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confcience; fo that (as St. Paul argues) if the goSpel be hid, it is hid to them that are loft; in whom the God of this world hath blinded the minds of them that believe not, left the light of the glorious gospel of Chrift, who is the image of God, fhould fhine unto them, 2 Cor. iv. 3. 4.
If men did but ftand indifferent for the entertainment of truth, and were not fwayed by the interest of any luft or paffion, I am confident that no man that hath the gofpel fairly propofed to him, would continue an infidel. If men did but truly live up to the principles of natural religion, they would eafily be convinced, that the Chriftian religion, which is fo fuitable thereto, is from God.
Thirdly and laftly, What hath been faid is a great argument and encouragement to obedience, and holinefs of life. Do we defire not to be mistaken about the mind of God? Let us heartily endeavour to do his will. If we would not be feduced by the error of the wicked, let us take heed of their vicious practices. The best way certainly to preferve a right judgment in matters of religion, is to take great care of a good life. God's goodness is fuch, that he will not fuffer any man's judgment to be betrayed into a damnable error, without fome vice and fault of his will. The principles of natural religion are born with us, and imprinted upon our minds, fo that no man can be ignorant of them, nor need to be mistaken about them; and as for those revelations which God hath made of himfelf to the world, he hath been pleased to accompany them with so much evidence, that an honest and fincere mind may eafily difcern them from error and impofture So our Saviour hath affured us, that if any man defire to do his will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God.
On the other hand, if we fee any oppofe the clear truth, or depart from it, and embrace grofs errors and delufions, we may almoft certainly conclude, that there is fome worldly luft or intereft at the bottom of it. So our Saviour has likewife told us, that the reafon why men love darkness rather than light, is,
because their deeds are evil; and every one that doth evil hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, left bis deeds fhould be reproved. I will conclude this whole discourse with St. Peter's exhortation, the 2d of Pet. iii. 17, 18. Ye therefore, beloved, feeing ye know these things before, beware, left ye alfo being led away with the error of the wicked, fall from your own ftedfaftness. But grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jefus Chrift. To him be glory, both now and for ever.
The nature of covetoufnefs.
LUKE xii. 15.
And he faid unto them, Take heed, and beware of covetousness; for a man's life confifteth not in the abundance of the things which he poffeffeth.
MONG all the irregular appetites of men, there is none that is more common and unreafonable, and of a more univerfal bad influence upon the hearts and lives of men, than this of covetoufnefs; and therefore, in fpeaking of this vice, I fhall ftrike at the root of a great many others; even of apoftacy from God's truth and religion, of which covetoufnefs, and the love of this prefent world, is one of the most common caufes. So that if I can contribute any thing to the cure of this great diftemper of men's minds, I fhall in fo doing remove that, which is the caufe and occafion of a great part of the evils and mifchiefs which are in the world. And to this end I have pitched upon thefe words of our bleffed Saviour to his hearers; And he said unto them, take heed and beware of covetousness; for a man's life confifteth not in the abundance of the things which be poffeffeth.
In which words are these three things obfervable: Firft, The manner of the caution which our Saviour here gives, take heed and beware; he doubles it, to fhew the great need and concernment of it.
Secondly, The matter of the caution, or the vice which our Saviour here warns his hearers againft, and that is covetousness; take heed and beware of covetousness.
Thirdly, The reason of this caution, because a man's life confifteth not in the abundance of the things which he poffeffeth. Human life is fuftained by a little, and therefore abundance is not neceffary, either to the fupport or comfort of it. 'Tis not a great eftate and vait poffeffions that make a man happy in this world; but a mind that is equal to its condition, whatever it be.
First, The manner of the caution which our Saviour here gives, take heed and beware. This is a peculiar kind of caution, and no where elfe, or upon any other occafion that I know of, ufed in fcripture; in which, for the greater emphasis and weight, the words of caution are doubled, as if the matter were of fo much concerment, that no caution about it could be too much; to fignify to us both the great danger of this fin of covetoufnefs, and the great care men ought to ufe to preferve themfelves from it.
I. The great danger of this fin; how apt we are to fall into this vice, and of how pernicious a confequence it is to thofe in whom it reigns.
1. How apt we are to fall into this vice: And excepting thofe vices which are immediately founded in a man's natural temper and conftitution, there is none that men have a more univerfal propenfion to, than this of covetoufnefs. For there are two things which human nature does more efpecially defire to be fecured against, which are want and contempt; and riches feem to be a certain remedy against both these evils. And because men think they can never be fufficiently fecured against thefe, therefore their defire of riches grows endlefs and infatiable; fo that unless men be very jealous and watchful over themE 3
felves, this defire will grow upon them, and enlarge itself beyond all bounds.
2. As men are very apt to fall into this vice, fo is it of very pernicious confequence to thofe in whom it reigns. The mischief of it is very great, and very extenfive; fo St. Paul tells us, i Tim. vi. 8, 9, 10. where he preffeth men to be contented with a fmall competency of the things of this life, becaufe of the great danger and mifchief of a covetous mind; having food and raiment, let us be therewith content. But they that will be rich (that is, they that are bent and refolved upon being rich) fall into temptation and a fnare, and into many foolish and hurtful lusts, which drown men in deftruction and perdition. For the love of money is the root of all evil. But this I fhall fpeak more fully to, when I come to fhew the great evil and unreasonableness of this vice.
II. This earnest kind of caution, as it fignifies the great danger of this fin of covetoufnefs, fo likewife the great care that men ought to ufe to preferve theme felves from it; for the greater the danger is in any kind, fo much the greater care fhould be used for the avoiding of it. Men are not fo. follicitoufly concern ed to defend themselves against a flight mifchief, but when a terrible one threatens us, we fhould be continually upon our guard against it, and fummon all our ftrength and force to refift it.. Thus much for the manner of the caution.
I proceed to the second thing to be confidered in the text, viz. the matter of the caution, or the vicewhich our Saviour here warns his hearers againft, and that is covetoufnefs; take heed and beware of covet-. oufness. And in speaking of this, I shall confider thefe two things.
I. Wherein the nature of this vice confifts.. II. I fhall endeavour to fhew the great evil and unreasonableness of it. I fhall be large in both.
I. For the nature of this vice of covetoufness. The hortest defcription that I can give of it is this, that it is an inordinate defire and love of riches; but when this defire and love are inordinate, is not so easy to be determined. And therefore, that we may the bet
ter understand what this fin of covetousness is, which our Saviour doth fo earnestly caution against, it will be requifite to confider more particularly wherein the vice and fault of it doth confift; that whilst we are speaking against covetoufnefs, we may not under that general word condemn any thing, that is commendable or lawful. To the end then that we may the more clearly and diftinctly understand wherein the nature of this vice doth confift, I fhall,
First, Endeavour to fhew what is not condemned under this name of covetoufnefs, either in fcripture, or according to right reafon: And,
Secondly, What is condemned by either of these as a plain inftance or branch of this fin.
First, What things are not condemned under the name of covetoufnefs, either in fcripture, or according to right reafon, which yet have fome appearance of it; namely, thefe three things:
1. Not a provident care about the things of this prefent life.
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 feem 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 prefent life. This indeed feems 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 shall eat, or what. ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on. Here our Saviour feems to forbid all care, even about the neceffaries of life, meat, and drink, and cloathing; much more about the delights and conveniencies of it. But this is not abfolutely, and, in ordinary cafes, intended by our Saviour to be condemned, as I fhall fhew by and by under the next head.
2. Neither is a regular induftry and diligence for the obtaining of these things condemned in fcri pture; though this alfo feems to be prohibited by