Christian Father's Present to His Children
by John Angell James, 1825
THE GREAT END OF LIFE
Never was there a more rational, or a more important
question proposed for the consideration of the human understanding, than
"What is man's chief end?" This, I say, is a most rational, and a most
important inquiry; for every thinking being should certainly ask himself,
"What is the great end of my existence? I find myself in a world where
innumerable objects present themselves to my notice, each soliciting my
heart, and each claiming to be most worthy of its supreme regard. I have
faculties of mind capable of high pursuits. I perceive, by universal
experience, that my stay in this world will be very short, for I am only a
stranger and a sojourner here upon earth, as all my fathers were; and as I
am anxious not to go out of the world without answering the end for which I
came into it, I would wish to know the chief purpose for which I exist."
Such a reflection is what every one should make—but which very few do make.
Would they fritter away their lives as they do, on the most contemptible
trifles, if they seriously inquired for what purpose their lives were given?
What, then, is the CHIEF end of man? You will perceive, I
lay all the stress of the inquiry on the adjective; for there are many ends
to be kept in view, many purposes to be accomplished, many objects to be
sought. We must provide for our own sustenance, and the comfort of our
family; we should store our mind with useful knowledge; endeavor to be
useful, ornamental, and respectable members of society; and there are many
other things which may be lawfully pursued—but we are now considering that
ONE GREAT OBJECT, which is paramount to all others, to which all others must
be subservient, and the loss of which will constitute life, whatever else we
might have gained, a lost adventure.
There are five claimants for this high distinction, this
supreme rank, in the objects of human pursuit—the pretensions of which shall
be separately examined.
1. RICHES, with peculiar
boldness, assert their claims to be "the one thing needful," and multitudes
practically confess the justice of the demand. Hence, there is no deity
whose worshipers are more numerous than Mammon. We see many all round us who
are obviously making this world the exclusive object of their solicitude.
Wealth is with them the main chance. For this they rise early, and sit up
late, eat the bread of anxiety, and drink the water of affliction. This is
their language, "I care for nothing if I may but succeed in business, and
acquire property. I will endure any fatigue, make any sacrifice, suffer any
privation, so that I at last may realize a fortune!" It is perfectly evident
that beyond this they have neither a wish nor an object. Money, money,
money, is their chief good, and the highest end of their existence. God,
true religion, the soul, salvation, heaven, hell, are as much forgotten as
if they were mere fables, and all the energies and anxieties of their soul
are concentrated in wealth. Is this rational?
Consider the uncertainty which attends the pursuit
of this object. FORTUNE has been often described as a capricious goddess,
not always bestowing her golden gifts on those, who by their prudence and
industry seem most to deserve them. "The race is not always to the swift,
nor the battle to the strong." The wisest and most industrious worldling
sometimes ends in poverty. And shall we seek that as the end of life, which
after all, we may never gain? Shall we deliberately devote existence to
secure that which after all, we may never secure? How many miserable
creatures are going down to the grave, confessing that they have spent their
lives in courting fortune, and have scarcely obtained a smile—while others,
who have hardly asked a favor, have been loaded with them. Poor creatures!
they may say in reference to the world, what Wolsey did, "Had I served God
with half the zeal that I have served Mammon, he would not now have forsaken
me in my old age."
But even granting that the end is secured, do riches
bring all the pleasures in their train which they promise? It is a very true
remark, that a man's happiness is not in proportion to his wealth. "A
man's life," said Christ, "consists not in the abundance of things which he
has;" and yet many act as if they denied the truth of the sentiment. Do you
think that all rich men are happy, and that all poor men are miserable? As
to mere animal enjoyment, does the affluent man receive a larger share than
his poor neighbor? Whose head aches less, for the costly plume that waves on
the brow? Whose body enjoys the glow of health more for the rich velvet
which enwraps it, or the lace which adorns it? Whose sleep is sounder
because it is enjoyed on down? Whose palate is more pleased because it is
fed with many dishes instead of one, and from silver instead of delft? Whose
bosom is more free from pain because of the diamond which sparkles there? Do
riches multiply the number of the senses, and give other inlets of sensation
to the soul, or increase the power of those we already possess? Do they add
to the just and natural appetites, or afford greater gratifications to those
we already feel? Do they insure health, keep off disease? Nothing of the
kind! Numerous servants, splendid clothes, rich furniture, luxurious
living—add very little to a man's happiness! We may say of these things as
Pliny did of the pyramids of Egypt, "They are only proud proclamations of
that wealth and abundance which their possessor knew not how to use."
