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And so we must come unto a description of evidence, abundantly satisfactory, abundantly luminous and clear; but, at the same time, furnishing only the grand elements, out of which we draw certain inferences. Hence, therefore, it is God's method of teaching; and it is the best and the safest. And here, when we come to examine the word of truth, let us take all its bearings with us; and when we have come into the condition of the church, whose case we have been considering, we shall then find, that like them, we shall be able in the spirit of Christian charity, to "walk in the fear of the Lord," to be "edified," to "enjoy the comfort of the Holy Ghost," and "greatly be multiplied."
INEQUALITY IN HUMAN CONDITION GOD'S OWN APPOINTMENT.
REV. 8. ROBINS, A.M.
CHRIST CHAPEL, NORTH BANK, REGENT'S PARK, JANUARY 11, 1835.
"The rich and the poor meet together: the Lord is the Maker of them all."-PROV. xxii.
THERE are many things in the dealings of God with a lost and ruined world, which are very hard of comprehension to creatures who possess only our finite grasp of understanding. There is much in the processes of the divine administration of the world, which it is very difficult for us to make to square with our own preconceived opinions. God's ways are not as our ways, neither are God's thoughts as our thoughts. He exercises the right of sovereignty: he hath formed all things; and therefore, by the inalienable right that belongs to him, he administers all things: he provides for, and he sustains; and therefore, in the dispensation of his Providence, as well as in the original distributions of creation, we find God asserting his own independent claim. Now, though it is impossible for us to search out, in all the minuteness of detail, the reasons of the divine dealings with the world-though we would not even desire to be wise above what is written-yet it is plainly our privilege-moreover, it is our duty, to inquire into those things which the Lord has revealed to us in his Word.
Now, the text opens to us the consideration of a subject, which I think may not be unprofitable, and which I believe is not inappropriate. In the first place, I would endeavour to prove to you that inequality in human condition is God's own appointment; and, in the second place, to open some of the principal reasons for this dealing of God.
INEQUALITY IN HUMAN CONDITION 18 GOD'S OWN APPOINTMENT. is beyond all denial that poverty, as well as every other evil to which human nature during this, its trial-time, is exposed, results simply and alone from the sin of man. God is the source and the well-spring of all good. Evil proceeded not from him, but because man transgressed the laws of his Maker there was the inrushing of a mighty tide of sorrow on the world which was thus desolated: and amongst these sorrows, which man's own transgression brought on himself and his posterity, poverty is to be numbered; so that it remains as a standing memorial of sin; so that there goes up a voice from every dwelling place of want and woe that there hath been sin in the world; and the very same great essential foundation truth is written in the lines of grief upon every brow.
Now, we do not mean to make a special application of this matter. We do not, for a moment, intend to affirm that those who are in the depths of poverty, who are bearing the burden of heavier calamity than others, have therefore
been greater sinners than others : but we do say that wherever there is sorrow, and (as in the subject especially before us) wherever there is poverty, there is the evidence that sin hath entered into the world.
It is a remarkable fact that poverty has existed in every country, and in every forin of society with which we are acquainted. In ancient times, as well as modern ; amongst the highly civilized and cultivated, as much as those who are sunk in the debasement of savage uncivilization, amidst all the variety of political changes, amidst the rising and falling of dynasties, amongst the various forms of government, plastic and harsh, still poverty has remained; and, in spite of the benevolence of man, in spite of the benevolence of philosophical and refined minds, still remains : so that luxury and want, superfluity and need, have been in the closest juxta-position—have been almost as it were chamber-fellows.
Now, if we receive the notion of a superintending providence (which, I trust, there is not one here inclined to deny), we cannot question that these things are by God's permission. In the wide sweep of that glance which goes through creation, and which rests on the dimmest and most inconsiderable spot in all the universe which God at first formed, not one portion is overlooked ; not the smallest creature which forms a link in the chain of animal existence is forgotten of God. . We are quite sure that all the forms of mankind, with their immense variety of interests, and the apparent entanglement of their concerns, are all open before the eye of Him with whom we have to do: and since He, who thus looks with watchful eye on the concerns of all, is the same who, by resistless hand, administers the concerns of all, we come to the conclusion immediately, that these things cannot be without his permission.
But we are prepared to advance beyond this, and to affirm that God not only permits, but that he appoints. We cannot pronounce what would have been, in this respect, the condition of an innocent race in a world which crime had never defiled; we cannot pronounce how it would have been with the lineage of unfallen man: we are quite sure there would have been no pain or privation; and the teeming earth would have poured forth, from her own rich storehouse, enough for the supply of all the wants of all who trod her surface. But we are by no means prepared to affirm that, notwithstanding this, there might not have been as many, and as plain, distinctions in human society, though that society existed and was held together in a world on whose surface the footprint of sin had never trodden.
Neither can we affirm with any degree of certainty-though the question is one of very deep interest—what shall be the condition of the restored creation, tenanted by blessed ones, purified from all sin, and taken far away out of the reach of all sorrow.
We are not prepared to affirm one opinion, or the other opinion-whether or no there shall still subsist distinctions of rank-whether some shall be in the inner circle, in greater nearness to God, wearing crowns of brighter radiance, singing anthems of sweeter melody, and sent forth by God upon missions of higher trust; it may be so, or it may not be so: but we are quite aware that the authority of Scripture texts may be arrayed on the one side, or on the other side. Concerning the unfallen world, therefore, and the restored creation, we do not affirm.
