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all conveniences are suitable to some condition or other, they may all be the proper subject of the labor of the poor, who work indifferently for all, from the prince to the commoner, without inquiring, or being obliged to inquire, into the circumstances or condition of the man who employs then, who alone is answerable for the prudence of his undertaking; and therefore likewise all trades and employments, which provide things useful or ornamental in life, are lawful callings.
The next thing which may furnish work and employment for men are the pleasures of life. Some pleasures are very innocent, and some very wicked; and the rule in this case must follow this distinction : such pleasures as the rich man may lawfully enjoy, the poor man may lawfully serve him in; such pleasures as are wicked may neither be enjoyed nor provided without guilt. I need not instance in particulars of either kind: to serve the lusts and passions of men ; to make vice easy and practicable; to remove the obstacles which lie in men's way to wicked pleasures, is directly to become the servant of sin : this is a plain case.
But then there are some things which, according as they are used, may administer to innocent pleasure, or to vice and immorality. Wine may make the heart of man glad, or it may destroy and drown his reason, and sink him down to the degree of a brute. And hence a question may arise, how far we may lawfully provide things of this kind ? And in the case already mentioned, it may be required whether it be lawful to keep public-houses, which are so often abused and made ill use of ? Now, since the innocence or wickedness of these things lies altogether in the use of them, he that uses them amiss
be to blame, and he that provides them may be innocent. If you buy a sword, and stab a man, you that do the murder are guilty, but not he that either made or sold the sword. The same will hold in the present case: public-houses are necessary often to transact business in, to entertain strangers, or to receive men who meet to be innocently cheerful. These are all lawful things, and therefore here is a foundation for a lawful calling. This may
indeed be abused ; and what may not ? By the same rule you must shut up not only public-houses, but most other houses too ; for there are very few things sold, which
not capable of being abused. Besides, since the thing in its own nature is indifferent, and may be either well or ill used, one man's using it ill cannot deprive another man of his right to use it well: and if, notwithstanding, the excess of some, others may use the innocent pleasure, then they may be served by others in their innocent pleasure; because what one man may innocently enjoy, another may innocently provide; and consequently to serve them cannot be a crime.
When things in their own nature evidently tend to corrupt and debauch men's manners, they are capable of no defence. Whatever exposes or renders religion contemptible; whatever serves to make virtue and piety ridiculous, to make vice glorious, to give lust the dominion over reason, or to heighten the appetite after sinful pleasures, is of this kind. These considerations have carried many wise and good men unto an utter condemnation of the employments of the stage, as unlawful means of maintenance. And whatever may be said of the representations of the theatre in general; yet when they transgress the bounds of decency, and employ their wit and art to make virtue, and sobriety, and chastity ridiculous; when they treat the sacred laws of marriage with contempt, and paint out the villain who betrays his friend, breaks the laws of hospitality, and brings to ruin unguarded innocence, as an accomplished character, and fit for imitation, there can be no doubt but the employment is extremely wicked. And whenever the stage is so employed, every good man, every good Christian, must condemn it. Poets were anciently instructors of mankind and teachers of morality; and virtue never went off the stage without applause, nor vice without contempt. Thus heathen poets wrote !
It may be worth inquiring, whether gaming can be a lawful calling or profession for men to maintain themselves by? That there is room for this inquiry, is evident from the great numbers who live and thrive by it. Those who live on this art may say in their own excuse, what the unjust steward said for himself, · Dig I cannot, to beg I am ashamed :' and I am afraid they are not unlike him in the method they choose to support themselves. Gaming may either be reduced from chance to art, or it may not. If it cannot be reduced to an art, then it cannot
be the subject of an employment to live by; for you will not say
that a man may be maintained by that, which, according to the very nature of the thing, may as well prove his ruin as his maintenance : and therefore if gaming is built purely on chance, no man can or ought to make it his calling; because it can never answer the end, and bring in a constant supply for the constant wants of life. If gaming may by skill and practice be reduced to an art, then it is a very unjust art, and must be a dishonest way of getting money: for men venture their money on a supposition that they have an equal chance with you; but if you are master of a skill which can overrule this chance, you destroy the game by taking away the chance, which is the foundation of it; and you make your advantage purely of the ignorance and folly of others, and live by an art which
you dare not own; for were it known, you could not live by it. So that, take it either way, to play on the square cannot, in the nature of the thing, be a maintenance, because it may equally happen to be your undoing; to play otherwise is a cheat and abuse on mankind, and cannot be an honest or fair livelihood.