Anxious care is the shadow of possession, and the
magnitude of the shadow will always be in proportion to the dimensions of
the substance. Great wealth certainly makes a man many anxieties. What shall
I do? is a question often asked by affluence, as well as by poverty. There
is nothing in earthly things suited as a portion to the desires of the human
mind. The soul of man needs something better for its provision than wealth.
It is on this account, partly, that our Lord brands the rich man in the
gospel for a fool, who, when he surveyed his treasures, said to his soul,
"You have goods laid up for many years in store; eat, drink, and be merry."
Then how precarious is the continuance of riches.
They appear to us as in a dream; they come and are gone; they stand by us in
the form of a golden image, high in stature, and deeply founded on a
rock—but while we look at them they are transformed into an eagle with
wings, and when we are preparing to embrace them, they fly away! What
changes have we witnessed even within our own circles of observation. How
many do we know, now suffering in poverty, who formerly rolled in affluence!
They set out in life in the full sunshine of prosperity—but the storm
overtook them, and blasted every comfort they had in the world!
But if riches continue to the end of life, how uncertain
is life itself. How often do we see people called away by death in the very
midst of their prosperity. Just when they have most reasons to desire to
live, then they must die. Their industry has been successful, their desires
after wealth have been gratified, they build houses, plant gardens, and when
preparing for many years of ease and enjoyment, they leave all—for the
grave! And then, whose shall those things be which they have amassed? "It is
recorded of Saladin, the Saracen conqueror, that after he had subdued Egypt,
passed the Euphrates, and conquered cities without number; after he had
retaken Jerusalem, and performed exploits almost more than human, he
finished his life in the performance of an action that ought to be
transmitted to the most distant posterity. A moment before he uttered his
last sigh, he called the herald who had carried his banners before him in
all his battles; he commanded him to fasten to the top of a lance, the
shroud in which the dying prince was soon to be buried. "Go," said he,
"carry this lance, unfurl this banner, and while you lift up this standard,
proclaim, This, this is all that remains to Saladin the Great, the
Conqueror, and the King of the Empire, of all his glory!"
Yes, and that piece of shroud in which his perishing
remains shall be enwrapped, is all that will be left of his wealth, to the
rich man when he leaves the present world. Not one step will his riches go
with him beyond the grave. What a sad parting will that be when the soul
shall leave all its treasures behind in this world, and enter upon another
state of existence, where it cannot take a penny, and where it would be
useless if it could take it all. Then the miserable spirit, like a
shipwrecked merchant, thrown on some strange coast after the loss of all his
property, shall be cast on the shore of eternity, without one single comfort
to relieve its pressing and everlasting necessities.
Can riches then substantiate their claims to be the chief
end of man? What, when it is so doubtful whether, after all our endeavors,
we shall possess them; when the possession of them contributes so little to
our real felicity; when their continuance is so uncertain; their duration so
short; their influence upon our eternal destiny worse than nothing? Will any
reasonable creature have the folly to assert that the chief end for which
God sent him into this world is to amass property, to build a splendid
house, and to store it with furniture equally splendid, to wear costly
clothes, and feed on rich food; to live in affluence, and die rich?
2. PLEASURE. The next
pretender to the distinction of being the supreme good, and man's chief
object of pursuit, is
pleasure. To this many
have devoted their lives; some are living for the sports of the field,
others for the gratification of the appetites, others for the enjoyment of
the round of fashionable amusements. Pleasure, in one form or other, is the
object of pursuit with myriads. As to the gratification of our animal
appetites, few will think it necessary to have much to persuade them, that
to sink to the level of the brute creation, and hold communion with swine,
and goats, and rats, cannot be the chief end of a rational being!
