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SUPERIOR TO THAT OF THE UNGODLY RICH.
a good man, and this must be regarded as one of the remaining infirmities of his yet unperfected character. Such a temper of mind as this is peculiarly base in such a a man as Asaph, who had been taught what true greatness was, and who presumed to pass strictures on the providential government of God.
Nor could envy well appear in a more unreasonable aspect. He was “envious at the wicked.” This is truly irrational. Poor godless wretches, what have they of which the good should be “envious”
The position I wish to lay down is this :
THAT THE CONDITION OF THE GODLY POOR EVEN IN WORLD, IS Public sentiment, I am aware, is against this doctrine ; hence the universal struggle to be rich, and the power and honor that are on all hands ceded to the wealthy. Hence too, the popular disregard of goodness as goodness, and the almost contempt for it if found in connexion with poverty. Goodness, when found in mansions, dressed in the robes of royalty or fashion, shall readily have praise. The temporizing press shall pour forth its adulations at its feet, popular orators will declaim on it, and an unthinking crowd shall magnify it in their daily conversations. But goodness in indigence! What eye will deign to look at it ? What tongue will speak its praise ? Nor is merely public opinion against it; the sentiment even of the religious world is, sad to say, so also. Hence our pulpits and religious books are to a great extent ministering to this error. Hence the current cant in some districts of the religious world that God's “dear people” have the worst portion in this life ; that as a rule their situation here is not comparable to that of those who forget God.
Let us look for a moment a little closely at this matter. Take two cases for comparison. One shall be an averagely rich ungodly man, the other an averagely poor pious man. The former in this life has everything that heart can wish. He has no need to toil for his livelihood, for he has “much goods laid up for many years.” He has no need of anxiety about his family, for they are so well provided for that he can see that his own fortune will raise even his children's children to an independent position. Wherever he goes, outward respect is shown to him. The best commodities in the market, the chief seat in the church, are for him. The rich court his society, and the poor express themselves honored by his recognition. But there are no great truths within him, no great spirit lifts him upwards to the unseen, no great hopes beam upon his imagination ; "he is without God and without hope in the world" :-" of the earth, earthy." The other man, who is godly, is in needy circumstances. He has no store laid up for the future ; by the sweat of his brow himself and his family must live. From the dawn of morning till evening's shade he must work or else must starve. As he retires to rest after the exhausting fatigue of the day, he knows that the food, required for himself and his dependents on the morrow, must come from his morrow's toil, or else not come at all. He feels that upon that exhausted strength and those wearied limbs of his hangs the subsistence of those whom nature has twined around his heart. But he is a godly man. His spirit has been enriched with “the unsearchable ricbes of Christ.” 16 The Lord is his portion.” He is full of “joy and peace in believing." His fare, mean though it be, awakens within him an overflow of holy gratitude. He casts all his care on that God who feeds the ravens when they cry. In his toil his heart pulsates with generous sympathies for the world. Though he owns no inch of land his soul revels in the beauties of the landscape and delights in the God that created all. He can say concerning the rich man :
“ Cleon true possesseth acres,
But the landscape I,
Money cannot buy.
In a daisy, I;
In the sea and sky.
Nature sings to me for ever,
Earnest listener I,
Who would change ? not I.” No envy, jealousy, pride, or such passions find a place within his pacific breast.
His heart is free as the winds. Now, who will say that this poor godly man has not the best portion in this life, that even on the assumption that there is no futurity, his lot is not to be preferred, to that of the ungodly rich man ? This we shall see as we proceed to consider the following facts :
OF THE OTHER IN HIS HEART.
I. THAT THE WEALTH OF THE ONE IS IN HIS HAND, THAT
All that the supposed rich man has is without him ;—it has no vital connexion with his being. The wealth of the other is that of holy principles, elevating hopes, generous sympathies, lofty aims, and endeared fellowships. Between spiritual and secular wealth there is a wide contrast which we shall do well to study.
