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PHIL. iv. II.
I have learned in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content.
In all situations of life, discontent is very SERM. unreasonable; happiness is dealt out to mankind with an equal hand; and though the high and the low, the rich and the poor, the old and the young, are subject each of them to particular evils, from which they see others perhaps exempt, yet, if they would
SERM. would view the matter impartially, they would perceive that they are made amends for these evils by particular advantages which others do not enjoy. Discontent is, notwithstanding, very universal, and the poor in particular, by which I mean the labouring part of mankind, are apt to think that they complain with the greatest reason, and their murmurs, if not the deepest, are at least the loudest, and the most known.
Of these there are some who are so absurd as to think it unjust that there should be any such thing as inequality among mankind; there are others who see the impossibility of all being equal, yet think it an hardship that it should fall to their lot to be at the bottom of the scale; while a third set look on the evils of poverty as so intolerable, that they would be willing to hazard a general confusion of their country for the hopes of improving their condition.
I hope, in this discourse, to shew the folly SERM. and injustice of these ways of thinking, by proving,
First, that it is a thing impossible that inequality of rank and riches should not prevail, and that this being the case it is no more an hardship on one man to be low and poor than it would have been upon another.
Secondly, that the poor are free from many evils which the rich suffer, and enjoy many comforts which the rich want;-so that there is the greatest reason to believe that their state is as happy, on the whole.
Thirdly, that supposing any violent convulsion of the state was to bring about a change of conditions, many would be made miserable by it, and none would be made happy.
First, I am to prove that it is a thing im possible that inequality of rank and riches should not prevail.
It is clearly a great argument in favour
SERM. of this assertion, that we know to a certainty that in all ages of the world there ever has been this inequality. Read the Bible; from the very earliest times, at least after the flood, and you will meet with the mention of kings and princes and masters, and of subjects, servants and slaves:-you may remember the names of Nimrod, Melchisedec, Abimelec, Pharoah; all of them kings, or men of great rank and power:you may remember also, that Abraham and Lott, Isaac and Esau, Jacob and Laban, had each of them his herdsmen and his servants: there is then a great presumption that what always has been is in the course of nature, and that it could not be ordered otherwise.
But I think, without having recourse to what always has been, the assertion may be proved to you from common sense and reason. For supposing this equality, so desired by many, to take place, it is not possible,
sible, I affirm, that it should continue; one SERM. man will be more skilful, more industrious, more fortunate than another, consequently he will acquire a greater portion of worldly goods. What would you do in this case? would you take it from him?-would you not allow him to enjoy his own earnings! Fine liberty this would be, and much encouragement to sobriety, industry, and exertion! who would study, who would labour for the comforts and conveniencies of life, or do any thing more than merely procure the necessaries of it, if he did not hope to gain, by his studies or labours, some superiority, to acquire some possessions above his fellows, and to be allowed to transmit them to his children? Destroy all hope of acquiring and transmitting superior wealth and superior power, and you put a stop at once to all the arts and sciences, and man would soon degenerate into a mere savage; he would labour indeed just enough to get K 2 where