« PreviousContinue »
ter understand what this sin of covetousness is, which our Saviour doth so earnestly caution against, it will be requisite to consider more particularly wherein the vice and fault of it doth confift; that whilst we are speaking against covetousness, we may not under that general word condemn any thing that is commend. able or lawful
To the end then that we may the more clearly and distinctly understand wherein the nature of this vice doth confist, I shall,
First, Endeavour to thew what is not condemned under this name of covetousness, either in scripture, or according to right reason : And,
Secondly, What is condemned by either of these as a plain instance or branch of this fin.
First, What things are not condemned under the name of covetousness, either in scripture, or according io right reason, which yet have some appearance of it; namely, these three things :
1. Not a provident care about the things of this
2. Not a regular industry and diligence for the obtaining of them: Nor,
3. Every degree of love and affection to them. I mention these three, because they may all seem to be condemned by fcripture, as parts or degrees of this vice, but really are not.
1. Not a provident care about the things of this present life.
This indeed seems to be condemned in fcripture as a branch of covetousness, namely, in our Saviour's fermon upon the mount, Matth. vi. 25. Take no thought for your life, what ye fall eat, or what ye shall drink ; nor yet for your body, what ye Mall put on. Here our Saviour seems to forbid allcare, even about the necessaries of life, meat and drink, and cloathing; much more about the delights and conveniencies of it. But this is not abfolutely, and in ordinary cases, intended by our Saviour to be condemned, as I shall fhew by and by under the next head.
2. Neither is a regular industry, and diligence for the obtaining of these things condemned in fcripture; though this also seems to be prohibited by our
Saviour in the same chapter, ver. 26. Behold the , fowls of the air : For they fow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns, yet your heavenly Father feedeth them; and ver. 28. Why take ye thought for raiment ? consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin. In which words our Saviour feems to intimate, that we ought to depend upon the providence of God for food and raiment, and to use no more industry for the obtaining of them, than the fowls of the air do, or the lilies of the field. And the same may seem to be collected out of this chapter of St Luke : for after our Saviour had, in my text, cautioned them against covetousness, and spoken to them a parable to that purpose, of a rich man who enlarged his barns, and laid up goods for many years, he infers from thence, ver. 22. that men fhould take no thought for the things of this life, nor use any industry about them; and he said unto his difciples, therefore I say unto you, take no thought for your life, what ye Mall eat; neither for the body, what ge shall put on.
Now, to avoid all inconvenience from our Saviour's words, I think that it is commonly faid by interpreters, that he does here only condemn a diftraftful and anxious care about the things of this life, and an oyer folicitous industry and diligence for the obtaining of them ; but that he allows a prudent care, and regular industry about these things : And this were very well said, if it would agree with the scope and design of our Saviour's discourse; but the instances which he gives of the fowls of the air, and the lilies of the field, which are sufficiently provided for without any care and industry of theirs, and which he seems to fet before us for a pattern, Behold (says he) the fowls of the air ; I say these instances which he gives, feem to exclude even all regular and ordinary care and diligence about these things.
What shall we say then, that our Saviour intended by his religion to take men off from all labour, and industry in their callings? This feems to be unrea. sonable; and indeed so it certainly were, if our Sao viour had given this for a ftanding and ordinary rule
to all Christians; and not only so, but contrary to the Apostles doctrine, who constantly charged Chri. stians to labour with great diligence in their callings, that they might be able to provide for themselves, and their families.
But this discourse of our Saviour's was not intend. ed for a general and standing rule to all Christians; but only designed for his disciples, to take them off from all care about the things of this life, that they might attend upon his person, and wholly give up themselves to that work to which he had called them. And therefore St Luke takes notice, that after he had cautioned his hearers in general against covetoufnefs, he applies himself particularly to his disciples, and tells them, that he would have them so far froin this vice of covetoufnefs, that they should not so much as use that ordinary care and industry about the things of this life, which is not only lawful, but neçessary for men in all ordinary cases, ver. 22. And he said unto his disciples, therefore I say unto you, take no thought for your life, what you mall eat. And this agrees very well with the direction which our Saviour gave to his disciples, when he first sent them forth to preach, Matth. x. 9. Provide neither gold nor silver, nor brass in your purses, neither coat nor fcrip; which no man ever understood as a general law to all Chri. stians, but as a particular precept to the Apostles at that time,
And if this be our Saviour's meaning, there is then no reason to think, that this caution against covetous. nefs does forbid men to use a provident care and regular industry about the things of this life.
