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Thoughts upon Worldly-Riches.
TIMOTHY after his Conversion to the Christian Faith, being found to be a Man of great Parts, Learning, and Piety, and so every way qualified for the work of the Ministry, St. Paul who had planted a Church at Ephesus the Metropolis or chief City of all Asia, left him to dress and propagate it, after his departure from it, giving him Power to ordain Elders or Priests, and to visit and exercise Jurisdiction over them, to see they did not teach false Doctrines, 1 Tim. i. 3. That they be unblameable in their Lives and Conversations, 1 Tim. v. 7. and to exercise Authority over them, in case they be otherwise, 1 Tim. v. 19. And therefore it cannot in reason but be acknowledged that Timothy was the Bishop, Superintendent, or Visiter of all 141the Asian Churches, as he was always asserted to have been by the Fathers of the Primitive Church, as Eusebius reports, saying, Τιμόθεος τῇς ἐκ ἐφέσῳ παροικίας ἱσορεῖται πρῶτω τὴν ἐπισκροπὴν εἰληχέναι, that Timothy is reported to have been the first Bishop of the Province of Ephesus. Be sure he had the oversight of all the Churches that were planted there, and not only in Ephesus it self, but likewise in all Asia, which was subject then to his Ecclesiastical Power and Jurisdiction.
AND hence it is that the Apostle St. Paul in his first Epistle to him, gives him Directions how to manage so great a Work, and to discharge so great a Trust as was committed to him, both as Bishop and Priest; both how to ordain and govern others, and likewise how to preach himself the Gospel of Christ. And having spent the whole Epistle in Directions of this sort, in the close of it, as it were at the foot of the Epistle, he subjoins one general Caution to be constantly observed by him: Charge them that are rich, &c. Which words, though first directed to Timothy, were in him intended for all succeeding Ministers, and Preachers of the Gospel; such I mean who are solemnly ordained and set apart for this work. We are all obliged to observe the Command which is 142here laid upon us, as without which we are never likely to do any good upon them that hear us: For so long as their minds are set altogether upon Riches, and the things of this World, we may preach our hearts out, before we can ever persuade them to mind Heaven and eternal Happiness in good earnest. This St. Paul knew well enough, and therefore hath left this not only as his Advice and Counsel, but as a strict Command and Duty incumbent upon the Preachers of the Gospel in all Ages, that they charge them that are rich, &c. where it may be observ’d in the first place, how we are expressly enjoined to charge them that are rich, &c. a word much to to be observed. The Apostle doth not say, desire, beseech, counsel, or admonish, the Rich; but παράγγελλε τοῖς πλουσίοις, charge and command them that are rich. The word properly signifies such a Charge as the Judges at an Assize or Sessions make in the King’s Name, enjoining his Subjectsto observe the established Laws and Statutes of the Kingdom. And so the word is always used in Scripture for the strictest way of commanding any thing to be observed or done, as Acts v. 28. οὐ παραγγελίᾳ παρηγγείλαμεν ὑμῖν; Did not we straitly command you. Luc. v. 14. παρήγγειλεν αὐτὸ. He charg’d him to tell no Man. Thus 143Therefore it is that we are here enjoined to charge the Rich in the name of the King of Kings, not to be high minded, nor to trust in uncertain Riches, &c.
