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who are actually in possession of worldly good live in perpetual dread of losing it? The answer in both cases is the same. Their minds are illy adjusted to the nature of worldly good. There is no correspondence, but on the contrary the most perfect conflict, between their imaginations about the world, together with the affection with which they regard it, and the unstable character of the world itself. This is a solution of the whole problem. This is a satisfactory explanation of the fact that those who have most of worldly prosperity, generally receive the least pleasure from it. It was this that led an ancient monarch (Dionysius) to say, that the life of a king was like that of condemned persons who every hour expect death. It was this that led King Antigonus to exclaim; "O, crown! if men knew how full thou art of cares and dangers, no man would take thee up, though he should find thee in the streets."
It is affirmed in Scripture that " Godliness is profitable for the life that now is." It is so, not because it adds to a man's earthly possessions, but principally on account of its sovereign power to reconcile the mind to the transitory nature of all temporal objects.
It is true that nothing but personal religion can prepare a man to enjoy worldly prosperity; but more than this must be said; it is true likewise that only in so far as piety keeps pace with the acquirement of earthly good is man prepared to be truly happy in the possession of it. A man may imagine that temporal prosperity is enduring, and be happy for awhile in his dreams; but in one way or another the spell will ere long break; and he will either suffer apprehension at the sight of others' misfortunes, or disappointment in the experience of his own. If, on the contrary, he enjoys the communications of divine grace in proportion as he experiences temporal comforts, he feels no painful fears respecting the diminution of the latter in his glad consciousness of the fullness of the former.
If, by the eye of faith, he sees the crown of glory glistening more brightly in proportion as the eye of sense views the accumulating possessions of earth, he will have no sad foreboding respecting the uncertainty of temporal joys, and no regrets even should he be utterly deprived of them. Thus, and thus alone is it that any man can be fitted for the true enjoyment of earthly blessings.
II. I proceed secondly to remark that no man is fitted to USE temporal prosperity aright without a degree of piety which is, at least, commensurate with it. This might naturally be inferred from the foregoing consideration. If there is in a man's mind such an antagonism to the nature of earthly objects as to prevent any real enjoyment in them, we should surely not suppose that he would be qualified to make a proper use of them.
There can obviously be no proper use of anything without a practical recognition of the true purpose or object to be attained
by it. For example, it is manifest that a child is not fit to make a proper use of a watch, because he would regard it only as a bauble designed for amusement. If he uses it with this object only in view, his use will be abuse.
The glory of God, in which are included our own spiritual welfare and that of others-this constitutes the true and only ultimate end of all human endowments. If this is so, then no man is prepared to make a right use of the smallest earthly blessing until he is possessed of a spirit which shall practically recognize this purpose in its reality and in its superiority over all others. There are certain economical qualities which, according to the maxims of the world, are essential to an advantageous use of earthly possession. Such, for example, is prudence in the matter of health, thrift, common sense, and forecast in the matter of property. There is the radical defect in all these that they entirely ignore the sublime object to which we have adverted, viz., the glory of God and the spiritual advancement of men.
If the glory of God is the supreme end of earthly possession, and a practical recognition of the object of anything is essential to the proper use of that thing, then it is obvious that piety is the grand essential to a proper use of temporal objects.
But something more than this is true, and this is the point to which special attention is desired. We affirm that only in proportion as piety keeps pace with worldly prosperity, will the object of worldly prosperity be in just measure kept before the mind. The same principle of proportion holds true here, which obtains, in respect to the common economical requisites, to the use of earthly possessions. There are many men who have talent enough to use ten thousand dollars to advantage, who would lose their mental balance in the possession of fifty or a hundred, and soon become utterly bankrupt. It is to this principle of proportion that many commercial disasters are to be traced. The eager seekers of wealth will not be satisfied with moderate incomes, but strive to overload themselves with prosperity; and when they break down beneath their burdens for lack of natural power to sustain them, they foolishly call their misfortunes inscrutable dispensations of Providence, when the simple explanation of the matter frequently is, that their earthly possessions increased beyond their capacity to manage them.
Now this principle of proportion obtains not only in the economical but equally in the moral qualifications for the use of wealth. In as far as prosperity exceeds piety, in so far there is a capacity wanting which is absolutely essential to a proper use of earthly blessings.
III. This will be more strikingly manifest if we consider, thirdly, how essential is piety to guard against the injurious effects of worldly prosperity. Not only do many men, for lack of sufficient grace, fail to use prosperity aright; but, owing to the same defect, they
become its unhappy victims. The bee can draw honey from the poisonous plant, and the reptile can extract its venom from the most beauteous and fragrant flower. So can Christian faith find nourishment even amid the noxious elements of worldly prosperity, while a carnal mind will change its very blessings into curses. One of the most successful manoeuvres in military tactics is what is called a flank attack, in which one army has only sufficient force to contend with the main body of the other, and is obliged to fight under a side fire from one or both of the enemy's wings. We witness something like this in the case of a man whose piety is not equal to his prosperity. He has not sufficient grace to stretch out over the whole front of his worldly good, and so, by the frequent side shots of his adversary, even the grace that he has is soon crippled, and well-nigh overcome.
