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The highest motive to the cultivation of truth, is, that God requires it of us; he requires it of us, because falsehood is contrary to his nature-because the spirit of man, before it can do homage to its Creator, must be purified in the furnace of truth. There is no more noble trial for him who seeks the kingdom of heaven, than to speak the truth; often the truth brings upon him much sorrow; often it threatens him with poverty, with banishment, with hatred, with loss of friends, with miserable old age; but, as one friend loveth another friend the more if they had suffered together in a long sorrow, so the soul of a just man, for all he endures, clings nearer to the truth; he mocks the fury of the people, and laughs at the oppressor's rod; and if needs be, he sitteth down like Job in the ashes, and God makes his morsel of bread sweeter than the feasts of the liar, and all the banquets of sin.
It is difficult for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God. The first cause to be alleged for this difficulty is, that he wants that important test of his own conduct, which is to be gained from the conduct of his fellow-creatures toward him; he may be going far from the kingdom of God, on the feet of pride, and over the spoils of injustice, without learning, from the averted looks, and the alienated hearts of men, that his ways are the ways of death. Wealth is apt to inspire a kind of awe, which fashions every look, modulates every word, and influences every action; and this, not so much from any view to interest, as from that imposing superiority, exercised upon the imagination by prosperous fortune, from which it is extremely difficult for any man to emancipate himself, who has not steadily accustomed his judgment to measure his fellow-creatures by real, rather than artificial distinctions, and to appeal from the capricious judgments of the world to his own reflections, and to the clear and indisputable precepts of the Gospel.
The general presumption, indeed, which we are apt to form, is, that the mischief is already done; that the rich man has been accustomed to such flattering reception, such gracious falsehoods, and such ingenious deceit, that to treat him justly, is to treat him harshly; and, to defer to him only in the proportion of his merit,
is a violation of established forms. No man feels it to be his duty to combat with the gigantic errors of the world, and to exalt himself into a champion of righteousness; he leaves the state of society just as he found it, and indolently contributes his quota of deceit, to make the life of a human being a huge falsehood from the cradle to the tomb. It is this which speaks to Dives the false history of his shameless and pampered life;-here it is, in the deceitful mirror of the human face, that he sees the high gifts with which God has endowed him; and here it is, in that mirror, so dreadfully just to guilty poverty, he may come back, after he has trampled on every principle of honour and justice, and see joy, and delight, and unbounded hospitality, and unnumbered friends. Therefore, I say to you, when you enter in among your fellows, in the pomp, and plenitude of wealth-when the meek eye of poverty falls before you when all men listen to your speech, and the approving smile is ready to break forth on every brow-then keep down your rising heart, and humble yourself before your father who seeth in secret; then fear very greatly for your salvation; then tremble more than Felix trembled ; then remember that it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of heaven.
The second reason why it so difficult for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God is, that he loves the kingdom of the world too well. Death is very terrible, says the son of Sirach, to him who lives at ease in his possessions; and in truth the pleasure of life does, in a great measure, depend upon the lot which we draw, and the heritage which we enjoy; it may be urged, that a person who knows no other situation, wishes no other; and that the boundary of his experience is the boundary of his desire. This would be true enough if we did not derive our notions of happiness and misery from a wider range of observation than our own destiny can afford; I will not speak of great misfortunes, for such instances prove put too clearly, how much the love of life depends on the enjoyment it affords;-but a man who is the eternal prey of solicitude, wishes for the closing of the scene; a constant, cheerless struggle with little miseries, will dim the sun, and wither the green herb, and taint the fresh wind;—he will cry out, let me depart-he will count his gray hairs with joy, and
DANGERS OF WEALTH.
one day will seem unto him as many. Those who are not reminded of the wretchedness of human existence by such reflections as these, who are born to luxury and respect, and sheltered from the various perils of poverty, begin to forget the precarious tenure of worldly enjoyments, and to build sumptuously on the sand; they put their trust (as the Psalmist says) in chariots and horses, and dream they shall live for ever in those palaces which are but the outhouses of the grave. There are very few men, in fact, who are capable of withstanding the constant effect of artificial distinctions; it is difficult to live upon a throne, and to think of a tomb; it is difficult to be clothed in splendour, and to remember we are dust; it is difficult for the rich and the prosperous to keep their hearts as a burning coal upon the altar, and to humble themselves before God as they rise before men. In the meantime, while pride gathers in the heart, the angel is ever writing in the book, and wrath is ever mantling in the cup; complain not in the season of wo, that you are parched with thirst; ask not for water, as Dives asked, you have a warning which he never had. There stand the ever-memorable words of the text, which break down the stateliness of man, and dissipate the pageantry of the earth;—thus it is that the few words of a God can make the purple of the world appear less beautiful than the mean garments of a beggar, and striking terror into the hearts of rulers and of exarchs, turn the banners of dominion to the ensigns of death, and make them shudder at the sceptre which they wield. To-day, you are clothed in fine linen, and fare sumptuously; in a few and evil years, they shall hew you out a tomb of marble, whiter than snow, and the cunning artifice of the workman shall grave on it weeping angels, and make a delicate image of one fleeing up to heaven, as if it were thee, and shall relate in golden letters, the long story of your honours and your birth-thou fool!! He that dieth by the roadside for the lack of a morsel of bread, God loveth him as well as he loveth thee; and at the gates of heaven, and from the blessed angels, thou shalt learn, that it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of heaven.
