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with a glorious eternity in reversion? In a word, it is not what a man has, but what he is, which must make him happy: and thus, as I have demonstrated the utter insufficiency of riches to make men happy, so to confirm the high reason of our Saviour's dissuasive from covetousness, against all objections, or so much as pretences to the contrary, we shall farther observe, that covetousness is by no means a certain way to procure riches; and if neither riches can make a man happy, nor covetousness make him rich, all pleas for it must needs be torn up by the very roots. And for this we need not assign any other ground or cause of the strange and frequent disappointments which covetousness meets with in the ends it drives at, if we consider the nature of the means and instruments which it makes use of for the bringing of these ends about. Such as are fraud and force, schism and sedition, sacrilege and rebellion, all of them practices carrying the curse of God inseparably cleaving to them and inherent in them. And to shew this in the principal of them, the violation of things sacred, who ever knew any family made rich by sacrilege? or any robber of the altar, but sooner or later he fell a just sacrifice to the shrine he robbed? Covetousness may possibly sometimes procure such an one a broad estate for the present, but a long one never. Wealth may brave and flourish it for a while in the front and forepart of his life, but poverty generally brings up the rear. For the justice of God is never in jest, nor does it work by halves in such cases; but whether by a speedy or lingering execution, by striking or eating through the cursed thing, it will be sure to make good its blow at last. A notable instance of which, we have in the faction which carried all before it in the grand rebellion of forty-one. Men were then factious and rapacious, because they were first covetous; and none more so, than a pack of incendiaries, who had usurped the name of ministers of the gospel. For these were the men, who with such rage and vehemence preached down episcopacy and the established government of the church, in hopes to have had a great part, at least, of the revenues of it bestowed upon them for their pains. But, alas, poor tools! they understood not the work they were employed in; for the laygrandees, their masters, (who had more wit with their godliness,) meant no such thing: no, the hunters never intended that the hounds should eat the hare; but though their throats, their noise, and their fangs were made use of to run it down, and catch it, yet, being once caught, they quickly found that it was to be meat only for their masters; and that, whatsoever became of the constitution of the church, effectual care was taken that the lands of it should go another way.
fort is doubtless the highest that human nature is capable of, and may serve instead of all others, so it descends even to those of the lowest condition. And the poor labouring peasant, with his coarse fare, and a good conscience to season and make a feast of it, feeds as cheerfully, and with as much inward satisfaction, as his great landlord or flourishing neighbour can; there being, for the most part, as much of real enjoyment under the meanest cottage, as within the walls of the stateliest and most magnificent palaces. For does not the honest ploughman, whose strength is his whole estate, and his day's work his revenue, carry about him as light a heart and as clear a breast, as he who commands armies, or can call thirty-five millions his own? No doubt he does; and his experience (an evidence too great to be borne down) will vouch the same. Accordingly, let any one shew me that enjoyment or pleasure which men seek for from a vast estate in land or moneys; and I will shew the same, or something equal to it, full as high and satisfactory, in that man, who cannot call one foot of land in the whole world his own, and whose purse never reached beyond the present, nor knew what it was to lay up for the morrow. Many, doubtless very many such there are, who eat their bread with as much relish, sleep as soundly, think as cheerfully, and rejoice as much in their homely dame and ragged children, together with their high-shoed companions, as those who can command sea and land to their tables, domineer over kingdoms, and set their foot upon the necks of conquered nations.
