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from believing or supposing any of that destructive tribe are now my hearers. I look upon them as a sort of people that seldom frequent these holy places, where they can hardly pick up any materials to serve their turn, unless they think it worth their while to misrepresent or pervert the words of the preacher: And whoever is that way disposed, I doubt, cannot be in a very good condition to edify and reform himself by what he heareth. God in his mercy preserve us from all the guilt of this grievous sin forbidden in my text, and from the snares of those who are guilty of it.
I shall conclude with one or two precepts given by Moses, from God, to the children of Israel, in the xxiiid of Exod. 1, 2.
“ Thou shalt not raise a false report: Put not thine hand with the wicked, to be an unrighteous witness.
“ Thou shalt not follow a multitude to do evil; neither shalt thou speak in a cause to decline after many, to wrest judgment.”
Now to God the Father, &c.
THE POOR MAN'S CONTENTMENT.
PHILIPPIANS, iv. 11.
I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith
to be content.
The holy scripture is full of expressions to set forth the miserable condition of man during the whole progress of his life; his weakness, pride, and vanity ; his unmeasurable desires, and perpetual disappointments; the prevalency of his passions, and the corruptions of his reason; his deluding hopes, and his real as well as imaginary fears; his natural and artificial wants; his cares and anxieties; the diseases of his body, and the diseases of his mind; the shortness of his life ; his dread of a future state, with his carelessness to prepare for it: and the wise men of all ages have made the same reflections.
But all these are general calamities, from which none are excepted; and being without remedy, it is vain to bewail them. The great question, long debated in the world, is, whether the rich or the poor are the least miserable of the two ? It is certain, that no rich man ever desired to be
poor, and that most, if not all poor men, desire to be rich ; whence it may be argued, that, in all appearance, the advantage lieth on the side of wealth, because both parties agree in preferring it before poverty. But this reasoning will be found to be false; for I lay it down as a certain truth, that God Almighty hath placed all men upon an equal foot, with respect to their happiness in this world, and the capacity of attaining their salvation in the next; or, at least, if there be any difference, it is not to the advantage of the rich and the mighty. Now, since a great part of those who usually make up our congregations are not of considerable station, and many among them of the lower sort, and since the meaner people are generally and justly charged with the sin of repining and murmuring at their own condition, to which, however, their betters are sufficiently subject (although, perhaps, for shame, not always so loud in their complaints) I thought it might be useful to reason upon this point in as plain a manner as I can. I shall therefore show, first, that the poor enjoy many temporal blessings, which are not common to the rich and the great: and likewise, that the rich and the great are subject to many temporal evils, which are not common to the
But here I would not be misunderstood; perhaps, there is not a word more abused than that of the poor, or wherein the world is more generally mistaken. Among the number of those who beg in our streets, or are half-starved at home, or languish in prison for debt, there is hardly one in a hundred who doth not owe his
misfortunes to his own laziness, or drunkenness, or worse vices,
To these he owes those very diseases, which often disable him from getting his bread. Such wretches are deservedly unhappy : they can only blame themselves; and when we are commanded to have pity on the poor, these are not understood to be of the number.
It is true, indeed, that sometimes honest endeavouring men are reduced to extreme want, even to the begging of alms, by losses, by accidents, by diseases, and old
fault of their own: but these are very few in comparison of the other; nor would their support be any sensible burden to the public, if the charity of well-disposed persons were not intercepted by those common strollers, who are most importunate, and who least deserve it. These, indeed, are properly and justly called the poor, whom it should be our study to find out and distinguish, by making them partake of our superfluity and abundance.
But neither have these any thing to do with my present subject; for, by the poor, I only intend the honest industrious artificer, the meaner sort of tradesmen, and the labouring man, who getteth his bread by the sweat of his brows, in town or country, and who make the bulk of mankind among us.
First, I shall therefore show, that the poor (in
the sense I understand the word) do enjoy many temporal blessings, which are not common to the rich and great; and likewise, that the rich and great are subject to many temporal evils, which are not common to the
poor. Secondly, From the arguments offered to prove the foregoing head, I shall draw some observa. tions that may be useful for
be useful for your practice. I. As to the first: Health, we know, is generally allowed to be the best of all earthly possessions, because it is that without which we can have no satisfaction in any of the rest. For riches are of no use, if sickness taketh from us the ability of enjoying them; and power and greatness are then only a burden. Now, if we would look for health, it must be in the humble habitation of the labouring man, or industrious artificer, who earn their bread by the sweat of their brows, and usually live to a good old age, with a great degree of strength and vigour.
The refreshment of the body by sleep is another great happiness of the meaner sort, Their rest is not disturbed by the fear of thieves and robbers, nor is it interrupted by surfeits of intemperance. Labour and plain food supply the want of quieting draughts; and the wise man telleth us, that the sleep of the labouring man is sweet. As to children, which are certainly accounted of as a blessing, even to the poor, where industry is not wanting; they are an assistance to honest parents, instead of being a burden; they are healthy and strong, and fit for labour; neither is the father in fear, lest his heir should be ruined by an unequal match: nor is he solicitous about his rising in the world, farther than to be able to get his bread.
The poorer sost are not the objects of general hatred or envy; they have no twinges of ambition, nor trouble themselves with party quarrels, or state divisions. The idle rabble, who follow their ambitious leaders in such cases, do not fall within my description of the poorer sort; for it