網頁圖片
PDF
ePub 版

of his virtue and integrity. For as the rich man in the parable was not dooined to hell because "he was rich, bụt because he was wicked; so neither was the poor man carried by the angels into Abraham's bosom because he was poor, but because he was good and virtuous; because he bore his poverty with patience and resignation to God's will.

Indeed, in general, we should forin very wrong estimates of things, were we to judge of the dispositions of mens hearts by the difference of their conditions in life. For as religion is not inconsistent with riches, so neither is it always found in a state of poverty. Corruption steals into all conditions of life, and infects the low as well as the high. The same destructive passions too appear under different forms, and possess the hearts of the poor as well as the rich. A man may be saved or lost in all conditions, for all have their temptations; and happy is he only ' who knows how to avoid them, and has the resolation to do his duty in whatsoever sate of life it has pleased God to place him.

I shall, therefore, take occasion from the character here given of Lazarus, to point out what are the proper qualifications of that virtuous poverty which intitle a man to the favour of God,

and

and to be rewarded with everlasting happiness in Abraham's bosom.

[ocr errors]

· And ist, We are certainly to exclude from the number of the virtuous poor, those who have brought poverty upon themselves by their vices or indiscretion. Lo

: It is the fashion of the present age for every one to appear at least to the full extent of his circumstances. The wise frugality of our art. ; cestors is lost and derided. Our men of business are transformed into men of pleasure, and endeavour to rival, or even outdo, patrician extravagance in dress, equipage, gaming, luxury, and other worse vices. And hence arise those fatal blows which are so frequently and so heavily felt in the commercial world. Hençe arise those deplorable failures, which entail beggary not only upon themselves and their children, but too often upon many innocent families, who have unhappily been connected with such unthinking prodigals. And shall we call this a virtuous poverty, which arises from such sources ? No, rather it is a poverty which carries with it blacker guilt than that of the open robber or midnight felon. Let such men therefore be assured that it must cost them many a penitential tear before they VOL. II.

: : ; . can

can be entitled either to the character or reward of the poor but virtuous Lazarus.

2dly, We are only to reckon those among the number of the deserving poor who are really in want, and are also incapable of relieving their distresses themselves. For it is a secret, I presume, to no one, that there are many infamous impostures, who only counterfeit poverty, and cover themselves with rags and sorés, the better to extort relief from well-disposed Christians. There are others too who are indeed in real want, but who are so through choice : they love idleness better than work, and rather chuse to beg. than to procure an honest living by the labour of their hands. These are they that snatch the bread of charity out of the mouths of the in, dustrious poor: these are they that swarm in our streets, that besiege the gates of the rich, and weary every passenger with their cries for relief; which if denied, they immediately exclaim against the coldness of charity, and the barbarity of the world. I would not willingly be thought to plead against charity in any shape, and therefore I will not too severely condemn those, who, through a well-meant zeal, relieve such objects as these. But I cannot help say. ing, that, in my judgment, they would shew themselves much wiser men, and better friends to the community, by not encouraging a tribe of vagrants, who will neither labour to provide for themselves, nor submit to that provision which the legislature has amply made for them."

U

But there are, the more is the pity! there are too many also among us, who are real objects of our compassion ; who are truly poor, and whom nothing but urgent necessity, and an incapacity of supporting themselves, and sometimes even hardly that, can compel to solicit relief. Such, for instance, are the weak and decrepit, who are

d age or infirmities. Such again are those who are burthened with numerous families, widows, orphans, and industrious workmen, who, through want of employment, or from sickness, languish under affliction and poverty : and perhaps above all they are objects of our compassion, who, from a flourishing condition, arë reduced to poverty by misfortunes. Certain it is, that poverty is heavy enough to all: but when it falls to the lot of those who have seen better days, whose bodies have been unused to manual labour, and whose souls have been trained to more generous and refined sentiments, it must surely be doubly heavy. It must cost them many a hard struggle to break through the strong feelings of modesty; it must cost them many a deep sigh, before they can think of becoming troublesome to their friends ; it must cost them many an anxious tear, before they can submit to ask that assistance for themselves, which they have, perhaps, long been accustomed to give to others. Yet doubtless many such unhappy, though virtuous objects, there are in the world : so inscrutable are thy ways, o eternal providence, and thy judgments past finding out!

some

3dly, We may add, that one that is truly poor ought to have discretion enough to be contented when his real wants are supplied, and he is furnished with what is necessary. Some regard in. deed may be had to a man's former condition, and there ought to be a difference between one that was born poor, and one that is reduced to poverty from a higher station. But then this difference ought to be made by him that gives the charity, and not by him thật receives it. An inspired apostle says, " Haying food and raişi ment, let us be therewith content.” And if this holds true for all Christians in general, it still more especially concerns the poor, of what con: dition soever they are, or may haye been in þetter days. It is their duty to conform themselves to that state of life to whịch it has pleased God to call them, and to learn to be content with such things as they have, for this is a part of their trial. We find that the virtuous Lazarus aimed

nog

« 上一頁繼續 »