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3dly and Tastly, Covetousness is apt to pro
.0 support himself with the labour of his when our friends will not so much as know hands and the sweat of his brow. It is hard measure to be nobly born and basely endowed; With these and such like reasonings, fallato wear a title above one's circumstances, and ciously applied, will covetousness persuade a so serve only as a foil to an elder brother. man both of the necessity and lawfulness of But now, by such provisions for posterity, the his raising heap upon heap, and joining house reason and measure of men’s gains, from per- to house, and puttting no bounds to his gains, sonal, is like to grow infinite and perpetual ; when his hand is once in. And it must be and yet no charge of covetousness seems here confessed, that there is some shew of reason able to take place; it being impossible for a for what has been alleged. But when again man to be covetous in that, in which no get we shall consider, that the forementioned ting can be superfluous. The first plea of cases are all but future contingencies, which avarice therefore is, provision for posterity: are by no means to be the rule of men's
But then, if a man's condition be such, that actions, our duty is only to look to the preall his cares are to terminate in his own per- cept, and the obligation of it, which is plain son, and that he has neither sons nor daugliters and present, and may be easily known; and to lay up for, but that his whole family lives for the rest, to commit ourselves to the good and dies with him, and one grave is to receive providence of God. For while we are solicithem all, why then covetousness will urge to tously providing against the miseries of age him the necessity of hoarding up against old and persecution, how do we know, whether age, against the days of weakness and infir we shall ever live to be old ? or to see the mity, when the strength of his body and the calamity of our country? or the persecution of vigour of his mind shall fail him, and when our persons ? But however, if God shall see the world shall measure out their friendships it for his honour to try and humble us and respects to him only according to the with the miseries of any of these conditions, dimensions of his purse. Upon which account, it is not all our art and labour, all our parsione would think, that all a man's gettings and mony and providence, which can prevent hoardings up, during his youth, ought to pass them. And therefore, how plausible soever but for charity and compassion to his old age ; the pleas of covetousness may seem, they are which must either live and subsist upon the far from being rational. But, stock of former acquisitions, or expect all that misery, which want, added to weakness, can vail upon the minds of men, by reason of the bring upon it. The sight of an old man, poor reputation which riches generally give men and destitute, crazy and scorned, unable to in the world, by whatsoever ways or means help himself, or to buy the help of others, is they were gotten. It is a very great, though a shrewd argument to recommend covetous sad and scandalous truth, that rich men are at ness to one, even in his greenest years, and to the very same time esteemed and honoured, make the very youngest and jolliest sparks, while the ways by which they grew rich are in their most flourishing age, look about them. abhorred and detested; for how is griping and It having been the observation and judgment avarice exclaimed against ! how is oppression of some, who have wanted neither wisilom branded all the world over! All mankind nor experience, that an old man has no friend seems agreed to run them down; and yet, but his money. And I heartily wish I could what addresses are made, what respects confute the observation.
shewn, what high encomiums given to a But the like and no less plausible a plea wealthy miser, to a rich and flourishing opwill this vice also put in for providing against pressor! The lucky effect seems to have times of persecution, or public calamity ; call atoned for and sanctified its vile cause; and ing to a man's mind all the hardships of a the basest thing covered with gold, lies hid civil war, all the plunders and rapines, when itself, and shines with the lustre of its covernothing was safe above-ground; but a man ing. was forced to bury his bags, to keep himself Virtue, charity, and generosity, are indeed alive. And therefore, thougli, at present, there splendid names, and look bright in sermons should be peace, and all about us calm and and panegyrics, (which few regard :) but quiet; yet who knows how soon a storm may when we come to practice and common life, arise, and the spirit of rebellion and fanaticism virtue, if poor, is but a sneaking thing, looked put it into men's heads once more to raise upon disdainfully, and treated coldly; and armies to plunder and cut throats in the Lord ; when charity brings a man to need charity, and then, believe it, when the great work shall he must be content with the scraps from the be thus carryingon, and we shall see our friends table of the rich miser or the great oppressor. and our neighbours reformed out of house and For no invitations are now inade, like that in home as formerly, it will be found worth the gospel, where messengers are sent, with while to have secured a friendly penny in a tickets, to bring in guests from the hedges and corner, which may bid us eat, when we should highways. No, it is not the way in our days otherwise starve, and speak comfort to us, to spread tables or furnish our banquets for VOL. I.
the poor and the blind, the hungry and the capacity of enjoying any of these things whica indigent. For in our times, (to the just they so eagerly catch at. All which shews, shame of the fops our ancestors, as some call how fast this vice rivets itself into the heart, them,) full bellies are still oftenest feasted; which it once gets hold of ; how it even grows "and to them who have shall be given, and into a part of nature, and scarce ever leaves they shall have more abundantly." This is the man who has been enslaved by it, till he the way of the world; be the discourse of it leaves the world. what it will.
