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And not unto covetousness.—Ver. 36.
Doct. 2. That covetousness, or an inordinate desire of worldly things, is the great let or hindrance to complying with God’s testimonies.
By way of proof, I need to produce but that scripture, 1 John v. 3, 4, ‘For this is |the love of God, that we keep his commandments, and his commandments are not grievous; for whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world.’ The reason implies that if We had a greater conquest over worldly affections, it would not be so grievous to us to keep God’s commandments; for the apostle’s argument is built upon this supposition, that God’s commands are only burdensome to them that lie under the power of carnal affections. All the difficulty in obedience cometh from our temptations to the contrary. Now all or most temptations from Satan and our own flesh have their strength from the world, and its suitableness to our affections. Master your love to the world, and temptations lose their strength.
To make this more clear, let us—
1. What is covetousness.379
2. How it hindereth from complying with God’s testimonies.
First, What is covetousness? I shall give the nature, the causes, the discoveries of it.
First, the nature of it. It is an inordinate desire of having more wealth than the Lord alloweth in the fair course of his providence, and a delight in worldly things as our chiefest good.
1. There is an unsatisfied desire of having more. We may desire temporal good things for necessity and service. We carry about earthly tabernacles, that must be supported with earthly things, and therefore God alloweth us to seek them in a moderate way. But now when these desires grow vehement and impatient of check, and by an immodest importunity are still craving for more, it is an evil disease, and it must be looked unto in time, or it will prove baneful to the soul. There is a vital heat necessary to our preservation, and there are un natural predatorious heats which argue a distemper. See how this desire is expressed in scripture: 1 Tim. vi. 9, 10, ‘He that will be rich falls into temptation and a snare,’ &c. He doth not say, He that is rich, but, He that will be rich; he that hath fixed that as his scope, and makes that his business; for the will is known by fixedness of intention, and earnestness of prosecution: he that makes it his work to grow great in the world. So Prov. xv. 27, ‘He that is greedy of gain troubles his own house.’ Desires are the vigorous motions of the will; when they are eager, impatient, and immoderate, then they discover this evil inclination of soul. So Eccles. v. 10, ‘He that loveth silver shall not be satisfied with silver, nor he that loveth abundance with increase. This is also vanity.’ There is a spiritual dropsy, when our desires grow the more the more we receive and enjoy; as fire by the addition of new fuel grows more fierce the more the flame increaseth. The contrary to this is expressed by Agur, and should be the temper of every gracious heart: Prov. xxx. 8, ‘Give me neither poverty nor riches: feed me with food convenient for me.’ As to worldly things we should be indifferent, and refer ourselves to the fair allowance of God’s providence, that he might carve out our portion, and do by us according to his own pleasure.
2. Not only this greedy thirst discovereth covetousness, but a complacency, delight, and acquiescency of soul in worldly enjoyments. So Christ Jesus in his parable against covetousness brings in a carnal wretch singing lullabys to his soul: Luke xii. 19, ‘Soul, thou hast much goods laid up for many years; take thy ease, eat, drink, and be merry.’ He doth not wish for more, but pleaseth himself with what he had already, and yet in his language would Christ impersonate and set forth the dispositions of a covetous heart. So we are cautioned, Ps. lxii. 10, ‘If riches increase, set not your hearts upon them.’ When we set up our rest here, and look no further, we are guilty of this sin.