Content is the gift of Heaven, and not the certain effect of any thing upon earth; and it is as easy for Providence to convey it without wealth as with it; it being the undeniable prerogative of the first cause, that whatsoever it does by the mediation of second causes, it can do immediately by itself without them. The heavens can and do every day derive water and refreshment upon the earth without either pipes or conduits, though the weakness of human industry is forced to fly to these little assistances to compass the same effects. Happiness and comfort stream immediately from God himself, as light issues from the sun, and sometimes looks and darts itself into the meanest corners, while it forbears to visit the largest and the noblest rooms. Every man is happy or miserable, as the temper of his mind places him, either directly under, or beside the influences of the divine nature; which enlighten and enliven the disposed mind with secret, ineffable joys, and such as the vicious or unprepared mind is wholly unacquainted with. "We have nothing, and yet we possess all things," says the apostle, (2 Cor. vi. 10.) And can a greater happiness be imagined, than that which gives a man here all things in possession, together
And in good earnest it would fare but very ill with mankind, if all that the mouth gapes for, the hand should be able to grasp. But, thanks be to God, innumerable are the ways
HEART WAS NOT THERE BEFORE. PREACHED AT CHRIST CHURCH, OXON, BEFORE THE UNIVERSITY, OCTOBER 15, 1699.
which Providence has, (some of them visible NO MAN EVER WENT TO HEAVEN, WHOSE and some secret and invisible, but all of them certain,) by which it crosses and confounds the greedy wretch even in his most refined contrivances and arts of getting; and thereby gives the world a convincing proof, one would think, (if experience could convince men,) that it is God, and God alone, who (as Moses said to the Israelites) "must teach men to get wealth," as well as enable them to enjoy it. And consequently, that for a man to be covetous and poor too, a miser and yet a beggar, is no such paradox, as to imply either an inconsistency in the thing itself, or a contradiction in the terms.
And now, in the last place, having finished the subject before us, in the several particulars proposed to be discoursed of by us; let us sum up, and recapitulate all in a few words, namely, that since it is natural for men to design to make their lives as happy as they can; and since they promise themselves this happiness from riches, and thereupon use covetousness as the surest means to attain
these riches; and yet, upon all the foregoing accounts, it is manifest, that neither can covetousness certainly procure riches, nor riches certainly procure a man this happiness; it must follow, by an unavoidable inference, that covetousness must needs be in the same degree irrational, in which riches are to this great end ineffectual; and consequently, that there is as little reason for avarice, as there is religion in it. And therefore that the covetous person (whatsoever he may seem, either in his own or the world's opinion,) is in truth neither rich, reasonable, nor religious; but chargeable with all that folly, and liable to all that misery, which is justly the shame and portion of those, who, according to those other excellent words of our Saviour, in the 21st verse of this chapter, "lay up treasure for themselves, and are not rich towards God."
To whom (as the sole giver of all happiness, whether with or without riches) be rendered and ascribed, as is most due, all praise, might, majesty, and dominion, both now and for evermore. Amen.
"For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also." MATT. vi. 21.
As man is naturally a creature of great want and weakness, so he does as naturally carry a most intimate and inseparable sense of that want and weakness about him: and because a state of want must needs be also a state of uneasiness, there is nothing which nature puts a man with so much force and earnestness upon, as to attempt a supply and relief of the wants which he is so sensible of, and so incommoded by. Insomuch that the whole course of his actings, from first to last, proceeds in this method. First, that every action which a man does, is in order to his compassing or obtaining to himself some good thereby. And secondly, that he endeavours to compass or obtain this good, because he desires it. And thirdly and lastly, that he desires it, because he wants it; or at least thinks that he does so. So that the first
spring, which sets all the wheels and faculties of the soul agoing, is a man's apprehension of some good wanting to complete the happiness of his condition.
But as every good is not in the same degree contributive to this happiness, so neither is it in the same degree desirable: and therefore, since want, as we have noted, is still the measure, as well as ground of desire, that which answers all the wants, and fills all the vacuities of a rational nature, must needs be the full and ultimate object of its desires. And this was called by the philosophers, man's summum bonum; and here, by our Saviour, man's treasure; both expressions importing a good, so comprehensively great, and equal to all the appetites of nature, that the presence and possession of this alone renders a man happy, and the want or absence of it miserable. Upon which account, though it be impossible that this prime or chief good should admit of any plurality, so as to be really more than one, yet in regard men take it in by their apprehensions, which are so exceedingly subject to error and deception, even in their highest concerns, and since error is various, and indeed infinite; hence it is, that this treasure, or summum bonum, falls under a very great multiplicity; this man proposing to himself one thing, and that man another, and a third something else for his chief good; and that, from which alone he expects all that happiness and satisfaction,
so impossible is it, that desire should wholly lie still. For though the soul had actually all that it could enjoy, yet then desire would run out into the future, and from the present fruition project the continuance and preservation of its beloved object. In short, what blood is to the body, that desire is to the soul; and as the blood will circulate while the body lives, so desire will act and range about while the soul subsists; and nothing but the annihilation of one can supersede or stop the motion of the other.
