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2. The love of money, discovered in heaping up riches, and the tenacious humour in keeping them, is directly contrary to the clearest reason, and perfectly vain. The notion of vanity consists either in the change and inconstancy of things, or when they have not reasonable and worthy ends. In both respects, covetousness is vanity : for the object of that passion is the present world, the sphere of mutability; and the immoderate care and labour to obtain and preserve it, is not for a solid, substantial, but a mere imaginary good. In this sense, the most beautiful colours, were there no eyes to see them, and the sweetest sounds, were there no ears to hear them, are vanities. According to this rule, the greedy desire of riches for riches sake, which is the most proper notion of avarice, is the most unreasonable and vain affection; for it has no end. The apostle tells us, that “ an idol is nothing in the world;" the matter of it may be gold or silver, but it has nothing of a deity in it. He that worships it, worships an object not only most unworthy of adoration, but which has no existence, but in the fancy of the idolater. So he that loves money for itself, sets his affection upon an end that has no goodness, but in his foolish imagination, and consequently is no true and valuable end. This will be evident, by considering there is a double end to which humane actions should be directed; the particular immediate end, and the universal last end. The particular end to which reason directs in acquiring money, is to supply us with necessaries and conveniencies in the present state ; and this is lawful, when our care and labour to obtain it, are not inordinate nor immoderate. Fruition gives life and sweetness to possession. Solomon observes with a severe reflection, there is one of whose labour there is no end, who is not satisfied with riches, neither saith he, for whom do I labour, and bereave my soul of good; this is also vanity, and sore travel.” If one has a cabinet full of pearls, and has not a heart to make use of them, it is all one as if it were full of cherry-stones: for there is no true value in the possession, but in order to the true and noble use of them. This draws so deep of folly, that it is amazing that reasonable men should love money for itself; but the covetous have reprobate minds without judgment, and discerning faculties without using them.
The universal and last end of our actions, consists in the eternal enjoyment of God. Now the possession of the whole world, is of no advantage toward the obtaining future happiness : nay, it deprives men of heaven, both as the love of the world binds their hands from the exercise of charity, and as it alienates their hearts from the love of God.
The present world cannot afford perfection or satisfaction to an immortal spirit.
(1.) Not perfection. The understanding is the highest faculty in man, and raises him above the order of sensible creatures ; and this is exceedingly dehased by overvaluing earthly things. Indeed sense and fancy, that cannot judge aright of objects and actions, if they usurp the judgment-seat, the riches of this world appear very goodly and inestimable. There is no lust more degrades the eternal soul of man from the nobility of its nature, than covetousness : for the mind is denominated and qualified from the objects, upon which it is conversant. Now when men's thoughts are grovelling on the earth, as if there were no spark of heaven in them, when their main designs and contrivances are to amass riches, they become earthly, and infinitely fall short of their original and end.
(2.) Riches cannot give satisfaction to the soul, upon the account of their vast disproportion to its spiritual nature and capacity, and eternal duration. You may as reasonably seek for paradise under the icy poles, as for full contentment in riches. The kingdoms of the world, with all their treasures, if actually possessed, cannot satisfy the eye, much less the heart. There is no suitableness between a spiritual substance, and earthly things. The capacity of the soul is as vast as its desires, which can only be satisfied with good truly infinite: but carnal men, in a delusive dream, mistake shadows for substance, and thin appearances for realities. Besides, the fashion of this world passes away: riches take wings, and like the eagle, fly to heaven, or the possessors of them fall to the earth. The soul can only be satisfied in the fruition of a good, as everlasting as its own duration. In short, the favour of God, the renewed image of God in the soul, and communion with him, are the felicity of reasonable creatures.
(3.) The plainest experience does not convince the covetous of their folly, and correct them. It is universally visible, that riches cannot secure men from miseries and mortality : they are like a reed, that has not strength to support, but sharpness to be poor
wound any one that rests on it. Earthly treasures cannot secure us from the anger of God, nor the violence and fraud of men. How often are fair estates ravished from the owners ? But suppose they are continued here to the possessor, they are not antidotes against the malignity of a disease ; they cannot purchase a privilege to exempt the rich from death. And is he truly rich that must be deprived of his treasures when he leaves this world, and enter naked and solitary into the next world, where he will
for ever? He is rich that carries with him divine graces and comforts, the treasures of the soul, when he dies, and takes possession of the inheritance “undefiled, that passes not away.' How often do worldly men in their last hours, when the thoughts of the heart are declared with most feeling, and least affectation, condemn their unaccountable folly, for their having set their « affections on things below, and neglecting things above;" that with such fervour and constancy they prosecuted their secular ends, and were so coldly affected to eternal things, as unworthy of their care and diligence ? Those forlorn wretches in their extremities, with what significant and lively expressions do they decry the vanity of this world, and the vanity of their hearts in seeking it? It is related of Philip king of the Macedonians, that while one was pleading before him, he dropped asleep; and waking on a sudden, passed sentence against the righteous cause : upon this the injured person cried, “I appeal.' The king with indignation asked, to whom? He replied, ' from yourself sleeping, to yourself waking ;' * and had the judgment reversed that was against him. Thus in matters of eternal moment, if there be an appeal from the sleeping to the waking thoughts of men, when death
to see the dross of false treasures, and the glory of the true, what a change would it make in their minds, affections and actions ? But O folly and misery! they but superficially consider things, till constrained when it is too late.