But concerning God's dealings with a fallen state, his dealings with those who hare gone far from the original purpose and design of their creation, we
are bold to affirm that God hath appointed more than this : God, by his providence, doth maintain inequalities of condition. And we see that this precisely agrees with the analogy of all God's dealings. The whole of nature is one vast system of unequal distribution : even in the lower walks of animal life we find the obtaining of the same principle; and when we have made all possible deductions because of the adaptation of the creatures to the circumstances in which they are placed, and the various systems of compensation which we find 80 beautifully established for the supply of the apparent deficiencies—when we bave considered all these things, there still remains yet unexplained a vast amount of difference of condition. So in respect to human creatures, the higher and the more intelligent walks of creation: we may explain away a great deal of the apparent distinction, and may say, that those who are raised high in station, and those whose affluence seems to abound, at the same time are charged with weightier responsibility, and anxieties and cares cling closely to the possession of wealth : yet it is beyond denial there exists in human condition vast variety of advantage. We therefore think this is God's established mode of dealing, and that, in the divine administration, God is giving to his creatures a model for their own internal government.
Now, there is a great deal which even the most trusting, and even the most calm-minded amongst us, will perceive, in the present aspect of society, to cause us alarm. We may almost believe that there is amongst us the slumbering of the volcano, that shall, in our own day or the day of our children, break forth and pour its consuming stream over the land: we find it not difficult to believe that we are just now in the calm before the out-breaking of the mighty sturu : and it may be we are now pressing with our footsteps upon the verge of the latter day; and that there is coming upon us much of tremendous and unimagined trial. Amongst the various reasons why we come to this conclusion is this: we mark with great fearfulness that the apostles of disorder are abroad in the land, and that they would rejoice to confound the social and the individual rights of men, because (we believe) they hope in the fermentation of society, during its transition-state, having the smallest proportion of character or of possessions to lose, to be the greatest gainers. We think that, in our own day, there hath arisen a restlessness of established order, an impatience of appointed authority and control, a contempt of dignities and superiority. Now, we say broadly, concerning this matter, that with the political bearing of the case the minister of the Gospel has, in his pulpit and elsewhere, absolutely nothing to do: and if we were pressed even to give an opinion on this, we think it were an abundantly sufficient answer if we reply in the words of Christ, “Wist ye not that I must be about my Father's business?" We would leave the potsherds of the earth to strive together about these things. Yet with the religious and with the scriptural bearings of the question, we have, I trow, very much indeed to do, for we have the fulfilment of an apostle's duty before us.
Now, since it seems that God, in the established order of his providence, hath appointed, and doth maintain the varieties of human condition—it is a perfectly tenable position, that they who are striving to confound these distinctions, and to place the rich in array against the poor, and the poor in array against the rich, are not only doing that which shall be for the harm of society, but that which tends to contravene the declaration of God himself. For how could
these distinctions in society be inaintained, unless God were continually interposing with an unequal distribution of his own gifts? And how unequal that distribution is, must be, to the thinking and the reasoning mind, a matter beyond all doubt or denial. We do not question for a moment, that God bestows uçon one person richer and rarer gifts than fall to the lot of another. Upou une lic bestows intellectual treasures, the power of strong and resistless argument, the power of eloquence to commend his words to the acceptance of others; the means of persuading men's minds, and controlling them; coming forward in difficult and troubled days, to stem the tide and to turn it back: nor do we question that such an one, in any reasonable and right state of human society, rises to higher consideration; he will become the benefactor of his country and of his race: his name is handed down to posterity; and he has a monument by every fireside, and a memorial in every heart: and we think it must be a low, debased nature which would gratify itself by pulling down such an one to the level of the unintellectual and the undistinguished; we believe it rather to be a high and noble thing to render honour where, by God's providence, honour has been so rendered.
Now, finding that God thus distributes unequal gifts, we beliere for the very purpose of establishing unequal conditions, we turn to the preaching of the Lord Jesus Christ, and, sitting at his feet, are anxious to hear from his lips whether this view is established, or whether it be contravened. And we find the Saviour-and we do not at all shrink from the assertion-during the whole of his stay on earth, most carefully abstaining from any interfering with the established orders of human society. And not only so-he maintained them: he said, on the one hand, “Render," in the civil department, “to Cesar the things that are Cæsar's;" and in the ecclesiastical department, he bade those who profess to belong to God's community to observe and to do the things which are enjoined them by those who sit in Moses' seat. He did not endeavour to confound the ranks of human society, nor to confuse the distinctions which were established by the unequal distribution of wealth ; but to the rich he said, “Sell that ye have, and give to the poor;" and to the poor he said—not that they had equal claim to what had been rendered or obtained by the providence of God on others—but, “Take no thought for to-morrow, for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself.” He bade them mark how the lilies grew, and how the ravens were fed, and to remember that their Father in heaven would not forsake them. And precisely the same do we find to have been the teaching of Christ's favoured Apostle, who went forth to promulgate far and wide on the earth the tidings of heaven's mercy: “ Render to all their due; tribute to whom tribute is due; custom to whom custom; honour to whom honour."
Herein we see again, eridence of God's kind and beneficent dealings. Here we see again, that, if the Lord's manifested will were followed out in all the extent of its operations on earth, there would be happiness far more largely establ hed in society than we have yet witnessed. For truly may we say that, if the unscriptural experiments of ungodly and unrestrained men were to be Jade and were to succeed, the effect must be only the ruin of social and individual interests. If it were repeated again and again, the result must be to crush and to pull down all the exertions that could be made by men for the