« הקודםהמשך »
you are the better resolved and furnished for a godly, exemplary, fruitful life.
One thing more I will warn some parents of; who send their sons to travel to keep them from untimely marrying, lest they have part of their estate too soon : that there are other means better than this, which prudence may find out: if they would keep them low, from fulness and idleness, and bad company, (which a wise, self-denying, diligent man may do, but another cannot,) and engage them to as much study and business (conjunct) as they can well perform, and when they must needs marry, let it be done with prudent, careful choice; and learn themselves to live somewhat lower, that they may spare that which their son must have, this course would be better than that hazardous one in question.
Tit. 1. Motives and Directions against Oppression.
OPPREssion is the injuring of inferiors, who are unable to resist, or to right themselves ; when men use power to bear down right. Yet all is not oppression which is so called by the poor, or by inferiors that suffer: for they are apt to be partial in their own cause as well as others. There may be injustice in the expectations of the poor, as well as the actions of the rich. Some think they are oppressed, if they be justly punished for their crimes; and some say they are oppressed, if they have not their wills, and unjust desires, and may not be suffered to injure their superiors: and many of the poor do call all that oppression, which they suffer from any that are above them, as if it were enough to prove it an injury, because a rich man doth it; but yet oppression is a very common and a heinous sin". w There are as many ways of oppressing others, as there are advantages to men of power against them. But the principal are these following. 1. The most common and heinous sort is the malignant injuries and cruelties of the ungodly against men that will not be as indifferent in the matters of God and salvation as themselves; and that will not be of their opinions in religion, and be as bold with sin, and as careless of their souls as they. These are hated, reproached, slandered, abused, and some way or other persecuted commonly wherever they live throughout the world. But of this sort of oppression I have spoken before. 2. A second sort is the oppression of the subjects by their rulers; either by unrighteous laws, or cruel executions, or unjust impositions or exactions, laying on the people greater taxes, tributes or servitude, than the common good requireth, and than they are able well to bear. Thus did Pharaoh oppress the Israelites, till their groans brought down God's vengeance on him. But I purposely forbear to meddle with the sins of magistrates. 3. Soldiers also are too commonly guilty of the most inhuman, barbarous oppressions; plundering the poor countrymen, and domineering over them, and robbing them of the fruit of their hard labours, and of the bread which they should maintain their families with, and taking all that they can lay hold on as their own. But (unless it be a few that are a wonder in the world) this sort of men are so barbarous and inhuman, that they will neither read nor regard any counsel that I shall give them. (No man describeth them better than Erasmus.) 4. The oppression of servants by their masters I have said enough to before: and among us, where servants are free to change for better masters, it is not the most common sort of oppression; but rather servants are usually negligent and unfaithful, because they know that they are free : (except in the case of apprentices). 5. It is too common a sort of oppression for the rich in all places to domineer too insolently over the poor, and force them to follow their wills, and to serve their interest be it right or wrong: so that it is rare to meet with a poor man that dare displease the rich, though it be in a cause where God and conscience do require it. If a rich man wrong them, they dare not seek their remedy at law, because he will tire them out by the advantage of his friends and wealth ; and either carry it against them, be his cause never so unjust, or lengthen the suit till he hath undone them, and forced them to submit to his oppressing will. 6. Especially unmerciful landlords are the common and sore oppressors of the countrymen: if a few men can but get money enough to purchase all the land in a country, they think that they may do with their own as they list, and set such hard bargains of it to their tenants, that they are all but as their servants, yea, and live a more troublesome life than servants do; when they have laboured hard all the year, they can scarce scrape up enough to pay their landlord's rent; their necessities are so urgent, that they have not so much as leisure, to pray morning or evening in their families, or to read the Scriptures, or any good book; nor scarce any room in their thoughts for any holy things: their minds are so distracted with necessities and cares, that even on the Lord's day, or at a time of prayer, they can hardly keep their minds intent upon the sacred work which they have in hand : if the freest minds have much ado to keep their thoughts in seriousness and order, in meditation, or in the worshipping of God ; how hard must it needs be to a poor oppressed man, whose body is tired with wearisome labours, and his mind distracted with continual cares, how to pay his rent, and how to have food and raiment for his family 2 How unfit is such a troubled, discontented person, to live in thankfulness to God, and in his joyful praises 2 Abundance of the voluptuous great ones of the world, do use their tenants and servants, but as their beasts, as if they had been made only to labour and toil for them, and it were their chief felicity to fulfil their will, and live upon their favour. Direct. 1. ‘The principal means to overcome this sin, is to understand the greatness of it.” For the flesh persuadeth carnal men, to judge of it according to their selfish interest, and not according to the interest of others, nor according to the true principles of charity and equity; and so they justify themselves in their oppression. Consid. 1. That oppression is a sin not only contrary to Christian charity and self-denial, but even to humanity itself. We are all made of one earth, and have souls of the same kind; there is as near a kindred betwixt all mankind, as a specifical identity: as between one sheep, one dove, one
potest, facere videtur. Salust. in Jugurth.
