Page images

SERM, hort you to guard against them; I only III.

mean that the poor are, from their situation, peculiarly liable to temptations to them; that being informed to what attacks they are principally open, they may bend every faculty of their minds to repel them.

: It is certain that the life of those in the lowest ranks is subject to many hardships and miseries, from which their more opulent brethren are exempt; they are condemned to be spectators of luxuries, which they can never hope to partake; to submit sometimes to oppressions which they cannot resist; to labour incessantly to procure a scanty pittance, which, in all cases, is barely sufficient, and in some, totally insufficient to maintain themselves and their families: when they ask themselves how they came to be so unfavourably situated, they can give no account of it; from their birth they have been doomed to a life of drudgery, before they could possibly have done any thing to de

[ocr errors]

serve it; some of them are perhaps con- SERM. scious of possessing virtues and abilities, m which might have qualified them to act with applause in an higher sphere, while they perceive, in many instances, wealth and greatness bestowed on the foolish and wicked. These circumstances, I say, not unnaturally, present temptations to discontent and dishonesty, and too frequently prevail : the lower classes of people are too apt to repine and murmur against Providence, for having placed them amidst so much wretchedness; are too desirous of improving their condition at the expence of their integrity. I would wish then to suggest some arguments, which may operate as preservatives from these two vices. In the first place, they are nei. ther of them likely to be of any service; neither of them calculated to answer the proposed end. With respect to discontent, it always augments the evil with which we are oppressed, be it what it will ; it adds to


SÈRM, it its own bitterness, and takes up in an

useless and unavailing manner that time in which we might have learnt to be superior to our afflictions. With respect to dishonesty, it may indeed afford some relief to poverty, but it will be rather in appearance than in effect; at best it will only be temporary. What is gained by fraud, is usually wasted in extravagance; or supposing it applied to furnish with necessaries the family of the person who is guilty of it, the anguish of mind, which the recollection of the manner in which it was procured must create, will more than outweigh the com fort of the relief.

But this is not all ; who ever was known to rest contented with the commission of one crime ? No,-the bounds of integrity being once broken through, and the laby. rinths of knavery entered, it is rarely either in our will, or perhaps "even in our power, to retreat. When men have once tasted



the wages of iniquity, it is seldom that they SERM. will return to honest industry ; they usually go forward from crime to crime, till detection takes place, their characters are ruined, they draw down on themselves the vengeance of the laws, and not unfrequently finish their career by an untimely and disgraceful death. And 'twere well if the matter would end here ; but a more severe reckoning remains behind! The poor complain, and with some appearance of justice, of the wretchedness which they endure on earth; but let them recollect how short their continuance on earth is; that this life is but the beginning of their existence; it is but as a moment, in comparison of the eternity which is to follow, and yet this moment will have an everlasting influence on that eternity. Would they wish to have their sufferings perpetuated with an increase beyond what they can imagine, or would they exchange them (this transi



SERM, tory state ended) for an eternity of bliss

and glory. -- it depends entirely on them. selves. If they are rebellious against their God, which, when they murmur against the dispensations of his providence, they certairly are, if they are dishonest in their commerce with their fellow-creatures, instead of their wretchedness, whatever it may be, concluding with their lives, it will be extended, but with inconceivable additions, through endless ages : whereas, by conducting themselves with patience and integrity, death will soon come to their relief, put a period to their woes, and they will be recompensed for all they have undergone, with transcendant and unfading happiness. If then, ye poor! if ye find the evils of this world, which last so short a time, so hard to sustain, seek, strive to avoid those which are eternal ; if ye feel your hearts pant after terrestrial, short-lived happiness, exert every effort to secure that which is celes

« PreviousContinue »