Who would not be ashamed to say, and even deliberately to
think, they were sent into the world to consume so much property; to devour
the produce of so many men's labor; to eat and drink away the little residue
of wit and reason they have left; to mingle with this 'high and
distinguished employment', their impure and vulgar jests—that they may
befriend one another in proving themselves to be yet of human race, by this
almost only remaining demonstration of it—that they can laugh as well as eat
and drink. Surely, surely, that cannot be the chief end of man which
sensualizes, brutalizes his nature; which drowns his reason, undermines his
health, shortens his life, hurries him to the grave!
And then, as to what are called the pleasures of the
sports of the field—will any man say that God sent him into the world to
ride after dogs, to run after birds, or torture fish upon a hook? Are all
the high faculties of the soul to be wasted, all the precious moments of
life to be consumed, in seeing how many foxes, hares, pheasants, and trout,
we can kill
Fashionable amusements seem to be with many, the end of
life. Multitudes live for pleasures of this kind. Ball succeeds to concert;
the private party to the public assembly; the card party to the dinner
party; and in this busy round of fashionable follies does the life of many
pass away. Can it then be the high object of existence to sing, and play,
and dress and dance? Do not these things, when we reflect upon them, look
more like the pursuits of butterflies and grasshoppers, and canary birds,
than of rational creatures? Is it not melancholy to see beings with
never-dying souls, sinking to the amusements of children; and employing time
as if it were given them for nothing but mirth; and using the world as if it
were created by God only to be a sort of playground or tennis court for its
Does this kind of life satisfy those who pursue it? Far,
very far, from it! Can any person, in reality, be farther from happiness
than they who live for pleasure? You shall hear the testimony of a man who
will be admitted by all to be no incompetent judge—I mean Lord Chesterfield.
The world was the god of his idolatry, he tendered his service to act as
high priest for this divinity, published its liturgy, and conducted its
ceremonies. What happiness he found in the worship of his deity, and how
fair he recommends others to the shrine, you shall learn from his own pen.
And by the way, this language furnishes the most powerful antidote to the
poison contained in his trumpery volumes, that was ever published.
"I have run," says the man of the world, "the silly
rounds of business and pleasure, and have done them all. I have enjoyed all
the pleasures of the world, and consequently know their futility, and do not
regret their loss. I appraise them at their real value, which is, in truth,
very low; whereas those that have not experienced, always overrate them.
They only see their mirthful outside, and are dazzled with the glare. But I
have been behind the scenes. I have seen all the coarse pulleys and dirty
ropes, which exhibit and move the gaudy machines; and I have seen and
smelled the tallow candles, which illumine the whole decoration, to the
astonishment and admiration of an ignorant audience. When I reflect back
upon what I have seen, what I have heard, and what I have done, I can hardly
persuade myself that all that frivolous hurry, and bustle, and pleasure of
the world, had any reality. But I look upon all that has passed as one of
those romantic dreams which opium commonly brings about; and I do by no
means desire to repeat the nauseous dose for the sake of the fugitive dream.
Shall I tell you that I bear this melancholy situation with that delight and
resignation which most people boast of? No! for I really cannot help it. I
bear it—because I must bear it, whether I will or no. I think of nothing but
of killing time the best way I can—now that time has become my enemy. It is
my resolution to sleep in the carriage during the remainder of the journey."
Poor, wretched, forlorn Chesterfield, and was it thus you
did close your career? Is it thus that the worldling, in his last moments,
feels and acts, looking back upon the past with disgust, and forward to the
future with despair? Then, O God, in your mercy, "save me from the men of
this world—who have their portion in this life!"