Now, if we inquire into the reason of the And as this is the general practice of the difficult removal of this vice, we shall find, world, so it must needs be the general obser that all those causes, which promoted its first vation of the world too; for while men re insinuation and entrance into men's affections, proach vice, and caress the vicious; upbraid contribute also to its settlement and continuthe guilt of an action, but adore its success ; ance in the same; as the same sword which they must not think, that all about them are enables to conquer, enables also to reign and so without eyes or common sense, as not to
rule after the conquest.
Covetousness, we spy out the prevarication, and to take an esti- shew, prevailed by its likeness and resemmate of the real value of things and persons, blance to virtue, by the plausibility of its rather by what they do, than by what they pleas, and by the reputation of its effects. talk. Since therefore it is so natural for every All which, as they were so many arguments one to desire to live with as good esteem and to the soul, first to admit and take in the vice, reputation in the world as he can, it is no so they are as potent persuasives not to part wonder, if covetousness makes so strong a plea with it. But the grand reason, I conceive, for itself in the hearts of men, by promising which ties the knot so fast, that it is hardly them riches, which they find so certain a way to be untied, is this; that covetousness is to honour and respect. And thus much for founded upon that great and predominant the first general reason of the caution, given principle of nature, which is self-preservation. by our Saviour, against covetousness; namely, it is indeed an ill-built superstructure, but its great aptness to prevail upon and insinuate yet it is raised upon that lawful and most into men's minds.
allowed foundation. The prime and main 2. The other general reason is, the exceed- design of nature, whether in things animate ing great difficulty of removing it, when it or inanimate, being to preserve or defend ithas once prevailed. In which and the like self; which since it cannot do, but by taking cases, one would think it argument sufficient in relief and succour from things without, and to caution any man against a disease, if we since this desire is so very eager and trancan but convince him of the great likelihood sporting, it easily overshoots in the measure of his falling into it; and not only of that, of what it takes in, and thereby incurs the but, in case he should fall into it, of the sin and contracts the guilt of covetousness; extreme difficulty (sometimes next to an which is properly an “immoderate desire and impossibility of his recovering, and getting pursuit of even the lawful helps and supports out of it. Both which considerations to of nature.” gether, certainly should add something more Men dread want, misery, and contempt, than ordinary to the caution of every wise and therefore think they can never be enough man, and make him double his guards against provided with the means of keeping off these so threatening a mischief. And as for covet evils : so that, if want, misery, and contempt ousness, we may truly say of it, that it makes were not manifestly enemies to, and destrucboth the alpha and omega in the devil's tive of the enjoyments of nature; and nature alphabet, and that it is the first vice in were not infinitely concerned to secure and corrupt nature which moves, and the last make good these enjoyments; and riches which dies. For look upon any infant, and and plenty were not thought the direct inas soon as it can but move an hand, we shall struments to effect this; there could be no see it reaching out after something or other such thing as covetousness in the world. which it should not have; and he who does But even money (the desire of all nations) not know it to be the proper and peculiar sin would sink in its value, and gold itself lose its of old age, seems himself to have the dotage weight, though it kept its lustre. For to of that age upon him, whether he has the what rational purpose should men prowl and years or no. For who so intent upon the labour for that, without which nature could world commonly, as those who are just going continue in its full, entire fruition of whatsoout of it? Who so diligent in heaping up ever was either needful for its support, or wealth, as those who have neither will nor desirable for its pleasure? But it is evident, time to spend it?
that men live and act under this persuasion, If we should insist upon the reason of that unless they have wealth and plenty things, nothing seems more a prodigy, than enough, they shall be needy, miserable, and to observe, how catching and griping those despised, and that the way to have enough, are, who are utterly void of all power and is to let 'nothing, if possible, go beside them.
