon; and though the assertion be a heartrending one, it is not extravagant; indeed, it falls short of the statements of Holy Scripture, "There is no fear of God before their eyes,"—-no fear, and, of course, much less is there any love. " God send me no more happiness," exclaims Rutherford, "than that salvation which the blind world letteth slip through their fingers."

    When weighed, then, in the balances of the.sanctuary, the gravest matters agitated in this fair are found to be lighter than vanity; while the weightiest concerns that can press on the heart of an immortal creature, are treated as if they were less than the trash of a night-dream.  As Pascal, the prince of thinkers, says, "They make  nothing of eternity, and an eternity of nothing."  The men of all generations, like the men of our Lord's own generation, go through the tremendous responsibilities of life in the thoughtless spirit of children playing in the market-place,—-their immense responsi- bilities being not only neglected, but even remaining undiscovered till life is ended.  This resemblance between the pursuits of full-grown men and of playing children seems to have struck the thoughtful in all ages; as, indeed, it is a sufficiently patent one. "Elder folk's idleness is called business," says Augustine; "that of boys, being really the same, is punished by these elders."  Our own Leighton, with perhaps this passage of Augustine unconsciously working in his memory, says, "The most serious designs of men are more foolish than the plays of children; all the difference is that those are sourer and sadder trifles." And the author of the  "Cherubic Pilgrim" asks, in a couplet more distinguished for truth than for poetry,—-

"Thou smilest at the child who crieth for his toys;
Are they less toys, old man, which cause thy griefs and joys?"

    Of course the empty vanities, thus eagerly pursued, give no true satisfaction even to their most enthusiastic votaries; and still less to the man who has had the merest germ of a higher life developed in him.  And the dissatisfaction is quite as complete, in the case of the perfectly successful seeker, as it is in his case who has vainly sought with all his might.  The one man seeks, and seeks, and spends life in seeking, but he finds not; and he is wretched because he misses the thing he seeks.  The other seeks with similar care, and is counted happy because he finds; but he is just as wretched as the other; for the many-hued bubble which both were chasing collapses in his grasp, and the hungering heart is as empty as ever. Two brief printed forms, with blank spaces left in which to insert the names, might serve to give the condensed biography of almost every active citizen in the town of Vanity.  M. N. sought eagerly to procure salt water enough to quench his thirst; but all his efforts could not get it, and he died grievously disappointed for lack of the salt water.  X. Y. also sought as eagerly to get salt water for his craving appetite; and he succeeded in collecting brine enough for a fleet to float in.  But the more he drank of it, his thirst grew fiercer; till he too died, shrieking in delirium for more salt water.  In parable, this is the story of many a life that is led among us—-the successful and the unsuccessful. 

    At the same time, however, that we confess the worthlessness of the vain things sold in Vanity Fair, we may net forget that our hearts nevertheless have the strongest natural inclination for them ; and herein lies their power to injure the Christian pilgrim.  Christ's disciple, as he wends heavenward, may occasionally meet elsewhere with more to terrify; but nowhere is literally in such peril, as when surrounded by the glittering baubles of Vanity Fair.  Many a strong man has been wounded here, and has had to pursue the rest of his journey halting painfully on his thigh.  Nay, many a bold and defiant champion of the cross, who seemed, at first, determined to carry the hostile city by storm, has been seduced by its dangerous blandishments, and has never been seen again on the heavenly road.

    For, though the spirit of the dealers in the fair would only repel a pure unfallen creature, and though the wares sold in it would have no value whatever in his eyes, still, as the true Christian has an earthly part, as well as that which is "the seed of God," the attractions

of the fair are full of peril to the pilgrim.  We have all been born in the town and amid the bustle of the fair; and therefore, partly from habit, and partly from the remainders of our fallen nature, the things which would make a holy angel recoil with loathing are not equally offensive to us.  To animals which breathe the upper air the putrefaction of the grave is unendurable; but to the grave-worm itself, whose home is amid the pestilential stench, and which is fitted to feed on the fermenting loathsomeness, the noisome smells are delicious perfumes.  So with ourselves; we do not naturally recoil from the vain scenes of Vanity Fair; nay, we have a strong affinity for them.  Some of us, indeed, may not have any relish for the riotous delights of the pleasure-seeker; but there are many streets in the great town, and we may, perhaps, find our fitting sphere in the severer enjoyments of the successful Mammon-worshipper.  Or, if we choose to discard the pursuits both of the sensualist and the covetous, we can take our fill of a self-conceited Phariseeism which flourishes as extensively as either pleasure-seeking or money-making in the town of Vanity. 