In alluding to the case of Chesterfield, Horne says,
"When a Christian minister speaks slightingly of the world, he is supposed
to do it in the way of his profession, and to decry, through envy, the
pleasures he is forbidden to taste. But here I think you have the testimony
of a witness every way competent. No one ever knew the world better, or
enjoyed more of its favors than Chesterfield. Yet you see in how poor,
abject, and wretched a condition, at the time when he most needed help and
comfort—the world left him—and he left the world. The sentences above cited
from him, compose, in my humble opinion, the most striking and affecting
sermon on the subject ever yet preached to mankind. My younger friends, lay
them up in your minds, and write them on the tables of your hearts; take
them into life with you; they will prove an excellent preservative against
temptation. When you have duly considered them, and the character of him by
whom they were uttered, you shall compare them, if you please, with the
words of another person, who took his leave of the world in a very different
manner. 'I am now ready to be offered, and the time of my departure is at
hand. I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the
faith; henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which
the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give me at that day.' Say, shall your
lot be with the Christian, or the man of the world; with the apostle, or
Chesterfield? You will not hesitate a moment—but, in reply to those who may
attempt to seduce you into the paths of vice and error, honestly and boldly
exclaim, every one of you with Joshua, Choose this day whom you will
serve—but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord!"
You will also call to remembrance, my dear children, that
passage in the Life of Colonel Gardiner, whose history you have read, or
should read, in which he tells us, that when living in all kinds of
wickedness, and when complimented for the external gaiety of his demeanor,
he was in reality so totally wretched, and so entirely disgusted with his
mode of living, that, on beholding the kennel of his dog, he wished he could
change places with the ignorant animal.
Is pleasure then the chief end of life? Yes, in
Doddridge's explanation of it, in his beautiful stanza–
"Live while you live, the epicure will say,
And take the pleasure of the present day!
Live while you live, the holy preacher cries,
And give to God each moment as it flies!
Lord, in my view, let both united be—
I live in pleasure when I live to Thee."
3. FAME is with some, the
great end of life. This is an object which comparatively few can hope to
obtain, and therefore for which few contend. Still there are some; and if
they were honest, they would tell you that 'vanity', which is another name
for 'the love of fame'—is a passion, which, like the venom of a serpent
injected into its own body, tortures itself. The pursuit of fame is attended
with a state of mind, which is the most remote from happiness.
"When fame succeeds, it degenerates into arrogance; when
it is disappointed, (and it is almost always disappointed,) it is
exasperated into malignity, and corrupted into envy. In this 'theater of
fame', the vain man commences with envy—he detests that excellence which he
cannot reach. He lives upon the misfortunes of others; the vices and
miseries of his superiors are his element and his food. The virtues,
talents, and genius of the eminent, are his natural enemies, which he
persecutes with instinctive eagerness and unremitting hostility. There are
some who doubt the existence of such a disposition—but it certainly issues
out of the dregs of disappointed vanity; a disease which taints and vitiates
the whole character, wherever it prevails. It forms the heart to such a
profound indifference to the welfare of others, that 'whatever appearance he
may assume', or however wide the circles of his seeming talents may extend,
you will infallibly find the vain man in his own center. Attentive only to
himself, absorbed in the contemplations of his own perfections, instead of
feeling tenderness for his fellow-creatures, as members of the same family,
as beings with whom he is destined to act, to suffer, and to sympathize—he
considers life as a theater on which he is acting a part, and mankind in no
other light than spectators. Whether he smiles or frowns; whether his path
is adorned with the rays of beneficence, or his steps are dyed in blood; an
attention to self is the spring of every movement, and the motive to which
every action is referred."
When therefore we consider that perpetual restlessness of
mind, that mortification, arising from disappointed hopes; that envy, which
is increased by the success of competitors, that feverish excitement, which
is kept up by the intense desire of victory; the love of fame will appear
too torturing a state of mind to be the end of man's existence; it is
plunging into a kind of purgatory for the mere chance of reaching a
Should the effort to gain distinction be successful, will
it then reward the pains that have been expended to gain it? We have a
striking illustration of the emptiness of the rewards of fame, in the
memoirs of Henry Martyn. He tells us that after a severe contest with many
distinguished competitors, for the prize of being the highest mathematical
honor which the University of Cambridge can bestow upon its students, the
palm was awarded to him; and having received it, he exclaims, "I was
astonished to find what a 'shadow' I had grasped." Perhaps there never yet
was a candidate for fame, whatever was the particular object for which he
contended, who did not feel the same disappointment. The reward of fame
may be compared to the garlands in the Olympic games, which began to wither
the moment they were grasped by the hand, or worn upon the brow, of the
How often do we see the aspirants to a place in the
Temple of Fame cut off by death! Some, just when they have begun the
difficult ascent—others when half way up the hill—and a few when they have
gained the summit, and tread upon the threshold of the sacred temple! An
explorer thinks to gain immortal renown by tracing the unknown course of
a river, laying open a new continent, discovering a new island, or
describing the remains of ancient cities—but dies in the very midst of his
discoveries. A warrior enters upon a military or naval life, and
hopes to gather his laurels on the bloodied field of conflict; and falling
in the hour of victory, receives the crown upon his coffin, instead of his
brow; and leaves his monument, in lieu of himself, to receive the tribute of
his country's praise! The scholar and the philosopher pursue some new
object of science or literature, and hope, by their success, to gain a niche
for their shrine in the Temple of Fame. But just as they have established
their theory, and are about to receive their honor, they are removed, by
death, to a world where the rewards of talent have no place, and where
virtue constitutes the sole distinction.
