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"Oh be thy wealth, an upright heart;
Thy strength, the sufferer's stay;
Which cannot fade away.
Thy zeal for Christ, a quenchless fire;
Thy friends, the men of peace;
When earthly changes cease."
Chelmsford, A. M. W.
14th Aug. 1845.
Is it better for a Young Person on entering Life to meet with Prosperity or Adversity?
"It is good for a man that he bear the yoke in his youth."
3rd chap. Lamentations, 27th verse.
This question certainly if it were one of choice would occupy not a moment's reflection. Prosperity is, and would be, the desire of all; not the Young only, but every individual. And that it should be so is only natural to our depraved and fallen nature.— With all there is implanted a thirst for obtaining wealth, and a wish to enjoy it to the ne plus ultra. And although the desire is great, yet it more frequently happens it is never realized, and if it does come,—like a bright summer's day, a cloud overspreads the meridian of fortune, and all is lost. It does not appear to me at all inconsistent that on entering life, the desire for, and the endeavours after prosperity are so great; since all are brought up from infancy with the impression that wealth is all-powerful, and that in a great measure it will promote happiness. The result of this idea is plainly seen in after life;—look at the toil, the anxiety and the pains-taking there is for gain, which sometimes accumulates immensely,— and a man thus fortunate, is envied by the world—is looked upon with deference and respect, and the pride of the poor man is humbled when he sees the prosperity of his neighbour, for there is an old adage, "Poverty and Pride go together." Some, however,— hold money in still higher repute, and look upon it as the all-sufficient instrument on earth. I admit that in a great measure it will assist in rendering a being happy, but no further, as it is generally tinctured with adversity in some degree, according to circumstances. What induces men to spend so much of their precious time— early to rise, and late take rest, and eat the bread of carefulness, but the craving after prosperity, which as far as regards earthly concerns is greatly aided by wealth. I do not disapprove of a moderate desire for wealth, which when enjoyed is dispensed liberally, and appropriated wisely; for it is one of the means of usefulness derived from the bounty of heaven; and how often have the fragments of the rich man's table been of great service for the poor and needy. But unfortunately there is sometimes a neglect in the appropriation of riches, which as stewards of heavenly gifts, men should use faithfully, and improve the blessings that are showered down upon them. Hence we more frequently observe a generous and liberal spirit in those of less prosperous circumstances, whilst the wealthy can be compared to a Dutch mariner, who at a calm at sea frequently, it is said, "in those circumstances, ties up the rudder,— and goes to sleep." Prosperity in such case however, previously desired, is subsequently proved to be of no value, since being illapplied it cannot produce those good effects, which in general it is intended to yield; but owing to the avarice and selfishness of men, is unfortunately very rarely visible. Men in prosperity are found great in their own eyes, and seldom can bear it without pride and insolence; and the richer they become, the more covetous or luxurious they are. Those who are subjected to the stings of poverty frequently think what a fine thing it would be if all the property of the rich were equally divided amongst them; but what would be the consequences of such a measure? Robbery would ensue—the rich decline to part with their property, and the equal division of the whole wealth of the nation at the conclusion would be very small indeed. Where then the wisdom of indulging a desire for what is not our own? With respect to the Young entering life,— and meeting with consecutive instances of adversity—the mind falling a victim to despair and sometimes death, such instances do, I allow, occur occasionally; but on the other hand, during the South Sea scheme more persons lost their senses by the sudden acquisition of great wealth, than by the loss of it. I have thus far spoken as regards the choice of the Young, (in fact all) and the tendency there ever is, in every pursuit, and under every circumstance, for obtaining one great means so as to enjoy prosperity, but the point which is to be most cognizant with us, is simply—Which is best? Here indeed there will be some degree of difference in opinion — Ask the Young just entered into life; such will cry, "Prosperity is the best."—Ask the middle aged,—ask the Old, what is, and what was their chief desire, and what they laboured after diligently, and they will reply, they wished "to do well in the world for themselves and for their children;" but that they found too quickly the words of the wise man to be undeniable, "I returned and saw under the sun that the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, neither yet bread to the wise, nor yet riches to men of understanding, nor yet favour to men of skill; but time and chance happeneth to them all." They will teach the Young that riches make unto themselves wings and fly away, and that however much prosperity is to be desired, yet withal it is attended by vanity and vexation of spirit. Archbishop Leighton declared he would " rather be the poorest believer than the greatest king on earth." That persons are more contented under prosperous circumstances may indeed be, but contentment may be easily possessed by walking in the meadows near some gliding stream, and contemplating the lilies that take no care, and those very many other various little living creatures that are not only created but fed, man knows not how,— by the goodness of the God of nature; and therefore trust in Him. Let every thing that hath breath praise the Lord. And although prosperity is calculated to excite our feelings, increase our joy, and allay our grief, yet there is somewhat of care which accompanies us at the same time. There is a care not only how to keep it, but how to increase it! and this may become, and does become in some, most excessive, and such may weary the mind, and render the spirits drooping, as much as excessive grief. "The health certainly is endangered by the influence of excessive grief, and it is difficult to define the nature of the connexion which subsists between the mind and the body; our knowledge respecting it is almost entirely limited to an acquaintance with the effects produced by the reciprocal action.
Although the existence of this sympathy may be denied by those who plead for the unrestrained indulgence of their sorrow, yet nothing can be more certain. We see every day the one suffering with the other—the manifestations of mind enfeebled by disease,— and the animal economy materially disturbed by disorders of the mind. It is well known how instantaneously joy or grief will pall the appetite; that it is impossible to cure many derangements of the animal system whilst any cause of mental irritation exists; and that many maladies are immediately produced by the influence of depressing passions. The indulgence of excessive grief, then is by no means innocent; since although its immediate effects may be escaped, it may still lay the foundation of insidious disease, which though long protracted, may in the end terminate fatally!"
But that adversity produces contentment as well as prosperity is equally certain. In the school of sanctified afflictions we can best learn contentment; for "godly sorrow worketh repentance to salvation not to be repented of; but the sorrow of the world worketh death." I say sanctified, for naturally like restive horses, we go the worst for beating, if our afflictions are not blessed by one above. This brings me to consider in what way adversity may be said to have the advantage over prosperity.
Prosperity is admitted as springing in this world partly from worldly means, and therefore belongs to, and can only endure on earth. A man's riches cannot follow him to the grave. "He that loveth silver shall not be satisfied with silver; he that loveth abundance with increase; this is also vanity." But religion itself teaches us that our present life is a state of probation for a future one, and that our future interest is now dependant, and depending too upon ourselves. "And as the moral government of God which religion teaches us, implies, that we are in a state of trial with regard to a future world; so also his natural government over us implies, that we are in a state of trial in the like sense, with regard to the present world." Why we are placed in a probationary state of so much difficulty and hazard is unnecessary for us now to dwell upon, since it is evident that our present condition can in no wise be shown inconsistent with the perfect moral government of God.
"Now the beginning of life, considered as an education for ma