The prosperity of
(William Secker, "The Consistent Christian" 1660)
"For I envied the arrogant—when I saw the prosperity of the wicked." Psalm 73:3
We should never judge the inward conditions of men—by the outward dispensations of God. The greatness of our estates—is no argument of the goodness of our hearts. To prize ourselves by what we have—and not by what we are; is to estimate the value of the jewel—by the box which contains it. Grace and gold can live together; but the smallest degree of grace in the heart—is preferable to a thick chain of gold around the neck.
Lest riches should be accounted evil in themselves—God sometimes gives them to the righteous; and lest they should be considered as the chief good—He frequently bestows them on the wicked. But they are more generally the portion of God's enemies—than His friends.
Here on earth, it is sometimes evil with the righteous—and well with the wicked. Those who live most upon God, sometimes fare worst from the world. You cannot read the wrath of God—in the black lines of adversity; or the love of God—in the white lines of prosperity.
God often gives a full cup of temporal blessings to wicked men—though there are dregs at the bottom! They may be fruitful vines—and yet only laden with sour grapes. It is seldom that the sparkling diamond of a great estate—is set in the golden ring of a pious heart. Riches have made many good men—worse; but they never made any bad man—better.
Though a Christian is made happy in the world—yet he is not made happy by the world. There are many who are temporally happy, who will be eternally miserable; and many are now temporally miserable, who will be eternally happy.
"God causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good—and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous." Matthew 5:45. The sun of prosperity shines upon the dunghill—as well as upon beds of spices. The rain of adversity falls upon the fruitful garden—as well as the barren wilderness. The abundance of the infidel is a golden chain—to bind him to the earth; and the apparent miseries of the believer are as fiery chariots—to convey him to heaven!
If we look for a saint, he is not always to be found upon a bed of down—but sometimes he has been seen on a heap of dust. Poor Lazarus rises up to heaven—and rich Dives sinks down to hell. We must not infer the absence of God's affections—from the presence of numerous afflictions. A saint is glorious in his misery—but a sinner is miserable amidst all his glory.
"Judge nothing according to appearance—but judge righteous judgment." That apple which has the fairest skin—may have the rottenest core. The most choice pearls—are often enclosed in the most hideous shells.
"Deliver my soul from the wicked—who have their portion in this life." Psalm 17:14. The things of the world—are the only happiness of the men of the world. A man's estate in this world may be great—and yet his state for the eternal world may be fearful. God may say to him as to Pharaoh, "For this purpose have I raised you up—that I might show My power upon you." The same hand which now pours abundance on ungodly men like oil—will soon pour down wrath upon them like fire! Under all their wealth—their hearts are sinful; and after all the riches have fled—their situation will be doleful!