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amelioration of human society, and enlarging the compass of human privilege and comfort. For if they who had put forth unceasing effort, and who had toiled mentally and bodily, were to have the fruit of their effort and their energy wrung from them, they would soon cease to make the effort, and sink down into the torpor of utter inactivity. We can imagine nothing more disastrous to any land than that in God's providence the experiment should succeed of levelling all conditions. There would be, indeed, the acutest suffering for the injured; and there would be a tremendous amount of evil inflicted by his own act upon the injurer. There would go forth the cry of an unhappy and despoiled population, until it sunk and was unheard, because there was the cry of despair on the face of the whole land.
We think, however (and this is a point of which we would by no means lose sight), that those who now occupy the lower places in society would be incomparably the greatest sufferers-that the largest amount of evil would be laid upon them. There would be poverty more deep, misery more hopeless, destitution and want more abject, than the world has ever yet seen the channels of public provision would have been dried up, and the resources of private bounty and benevolence cut off: the widow and the fatherless, the perishing, the sick, the destitute, would be left to die; there would be none to help, for all would have been made alike poor; the rich would have been made poor -the poor could not, by any possibility or contingent circumstance, have been permanently and abidingly rich.
I trust I have been able-though the consideration of the subject has been brief and imperfect-though we have only trod the outskirts of the matter-to fasten on your minds this conclusion-that distinctions of rank are according to the analogy of God's palpable and apparent dealings; that it is according to the revelation of his will in his own Word; according to the teaching of Jesus and his apostles; and, moreover, that it is most promotive of human happiness, and enlarging the amount of compensation of human misery in this our fallen sin-ruined world
I propose to consider, in the second place, SOME OF THE REASONS WHY THIS INEQUALITY OF HUMAN CONDITION IS PERMITTED, independently of that which we have already considered. We might find many reasons in the display of the divine character, and the vindication of the divine attributes: but we will speak only of one class of reasons why it appears to us the Lord permits this inequality to subsist, and why he preserves the distinction.
If it were not so, a very large number of the Christian graces, enumerated upon the pages of God's own Word, must remain without exercise, and could not be carried forward to their results. They would want the material whereon to work; they would want the standing place from which their efforts were to be put forth. Now, we find by the existence of these varieties of human condition—or, in other words, the existence of poverty on the one hand, and ot wealth on the other-that there is granted to the poor the opportunity of displaying the brightest and the loveliest of Gospel graces. Where should we find in the wide world so touching an exhibition of the power of faith, as when they who, having no other refuge in the whole compass of this earth, in the lonesome and unfriendly destitution of their hearts, are looking simply and alone unto
God-who are sustained by faith taking them, as it were, by the hand, and leading them through the desert wastes of the wilderness world-never suffering their footsteps to stumble, never suffering their minds to be altogether overcast; 80 that though they inay be cast down, they are not destroyed—though they may be persecuted, they are not in despair—though they may be involved in the deepest trials, yet nerer forsaken of God; but sustained by the blessed principles of faith, able to cling to him, and to hold the promise in their grasp, as their stay and staff, the rod whereon they lean.
Now, if we wanted to commend the gospel of Christ to the acceptance of the infidel, we would use the most powerful arguments with which our own research might furnish us, or which have been presented to us from the workshops of other men's minds ; but we could never hope that any argument would be more effectual than to take such an one to the bedside of an unmurmuring and uncomplaining sufferer, and then show what the despised and scorned principle of faith is able to effect. We would ask, where in all the range of human philosophy there could be found a principle to sustain the poor, forsaken, dying creature, in the midst of the deepest poverty, the most helpless destitution; and yet that there should be the radiant eye beaming with hope that we should see the sufferer departing in the extreme of all the body's woes, yet glorying in tribulation, because persuaded that tribulation worketh patience, and patience experience, and experience hope, that could not make ashamed. It is indeed the most blessed and the most glorious support of Christianity ; it is indeed the most blessed exhibition of the gospel principle, when it brings before us one thus surrounded with a large accumulation of human sorrow, battling with all distress, putting away all the influence of affliction, and standing forth in all the imparted strength of the Christian hero; never complaining, never suffering one hasty word to pass the lips; but in the midst of the fever's rage glorifying God, who, in very kindness and tenderness of fatherly affection had appointed the dispensation. At the great day of account such an one shall stand forth, and testify for God before men and angels; and while the victor in a hundred fields is forgotten, or stands forth only to be covered with shame and confusion, the destroyer of mankind instead of the provider for human misery,—when those whom men have followed with the plaudits, and the shouts of their commendation, will call on the mountains to hide them from the wrath of the Lainb—the warrior, the blood-stained man, who will wish that he had rather never existed than have existed for blood-shed,—the Christian hero, the cottage hero, those who, in their own quiet, unobserved, and unmarked circle, have maintained a long conflict with the host of sorrows that have come in on them, and with the enemies of their souls who are pressing them to despair-they stand forth, and bear witness to what God hath done ; and their voice shall be heard extolling grace-free, sovereign grace, which first looked on them in their state of misery and helplessness, and which held them in, as the chosen and elect of God's Spirit, in all their trials, and brought them at the last, robed in white, and with the anthem of thanksgiving in their mouths, to dwell for ever with Him who redeemed them.
