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SUMMARY OF DISCOURSE XXIX.
LUKE, CHAPTER XII.--VERSE 21.
The riches of the world being often the fruits of injustice or oppression, and yet being sometimes represented in Scripture as the blessing of God on honest labor, and the reward of goodness, a great fortune being often employed for very ill purposes, and yet being applicable to the best uses in the world, the possession of riches has been either valued or despised, condemned or approved, by moralists and divines, according to the several methods by which they are obtained and employed. The hand of the diligent, saith Solomon, maketh rich; and again, the blessing of the Lord it maketh rich; and he addeth no sorrow with it ; yet he has also said, There is a sore evil which I have seen under the sun, namely riches kept for the owners thereof to their hurt. From this observation it may be concluded, that where riches are ill got or ill used, they are a hurt to the owner ; but when honestly got and worthily enjoyed, a blessing. It is farther considered what the iniquity is which generally follows a large possession. The crimes of a rich man commonly arise from profuseness or covetousness; the first producing luxury, intemperance; the second, fraud, oppression, and uncharitableness. A rich man may be free from these vices, and still be wicked; virtue consisting not merely in the outward act, but in the principles from whence actions flow. The poor are often benefited by the scatterings of the prodigal; but is he therefore possessed of Christian charity? The parable of the rich man in Luke xxii. considered, and the true meaning of it inquired into. It is
commonly supposed, from our Lord's warning and exhortation in the 15th and 33rd verses, that covetousness was the crime of the rich man, and that the only way to be rich towards God is to sell our goods, and distribute them to the poor: but our Lord had before given a reason against covetousness: For a man's life consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he possesseth: and the parable was added to illustrate this reason, and not to display the folly or vice of covetousness in general. The rich man is not described in the colors of a covetous man; neither can we conclude, from the circumstances of the parable, that he was void of charity. It is likewise unreasonable to limit the notion of being rich towards God, to works of charity only : all good works in proportion make us rich towards God. St. Paul speaks of the richness of good works, and St. James of the richness of faith ; and in the text, to be rich to God, signifies particularly to trust in his providence, in opposition to a reliance on treasures of our own heaping up; as will be shown. The true meaning of the parable next pointed out. When our Saviour exhorted his hearers to beware of covetousness, he added, For a man's life consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he possesseth: and this he illustrates in the parable. The aim of it then is to show that wealth is no security against the accidents and evils of life, from which nothing can protect us but the good providence of God. The rich man flowing in plenty, imagined that he had in his own hands a security against all evils; and for his presumptuous folly is reproved by God: Thou fool, this night thy soul shall be required of thee; then whose shall those things be which thou hast provided? They would fall into the power of another. So is he, says our Lord, who lays up treasure for himself, and is not rich towards God. These words then are the moral of this parable: to lay up treasures for ourselves, must signify to lay up treasures for our own security; and to be rich towards God is in opposition to this, and denotes
our trust in the Almighty, and our endeavoring to procure his favor and protection; as knowing that in them only is all our hope and stability. From this we may perceive the great danger attending riches. Poverty constantly reminds us of our dependence on God; but the man who lives in the midst of plenty is too apt to forget the need which he has of God's assistance: and thus riches steal the heart from God, render it insensible to the duties of religion, and thereby destroy all virtue and holiness. It is this irreligious state of mind, and this disregard to God, which too generally attend wealth, that have made riches to be so hardly spoken of in Scripture. The parable of the rich man and Lazarus teaches us the dangerous state of great men who live without the fear of God in their hearts ; and the much happier condition of the poor, who have their share of misery in this world, which often leads to glory and immortality hereafter: this is the true aim of the parable. When the rich man applies to Abraham on account of his brethren, he desires that Lazarus might go to them as a prophet, to testify the reality of a future life, lest they should come into the same sad state as himself; plainly showing that his condemnation was the effect of irreligion and unbelief. He also tacitly owns his and his brethren's contempt for Moses and the Prophets, in his reply to Abraham : Nay, but if one went from the dead, they will repent. From this it is evidently the purport of the parable not to represent the heinousness of any one particular crime for which the rich man suffered, but to show how fatally riches influence the mind to irreligion. A sense of dependence creates in the poor man a fear to offend, and a desire to please God; whilst the rich man, wanting as he thinks nothing from God, grows negligent in religion, and from thence proceeds easily to infidelity. Love of the world is said in Scripture to be enmity with God; and means not any particular vice, but that temper and disposition produced by riches, which inclines men to disobey God's commands.
SUMMARY OF DISCOURSE XXIX.
Our Lord has also the same meaning, when he says, Ye cannot serve God and Mammon, &c.; i. e. wealth is the rival of God: for if it once gets possession of the mind, it will expel all trust in him, all regard to religion. From the above observations we may learn where a rich man ought to place his guard : he must beware of the pride of self-sufficiency, and learn to know that in riches is no security, and that he wants the protection of heaven as much as the poorest wretch in the world. A rich man who has a proper sense of this, will in consequence have the other virtues proper to his state. We may learn this submission to God from our Saviour's argument: The life is more than meat, and the body is more than raiment. The utmost riches can do, is to provide food and raiment, and other such necessaries and conveniences of life: but can food ward off death, or changes of raiment stop the approaches of disease ? The rich man as well as the beggar must depend on God for health and strength. Since then we must trust in God for our life and strength, had we not better still farther trust in him, and ease ourselves of unreasonable care for the things of life? To trust in God, and rely on his goodness, is to be rich towards God, and is that species which will make us happy in this life, and in that which is to come. By these means we may still enjoy our fortunes, and, as we are taught to pray, May so pass through things temporal, that we finally lose not the things eternal.
So is he that layeth up treasure for himself, and is not rich towards
The riches of the world being often the fruits of injustice and oppression, one wealthy man's estate being raised perhaps on the ruin and poverty of hundreds, and built on the tears and. cries of widows and orphans; and yet being sometimes represented in Scripture as the blessing of God on the honest labor and industry of men diligent in their calling or profession ; or as the reward bestowed on a virtuous contentment and resignation of mind to the providence of the Almighty: a great fortune being often used to very ill purposes, to the increase of luxury and wantonness, to the encouragement of vice, and to the mischief of all who are the unhappy neighbors of an overgrown rich man; and yet being in itself applicable to the best uses in the world, to the promotion of virtue and holiness, to the advancement of the honor of God, and to the setting forward the common good and happiness of mankind : there being such different ways both of getting and enjoying the riches of the world, the possession of them has been either valued or despised, condemned or approved by moralists and divines, according to the view they have had of them with relation to the several methods by which they are obtained and employed. “The hand of the diligent,' saith Solomon, maketh rich :' and again, • the blessing of the Lord it maketh rich, and he addeth no sorrow with it;' yet at other times he observed riches that had no blessing in them, there is a sore evil which I have seen under the sun, namely, riches kept for the owners thereof to their hurt.'