« PreviousContinue »
and to bestow care and attention on the clothing and nourishing of the body; and next, that whatever is needful God will give us. It is clear, then, that we have no warrant from this to look for superfluous indulgences, for needless provisions to sustain an artificial state in life, or to keep up an appearance which is assumed by our own choice, and out of deference to the customs of men or the pomp of the world. But we have a most certain warrant to believe that we shall never want what is really necessary for us. In giving us the breath of life, He gave us a pledge of the sustenance required for it. And this extends beyond our own persons to all who depend on us, such as children, servants, and others whom the providence of God has committed to us. So long as it is His will that we should exist in this earthly life, we have a certain promise and pledge that He will, in ways known to Himself, provide for us all necessary things. There seem to be only two conditions of this promise: first, that we seek it from Him in the measure and proportion that befits us; and next, that we labour diligently in the calling He appoints for us. If we be peasants, we must not look for the fare of princes; nor if our lot be plain, must we expect or desire to live freely and be clad in soft clothing as they that are in kings' palaces. And again labour is the condition of man since the
fall. "Cursed is the ground for thy sake; in sorrow shalt thou eat of it all the days of thy life;" "for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return." And this most righteous penalty, like sin itself, has penetrated every state of life. It is not the tiller of the earth only, but the princes of this world likewise, who feel its power. The ground that was cursed is the whole sphere of man's mortal life and labour; all his employments, business, studies, callings, undertakings, the whole range of his toil in his personal and social state. Care and weariness, disappointment and the sweat of his face, are the conditions of all the works of man, both in body and in mind, whether he be learned or unlearned, whether he be lord or serf, ruled or ruler, buyer or seller, merchant or craftsman, teacher or learner, bishop or doctor, pastor or penitent, husband or wife, master or servant. Το labour and to be lowly, to eat his bread in weariness and by measure, is his portion; but in lowliness and in labour shall be his rest. God will provide. "His bread shall be given him, and his water shall be sure." "I have been young, and now am old; and yet saw I never the righteous forsaken, nor his seed begging their bread." those, then, who faithfully do the work which God has appointed them, and keep within the sphere and
1 Genesis iii. 19.
2 Psalm xxxvii. 25.
range where He has cast their lot, this great law of God's kingdom is pledged and sure. They shall never want whatsoever is needful, safe, and expedient for their support, and for the maintenance of all that legitimately falls within the condition assigned to them by the will of God.
(2.) The other great law I referred to is this, that the most truly expedient course is often one which is most inexpedient according to the measures of the world. What but this does the example of our Lord teach us, who in His hunger refused to relieve His wants and faintness by the speaking of a word? How does the world oppress a man with its exhortations to "spare himself," to take advantage of natural powers, to seize on opportunities, to reap the benefit of great offers, to shew himself to the world, to let himself be made popular, to get on in life, and to make himself a name, a house, or a fortune! And how does it lament, or expostulate, or reproach him, if he refuse to turn these stones into bread! "So long as thou doest well unto thyself, men will speak well of thee." But if a man turn away from money, ease, comfort, or competency, and the like, he is straightway improvident, reckless, eccentric, or ostentatious, fanciful, or proud. Nothing the world resents more than scrupulousness in money-getting.
1 Psalm xlix. 18.
It is a very searching and wide-spread rebuke. One such man, by one such act, before he is aware, pricks the conscience of half the neighbourhood. The world cannot endure to be slighted, to be held cheap, to be valued at its own true price. Therefore, in self-defence, it keeps up a loud and plausible worship of expediency; and because what is right is always expedient, by a cunning sleight it sets forward what is expedient as the index of what is right. Now, nothing can be more contrary to this philosophy than to decline great stations, rich offers, large trusts, profitable employments; or again, to make costly offerings, to give great alms, to lay by little, to aim at extensive works. But what says Holy Writ, that true and only philosophy of human life? "There is that scattereth and yet increaseth; there is that withholdeth more than is meet, but it tendeth to poverty." There are two kinds of lenders, two kinds of usury, two great debtors who take up the gold and silver of men—the world and God. The more men invest in the world, the more they lose; the more they lay up, the more they waste; the more they hoard, the more they squander. It "tendeth to poverty." Great figures, vast credit, thousands by the year, and the man is none the richer; he is not wiser, better, happier, healthier,
1 Prov. xi. 24.
safer from ruin, poverty, destitution. His great barks founder in a calm; or the mountain of his wealth is driven away in an hour, "as a rolling thing before the whirlwind." Or, let all these prosper to the full; let all his rich cargoes come into the haven, and all his ventures turn in the mart to gold, he can neither eat nor drink, nor in any way enjoy, more than the poor man at his gate. "He that loveth silver shall not be satisfied with silver; nor he that loveth abundance with increase: this is also vanity. When goods increase, they are increased that eat them: and what good is there to the owners thereof, saving the beholding of them with their eyes? The sleep of a labouring man is sweet, whether he eat little or much but the abundance of the rich will not suffer him to sleep. There is a sore evil which I have seen under the sun, namely, riches kept for the owners thereof to their hurt." The world is a false-hearted debtor, paying not only no usury on its loans, but restoring nothing again. All that it borrows, it consumes "upon its lusts ;" and all that it gives to its creditors is tinsel, and noise, and flatteries.
Not so with God. The only sure investment for our worldly goods is in works of mercy to the poor of Christ. "He that hath pity upon the poor, lendeth unto the Lord; and look, what he