And this is the proper notion, and the only true way of preaching the word of God; which therefore in Scripture is ordinarily expressed by the word κηρύοσειν, which properly signifies to publish or proclaim, as Heralds do, the Will and Pleasure of the Prince, and in his Name to command the People to observe it. Thus we are enjoined to preach the word of God, by publishing his Will and Pleasure to Men; charging them in his Name, to obey and practise it. For we come not to them in our own Names, but in his that created and redeemed them; and therefore, altho’ we neither have, nor pretend to any Power or Authority over them, from our selves; yet by vertue of the Commission which we have received from the universal and supreme Monarch of the World, we not only lawfully may, but are in duty bound, to charge and enjoin all in his Name, to observe what he hath commanded them. Insomuch, that although we pretend not to divine Inspiration, or immediate Revelations from God, such as the Prophets had; yet we, preaching the same Word which they did, may, and often ought to use the 144same Authority which they used, saying, as they did, Thus saith the Lord of Hosts. For whatsoever is written in the Scriptures, is as certainly God’s word now, as it was when first inspired or revealed to them. And therefore it cannot be denied, but that we have as much Power to charge upon all, the Observation of what is there written; as they ever had, we being sent to preach and proclaim the Will of God unto all, by the same Person as they were. Hence it is that the Apostle, in the name of God, commands Titus, and in him all succeeding Ministers of the Gospel, to speak or preach the Word of God, to exhort and rebuke with all Authority, Tit. ii. 15. From whence nothing can be more plain, than that it is our Duty to preach with Authority, as those who have received Power from God, to make known his Will and Pleasure to all Men; or as the Apostle here expressly words it, to charge them not to be high minded, and the like.
BUT this I fear may be a very ungrateful Subject to many, and therefore I should not have insisted so long upon it, but that there is a kind of necessity for it. For I verily believe, that the Non-observance of this, hath been, and still is, the principal Reason why People receive so little benefit by hearing of Sermons, as they usually do. 145For they look upon Sermons only as popular Discourses, rehears’d by one of their Fellow-Creatures, which they may censure, approve or reject, as themselves see good. And we our selves, I fear, have been too faulty, or at least remiss, in this particular; in that when we preach, we ordinarily make a long Harangue or Oration concerning some point in polemical, dogmatical, or practical Divinity, and use only same moral Persuasions to press upon our Auditors, the observance of what we say, without interposing, or exercising the Authority which is committed to us, so as to charge them in the Name of the most High God, to observe and practise what we declare and prove unto them to be his Will, and by consequence their Duty. But for my own part, did I think that Preaching consisted only in explaining some point in Divinity, and using only moral Arguments to persuade Men to perform their Duty to God and Man, I should not think it worth my while to do it, because I could not expect to do any good at all by it. For all the moral Arguments in the World, can never be so strong to draw us from Sin, as our own natural Corruptions are to drive us into it. And therefore we can never expect to do any good upon Men, either by our Logick or Rhetorick; but our Arguments 146must be fetched from on high, even from the eternal God himself, or else they are never likely to profit or prevail upon them. We must charge and command them in God’s Name, or else we had as good say nothing.
IT is true, did we, who preach God’s Word, propose nothing else to our selves, but to tickle Mens ears, and please their fancies, and so to ingratiate our selves into their love and favour, it would be easie to entertain them with Discourses of another nature, stuffed with such fine Words, quaint Phrases, and high Notions, as would be very pleasing and acceptable unto them. But I must take leave to say, that we dare not do it; for we know, that as our Auditors must give an account of their hearing, so it is not long before we also must give an account of our preaching too, for so God himself hath told us before hand by his Apostle, Heb. 13. 17. But how shall we be able to look the eternal God in the face, yea, or to look our Auditors in the face at that time, if instead of charging their Duty upon them, in order to their eternal Salvation, we should put them off with general Discourses, which signifie nothing, only to please and gratifie them whilst we remain with them; no, we dare not do it, and therefore I wish Men would not expect it 147from us; for we must not hazard our own eternal Salvation, to gain their temporal favour or applause. And therefore, seeing God hath been pleased to entrust us so far with Mens Souls, as to direct them in the way to eternal Life, howsoever they resent it, we are bound in Duty, both to God, to them, and our selves, to deal plainly with them, and to use the Authority which he hath here committed to us, where he hath expressly commanded us in his Name, to charge them that are rich in this world, &c.
WHERE I desire the Reader to observe in the next place, that we of the Clergy are not only empower’d to charge the poorer, or meaner sort of People, who by reason of their extream poverty and want, may seem inferior to us, but even rich Men too; Charge them, saith the Apostle, that are rich in this world. And the reason is, because we come unto them in his Name, who gives them all the Riches they do enjoy, and can take them away again when he himself pleaseth; so that he can make the poor rich, and the rich poor, when he pleaseth, and therefore the poor and rich are all alike to him; his Power and Authority is the same over both; and therefore we, coming in his Name, are ordered to make no distinction, but to charge the one as well as the other; yea, here we 148are particularly commanded to charge them that are rich.
