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men, and the public peace, and the safety of princes, by tempting the poor multitude into discontents, sedition and insurrections: every man is naturally a lover of himself above others: and the poor, as well as the rich and rulers have an interest of their own which ruleth them; and they will hardly honour, or love, or think well of them by whom they suffer: it is as natural almost for a man under oppression, to be discontented and complain, as for a man in a fever to complain of sickness, heat and thirst. No kingdom on earth is so holy and happy as to have all or most of the subjects such confirmed, eminent saints, as will be contented to be undone, and will love and honour those that undo them. Therefore men must be taken as they are: if “oppression maketh wise men mad ‘,” much more the multitude, who are far from wisdom. Misery maketh men desperate, when they think that they cannot be much worse than they are. How many kingdoms have been thus fired, (as wooden wheels will be, when one part rubbeth too hard and long upon the other). Yea, if the prince be never so good and blameless, the cruelty of the nobles and the rich men of the land, may have the same effects. And in these combustions, the peace of the kingdom, the lives and souls of the seditious are made a sacrifice to the lusts of the oppressors. Direct. 11. “Consider with fear how oppression turneth the groans and cries of the poor, to the God of revenge against the oppressors.’ And go to that man that hath the tears and prayers of oppressed innocents, sounding the alarm to vindictive justice, to awake for their relief. “And shall not God avenge his own elect, which cry day and night to him, though he bear long with them? I tell you, that he will avenge them speedily'.” “The Lord will be a refuge to the oppressed ".” “To judge the fatherless and the oppressed, that the man of the earth may no more oppress".” “ The Lord executeth righteousness and judgment for all that are oppressed'.” Yea, God is doubly engaged to be revenged upon oppressors, and hath threatened a special execution of his judgment against them above most other sinners: partly as it is an act of mercy and re
• Eccles. vii. 7. f Luke xviii. 7, 8. s Psal. ix. 9. h Psal. x. 18. * Psal. ciii. 6. cxlvi. 7. A. A
v O L. W 1.
lief to the oppressed; so that the matter of threatening and vengeance to the oppressor, is the matter of God's promise and favour to the sufferers: and partly as it is an act of his vindictive justice against such as so heinously break his laws. The oppressor hath indeed his time of power, and in that time the oppressed seem to be forsaken and neglected of God; as if he did not hear their cries; but when his patience hath endured the tyranny of the proud, and his wisdom hath tried the patience of the sufferers, to the determined time; how speedily and terribly then doth vengeance overtake the oppressors, and make them warnings to those that follow them. In the hour of the wicked and of the power of darkness Christ himself was oppressed and afflicted: and “in his humiliation hisjudgment was taken away ..” But how quickly did the destroying revenge overtake those bloody zealots, and how grievous is the ruin which they lie under to this day, which they thought by that same murder to have escaped ? Solomon saith, he “considered all the oppressions that are under the sun, and behold the tears of such as were oppressed, and they had no comforter; and on the side of the oppressors there was power, but they had no comforter'.” Which made him praise the dead and the unborn. But yet he that goeth with David into the sanctuary, and seeth the end of the oppressors, shall perceive them set in slippery places, and tumbling down to destruction in a moment". The Israelites in Egypt seemed long to groan and cry in vain; but when the determinate time of their deliverance came, God saith, “I have surely seen the affliction of my people, and have heard their cry by reason of their task-masters; for I know their sorrows : and I am come down to deliver them.—— Behold the cry of the children of Israel is come up unto me, and I have also seen the oppression wherewith the Egyptians oppress them ".” “The Egyptians evil entreated us, and laid upon us hard bondage, and when we cried to the Lord God of our fathers, the Lord heard our voice, and looked on our affliction, and our labour, and our oppression ".” “For the oppression of the poor, for the sighing of the needy, now will I arise, saith the Lord ; I will set him in safety from him that puffeth at him (or would ensnare him). Thou shalt keep them, O Lord, thou shalt preserve them from this generation for ever".” “Trust not therefore in oppression".” For God is the avenger and his plagues shall revenge the injuries of the oppressed. Direct. 111. “Remember what an odious name oppressors commonly leave behind them upon earth.” No sort of men are mentioned by posterity with greater hatred and contempt. For the interest of mankind directeth them hereunto, and may prognosticate it, as well as the justice of God. However the power of proud oppressors, may make men afraid of speaking to their faces what they think, yet those that are out of their reach, will pour out the bitterness of their souls against them. And when once death hath tied their cruel hands, or any judgment of God hath cast them down, and knocked out their teeth, how freely will the distressed vent their grief; and fame will not be afraid to deliver their ugly picture to posterity, according to their desert. Methinks therefore that even pride itself should be a great help to banish oppression from the world. What an honourable name hath a Trajan, a Titus, an Antonine, an Alexander Severus! And what an odious name hath a Nero, a Caligula, a Commodus, a D’Alva, &c. Most proud men affect to be extolled, and to have a glorious name survive them when they are dead; and yet they take the course to make their memory abominable; so much doth sin contradict and disappoint the sinner's hopes Direct. iv. ‘Be not strangers to the condition or complaints of any that are your inferiors.’ It is the misery of many princes and nobles, that they are guarded about with such as keep all the lamentations of their subjects and tenants from their ears; or represent them only as the murmurings of unquiet, discontented men; so that superiors shall know no more of their inferiors' case than their attendants please; nor no more of the reproach that falleth upon themselves. Their case is to be pitied ; but the case of their inferiors more: (for it is their own wilful choice which hath imprisoned their understandings, with such informers; and it is their inexcusable negligence, which keepeth them from seeking truer information.) A good landlord will be
k Isa. liii. 7. Acts viii. ' Eccles. iv. 1.
