Page images

and to be true to their principle, when fick, would not fpare a fee to a doctor, to help the poor flave to live; and fo died to fave charges: a conftancy that canonizes them martyrs for


XVIII. But now let us fee what inftances the fcripture will give us in reproof of the fordid hoarders and hiders of money. A goodlike young man came to Christ, and enquired the way to eternal life: Chrift told him, he knew the commandments: he replied, he had kept them from his youth: it seems he was no loofe perfon, and indeed fuch are ufually not fo, to fave charges. And yet lackeft thou one thing, faith Chrift; Sell all, diftribute it to the poor, and thou fhalt have treasure in heaven, and come and follow me. It feems Chrift pinched him in the fore place; he hit the mark, and ftruck him to the heart; who knew his heart; by this he tried how well he had kept the commandment, To love God above all. It was faid, the young man was very forrowful, and went his way; and the reafon which is given is, that he was very rich. The tides met, money and eternal life: contrary defires: but which prevailed? Alas! his riches. But what faid Chrift to this? How hardly fhall 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 the kingdom of heaven: that is, fuch 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 cove

tous! It was upon these rich men that Christ pronounced his woe, faying, Woe unto you that are rich, for ye have received your confolation here. What! none in the heavens? No, unless you become willing to be poor men, can refign all, live loose to the world, have it at arm's end, yea, under foot; a servant, and not a master.

§. XIX. The other inftance is a very difmal one too: it is that of Ananias and Sapphira. In the beginning of the apoftolic times, it was customary for those who received the word of life, to bring what fubftance they had, and lay it at the apoftles feet: of thefe, Jofes, furnamed Barnabas, was exemplary. Among the rest, Ananias and his wife Sapphira, confeffing to the truth, fold their poffeffion, but covetoufly reserved fome of the purchase-money from the common purse, to themfelves, and brought a part for the whole, and laid it at the apostles feet. But Peter, a plain and a bold man, in the majefty of the Spirit, faid, Ananias, Why hath Satan filled thine heart to lie to the Holy Ghoft; and to keep back part of the price of the land? Whilft it remained, was it not thine own? And after it was fold, was it not in thine own power? Why haft thou conceived this thing in thine heart? Thou haft not lied unto men, but unto God. But what followed this covetoufnefs and hypocrify of Ananias? Why, Ananias hearing these words, he fell down, and gave up the ghoft. The like befel his wife, being privy to the deceit their avarice

AЯs v. 3, 4.

had led them to. And it is faid, that great fear came upon all the church, and those that heard of these things: and alfo fhould on thofe that now read them. For if this judgment was fhewn, and recorded, that we should beware of the like evils, what will become of those that under the profeffion of Christianity, a religion that teaches men to live loofe from the world, and to yield up all to the will and fervice of Christ and his kingdom, not only retain a part, but all; and cannot part with the least thing for Chrift's fake. I befeech 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 prefence, and with that entire love, truth, and fincerity, that became them. O that people would use the light that Chrift has given them, to search and fee, how far they are under the power of this iniquity! For would they but watch against the love of the world, and be lefs in bondage to the things that are feen, which are temporal, they would begin to fet their hearts on things above, that are of an eternal nature. Their life would be hid with Chrift in God,. out of the reach of all the uncertainties of time, and troubles and changes of mortality. Nay, if people would but confider how hardly riches are got, how uncertainly they are kept, the envy they bring; that they can neither make a man wife, nor cure diseases, nor add to life, much lefs 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 ufe for them, it is to relieve others in diftrefs; being but stewards of the plentiful providences of God, and confequently accountable for our stewardship; if, I fay, thefe confiderations had any room in our minds, we fhould not thus poft to get, nor care to hide and keep, fuch a mean and impotent thing. O that the crofs of Chrift, which is the Spirit and power of God in man, might have more place in the foul, that it might crucify us more and more to the world, and the world to us; that, like the days of paradife, the earth might again be the footstool, and the treasure of the earth a fervant, and not a god, to man!—Many have writ against this vice; three I will mention.

XX. William Tindall, that worthy apoftle of the English reformation, has an entire difcourse, to which I refer the reader, entitled, 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 covetoufnefs: not only the love and affection, but alfo every over-curious care and industry about riches. The defire of goods, and the pleasure we take in poffeffing of them, is grounded only upon opinion: the immoderate defire to get riches is a gangreen in our foul, which with a venomous heat confumeth our natural affections, to the end it might fill us with virulent humours. So foon

as it is lodged in our hearts, all honeft and natural affection, which we owe either to our parents, our friends, or ourselves, vanifheth away: all the rest, in respect of our profit, feemeth nothing; yea, we forget, in the end, and condemn ourselves, our bodies, our minds, for this tranfitory trash; and as our proverb is, We fell our horse to get us hay. Covetoufness is the vile and bafe paffion of vulgar fools, who account riches the principal good of a man, and fear poverty, as the greatest evil; and not contenting themfelves with neceffary means, which are forbidden no man, weigh that which is good in a goldfmith's ba lance; when nature hath taught us, to measure it by the ell of neceffity. For, what greater folly can there be, than to adure that which nature itself hath put under our feet, and hid den in the bowels of the earth, as unworthy to be feen; yea, rather to be contemned, and trampled under foot? This is that which the fin of man hath only torn out of the entrails of the earth, and brought unto light to kill himfelf. We dig out the bowels of the earth, and bring to light thofe things, for which we would fight: we are not afhamed to esteem. those things moft highly, which are in the lowest parts of the earth. Nature feemeth even in the first birth of gold, and the womb from whence it proceedeth, after a fort, to have prefaged the mifery of thofe that are in love with it; for it hath fo ordered the matter, that in those countries where it groweth, there groweth with it neither grafs nor plant, nor

« PreviousContinue »