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in the regulation of our desires, habits, and expenses will be found, and I believe most men will own it earlier or later, to be as conducive to our virtue as our comfort,-equally necessary, that is in other words, to make us happy here as hereafter.
I would next address a word to those whose misconduct or misfortunes have reduced them to straits and difficulties in their circumstances. There is a vast difference, no doubt, in the cause of their distress; but their distress, in either case, may be great. Now such, perhaps, should be told what they are to expect. They must look for struggles and temptations. They may expect to meet with opportunities of relieving the present burden by unfair practices; perhaps, of setting themselves, apparently, at ease and at liberty. They must count upon being violently beset and urged in their minds when these opportunities offer. Their own hearts will suggest to them all the misery of their present situation, what they have suffered, or what they are likely to suffer, if they neglect the present opportunity. Their imagination will go in quest of every excuse and palliation that can be thought of; what they are induced to do is no more than what thousands, and they themselves, perhaps, have done before-what, they hope, urgent want may make pardonable-it is what, some time hence, they may make restitution forwhat, perhaps, may never be known-what, if it be known, will not leave them worse than they are. These, and numberless more like reflections, will rise
up in their minds. All is, however, of no weight, because what is wrong and unjust in a rich man will
be wrong and unjust in a poor man; but such, nevertheless, as will probably be of great influence upon the biassed, bewildered judgement. The temptation they must expect will occur frequently, will meet them at every turn-ruin them when off their guard, struggle with them when upon it-infest them with constant importunity. What advice, then, can be given to such? To stick the closer to their integrity the more urgent their distress grows. To consider that every man has his trial-this is theirs; that this is their proper enemy, the persecution and danger to which they are exposed; this their spiritual enemy. They are to do what a good soldier does, arm themselves the strongest where they know they are the weakest; prepare for defence where they expect the attack collect, that is, all their resolution, to this point; exert themselves, and all the vigour of character which they are masters of, against their adversary. If they have themselves to blame for their distress, strict honesty under it is the way, and the only way, by which they can repair their error. Uprightness in adversity always procures the respect and indulgence of mankind; and, we trust, also, the favour of Almighty God. Even when our adversity has been owing to our own fault or folly, it is an atonement in some measure for past misconduct; but when we see extravagance drive men to distress, and distress to dishonesty, there is no one will pity them;
because every body but themselves can see that both the distress and dishonesty lay at their own door. The case of those who are reduced by misfortunes, which is what may happen to the best and wisest of mankind, is, as it ought to be, more easy. It is easier, I mean, to bear up cheerfully against the inconveniences of poverty, when we have not ourselves to reproach with it. There is no infamy to contend with; for where is the shame of sharing the disaster which all mankind are liable to? It is like being struck by a thunderbolt. There is no disgrace in it of any kind. Fools, indeed, may deride, when they see us stripped of the ornaments of wealth and honour --but none but fools will laugh: the good and serious will be taught to look up to the hand which holds the rod, and tremble for themselves. Misfortunes man is taught to expect; and, bad as the world is, it will always reverence an honest man struggling with difficulties. But there are for such, comforts and considerations of another kind, far above the world or its opinions. The proper reflection in such a situation, and which should never be out of a man's mind, is this that their misfortune is the visitation of God alone, probably for the very purpose of trying and proving our integrity.
He, therefore, that stands firm, that holds fast his integrity, comes out of the fire purer and brighter— approves himself to his God in the very part in which God has been pleased to try him. This is to sanctify our sufferings-making, that is, "our light affliction,
which is but for a moment, work out for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory." But, indeed, to speak the plain truth, it is not those who are brought to poverty by misfortunes that are often dishonest under it. It is those who set out with schemes of over-reaching and deceit, and fail in them; or those who begin with extravagance and end in fraud; that is, wanting either any good principle or firmness of mind to abide by it, they are carried away by the temptation which, according to their circumstances, is the strongest: in their prosperity by luxury and pride-in their adversity by the practices of fraud and roguery. The violent temptations that distressed circumstances lay men under, to attempt the arts of fraud and dishonesty, ought both to make us careful ourselves, and likewise somewhat more moderate and charitable towards others, who labour under difficulties of this kind. We We may have been, perhaps, fair and honest in our dealings; we have done well-but we have been always in affluence, at ease in our circumstances, and have never felt the load and pressure of perplexed or reduced fortunes. We have never known what it is to look disgrace and poverty in the face. If we have known this, we know not the trial some men's honesty is put to, nor how far ours would have stood out against them. It is one thing to maintain our integrity in the ordinary transactions and easy concerns of life, and another to hold it fast at an extremity--when we are pushed on by indigence, and the prospect, perhaps, of ruin on
the one side, and convenient opportunity, and the expectation we may be under of setting ourselves at ease and liberty on the other.
I am not now arguing for dishonesty of any kind, or in any circumstances. I am only pleading for the lenity of mankind—somewhat more mildness and moderation in our judgement and treatment of such persons, than is always shown; and this principally to impress upon you the advice of Saint Paul, "That if any be overtaken in a fault, instead of driving him to despair by persecution and ill usage, to restore such an one in the spirit of meekness, considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted."