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SERMON III.

THE DANGERS OF RICHES AND POVERTY.

AGUR'S PRAYER.

PROVERBS Xxx. 8, 9.
Give me neither poverty nor riches; feed me

with food convenient for me, lest I be full,
ånd deny thee, and say, who is the Lord ?
or lest I be poor and steal and take the
name of my God in vain !

III.

Tuis celebrated prayer of Agur is doubt- Serm. less the dictate of true wisdom : the experience of all ages has determined that it is the middle station of life which is most favourable both to virtue and to happiness, and consequently, if we had the power of VOL. I.

deciding

III.

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SERM. deciding for ourselves, it is on this middle

state that every prudent man would fix his
choice.

But as our conditions are allotted to us
by a greater power than we can control, as
it is not easy for those in the higher ranks
to put off their greatness, and to descend
from their elevation ; and as it is still more
difficult for the lower ranks to ascend, a
great part of mankind must necessarily pass
their days in one extreme or the other; it
may therefore be useful for us to enquire
what are the principal temptations to vice,
to which each are liable; and what the im-
pediments to happiness, which each throws
in our way.

« Give me not riches,” says Agur in his petition to the Almighty, “ lest abundance incite me to deny thee, and to say, who is the Lord? Give me not poverty, lest I be driven by want to acts of dishonesty, and to murmurs against thee and thy pro

vidence."

III.

vidence.” Agur therefore builds his prayer SERM. for mediocrity, on the opposite dangers to which riches and poverty are exposed. I will examine into the truth of these dangers, and if I find them really to exist, will endeavour to suggest some considerations and arguments which may serve to counteract them.

And first, it is inferred that riches beget self-sufficiency, a fancied independance, and a denial or forgetfulness of God. The inference receives but too much confirmation from experience.

The eminence to which the rich man is exalted above his fellows, the obsequiousness and flattery which greatness procures, and the apparent state of independance, which it creates, are dangerous adversaries to virtue: he who imagines that he feels no immediate want of the divine bounty, or of the assist. ance of his brethren, is too ready to ascribe his prosperity to his own deserts, is too D 2

apt

III.

SERM. apt to forget, if not to disown his Creator,

and to act as if he had no connection at all with his fellow-creature.-“ My own

power (will he say in his heart) and the

might of mine own hand have gotten me “ this wealth; I am under no obligations “ for my grandeur to any one; I think

myself therefore entirely unaccountable for my conduct, and shall order it alto

gether according to my own good pleasure.How hardly (says our Saviour) shall they that have riches enter into the

kingdom of God.” He well knew the temptations to which wealth exposed its possessors, and the great resolution which was required to withstand them.

Nor, to speak in general, are riches less prejudicial to happiness than they are to virtue. If there be any such thing as happiness in this world, it must arise from religion, and the exercise of the social affections: he therefore, who is entirely ab

sorbed

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