So that herein lies the strength of covetousness, that it acts in the strength of nature,
SERMON XLVII. that it strikes in with its first and most forcible inclination; which is to secure itself, both in the good it actually has, and against the
COVETOUSNESS PROVED NO LESS AN ABevil it fears.
SURDITY IN REASON, THAN A CONTRAIn short therefore, to recapitulate the fore DICTION TO RELIGION, NOR A MORE going particulars. If caution and vigilance
UNSURE WAY TO RICHES, THAN RICHES be ever necessary for the prevention of any
THEMSELVES TO HAPPINESS. evil, it must be of such an one as insinuates itself easily, grows upon a man insensibly,
PART II. and sticks to him immovably; and in a word, scarce ever loses its hold where it has once got
“ And he said unto them, Take heed, and beware of covetousit. So that a man must be continually watch ness: for a man's life consisteth not in the abundance of the ing and fencing against it, or he shall be sure things which he possesseth." - LUKE, xii. 15. to fall by it. And thus much for the first general part of
When I entered upon the prosecution of the text, to wit, the dehortation from covet- these words, I observed in them these two ousness, expressed in these words, "Take heed, general parts. and beware of covetousness.” A vice, which I. A dehortation, or dissuasive from covetno character can reach the compass, or fully ousness in these words ; “ Take heed, and express the baseness of, holding fast all it can beware of covetousness.” get in one hand, and reaching at all it can II. A reason enforcing it, and joining the desire with the other. A vice which may but latter part of the text with the former by the too significantly be called the * Boursuio, or causal particle for ; " for a man's life conappetitus caninus of the soul, perpetually dis- sisteth not in the abundance of the things posing it to a course of alternate craving and
which he possesseth.” swallowing, and swallowing and craving; and
As for the first of these two, namely, the which nothing can cure, or put an end to, dehortation, or dissuasion from covetousbut that which puts an end to the man him ness; I have already despatched that in a self too. In a word, of so killing a malignity discourse by itself, and so proceed now to is it, that wheresoever it settles, it may be
the deservedly said of it, that if it has en Second general part, to wit, the reason riched its thousands, it has damned its ten enforcing the said dehortation, and expressed thousands. An hard saying, I confess ; in these words ; “for a man's life consisteth but it is the truth of it which makes it so. not in the abundance of the things which he And therefore happy, no doubt, is that man, possesseth.” who maturely takes the warning which our In the foregoing discourse I shewed, that Saviour so favourably gives him; and by these words were an answer of our Saviour to shunning the contagion of a vice so peculiarly a tacit argumentation formed in the minds branded and declared against, neither con
of most men in the behalf of covetousness; tracts the guilt, nor comes within the number which, grounding itself upon that universal of those whom God himself, (Psalm x. 3,) principle, that all men desire to make their expressly tells us he abhors.
life in this world as happy as they can, To which God (who so graciously warns
proceeded to the main conclusion by these us here, that he may not condemn us here two steps; to wit, that riches were the direct after) be rendered and ascribed, as is most and proper means to acquire this happiness ; due, all praise, might, majesty, and domin- and covetousness the proper way to get aud ion, both now and for evermore. Amen.
The ground of which arguments, namely, * Namely, Insatiabilis edendi cupiditas; sive morbus, quo Laborantes, etiam post cibum esuriunt.
that every man may design to himself as much happiness in this life, as by all lawful means he can compass, our Saviour allows, and contradicts not in the least; as being indeed the first and most native result of those principles which every man brings into the world with him. But as for the two consequences drawn from thence; the first of them, namely, that riches were the direct and proper means to acquire happiness, our Saviour denies, as absolutely false ; and the second, namely, that covetousness is the proper way
to obtain riches, he does by no means allow i for certainly true; though he does not, I
confess, directly set himself to disprove it comes to account with us, (let our own here; but in the text now before us insists measures be what they will,) he will consider only upon the falsehood of the former consequence, as we, in the following discourse, Now certain it is, that the general, stated shall likewise do; though even the latter of way of gathering riches must be by labour these consequences also shall not be passed and travail, by serving other men's needs, and over in its due place.
