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bearing opinion and admiration of riches (though it were poffible it should proceed no farther) is finful, appears, in that it carries with it (as I obferved above) a difregard and difefteem of fpiritual things; 'tis a formal decifion (though a very bafe and falfe one) that earthly treafures are more valuable than heavenly; that the interefts of this world are preferable to thofe of another, that money is better than religion, and mammon a more useful and a more powerful friend than God. It afcribes a fufficiency in the creature, which can be only found in the Creator; and draws us into other wicked and dangerous notions: For those who think fo highly of riches, will look upon poverty with contempt, on the duty of felf-denial as a jeft, and on a ftate of affliction as a certain mark of God's disfavour; though the holy Scriptures, in every part of them, teach us quite the contrary doctrine. A Chriftian, therefore, (if he will obey this precept of our Saviour) ought to efteem riches, and all other worldly enjoyments, only according to their true ufe and value, without regard to popular maxims, or to the paffions and appetites of corrupted nature. For I deny not that the things of this world, and money as well as any thing elfe, have fomething of a value in them; the danger is in over-rating them. They have a goodness, but not an excellence; they are in fome meafure necessary to the comfort and convenience of human life, but by no means fufficient to a real and rational happiness. Hitherto we have confidered the opinion only, and the cfteem of earthly treasures; but it feldom ftops here, the next step is naturally,
(2). A coveting and defire of what appears fo excellent to a carnal mind. Not that men do always proceed herein in an argumentative way, examine firft the advantages of riches, conclude them valuable, and then defire them: but being habitually
inured to an high opinion of these things, they de fire them at the fame time by a fort of moral inftinct, as they do their food by a natural appetite. Yet it is nevertheless diftinctly to be confidered here, as one step farther towards the laying up treafures upon earth; and if the efteem of thofe treasures be finful, the defire of them is ftill a greater fin, because it is an error of the affections, added to an error of the judgment. And that it is indeed an error of the affections, will appear by this confideration, that whenever it prevails as a ruling principle in the heart, 'tis inconfiftent with the love of God. For fo we are taught by St. John, *Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world: If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. If therefore the love of God be a duty (as fure it is, if either religion, reafon, or gratitude can make it fo) the love of riches, which fo effectually undermines and overthrows it, that 'tis impoffible one heart fhould hold them both together, must needs be a very grievous fin. And because it does more than any thing debauch the mind from God, and fets up this world as an idol, in competition with him, 'tis call'd idolatry, in the infpired language of St. Paul. Add to this, that the fame Apoftle, St. Paul, has declar'd it to be the root of all evil; and what he means by that, his own words immediately foregoing will explain to us: + For they that will be rich fall into temptations and a fnare, and into many foolish and hurtful lufts, which drown men in deftruction and perdition. Where this exorbitant love of money is indulged, it breaks down all the bounds and fences of confcience, and hurries men with loose reins into any fin whatever, that may forward their obtaining of it. What vile hypocrify, diffimulation, and flattery; what lewd
1 Tim. vi. 9, 10.
1 John ii. 15.
ness, what lying and cheating, what oppreffion and treachery; what perjuries, murders, treafons, and other enormous villanies, are chargeable daily upon this prevailing paffion? So very juftly has Šolomon obferved, * He that makes hafte to be rich, fhall not be innocent. And furely that which thus abounds with the feeds of every other fin, muft it self be a very great one. Yet perhaps we are not feverely to understand this of every defire of riches; though to distinguish with exactnefs, how far we may go in this matter, is fomewhat difficult, and harder ftill to regulate our felves in practice by fuch a diftinction. St. John, when he forbids us to love the world, and the things that are in the world, could never defign to discharge us abfolutely from all manner of affection to any thing here; for then even natural affection to our relations, and the delight we take in them, would be unlawful. Nor can all degrees of the defire of riches, be included in that, or in any other prohibition: for riches are the gift of God, and reckoned up amongst the bleffings of his providence to Solomon; and furely what God · thinks fit to beftow as a bieffing, we may defire as fuch. The defire of riches, therefore, is not fimply and abfolutely criminal, but as attended with certain vicious adherences, from which 'tis hard very to purify it. Remove what is evil in it, and it becomes lawful. Now one evil of it, as we have feen by the antithefis in that text of St. John, laft cited, lies in this, that it draws us from the love of God, by fuffering the world and its enjoyments to ufurp a fovereignty in our hearts, which is and can be due only to him, as our fupreme good. Another evil (pointed out by St. Paul) is the impetuofity of that defire, leading us into abundance of fins to accomplish it, as fraud, violence, oppreffion, treacher
ry, neglect of religion, &c. To make the defire of riches lawful then, it must be fo purified, as to be thoroughly confiftent with thofe two fundamental duties, the loving of God above all things, and our neighbour as our felves. Let us but make fure in the first place, that God remain still the fovereign object of our affections; that our defire of riches be not any the leaft diminution of our love of him, nor any way divert us from an hunger and thirst after righteoufnefs; that whatever we obtain of earthly treasures, we be ready and willing to part with them all, if there be occafion, for the fake of religion; and that our principal aim in defiring them, be not the gratification of our own covetous fancy, but fincerely and really the glorifying God, by good works of piety and charity. Let us alfo be ftrictly careful, that it lead us not one ftep awry, to the prejudice of our neighbour, that we entertain not one thought of getting them by finful methods, or ufing them to dishonest and unworthy purposes. And lastly, that we defire them not, but in a cool and moderate way, scarce one degree above indifference, and with a conftant and entire fubmiffion to the will of God, whether we obtain them or not: And then perhaps there may be no harm in the defire of riches. I fay, if all this be practicable, and the defire be thus in fact reftrained and regulated, I fhall make no fcruple of granting, that the prohibition in this paragraph of our Saviour's fermon, and others to the fame purpofe, do not reach it. But if on the contrary, it appear (as I believe it will) impracticable, through the common corruption of our nature, the ftrength of our paffions, and the difficulty of attending at once to fo many nice and burdenfome (however neceffary) limitations; we muft look upon the defire of riches as a forbidden appetite, and correct all motions toward it as finful; confining our felves to
that discreet petition of Agur, Give me neither verty nor riches, but feed me with food convenient for me. For I would have it obferved here, once for all, that I am not fpeaking against the defire of fo much of this world as is neceffary for the due fupport of our felves, and thofe that depend upon us, or fuch a provifion for them as is fuitable to the rank and ation wherein God has placed us : But I fpeak of riches, or fuperfluity and abundance, the notion of which is to be measured by mens other circumftances. And in judging of this, every man for himself, there must be a ftrict and careful impartiality; that we do not firft, by our pride, prefume upon an higher rank than really belongs to us, and create imaginary neceffities thereupon, and then pretend to justify our covetousness, in order to fupport our vanity; But let us form a true and modeft judgment of our ftation, and defire no more than that station really calls for. I must now go on to,
(3.) THE third degree or inftance of laying up treasures upon earth: And that is the actual labour and purfuit in obtaining them, follicitously projecting in the feveral arts and methods for that purpofe; contriving all poffible ways, and putting the scheme in execution, with a perfect drudgery of diligence, and laying hold of all opportunities to grow rich. This follows upon the defire of riches: For what a man defires he endeavours to compafs, and the defire ftill encreases with the endeavour, and the endeavour is again more vigorous in proportion to the defire, fo that the thing is infinite, and there is no end of coveting and procuring riches. fenfible that the matter treated of here, will need greater caution than the former: For though the defire of riches, may, with fome limitation, be lawful, it is in no cafe enjoined as a duty, and therefore may be let alone without offending; whereas