1. For the first of these. The mind of man is of that spirituous, stirring nature, that it is perpetually at work. Something it is still in pursuit of, either by contemplation or desire: the foundation of which latter, I shew, was want; and consequently, as man will be always wanting something or other, so he will be always sending forth his desires to hunt after, and bring that thing in, which he wants: which is so true, that some men having compassed the greatest and noblest objects of their desires, (so that desire could no longer ascend, as being already at the top,) they have betook themselves to inferior and ignoble exercises; so that amongst the Roman emperors, (then lords of a great part of the world,) we find Nero at his harp, Domitian killing flies, and Commodus playing the fencer; and all this only to busy themselves some way or other; nothing being so grievous and tedious to human nature as perfect idleness.
But now, there is not any thing (though never so mean and trivial) which a man does, but he antecedently designs himself some satisfaction by the doing of it; so that he advances to every action as to a degree of happiness, as to something which, according to its measure and proportion, will gratify or please him, and without which he would be in that degree uneasy and troublesome to himself. The spirit of a man, like a flame, being of such an operative, and withal of such a catching quality, that it is still closing in with some desirable, suitable good, as the food that nourishes, and the subject that supports it;
And the truth is, this innate restlessness of desire implanted in the soul of man, is the great engine by which God would draw it to himself and if men would be so far true to themselves, and to the most ruling principles of their nature, as to keep desire still upon the advance, till it fixed upon something which would absolutely and fully satisfy it, it were impossible but that, in the issue, it should terminate in God. But that which makes this great principle so ineffective of any true happiness to man is, that he does not carry it constantly and directly forward, but often suffers it to recur, or turn aside to former false satisfactions; first tasting an object, and then, upon trial, leaving it for its emptiness; and yet afterwards returning to it again, from a vain hope to speed better than he had done before. So that by this means there is a continual restless circulation from one empty thing to another. The soul, in this case, being just like a sick man, still altering his postures in order to his ease; though, when he has tried all, he finds no more ease in one than in another; a certain demonstration, that the soul itself, in the present state of nature, is in a most deplorably sick and disordered condition. But,
Secondly, the second argument to prove, that every man has something or other which he accounts his treasure, his peculiar, or chief good, shall be taken from the method of his actings, which still proceeds by a direction of means to one great and last end. For as an infinite progress is exploded, in all matters of ratiocination, as absurd and impossible, so it is equally absurd in matters of practice; it being not more necessary to assign and fix some first principle of discourse, than to state some last end of acting; all a man's practices hanging loose and uncertain, unless they are governed and knit together by the prospect of some certain end.
Now it is the same thing which sustains these several denominations of " last end," "chief good," or "treasure," all and every one of them signifying neither more nor less than the grand and ultimate term, to which a rational agent directs all his actions and desires: every man naturally and necessarily intending some one principal thing; to the acquiring of which, all that he does, thinks, or desires, is
subservient, and in which, as in a kind of centre, all his actions meet and unite.
