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DIVINE PROVIDENCE ÎN EARTHLY AND HEAVENLY RICHES.
“ Ye vainly wise! ye blind presumptuous ! now
PERHAPS there is no one feature of our earthly life which appeals with greater force to the reflecting observer, and especially to those who are in any way tried with want, than the vast inequalities which are visible in human society:- the dire extremes of immense wealth on the one hand, and squalid poverty and misery on the other. What a spectacle does our civilization present! What occasion, even in a single city, for sad and sorrowful reflection! But there is no occasion for discouragement; for if the providence of God is seen anywhere, and can be most triumphantly vindicated, it is in this spectacle of confused outward relations, and in true and false riches. Let us be most devoutly thankful, that here on this dark problem, the light shines so abundantly, and that more than common cheer may be administered herewith to man. It is because the riches of the world, when truly held, are so necessary to the very life of the soul, that we feel their deprivation so painfully. We do not now have reference to what is commonly called religious life, — that word in its common
acceptation is so narrow and fractional.
But if true religious life may be defined to include our whole spiritual culture and support — the full and harmonious activity and enjoyment of what is sometimes called the æsthetic nature, all the devotional, moral, intellectual, and spiritual faculties, in their utmost extent of varied and multiform uses in the world of nature, art, and all human industry, - then indeed may we say that the riches of the outward world are indispensably necessary to the true life of the soul. This is religion, and nothing else is, in the full, broad extent. The whole man, and not one corner of the mind devoted to the faculties of veneration, faith, benevolence, and justice, is to be attuned to harmony with the great Divinity. When a man is truly God-like, he is not a mere religionist in the praying, conscientious sense, but is an artist, a philosopher, a mechanic, an author, an agriculturalist, an exchanger, a producer of all sorts of useful and beautiful things, with an abundance of means for the pursuit of his occupation. Then his soul truly lives. Not till then. O detestable and infernal poverty! thou art not of heaven; from hell thou art, and to hell shalt thou return. In those dark and damnable regions thy rags become thee; they are the fashion of the place ; but not in heaven, where bloom and beauty, in the most flowing and ample abundance, and all rich and adaptive outward things, make every man the lord of his own house and manor, with the most unstinted privileges.
Now, it is because this is so thoroughly and necessarily true, that every soul, in proportion to its genuine refinement and aspiration, feels painfully the deprivation. Poverty is not, in a single instance, the orderly condition of the world. The poor, in the literal sense, we shall not always have with us, any more than we shall have vice and imbecility. Poverty is the curse of evil and the child of sin. The riches of the soul require the most ample material riches ; and it only truly and fully lives when these riches are provided.
But what has the Divine Providence to say for such a
subject? How shall these ways of the Lord be made to appear equal ?
In answer to this questioning, let us first consider the law operative in this world in regard to the acquisition of worldly riches. And the Lord himself hath given the law :
“ Seek ye first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you.” (Matt. 6: 33.) But how so? Must not this be received with palpable restrictions? Is it indeed true, that those who make these heavenly matters the first and primary objects of life, are most prospered in their temporal concerns ? Indeed, is it not often the reverse of this ? And is not the case so conspicuous as to attract the attention of every observer, and fill the minds of many with the most bewildering contemplations ? The privations of the good, the prosperity of the wicked: this is the old complaint — the old stumbling-block. And yet it has not escaped the notice even of the superficial observer, that each state has its corresponding compensations ; that those who have made this world their portion, with its rewards get also its deprivations, its desolations, its cares, its emptiness, and its “many sorrows ;” while those who have made heaven their portion in this life, not only enjoy it hereafter, but enter now into that peace which the world knoweth not of,— into comfort and assurance forever. And hence, with all the confusion, it would be impossible to find a truly spiritually minded and virtuous person, in the greatest of earthly poverty, who would, to the sacrifice of his virtue, exchange circumstances with the richest and most affluent. knows, if he knows any thing at all, that he is the richest of the two; and that God has not a government, even in this world, so at odds with equity and righteousness.
But yet the great law is explicit and unmistakable. It speaks plainly of earthly goods, and it is the letter of the Word that we are now concerned with. There are many confirmatory passages. Nothing is plainer, throughout the whole Scriptures, than that, with certain exceptions, the blessing of
an ample abundance of all material good is promised us, as an aid to our complete existence. In the Old Testament it is “ basket and store, field and house, the precious things of the earth, and the fulness thereof;" in the New Testament, though with a more obvious reference to our spiritual welfare, it is still the emphatic words of the Lord — “ Your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of these things; and if ye seek first the kingdom of God and his righeousness, "they shall be added unto you."
Now, that there is a law here a law as inevitable and regular as that by which the planets roll and the grass grows, is manifest from several considerations. It may be seen first, from the very intimate connection between all spiritual and all material nature. Take, for example, the human body, which is a miniature representation of the entire universe. It is well known that certain spiritual states cause certain bodily states ; that a sound mind is indispensable to a sound body, and vice versa ; that particular affections, whether of fear, hope, joy, grief, elation, or depression, operate so seriously upon the physical organism as frequently to occasion severe sickness; and nothing, as before alluded to, is so favorable to a cure of bodily distempers, as a cheerful, hopeful, vigorous spirit, which can act directly upon the material structure, and even banish its disorders. It is not without science, therefore, that
skilful physicians frequently prescribe nothing but sham medicines, with the most confident assurance of success, knowing well the power of faith or imagination to do what no drugs have power to do. It is called imagination, but it is in fact the inducing of a new spiritual action in the organism of the soul, which of itself creates a new influx into the body, causing a different movement there, and thus effecting a manifest cure. And how many diseases and disorders of the body are first caused by sins committed in the spirit! Whereas, if the kingdom of heaven had been preserved there, health and harmony would have been maintained in the body. “Thy kingdom come on earth, as it is in heaven.”
We may see by this, how closely the laws which govern the spiritual world and the laws which govern the material world, are connected. What is true of the human soul and body, is true of the whole spiritual and material universe.
For they are connected as soul and body. Man is the microcosm, or lesser universe, in which we may see by analogy, the macrocosm, or greater universe, in complete miniature.
But if it were necessary to illustrate any further, we might point to the well-recognized fact of how the whole spiritual and material worlds are connected, - how the laws of the one are interfused and blended with the laws of the other, - how the outer and material world is but a development from the inner and spiritual world, — and how we are frequently led by agencies operating in the heavens, by Divine Providence, to stations in this world where material conditions are largely concerned, but the end of which is invariably some spiritual advantage, either to the person himself, or to others.
Now, therefore, if there is a connection between the two worlds and their laws, then there must be a sense, and a very substantial sense, in which worldly prosperity is attendant on spiritual riches. There must be some way or degree, in which, by seeking first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, all these other things these necessaries of bodily life and comfort — shall be added unto us. It is a prime part of wisdom to see this - to comprehend and appreciate the law; for we shall thereby have a better opinion of the world and its transactions, and be more contented with things as they are.
First, then, we may observe the fact. Do we not see, in the midst of all the confusion, that in general this is so ? — that it is not, generally speaking, the worst and most abandoned of the earth who have the most of external riches? True enough, it
may be said that it is not the most spiritual men, or even the most intellectual ; they are generally too intent upon the higher matters to succeed best in material things. But it is, generally speaking, the men of at least an average standard of morality,