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the time is short; and that all worldly interests and worldly considerations will soon be of no value to any of us : but that the zeal we exercise for the honour of God, and the benefit of the place in which we live, will follow us into the grave, and rise with us again to judgment; when they that have done good shall go into life everlasting
YE HAVE THE POOR WITH YOU ALWAYS, AND
WHENSOEVER YE WILL, YE MAY NO THEM GOOD. MARK XIV. 7.
WHEN we enquire into the economy either of the natural or the moral world, we are anxious to account for the origin of evil ; so in the political world, a like question may be raised concerning the origin of poverty; how it comes to pass, that, as the text asserts, we have the poor with us always ? Why could not all men have been born in the same station, and lived together on terms of equality, like the oaks of the forest, or the lillies of the field, or the cattle which feed upon à thousand hills ? When we see but a little way into the constitution of things, we may perplex and distress ourselves with such questions : but when we see farther, we shall discover, that the general form and condition of society in civilized states, is as much the appointment of God, as the form and structure of the human body; and that the several orders of which it consists, are as necessary and useful to each other, and as fully display the wisdom of God, as the head of all government, and the author of all regularity; as the limbs, and members, and faculties of the body demonstrate his power and goodness as the Creator of the world,
Man without society, would be what the world was in its chaos, when it was dark, and void, and formless : and He who brought it out of that state, and divided the lights of the firmament, the clouds, the air, the waters of the ocean, and fixed the body of the earth, into their several distinct regions; hath with equal wisdom brought men out of their barbarous state, such as they would be in by nature, to be divided into classes, offices, and employments ; each in due subordination, and all serviceable to one another; for there is no plan of God's establishing, in which all the parts do not work together for the good of the whole.
Two societies were certainly formed under God's" immediate direction, the common-wealth of Israel, and the Christian church; and in neither of these did he set men in a state of equality. The apostle St. Paul enforces a comparison between the body natural and the body ecclesiastical; shewing how God hath tempered all the members together, and that those which seem to be more feeble * are necessary to the rest.
We can all see that the strong are necessary to the weak, and the rich to the poor : but that the poor are also necessary to the rich, does not appear so immediately : yet they certainly are so, both in a civil and in a religious capacity. Many offices must be performed, and much work must be done for the service of society, which will never be done, either by the proud or the indolent, or the effeminate. It would be as reasonable to expect, that those works should be executed by the hands of men, which are proper to horses and bullocks, appointed by God's providence
for such ends, and furnished with strength and patience to fit them for the business they were intended to perform. So much for the civil capacity of men : when we consider them in their religious capacity, it appears that they have works to do for the service of God, and for the benefit of their souls; as they have other, works to be performed for the ends of common life. In human society, men are related to one another, and work for one another; in religious society, they are all related to God, and are to work, in another way, for his glory, and the salvation of their own souls ; approving themselves, in their several orders and degrees, as the subjects of that community, of which God is the head, and in which he is the only law- 7-giver. All have their proper parts assigned to them, together with their proper stations; and all are to do their duty in that state of life unto which it hath pleased God to call them. The poor are to be contented with their lot, as being the appointment of God; and the rich are to be careful of the poor, as holding of God in trust for that purpose, and accountable to him as stewards and overseers. They could not approve themselves to God by giving such an account, if there were no poor. In such a case, one general scheme of selfishness and independence would prevail, useless to man and dishonourable to God.
It would be easy to shew, that there is perfect justice as well as wisdom in this distribution of things; no partiality, no respect of persons. The rich have a sort of superiority, which is temporary, transient, and dangerous: the poor, with their low station, have health, and safety, and a better disposition to receive the Gospel. Heathens could see, in ancient times, that poverty was the school of virtue; and many of them on that ground affected voluptary poverty, and
made an ostentatious shew of their rags. But whatever the abuses of Heathens might be, poverty among Christians is certainly a preparatory exercise of the mind for the reception of truth, and consequently for the belief of the Gospel. Thus then we are to make our estimate; that if the poor are rich in faith, and have laid a foundation for eternity, they have nothing to complain of: while the rich, on the other hand, have no reason to boast of that wealth or that honour, which will set them never the higher in the kingdom of heaven ; and too often disqualifies them for a place there. Thus the ways of God are equal, where they seem, to us, to be unequal; and the several parts of society, like the several parts of the creation, serve in a wonderful manner toward the common good.
By a sort of writers, who call themselves moral phim losophers, I have seen it lamented that there is such a thing in the world as exclusive property : and they think it a great pity that this evil cannot be prevented. But the poor, considered as a link in the chain of society, are of God's making; and, to speak in the language of an apostle, the foolishness of God is wiser than men that is, the ways of God, which seem most exceptionable, are so, only because they are superior to our wisdom, and higher than our thoughts. They who would make a better religion than God hath revealed, are tempted by their vanity to expose the shallowness of their reason : and the case is the same with those, who would alter that form of society which God hath ordained, and mend it; as if Providence had committed a mistake, where it has given us a demonstration of infinite wisdom and goodness. All this arises from an affection toward high things, and an indisposition to
# 1 Cor. i. 25,