« PreviousContinue »
enforced by the care of our superiors : were they strictly put in execution, it would not only prevent much mischief, and increase the wealth of the kingdom, but make private men in a little time thank the just and seasonable severity of the government. For it would help to keep them within compass, to preserve (which is one way to increase) their estate; to enlarge their trade, provide better for their children, and open their hands more liberally to the poor : and this, I am sure, God requires at our hands.
What I have said against excess in apparel, is also applicable to excess in furniture: for as finery is more valued than clothes, so is the furniture than the house. It is a most inexcusable superfluity, to bestow an estate to line walls, dress cabinets, embroider beds, with an hundred other unprofitable pieces of state, such as massy plate, rich china, costly pictures, sculpture, fret-work, inlayings, and painted 'windows, of no use in the earth, only for show and sight: the interest of which money, so ill employed, might probably maintain the poor of the nation.-: O'Lord God! hast thou given us plenty, and should we see others want ? Should we clothe our dead walls, and let thy poor go naked? Can we feed our eyes with these objects, and not feed the hungry with bread, and spend our money upon lifeless pictures, but shut up our bowels to thy living image, the poor and needy of the earth ? Rebuke this evil mind, and bring down the pride of all flesh, O Lord! for thy name's sake.'
The last excess is that of feasting and voluptuousness, immoderate eating and drinking, with that strain of mirth and jollity, which is the mode and practice of the times. Dives is almost got into every family, especially of those of note and estate, and it is want of wealth, and not of will, 'that the greatest part of the nation is not guilty: they mostly sin to their ability, and that is sad. But the sin of voluptuousness is swelled to that bulk, that there are more receipts for eating and drinking, than there are precepts of life in the old and new law. The book of cookery has outgrown the bible, and I fear is read oftener; to be sure, it is more in use. In this art the lust of the flesh is deeply concei ned; there is not so much care of the stomach, as of the palate, of health, as pleasure : it is the taste, the gust, the ielish, that makes the victuals go down; therefore the sauce is preferred before the meat. Twelve pennyworth of flesh, with five shillings of cookery, may happen to make a fashionable dish; plain beef, mutton, or any other thing, is become dull food: but by that time its natural relish is lost in the crowd of the cook's ingredients, and the neat sufficiently disguised to the eaters, it passes under a French nanie for a
rare dish. But there is one thing in this impiety more than ordinarily condemnable: it destroys hospitality, and wrongs the poor": for that expense, which is now flung away upon a vicious palate, upon a French soup, or sauce, in former times afforded several dishes of substantial victuals ; which did not only feed strangers or neighbours, but the poor, who have now little more than (what the dogs had then) empty dishes to lick. This is abusing the providence of God, tyrannizing over the creatures made for man's use, and sacrificing their poor lives, not to our lives, but to our lust. It is against such as these “ the creation groans," and from whose intemperance it “cries to be delivered.” Rom. viii. 21, 22.
God, in all ages, had a controversy with voluptuous men, and the testimonies of sacred records are strong and numerous against them: I will mention a few of them. Voluptuousness was the sin of the old world :* " They were eat. ing and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, pleasing the lust of the eye, the lust of the Hesh, and the pride of life, until the day of the flood.” This also was the condition of Sodom; Christ himself has expressed it in these words :t “ In the days of Lot they did eat, they drank, they bought, they sold, they planted, they builded; the same day that Lot went out of Sodom, it rained fire and brimstone from heaven, and destroyed them all.” The prophet Ezekiel has it in these words, speaking to Jerusalem, “Behold, this was the iniquity of thy sister Sodom, pride, fulness of bread, and abundance of idleness, was in her and her daughters: neither did she strengthen the hand of the poor and needy; and they were haughty, and committed fornication before me; therefore I took them away, as I saw good.” And it is very remarkable, that the voluptuousness of the Israelites was joined with their idolatry. It is said, that when Moses was in the mount, the people, impatient of his stay, “ Sat down to eat and drink, and rose up to play." They had got a calf of gold, and were dancing about it; but it was a dismal ball, and they paid dear for their junket, for several thousands were slain ; and it is said, that God plagued the people.” Job's children had as ill success in their festivals ; || “ They went from house to house, eating and drinking ; and a tempest rose, and smote the four corners of the house, and it fell and killed them." But most express is that complaint of God, by the mouth of the prophet Amos, against the voluptuous Jews: “Ye that put so far away the evil day, and cause the seat of violence to come near; Gen, vi. Mat. xxiv. 37, 38, 39.
+ Gen. xix. Luke xvii. 28, 29. Ezek. xvi. 49.56. $ Exod. xxxii. 28.
| Job i. 19.
that lie upon beds of ivory, and stretch themselves upon their couches, and eat the lambs out of the flock, and calves out of the midst of the stall : that chant to the sound of the viol, and invent to themselves instruments of music, like David :* that drink bowls of wine, and anoint themselves with the chief ointments; but they are not grieved for the affliction of Joseph. Therefore now shall they go captive with the first that go captive, and the banquet of them that stretched themselves shall be removed. And I will turn your feasts into mourning, and all your songs into lamentation; and I will make the end thereof a bitter day."
