|Vol. IV, No. 4
Tamuz 5606, July 1846
By A Moralizing Layman.
My Dear Readers,— You will find the text, selected for the present occasion, in the 23d verse, 9th chapter of Jeremiah:
“Thus saith the Lord, Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom; neither let the mighty man glory in his might; let not the rich man glory in his riches.”
The principal intention of this strong admonition is to guard us from a dependence upon earthly things, as sources of comfort and happiness in this life, or as sureties of bliss in the eternity which is to follow. It is told to us, that we may know and feel, that although wisdom, strength, and riches are great blessings, yet their good exists not abstractedly in themselves, but in the great uses to which they are applied. If we pervert the possession of them to improper ends; if we basely forget the obligations imposed on us, as holding gifts so precious; if, instead of improving the condition of the children of men, by their employment, we lavish upon ourselves their force and power—then will they, great gifts though they be, turn into curses, and we will repent in bitterness the hour which first taught us their possession.
It is unfortunately too true, that the aspect which the world presents, shows the existence of a state of things far different from that to which you are here admonished. Every thing that surrounds us is of “the earth earthy:” the proper objects of life seem apparently to be lost in the pursuit of wealth and station; and the holy impulses of our nature, the better portion of our creation, which “was made in the image of God” when into us was breathed the breath of life, seem stifled and overpowered, their voice unheard amid the conflict of excited passions, roused for self-aggrandizement. Behold! day after day glides rapidly along, week after week courses down the stream, year follows year to the grave of the past; and yet on, on we toil in the came unceasing and ceaseless path—the goal not yet won, riches not attained, wisdom not yet achieved. The infant is born, and grows up a smiling child; and when in simplicity and guileless innocence it would seek for playmates amidst the childish throng, the accursed admonition of factitious distinction checks the spontaneous kindness of the young heart, and bids it shrink from an unequal companionship. In school, he beholds the lines drawn yet more plainly and palpably; and the mind which in infancy first learned the sophisticated lesson, drinks still deeper at the poisoned fount—and the plastic soul, that would have teemed with virtue and gloried in deeds of immortality, thus turns its gave upon the world with an ambition whose sole glory is companionship with the mighty. Thus through each succeeding year, the passion and the hope increase, until all other purer feelings are wrecked, all energies merged in this unholy purpose, the rich and glowing beauties of life are desecrated in the dedicating of our powers to the accumulation of wealth and distinction.
How short-sighted are those who thus labour, and how offending to the Deity! The glorious privileges of life were never given to us to be thus abused; and they who trust to so frail a dependence, will find it out too late to their bitter cost. Under the best circumstances, we can never forget that these objects of our strife are as evanescent as the fleeting wind; that when we fancy “full surely that our honours are ripening, there comes a frost,” and we fall to rise no more. He that gave us riches and strength, can take them back; but a good conscience, a virtuous heart, a life rich in the practice of the precepts of our holy religion,—of these we cannot be deprived—they are our title-deeds to heaven. Though the wealthy may revel in their luxury; though they pass their poorer brethren with scorn and contumely; though their souls are elevated in pride to the loftiest height of foolish arrogance and pomp:—comfort thyself, my poor, broken-hearted friend, for thy riches are far above theirs, far above the poor joys of earth. In robes of righteousness thou shalt be clothed; in vestments of purity shalt thou be arrayed; and in realms of bliss and light shalt thou dwell eternally, for ever.
My dear reader, if it is thy lot to be the possessor of earthly wealth, take deep into thy contemplation the words prefixed to these remarks. Remember that thou art only the almoner of Another’s bounty, for the dispensing of which thou hast yet to render a strict account. The agency may be taken from thee at a moment’s warning. Reflect that in the records of thy own experience, many, from the heights of affluence, have been cast down to the depths of poverty and affliction. Remember, that in a few weeks; mighty fortunes have melted away like ice before the sun at noonday; and let these thoughts teach thee to use the riches bestowed of Heaven with a charitable hand, and still more with a charitable heart. Glory not in their possessions but let thy walk in life be as humble and as meek as the poor and lonely one, who, amidst affliction and distress, yet walks in humble resignation to the will of heaven. For we are not always tried by affliction; and prosperity often shows more truly the innate deformity of our hearts than the depths of degradation.
But let not this warning be so construed, that none save the rich should heed it; for there are none exempt from its influence and power. In our limited sphere, each one has space and verge enough for the administration of his bounty; and let not the limit render us forgetful of the duty. To the heart and not the outward man is the scrutiny of Heaven directed; and before that gaze, the pomp and parade of ostentatious charity will shrink and wither in oblivion. The deeds of benevolence blazoned forth by sycophancy to the world, may never reach the registry of Heaven; whilst the quiet, unobtrusive acts, which true charity dictates, find a record, and return to earth with blessed influences.
To conclude, then. Glory not in your possessions, ye that are rich in heaven’s gifts; but receive with deep humility the boon he has conferred; and strive so to fulfil your duty, that it may be continued unto you for good; whilst those, whose melancholy lot it has proved to dwell amidst poverty and want, with the iron hand of distress bearing them down in sorrow and in sadness to the cold grave—let their drooping souls be comforted with the sweet assurance, that in other realms riches and glory await them, to which the world’s vanities are mere shadows, but amidst the glorious realities of which their souls shall dwell for ever.
Note.—We assure our friend and correspondent, that if he succeed always as well as he has done in the above in calling up the true emotions of a pious heart, he shall find the Occident open for his contributions, and receive our thanks, and we doubt not those of our readers.—Ed. Oc.