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burn; and with an intenseness and purity as great as in those who are more exalted. Though the latter may have some advantages in the greater extent of their knowledge, that deficiency is frequently compensated to the former, by a greater simplicity and unity of attention, and by their entire devotedness to one object. It is a question of much difficulty to determine which of these stations is more favourable to the cultivation of piety, and whether poverty, with all its destitution, is a greater hindrance to the divine life than affluence, with all its temptations. A course of piety is difficult for all, but practicable for every
individual; and the light of eternity alone can decide whose situation has been the most hazardous, and whose the most favourable to the growth of religion.
The rich and the poor meet together in the primary passions of the human mind, which give birth to whatever is most distinguishing in man: and these are found in the same state in the rich and in the poor, essentially considered. The exhibition of them by the latter is more private, giving birth to good purposes; but with regard to the former, the exhibition of them is more public, because they stand in more powerful and exalted stations, and act on a more extended stage. If we trace the passions of men to their primary elements, we shall find the virtues and vices of the poor and of the rich spring from the same sources. The guilty passions that agitate the breast of the peasant, and lead him to disturb the peace of his neighbourhood, are of the same nature with those
that disturb the tranquillity of nations, in the breasts of princes. The same injustice, the same low ambition, the same love of acquiring that which is not his own, that renders a peasant a nuisance to the village where he resides, renders an unjust prince the terror of his subjects, the source of iniquitous wars, and a stain and reproach to his species. The person who, in the poorest situation, in a peasant's cottage, is led by a love of order, and by native benevolence of mind, to diffuse peace and comfort around his own circle, and, so far as his influence extends, in his own neighbourhood, evinces the same spirit with the individual who would diffuse peace and order through a distracted empire, and who lays the foundation of tranquillity for distant ages, by the enactment of the most wholesome regulations and the most enlightened laws.
The more we analyse actions, and trace them to their primary elements, the more we shall perceive the identity between the rich and the poor, as to their intellectual, moral, accountable, and devotional capacities. The rich and the poor occupy the same department of the universe; they are subjects of the same moral government, and are destined to be judged equally and impartially, by the same laws, at the final and awful distribution of reward to the just and to the unjust.
II. I would observe that the rich and the poor meet together in the process of the same social economy, in the same necessary intercourse of human life; they are closely connected with each
other, and equally form parts of the same human family. It is impossible for us to say which of these subdivisions of society is, in its place, the most important; which of them ought to be most respected; which of them most cherished. The higher can by no means say to the lower, with truth or propriety, “I have no need of thee;” nor can the lower retort upon the higher, “I have no need of thee.” If the lower order occupy the place of the feet and hands, which execute the purposes of the mind, the higher occupy the place of the head, which is the seat of counsel, and is necessary for the direction and preservation of the whole social body. Here we see how necessary both these classes are to the general order, and to the diffusion of peace and happiness throughout the whole. According to the degree in which this is felt, in proportion as the industrious citizen, the ingenious mechanic, or the laborious husbandman who cultivates the soil, in any community, is destitute of encouragement, society languishes ; and in proportion to the reasonable, not redundant, remuneration of labour to the industrious classes of the community, is the diffusion of comfort and enjoyment through the whole body.
The higher classes must, on reflection, perceive, that they are indebted to the lower for all they enjoy. The distinctions of wealth, and stations of authority, which they are so proud to display, and by which the higher classes are raised above the poor, are supported by the produce of the field and of art; and these are combined by the hand
of honest labour, in such processes, as the ingenuity of the lower classes has devised. “ The king himself is served by the field.” Those higher classes are supported by the continual machine of labour, which is going on among the inferior classes of society; and were it to stop, it would tend to the stagnation, instead of the steady flow, of luxurious enjoyment among those higher classes. The poor might here, with greater propriety than the rich, adopt the language of an early apologist for christianity, and say, “ Were we to retire from you, you would be astonished at your own desolation ; we should leave you little but your temples and
There may be some who might
* Mr. Hall here evidently referred to the language of the celebrated Tertullian, Apologet, cap. xxxvii.
- Hesterni sumus, et vestra omnia implevimus, urbes, insulas, castella, municipia, conciliabula, castra ipsa, tribus, decurias, palatium, senatum, forum. Sola vobis relinquimus templa." There may probably be, as is sometimes conjectured, a little overcharge of rhetorical exaggeration in this ; yet, whoever meditates upon the report made by the circumspect and prudent Pliny to the emperor Trajan, (Lib. x. Ep. 97), will perceive that even in his time, at least in the Pontic province, the christians far outnumbered the heathen worshippers. “Multi omnis ætatis, omnis ordinis, utriusque sexus etiam, vocantur in periculum et vocabuntur. Neque civitates tantum, sed vicos etiam atque agros superstitionis istius contagio pervagata est.” From what follows, it is evident, too, that heathenism had been in great peril, and the temples nearly forsaken :-“ Certè satis constat, propè jam desolata templa cæpisse celebrari, et sacra solemnia diu intermissa repeti, passimque venire victimas, quarum adhuc rarissimus emptor inveniebatur.” This, however, by the way ; for though it bears upon an important point in the history of christianity, it falls not within the scope of this sermon.-Ep.
not choose to adopt the language of this statement; but it is not too much for the poor to say to the rich. Were they to retire, no mind can adequately portray the lengths and depths of that desolation and misery, which would be sustained by all else, but especially by those in the higher walks of life. In vain would they retain wealth, if there were no hands to be employed; and, were no commodities of
any kind presented to them, they would live in a state of destitution, greater than the meanest of their dependents, or they must endeavour to apply themselves separately to those arts, each of which, in order to produce in perfection what they value, is the business of a life. The pinnacles of the proudest edifice rest on a basis, that comes into immediate contact with the surface of the earth, or is buried partly under it, and is invisible; so, all the improvements of wealth, nay all the distinctions of royal grandeur, rest on the industry of the poor, upon their silent, unperceived industry, working out of the view, and frequently out of the contemplation of those who are most indebted to it. Let no one look with contempt on the meanest of his fellow-creatures, on account of his having to gain his bread “by the sweat of his brow.” That was the appointed lot of our first parents after their fall, and it was the condition of all in the primitive state of society. It is to the industry of the lower classes, that the distinctions and splendour of the highest are to be entirely ascribed.
On the other hand, let not the poor say to the rich, “ we have no need of you.” Were they