3. Nor is every degree of love and affection to the things of this world condemned in fcripture, as any branch, or part of this vice of covetoufnefs ; but such a love of the things of this world, as is truly consistent with the love of God, and a due and a serious care of qur souls, is allowed both by scripture and reasona St John indeed seems to condemn all love of the world, and of the things of it, as utterly inconsistent with the love of God, I John ii. 15. Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world; if a
ny man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him: but this is, according to the Hebrew phrase and minner of speaking, to forbid things absolutely, which are to be understood only comparatively. So Matth. vi. 19. Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth ; but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven ; i. e. be not fo folicitous for the good things of this world, as for the glory and happiness of the next. And Luke xii. 4. Be not afraid of them that kill the body ; that is, fear them not so much as him that can destroy both body and soul in hell: And Luke xiv. 26. If any man come unto me, and hate not his father and mother, and all that he hath; that is, if he do not love me more than all these things, he cannot be my disciple : And John vi. 27. Labour not for the meat which perisheth, but for that which endureth to everlasting life; that is, labour not so much for the one as for the other ; be not so solicitous about the things of this life, as about the great concernments of eternity. So likewise Col. iii. 2. Set your affections on things above, not on things on the earth; i. e. set them more on things above, than on earthly things. So here, Love not the world, neither the things of the world ; that is, do not overvalue them, do not love them so much as not to be able to part with them for Christ ; for if any man thus love the world, he does not love God as he ought. So that when the scripture commands us not to love the world, this is to be understood comparatively, that we should not love these things in comparison of God, and the great concernments of another world : but it does not forbid us to love these things in a due degree, and with a due subordination to those things which are more excellent, and of infinitely greater 'concernment to us. For nothing can be more inconfistent, than to recommend to men diligence in their worldly callings and employments, (as the scripture frequently does), and that in order to the attaining of the good things of this life; and yet to forbid us to love these things at all. For if men have no degree of love to them, the best argument to diligence for the obtaining of them would be taken away. Be
fides, that we are commanded in scripture to be thankful to God for bestowing on us the blessings of this life, and we are to love him upon this account. Now can any man love the giver, for bestowing such gifts upon him, which, if he do as he ought, he must not love?
You see then what those things are which the scripture does not condemn as any branch or degree of this vice of covetousness; a provident care, and a regular industry, and such a degree of love to the things of this world, as is consistent with the love of God and the care of our souls.
Secondly, I come now to thew what is condemned in fcripture under the name of covetousness; and by this we shall best understand wherein the nature of this sin doth consist. Now covetoufness is a word of a large signification, and comprehends in it most of the irregularities of mens minds, either in desiring, or getting, or in poffefiing, and using an estate. I shall Speak to each of these severally.
1. Covetousness in the desire of riches, consists in eager and insatiable defire after the things of this world. This the scripture condemns, though it be free from injustice, as it seldom happens to be. This insatiable desire of wealth, God plainly condemns by his prophet, Isa. v. 8. Wo unto them that join house to house, and lay field to field, till there be no place, that they may be placed alone in the nidst of the earth. And this is that which our Saviour here in the text seems to have a more particular respect to, when he cautions men against the fin of covetoufness, as apo pears both from the reason which he gives of this caution, and from the parable whereby he illustrates it. From the reason which he gives of this caucion, Take heed, and beware of couctou ness; for the life of man doth not consist in the abundance of the things which he popeljeth. As if he had faid, take great care to fet some bounds to your desires after the things of this world. For whatever men may imagine, it is certain in experience, that it is not the abundance of outward things which makes the life of man happy. Wealth and content do not always dwell together ;