Sidor som bilder

the utmost of his wish, in the possession of that very excess which he coveted so much ; a rich man “ furnished with ability,” and perhaps with more than the ordinary degree of ability, to waste and misapply the gift of wealth, if he were so inclined, would be the most appropriate example that could be adduced, in confirmation of the previous doctrine, and in supplying the proof of each kind of abuse, both that of wealth and that of life, as involved at the same time one in the other.

The possible insecurity of the gift of life being necessarily to be taken into account, as directly opposed at all times to the probable security of the gift of wealth ; an history adapted to this view of the relation between them, might be expected to turn on the exhibition of the opposition in question, by the most forcible contrast between certainty on the one side with uncertainty on the other--which could be furnished by a case in point. Nor merely so, but as the security of the possession of life was clearly represented in the general argument, as possibly the least then, when that of the possession of wealth seemed, in all probability, to be the greatest; the instance selected to illustrate this doctrine, must carry the proof of this anomaly still further, by citing the case of a rich man, tempted to the commission of the specific crime of the abuse of life through the abuse of wealth, by the wellfounded assurance of the possession of plenty and abundance for years to come; yet all at once debarred from the power either of using or of abusing the gift of wealth, in the use or the abuse of abundance, by the withdrawal of the gift of life; that is, cut off from the power of longer enjoyment, at the very moment when the means of it for the greatest length of time, seemed to be most within his reach.

This dispensation, were it to take place, being described, under the circumstances of the case, as the probable effect of the displeasure of God, for the abuse of one of his own gifts, and as a punishment inflicted in kind upon that abuse, by the recall of the thing abused; we should expect to see it represented in an actual instance of the effect, as proceeding directly from God, and as designed for a penal purpose; that is, not for correction or amendment, but for judgment; and as attended by consequences to the sufferer strictly retributive, that is, in making him poor who before was rich, and poor without the hope of change, or the possibility of recovering his former condition.

Let us proceed to consider, whether these antecedent presumptions of what would be the nature and tendency of an history, adduced as an example to illustrate the doctrines previously inculcated on the same points; are found to be confirmed by the facts of the subjoined parable, and by the inferences which may be drawn therefrom.


MORAL, AND APPLICATION. In the first place, the history contained in this parable, is the history of one who was rich; and if the absolute degree of his wealth be measured by a reference to the circumstances of his case at the time—it is that of one who was rich in more than the ordinary sense of the term. It is true, only one fact of his personal history is selected to be related in detail ; but he was rich before the point of time when the parable begins its account of this fact, and at that point of time he is represented as likely soon to become richer still. He was rich too, before in the same respects, in which he was about to receive an accession to his wealth; the nature of which, and the sources from whence it was derived, were always the same, though its actual amount might be greater at one time than at another. “ The estate of a certain rich man brought “ forth plentifully:" an introduction to the sequel of the narrative, and a preliminary description of the circumstances of the subject thereof, which may be paraphrased, without exaggerating the state of the case, as follows: There was a certain man, pos- . sessed of fields and vineyards, and enriched by their productions; whose estates on one occasion brought forth more abundantly than ever. And indeed, his barns or storehouses must have been previously well filled with the produce of former years; or there would have been no want of room in them, to dispose of the fruits of another.

We may take it for granted, that by this rich man himself, we are to understand some one individual of the nation of the Jews; some one who must be considered a countryman both of the speaker, and of the hearers, of the parable. It agrees with this supposition, that the particulars of his wealth, such as they are represented in the narrative, are all of a kind peculiar to a people like the Jews ; among whom riches were principally, if not entirely, derived from the culture and productions of the ground : among whom, consequently, the diversity of external circumstances between different individuals, was chiefly discriminated by different proportions of the possession of one and the same spe

cies of wealth, the natural. The richest individuals in such a community, would be only those who had the largest amount of flocks and herds; and reaped every year the greatest quantity of the natural productions of the earth, corn, wine, and oil.

Now if riches are obtained from such sources as these, and when acquired consist in such particulars as these ; the acquisition of wealth of this kind, presupposes above all things the blessing and cooperation of God; and therefore the possession of wealth like this, ought to be resolved, above all things, into the favour and effect of his good providence in behalf fof the possessor himself. The kindliness or unkindliness of seasons; the dispensation, in due proportions, of the necessary helps to vegetation, rain, light, air, and heat ; the natural productiveness or sterility of the ground; the improvement of the one, or the correction of the other, by such means as nature supplies and human art and industry turn to the desired effect; being after all that man can contribute, the ultimate causes of the success or the failure of

cropsof the abundance or scantiness in the returns which the earth makes by its productions, for the labour and expense bestowed on its culture and therefore being the ultimate causes of affluence under all circumstances, considered as derived from such sources as these ; there is no one variety or species of possessions which constitute riches, nor any one mode among the different methods of acquiring thein, in which man can claim less for his own efficiency, or is bound to ascribe more to God.

Every description of wealth, indeed, is ultimately the gift of God; and in every mode of its acquisi

tion human cooperation is but the instrumental, while the blessing of God is the efficient cause of the result. Some kinds of its acquisition, however, there are, in which the process appears to be left ostensibly to the instrument itself; and in which the part truly discharged by the author of those powers and faculties, with which the instrument works—and by the disposer of every thing around him-over which the instrument could exert no control for himself-in the way most conducive to the success of his efforts, by conspiring with them and seconding their effect is not so overt and direct. But in that mode of obtaining wealth, which depends upon the laws of the material universe-on the economy of the vegetable kingdom-on the properties of the atmosphere and of the ground—or the likeso little can evidently be done by man for himself, and so much more must always be left to the God of nature; that the whole agency, from first to last, seems justly assignable to him : nor can any considerable share of the result, and much less the praise of an efficient, independent subserviency towards it, be claimed by man as his own, without usurpation as well as ingratitude.

We might argue, therefore, that this rich man being a Jew, could not be ignorant of the kind of wealth which alone was promised or permitted to Jews; nor consequently, of the source whence only it was to be obtained. He could not be ignorant, then, of the true source of his own wealth in particular : nor consequently could he, except deliberately, forget it, and think of ascribing it to any thing but its real author. Yet it is evident that he did forget it; and instead of referring the source of

« FöregåendeFortsätt »