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[Preached to a Benefit Club, in 1790.]
2 THESS. iii. 11, 12. For we hear that there are some which walk
among you disorderly, working not at all, but are busy bodies. Now them that are such, we command and exhort, by our Lord Jesus Christ, that with quietness they work, and eat their own bread.
I shall make use of the present occasion, in
exhorting all here present to shun certain prevalent vices, which are equally detrimental to individuals, as to society; and in endeavouring to enforce, on the other hand, the opposite virtues, which will infallibly promote private happiness, as well as public peace and harmony.
The first, but too common, fault among mankind, is a restless and discontented temper, which looks with a keen and an envious eye at all the enjoyments of another's situation, wilfully blind to every comfort of its own, arraigning, at one and the same time, the dispensations of Divine Providence, and the distribution of human justice. The progress of this ambitious discontent, has been wonderfully increased and accelerated, of late, by certain insidious and fallacious writings, industriously spread among the common people, the poison concealed in which, being wrapt up in plausible and popular arguments, tends to deceive uncultivated minds, and to render them unsettled and unhappy. It is clearly the design of Providence, and according to the nature of man, that high and low, rich and poor, should meet together in the same society: there is no law, divine or human, which prevents the rich man from
becoming becoming poor, or the poor man from becoming rich ; excess of luxury and expence, will reduce the possessions of the one, and superior skill and labour will increase the property of the other. How constantly do we see the skilful artist, the ingenious mechanic, and the industrious husbandman, emerging from obscurity, to wealth and distinction. If property were not unexceptionably secured, when it is acquired, who would endeavour to acquire it? Our country would be filled with none but idle and rapacious members, every man's hand would be raised against his neighbour, we should be a nation of robbers, instead of peaceable and well-regulated citizens; and the same argument, which goes so far at first, as to lessen a great deal of property, would soon be made use of, to divide a very small quantity indeed. The same envy which at first could not brook the sight of one far superior in wealth, would in a short time urge us to bear no superior at all. The fatal consequences of such ideas are so evident to reflection, that I shall enlarge on them no further; they would clearly occasion the destruction of all private persons, and the dissolution of all public.society. How much truer proof of friendship is it, to point out to the poor the advantages they possess, and to shew them the obligations they are under to Providence and to their country. First, by reputation they are secure of employment, by employment they are certain of food and raiment, they are removed from the snares of luxury, and the dangerous temptations which indolence and wealth produce; they are less liable to misfortunes, to the dreadful reverses of fortune, more especially to the falling from opulence to poverty. The rich are afflicted with many diseases, of which the poor are totally ignorant. Strength of body, and fitness, for labour, are better than bequeathing to children, riches which they may misuse; education and learning, render the feelings but the more acute to those sufferings, occasioned by the unavoidable calamities of life; reputation, temperance, and honesty, are a poor man's irresistible claims to employment; and lastly, if neither temperance will secure him health, nor industry subsistence, he is provided for by the just, humane, and equitable laws of his country; his humble station is never deemed by the legislature as below its notice; magistrates are every where appointed, to protect and to relieve him; discontent, like the thirst occasioned by disease, increases by being gratified, so far from giving men the possession of what they have not, it takes away even the enjoyment of what they actually have. Persons of this stamp are envious, peevish, and given to slander, or, as the Apostle says, “ they walk