WHICH is the next thing to be considered in these words, even whom the Apostle means by them that are rich in this world? Which is a Question that needs a serious Resolution. For many Men, not thinking themselves as yet to be rich enough, will be apt to conclude from thence, that they are not to be reckoned amongst those whom the Apostle here calls rich in this World. But whatsoever they may think of themselves, I believe there are but few, except the very poor, who in a Scripture sense are not rich Men. For whatsoever any have over and above their necessary maintenance, that the Scriptures call Riches, as is plain from Agar’s wish, Give me neither poverty, nor riches, feed me with food convenient for me, Prov. xxx. 8. From whence it is easie to observe, that as nothing but the want of convenient Food is Poverty; so whatsoever a Man hath over and above his convenient or necessary Food, is properly his Riches; and so he that hath it, is in a Scripture sense a rich Man, who is therefore called here in my Text πλούτος, quasi πολυούσιος, one that hath much Substance, or more than he hath necessary occasion for. And therefore, although same may be richer than others, yet I believe the generality 149may be justly reckoned in the number of the rich Men here spoken of, at least all such, as by the Blessing of God, have not only what is necessary for their present maintenance, but likewise something to spare, and so may all come under the notion of those whom we are here commanded to charge not to be high minded, nor trust in uncertain Riches, &c.
HAVING thus considered the Act which we are here commanded to exert, and the Object, the rich of this World, we are now to consider the Subject matter, what that is which we are here commanded to charge upon them, but that is here expressly set down in several Particulars, all which I shall endeavour to explain as they lie in order.
1. THAT they be not high minded; a necessary caution for rich Men. For Riches are very apt to puff Men up with vain and foolish conceits of themselves, so as to think themselves to be so much better, by how much they are richer than other People; but this is a grand mistake, which we are here enjoined to use the utmost of our power and skill to rectifie, by charging them that are rich not to be high minded; that is, not to think highly and proudly of themselves, because they are richer or wealthier than other Men, but to 150be every way as humble in their own eyes, and as lowly minded in the enjoyment of all temporal Blessings, as if they enjoyed nothing; as considering, 1. how much soever they have, they are no way really the better for it.
2. NOR in their Bodies; they are never the stronger, nor healthier, nor freer from pain and trouble, nor yet longer lived than others.
3. NOR, in their Minds; their Consciences are never the quieter, their Hearts never the freer from cares and fears, neither can they sleep better than other People, Eccl. v. 12.
4. NOR yet in their Estate and Condition.
1. NOT in this Life. For Riches can never satisfie them, nor by consequence make them happy; but they may still be as miserable in the enjoyment, as in the want of all things, Eccl. v. 11.
2. NOR yet in the Life in come; they are never the nearer Heaven, by being higher upon Earth; their Gold and Silver can never purchase an Inheritance for them in the Land of Canaan, Jac. ii. 5.151
2. THEY are so far from being better, that they are rather much worse for their having abundance here below.
1. THEY have more Temptations to Sin, to Luxury, to Covetousness, to the love of this World, to the neglect of their Duty to God, to Pride and Self-conceitedness, to Security and Presumption, Luk. xii. 19.
2. IT is harder for them to get to Heaven, than it is for others; and by consequence, the richer they are, the more danger they are in of being miserable for ever, Mat. xix. 23. Whence our Saviour himself denounceth a Wo upon them that are rich, Luk. vi. 24. and St. James bids than weep and howl for their miseries, Jac. v. 1. And therefore advises us en rejoice rather at Poverty than Riches, Jac. i. 9, 10. Now these things being considered, as spoken by God himself, none can deny but that the rich are most certainly in a worse condition than the poor; and by consequence, that Men have no cause to be proud, or high minded, nor to glory in their riches, Jer. ix. 23. And therefore whatsoever outward Blessings God hath bestowed upon us, Let us not be high minded, but fear, Rom. xi. 20.