First: The one is of contingent value, the other is of absolute worth. The value of earthly property is altogether relative. What is a fortune to one man, in one country, or in one age, is but a miserable pittance in another; and to the very same man the value of wealth decreases every moment. Though a man in relation to the amount of property may be richer this year by thousands than he was last, yet to him it is really not so valuable. One long year out of the short period allotted to his existence is to be subtracted from his interest in it. All earthly property is but life-leased, and all life-leased property decreases in value with every passing day. Time constantly, yet gradually, loosens our grasp on it, till at length it goes from us altogether.
But spiritual wealth has an absolute value. In all worlds and in all times it is of equal worth. Its value is not measured by conventionalities, or determined by passing circumstances, but by the immutable and everlasting principles of rectitude and truth. If anything, it becomes more valuable to the individual man as time rolls on and eternity approaches.
Secondly : The one is essentially virtuous, the other is not. There is no virtue in the possession of material wealth. It comes to man sometimes independently of his efforts, and often by efforts that involve the sacrifice of all the great principles of religion and fair dealing. Wealth may indeed often stand as the effect and sign of great tact, keen-sightedness, and resolute perseverance ; but not always alas ! of righteous dealing. The history of fortune-making is too often the history of low cunning, moral falsehood, and legal fraud. Before you can attach the idea of virtue to fortune you must show that that fortune has been realized in obedience to sound principles, and with the design of using it in conformity to the will of God. From our souls we wish the men in the market, who act thus in the market, God speed. Moral wealth, however, is virtue itself. All must feel it is praiseworthy, it secures the well-done of conscience, the approval of all pure intelligences, and of the great God Himself.
Thirdly : The one is essentially a blessing, the other often a bane. Spiritual wealth always confers the highest blessings its
possessor. It raises him above the world, dissipates his fears, harmonizes the affections of his nature, pacifies his conscience, and fills him with joy and peace in believing. But how often does worldly wealth prove a curse! How often does it fill its owner with countless solicitudes ! How often by ministering to ease and appetite does it undermine the health and enfeeble the intellect and carnalize the soul! How often does it reduce the moral mind to such a fossil state of being as to render it impervious to spiritual impressions ! “How hardly” said Jesus, “shall they that have riches enter the kingdom of God!”
Fourthly : The one is alienable, the other is not. How uncertain is worldly wealth. Often it “takes to itself wings and flies away." Fires, storms, revolutions, a legal blunder, may reduce the richest man to a pauper. At death all goes. Not a fraction is carried into eternity. “We brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we shall carry nothing out.” On all hands around us are the mansions where rich
men once lived, the lands they called their own ; but they are gone. It is not so, my brother, with spiritual wealth. carries his principles with him through all circumstances, even into another world. Character is part of himself. “When the brief brawling Day of life with its noisy phantasms, paper-crowns, tinsel-gilt is gone; and divine everlasting Night, with her star-diadems, with her silences and her veracities is come,” there will be no wealth in the universe, but the wealth of a god-like character. Bonds and banks, diadems and dynasties, will have vanished as a whiff of smoke.
THAT OF THE OTHER IS IN AIS SOUL.
II. THE GREATNESS OF THE ONE IS IN HIS CIRCUMSTANCES,
All men have an instinctive desire to stand well in the estimation of society. Riches are often sought and prized because of the power which they give over others, and the reverence and honor they are supposed to call forth. Let us compare the respect which the two men before us obtain :
First : The one is respected for what he has, the other for what he is. The supposed ungodly rich man has a species of honor rendered to him ; but it is not really to him, it is to his property or position. Change his circumstances, and the men that were ready to express respect would neglect, if not despise him. Who that knows anything of the human mind does not see that this must be the case? and who that knows anything of the world does not know that this is the case ? The dress, the equipage, the mansion, the estate, the secular influence, are all honored; when they go, the cause of the honor departs too. The man may remain, but he has never been honored. His intellect, heart, principles have not been taken into account. In the other case the man himself is the dignity; his habits, spirit, character, have won homage, and though he be in the lowest poverty these remain to command our esteem.
Secondly: The respect rendered to the one is in proportion to the low state of moral education among the people, not so with the other. It is the men whose moral natures have never