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is plain, I mean only the honest industrious poor in town or country, who are safest in times of public disturbance, in perilous seasons, and public revolutions, if they will be quiet, and do their business; for artificers and husbandmen are necessary in all governments : but, in such seasons, the rich are the public mark, because they are oftentimes of no use but to be plundered ; like some sort of birds, who are good for nothing but their feathers; and so fall a prey to the strongest side.
Let us proceed, on the other side, to examine the disadvantages that the rich and the great lie under, with respect to the happiness of the present life.
First then; While health, as we have said, is the general portion of the lower sort, the gout, the dropsy, the stone, the cholic, and all other diseases, are continually haunting the palaces of the rich and the great, as the natural attendants upon laziness and luxury. Neither does the rich man eat his sumptuous fare with half the appetite and relish, that even the beggars do the crumbs which fall from his table : but, on the contrary, he is full of loathing and disgust, or at best of indifference, in the midst of plenty. Thus their intemperance shortens their lives, without pleasing their appetites.
Business, fear, guilt, design, anguish, and vexation, are continually buzzing about the curtains of the rich and the powerful, and will hardly suffer them to close their eyes, unless when they are dozed with the fumes of strong liquors.
It is a great mistake to imagine that the rich want but few things; their wants are more numerous, more craving, and urgent, than those of poorer men : for these endeavour only at the ne
cessaries of life, which make them happy, and they think no farther : but the desire of power and wealth is endless, and therefore impossible to be satisfied with any acquisitions.
If riches were so great a blessing as they are commonly thought, they would at least have this advantage, to give their owners cheerful hearts and countenances; they would often stir them up to express their thankfulness to God, and discover their satisfaction to the world. But, in fact, the contrary to all this is true. For, where are there more cloudy brows, more melancholy hearts, or more ingratitude to their great Benefactor, than among those who abound in wealth ? And indeed, it is natural that it should be so, because those men, who covet things that are hard to be got, must be hard to please; whereas a small thing maketh a poor man happy; and great losses cannot befal him.
It is likewise worth considering, how few among the rich have procured their wealth by just measures. How many owe their fortunes to the sins of their parents, how many more to their own ? If men's titles were to be tried before a true court of conscience, where false swearing, and a thousand vile artifices (that are well known, and can hardly be avoided in human courts of justice) would avail nothing; how many would be ejected with infamy and disgrace! How many grow considerable by breach of trust, by bribery and corruption? how many have sold their religion, with the rights and liberties of themselves and others, for power and employments?
And it is a mistake to think, that the most hardened sinner, who oweth his possessions or titles to any such wicked arts of thieving, can have true peace of mind, under the reproaches of a
guilty conscience, and amid the cries of ruined widows and orphans.
I know not one real advantage that the rich have over the poor, except the power of doing good to others; but this is an advantage which God hath not given wicked men the grace to make use of. The wealth acquired by evil means was never employed to good ends : for that would be to divide the kingdom of Satan against itself. Whatever hath been gained by fraud, avarice, oppression, and the like, must be preserved and increased by the same methods.
I shall add but one thing more upon this head, which I hope will convince you, that God (whose thoughts are not as our thoughts) never intended riches or power to be necessary for the happiness of mankind in this life; because it is certain, that there is not one single good quality of the mind absolutely necessary to obtain them, where men are resolved to be rich at any rate; neither honour, justice, temperance, wisdom, religion, truth, nor learning; for a slight acquaintance of the world will inform us, that there have been many instances of men, in all ages, who have arrived at great possessions and great dignities, by cunning, fraud, or flattery, without any of these, or any other virtues that can be named. Now, if riches and greatness were such blessings, that good men without them could not have their share of happiness in this life; how cometh it to pass, that God should suffer them to be often dealt to the worst, and most profligate of mankind; that they should be generally procured by the most abominable means, and applied to the basest and most wicked uses? This ought not to be conceived of a just, a merciful, a wise, and almighty Being. We must therefore conclude, that wealth
and power are in their own nature, at best, but things indifferent, and that a good man may
be equally happy without them; provided that he hath a sufficiency of the common blessings of human life to answer all the reasonable and virtuous demands of nature, which his industry will provide, and sobriety will prevent his wanting.– Agur's prayer, with the reasons of his wish, are full to this purpose :
“Give me neither poverty nor riches. Feed me with food convenient for me; lest I be full and deny thee, and say, Who is the Lord ? or lest I be poor and steal, and take the name of my God in vain.”
From what hath been said, I shall, in the second place, offer some considerations, that may be useful for your practice.
And here, I shall apply myself chiefly to those of the lower sort, for whose comfort and satisfaction this discourse is principally intended. For, having observed the great sin of those who do not .abound in wealth, to be that of murmuring and repining, that God hath dealt his blessings unequally to the sons of men, I thought it would be of great use to remove out of your minds so false and wicked an opinion, by showing that your condition is really happier than most of you imagine.
First, therefore, it hath been always agreed in the world, that the present happiness of mankind consisted in the ease of our body, and the quiet of our mind; but, from what hath been already said, it plainly appears, that neither wealth nor power do in any sort contribute to either of these two blessings. If, on the contrary, by multiply ing our desires, they increase our discontents ; if they destroy our health, gall us with painful dis
eases, and shorten 'our life; if they expose us to hatred, to envy, to censure, to a thousand temptations, it is not easy to see why a wise man sliould make them his choice, for their own sake, although it were in his power. Would any of you who are in health and strength of body, with moderate food and raiment, earned by your own labour, rather choose to be in the rich man's bed, under the torture of the gout, unable to take your natural rest, or natural nourishment, with the additional load of a guilty conscience, reproaching you for injustice, oppressions, covetousness and fraud ? No; but you would take the riches and power, and leave behind the inconveniencies that attend them; and so would every man living. But that is more than our share, and God never intended this world for such a place of rest as we would make it; for the scripture assureth us that it was only designed as a place of trial. Nothing is more frequent than a man to wish himself in another's condition; yet he seldom doth it without some reserve: he would not be so old; he would not be so sickly; he would not be so cruel; he would not be so insolent; he would not be so vicious; he would not be so oppressive, so griping, and so on. Whence it is plain, that, in their own judgment, men are not so unequally dealt with as they would at first sight imagine ; for if I would not change my condition with another man, without any exception or reservation at all, I am in reality more happy than he.
Secondly, You of the meaner sort are subject to fewer temptations than the rich; and therefore your vices are more unpardonable. Labour subdueth
your appetites to be satisfied with common things; the business of your several callings filleth