prosecuting their business, and thereby doing Accordingly, our Saviour here makes it the
For there is a general commutation chief, if not the sole business of his present of these two, which circulates and goes about sermon, (and that in defiance of the com the world, and governs all the affairs of it; mon sentiments of the world,) to demonstrate one man's labour being the stated price of the inability of riches for the attainment of another man's money; that is to say, let iny true happiness, and thereby to make good the neighbour help me with his art, skill, or grand point insisted upon, namely, " that a strength, and I will help him in proportion man's life consisteth not in the abundance of with what I possess. And this is the original the things which he possesseth.” Where, by cause and reason, why riches come not withlife, I suppose, there can be no need of prov- out toil and labour, and a man's exhausting ing, that our Saviour does not liere mean life himself to fill his purse. This, I say, is the barely and physically so taken, and no more; original cause ; for I know, that, the world which is but a poor thing, God knows; but being once settled, estates come to be transmitby life, according to a metonymy of the sub ted to many by inheritance; and such need ject for the adjunct, understands the happi- nothing else to render them wealthy, but only ness of life in the very same sense wherein to be born into the world. Sometimes also Saint Paul takes this word in 1 Thess. iii. 8. | riches fall into men's hands by favour or for“Now,” says he, “ we live, if we stand fast in tune; but this is but seldom, and those who the Lord.” That is, we live, with comfort, are thus the favourites of Providence make but and a satisfactory enjoyment of ourselves. a small number in comparison of those who And conformable to the same, is the way of get what they have by dint of labour and speaking in the Latin, as “ Istuc est vivere,” severe travail. And therefore, (as I said at and “Non est vivere, sed valere vita.” In first,) this is the common, stated way which which, and many the like expressions, virere Providence allows men to grow rich by. and vita import not the mere physical act of But now, can any man reconcile temporal living; but the pleasure, happiness, and ac- happiness to perpetual toil? Or can he enjoy commodations of life ; withont which, life any thing truly who never enjoys his ease? itself is scarce worthy to be accounted life, I mean that lawful ease, which God allows but only a power of breathing, and a capa- and nature calls for, upon the vicissitudes of city of being miserable.
rest and labour. But he who will be vastly Now, that riches, wealth, and abundance rich must bid adieu to his rest, and resolve to (the things which swell so big in the fancies be a slave and a drudge all his days. And at of men, promising them mountains, but pro- last, when his time is spent in heaping up, ducing only a mouse) are not, as they persuade and the heap is growu big, and calls upon the themselves, such sure, unfailing causes of that man to enjoy it, his years of enjoyment are felicity, which the grand desires of their past, and he must quit the world, and die like nature so eagerly press after, will appear from a fool, only to leave his son or his heir a rich these following considerations.
man; who perhaps will be one of the first 1. That no man, generally speaking, ac-. who shall laugh at him for what he left him, quires, or takes possession of the riches of and complain, if not also curse him, for this world, but with great toil and labour, having left him no more. For such things and that very frequently even to the utmost have happened in the world ; and I do not fatigue. The first and leading curse, which find that the world much mends upon our God pronounced upon mankind in Adam, hands. But if this be the way of it, (as we was, that“ in the sweat of his brows he should see it is,) what happiness a man cau reap from eat his bread,” (Gen. iii. 19.) And if it be a hence, even upon a temporal account, needs a curse for a man to be forced to toil for his more than ordinary invention to find out. very bread, that is, for the most necessary The truth is, the absurdity of the practice is support of life; how does he heighten and so very gross, that it seems to carry in it a multiply the curse upon himself, who toils direct contrariety to those common notions for superfluities, and spends his time and and maxims which nature would govern the strength in hoarding up that which he has actions of mankind by. no real need of, and which it is ten to one 2. Men are usually forced to encounter and but he may never have any occasion for. pass through very great dangers, before they For so is all that wealth which exceeds such can attain to any considerable degrees of a competence, as answers the present occa wealth. And no man, surely, can rationally sions and wants of nature. And when God account himself happy in the midst of danger.