But now, because we may delight in our portion, and take comfort in what God hath given us; let us see when our delight in temporal things is a branch of covetousness. I answer—When we delight in them to the neglect of God, and the lessening of our joy in his service, and our hopes of eternal life are abated and grow less lively; when we so delight in them as to neglect God and the sweet intercourse we should have in him. Therefore covetousness is called idolatry, Eph. v. 5; Col. iii. 5, as it robs God of our trust, while we build upon un certain riches as a stable happiness, and the best assurance of our felicity: Mark x. 23, 24, ‘How hardly shall they that have riches enter into the kingdom of God!’ And when the disciples wondered, our Saviour answered, ‘How hard is it for them that trust in riches!’ &c.; that is, that set their confidence in them in that degree and mea sure as is only due to God. Then it is called adultery, James iv. 4, because out of love to worldly things we can dispense with our love to God and delight in him, as the harlot draws away the affection from the lawful wife. In short, when we seek them and prize them, with the neglect of better, as spiritual and heavenly things are, Luke xii. 21; Mat. vi. 19-21, 33. Next to the love of God we must love ourselves, and there first our souls. Now we are besotted and enchanted with the love of the world, so as to slight the favour of God and the hopes of blessedness to come, this is adultery spiritual, and sets up another chief good.
Secondly, Let us come to the causes of it, and they are two—distrust of God’s providence, and discontent with God’s allowance. You have both in one place: Heb. xiii. 5, ‘Let your conversation be without covetousness, and be content with such things as you have.’ These two, distrust and discontent, have a mutual influence upon one another. Distrust breeds discontent with our present portion, and discontent breeds ravenous desires, and ravenous desires breed distrust; for when we set God a task to provide for our lusts, certainly he will never do it. I say, we can never depend upon him that he should provide for our lusts.
1. For the first of these, that is, distrust, or a fear of want, together with a low esteem of God’s providence, which maketh us so unreasonably solicitous about outward provisions; therefore when Christ would cure our covetousness he seeks to cure our distrust: Luke xii. 29, ‘And seek ye not what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink, neither be ye of doubtful mind.’ Do not hover like meteors in the air, antedating your cares, making yourselves more miserable by your own suspicions, and your own fears what shall become of you and yours. So Mat. vi. 34, ‘Take no thought for to-morrow; sufficient for the day is the evil thereof.’ I say, this carking about future things makes us so impatient and earnest after present satisfaction. God trained up his people to a waiting upon his providence. Manna fell from heaven every day, so* sufficient for the day is the evil thereof.’ Every day we need look no further: ‘Give us this day our daily bread.’ But men fear future need and poverty, and so would help themselves by their own carking. So then diffidence of God’s promises is the latent evil which lodgeth in the heart. Sordid sparing and greedy getting, that is on the top; but that which lies near the heart is distrust. We incline to sensible things, and cannot tell how to be well without them, and so resolve to shift for ourselves.
2. Discontent. Men have not so much as their rapacious desire* crave, though they are allowed moderate supplies to keep them till they go to heaven; and therefore everything that they get serves but as a bait to draw them on further, so they are always ‘joining house to house, and laying field to field,’ Isa. v. 8. When once men transgress 381the bounds of contentment prescribed by God, there is no stop or stay. Look, as the channel wears wider and deeper the more water falls into it, the water frets more and more; so the more outward things increase upon us, the more are our desires increased upon us. No man hath vast and unlimited thoughts at first. Men would be a little higher in the world, and a little better accommodated, and when they have that they must have a little more, then a little more; so they seize upon all things within their grasp and reach. Whereas if we had been content with our estate at first, we might have saved many a troublesome care, many a sin, many needless desires, and many a foolish and hurtful lust that proves our bane and torment. Be content with such things as you have now, or you will not be content hereafter; the lust will increase with the possession. As in some diseases of the stomach, purging doth better than repletion, not to feed the humour but to purge away the distemper; so here, it is not more that will satisfy us, but our lusts must be abated; if we were better satisfied with God’s fair allowance we might be happy men much sooner than ever we shall be by great wealth.
Thirdly, For the discoveries of this sin. Aristotle, as it is a moral vice, placeth it in two things—in a defect in giving, and an excess in taking. We may better express both in scripture phrase, by greedy getting, and unmeet withholding.