2. NOR trust in uncertain Riches, which I confess is a very hard Lesson for a rich Man to learn, nothing being more difficult 152than to have Riches, and not to true in them, as our Saviour himself intimates, in explaining the one by the other, as things very rarely severed, Mark x. 23, 24. But certainly it is altogether as foolish a thing to trust in Riches, as it is to be proud of them. For,
1. THEY of themselves can stand us in no stead, they cannot defend us from any evil, nor procure us any good; they cannot of themselves either feed us, or cloath us, or refresh us, or be any ways advantageous to us, without God’s Blessing, Prov. xi. 4. How much less can they be able to deliver us from wrath to come. No, we may take it for a certain truth, our Riches may much further our eternal Misery, but they can never conduce any thing to our future happiness.
2. IF we trust in them, be sure they’ll fail us, and bring us into Misery and Desolation, for to trust in any thing but God, is certainly one of the highest Sins we can be guilty of, it is in plain terms Idolatry; and therefore He that trusteth in riches, is sure to fall, Prov. xi. 28. For this is to deny God, Job xxxi. 24, 25, 28.
3. THEY are but uncertain Riches, they make themselves wings and fly away, Prov. xxiii. 5. They are in continual motion, ebbing and flowing, and never continuing in 153one stay. So that you are never sure of keeping them one day; and what reason then can we have to trust on them? Especially considering, that they are not only uncertain, but uncertainty it self, as the word here signifies, Trust not in the uncertainty of riches.
BUT in the living God; He, he is to be the only Object of our trust, whether we have, or have not any thing else to trust on; or to speak more properly, there is nothing that we can upon good Grounds make our trust and confidence, but only him, who governs, and disposeth of all things, according to his own pleasure. So that it is he, and he alone that giveth us all things richly to enjoy. It is not our Wit or Policy, it is not our Strength or Industry, it is not our trading or trafficking in the World, it is none but God that giveth us what we have, Deut. viii. 18. Prov. x. 22. And as it is he that maketh Men rich, so he can make them poor again, when he himself pleaseth; and they have cause to fear he will do so too, unless they observe what is here charged upon them.
THERE are four Duties still behind, which we are here commanded to charge all those who are rich to observe.
1. THAT they do good. In treating of which I might shew the several Qualifications 154required to the making up of an Action good, as that the matter of it must be good, as commanded, or at least allowed by God, that the manner of performing it be good, as that it be done obedientially, understandingly, willingly, chearfully, humbly, and sincerely; and that the end be good too, so as that it be directed ultimately to the Glory of God. But not to insist upon that now, I shall only consider what kind of good Works the Rich are here commanded to do, as they are rich Men. And they are two, Works of Piety, and Works of Charity.
1. THEY are here commanded to do works of Piety; where by works of Piety; I mean not their loving and fearing, and honouring of God, nor yet their praying to him, their hearing his Word, or praising his Name, for such works of Piety as these are, the poorest as well as the richest Persons amongst us are bound to do; whereas the Apostle here speaks only of such works as they who are rich are bound to do, upon that account because they are so. And therefore by works of Piety here, I understand such works as tend to the Honour of his Name, to the Performance of Worship and Homage to him, to the Encouragement of his Ministers, the propagating of his Gospel, and the Conversion of Sinners 155to him; all which they are bound to do, to the utmost of their Power, out of the Estates which for these purposes he hath entrusted with them. For thus they are expresly commanded to honour the Lord With all their Substance, or Riches, and with the First-Fruits of all their Increase, Prov. iii. 9. And the reason is, because God is the universal Proprietor, the Head Landlord of all the World, and we have nothing but what we hold under him; neither are we any more than Tenants at will to him, who may fine us at his own Pleasure, or throw us out of Possession whensoever he sees good. Now lest we should forget this, even upon what Tenure it is that we hold our Estates, God hath enjoyned us to pay him, as it were, a Quit-rent, or Tribute out of what we possess as an Acknowledgment that it is by his Favour and Blessing alone that we do possess it. So that whatsoever we do, or are able to offer to him, is but a due Debt which we owe him, which if we neglect to pay him, we lose our Tenure, and forfeit what we have to the Lord of the Mannor, the supreme Possessor of the World. Hence it is, that in all Ages, they who were truly pious, and had a due sense of God upon their Hearts, were always very careful to pay this their Homage unto God; insomuch 156that many of them never thought they could give enough to any pious Use, wherein to testify their Acknowledgment of God’s Dominion over them, and his Right and Propriety in what they had. A notable Instance whereof we have in the Children of Israel; for when the Tabernacle was to be built for the Service and Worship of God, they were so far from being backward in contributing towards it, that they presently brought more than could be used in the building of it, Exod. xxxvi. 