From what has been discoursed in general, and on the particular cases mentioned, we may collect what is an honest labor or maintenance : we must follow our honest callings honestly. The next thing to be considered is, what is the measure of this duty; whether we are obliged to labor merely to supply our own wants and necessities; or whether there be any other duties incumbent on us, which must likewise be answered by our labor and toil? This the Apostle has settled in the
Fourth and last place, enjoining us to labor, that we may have to give to him that needeth.' So that the end we ought to aim at by our labor and industry is to enable us not only to support ourselves and our families, but to be contributors likewise to the wants and necessities of such as are not able to work and labor for themselves. Charity has no measure but the wants of others, and our own ability. The Scripture has told us, (the poor
shall never fail :' there never will want objects of charity, and therefore we can never get beyond this rule of the Apostle ; for the more we can get, the more we ought to give, and therefore must constantly labor to enable
ourselves to answer this end in the best manner. But there are many things which a poor man ought to provide for, before he can come to exercise charity; the first poor man he is to take care of is himself; his own wants and necessities must be answered out of his labor. Nor is he obliged only to provide for his present wants, but by industry and frugality to lay up in store, out of what he can spare from his present maintenance, to provide against the casualties and misfortunes of life, which he, with all mankind, is liable to. He may be disabled by sickness, or lameness, or age, and rendered incapable of following his trade or labor; and these being such common incidents, he is bound to provide for them. This is evidently a consequence of the Apostle's rule, that we must work to serve the ends of charity. The first piece of charity you are bound to is to keep yourself from being a charge and burden on charity, that there
may be the greater maintenance for such as are truly necessitous; and therefore it is a breach of this rule, instead of providing for futurity, to spend all at present, and leave yourself to be a burden on the common charity, whenever age or sickness disables you : so that it is a duty owing as well to your poorer brethren as yourself, to keep yourself, by the honest arts of labor and frugality, from preying on their maintenance, when your strength and labor forsake you. And hence it appears that, by the Apostle's rule, you are bound as well to thrift and frugality as to labor; and therefore such as work hard, and spend freely all they get, are highly to be blamed, and
may be found at last to have spent out of the poor's stock; since by squandering their own they come at last to a necessity of living on charity; by which means others are straitened, that they may be supplied.
Next to yourself you are likewise bound to provide for your family, for your children, and near relations. This is a duty of nature; and the Apostle has told us, “If any man provide not for his own, especially those of his own household, he is worse than an heathen, and hath already denied the faith.' Nor must their present maintenance be your only care, but likewise their future well-being : for the same reasons which oblige you to lay up in store for yourself against future calamities, oblige you to do the same for your family. But what is the measure,
you will say, of this provision for futurity? Who can guess how much himself or his family may want hereafter ? And when shall we satisfy this duty, so as to be able to begin the other of being charitable to our poorer brethren ? Our own present wants must be supplied; and therefore he who can get no more than is necessary for the present maintenance of himself and family, is under no obligation to give to charity : but when we get beyond this necessity, we are then obliged to provide for our own future wants and the present wants of the poor ; so that I reckon to lay up in store for ourselves, and to give in charity to others, are concurrent duties.
But it must be allowed that charity is naturally the duty rather of the rich than the poor. And if it be the duty of the poor to give to charity out of the little their hands can earn, how much more will it be expected from such to whom God has given more than enough! who are appointed stewards over his household, and are intrusted with the good things of the world, that they may use them to the honor and glory of his name, and to the comfort and relief of their poor brethren. He has given you plentifully, and made the things you enjoy to be your own; he has secured to you your possessions, and commanded that no man rob or steal from you, on purpose that you may show your love by the freedom of your offering. Look down and behold the toil and labor of mankind, how in the sweat of their brow they eat their bread; how their hands are galled with work, and their shoulders with burdens : and then look up to Him, who has exempted you and given you a life full of ease and comfort, and reflect what it is you owe, to this kind, to this bountiful God. The time will come when you must quit your lands and your houses ; when
shall be suitors for mercy and favor : make to yourselves therefore
: friends of the mammon of unrighteousness,' that when all shall leave and forsake you, you may be received into the habitations of righteousness, where there is mercy, and peace, and joy for evermore.