For though a man has not continually and actually the prospect of that end in every one of his actions, yet he has it habitually and virtually; forasmuch as, being once designed by him, all his actions tend to and promote the compassing of it: as it is not necessary that a traveller should have his journey's end in his thoughts every step that he takes; but it is enough that he first designs it, and in the strength of that design is by every step carried nearer and nearer to it: every man has some prime, paramount object, which employs his head, and fills his heart, rules his thoughts, and, as it were, lies in his bosom; and is to him above and instead of all other enjoyments whatsoever. And thus much for the thing supposed or implied in the words, namely, that every man has some peculiarly valued thing, which he accounts his treasure, or chief good. But,
2. The other thing to be considered by us is that which is expressly declared in the text, namely, that whatsoever a man places his treasure or his chief good in, upon that he places his heart also. Where, according to the language of Scripture, the word heart coinpendiously denotes to us all the powers and faculties of man's soul, together with their respective motions and operations. And since the word treasure is a metaphorical term for a man's prime or chief good, we are to take an account how a man prosecutes this good, from the analogy of those actions which he exerts with reference to a treasure; and which, I conceive, may be reduced to these four. As,
but the extraordinary and invincible love which he bore to her? And what makes the trader into foreign countries defy the winds and the seas, and hazard the safety which he actually has and loves, but the wealth which he loves more? All the stupendous instances of courage, patience, industry, and the like, which have so swelled the volumes of history, and amused the world, have been but the effects of great and victorious desire; they are all of them but the instruments of love, to compass the things which men have first set their hearts upon so that when courage takes the field for battle, we may be sure that it is desire which leads it on; filling the mind with glorious ideas of the prize it contends for. All the noble violences done to nature have been resolvable into this cause; nay, the very restraints of appetite have been but the effects of an appetite more controlling and predominant.
1. restless and laborious endeavour to acquire and possess himself of it. There is no man who heartily and in good earnest desires to be rich, or great, or learned, who can be idle. For desire is the spring of diligence, and the heart infallibly sets both head and hands, and every thing else on work. Great desire is like a great fire, and all difficulties before it are like stubble; it will certainly make its way through them, and devour them. From whence it is, that it generally proves so dangerous, and too often fatal, to stand between a man (especially if in place and power) and that which he most desires; and many innocent and brave persons have to their cost found it so. For dangers and death itself shall be nothing; conscience and religion nothing; nay, the very hopes of heaven and the fears of hell shall be accounted as nothing, when a furious, headstrong desire shall resolve to break through them all; and, like Hannibal in his march, cut through rocks and mountains, till it either finds or makes a way to its beloved object. What made Jacob think those seven years of hard service for Rachel but a few days, as it is said in Gen. xxix. 20,
What is it that a man more naturally affects than society and converse? (it being a kind of multiplication of himself into every person of the company he converses with.) And what, by consequence, can be more uneasy to this ζῶον πολιτικὸν, this sociable creature, than the dry, pensive retirements of solitude? Nevertheless, when a nobler thing shall have seized his imagination, and his desires have took a flight above the first inclinations of his nature, by inspiring him with the diviner love of knowledge, or being serviceable to his country; why then, he can with delight retreat into his cell, dwell with himself, and converse with his own thoughts, and, in those higher speculations, forget all his merry-meetings and companions; nay, and his very food and rest, and live not only above the pleasures, but almost above the wants of nature too. Solomon tells us, (Prov. xviii. 1,) that,
through desire, a man having separated himself, seeketh and intermeddleth with all wisdom." So that it is this mighty thing, desire, which makes a man break off, and sequester himself from all those jollities, those airy, empty diversions, which use to court and win the appetites of vulgar souls. Thus nature, we see, is forced to bend to art; art is the daughter and issue of necessity; and the standard and measure of this necessity is desire; desire, which nothing almost can withstand or set bounds to; which makes paths over the seas; turns the night into day; and in a word, charges through hunger and poverty, and all those hardships which human nature is so apt to shrink under; but it will, at length, arrive at the satisfaction which it is in pursuit of.
What high and vast achievements does the apostle, in the 11th of the Hebrews, ascribe to faith! As the "subduing of kingdoms, stopping the mouths of lions, quenching the violence of fire, out of weakness making men
strong," and that to such a degree, as to endure tortures, "cruel mockings, scourgings, bonds and imprisonments; nay, and to be stoned, sawn asunder, and slain with the sword." But how did faith do all this? Why, in the strength of love; faith being properly the eye of the soul, to spy out and represent to it those excellent, amiable things, the love and desire of which should be hotter than fire and stronger than death; bearing a man through and above all the terrors of both, for the obtaining of so transcendent a good. In short, faith shews the soul its treasure; which being once seen by it, naturally inflames the affections; and they as naturally engage all the faculties and powers of soul and body, in a restless, indefatigable endeavour after it. And thus, in all those heroic instances of passive fortitude, faith wrought by love, and therefore it wrought wonders.