From these considerations we understand the reasons of our Saviour's declaring, “ It is as easy for a camel to go through the eye
of a needle, as for a rich man,” that trusts in his riches, “ to enter into the kingdom of heaven." “ But what is impos
* Quid dignum stolidis mentibus impreceor, opes honores ambiant: et cur falsa grayi mole paraverint, tum vera cognoscant bona.
sible with men, is possible with God.” He can by so strong a light represent the eternal kingdom to men's minds, and purify their affections, that they shall so use the world, that they may enjoy God. We should from hence be excited to watchfulness against this sin. Our Saviour gave a double caution to his disciples, “ take heed and beware of covetousness.” In some, the leprosy appears in their foreheads; their company, their conversation, make it evident, that the world is set in their hearts :" in others, the leprosy is in their bosoms ; their affections are intensely and entirely set on the world, though the discovery is not so visible : none but the circumspect can be safe.
In order to the mortifying this lust, the following means, with the divine blessing, will be very useful. The inward causes of the greedy desires and tenacious humour of the covetous, are the irregular esteem of riches, and consequently, the jealousy of losing what is so highly valued ; and solicitude to prevent all possible future wants. Now to take away these causes, consider,
1. There are treasures infinitely more precious and durable, and more worthy of our esteem and love, than all the gold that is drawn from the mines in Peru, the true enrichments of the soul ; without which a man, possessed of all the wealth of the flota, is not rich towards God, but “ wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked.” Rev, 3. God offers himself to be our portion, who is rich in all perfections, whose treasures are unsearchable and unwasted: if we seek his love, and grace to love him, we shall inherit “ substance and durable riches.” The apostle, when the scales were fallen from his eyes, discovered such “ an excellency in the knowledge of Christ, that he counted all things loss and dung, that he might have an interest in him.” This eminent advantage there is in seeking heavenly treasures, we shall certainly obtain them, and never be deprived of them ; whereas the most eager pursuit of earthly riches, is uncertainly successful ; and if we do acquire them, they will certainly be lost. Now as inward bleeding that endangers life, is stopped by revulsion, in opening a vein, so if the stream of our affections be directed to things above, it will stop their impetuous current to things below.
2. The liberal use of riches for the glory of God, and in charity to others, is the best means to secure the tenor of our temporal possessions : for the neglect of paying the tribute we owe
to God, makes a forfeiture of our estates; and he can by right and power resume them in a moment. Besides, there is no epithet more proper to be joined with riches, than uncertain. Is that man certainly rich, whose entire estate is in a ship, sailing through dangerous seas, and open to frequent piracies? There is no greater a distance between a tempest and a shipwreck, than between often and always. Innumerable disasters are imminent, and nearly threaten the undoing of the richest man: but God who commands the winds and the seas, and governs the wills of men, whose providence orders the most fortuitous events, has promised, “ that the liberal man, who deviseth liberal things, he shall stand :" he has a special protection; and as he is like to God in giving, so he shall be in not being poorer for his giving. The apostle encourages christians not to be covetous; by this argument, God has said, “I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee.” We may firmly rely on his promise ; for truth is the foundation of trust, and rest on his providence which is omnipotent.
Add to this consideration, there is an accessional security to the charitable from the assistance of others. Man is sociable by instinct, and the civil life that is proper to him, will be dissolved without mutual assistance. It is ordered by the rule of providence, that there is no man so completely sufficient in himself, so absolutely and independently happy, but he wants the counsel, the courage, the help of others. It is usual, that he who possesses most can do less, and that he that has less can do more : from hence it follows, that the wealth of the one, and the strength of the other; the giving that wherein one abounds, and the receiving that which the other wants, makes such an equipoise between the rich and the poor, that they cannot be disjoined. Experience declares, there is nothing does more endear and engage the affections of others to us, than acts of kindness. Beneficence joined with innocence, render men venerable and amiable, conciliate esteem and love; “ for a good man one would even dare to die :" whereas the covetous and incompassionate, not only provoke God; (for he that abuses a benefit, despises the benefactor ; and by imprisoning their treasures without doing good, the abuse is as real, as by a riotous wasting them) but are exposed to hatred and contempt; and if a disas. ter surprises them, a secret joy touches the hearts of others.