    Every taste can easily find its appropriate gratification in the fair—-every taste, save one alone.

    We must all needs pass through the fair.  The Christian's one road homeward, which he may never leave, leads right through its midst. Many of the noblest spirits who have ever gone on pilgrimage, realizing most vividly the dangers of the fair, have turned aside from the straight way, in order to keep clear of the dreaded town altogether.  These were the best of the early monks; and their mistake has at least purchased for us, at their great expense, the invaluable lesson, that it is safer by far to keep the narrow way of holiness, even though it leads us into the town of Vanity, than to leave the appointed road under any consideration whatever.  We cannot then escape the testing trials of the fair.  Let us see, however, to pass through it as pilgrims, who, forewarned, are also forearmed; who seek not, who accept not, a home in the town.  "They pass most safely through the world who trip over it quickly; for it is but a bog,—-if we stop, we sink."

    So manifestly were Christian and Faithful seen to be strangers, that the men of the fair mocked at their outlandish appearance. Their dress was altogether peculiar; "for the pilgrims were clothed with such kind of raiment as was diverse from that of any that traded in the fair.  The people therefore of the fair made a great gazing upon them.  Some said they were fools; some, they were bedlamites; and some, they were outlandish men."  And their style of speech seemed equally strange to the people of the fair. "Few could understand what they said.  They naturally spoke the language of Canaan, but they that kept the fair were the men of this world; so that from one end of the fair unto the other they seemed barbarians to each other."  Thus has it ever been, and thus will it be to the end. Now, a most important practical question is suggested by all this,—-Do the boothkeepers of Vanity Fair marvel at us for our unearthly garb, and speech, and ways?  It is not well, indeed, for a Christian to be needlessly eccentric.  So far as he permits himself to be so, he destroys his true influence; but it is still worse when the Christian's life and spirit are in full conformity with the evil world.  The New Testament is filled with awful warnings on this subject,—-warnings that might make the hearer's ears to tingle, but which, perhaps, were never so little pondered or so much needed as at the present day.     

    Let us seek not to buy immunity from the world's scorn at too high a price, for "he that will be the friend of the world is the enemy of God."  The very last thing for which a Christian needs to blush, is the world's scornful smile at the strangeness of his walk or words.  If we look on the world as Eve looked on the forbidden fruit—-if we let our eyes gloat on what seems to be good and desirable in it—-if we take counsel at our own fleshly hearts,—-we too shall end by plucking the forbidden fruit, like Eve. But let us remember, whenever the world's good things seem to us to be good, that we are already under temptation; and let us at once turn away our eyes from beholding the vanity.  We are to have the same mind in us that was also in Christ Jesus; and when we read the gospel story, we are not left in doubt as to our Lord's estimate of the riches, pomps, and pleasures of this immense Vanity Fair.  Let us appraise them at his estimate now; for ere long, on a dying bed at latest, our judgment of their worth shall fall as low as his.

"Oh, for a heart magnanimous to know
Thy worth, poor world, and let thee go."

"If my part of the world's clay were rouped," says Rutherford, "I would think it dear of a drink of water."

    We are taught, too, the divine estimate of the world's good things in the fact that, even when honestly come by, the immense overproportion of them is bestowed on the ungodly.  He who so delighteth in the prosperity of his servants that he withholdeth no good thing from them that walk uprightly, generally withholds from them the riches, honours, and pleasures of this present world.  He has all along chosen the poor of this world to be the heirs of his kingdom; not that he is partial to the poor for the sake of their poverty, but, having adopted a man as his son, he prefers to place that son in trying circumstances, as being best fitted to forward his training for eternity.

"No soil like poverty for growth divine,
As leanest lands produce the richest wine."

    The mere knowledge, however, of the world's utter vanity will not of itself benefit a man; it may even injure.  The blessing lies in the use that is made of this knowledge.  Some of the most hopeless characters on earth, with hearts long hardened, and consciences seared into callousness, are to be found among the knowing ones, as they deem themselves, who have learned by experience the utter hollowness of an empty world.  These men, like Lord Chesterfield, have been behind the scenes, and have looked at the greasy lights and paltry ropes and pulleys with which the glittering gaudiness is moved; and now, as the only result of their superior knowledge, they fling themselves back to slumber out, for the rest of the journey, the stale and vapid dregs of life.  For—-

"The world well known will give our hearts to heaven.
Or make us demons long before we die."

