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Directions for the Poor.
THERE is no condition of life so low or poor, but may be sanctified, and fruitful, and comfortable to us, if our own misunderstanding, or sin and negligence, do not pollute it or imbitter it to us: if we do the duty of our condition faithfully, we shall have no cause to murmur at it. Therefore I shall here direct the poor in the special duties of their condition; and if they will but conscionably perform them, it will prove a greater kindness to them, than if I could deliver them from their poverty, and give them as much riches as they desire. Though I doubt this would be more pleasing to the most, and they would give me more thanks for money, than for teaching them how to want it.
Direct. 1. Understand first the use and estimate of all earthly things that they were never made to be your portion and felicity, but your provision and helps in the way to heaven.' And therefore they are neither to be estimated nor desired simply for themselves, (for so there is nothing good but God,) but only as they are means to the greatest good. Therefore neither poverty nor riches are simply to be rejoiced in for themselves, as any part of our happiness; but that condition is to be desired and rejoiced in, which affordeth us the greatest helps for heaven, and that condition only is to be lamented and disliked, which hindereth us most from heaven, and from our duty.
Direct. II. See therefore that you really take all these things, as matters in themselves indifferent, and of small concernment to you; and as not worthy of much love, or care, or sorrow, further than they conduce to greater things.' We are like runners in a race, and heaven or hell will be our end; and therefore woe to us, if by looking aside, or turning back, or stopping, or trifling about these matters, or burdening ourselves with worldly trash, we should lose the race, and lose our souls. O sirs, what greater matters than
a Prov. xxviii. 6. James ii. 5.
poverty or riches have we to mind! Can those souls that must shortly be in heaven or hell, have time to bestow any serious thoughts upon these impertinencies? Shall we so much as "look at the temporal things which are seen, instead of the things eternal that are unseen?" Or shall we whine under those light afflictions, which may be so improved, as to "work for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory?" Our present " life is not in the abundance of the things which we possess d;" much less is our eternal life.
Direct. 111. Therefore take heed that you judge not of God's love, or of your happiness or misery by your riches or poverty, prosperity or adversity, as knowing that they come alike to all,' and love or hatred is not to be discerned by them; except only God's common love, as they are common mercies to the body. If a surgeon is not to be taken for a hater of you, because he letteth you blood, nor a physician because he purgeth his patient, nor a father because he correcteth his child; much less is God to be judged an enemy to you, or unmerciful, because his wisdom and not your folly disposeth of you, and proportioneth your estates. A carnal mind will judge of its own happiness and the love of God by carnal things, because it savoureth not spiritual mercies: but grace giveth a Christian another judgment, relish and desire: as nature setteth a man above the food and pleasures of a beast.
Direct. IV. Stedfastly believe that God is every way fitter than you to dispose of your estate and you' He is infinitely wise, and knoweth what is best and fittest for you: he knoweth beforehand what good or hurt any state of plenty or want will do you: he knoweth all your corruptions, and what condition will most conduce to strengthen them or destroy them, and which will be your greatest temptations and snares, and which will prove your safest state; much better than any physician or parent knoweth how to diet his patient or his child. And his love and kindness are much greater to you, than your's are to yourself; and therefore he will not be wanting in willingness to do you good; and his authority over you is absolute, and therefore
b 2 Cor. iv. 18.
e Eccles. ii. 14. ix. 2, 3.
c Ver. 17.
"It is the
his disposal of you must be unquestionable. Lord let him do what seemeth him good "." "The will of God should be the rest and satisfaction of your wills "."
Direct. v. Stedfastly believe that, ordinarily, riches are far more dangerous to the soul than poverty, and a greater hindrance to men's salvation.' Believe experience; how few of the rich and rulers of the earth are holy, heavenly, self-denying, mortified men? Believe your Saviour, "How hardly shall they that have riches enter into the kingdom of God! For it is easier for a camel to go through a needle's eye, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God. And they that heard it said, who then can be saved? And he said, The things which are impossible with men, are possible with God." So that you see the difficulty is so great of saving such as are rich, that to men it is a thing impossible, but to God's omnipotency only it is possible. So 1 Cor. i. 26. For ye see your calling, brethren, how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble are called." Believe this, and it will prevent many dangerous mistakes.
Direct. vI. Hence you may perceive, that though no man must pray absolutely either for riches or poverty, yet of the two it is more rational ordinarily to pray against riches than for them, and to be rather troubled when God maketh us rich, than when he maketh us poor.' (I mean it, in respect to ourselves, as either of them seemeth to conduce to our own good or hurt: though to do good to others, riches are more desirable.) This cannot be denied by any man that believeth Christ: for no wise man will long for the hindrance of his salvation, or pray to God to make it as hard a thing for him to be saved, as for a camel to go through ́a needle's eye; when salvation is a matter of such unspeakable moment, and our strength is so small, and the difficulties so many and great already.
