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tilling the land, and sowing and dressing it; whence we are sure not to reap any benefit to ourselves, and cannot tell who shall do it.
• The rich man,' St. James tells us, ' as the flower of the grass shall he pass away; for the sun is no sooner risen with a burning heat, but it withereth the grass, and the flower thereof falleth, and the grace of the fashion thereof perisheth ; so also shall the rich man fade in his ways. All the comfort (we see by the Apostle's discourse) and the convenience, all the grace and ornament that riches are supposed to yield, will certainly wither and decay, either before or with us ; whenever the sun (that is, either some extreme mischance in life, or the certain destiny of death) doth arise, and make impression on them. But our Saviour hath best set out the nature and condition of these things, in that parable concerning the man, who, having had a plentiful crop of corn, and having projected for the disposal of it, resolved then ' to bless himself,' and entertain his mind with pleasing discourses, that having in readiness and security so copious accommodations, he might now enjoy him. self with full satisfaction and delight; not considering that, though his barns were full, his life was not sure; that God's pleasure might soon interrupt his pastime; that the fearful sentence might presently be pronounced, Thou fool, this night thy life shall be required of thee; and what thou hast prepared, to whom shall it fall ?' Euripides calls riches pilóxvxov xosua, • a thing which much endears life,' or makes men greatly love it; but they do not at all enable to keep it: there is no árzálLayua tñs Yuxñs, no price or ransom equivalent to life : all that a man hath he would give to redeem it; but it is a purchase too dear for all the riches in the world to compass. So the psalmist tells us : • They that trust in their wealth, and boast themselves in the multitude of their riches, none of them can by any means redeem his brother, nor give to God a ransom for him ; for the redemption of their soul is precious. They cannot redeem their brother's soul or life, nor therefore their own ; for all souls are of the same value, all greatly surpass the price of gold and silver. Life was not given us for perpetuity, but lent, or deposited with us; and without delay or
evasion it must be resigned into the hand of its just Owner, when he shall please to demand it; and although righteousness may, ‘ yet riches,' as the wise man tells us, “cannot deliver from death, nor at all profit us in the day of wrath.' Could we probably retain our possessions for ever in our hands ; nay, could we certainly foresee some considerably long definite time, in which we might enjoy our stores, it were perhaps somewhat excusable to scrape and hoard, it might look like rational providence, it might yield some valuable satisfaction : but since, Rape, congere, aufer, posside, statim relinquendum est; since, as Solomon tells us, · Riches are not for ever, nor doth the crown endure to every generation ;' yea, since they must be left very soon, nor is there any certainty of keeping them any time; that one day may consume them, one night may dispossess us of them and our life together with them, there can be no reason why we should be solicitous about them ; no account given of our setting so high a rate on them. For who would much regard the having custody of a rich treasure for a day or two, then to be stripped of all, and left bare? to be to-day invested in large domains, and to-morrow to be dispossessed of them? No man surely would be so fond as much to affect the condition. Yet this is our case ; whatever we call ours, we are but guardians thereof for a few days. This consideration therefore may serve to repress or moderate in us all covetous desires, proud conceits, vain confidences and satisfactions in respect to worldly wealth; to induce us, in Job's language, not to make gold our hope, nor to say to the fine gold, Thou art my confidence; not to rejoice because our wealth is great, and because our hand hath gotten much ;' to extirpate from our hearts that root of all evil, the love of money. For if, as the preacher thought, the greatest pleasure or benefit accruing from them, is but looking on them for a while, (“what good,' saith he, . is there to the owners thereof, saving the beholding of them with their eyes ?') if a little will, nay must suffice our natural appetites, and our present necessities ; if more than needs is but, as the Scripture teaches us, a trouble, disquieting our minds with care; a dangerous snare, drawing us into mischief and sorrow; if this, I say, be their present quality; and were it better, yet
could it last for any certain, or any long continuance ; is it not evidently better to enjoy that pittance God hath allotted us with ease and contentation of mind ; or if we want a necessary supply, to employ only a moderate diligence in getting thereof by the fairest means, which, with God's blessing promised thereto, will never fail to procure a competence, and with this to rest content; than with those in Amos, “to pant after the dust of the earth ; to lade ourselves with thick clay ;' to thirst insatiably after floods of gold, to heap up mountains of treasure, to extend unmeasurably our possessions, (* joining house to house, and laying field to field, till there be no place, that we may be placed alone in the midst of the earth,' as the prophet Isaiah doth excellently describe the covetous man's humor ;) than, I say, thus incessantly to toil for the maintenance of this frail body, this flitting breath of ours? If divine bounty hath freely imparted a plentiful estate on us, we should indeed bless God for it; making ourselves friends thereby, as our Saviour advises us, employing it to God's praise and service; to the relief and comfort of our brethren that need : but to seek it earnestly, to set our heart on it, to rely thereon, to be greatly pleased or elevated in mind thereby, as it argues much infidelity and profaneness of heart, so it signifies much inconsiderateness and folly, the ignorance of its nature, the forgetfulness of our own condition, on the grounds discoursed on.
