« ForrigeFortsæt »
that resting place we are hastening, and we shall soon be received there; the hours may roll slowly and wearily, yet they roll onwards; the sands of life are incessantly ebbing; time grows short; and whether it be from sorrow or from pleasure, from want or from abundance, the division of death is at hand.
But death is only a refuge from want. Its remedy is labour. If prudent counsels and patient industry come from men, good fortune will follow from heaven. The son of the righteous never yet came to want, unless he had first forgotten the instruction of his father. How honourable is it to triumph over indigence by private exertion! How truly independent is he, who owes his sustenance to nothing but his own hands, under the blessing of his own God? Poverty has lost half its terror, now that I know, we have a refuge from it, and a remedy for it; and that it affects neither independence nor honour. I now think it may be borne, with all the sufferings which it threatens. But what are the mighty evils which it inflicts? It certainly diminishes the comforts of life; but should the soul be much dejected, because its partner fares poorly? Can coarse food and coarse raiment injure the mind? And if contumely should follow want, cannot the understanding support reproach, and the consciousness of rectitude contemn it? It is childish, petulant, and unworthy of an immortal spirit to find the hardships of poverty so heavy. The fear that we should not be able to supply the wants of those who depend on us, is not the worst fear; we dread still more a division from those we love; the chill of winter to those who have poor raiment and a scanty fire, is piercing enough, but the cold wind of ingratitude blows with more bitter vehemence, and it
is the rich who are exposed to that blast. Let us say no more of the personal inconveniences of poverty. It is an outrage on the nature of virtue to suppose, that the quality of food, the splendour of dress, or any mere personal advantages and comforts can interfere with the discharge of duty. Does poverty limit the power of exertion? Does it interfere with the discharge of the offices of life? It rather adds energy to resolution, and new courage to enterprise; it teaches to endure, and it excites to improve; it supports the strength of man in the hour of performance, and the proverb tells us, it is the mother of invention.
But the worst effect of poverty is to limit the means of intellectual improvement. The aspiration after excellence, common to every ingenuous mind, can, if counteracted by the deficiency of fortune, easily produce an agitation of spirits as dismal as insanity.
But has the hopelessness, produced by want, repressed and broken minds of a higher order, more frequently than luxury and wealth have corrupted their energy by indolence? Philosophers have ever shewn a predilection for the humble; and if we recount the names of the departed spirits, who when on earth rested most familiarly on the bosom of science, wisdom will almost seem to have selected her associates from among the poor alone. When we reflect on the lives of those, who have guided the public mind and controlled the events of time, we learn how frequently poverty has fortified and chastened the character of genius.Can want repress aspirations after intellectual excellence? Can want diminish the energy of the mind or dry up the springs of invention? Can the poet move the more freely through the bright heaven of thought,
if borne up on the wings of wealth? Or is it that there are no pinions, which rise so heavily and flag so speedily as they?
Even in public life, where wealth would seem to pave the way readily to distinction, many of those, whose names are repeated among the nations with reverence and love, have been familiar with poverty. The rights of mankind have been asserted by the poor; the poor bore onward to its triumph the gospel of Christ. And who in modern times have changed the whole aspect of history and religion? Was it the rich with their treasures? the warriors with their armies? the princes with the revenue of nations at their command? No! A new epoch was established, a new world was discovered, by a poor fisherman of Genoa; and a mendicant monk was the reformer of the Christian Church.
Poverty cannot then be so great an evil. It neither bars the way to usefulness nor honour; and however much it may detract from sensual pleasures, it does not interfere with the highest objects of existence. If men have dreaded it, as a demon attended by despair and misery, it does them no honour to have trembled so timidly before so impotent an adversary.
We have thus far spoken of poverty as an evil which tries men's souls; as an evil to be avoided, to be resisted, to be endured.
Poverty may assist in forming the character to vir
And here I especially intreat the patient attention of the rich; for every moral quality, incumbent on the poor, has its corresponding obligation for them. If contentment is a duty, even to the wretched, let the
rich bear in mind, that they are the ministers in God's hands for relieving distress; and if gratitude is due from the needy to their benefactors, let the rich make the duty easy by conferring benefits with kindness. The spirit of true benevolence is winning. She is gentle, affectionate, and soothing; she distributes her alms with humility and pity; heaven smiles on her loveliness, and men remember her with gratitude. Hence it is even prudent to assist a virtuous man, who is struggling against poverty. A small treasure cannot be better invested. A benefit thus conferred is a fund well husbanded.
God has blessed the poor with the riches of infinite love. The gospel is emphatically theirs; and he who made us, is the shepherd of the needy, the Father of orphans, and the avenger of the widow's wrongs.
It is amidst the hardships of life, that the will nerves itself with its perfect vigour. The mother of the earliest of heroes is said to have immersed him in the river of death, that she might make him invulnerable to earthly weapons; and the fable relates, that the father of virtue committed to adversity the early educa tion of his darling child.
There is indeed one point, in which the opulent have a superiority. It is better to give than to receive. The Father of mercies gives, but does not receive; and so a rich man may multiply his deeds of charity, and like the Lord our God require nothing in return
The poor cannot practise active benevolence; yet they can on the other hand gain the virtues of contentment and resignation. The example of the great Apostle teaches us in whatsoever state we are, therewith to be content. Disquietude about ourselves
would be pusillanimous; and as to the good we would do to others, we must be resigned to the limits which are set us. God will accept benevolent feelings and good desires. The angels and the elements and all beings are his ministers; if we are employed but little in his service, we should not despond, but submit ourselves to his will, remembering, that they who stand at his altar in readiness to obey, will be honoured no less than those who speed at his bidding.
But the poor not only cannot exercise charity; they receive benefactions. Let them cherish then the vir tue of gratitude. All the blessings of life come from God; but come to us through different channels. They may be inherited; and then a peaceful recollection of the virtues of the departed may sanctify their use. Or a sufficiency may be acquired by private industry, and this is praiseworthy, if the desire of gain does not injure integrity. Or the bounties of heaven may be communicated through the hands of benevolent fellow men; and to receive them thus is the privilege of the poor. The poor do receive benefactions from the rich. Men are not so selfish, as in moments of despondency we are apt to believe. Benevolence does dwell among them. The fire of charity was kindled at the creation of man, and though it may sometimes have burnt dimly, it has never been extinguished. It is an eternal fire, and it never will be extinguished Benevolence does its office cheerfully even where the result is uncertain; and he, who in youth aspires after knowledge, even though struggling against necessity, may hope, that a benefactor will appear to raise him above the influence of narrow means, and wish him good speed in his journey through life.