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able story. Wisely will they act, for their character and interests in this world, and for their welfare in the next, if they determine resolutely to stand upon their guard against the rash counsel of those, who urge them to conduct, which they know to be indiscreet, if not actually sinful. Let them therefore, at no time and under no circumstances, lose sight of a lesson, equally certain and important! If they suffer themselves to be thus prevailed upon against their better judgement, they will reap bitter and unavailing fruits in the destruction of habits, either of industry or temperance; in the weakening of that self-control, which they heretofore exercised over the seductions of pleasure or sloth ; in the forfeiture of that esteem, with which they have been regarded by their best friends, and far above all other considerations, in the loss of that approbation, with which every act of virtuous exertion and uncompromising self-denial, cannot fail to be regarded by our Maker and our Judge.
THE USE AND NECESSITY OF DIFFERENT CONDITIONS IN LIFE; AND THE REAL EQUALITY OF RICH AND POOR.
PROVERBS, XXII. 2.
THE RICH AND POOR MEET TOGETHER: THE LORD IS THE
MAKER OF THEM ALL.
An observer, accustomed to form his opinions upon slight grounds and from transient impressions, may view with some surprise the remarkable difference, which subsists between the various classes of mankind; especially the prodigious inequality, which takes place in the two grand divisions of society, the rich and poor.
A full and dispassionate examination of this question may not only put a stop to much unreasonable murmuring against the dispensations of Almighty Wisdom; but it ought to enforce a spirit of contentment at the lot assigned us, and so produce a stronger resolution to discharge our duty in that sphere of action, in which it has pleased the Divine Goodness to place us. I now therefore call your attention to this important subject ;-important, because it affects every one of us and our fellow creatures ; important too, because it supplies so many cogent reasons for increased exertion in the performance of our various obligations both towards God and towards man.
First, then, I shall shew that, in this institution of different orders of society; varying so considerably in point of external advantages ; there is nothing repugnant to the general order of things, according to which it has pleased the Divine Author of our being to act, both in the distribution and direction of the moral and material world.
Secondly; that these outward disadvantages are frequently corrected by the possession of other blessings, so as to lessen in a great degree the seeming inequality.—Thirdly, it will be seen that, in the most important respects, the rich and poor are really upon a footing of perfect equality ; and that the assertion of the text is undeniably true:—“the rich and poor meet together; the Lord is the maker of them all.”
First then; I shall shew that an unequal distribution of the things of this life is conformable to what we can trace of the mighty plan, pursued by the Almighty Creator and Governor of the universe in other parts of His dispensations.
Under this head two things are particularly to be noticed. One of these is that, in every part of the works of nature, we find a regular gradation observed. A sort of chain connects the varieties of each class, proceeding from small to great; from the less to the more perfect. In the vegetable world, we trace the minutest herbs and flowers ascending, by steps 'scarcely perceptible, to the branching shrubs and towering tenants of the forest - The moss, that creeps on the ground or peeps through the wall,
yields in size to the varieties of grass, that supply fodder for cattle. The varieties of grass give way before the plants and herbs, that produce food for
These in their turn shrink in dimension from the blushing rose and fragrant jessamine; while the beauty of each spreading shrub dwindles into nothingness before the lofty elm and majestic oak.--The extent and variety of such an ascending scale is perhaps yet more observable in animal than in vegetable life; for, where life and voluntary motion are united, a gradual progress may be traced from the insect, whose size almost eludes the sight, by every shade of intervening degrees, to the wonderful structure of the bulky elephant. Nor is it in size alone that each order of animals varies from the rest; but in strength and beauty, in degrees of instinct and in capacity of enjoyment. The highest and most perfect of the animal creation is man ; who again seems to form an intermediate order of beings between the brute creation and the angelic race.
In the different stages of human existence too, see, how nicely is the passage marked from one period of life to another. The weakness and ignorance of infancy are but steps, which insensibly lead to the power of motion and to the dawn of reason in childhood. This period of life is but a prelude to a higher degree of strength, and greater power of understanding in youth; till at length we see the complete powers both of body and mind developed in the full-grown man. Now as this regular order and almost imperceptible gradation evidently prevail in so many cases, which we know to be the produc
tions of Almighty power; we argue that a gradation of ranks, and a difference of external advantages in human society, are analogous to other operations of infinite Wisdom and Goodness :—and surely this single consideration should induce us to acquiesce in the propriety of such arrangements; even if our limited understandings were unable to trace in them any symptoms of usefulness, or any provision for happiness. However ; a very little reflection will convince us, that a variety of conditions in society is actually necessary for the benefit, nay, even the existence, of all. We know very well that the food, which supplies us with the means of prolonging our lives, must in a great measure be produced from the earth, and cannot be produced without continual and extensive labour. It is then absolutely necessary, that a great proportion of mankind should pass their time in such hardy toil, as may enable the earth to bring forth her produce; and that they should assist in tending the cattle, which are reared for the service of man. Again; another great class must be employed in such operations of skill, as are connected with different branches of the arts. Houses must be built by the labour of many hands; they must be furnished and rendered comfortable by the ingenuity, which is exercised by different trades; each sex, age, and rank has occasion for its peculiar clothing, as well as its several comforts and conveniences. It is quite plain therefore that very numerous classes of mankind must have their time and thoughts occupied in laborious and mechanical operations. The strength of their bodies must be exerted, the resources of their minds called