3. Now in the next place; for pleasure, that great witch, which so enchants the world, and which by its mischievous baits so allures mankind into sin and misery; although this consideration be not altogether necessary to disparage it, (its own nature sufficing to that; for it is more transitory than the shortest life, it dies in the very enjoyment,) yet it may conduce to our wise and good practice in respect thereto, by tempering the sweetness thereof, yea souring its relish to us; minding us of its insufficiency and unserviceableness to the felicity of a mortal creature; yea, its extremely dangerous consequences to a soul that must survive the short enjoyment thereof. Some persons indeed, ignorant or incredulous of a future state; presuming of no sense remaining after death, nor regarding any account to be rendered of this life's actions, have encouraged
themselves and others in the free enjoyment of present sensualities, on the score of our life's shortness and uncertainty; inculcating such maxims as these :
Brevis est bic fructus homullis ;
· Let us eat and drink, for to-morrow we shall die ;' because our life is short, let us make the most advantageous use thereof we can; because death is uncertain, let us prevent its surprisal, and be aforehand with it, enjoying somewhat before it snatches all from us. The author of wisdom observed, and thus represents these men's discourse : • Our life is short and tedious; and in the death of a man there is no remedy; neither was there any man known to have returned from the grave :Come on therefore, let us enjoy the good things that are present; let us speedily use the creatures like as in youth ; let us fill ourselves with costly wine and ointments; and let no flower of the spring pass by us; let us crown ourselves with rosebuds before they be withered ; let none of us go without his part of voluptuousness --for this is our portion, and our lot is this.' Thus, and no wonder, have some men, conceiving themselves beasts, resolved to live as such; renouncing all sober care becoming men, and drowning their reason in brutish sensualities; yet no question, the very same reflexion, that this life would soon pass away, and that death might speedily attack them, did not a little quash their mirth, and damp their pleasure. To think that this perhaps might be the last banquet they should taste of ; that they should themselves shortly become the feast of worms and serpents, could not but somewhat spoil the gust of their highest delicacies, and disturb the sport of their loudest jovialities; but, in Job's expression, make the meat in their bowels to turn, and be as the gall of asps within them. Those customary enjoyments did so enamor them of sensual delight, that they could not without pungent regret imagine a necessity of soon for ever parting with them; and so their very pleasure was by this thought made distasteful and embittered to them. So did the wise man observe: '() death, how bitter is the remembrance of thee to a
man that liveth at rest in his possessions; unto the man that hath nothing to vex him; and that hath prosperity in all things;'
Yea,' adds he, unto him, that is yet able to receive meat ! And how bitter then must the remembrance thereof be to him, who walloweth in all kind of corporal satisfaction and delight; that placeth all his happiness in sensual enjoyment! However, as to us, who are better instructed and affected; who know and believe a future state; the consideration, that the time of enjoying these delights will soon be over; that this world's jollity is but like the crackling of thorns under a pot,' (which yields a brisk sound, and a cheerful blaze, but heats little, and instantly passes away ;) that they leave no good fruits behind them, but do only corrupt and enervate our minds; war against and hurt our souls; tempt us to sin, and involve us in guilt; that therefore Solomon was surely in the right, when he said of laughter, that it is mad; and of mirth, what doeth it?' (that is, that the highest of these delights are very irrational impertinences;) and of intemperance, that, at the last, it biteth like a serpent, and stingeth like an adder;' with us, I say, who reflect thus, that (πρόσκαιρος αμαρτίας απόλαυσις) enjoyment of sinful pleasure for a season cannot obtain much esteein and love ; but will rather, I hope, be despised and abhorred by us. I will add only,
4. Concerning secular wisdom and knowlege; the which men do also commonly with great earnestness and ambition seek after, as the most specious ornament, and pure content of their mind; this consideration doth also detect the just value thereof; so as to allay intemperate ardor toward it, pride and conceitedness on the having or seeming to have it, envy and emulation about it. For imagine, if you please, a man accomplished with all varieties of learning commendable, able to recount all the stories that have been ever written, or the deeds acted, since the world's beginning; to understand, or with the most delightful fluency and elegancy to speak all the languages, that have at any time been in use among the sons of men ; skilful in twisting and untwisting all kinds of subtilties; versed in all sorts of natural experiments, and ready to assign plausible conjectures about the causes of them; studied in all books