chamber, and take physic, (as none generally need it more;) but will he look upon the potion with the same eye with which he uses to see the wine sparkle in the glass? or rejoice in the company of his physician as much as in that of his boon companions? No, the actions of pleasure carry quite differing signs and marks upon them from such as are forced; marks, above all the arts of dissimulation or the powers of compulsion. For so far as any thing pleases the heart, it commands it; and the command is absolute, and the obedience cheerful.
2. Whatsoever a man accounts his treasure, that he places his whole delight in; it entertains his eye, refreshes his fancy, feeds his thoughts, and, next to his conscience, affords him a continual feast. It fills and answers all his capacities of pleasure; and to please, we know, is much more than barely to support. It is the utmost limit of enjoyment; the most refined part of living; and, in a word, the last and highest thing which nature looks for. It quenches a man's thirst, not only as water, which just keeps nature alive, but as wine, which both sustains and gratifies it too; and adds a pleasure, as well as serves a necessity.
Nothing has so strong and fast a hold upon the nature and mind of man, as that which delights it for whatsoever a man delights to do, by his good will he would be always doing; delight being that which perpetuates the union between the will and the object, and brings them together, by the surest, the most voluntary and constant returns. And from hence, by the way, we may affirm it as a certain, unfailing truth, that no man ever was or can be considerable in any art or profession whatsoever, which he does not take a particular delight in; for that otherwise he will never heartily and assiduously apply himself to it; nor is it morally possible that he should.
Men indeed, in the course of this world, are brought to do many things, mere necessity enforcing them, and the want and weakness of their condition creating that necessity. But still, in all such cases, the man goes one way, and his desires another; for he acts but as a slave under the eye of a severe master; the dread of some greater suffering making him submit to the disciplines of a less. But unshackle his nature, and turn his desires loose, and then you shall see what he will choose in order to his pleasure, and the free unrestrained enjoyment of himself. An epicure may be brought to confine himself to his
3. Whatsoever a man accounts his treasure, from that he derives the last support of his mind in all his troubles. Let an ambitious man lose his friends, his health, or his estate; yet, if the darling of his thoughts, his honour and his fame, continue entire, his spirit will still bear up. And let a voluptuous man be stripped of his credit and good name, his pleasures and sensuality, in the midst of all his disgrace, shall relieve him. And lastly, to name no more, let a covetous miser have both pleasure and honour taken from him, yet so long as his bags are full, and the golden heaps glister in his eyes, his heart will be at ease, and other losses shall affect him little; they may possibly raze the surface, but they descend not into the vitals of his comforts.
The reason of all which is, because an ambitious person values honour, a voluptuous man pleasure, and a covetous wretch wealth, above any other enjoyment in the world; all other things being but tasteless and insipid to them, in comparison of that one which is the sole minion of their fancy, and the idol of their affections. And accordingly it would be found but a vain and fruitless attempt, to go about to move the heart of any of these persons, but by touching upon the proper string that ties and holds it; so that the way to humble and bring down an ambitious, aspiring man, is to disparage him, to expose and shew his blind side, (which such kind of persons never fail to have ;) and the most effectual course to make a covetous man miserable, in the right sense, is to impoverish him : and when such a change of condition once passes upon such persons, they become like men without either life or spirit, the most pitiful, forlorn, abject creatures under heaven, and full of that complaint of Micah, in Judges xviii. 24, “Ye have taken away my gods, and what have I more?" For whatsoever a man accounts his chief good, so as to suffer it to engross and take up all his desires, that he makes his god, that he deifies and adores, whether he knows so much or no. For certain it is, that if he would lay out himself never so much in the acts of religion, he could do no more even to God himself than love him, trust in him, and rely upon him, and, in a word, give him his heart; nor indeed does God require any more ;