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dition of life, generally, the most
Prov. xxx. Part of the 8th, and the
whole oth Verse. : --Give me neither poverty nor riches,
feed me with food convenient for me: left I be full and deny thee, and say, who is the Lord ? or left I be poor and steal, and take the name of my God in vain. uprave HESE words (as we are in- SERM. S e form'd in the first verse of the VIII.
chapter) were spoken by Agur m e
to Ithiel and Ucal, who, very probably, were two of his scholars, that
Serm. came to him to be instructed in the VIII. principles of true wisdom: He be
gins with modestly declaring his own insufficiency for so great an undertaking, and recommends as the foundation of all useful knowledge, an humble temper of mind, sensible of the natural weakness of human understanding, and the imperfection of its highest improvements; which he argues, verse the 4th, from our ignorance of the works of nature: And therefore, in the two following verses, he advises his pupils to make it their principal study to understand the will of God, which is, of all knowledge, the most important, and of the greatest use in human life ; and in all their enquiries of this kind, to confine themselves to what God had revealed: Then he introduces the words of the text, in the form of an address to God, in answer, perhaps, to some question that they had propos'd to him about the duty of prayer: Two things have I required of thee: Deny me them not, before I die. Remove far from me vanity and lies; give me neither poverty nor riches, feed me with food conve
nient for me, (i. e. Allow me only to en-Serm. joy such a competency, as will enable me VIII. to live with decency and advantage to my fellow creatures, in that station in which I am placed,) left I be full and deny thee, and say who is the Lord? or left I be poor and steal, and take the name of my God in vain.
In this passage 'tis plainly intimated, that the middle state of life is, generally at least, more safe and eligible than either want or super fuity : With respect to its being better than narrow and penurious circumstances, there can be no dispute ; but that it should be preferr'd to great wealth and abundance, will, I am persuaded, appear a very wild and extravagant paradox to the giddy and unthinking, who judge of things at first sight, without enquiring into their nature, or considering their consequences: For it is not a desirable thing, will such say, to be not only placed above poverty, and enjoy the necessaries and conveniencies, but the delights also of human life ? - to be persons of figure, power, and influence ? and, consequently, capable of serving our
N . friends,
SERM. friends, and relieving the indigent and VIII. miserable, in a more large and extenfive
degree? Can a condition, which may not only be so agreeable, but useful, be mischievous and destručtive to mankind ? It certainly may; nay, it actually has had this fatal consequence in many cases. And persons who have behaved with honour, and an unblemish'd reputation in moderate circumstances; nay, who have preserved their virtue, and manifested great presence and strength of mind, under the buffetings of adverse fortune; have been captivated and bewitched by the charms of an affluent prosperity, and the pleasures it brings along with it, and sunk into an indolent and diffolute life: Which shows us that there is not only danger, but eminent and peculiar danger in it, when it · happens to some particular tempers; and
in general, where there is not a lively influence of religion and virtue, and firmness and resolution of mind. But I proceed to consider the words of the text more particularly, in the following method.
Í. I shall endeavour to explain and illu- SERM.
strate what it says concerning the dan- VIII. ger of a state of great riches and superfuity on the one hand, and of want and poverty on the other ; from whence it will clearly appear, that the middle condition is in general, and, except to some rare and peculiar tempers, the most convenient and eligible. And II. Make some remarks upon this doca
trine to prevent mistakes that may arise from it, and direct to the right use and improvement of it.
ist. I am to explain and illustrate what the text says concerning the danger of a state of great riches and superfluity on the one hand, and of want and poverty on the other. I shall take them just in the order in which it represents them to us. And
ft. For the danger that attends a state of great riches and super fluity, which is express’d thus, lest I be full and deny thee, and say who is the Lord? To deny God signifies in scripture, sometimes, to act as if there were no righteous Gover