Object. But Christ doth not deny but the difficulties to the poor may be as great.' Answ. To some particular persons upon other accounts it may be so; but it is clear in the text, that Christ speaketh comparatively of such difficulties as the rich had more than the poor.
Object. But then how are we obliged to be thankful to
1 Sam. iii. 18.
h Acts xxi. 14.
iLuke xviii. 24, 25. 27.
God for giving us riches, or blessing our labours*?' Answ. 1. You must be thankful for them, because in their own nature they are good, and it is by accident, through your own corruption, that they become so dangerous. 2. Because you may do good with them to others, if you have hearts to use them well. 3. Because God in giving them to you rather than to others, doth signify (if you are his children) that they are fitter for you than for others. In Bedlam and among foolish children, it is a kindness to keep fire, and swords, and knives out of their way: but yet they are useful to people that have the use of reason. But our folly in spiritual matters is so great, that we have little cause to be too eager for that which we are inclined so dangerously to abuse, and which proves the bane of most that have it.
Direct. vII. See that your poverty be not the fruit of your idleness, gluttony, drunkenness, pride, or any other flesh-pleasing sin'.' For if you bring it thus upon yourselves, you can never look that it should be sanctified to your good, till sound repentance have turned you from the sin: nor are you objects worthy of much pity from man (except as you are miserable sinners). He that rather chooseth to have his ease and pleasure, though with want, than to have plenty, and to want his ease and pleasure, it is pity that he should have any better than he chooseth.
1. Slothfulness and idleness are sins that naturally tend to want, and God hath caused them to be punished with poverty; as you may see Prov. xii. 24. 27. xviii. 9. xxi. 25. xxiv. 34. xxvi. 14, 15. vi. 11. xx. 13. Yea, he commandeth that if any (that is able)" will not work, neither should he eat m In the sweat of their face must they eat their bread and "six days must they labour and do all that they have to do "." To maintain your idleness is a sin in others. If you will please your flesh with ease, it must be displeased with want; and you must suffer what you choose.
2. Gluttony and drunkenness are such beastly devourers of mercy, and abusers of mankind, that shame and poverty are their punishment and cure. "Be not among wine-bib
Saith Aristippus to Dionysius, Quando sapienta egebam, adii Socratem; nunc
pecuniarum egens, ad te veni.
n Gen. iii. 19.
bers, amongst riotous eaters of flesh: for the drunkard and the glutton shall come to poverty, and drowsiness shall clothe a man with rags "." It is not lawful for any man to feed the greedy appetites of such if they choose a short excess before a longer competency, let them have their choice.
3. Pride also is a most consuming, wasteful sin: it sacrificeth God's mercies to the devil, in serving him by them, in his firstborn sin. Proud persons must lay it out in pomp and gaudiness, to set forth themselves to the eyes of others; in buildings, and entertainments, and fine clothes, and curiosities and poverty is also both the proper punishment and cure of this sin: and it is cruelty for any to save them from it, and resist God, that by abasing them takes the way to do them good.
4. Falsehood also and deceit, and unjust getting tend to poverty; for God doth often, even in this present life, thus enter into judgment with the unjust. Ill-gotten wealth is like fire in the thatch, and bringeth ofttimes a secret curse and destruction upon all the rest. The same may be said of unmercifulness to the poor; which is oft cursed with poverty, when the liberal are blest with plenty.
Direct. VIII. Be acquainted with the special temptations of the poor, that you may be furnished to resist them.' Every condition hath its own temptations, which persons in that condition must specially be fortified and watch against; and this is much of the wisdom and safety of a Christian.
Tempt. 1. One temptation of poverty will be to draw you to think more highly of riches and honours than you ought; to make you think that the rich are much happier than they For the world is like all other deceivers; it is most esteemed where it is least known. They that never tried a life of wealth, and plenty, and prosperity, are apt to admire it, and think it braver and better than it is. And so you may be drawn as much to overlove the world by want, as other men by plenty. Against this remember, that it is folly to admire that which you never tried and knew; and mark whether all men do not vilify it, that have tried it to the last dying men call it no better than vanity and deceit.
• Prov. xxiii. 20, 21.
P Prov. xi. 2. xxix. 23. xvi. 18.
4 Prov. xi. 24, 25. Isa. xxxii. 8. Psal. Ixxiii. 21, 22. 25, 26, 34, 35.