* Psal.xxxvii. lxxiii. * Exod. iii. 7–9. ° Deut. xxvi. 6, 7.
familiar with the meanest of his tenants, and will encourage them freely to open their complaints, and will labour to inform himself, who is in poverty and distress, and how it cometh to pass; that when he hath heard all, he may understand, whether it be his own oppression or his tenants’ fault, that is the cause: when proud, self-seeking men disdain such inferior converse, and if they have servants that do but tell them their tenants have a good bargain, and are murmuring, unthrifty, idle persons, they believe them without any more inquiry, and in negligent ignorance oppress the poor. Direct. v. “Mortify your own lusts and sinful curiosity, which maketh you think that you need so much, as tempteth you to get it by oppressing others.” Know well how little is truly necessary ! And how little nature (welltaught) is contented with ! And what a privilege it is to need but little ! Pride and curiosity are an insatiable gulf. Their daily trouble seemeth to them a necessary accomodation. Such abundance must be laid out on superfluous recreations, buildings, ornaments, furniture, equipage, attendants, entertainments, visitations, braveries, and a world of need-nots, (called by the names of handsomeness, cleanliness, neatness, conveniences, delights, usefulness, honour, civilities, comeliness, &c.) So much doth carnal concupiscence, pride and curiosity thus devour, that hundreds of the poor must be oppressed to maintain it; and many a man that hath many score or hundred tenants who with all their families daily toil to get him provision for his fleshly lusts, doth find at the year's end, that all will hardly serve the turn ; but this greedy devourer could find room for more; when one of his poor tenants could live and maintain all his family comfortably, if he had but so much as his landlord bestoweth upon one suit of clothes, or one proud entertainment, or one horse, or one pack of hounds. I am not persuading the highest to level their garb and expences equal with the lowest; but mortify pride, curiosity and gluttony; and you will find less need to oppress the poor, or to feed your concupiscence with the sweat and groans of the afflicted. Direct. vi. “Be not the sole judge of your own actions in a controverted case ; but if any complain of you, hear the judgment of others that are wise and impartial in the case.” For it is easy to misjudge where self-interest is concerned.
Direct. v11. ‘Love your poor brethren as yourselves, and delight in their welfare, as if it were your own.” And then you will never oppress them willingly; and if you do it ignorantly, you will quickly feel it and give over upon their just complaint; as you will quickly feel when you hurt yourselves, and need no great exhortation to forbear.
Tit. 2. Cases of Conscience about Oppression, especially of Tenants.
Quest. 1. ‘Is it lawful for a mean man, who must needs make the best of it, to purchase tenanted land of a liberal landlord, who setteth his tenants a much better pennyworth than the buyer can afford.”
Answ. Distinguish, 1. Between a seller who understandeth all this, and one that doth not. 2. Between a tenant that hath by custom a half-title to his easier rent, and one that hath not. 3. Between a tenant that consenteth and one that consenteth not. 4. Between buying it when a liberal man might else have bought it, and buying it when a worse else would have bought it. 5. Between a case of scandal, and of no scandal.
And so I answer, 2. If the landlord that selleth it expect that the buyer do use the tenants as well as he hath done, and sell it accordingly, it is unrighteous to do otherwise (ordinarily). 2. In many countries it is the custom not to turn out a tenant, nor to raise his rent; so that many generations have held the same land at the same rent; which though it give no legal title, is yet a half-title in common estimation. In such a case it will be scandalous, and infamous, and injurious, and therefore unlawful to purchase it with a purpose to raise the rent, and to do accordingly. 3. In case that a better landlord would buy it, who would use the tenant better than you can do, it is not (ordinarily) lawful for you to buy it. I either express or imply ‘ordinarily’ in most of my solutions; because that there are some excep