5, 6, 7. So it was too in the building of the Temple, which David, and the Chiefs or Nobles of Israel, made great Preparations for, 1 Chron. xxix. 6, 7, 8. And that they did this, thereby to acknowledge God to be the Lord and Giver of all, is plain from the following words, Ver. 11, 12, 13. The same was also observed in the building of the second Temple, as the raising the first out of its Rubbish, wherein it had lain for many Years. And as for Christians, I need not tell you how forward those who have been truly pious, have always been in doing such works of Piety, seeing most of the Churches in Christendom, or be sure in this Nation, have been erected by particular Persons. And it is very observable, that the more eminent any Place or Age hath been for Piety and Devotion, 157the more pious works have been always done in it, for the Service and Worship of Almighty God; which plainly shews, that where such works are wanting, whatsoever Pretences they may make, there is no such thing as true Piety, and the Fear of God. And therefore, as ever we desire to manifest our selves to be what we profess, true Christians indeed, Men fearing God, and hating Covetousness, we must take all Opportunities to express our Thankfulness unto God for what we have, by devoting as much as we can of it to his Service and Honour.
2. BESIDES these works of Piety towards God, the Rich are enjoined also works of Charity towards the Poor, which though they have an immediate reference to the poor, yet God looks upon them as given to himself, Prov. xiv. 31. Ch. xix. 17. Math. xxv. 40. Hence it is that God accepts of such works as these also, for part of the Tribute which we owe him; whereby we acknowledge the Receipt of what we have from him, and express our Thankfulness unto him for it, without which we have no ground to expect a Blessing upon what we have, nor that it should be really good to us. For, as the Apostle tells us, every Creature of God is good, if it be received with Thanskgiving, not else, 1 Tim. iv. 4. 158But no Thanksgiving is acceptable but that which is expressed by works as well as words. And therefore it is necessary for us to pay this Duty and Service to God, out of what we have, in order to the cleansing and sanctifying the Residue of our Estates unto us, without which we have not the lawful use of what we possess; but every thing we have is polluted and unclean to us, as our Saviour himself intimates, Luk. xi. 41. A thing much to be considered. For I verily believe that the great reason why so many Estates are blasted so soon, and brought to nothing amongst us, is because Men do not render unto God his Duty and Tribute out of what they have, and therefore it is no wonder that God in his Providence turns them out of Possession, and gives their Estates to other Persons, who shall be better Tenants to him, and be careful to pay him the Duties which he requires of them. And therefore, in order to Mens securing their Estates to themselves and Posterity, it is absolutely necessary that they observe the Duty which we are here recommended to charge upon all that are rich in this World, even to do good with what they have, and not only so, but
2. To be rich too in good works; that is, not only to do good, but to do as much 159good as they are able with their Riches, so as to proportion their good works to the Riches which God hath given them wherewith to do them, according to the Apostle’s Direction, 1 Cor. xvi. 2. Thus in the place before quoted, Luc. xi. 41. where our Saviour bids the Pharisees to give Alms of such things as they have. His words are τὰ ἐνόντα δότε του ἐλεημοσύνην, Give Alms as much as ye are able, for so the words properly signify. And verily whatsoever we do, unless it be as much as we can, God will not look upon us as doing any thing at all: For we must not think to compound with him. When he hath given us all we have, he expects that we render all that he requires of us, that is as much as we are able to pay unto him. As if a Man owes you Money, you will not accept of part instead of the whole; so neither will God from us; we all owe him as much as we are able to devote to his Service and Honour, and we must not think to put him off with part of it: For he reckons that he receives nothing from us, unless it be proportionable to what he hath bestowed upon us. But how little soever it is that we give or offer to him, if it be but answerable to our Estates, it will be accepted by him. This our Saviour himself hath assured us of, Mark xii. 43, 44. From whence we may certainly 160conclude, that there is not the poorest Person whatsoever but may be as rich in good works as the richest, because God doth not measure the goodness of our works by their bulk or quantity, but by the proportion which they bear to our Estates: So that he that gives a penny may do as good a work as he that gives a pound, yea and a better too, because his may be as much as he is able, whereas the other’s is not. I with all Men would seriously weigh and consider this, lest otherwise they go out of the world without ever having done one good work in it: For we may assure our selves, he that is not thus rich in good works, doth no good at all with his Riches.