    And even the Christian may entirely misuse his knowledge of the world's emptiness.  He may turn away from it in the spirit of a fanatic.  Many of the best of the ancient monks did so.  And if any of us act in this fanatical spirit, the terrible retribution is sure to come.  We shall either find out our complete mistake, repent of our sin, and retrace as well as we can, it may be with showers of bitter tears, our way back to our forsaken duties; or, what is infinitely worse, the spirit of delusion may lay still firmer hold of us, and we, having lost the enthusiasm which drifted us away into the mistaken course, shall, for the sake of consistency, have to continue that course, at least in appearance, without the enthusiasm, indeed, but supplementing its lack with an increasing measure of insincerity. What we began in honest folly has to be carried on, in semblance at least, in cool hypocrisy, till we become expert disciples of Ananias and Sapphira, and, like them, seek credit for forsaking what in truth we now forsake only in show.

    No; the right spirit, in which alone world-forsaking can be happily or consistently carried out, is that in which the man has found the pearl of great price, and is glad, for the joy of possessing it, to part with all besides.  He needs not the world to make him happy; nay, world-seeking in all its measures is found to spoil, not to increase, his true enjoyment, and therefore he spontaneously turns away from it.  Not in pride, but in humble love; not in ascetic gloom, but in satisfied gladness, does he turn from earth to heaven.  He says,—-

"From pole to pole let others roam,
And search in vain for bliss;
My soul is satisfied at home,—-
The Lord my portion is."

A proud and fanatical asceticism is always as bad and is often worse than self-indulgence would be. It is the joy of the Lord that strengthens for this service.  When a man, putting down on one side all that his profession of Christ costs him in the way of self-denial, and on the other side all that communion with Christ brings him in the way of present enjoyment; when he finds that his outlay for the first greatly exceeds his income from the last, he shall either soon abandon the unprofitable business, or, if he seems to continue, it shall be under the constraint of unworthy motives. The heart of man abhors a vacuum even more than nature was anciently supposed to do.

    There are two considerations which operate powerfully towards the disenchantment of Vanity Fair.  The one is the unsuitableness of all that is in it to furnish a satisfying portion for an immortal creature who must soon leave it all.  When we look at the earth beneath our feet, hollow with the graves of our fathers; when we reflect that it must soon be opened to receive ourselves; when we think how unseasonable the tones of mirth or the words of flattery shall sound in our dying ears, and how worthless all its riches shall be to us when we reach the last hour of life,—-reflections like these tend to diminish considerably the attractiveness of what earth alone can offer.  All the seeming glory of the world is really in the eye that gazes on it; there is no corresponding glory in the world itself.  The imagined  magnificence is as unreal as is the hypochondriac's fancy, at which all men smile; and the world's worth is never appraised so truly as when a man looks out on it from between the curtains of his deathbed, and sees it through the darkening mists of dying eyes.

    But to this negative influence there needs to be added a positive, and a more powerful principle.  We must turn the eye, the anointed eye of faith, to the glories of Christ, and of the city towards which he is leading his people. It is only an enjoyed salvation, which, already satisfying the heart, can render it independent of, and in a measure insensible to, the incompatible and delusive enjoyments of Vanity Fair.  But unless a man satiate himself with the delights of a better portion, his famishing spirit, faints for lack of its needful food, will be sure to feast on whatever earthly thing may promise to stay its hunger.  "The full soul will loathe even a honeycomb; but to the hungry soul every bitter thing is sweet."  When we walk in the light of noonday, we forget that there are bright stars shining overhead, for their radiance is lost in the brighter light of the sun; but when we walk abroad in darkness, then the stars are seen in all their beauty.  And so long as a man walks in the sunshine of Christ's presence in happy faith, he is scarcely conscious that the trifles of Vanity Fair have power to attract him; but when his enjoyment of his Saviour's grace decays, when he permits the gloom of spiritual darkness to surround him, their dangerous attractions become powerful in proportion.  In this direction, then, shall we find the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith.