Another fatal effect of great wealth is, that it is apt to harden the heart; wealth gives power; power produces immediate gratification; the long habit of immediate gratification, an impatience
THE JOURNEY OF LIFE.
of unpleasant feelings; a claim to be exempted from the contemplation of human misery, of everything calculated to inspire gloom, to pollute enjoyment, and protrude a sense of painful duties; the compassion with which prosperous men are born in common with us all, is never cherished by a participation in the common suffering, a share in the general struggle; it wants that sense of the difficulty and wretchedness of existence, by which we obtain the best measure of the sufferings of our fellow-creatures. We talk of human life as a journey, but how variously is that journey performed? there are some who come forth girt, and shod, and mantled, to walk on velvet lawns, and smooth terraces, where every gale is arrested, and every beam is tempered; there are others who walk on the alpine paths of life, against driving misery, and through stormy sorrows; and over sharp afflictions, walk with bare feet and naked breast, jaded, mangled, and chilled. It is easy enough to talk of misfortunes; that they exist, no man can be ignorant; it is not the bare knowledge of them that is wanting, but that pungent, vital commiseration, under the influence of which a man springs up from the comforts of his home, deserts his favourite occupations, toils, invents, investigates, struggles, wades through perplexity, disappointment, and disgust, to save a human being from shame, poverty, and destruction: here then is the jet, and object of our blessed Saviour's menace; and reasonable enough it is that he who practically withdraws himself from the great Christian community of benevolence, should be cut off from the blessings of Christian reward. If we suffer ourselves to be so infatuated by the enjoyments of this world, as to forget the imperious claims of affliction, and to render our minds, from the long habit of selfish gratification, incapable of fulfilling the duties we owe to mankind, then let us not repine, that our lot ceases in this world, or that the rich man shall never inherit immortal life.
As to that confidence and pride of which riches are too often the source, what can the constitution of that mind be, which has formed these notions of Divine wisdom and justice? Was this inequality of possessions contrived for the more solid establishment of human happiness, that there might be gradation and subordina tion among men? or was it instituted to give an arbitrary and useless superiority of one human being over another? Are any
duties exacted for the good conferred? or was a rich man only born to sleep quietly, to fare sumptuously, and to be clothed in brave apparel? Has He, who does not create a particle of dust but it has its use, has He, do you imagine, formed one human being merely as a receptable of choice fruits and delicate viands; and has He stationed a thousand others about him, of the same flesh and blood, that they might pick up the crumbs of his table, and gratify the wishes of his heart? No man is mad enough to acknowledge such an opinion; but many enjoy wealth as if they had no other notion respecting it than that they were to extract from it the greatest enjoyment possible, to eat and drink to-day, and to mock at the threatened death of to-morrow.
The command of our Saviour to the rich man, was, "Go thy way quickly, sell all thou hast, divide it and take up among the poor, thy cross and follow me;" but this precept of our blessed Lord, as it was intended only for the interests of the Gospel, and the state of the world at that period, cannot be considered as applicable to the present condition of mankind; to preach such exalted doctrine in these latter days, would, I am afraid, at best be useless; our object is to seek for some fair medium between selfishness and enthusiasm. If something of great possessions be dedicated to inspire respect, and preserve the gradations of society, a part to the real wants, a little to the ornaments and superfluities of life, a little even to the infirmities of the possessor, how much will remain for the unhappy, who ask only a preference over vicious pleasure, disgraceful excess, and idle ostentation.
Neither is it to objects only of individual misery, that the application of wealth is to be confined; whatever has for its object to enlarge human knowledge, or to propagate moral and religious principle; whatever may effect, immediately or remotely, directly or indirectly, the public happiness, may add to the comforts, repress the crimes, or animate the virtues of social life; to every sacred claim of this nature, the appetite for frivolous pleasure, and the passion for frivolous display, must implicitly yield: if the minutiae of individual charity present an object too inconsiderable for a capacious mind, there are vast asylums for sickness and want, which invite your aid; breathe among their sad inhabitants the spirit of consolation and order, give to them wiser arrangements and wider limits, prepare shelter for unborn wretchedness,