CONCERNING THE POOR.
THE poor being God's peculiar care, they ought to have a great share in the concern of His ministers, to relieve, to instruct, and to comfort them.
For nature being averse to contempt and sufferings, which are often the lot of poor people, they are therefore too apt to charge God foolishly for the unequal distributions of His providence; so that their minds must be satisfied and their spirits supported by such considerations as these:
First, That Jesus Christ Himself, though Lord of the whole creation, yet made it His choice to be born and to live in poverty; to convince the poor that that condition is not unhappy, if they do not make it so by their impatience.
Secondly, That there is no state whatever but has its proper difficulties and trials; and the rich especially, who are so much envied, are often forced to confess that, as our Lord has told us, a man's life and happiness consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he possesseth.--And as to the next world, the poor have much the advantage of the rich, in wanting so many temptations to the ruin of their souls;--and in the less account they have to make for what they have received. And then the poor (as an excellent poet expresses it)
"---- will bless their poverty, who have
No reckonings to make when they are dead."
Thirdly, They should be put in mind that God has made poverty the lot of many of His dearest servants, fitting them for future and eternal happiness by the short afflictions of this life; weaning their affections from things temporal, and forcing them, as it were, to look for rest and ease and an inheritance elsewhere.
Fourthly, Let them therefore be often exhorted to put their trust in God, who is the helper of the friendless:
To have much in their thoughts the joys of heaven, which will enable them, as it did our Lord Himself, to bear with patience the hardships of their condition; not to envy such as are in better circumstances, nor to endeavour to better their own by unjust ways. But to believe assuredly that, if it is not their own fault, God will make them sufficient amends in the next life for what He denied them in this.
Thus poor Lazarus no sooner expired, but he was carried by the angels into Abraham's bosom, to enjoy perpetual rest and felicity,
Let them therefore be comforted with such scriptures as these:--
Your heavenly Father knows what things ye have need of.
Cast therefore all your care upon Him, for He careth for you.
Be content with such things as ye have, for God hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee.
Better is a little with the fear of the Lord, than great treasure and trouble therewith.
Hath not God chosen the poor of this world rich in faith, and heirs of the kingdom which He hath promised to them that love Him?
But then they must be put in mind often to pray to God, to deliver them from the sins to which their poverty might tempt them.
Not to give themselves up to sloth and idleness, but to do what they well can for an honest livelihood; to bring up their children in the fear of God, and to be sure not to set them evil examples--of murmuring against God, of coveting what is another's, of filching and stealing; for if they should be guilty of any of these sins, they will lose all title to the promise of Jesus Christ, Blessed are ye poor, for yours is the kingdom of heaven.
And if to these exhortations a clergyman adds his alms, or procures the charity of such as are more able than himself, he will discharge a very material part of his duty, and he will have the prayers of those who have the freest access to the throne of grace.