Pagina-afbeeldingen
PDF
ePub

tion in Euclid can be clearer, than that those whose wants exceed their means and resources are in this condition. Nothing occurs more frequently in different ranks, but especially in high life, than examples illustrative and confirmatory of the position here laid down, “I saw many poor," observes a grave practical moralist, “ whom I had supposed to live in affluence. Poverty, has in large cities, different appearances : it is often concealed in splendour, and often in extravagance. It is the care of a very great part of mankind to conceal their indigence from the rest ; they support themselves by temporary expedients, and every day is lost in contriving for the morrow.”

But some reader may be ready to ask, What is the moral of the paradox, and of the whole piece of dull prosing attached to it? Why, it is, that we should guard against the inposition of names and epithets, appearances and forms using our judgments rather than our ears and eyes, to form an estimate of men and their condition; that we should not account them rich, honourable, or happy, by the greatness of their possessions or their nominal revenues. My paradoxical maxim, whatever contempt be thrown upon it, may also, when rightly used, contribute something towards the cure of envy. Nor will any one acquainted with the mischiefs done by this pest, make light of such a benefit.

“Fools gaze and envy : envy darts a sting, Which makes a swain as wretched as a king."

If men could see beyond the surface, they would find little cause to pant with ardour and impatience for the place and the portion of those who are at a few degrees above them in rank and opulence. Towards the great (as courtesy calls them,) instead of envy, they would feel pity; and, in reference to their own condition, murmurs would be exchanged for grateful acknowledgments and strains of praise.

A POOR RICH MAN.

As a contrast to the avaricious clergyman before described, I shall bring before the reader the character and condition of a plain husbandman, with whom I have been long acquainted. William Watson resides in a neat cottage, about twenty miles from the metropolis, and has worked on the same farm nearly thirty years. He has a cheerful and industrious wife, and they have brought up a family of five children, all now in service, without any parochial relief, except once during a severe visitation of illness. Watson and his partner have for years been highly esteemed in the neighbourhood, on account of their sobriety, diligence, and honesty. Nor are they endowed with virtues which only gain them credit and respect from men -they are Christians, both in spirit and in conduct. They read the Scriptures, and offer up daily prayer in their peaceful abode; they honour the Sabbath, and regularly attend public worship. Their children, too, were carefully instructed and well managed in their early years; and, as a consequence of this training, have, since they left home, all maintained a good character.

William Watson is sensible and truly religious; and his natural disposition, which is lively and amiable, makes his company pleasant. It is delightful to see him in summer, at every leisure hour, cultivating and trimming his little fruitful garden; and in the winter evenings, seated snugly at his fire-side, reading good books to his wife. While his family were growing, he had, as he says, “ sometimes to tug hard to make ends meet ;" but since the children got off, he has been able to lay up a little money in the savings-bank, and, to use his own homely phrase," while the weather is fair, prepare for a rainy day.”

Now as Solon considered Tellus a plain, honest industrious peasant of Greece, happier than Creesus the wealthy king of Lydia, so I should think the life and lot of William Watson preferable to the state of many who live in splendid indigence or sickening luxury. But, oh! say the proud and fastidious, it is a sad thing to be poor. “What, then, is poverty ? what, but the absence of a few superfluous things, which please wanton fancy rather than answer need; without which nature is easily satisfied, and which, if we do not affect, we cannot want ? What is it, but to wear coarse clothes, to feed on plain and simple fare, to work and take some pains, to sit or move in a lower place, to have no heaps of cash or hoards of grain, to keep no retinue, to have few friends, and not one flatterer ? 66 More than we use is more than we need, and only a burden to the bearer.” This saying, from the lips of Attalus, his master, first led Seneca, as he confesses, to despise the superfluities of fortune, and begin a course of rigid temperance. But if a short maxim could produce such an effect, surely much more might be reasonably expected from the united force of wisdom and experience.

A lowly and obscure place has its advantages as well as its inconveniences. It exempts from many cares, troubles, distractions, dangers, distempers, snares, and temptations, to which the affluent are

increase my

exposed. A friend of Mr. Cecil's, in a place of trust, was offered the loan of ten thousand pounds, and a share in the large business of his master, but he respectfully declined the offer. When Mr. Cecil tried to persuade him to accept it, he refused, saying," Sir, I have often heard you say, that it is no easy thing to get to heaven-no easy thing to master the world. I have every thing I wish; more would encumber

me,

difficulties, and endanger me."

It is not common for men to refuse ascending the ladder of promotion when set before them, and they can seldom believe that the bottom is more safe and pleasant than the slippery steps and the stormy top. “ As we truly say, that blushing is the livery of virtue, though it may sometimes proceed from guilt; so it holds true of poverty, that it is the attendant of virtue, though sometimes it may proceed from mismanagement or accident."

Though the character I have taken the liberty to introduce to the reader is quite unknown beyond the narrow precincts of his own neighbourhood, worth is not less valuable because it is partially hid. I will fearlessly affirm, that this plain unassuming rustic is a poor rich man. The first epithet will be readily admitted ; but how, some may inquire, is the propriety of the second to be made out ? He is a poor man, in the view and estimate of those who look only on the exterior, and use language according to its loose and general meaning ; but those who intinately know him will own him to be a rich man, in the best sense of the word. Yes; he is rich in faith, in knowledge, in peace, and content. It is not easy to take an inventory of his goods, and who can cast up the account of their full value ?

God, says the Apostle James, hath “ chosen

the poor of this world rich in faith, and heirs of the kingdom which he hath promised to them that love him.”. Happy, then, is the pious cottager, with such a portion as Divine Grace has now imparted, and will hereafter assuredly bestow! He has no parchments signed and sealed, by which to urge a legal claim to houses and lands; but he has a fair and valid title to an inheritance which is incorruptible and undefiled, and that fadeth not away. He has no massy chests full of silver and gold; but he has a treasure in heaven which no enemy can reach -no accident or disaster can impair. Hope sheds a lustre on things actually possessed, and doubles the sweetness of every enjoyment; but the hope which Christianity inspires, in those who cordially believe its doctrines and diligently obey its precepts, is the most lively, the most pure, and by far the most permanent. Our humble and devout rustic is rich in knowledge. I grant he is no proficient in the sciences and arts: he cannot measure the heavens and count the stars, or classify and describe the plants that grow, and the animals that live

our own little spot of earth; but he can mark, and admire, and magnify, the wisdom and power of the great Creator, in all his wondrous works. He has not ransacked the volumes of profane history, or pagan philosophy; but he has searched the sacred records of the Bible, and stored his memory with the facts and truths which are there disclosed. He has not pored over the Grecian and Italian models of art; but he has studied, with advantage and success, the best patterns and examples of virtue and holiness held up to his view in the

on

« VorigeDoorgaan »