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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
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 age, without any fault of their own : but these are very few, in comparison of the other ; nor would their support be any sensible burden to the publick, 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 argunfents offered to prove the foregoing head, I shall draw some observations that may be useful for
be useful for your practice.
1. 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
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 their 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 sort 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 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 own business: for artificers and husbandmen are necessary in all governments : but, in such seasons, the rich are the publick 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 colick, 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 necessaries 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