If we knew more of the history of the poor, we should know that in their experience is written out one of the brightest pages of God's providence. We should find many an one able to testify that, in the days of lowest and deepest
extremity, days when the clouds seemed to have overcast all the brightness of the day-then God interposed; and, just as he fed his servant of old by means of ravens, so has he maintained many a perishing Christian, in the midst of poverty and suffering, when he seemed almost beyond the reach of hope. We could tell you of many such a history, but we ask you to go yourselves to the homes of the poor; and you will not go in vain; for you will learn there this lesson-that God interposes for his dear children in the hour of their deepest destitution, in the season of their heaviest and blackest sorrow. It is, indeed, a noble exemplification of this great principle, when the mother can look around on her children, destitute, as she believes, for the day, of the bread that they want to sustain the body, still looking to the fulfilment of God's providence; and though days and years have passed, and every prayer may not seem to have had its complete accomplishment, still trusting God, knowing that in his own good time, relief shall come, and content to say, "It is the Lord, he doeth all things well;" to look upon her poor destitute children, and, in the midst of the deep anxieties of a mother's heart, to be able to say, in submissiveness to her God and Saviour, "The Lord will provide.”
We now turn to the converse of the matter, and see how, on the other hand, God has made provision, and furnished, as it were, materials for the exercise of the graces of the Christian character.
There is a plain and a palpable duty laid on the poor: and some of us are ready enough to lift the latch of the cottage-door, and to go into the alley amongst the poorest and the most destitute, and preach to them of resignation, and submission, and dependence upon Providence; but we should remember, on our own side, the responsibility which is laid upon us, to remember that, conversely, God hath appointed poverty that the rich may have the opportunity of exercising some blessed graces. How could we practise self-denial-how could we practise that which stands at the very root of all Christian graces, and all the holiness of the Gospel-unless there were some to whom we might apply the fruits of our self-denial? And it is a fine spectacle when this is so applied that we are content to pare down our own personal enjoyments; when we abstract, uncomplainingly, willingly, rejoicingly, and as a privilege, one by one from what we have believed in other times to be almost the necessaries of life. It is a fine spectacle, indeed, when the Gospel seduces its disciples from their own warm fire-side, from their own luxuriously furnished homes, to the abodes of the poor, where there is pinching poverty to relieve, where there is sickness to which they may minister the cup of relief, where there is spiritual destitution and despondency to which they may speak the words of heaven's own comfort.
But it is time I leave the generalities of the subject, for more special matter. There exists in this neighbourhood, and very near to your own doors, such a mass of poverty, such an amount of want, so much of spiritual darkness, and destitution, as I believe has entered into the conception of very few amongst us. I would just notice one circumstance, which at present has very much increased the claims of the poor upon us; I mean the alterations in the Poor Laws. That some change should take place seemed, indeed, a reasonable and prudent thing; for we believe the late system was, of all others, the most ingeniously devised for making the rich give without clarity, and the poor receive without thankfulness. We believe the operation of the former system was, in almost
every case, to check and to hinder the out-goings of social benevolence, and of family and relative kindness; so that the rich disregarded the poor, because his sustenance was laid on him as a burden from which he could not escape ; and we believe also that families had the ties of natural kindness rent asunder-the parent disregarded the child, the child the parent, the brother the sister, and the sister the brother ; just for this reason—that the removal of porerty, and the bestowment of comfort, were laid on others than those to whom it ought to have belonged : and we believe the poor have already come to the conclusion, that their own condition will be greatly benefited when they are permitted to take their labour fairly into the market, when they are unconstrained by the alms which the former system allotted to them. But during the transition state, there must be a great deal of painful suffering. Those who have been born and educated all their life long in dependence on a system which now fails them, must, at least for the present, incur a much larger amount of trial. Therefore, on this ground, we make a special appeal to you.