The tendency of prosperity upon a creature like man is debasing. If he were not depraved, that which now in most cases shrivels up his soul to the narrowest dimensions of meanness, would expand and elevate his affections to sympathy with the Divine mind. This is no matter of theory-it is a fact which the most superficial observation will abundantly confirm. What is worldly prosperity to most men but an atmosphere in which they inhale the seeds of moral disease and death? What is health, as most men use it, but an instrument to make them feel more and more independent of God? What are their social delights but "broken cisterns hewn out," in order that they may never repair to the Fountain of living waters ?" What are their riches, their purses of gold, but the price of their passage to perdition! No wonder inspired wisdom has said, "How hardly shall they that have riches enter the kingdom of Heaven."*
Prosperity is one of those lofty peaks from which the traveller, if he can maintain his foothold, can command a wide field of observation and influence; but few men are steadied enough by grace to be safe in such a position. Most, as they stand entranced before the prospect, or pick flowers from the brink of the precipice, grow dizzy, and fall, mangled, crippled, or perhaps dashed. to pieces, into the abyss below.
Thus have we considered some reasons on which the principle of the text is based. We have only to remark, in view of what has been said, that it is manifestly a principle of the highest benevolence. The law in proportion should be the same in grace as in nature. If the sun which warms the earth, and the rain which waters it, are not duly proportioned to each other, the saddest effects upon vegetation will surely take place. If the sun is deficient the rain will desolate the earth with torrents, and if the
* Pliny tells us that the mermaids delight to be in green meadows, into which they draw men by their enchanting voices; "but," saith he, "there always lie heaps of dead men's bones by them."
rain is wanting, the sun will only parch your green fields into barren wastes. So in the wider realm of the universe. If the attraction of cohesion, which binds the particles of planets to each other, were not proportioned to the force of gravitation, how speedily the frame of the material creation would dissolve into chaos. Thus, if the laws of grace do not operate in proportion to the laws of worldly success, the most disastrous consequences must inevitably ensue.
Let us now turn briefly to the application of the principle which we have been considering.
1. In the first place let us consider what a revolution would occur in the world's affairs, if this law of proportion should become universally operative. We can imagine two aspects in which such a change might be viewed.
First we may consider the elevating process which the realization of this principle might involve. Suppose that in the case of every man, spiritual prosperity were brought to a level with temporal; what a wonderful revival of religion we should witness. This man, who has hitherto used a sound bodily health only for selfish purposes, would suddenly become a most eminent saint of God. His holy love, brought to a correspondence with the healthy condition of the vital currents, would circulate, with warm and rapid tide, through every vein and artery of his spiritual nature. His faith and zeal in God's service, resembling the strength of muscle and activity of limb, would multiply the conquests of grace on every hand.
This man of large worldly means, whose gold to his eyes outdazzles the incorruptible crown, who walks among his fellowworms swollen with pride and vain glory, would all of a sudden surprise you with his meek humility. His conversation, instead of being absorbed in his worldly gains and losses, would always be in Heaven. His investments would not all be in secular traffic, but (to use the words of an old writer) he would convey his riches through the hands of the poor in bills of exchange, into the eternity of glory, where such money is current.”*
You could gather such pictures into a panorama by walking through some thoroughfare of business. Every store and counting room would savor of the atmosphere of Heaven. The expression of every countenance would be changed. Dark frowns of care and anxiety would give place to the peaceful smiles of faith and hope. The pinched and wrinkled face of avarice would grow radiant and full orbed with benevolence. The downcast eye of the bankrupt would be uplifted in calm resignation to see the incorruptible riches of a heavenly inheritance. The vaults where gold is stored would become magazines of beneficence, and the halls of exchange would become the reservoirs of Christian charity. Holiness to the Lord would be written on every bill of lading, every invoice, every article of merchandize, and the sin* Jeremy Taylor.
polluted avenues of commerce would become so many consecrated ways to the celestial city.
But now on the contrary let us suppose there to be a universal depression of every man's worldly prosperity to the level of his spiritual attainments; what an upturning there would be in this earth's affairs. What multitudes would pine away in sickness and die. The sweeping march of the pestilence would be nothing to the world-wide mortality that would prevail. Every house would be an asylum for the decrepit and the dying, and the whole earth a cemetery for the dead. In the commercial world there would be something more than a panic. Universal disaster would be the history of those times. The ships which float on every ocean would sink with their cargoes. The houses in which are stored the world's gold and merchandize would be swept away before the devouring element. The princely merchant would be a beggar at the door of poverty. Royalty would throw aside its crowns and purple, and dress itself in rags. The splendid pageantry of godless mammon would scatter its baubles before the breath of calamity as autumn leaves fly before a tempest. Many a professed Christian rolling in affluence would be reduced to penury, and many a poor man, while muttering forth his ingratitude at the fewness of his mercies, would be stripped of the whole of them. Thus how striking would be the operation of the principle of the text either in the elevation of spiritual life, or in the depression of worldly good.
2. An obvious application of the principle contained in the text is to those who, in any form, have been deprived of earthly blessings and comforts.
It is a sufficient evidence of our natural attachment to worldly objects, that our imaginations are so prone to invest them with a beauty and stability which do not belong to them. Men generally have to learn by experience that the world is a vain show. The sight of others' sicknesses will not cast a damper on our expectations of continued health, and the wrecks of others' possessions will not admonish of the uncertainty of our own.
Strange misnomers are applied to the depressions which so often occur in men's temporal prosperity. "Misfortune, disaster and ruin," are the words generally used to indicate such occurrences. Viewed in reference to the divine economy for the spiritual wellbeing of men, they are certainly of a different nature. The diseases of the body are often the best medicines for the soul, and the sober reflections induced by worldly disappointment have often been to the backslider the beginnings of a new spiritual life. Generally, when the gales of temporal prosperity die out, men act as if all the laws of nature were out of course. They chafe and distress themselves with repinings, and their minds are thrown into a turmoil, as if their prosperity was essential to the well-being of the world. But they utterly mistake the real state