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ourselves with humble approaches towards that Christian perfection, of which we must still fall miserably short. But because the literal sense of our Saviour's injunctions to charity, may not now be binding upon us; are we to conclude that they have no sense at all ? Because we are not called upon to give all that we have to the poor; are we to suppose ourselves at liberty to give nothing, or so little in proportion to our means, that we should justly be ashamed of it? Can any man who has a spark of human feeling in his breast, even if he be destitute of religion, think this ? Can any man who believes only in God and a future state, venture to act upon such an opinion? Can any one who professes only to be a Christian, dare to stake his salvation upon such an issue? Or can any one who is really a Christian, not be eager to give so just and so gratifying a proof of the sincerity of his faith, as that of relieving the sufferings of his fellow-creatures ? I would fain hope that I am not addressing a single individual, capable of entertaining and acting upon sentiments so unworthy and so degrading as these.
Strong as the language of our Saviour constantly is upon the dangerous tendency of riches, it is important to bear in mind, that it is not merely their possession, but their abuse against which his observations are pointed. Riches and poverty, and even the extremes of each, are conditions so evidently intended by the Almighty to exist amongst mankind, that it would be an argument against the truth of the Gospel itself, if it taught a different doctrine. · But such is not the fact. On the contrary, it never speaks of the rich with censure, when their actions are not censurable ; and at least implies commendation when they deserve it. Thus Joseph of Arimathea is described, as a rich man who was also Jesus' disciple. And the manner in which he is mentioned, and the action recorded of him clearly shew, that no blame was imputed to him because he happened to be wealthy. So also, it is related by St. Mark, that Jesus sat over against the treasury, and beheld how the people cast money into the treasury: and many that were rich cast in much. It is true that
that occasion, the conduct of the
poor widow, in casting in all that she had, is extolled above that of those, who gave of their abundance ; but it may fairly be inferred, that some degree of applause is in
tended for them also. The Gospel also recognizes, and fully sanctions, all the various orders of men, of which society consists, from the highest to the lowest: that is, it recognizes the two extremes of poverty and riches, as conditions necessarily existing, and neither meritorious nor otherwise in themselves, but only as they are sustained by those who fill them. And it must be considered, as no slight proof, that the Apostles of our Lord, had imbibed the genuine spirit of his doctrines, that they exactly adhered to them in this respect. For looking upon them as merely ordinary and unassisted, and poor men, going about to inculcate a new religion, and that of the character of that of the Gospel; the most natural error, into which they would unintentionally have fallen, would have been to declaim against the rich as such, and to represent their condition as one in itself odious both in the sight of God and man. have done no such thing. Like their Divine Master, they have fully admitted the necessity of subordination amongst mankind ; that is, of the various degrees of wealth and poverty. They have warned the rich of the serious obligations imposed upon them ; but they
have not so much as hinted, that opulence is in itself a crime. Indeed they could not have done so, without shutting their eyes to the moral constitution of man, and the physical properties of the globe. The extreme inequality in the mental powers of man, from the utmost capacity for those various scientific pursuits, by which individuals are so much benefited, and nations are so highly exalted ; to those humble qualifications, which are barely sufficient to enable them to perform the most ordinary services for the community ; is one unequivocal demonstration of the intention of the Almighty, respecting the different orders, of which societies have always been found to consist. Again, the remarkable distinction between the natural productions of the earth, and (we may add) the artificial inventions of human skill and ingenuity is another. The same God who has ordained the earth to bring forth the plainest food in abundance for the use of men, has also enabled it to produce with comparative scarcity, its more choice and excellent fruits. The same Almighty power which has created the ready means of clothing the naked in profusion, has also buried deeply in the earth the precious
metals, and the rarest and most beautiful gems—and these facts shew incontestibly, that he designed the wide distinctions of wealth and poverty, which have always prevailed amongst mankind. For as it is impossible to conceive, that he did not intend even the rarest and most costly fruits to be cultivated, or the most valuable minerals and jewels to be brought to light, for the service and the gratification of his creatures; we must conclude, that he also intended some of them to be extremely poor, and others extremely rich: for none but the former could be induced to labour for some of these objects; and none but the latter could be able to repay them, for such arduous and hazardous services.
But the more clearly we demonstrate the Providence of God to have permitted these distinctions of rich and
the more firmly do we establish the consequences deducible from it. For as God is essentially good and just, the purposes he had in view must be
generally beneficial to his creatures. It is impossible to believe that he could have intended one portion (and that the smallest) of them, to be benefited at the expence of the rest. But his wisdom has devised a system, where