Those distinctions which now excite the desires, and
inflame the ambition of so many ardent minds; which absorb the time, the
energies, the interest, the health of their impassioned admirers and eager
pursuers—are all of the earth, earthly! All terminate with the present
world, and in reference to the eternal destiny of their possessors, have not
the place of an atom, nor the weight of a feather. In the admiration and
gratitude and applause of their fellow-creatures; in the records of the
journalist, the biographer, and the historian; in the acknowledgments of the
present generation, and the remembrance of posterity—the envied individuals
have their reward. But if they possessed not true piety—in these things
alone their object terminates. "Verily, verily I say unto you, they have
their reward in full." But the smile of an approving God, the hope of
eternal life, the possession of everlasting happiness, is no part of it. The
star of their glory is among the number, which, at the last day, shall fall
from the heavens, and set in the blackness of darkness forever!
The astonishing works of Shakespeare, Bacon, Newton,
Milton, Locke, which have surrounded their authors with such a radiant crown
on earth—will not be mentioned in the judgment; nor procure so much
consideration as a cup of cold water, which was given to a disciple of
Christ out of love to his Master.
What is earthly renown to a man that is in eternity? If
he is in heaven, the praises of the whole globe cannot add one jot to
his felicity! If he be in hell, they do not lessen one pang of his
misery—he is unconscious of all—inaccessible to all. To a lost soul in hell,
who had sunk to perdition under a weight of earthly honors, what a dreadful
sting must such a reflection as this give to all his sufferings! "Alas!
Alas! while my memory is almost idolized on earth—I am tormented in this
4. KNOWLEDGE presents
itself to some as the end of life. To store up ideas, to amass intellectual
treasures is the end and delight of their existence. They are never
satisfied with what they know, and are always seeking for something which
they do not know. They are literary misers. They labor in the world of mind.
These, I admit, are far more rational than the others, in selecting their
chief end of existence. But still they are far from wisdom. Solomon, the
wisest of men has told us, "I gave my heart to seek and search out by
wisdom, concerning all things that are done under the sun. I communed with
my own heart; lo, I have gotten more wisdom than all those who have been
before me in Jerusalem—yes, my heart had great experience of wisdom and
knowledge. I perceive that this also is vexation of spirit—for in much
wisdom is much grief; and he who increases knowledge increases sorrow. Of
making many books there is no end; and much study is a weariness of the
Will knowledge comfort its possessors amid the ills of
life? Will it soothe them in the agonies of death? Will it avail them at the
day of judgment? However it may dignify and delight them on earth, will it
entitle them to heaven—or prepare them for its bliss? No! No! Knowledge
alone will raise no man to the celestial city in which God dwells. It may
elevate them to earth's pinnacle—but will leave them at an infinite distance
from heaven's threshold! It may lift them high above the scorn and contempt
of men below—but still leave them all exposed to the wrath and curse of God
from above! There is something ineffably dreadful in anticipating the loss
of any human soul—but the sense of agony is increased, when we think of the
eternal ruin of a mind, which had accumulated all the stores of the most
varied knowledge. It is painful to see the least and lowest spark of
intelligence fluttering to extinction over the marshes of sensuality—but it
is most painful to see one of the highest order of minds, darting, like a
falling star, into the blackness and darkness of eternal night! It is
dreadful to follow such a spirit into the unseen world, and to behold, in
imagination, the 'despicable damned', whom he spurned on earth as a vulgar
herd, taking up against him the ancient taunt, "Have you also become like
one of us?" "How are you fallen, O Lucifer, son of the morning."