BUT it is farther to be considered here that this Expression, rich in good works, implies that good works are indeed our principal Riches; and that Men must not compute their Riches so much from what they have, as from what they give and devote to God. For what we have is not ours, but God’s in our hands; but what we give is ours in God’s hands, and he acknowledgeth himself our Debtor for it, in that he tells us that we lend it to him, and promiseth to pay it us again, Prov. xix. 17. And therefore they who cast up their Accounts to know how rich they are, ought 161not to reckon upon what they have lying by them, nor upon their Houses and Lands that are made over to them, nor yet upon what is owing to them by Men; but should reckon only upon what they have given to pious or charitable Uses, upon what Treasure they have laid up in Heaven. For whatsoever they may think at present, I dare assure them, that will be found to be their only Riches another day. And therefore if any one desires to be rich indeed, let him take my Advice, do what good he can with the Riches he hath, and then he will be rich enough: For this is the way to be rich in good works. But in order unto that, he must likewise observe what follows, to be
3. Ready to distribute; that is, ready upon all occasions to pay his Tribute unto God, whensoever he in his Providence calls for it; taking all opportunities of doing good, and glad when he can find them, Gal. vi. 10. Thus therefore whensoever any opportunities present themselves of expressing our thankfulness unto God, by works either of Piety or Charity, whatsover other business may be neglected, we must be sure to lay hold on that. For I dare say, that there is none but will grant me that there is all the reason in the world that God should be served in the first place, 162and that he should have the first fruits of all our Encrease, Prov. iii. 9. Exod. xxiii. 19. Deut. xxvi. 2. And therefore we cannot but acknowledge, that works of Piety towards God, and of Charity to the Poor, or as the Scripture calls them in general good works, are always to be done in the first place; and whatsoever other works may be omitted, be sure they must not. But we ought still to be as ready to pay our Duties unto God, as we are to receive any thing from him, as ready to give as to receive; and by consequence as Men let no opportunities slip wherein they can encrease their Estates, they are much less to let any opportunities pass wherein they can any way improve their Estates for God’s Glory and others Good; but they ought to be ready upon all Occasions to distribute what they can upon charitable and pious Uses.
4. Willing to communicate; as we must do it with a ready hand, so we must do it with a willing Heart too. Thus we are enjoined to serve God willingly, 1 Chron. xxviii. 9. and chearfully, 2 Cor. ix. 6, 7. Indeed God accepts of none but Freewill Offerings. If we be not as willing to do good works as we are to have wherewith to do them, we may be confident God will never accept of them. And therefore in 163plain Terms, if any would be rich in good works as becometh Christians, and as it is our interest to be, they must not stay till they be compelled, persuaded, or intreated by others to do them; but they must set upon them of their own accord, out of pure obedience unto God, and from a due sense of their constant dependence upon him, and manifold obligations to him; yea so as to take pleasure in nothing in the World so much as in paying their Respects and Service to Almighty God, 1 Chron. xxix. 14, 15, 17.