I shall sum up these excesses, and conclude the instances, with the story of Dives, more commonly known, than reverently believed, at least considered; it is delivered to us, by the great Lord of truth in these words: “ There was a certain rich man, which was clothed in purple and fine linen, and fared sumptuously every day. And there was a certain · beggar, named Lazarus,which was laid at his gate, full of
sores, and desiring to be fed with the crumbs which fell from the rich man’s table: moreover the dogs came and licked his sores. And it came to pass, that the beggar died, and was car, ried by the angels into Abraham's bosom. The rich man also died, and was buried: and in hell he lift up his eyes, being in torments, and seeth Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom. And he cried, and said, father Abraham, have mercy upon me, and send Lazarus, that he may dip the tip of his finger in water, and cool my tongue, for I am tormented in this flame. But Abraham said, Son, remember that thou in thy life-time receivedst thy good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things; but now he is comforted, and thou art tormented. And besides all this, between us and you there is a great gulf fixed, so that they which would pass from hence to you, cannot; neither can they pass to us, that would come from thence."
This great passage comprehends the state of men in both worlds : it shows to us what that life is in this world, which leads to misery in the next, and what to happiness. No sensual man, no voluptuous person, not those that deck themselves with delicate apparel, and fare sumptuously every day, that love their back and their belly more than God and the poor, shall be received into Abraham's bosom, or dwell in blessedness for ever. Let none deceive themselves, the jealous God will not be mocked. “ If you sow to the flesh, ye shall reap corruption ; but if you sow to the spirit, ye shall reap life everlasting.' Amos vi. 3, 4, 5, 6, 7. and chap. viii. 20. + Luke xvi. 19. 26.
Gal. vi. 8.
They that live in pleasures, "Kill the just;"* they crucify the just witness in themselves : such treasure up wrath against the day of wrath.t “ Wo, anguish and tribulation to every soul ihat doth evil, whether jew or gentile, professor or profane, Christian or infidel.:” for the Dives's under all these names must be turned into hell: but such as, through patience and well doing, wait for immortality, as poor Lazarus did, after all their poverty, neglect, and hunger, shall receive “Glory, bonour, and eternal life.” Aod truly it is some comfort to the miserable in this world, that they shall not live always in it, and that they have to do with a God, who is “no respecter of persons." This judge is impartial; the poor are upon even terms with the rich; and it will not be quality, but integrity; not riches, but righteousness, which will recommend us to him. No wonder then, if the prophet Jeremiah, in the name of God, charged the ancient jews not to go into the house of feasting;"'$ and that Ecclesiastes hath said, “ It is better to go to the house of mourning, than to the house of feasting," since so many evils follow it. But there is one feast, that even Christ himself allows us ; though I have little reason to believe it will be imitated, when I consider the natural averseness that is, even among professed Christians, to his self-denying precepts and example. “Thou,” said Jesus, " When thou makest a dinner or a supper, call not thy friends or thy brethren, neither thy kinsmen nor thy rich neighbours, lest they also bid thee again, and a recompense be made thee." (This would beget feasting, the thing to be avoided; no such matter.) “ But when thou makest a feast, call the poor, the maimed, the lame, the blind, and thou shalt be blessed; for they cannot recompense thee; but thou shalt be recompensed at the resurrection of the just."|| There are few that strive to obey this counsel : there is so little of fashion, or of interest in it. What! persons of quality feast the poor, carve for the maimed, and feed the blind ? It is too mean, too ignominious! If they have the bones, the scraps, the crụmbs, it is well.. No, no; this doctrine is too like him that taught it, to be practised by them that are so unlike him. They that follow him in these things, must“ take up the cross, despise the shame, and sow in hope :" but because there is an everJasting recompense for those that do, I fervently desire of God, that it would please him to put it into the minds of both magistrates and people to “ love mercy, do justice, walk humbly with the Lord,” and meekly and charitably towards all men. I beseech you, in the tender bowels of a * James v. 5, 6.
+ Rom. ii. 8, 9. Rom. ii. 7. § Eccles. vi. 2.
» Luke xiv. 12, 13, 14.
Christian man, to consider of the present conjuncture :* is this a time for feasts and revels, plays and pastimes, when the very wrath of God seems to hang by a slender thread over our heads? O! let your moderation be known unto all men, now the Lord is so near at hand, so very near indeed.
And I do humbly pray the supreme authority of this land, to put a speedy check to these exorbitances, to discountenance these excesses, by the revival of the good old laws of the land, and in making of such new ones, as may be thought convenient to prevent such pride and prodigality. For I think I may, both with modesty and truth, affirm, if the very unnecessary expenses of most ranks or degrees in this kingdom could be brought into one public purse, they would arise to three times more money, than either is given, or is requisite, to the maintenance of the poor that are in it: and whether this be a thing practicable or no, it matters not, though I believe it is; the very preventing of that excess which is amongst us, would be pleasing to Almighty God, and one way or other beneficial to the whole.
Of the Evil of Gaming. Ir may not be improper for me here to follow this head of excess with the sin of gaming; an invention of much mischief in the world, and therefore inconsistent both with Christianity and civil government. The evils that attend it are neither small nor few. It is, first, a great enemy to business, and that just care that people ought to have for the discharge of their respective capacities in their civil affairs. Next, it is one of the greatest thieves to men's estates : many brave families have been ruined by a gamester. That which hath been got by the care and prudence of a father, it may be, hath been lost in one night by the extravagant humour of a son : but that the reward of virtue should be the stake of folly, and the painful acquest of worthy ancestors exposed to the chance and hazard of the die, is such impiety to God's providence, ingratitude to parents, injury to their own families, and disgrace to the government, that I conceive it may very well deserve the care of our superiors to prevent that extravagancy for the future, by the execution of the laws in being against it. Thirdly,, It is a great consumer of time. They who are addicted to gaming, are generally the most idle and useless
Mic. vi. 5, 6, 7, 8.
Col. iji. 14.