5. DOMESTIC COMFORT is
with many the chief, the only end of life. They aspire not to riches,
they pace not the giddy round of pleasure, they have no ambition for
fame, they have no taste for science or learning; to marry
happily and live comfortably; in moderate competency, is the limit of their
prospects and pursuits.
But is this all? Is this the chief end of life! Consider,
much that has been said of riches will apply to this. Although you seek
it—it is uncertain whether you will succeed! Should you gain your object—how
soon it may be taken from you again! Your trade may be ruined; the partner
of your joys and sorrows may be removed by death; your health may be
impaired. If none of these things happens, you yourself may be removed to
the eternal world—just when the one you now inhabit may appear most
enchanting. Or if spared to old age in undiminished enjoyment, how dreadful
is the thought of going from a state of such comfort, to another, in which
not a ray of peace will ever fall upon you through everlasting ages!
None of these things which I have mentioned, therefore,
are worthy to be the objects of our supreme solicitude, or ultimate pursuit.
They may be all taken up as inferior and subordinate objects. We may in
moderation, and by honest industry, not only endeavor to obtain a
competency—but even affluence. We are allowed to desire to seek a
comfortable settlement in the world. We may enjoy, in measure, the lawful
pleasures of life. We may endeavor, if our motives are right, to establish
our reputation, not only for virtue—but for talents. We may, to the widest
extent, pursue our researches after knowledge. All this is allowed not only
by reason—but by Scripture. True religion is not the enemy of one single
excellence of the human character—nor opposed to any of the lawful
possessions of the present world.
But the question to be decided is—What is the CHIEF end
of man? Now the definition which I would give of this is as follows–
1. It must be an object suited to the nature of man as a
2. It must be an object which, if sought in a right
manner, shall with absolute certainty be obtained.
3. It must be an object which shall not interfere with
any of the necessary duties of the present state.
4. It must be an object which, when obtained, shall not
only temporarily please, but satisfy the mind.
5. It must be an object which shall prepare us for our
eternal state of existence.
6. It must be an object which accompanies us to the
unseen world as our portion forever.
All these things must enter into the chief good—the great
end of life—the ultimate object of pursuit. There is but one thing in the
universe to which this will apply, and to that one, it will in all parts of
the definition most strictly apply—and this is the salvation of the soul.
You are immortal creatures, lost sinners, capable of
enjoying eternal happiness, yet exposed to the sufferings of eternal death!
What can be the chief end of an eternal being short of ETERNAL LIFE? Once
admit that you are going on to eternity—and it would be idiotism to deny
that anything less than eternal happiness should be your great aim! The
Catechism has defined the chief end of man to be, "To glorify God and enjoy
him forever." This is strictly true, and accords with what I have said. For
to glorify God is to believe in Jesus Christ for the salvation of the soul;
and under the influence of this faith, to live soberly, righteously, and
godly, in this present evil world. And thus glorifying God on earth, we
shall be taken to enjoy him forever in that state of ineffable felicity
which he has prepared for those who love him!
The salvation of the soul is a good which–
1. Suits our rational nature.
2. Is absolutely certain to those who seek it in the
3. Rather insures than interrupts, all the other duties
4. Satisfies and delights the mind, giving consolation
under its troubles, and contentment to its desires.
5. Fits us for our eternal state.
6. Goes with us to glory as our portion forever.
But there are many who accept this in theory—yet they
neglect it in practice! And therefore I must now exhort you to keep this end
of life constantly in view. Every man, when he sets out on a journey or
pursuit, should have a definite object, and constantly keep it in view. My
dear children, you are setting out on the journey of life, you know the
chief object of that journey, and now, ever keep it before your mind! Let
this conviction not only be written on your understanding—like a picture
drawn on ice, or an impression produced on the snow, which thaws beneath the
next sun—but be engraved on your heart, like chiselings on a rock, which
nothing can efface—that your main business on earth is to obtain the
salvation of your immortal soul!
