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William Penn. (1644–1718). Fruits of Solitude.
The Harvard Classics. 1909–14.

Part II

The Obligations of Great Men to Almighty God

254. It seems but reasonable, that those whom God has Distinguish’d from others; by his Goodness, should distinguish themselves to him by their Gratitude.

255. For tho’ he has made of One Blood all Nations, he has not rang’d or dignified them upon the Level, but in a sort of Subordination and Dependency.

256. If we look upwards, we find it in the Heavens, where the Planets have their several Degrees of Glory, and so the other Stars of Magnitude and Lustre.

257. If we look upon the Earth, we see it among the Trees of the Wood, from the Cedar to the Bramble; in the Waters among the Fish, from the Leviathan to the Sprat; in the Air among the Birds, from the Eagle to the Sparrow; among the Beasts, from the Lyon to the Cat; and among Mankind it self, from the King to the Scavenger.

258. Our Great Men, doubtless, were designed by the Wise Framer of the World for our Religious, Moral and Politick Planets; for Lights and Directions to the lower Ranks of the numerous Company of their own Kind, both in Precepts and Examples; and they are well paid for their Pains too, who have the Honor and Service of their fellow Creatures, and the Marrow and Fat of the Earth for their Share.

259. But is it not a most unaccountable Folly, that Men should be Proud of the Providences that should Humble them? Or think the Better of themselves, instead of Him that raised them so much above the Level; or in being so in their Lives, in Return of his Extraordinary Favors.

260. But it is but too near a-kin to us, to think no further than ourselves, either in the Acquisition, or Use of our Wealth and Greatness; when, alas, they are the Preferments of Heaven, to try our Wisdom, Bounty and Gratitude.

261. ’T is a dangerous Perversion of the End of Providence to Consume the Time, Power and Wealth he has given us above other Men, to gratify our Sordid Passions, instead of playing the good Stewards, to the Honor of our great Benefactor, and the Good of our Fellow-Creatures.

262. But it is an Injustice too; since those Higher Ranks of Men are but the Trustees of Heaven for the Benefit of lesser Mortals, who, as Minors, are intituled to all their Care and Provision.

263. For though God has dignified some Men above their Brethren, it never was to serve their Pleasures, but that they might take Pleasure to serve the Publick.

264. For this Cause doubtless it was, that they were raised above Necessity or any Trouble to Live, that they might have more Time and Ability to Care for Others: And ’t is certain, where that Use is not made of the Bounties of Providence, they are Imbezzell’d and Wasted.

265. It has often struck me with a serious Reflection, when I have observed the great Inequality of the World; that one Man should have such Numbers of his fellow Creatures to Wait upon him, who have Souls to be saved as well as he; and this not for Business, but State. Certainly a poor Employment of his Money, and a worse of their Time.

266. But that any one Man should make Work for so many; or rather keep them from Work, to make up a Train, has a Levity and Luxury in it very reprovable, both in Religion and Government.

267. But even in allowable Services it has an humbling Consideration, and what should raise the Thankfulness of the Great Men to him that has so much better’d their Circumstances, and Moderated the Use of their Dominion over those of their own Kind.

268. When the poor Indians hear us call any of our Family by the Name of Servants, they cry out, What, call Brethren Servants! We call our Dogs Servants, but never Men. The Moral certainly can do us no Harm, but may Instruct us to abate our Height, and narrow our State and Attendance.

269. And what has been said of their Excess, may in some measure be apply’d to other Branches of Luxury, that set ill Examples to the lesser World, and Rob the Needy of their Pensions.

270. GOD Almighty Touch the Hearts of our Grandees with a Sense of his Distinguish’d Goodness, and that true End of it; that they may better distinguish themselves in their Conduct, to the Glory of Him that has thus liberally Preferr’d them, and the Benefit of their fellow Creatures.