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sorbed in self (which the wealthy man SERM. too frequently is) who keeps up no intercourse with his God by prayer and thanksgiving, and enters into no reciprocation of kindnesses with his fellow-creatures, must necessarily be unhappy two of the chief, the essential requisites to felicity, are wanting, a devout temper and benevolent af
Having explained, thus briefly, the dangers of riches, I now proceed to inquire what are the chief preservatives against them; by what mode of thinking and acting a rich man may be both virtuous and happy. Let him then, in the first place, remember that all which he possesses was given to him; that his superiority of station implies no superiority of merit, for that worldly prosperity is dispensed indifferently to the wicked and the foolish, as well as to the virtuous and the wise. (When I say that what the rich man possesses was given to him, I express myself D 3
SERM. incautiously; it was not given, it was only lent, and a strict account will one day take place into the manner in which he has made use of it; if he has not employed his superfluous wealth to the glory of God, and to the good of men, it will only have served to purchase for him the greater condemnation). Let him recollect also, that though it may be easier for him to procure it, yet, that in fact, he has as much need of the assistance of the poor man, as the poor man has of his let him call to mind, that they are both composed of the same materials; subject to the same weaknesses, and infirmities; and are alike hastening to one common grave: that the distinction between them is but momentary; and that death will effectually destroy it. Add to this, that the same omnipotent hand which has bestowed riches, can in a moment, by a variety of unforeseen, and apparently impossible ways, withdraw them; the same power which has raised us to grandeur,
grandeur, can in an instant, when all appears SERM. outwardly calm and flattering, prostrate us in the dust. Of the truth of this, the history of every age presents numerous examples, nor are our own times deficient: let us turn our eyes, for a moment, to those bloody scenes which have lately been acted, and are still, perhaps, acting in a neighbouring kingdom; how many opulent nobles, whose situations, not many months ago, promised as much security as this world can afford, have suddenly and miserably perished? I enter not into the question, whether they have fallen a sacrifice to the justice, or to the madness of the people; I inquire not whether their fate was merited; I only contend that they fell unexpectedly; that but a very short time before, they had as much reason to plume themselves on their opulence, and on its stability, as any other great man can have; and that they are therefore D 4
SERM. strong instances of the nothingness of riches, and the uncertainty of human grandeur.
But still farther; without depriving us of our lives, without taking from us our possessions, without divesting us of our outward greatness, by the infliction of some painful disease on our bodies, or by the infusion of some corroding anxiety into our minds, God can entirely take from us all enjoyment of the most exalted situation. If considerations, of this kind allay the pride and self-sufficiency of the great man; if they keep awake in him the recollection of his dependance, and incite in his mind a grateful sense of his Maker's bounty, and an ardent desire to be serviceable to those of the same nature with himself; and if he act uniformly in consequence, his riches will indeed be blessings; he may then indeed turn them to advantage, and not only enjoy all the happiness which this world is capable of afford
affording, but will lay up for himself, a never SERM. failing source of it, everlasting treasures in that which is to come.
I am now to shew the dangers which are incident to poverty, and to suggest some considerations by which they may be avoided. Give me not poverty, says Agur, lest I should be driven to acts of dishonesty, and be tempted to repine and murmur at the dispensations of Providence; for such, in this place, seems to be the meaning of taking the name of God in vain. In estimating the peculiar and characteristic vices of abundance, and of want; those of the former, as I have before observed, are self-sufficiency and presumption; those of the latter, I am now to shew, are dishonesty and discontent. God forbid, however, that I should mean to say that these vices adhere universally to the poor, any more than that those, in all instances, belong to the rich; for if this were the case, it were in vain to exhort