Let this conviction lie at the bottom of your whole
character—let it be thoroughly wrought into the fabric of all your
mental habits—let it be the main wheel in the whole machinery of
your conduct. It is recorded of a pilgrim on his way to Jerusalem,
that in passing through Constantinople, when that city was in its glory, he
met with a friend, who, wishing to detain him in the eastern metropolis,
took him about to see the beauties of that celebrated place. "Very
splendid," exclaimed the pilgrim, "but this is not the holy city." So should
we say to everything which would limit and detain our hearts on earth, "Very
good in its place—but it is not salvation!"
Often inquire of yourselves, and examine your hearts,
whether you are keeping in mind this one thing needful. At the close
of every division of your time—of your years, your months, your weeks—ask
yourselves the question, "Is my eye upon the supreme summit of Christian
desire and expectation—or am I beginning to lower my aim, and sink my
Regulate all your feelings of admiration and pity, in
reference to the conduct and situations of others by this object. If you see
the rich man accumulating wealth, the scholar increasing the
stores of learning, the philosopher adding to the discoveries of
science, the man of military or literary renown, gathering
laurels to decorate his brow—but, at the same time, neglecting the claims,
and despising the blessings of true religion—view them rather as objects of
pity, rather than of envy! And rank them among the individuals who are
losing sight of the great end of a rational creature's existence! On the
other hand, wherever you perceive an individual, however obscure in station,
limited in acquirements, or afflicted in his circumstances—but who is yet
glorifying God, and preparing to enjoy him forever—there realize a character
who is keeping before him the great end for which God sent him into this
world, and who is fairly entitled to your highest estimation!
Keep this in view in the selection of employments and the
formation of friendships. Are you just starting out in life? Accept of no
employment, however advantageous in a worldly point of view it may appear,
where you are likely to be cut off from the means of grace, and the helps to
a life of faith and holiness. Bring the rule of eternal life to it, and
ask—Will it help or hinder me in the pursuit of salvation? Let this direct
you in choosing the place of worship you attend, and the minister you hear.
Inquire not where the people of fashion go, or who is the most eloquent
preacher—but where the most instructive, awakening, and soul-improving
ministry of the word is to be enjoyed; and where you are likely to be kept
most steadily in the pursuit of eternal life.
In your Christian life, dwell most on the plain, and
obvious, and important truths of the gospel, such as are most intimately
connected with the life of piety in the heart. Do not turn aside to
novelties, speculations, and religious curiosities. In selecting your
vocation in life, keep this in mind, and if there be any calling which, in
your judgment, necessarily takes off the mind from true religion, choose
another in preference. In accepting or selecting a companion for life, let
not this subject be put out of view—but consider how much you will be
assisted or opposed, in seeking eternal salvation. In choosing your
residence, inquire not only what is the weather, or the facilities for trade
or pleasure—but what are the means of grace, the helps to true religion, the
ministry of the word in the neighborhood. In short, let it appear in all you
do—that the salvation of your soul is the one thing needful, the chief
business of life.
Act, in reference to eternal salvation and the affairs of
this life, as a man, who most tenderly loves and ardently longs for his
home, does upon his journey, in returning to that home. He selects as
comfortable an inn, as he can honestly afford—he enjoys the prospects which
present themselves to his eye, he is pleased with the company he meets with
on the road, he gains as much knowledge as he can accumulate by the way, he
performs the duties of his calling as diligently, and secures as much profit
as he equitably can—but still his eye and his heart are at home! For his
comfort at home—and not his pleasure abroad, he is supremely concerned. So
far as he can promote, or not hinder his prosperity at home, he is willing
to gain knowledge, to take pleasure, to secure respect abroad—but HOME is
his great object! To reach home, and prepare for its increasing comfort, is
his aim and his hope.
So act, my children, towards the salvation of the soul.
This, this is the end of life! Keep it constantly in mind! Never lose sight
of it! Gain all the knowledge, all the comfort, all the fame, all the
wealth, you can—in subordination to this once great business. But remember
that whatever subordinate ends you may pursue, the paramount object which
you must seek, is to glorify God and enjoy him forever!