    Before closing our paper, perhaps it may be worth while to ascertain clearly, if we can, what this world really is, from which the believer is to flee, as from his most dangerous foe.  What is the precise idea that we ought to attach to the term "world," when we are told that all that is in the world is not of the Father, and that if any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him?  Vague, indefinite conceptions of what is really meant will only mislead us. On the one hand, the earnest spirit, resolute to obey God's word at every hazard, may, like the monks of old, mistake altogether what is to be forsaken, and may flee instead from his most urgent duties. The less decided, or less enthusiastic, on the other hand, not knowing what is really to be left, and perceiving with a measure of clearness that everything which bears the name of "world" cannot possibly be meant, are apt to settle the matter in one or other of two unhappy ways.  They may either deny themselves nothing at all, like Cowper's Mohammedans, who ate the whole pig because they knew not the forbidden part; or they may do as many modern professors are doing,—-they may abstain from certain amusements for which they have no relish, as if the word "world" meant only the theatre, the race-course, and such like, while they greedily indulge in every attainable material comfort, and rush headlong among the very foremost into every path that promises gain.  What, then, really is this forbidden world?

    It is, for certain, not the material globe, with its wondrous garniture, on which we dwell, and which arrayed in marvellous wealth of beauty, although it be cursed for man's sin, joins its voice, to those of the starry hosts above to declare its Maker's glory.  The forbidden world has in it nothing that is of the Father; but this globe on which we dwell is God's world, with all that it contains made and sustained by him; it is Christ's world, to be yet restored and beautified, when he shall cast the usurper out and take possession of it as its only rightful Lord; and the Christian, so far from being bidden to turn away from it with aversion, has new reasons for regarding it with an ever-deepening interest. His opened ear can now hear, and appreciate, its eloquent discourse about the power, and wisdom, and holy goodness of him who made it.

    As little, may we identify the world which we are to forsake, with the mass of fellow-men and women around us, however sinful they may be.  God so loved this world of human beings that he sent his Son to save it.  Christ loves it.  The Christian, too, is to love it in the bowels of Jesus Christ.  The old law from Sinai commands each to love his neighbour—-every neighbour—-as himself; and as a rule of duty, this law has never been abrogated.  In fact, the man who professes to confine his love to so-called saints, has no real love even for saints, and, though he may have travelled by a slightly different route, he is coming perilously near to the precise stand-point of the ancient Pharisees which our Lord denounced: "If ye salute your brethren only, what do ye more than others; do not even the publicans so?"  No, we are to honour all men, and to honour them, therefore, simply as men; we are to love our enemies, and to act invariably as becomes the children of him who maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and who sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust alike.  Neither, then, is this world of our fellow-creatures the forbidden world which we are carefully to avoid.

    We may compare the term "world" with the analogous term "flesh."  Flesh is used with a twofold application in Scripture; for, like all words employed to desiguate the spiritual, it is borrowed from the material.  When applied to material objects, the word flesh is morally neutral; that is, its use does not necessarily imply that the thing spoken of is either good or bad. "All flesh is as grass;"  "Except those days should be shortened, there should no flesh be saved;"  "The Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us."  But when the word "flesh" is used in a figurative sense, applied to spiritual things, it has always a bad meaning.  It does not then designate the body merely, but the body as enslaving the soul; it describes not the natural only, but the natural debased into the carnal,—-the godless, the self-seeking.  The "flesh," in this acceptation of the term, is man's fallen nature as made utterly corrupt through sin.  And, similarly, the word "world" has also its two spheres of meaning.  In the literal use of the term, this word, like the word "flesh," is also morally neutral; but whenever it is applied to spiritual things, it signifies what is very bad.  It is not in this case, as in the other, a thing which God has made, or which he ever loved; for all that is to be found in it is not of the Father, but is of the world.  Neither is it among the objects which the death of Christ was designed to redeem from its unwilling subjection to vanity, and which he shall restore to more than pristine glory in the day of the gladness of his heart.  It has no voice to witness for God; all its voices blaspheme his name.  The Maker of this bad world was he who is still its prince, and it had its beginning only at the fall of man.  In other words, just as the literal flesh lives in the literal world, so the figurative flesh has its appropriate dwelling-place, and the sphere of all its godless activities, in the figurative world, in which it lives, and moves, and has its being.  To forbid the world, is pretty nearly the same thing as to condemn the flesh; and all that are Christ's have crucified the one (Gal. v. 24), and are crucified to the other (Gal. vi. 14).  As for the external world, the earth is the Lord's, and he has given it to us for our present dwelling-place; but the forbidden world has another lord and another course,—-"the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience, among whom also we all had our con- versation in times past in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature the children of wrath even as others."

