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affiftance, if all about him were sensible that he had neither loft his substance by neglect, nor wafted it by riot, nor concealed it by fraud. But though we cannot help afcribing some measure of what is laid to the charge of persons in this unhappy ftate, to the rage and resentment of thofe who have suffered by them; yet, alas! there is too great reason to affirm, that they are too often guilty of prevarication and fraud, the fins mentioned in the text.
I will dwell no longer upon the fact, but will consider a little the reasons of it, which will directly serve to promote the design of this difcourse, by exciting men to concern and solicitude, as well as pointing out the proper means of avoiding the temptation. The general reason of this, to be sure, is obvious to every body, that persons in poverty, being strongly folicited by the appetites common to all men, and not having of their own wherewith to gratify their defires, are tempted to lay hold of the property of others. They grudge to fee that others have the enjoyments from which they are debarred; and fince they 'cannot have them in a lawful, make bold to seize them in an unlawful way. But this I do not insist on, that I may mention one or two particular reafons, which will suggest fuitable exhortations to duty.
1. The first I shall mention, is ignorance. This is peculiarly applicable to thofe in the lowest sanks of life. Through poverty they are not so well instructed, as they ought to be, in the principles of religion, and the great rules of duty. An ignorant state is almost always a state of fecurity. Their consciences are less tender, and they are less sensible of the great evil of prevarication and fraud. I am obliged, in fidelity, to say, that in the private inspection of my charge, though I have found some instances both of poverty and fickness borne with the most pious resignation; there are also fome whose condition might move the hardest heart, living in the most fordid poverty, grossly ignorant, and, at the same time, so difpirited, fo flothful, or so proud, that they will do little to obtain knowledge for themselves, or communicate it to their children. Many will not attend upon the public means of instruction, because they cannot appear in such a decent garb as they could wish ; and for the same reafon they keep their children from them, till they contract such habits of idleness and vice, that they come out into the world without principle, obstinate and untractable. Is not the duty here very plain? All such fhould exert themselves to obtain the knowledge of the things which belong to their peace. They should neither be unwilling nor afhamed to make application for supply; and even the coarsest raiment should not hinder them from appearing in the house of God. Thus they will find acceptance with him, if they worship him in the beauty of holiness, preferably to those who are
cloathed in purple and fine linen, and whose hearts are after their covetousness.
2. Another great reason why poverty becomes a temptation to fraud is, that they are introduced to it insensibly, and led on by degrees. The fin steals upon their by little and little. People involved in their circumstances, to get rid of importunity and solicitation, make promifes more of what they hope or wish, than of what they are able to do. Necessity serves as an excuse for their failing to their own minds, and thus they aré gradually brought into a breach of fincerity, and proceed from lower to higher degrees of falsehood. Lit. tle arts of evafion are firft made use of, and doubtfal practices are entered upon. One fin seems necessary to strengthen or conceal another, till at last the grofseft fraud, and sometimes perjury itfelf, closes the unhappy scene. I have read an excel. lent observation, that there is hardly such a thing as a single fin; they are always to be found in clusters. I am fure, this holds in a particular manner as to fins of injustice. They are so interwoven and connected together, that you cannot receive any one without being obliged to admit the rest. This is one great branch of the deceitfulness of fin in general; with a view to which the apostle says, '' But exhort one another daily, " while it is called to-day, least any of you be har' dened through the deceitfulness of fin.'
3. I only mention one other reason of poverty being a temptation to fraud, viz. that in time it
destroys destroys the sense of shame. I am not ignorant, that a sense of shame, which is nothing elfe but a fear of the cenfure of others, neither is, nor ought to be the main principle of a good man's actions. But as there is no other principle at all in many, fo it is a good affiftant and corroborative, when justly, directed : but now through the corrupt maxims of the world, poverty is so much the object of contempt, and those who are in this state, meet every day with so many marks of neglect from all, that before their condition is known, they will do almost any thing to conceal it, and after it is known, they become in time fo deftitute of shame that they are under no further restraint.
From this particular branch of the subject, let me put you in mind,
1. What reason many have to be thankful to the God of life, who hath given them their daily provifion, if not in all abundance of immense riches, yet in fulness and sufficiency. An humble, thankful difpofition is not only your duty, in return for the divine bounty, but is itfelf the richest and sweetest ingredient in all temporal mercies. It is that, indeed, which makes them mercies. Envious-perfons do not taste what they have, their evil eye being fixed on what they cannot obtain. Things in this respect are just what they feem to be. Our comforts are as we are enabled to relish them. The same pofsessions which are despised by the impatient or
ambitious, are a treasure, and abundance to the humble and grateful.
2. If poverty is a temptation, it ought to be an argument to all to avoid it, or feek deliverance from it by lawful means. Apply yourselves with feadiness and perseverance to the duties of your calling, that you may provide things honest in the light of all men. It is a duty of the law, and of the Gospel ; and it hath this promise in general annexed to it, that the hand of the
diligent maketh rich.' Read, I beseech you, that vast treasure of useful instruction, the book of Proverbs, where you will meet with many excellent counsels and wise observations upon this subject. Of these I shall mention at present but two passages, felected both for the foundness of the instruction, and the beauty of the illustration. Go to the ant, thou fluggard, consider
her ways and be wise ; which having no guide,
overfeer, or ruler, provideth her meat in the * summer, and gathereth her food in the harvest.
How long wilt thou fleep, Ofluggard? When wilt thou arise out of thy sleep? So shall thy poverty come as one that travelleth, and thy want as an armed man.' And again : 'I went by the field of the flothful, and by the vine
yard of the man void of understanding ; and lo ' it was all grown over with thorns, and nettles • had covered the face thereof, and the stonewall thereof was broken down.' 3. Are any of you poor and reduced in your