Now to encourage the Rich to employ their Estates thus in doing good, the Apostle adds in the last place, that this is the way to lay up for themselves a good foundation against the time to come, that they may lay hold on eternal Life. A strange Expression! yea such a one, that had not St. Paul himself spoke it, some would have been apt to have excepted against it for an Error or Mistake. What, good Works the Foundation of eternal Life? No, that is not the meaning of it; but that good works are the Foundation of that blessed Sentence which they shall receive who are made Partakers of eternal Life, as is plain. from our Saviour’s own words, Mat. xxv. 34, 35. 36.164
AND verily although there be no such intrinsick value in good works, whereby they that do them can merit any thing from God by their doing of them; yet nothing can be more certain, than that God of his infinite Mercy in Jesus Christ will so accept of them as to reward us for them in the World to come. For this our Saviour himself doth clearly intimate to us, in the Place before quoted, as also, Mat. vi. 20. Luk. xii. 33. Luk. xvi. 9. that is, distribute and employ the unrighteous or deceitful Riches you have in this World in such a way as is most pleasing and acceptable unto God, that so he may be your Friend, and receive you into everlasting Habitations, when these transient and unstable Riches fail you. From whence I beg leave to observe, that to do good with what we have is the only way whereby to improve our Estates for our own good, so as to be the better for them both in this and also in the World to come. The Rabbins have a good Saying, that מלח ממון צרקה good works are the Salt of Riches, that which preserves them from Corruption, and makes them savoury and acceptable unto God, as also useful and profitable to the Owners. Unless we do good with our Estates, we forfeit our Title to them by the Non-payment of the Rent-charge which 165God hath reserved to himself upon them; and therefore we may justly expect every moment to be call out of Possession; of howsoever though he may forbear us a while, yea so long as we are in this World, what good, what benefit, what comfort shall we have of our Estates in the World to come? Certainly no more than the rich Man in the Gospel had, when he lay scorching in Hell-fire, and had not so much as a drop of water to cool his enflamed tongue. Whereas on the other side, if we do good with our Estates, if we devote them to the Service of God, and to the Relief of the Poor, by this means we shall not only secure the Possession of them to our selves here, but shall also receive comfort and benefit from them in the World to come; so that our Estates will not die with us, but we shall receive benefit by them, and have cause to bless God for them unto all Eternity. The Apostle himself assuring us. that by this menus we shall lay up for our selves a good foundation for the time to come, so as to lay hold on eternal Life.
THIS one Argument being duly weighed, I hope I need not use any more to persuade Men to do good with what they have, and to make the best use of it they can. For I know I write to Christians, at least to such as profess themselves to be so; and 166therefore to such as believe there is another World besides this we live in, and by consequence that it concerns them to provide for that, which, as I have shewn, we may do in a plentiful manner, by the right Improvement of what God hath entrusted with us in this World. What then do the generality of Men mean to be so flack and remiss in laying hold on all opportunities of doing good! What, do they think it possible to lose any thing they do for God! or do they think it possible to employ their Estates better than for his Service and Honour who gave them to us! I cannot believe any think so; and therefore must needs advise the Rich again and again not to lay up their Talent in a Napkin, but to use their Estates to the best advantage for God and their own Souls, that so when they go from hence into the other World, they may be received into eternal Glory, with a Well done good and faithful Servants, enter you into your Master’s Joy.
BUT fearing lest these moral Persuasions may not prevail so much upon my Readers as I desire they might, they must give me leave farther to tell them, that 1 am here commanded to charge them that are rich in this World, to be rich also in good works: And therefore seeing, as I have shewn, there are few but who in a Scripture-167sense are rich in this world, in obedience to this Command which here is laid upon me, in the Name of the most high God, I charge you, and not I only, but the eternal God himself, he wills and requires all those whom he hath blessed with Riches in this world, that they be not high-minded, nor trust in uncertain Riches, but that they put their whole Trust and Confidence only in the Living God, whose all things are, and who gives us whatsoever we have: That they do good with what he hath put into their hands, laying it out upon works of Piety towards him, and of Charity to the Poor, that his Worship may be decently performed, and the Poor liberally relieved; that they be rich in good works, striving to excel each other in doing good in their Generation; that they be ready every moment to distribute, and always willing to communicate to every good work, wherein they can pay their Homage and express their Thankfulness to him for what they have,168
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