    It is this world, then, that we are to forsake, this grand totality of things which the godless selfishness of man has reared up for his own enjoyment, ambition, and profit, and in which he vainly seeks to be happy at a Cain-like distance from his Maker.  To this world, the regenerated man is to account himself forever dead; and though his present sphere of service and of testimony lies among its citizens, he is to discharge his appointed duties simply as a servant of the Lord Jesus, and as sustaining no other relationship whatever to the present evil world.  In it, but not of it,—-that is his only safe position.

    Whatever is forbidden to the Christian at all is forbidden in all its degrees; and the reader of the New Testament can scarcely avoid seeing that every measure of self-pleasing and of worldliness is absolutely prohibited. There seems to be a somewhat prevalent misapprehension on this point.  It is not merely excessive worldliness that is forbidden to us; it is not merely extravagant self-indulgence that is represented as a sin; it is worldliness in every shade of it, and selfishness in all its degrees.  No matter how nearly universal these forbidden habits may be, nor how loudly authenticated by the practice of those who are looked up to as examples, do, thou, O man of God, flee these things; for if thou yield to the worldly spirit in any measure, thou hast already begun to traffic in the follies of Vanity Fair.  Be warned by the case of those represented by the thorny ground in the parable.  They had received the good seed of the word, the seed had germinated; they had endured successfully the persecutions under which others had become apostates; but after all this, the cares of this world and the deceitfulness of riches, and the lusts of other things, had choked the word, and their promise of fruit utterly failed; that is to say, they fell at last before the blandishments of Vanity Fair.  So too did Demas, the fellow-labourer of Paul.  He entered the fair, walking manfully abreast of Paul and Luke (Col. iv. 14), and no one could have said that any of the three looked less decided for heaven than his fellows;  but Demas by-and-by yielded to temptation, and became a stall-keeper in the fair, and his companions had to leave him behind when they continued their piljrimage (2 Tim. iv. 10).

    All that has been said of the world's good things as unable to satisfy, and therefore as unworthy of being sought, might be applied equally to its sorrows as unable to embitter life, and therefore as unworthy to be over-anxiously avoided.  The riches and the poverty, the joys and the sorrows, incident to Vanity Fair, are equally vain, and the love or hatred of its people equally impotent.

    It is sometimes said that we fall behind our fathers in respect to Christian joy.  If we do, it is because we fall behind them in singleness of eye.  The world offers us bribes considerably larger than it offered to them; let us be all the more watchful to keep our hearts perfectly clear.  It is the single-hearted Christian that is not only the holiest and most useful, but also the happiest.  An Italian proverb tells us that he has got plenty to do who undertakes to run down two hares at once; but this is a light task compared with the man who aims at securing a prominent place, both in the town of Vanity, and also in the celestial city.  Alas, there are many who seem to have set their hearts on both, attracted apparently by the foretold glories of the one, and influenced more certainly by the present enjoyments of the other.  What an unhappy state of mind!   That the man can ever succeed in attaining his double object, is questionable; but there is no question about his securing for himself, for the present, the maximum of trouble, with the minimum of spiritual joy.  Clinging tenaciously to the world that now is, while he grasps with nearly equal eagerness at that which is to come, what wonder is it that the poor heart is almost rent asunder between them!  The two worlds have been, for the time, swung close together in their divergent orbits, for a far different end than that we should enjoy the sweets of both.  They have been brought together to give us opportunity to take a final leap out of the one into the other; but we, fools and half-hearted, wishing to live in both, and unwilling to part with either, clutch spasmodically at each; and therefore we need not wonder if we find that, as the two worlds swing apart again on their different orbits, we are like to be torn asunder, and our hold on the new world, instead of being to us a source of unspeakable gladness, has become only a spring of additional sorrow.  The joy of the Lord, is for those who serve God and refuse to worship Mammon.  Like Moses, we must show our faith by esteeming the present reproach of Christ as greater riches than the treasures in Egypt.

    As Herbert sings,—-

"Presse me not to take more pleasure,
In this world of sugred lies.
And to use a larger measure
Than my strict, yet welcome size.

"First, there is no pleasure here;
Coloured griefs indeed there are
Blushing woes, that look as cleare
As if they could beautie spare.

"Or if such deceits there be,
Such delights, I meant to say.
There are no such things to me
Who have passed my right away."

 

 

 

 






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