For while he walks upon the very edge and grown out of fashion? In a word, every man brink of ruin, it is but an equal cast, whether must be reckoned to have just so much of the he shall succeed or sink, live or die, in the world as he enjoys of it. And the covetous attempt he makes. He who (for instance) man (we have shewn) will not, and the old designs to raise his fortunes by merchandise, man cannot enjoy it. (as a great part of the world does,) must have But some again (the natural violence of all his hopes floating upon the waves, and his their temper so disposing them) are for adriches (the whole support of his heart) entirely vancing and enriching themselves (if possible) at the mercy of things which have no mercy, by war: a course certainly, of all others, the the seas and the winds. A sudden storm may most unaccountable and preposterous. For is beggar him; and who can secure him from a it not highly irrational for a man to sacrifice storm in the place of storins ? A place, where the end to the means? to hazard his life for whole estates are every day swallowed up, the pursuit of that, which for the sake and and which has thereby made it disputable, support of life only can be valuable? Well whether there are more millions of gold and indeed may the man who has been bred up in silver lodged below the salt waters or above and accustomed to camps, battles, and sieges, them; so that, in the same degree that any look death and danger boldly in the face; but man of sense desires wealth, he must of neces- yet, let him not think to look them out o sity fear its loss ; his desires must still mea countenance too; these being evils, no doubt sure out his fears; and both of them, with too great for mortality, with but common reference to the same objects, must bear pro sense and reason about it, to defy. Nay, portion to one another; which in the mean suppose we, likewise, the man of arms so fortime must needs make the man really mise- tunate, as in his time to have fought himself rable, by being thus held in a continual dis- into an estate, (as several such lave done,) traction between two very uneasy passions. yet may not even this also prove a very slight Nevertheless, let us, after all, suppose that and contemptible purchase, if, as soon as it is this man of traffic, having passed the best of made, the man himself should drop out of his days in fears and dangers, comes at length this world, and so become wholly incapable to triumph so far over both, as to bring off a of taking possession of what he had bought good estate from the mouth of the devouring with his life, but only by his grave ? element, and now thinks to sit down and Thus, I say, it often fares with those soldiers solace his old age with the acquisitions of his of fortune, or field adventurers, (as we may younger and more daring years ; let him, call them,) from whom, if we cast our eye a however, put what is past and what is present little further, upon another sort of men, 110 into the same balance, and judge impartially, less cager after gain and grandeur from their whether the presentenjoyment, which he reaps management of state-affairs, shall we find from the quiet and plenty of this poor their condition at all more secure? their hapremainder of his age, (if he reaps any,) can piness more firmly fixed ? and less at a venequal those perpetual fears and agonies, which ture than that of those of the forementioned not only anticipated, and brought age upon tribe? No surely, no less hazards meet the him before its time, but likewise, by a con statesman at the council-board, than accost the tinual racking solicitude of thought, cut him soldier in the field ; and one had need be as off from all pleasure in the proper days of good a fencer, as the other ought to be a pleasure, and from those youthful satisfactions fighter, to defend himself: the oppositions lie which age must by no means pretend to. “I is to contest with being altogether as terrible am this day fourscore years old,” (said the and fatal, though not in the same dress. For aged and rich Barzillai, in 2 Sam. xix. 35,) he has the changeable will of his prince or " and can I yet taste what I eat or what í superiors, the competition of his equals, and drink?" But, it seems, as dull as his senses the popular rage of his inferiors, to guard and were, he was severely sensible of the truth of secure himself against. And he must walk what he said. And whosoever lives to Barzil- with a wary eye and a steady foot indeeil, lai's years, shall not, with all Barzillai's wealth who never trips nor stumbles at any of these and greatness, (sufficient, as we read, to enter cross blocks, which, some time or other, will taiu a king and his army,) be able to procure assuredly be cast before him ; and it is well if himself a quicker and a better relish of what he carries not only his foot, but his head too, shall be set before him, than Barzillai had. so sure, as to fall by neither of them : many For all enjoyment must needs be at an end, wise men, I am sure, have fallen so. For it where the powers of enjoying cease. And if, is not wisdom, but fortune which must proin the next place, we should pass from the tect such an one; and fortune is no man's delicacies of fare to the splendour of habit, freehold, either to keep or to command. (another thing which most of the world aré Which being truly his case, I cannot judge so much taken with,) what could the purple, that man bappy, who is in danger to be and the scarlet, and all the fineries of clothing ruined every moment, and who can neither avail a man, when the wearer himself was bring the causes of his ruin within the reach