angel and another: as between several drops of the same water, and several sparks of the same fire ; which have a natural tendency to union with each other. And as it is an inhuman thing for one brother to oppress another, or one member of the same body to set up a proper interest of its own, and make all the rest, how painfully soever, to serve that private interest: so is it for those men who are children of the same Creator. Much more for them who account themselves members of the same Redeemer, and brethren in Christ by grace and regeneration, with those whom they oppress. “Have we not all one Father? Hath not one God created us? Why do we deal treacherously every man against his brother, by profaning the covenant of our fathers"?” “If we must not lie to one another, because we are members one of another ".” “And if all the members must have the same care of one another";” surely then they must not oppress one another.
2. An oppressor is an antichrist and an antigod; he is contrary to God, who delighteth to do good, and whose bounty maintaineth all the world; who is kind to his enemies, and causeth his sun to shine, and his rain to fall on the just and on the unjust ; and even when he afflicteth doth it as unwillingly, delighting not to grieve the sons of men". He is contrary to Jesus Christ, who gave himself a ransom for his enemies, and made himself a curse to redeem them from the curse, and condescended in his incarnation to the nature of man, and in his passion to the cross and suffering which they deserved; and being rich and Lord of all, yet made himself poor, that we by his poverty might be made rich. He endured the cross and despised the shame, and made himself as of no reputation, accounting it his honour and joy to be the Saviour of men's souls, even of the poor and despised of the world. And these oppressors live as if they were made to afflict the just, and to rob them of God's mercies, and to make crosses for other men to bear, and to tread on their brethren as stepping stones of their own advancement. The Holy Ghost is the Comforter of the just and faithful. And these men live as if it were their calling to deprive men of their comfort.
b Mal. ii. 10. • Ephes. iv. 25 a 1 Cor. xii. 25.
e Psal. cxlv. Matt. v. Lam. iii.
3. Yea, an oppressor is not only the agent of the devil but his image: it is the devil that is the destroyer, and the devourer, who maketh it his business to undo men, and bring them into misery and distress. He is the grand oppressor of the world : yet in this he is far short of the malignity of men-devils, 1. That he doth it not by force and violence, but by deceit, and hurteth no man till he hath procured his own consent to sin; whereas our oppressors do it by their brutish force and power. 2. And the devil destroyeth men, who are not his brethren, nor of the same kind; but these oppressors never stick at the violating of such relations.
4. Oppression is a sin that greatly serveth the devil, to the damning of men's souls, as well as to the afflicting of their bodies. And it is not a few, but millions that are undone by it. For as I shewed before, it taketh up men's minds and time so wholly, to get them a poor living in the world, that they have neither mind nor time for better things. They are so troubled about many things, that the one thing needful is laid aside. All the labours of many a worthy, able pastor, are frustrated by oppressors: to say nothing of the far greatest part of the world, where the tyranny and oppression of heathen infidels and Mahometan princes, keepeth out the Gospel, and the means of life; nor yet of any other persecutors: if we exhort a servant to read the Scriptures, and call upon God, and think of his everlasting state, he telleth us that he hath no time to do it, but when his weary body must have rest: if we desire the masters of families to instruct and catechise their children and servants, and pray with them, and read the Scriptures and other good books to them, they tell us the same, that they have no time, but when they should sleep, and that on the Lord's day their tired bodies, and careful minds, are unfit to attend and ply such work: so that necessity quieteth their consciences in their ignorance and neglect of heavenly things, and maketh them think it the work only of gentlemen and rich men, who have leisure (but are farther alienated from it by prosperity, than these are by their poverty); and thus oppression destroyeth religion, and the people's souls as well as their estates.
5. Oppression further endangereth both the souls of