But if, because of those things, you go forth, and, from the very impulse of kindness, are ready to scatter your wealth to every one who asks, the consequence would be, that, in giving to the clamorous beggar on the highway, you would leave many a poor child of want and woe, many a dear Christian pining in poverty, who never told his tale into your ear, and never presented his misery to your sight. You tell me, perhaps, that though you can give your money, you are so occupied with the claims of your family circle that you cannot go to the homes of the poor that you cannot choose the proper objects from the supplicants of your bounty. That is the reason why we ask you to give to-day, and to give liberally, according to the means God has bestowed upon you.
But if we were only to take of your silver and your gold, and distribute to those who have need, though we should do something, it would be little in comparison with the gift of spiritual bread. When we go to administer relief, we desire to go in the name of our Master—to speak of Jesus, and of his Gospel. We tell those whom we relieve, of another world, of the treasures of salvation that are offered to the poorest; and that, by embracing its offers, they may hereafter attain that happy state where poverty shall cease, where the rich and the
poor shall be together in the presence of Him who made them both. 0 may we all be there! I believe that even the joys of heaven will be enlarged, if we see, on our right hand and on our left, those to whom we went forth, first. to minister temporal relief, and then were permitted, under God's blessing, to speak persuasively of the treasures of salvation—if we see them there, singing the songs of thanksgiving with ourselves, and enjoying the presence of Him who hath called us both to everlasting life. Poverty and pain will be then no
“They shall hunger no inore, neither thirst any more, neither shall the sun light on them, nor any heat. For the Lamb which is in the midst of the throne shall feed them, and shall lead them unto living fountains of water · ana God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes."
THE SUPREME IMPORTANCE OF THE SOUL.
REV. W. DEaltry, d.d.
CLAPHAM CHURCH, JANUARY 18, 1835.
"For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?"—MATTHEW, xvi. 26.
FEW duties are more earnestly urged by the writers of the New Testament, than that of self-denial. So contrary are our inclinations to the law of God and the spirit of the Gospel, that, if we would be disciples of Jesus Christ, we must hold continual conflict with the natural desires and propensities of the mind: so little, also, is true religion accommodated to the general views and maxims of the world, that, while prosecuting the great work of our salvation, we must expect opposition, and be prepared to meet it.
In the verses immediately preceding our text, our Lord inculcates the duty just mentioned, in very decisive and remarkable terms. According to another evangelist, he called the people unto him, with his disciples," as if he had something of peculiar importance to communicate; " and he said unto them, whosoever will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. For whosoever shall save his life shall lose it; but whosoever shall lose his life for my sake and the gospel's, the same shall find it." It is with the view of enforcing this declaration, and of suggesting an irresistible motive for obedience, that he appeals to them in the words of the text: "For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?" It is my intention to press this inquiry on the present occasion: and, with this view, let us in the first place, endeavour to explain the passage; and, secondly, to offer some remarks in the way of application.
The question is concerning THE IMPORTANCE OF THE SOUL. In speaking of the soul, there is no need that we should enter into any profound or difficult discussion: whatever it behoves us to know on this subject lies within a narrow compass, and is plainly revealed to us in the Word of God. Without this animating principle within us, what is all the dignity of man? "God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and man became a living soul." Whereas we look at the human frame, this earthly tabernacle of the body, as a part only of the material creation, and which must soon return to its original state; "earth to earth, ashes to ashes, and dust to dust:" the soul, we find, has a nobler origin; it seems to claim immediate connexion with Him who is emphatically styled, "the Father of