« PreviousContinue »
his gold, who knows, but he thinks it unnatural to eat what he worships?
g. XVII. But, which aggravates this sin, I have myself once known fome, that to get money, have, wearied themselves into the grave; and to be true to their principle, when fick, would not spare a fee to a doctor, to help the poor Nave to live; and so died to save charges : a constancy that canonizes them martyrs for money.
. XVIII. But now let us see what instances the scripture will give us in reproof of the sordid hoarders and hiders of money. A good-like young man came to Christ, and enquired the way to eternal life: Christ told him he knew the commandments: he replied, he had kept them from his youth: (it seems he was no loose person, and indeed such are usually not so, to save charges) and yet lackest thou one thing (faith Christ) « fell all, distribute it to the poor, and thou shalt have
treasure in heaven, and come and follow me.' It seems Christ pinched him in the fore place; he hit the mark, and struck him to the heart, who knew his heart: by this he tried how well he had kept the commandments, to love God above all. It is said, the young man was very sorrowful, and went his way, and the reason which is given, is, that he was very rich. The tides met, money and eternal life: contrary desires : but which prevailed ? alas ! his riches. But what said Christ to this? • How hardly shall they that have • riches enter into the kingdom of God?' He adds,
It is easier for a camel to go through a needle's eye, • than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of • heaven :' that is, such a rich man, to wit, a covetous rich man, to whom it is hard to do good with what he has: it is more than an ordinary miracle: O who then would be rich and covetous ! It was upon these rich men that Christ pronounced his wo, saying, 'Wo unto,
you that are rich, for ye have received your consola« tion here: What! none in the heavens? no, unless you become willing to be poor men, can resign all, live
loose to the world, have it at arm's-end, yea, underfoot, a servant, and not a master.
$. XIX. The other instance is a very dismal one too: it is that of Ananias and Sapphira. In the beginning of apostolick times, it was customary for those who received the word of life, to bring what substance they had, and lay it at the apostles feet: of these, Jofes, surnamed Barnabas, was exemplary. Among the rest, Ananias and his wife Sapphira, confessing to the truth, fold their possession, but covetously reserved some of the purchase money from the common purse, to themselves, and brought a part for the whole, and laid it at the apostles feet. But Peter, a plain and a bold man, in the majesty of the Spirit, said, “Ananias, why hath
Satan filled thine heart to lye to the Holy Ghost; " and to keep back part of the price of the land? ( whilst it remained, was it not thine own? and after • it was sold, was it not in thine own power? why haft I thou conceived this thing in thine heart? thou hast
not lied unto men, but unto God.' But what followed this covetousness and hypocrisy of Ananias? why, Ananias hearing these words, he fell down, and
gave up the ghost. The like befel his wife, being privy to the deceit their avarice had led them to. And it is said, that great fear came upon all the ' church, and those that heard of these things :' and also should on those that now read them. For if this judgment was shewn and recorded, that we should beware of the like evils, what will become of those, that under the profession of Christianity, a religion that teaches men to live loose from the world, and to yield up all to the will and service of Christ and his kingdom, not only retain a part, but all; and cannot part with the least thing for Christ's sake. I beseech God to incline the hearts of my readers to weigh these things. This had not befallen Ananias and Sapphira, if they had acted as in God's presence, and with that entire love, truth, and sincerity, that became them. O that people would use the light that Christ hath given them, to search and see how far they are under the power of this iniquity! For would they but watch against the love of the world, and be less in bondage to the things that are seen, which are temporal, they would begin to set their hearts on things above, that are of an eternal nature. Their life would be hid with Christ in God, out of the reach of all the uncertainties of time, and troubles and changes of mortality. Nay, if people would but consider how hardly riches are got, how uncertainly they are kept, the envy they bring; that they can neither make a man wise, nor cure diseases, nor add to life, much less give peace in death: no, nor hardly yield any folid benefit above food and raiment (which may be had without them) and that if there be any good use for them, it is to relieve others in diftress; being but stewards of the plentiful providences of God, and consequently accountable for our stewardship: if, I say, these considerations had any room in our minds, we should not thus post to get, nor care to hide and keep, such a mean and impotent thing. O that the cross of Christ (which is the Spirit and Power of God in man) might have more place in the soul, that it might crucify us more and more to the world, and the world to us; that, like the days of paradise, the earth might again be the footstool; and the treasure of the earth a servant, and not a god, to man !-Many have writ against this vice; three I will mention.
