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SECT. XIV. About the use of temporal goods.

TO come now to the use of those things which are commonly called goods; we find theft allowed by some heathen nations, as the Egyptians300300   See Diodorus Siculus’s history, book i. and Spartans;301301   See Plutarch, in his Lycurgus. and they who did not allow it in private persons, did scarce any thing in the public; as the Romans, of whom the Roman orator said, if every one should have his due restored to him, they must go back again to their cottages.302302   Lactantius, in his epitome, chap. 1. cites the words of Tully to this purpose, out of his third Republic. Indeed, there was no such thing amongst the Hebrews; but they were permitted to take usury of strangers, that the law might in some measure be fitted to their disposition;303303   Deut. xxiii. 19. (and therefore, amongst other things, it promised riches to them that obeyed it.304304   Levit. xxvi. 5. Deut. xxviii. 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 11, 12. But the Christian law not only forbids all kind of injustice towards any persons;305305   Matt. vii. 12. Ephes. v. 3. but also forbids 108us setting our affections upon perishing things;306306   Matt. vi. 24. and the following verses; xiii. 22. Luke. viii. 14. 1 Tim. vi. 9. because our mind is of such a nature, that it cannot diligently attend to the care of two things, each of which requires the whole man, and which oftentimes draw him contrary ways: and besides, solicitousness in procuring and preserving riches,307307   Matt. vi. 34. Phil. iv. 9. is attended with a certain slavery and uneasiness, which spoils that very pleasure which is expected from riches: but nature is satisfied with a very few things,308308   1 Tim. vi. 7, 8. and those such as can easily be procured, without any great labour or charge. And, if God has granted us something beyond this, we are not commanded to cast it into the sea, as some philosophers imprudently did;309309   Laërtius and Suidas affirm this of Aristippus and Philostratus of Crates. nor to let it lie useless by us, nor yet to lavish it away: but, out of it, to supply the wants of other men, either by giving310310   Matt. v. 42. or lending to those that ask it;311311   In the same Matt. Luke vi. 35. as becomes those who believe themselves not to be proprietors of these things,312312   1 Tim. vi. 17, 18. but only stewards and deputies of the most high God their parent; for a kindness well bestowed is a treasure full of good hope,313313   Matt. vi. 20. against which neither the wickedness of thieves, nor variety of accidents, can prevail any thing. An admirable example of which sincere and undissembled charity the first Christians afford us; when things were sent from so great a distance as Macedonia and Achaia,314314   Rom. xv. 25, 28. and the following verses. 2 Cor. ix. 1, 2, 2, 4. Philip. iv. 18. in order to supply the want of those in Palestine; as if the whole world had been but one family. And here this caution is added also, in the law of Christ, that no hope of 109recompence or honour ought to diminish from our liberality;315315   Matt. vi. 1, 2. Luke xiv. 12. because, if we have regard to any thing else but God, it takes away his acceptance.316316   See the fore-cited place in Matt. And, lest any one should pretend, as is commonly done, to cloke his sparingness, as if he were afraid he should want what he has, when he comes to be an old man, or if any misfortune should befall him, the law promises, that a particular care shall be taken of those who keep these precepts:317317   Matt. vi. 32. Luke xii. 7. xxi. 18. and, that they may the more rely upon it, reminds them of the remarkable providence of God,318318   Matt. vi. 26, 28. in providing for wild beasts and cattle, in adorning herbs and flowers; and that it would be an unworthy thing in us, not to believe so good, so powerful a God, nor to trust him any further than we would do a bad debtor, of whom we never think ourselves secure without a pledge.


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