§. XX. William Tindal, that worthy apostle of the English reformation, has an intire discourse, to which I refer the reader, intitled, "The Parable of the Wicked Mammon. The next is
§. XXI. Peter Charron (a famous Frenchman, and in particular for the book he wrote of Wisdom) hath a chapter against covetousness, part of which take as followeth : « To love and affect riches, is covetour“ ness: not only the love and affection, but also every " over-curious care and industry about riches. The “ desire of goods, and the pleasure we take in possessing “ of them, is grounded only upon opinion: the im. “ moderate desire to get riches, is a gangrene in our “ fouls, which, with a venomous heat consumeth our
“ natural affections, to the end it might fill us with « virulent humours. So soon as it is lodged in our “ hearts, all honest and natural affection, which we “ owe either to our parents or friends, or ourselves, “ vanisheth away: all the rest, in respect of our “ profit, seemeth nothing; yea, we forget in the end, « and condemn ourselves, our bodies, our minds, for “ this transitory trash; and as our proverb is, We fell
our horse to get us hay. Covetousness is the vile “ and base passion of vulgar fools, who account riches “ the principal good of a man, and fear poverty, as " the greatest evil; and not contenting themselves " with necessary means, which are forbidden no man,
weigh that is good in a goldsmith's balance, when nature has taught us to measure it by the ell of ne
cessity. For, what greater folly can there be, than “ to adore that which nature itself hath put under our “ feet, and hidden in the bowels of the earth, as un
worthy to be seen; yea, rather to be contemned, " and trampled under foot? This is that which the “ sin of man hath only torn out of the entrails of the “ earth, and brought unto light to kill himself. We
dig out the bowels of the earth, and bring to light " those things, for which we would fight: We are not “ alhamed to esteem those things most highly, which
are in the lowest parts of the earth. Nature seemeth “ even in the first birth of gold, and the womb from " whence it proceedeth, after a sort to have presaged “the misery of those that are in love with it; for it “ hath so ordered the matter, that in those countries " where it groweth, there groweth with it neither
grass, nor plant, nor other thing that is worth any
thing: as giving us to understand thereby, that in -" those minds where the desire of this metal groweth, “ there cannot remain so much as a spark of true “ honour and virtue. For what thing can be more “ base, than for a man to degrade, and to make him« self a servant and a Nave to that which should be
subject unto him? Riches serve wise men, but com"mand a fool: for a covetous man serveth his riches,
“ and not they him: and he is said to have goods as “ he hath a fever, which holdeth and tyrannizeth over “ a man, not he over it. What thing more vile, than “ to love that which is not good, neither can make a “ good man? yea, is common, and in the possession « of the most wicked in the world; which many times
perverts good manners, but never amends them? « without which, so many wife men have made them“ selves happy, and by which so many wicked men “ have come to a wicked end. To be brief; what
thing more miserable, than to bind the living to the « dead, as Mezentius did, to the end their death might “ be languishing, and the more cruel; to tye the spirit “ unto the excrement and scum of the earth, to pierce " through his own soul with a thousand torments, “ which this amorous passion of riches brings with it; " and to entangle himself with the ties and cords of “ this malignant thing, as the scripture calls them; « which doth likewise term them thorns and thieves, “ which steal away the heart of man; snares of the “ devil, idolatry, and the root of all evil. And truly, “ he that shall see the catalogue of those envies and “ molestations, which riches engender into the heart of “ man, as their proper thunderbolt and lightning, “ they would be more hated than they are now loved. “ Poverty wants many things, but covetousness all : “ a covetous man is good to none, and worse to him« self.” Thus much of Charron, a wife and great man. My next testimony is yielded by an author not unlikely to take with some fort of people for his wit; may they equally value his morality, and the judgment of his riper time.
§. XXII. Abraham Cowley, a witty and ingenious man, yieldeth us the other testimony: of avarice he writeth us : « There are two sorts of avarice; the one « is but a bastard-kind, and that is a rapacious appe" tite of gain; not for its own fake, but for the “ pleasure of refunding it immediately through all " the channels of pride and luxury. The other is the “ true kind, and properly so called, which is a reftlefs