1. Greedy getting, manifested either—
[1.] By sinful means of acquisition; as lying, cozening, oppression, profaning the Lord’s day, grinding the faces of the poor, carnal compliances, or any other such unjust or evil arts of gain. Men stick not at the means when their desires are so strongly carried out after the end: Prov. xxviii. 20, ‘He that maketh haste to be rich cannot be innocent.’ They leap over hedge and ditch, and all restraints of honesty and conscience, to compass their ends, all their endeavours are suited to their profit, and therefore consult not with conscience but with interest; and so prove treacherous to God, unthankful to parents, disobedient to magistrates, unfaithful to equals, unmerciful to inferiors, and care not whom they wrong, so they may thrive in the world.
[2.] Though it go not so high as injustice, yet it appeareth by excessive labours, when endeavours are unreasonably multiplied, to the wrong both of the body and the soul. To the wrong of the body; see how they are described in scripture: Ps. cxxvii. 2, ‘They rise early, they sit up late, to eat the bread of sorrows;’ and Ps. xxxix. 6, ‘He disquieteth himself in vain.’ By biting cares: Eccles. ii. 23, ‘All his days are sorrows, and his travail grief; yea, his heart taketh not rest in the night;’ Eccles. iv. 8, ‘There is no end of his labours, neither is his eye satisfied with riches.’ Men are full of biting cares, cruciating unquiet thoughts, and so ‘pierce themselves through with many sorrows,’ 1 Tim. vi. 10. Riches are compared to thorns, not only for choking the good seed, but as piercing us through with many sorrows, as they prove troublesome comforts to a covetous man. And they wrong the soul when the heart is dead and oppressed by them: Luke^xxi. 34, ‘Take heed lest your hearts be overcharged with surfeiting and 382drunkenness and the cares of this life.’ The heart is burdened and oppressed, so as it hath no life and vigour for spiritual things, but is unbelieving and hard-hearted. The following the world brings a deadness upon us, and these preposterous and eager pursuits spend the strength of our affections, so that God and religion is jostled out and hath no due respect; the lean kine devour the fat, and Sarah is thrust out of doors instead of Hagar. Thus is greedy getting seen by unjust means, and the immoderate use of lawful means to the oppression of the body and soul.
[1.] By a sordid dispensing of our estate, or a denying of ourselves and others that relief which they should have. Ourselves: Eccles. iv. 8, ‘He bereaveth his own soul of good;’ that is, of the comforts of the present life. But chiefly denying of others that relief they should have, a duty which our religion often presseth us to: Luke xii. 33, ‘Sell that ye have, and give alms; provide yourselves bags which wax not old, a treasure in the heavens that faileth not, where no thief approacheth,. nor moth corrupteth.’ We should rather scatter than hoard. The only means to discover we are not covetous, and to keep ourselves from the filth of this and other sins, is to be much in charity and distributing to those that have need: Luke xi. 41, ‘Give alms of such things as you have, and behold all things are clean unto you.’ It bringeth a blessing, purgeth the soul from that stain which it secretly contracteth by possessing worldly things, as our fingers are defiled by telling of money. But now, when men are backward this way, part with a drop of blood as soon as anything for God’s use, when they shut up their bowels against the miseries of others, then is there this unmeet withholding.
[2.] By our loathness to part with these things for the testimony of a good conscience. When we are put to trial, as Joseph was, to lose our coat that we may keep our consciences, I mean, to part with these outward things, or to defile ourselves by compliance with men; when we are put to this trial, those that will withhold and can dispense with the conscience of their duty to God, they are guilty of this sin: 2 Tim. iv. 10, ‘Demas hath forsaken us, having loved this present world.’ Oh! it is a mighty insinuating thing that gets into the hearts of those that profess religion many times, so that they cannot deny any small conveniences for God. But the contrary is in those saints that ‘take joy fully the spoiling of their goods, knowing that they have in heaven a better and an enduring substance,’ Heb. x. 34.
. It appears again when we are loath to part with them in a way of submission to God’s providence. Grief at worldly losses shows that these things have gained too much of our love. If we did ‘rejoice in them’ when we have them ‘as if we rejoiced not,’ then we would ‘weep’ for the loss of them ‘as though we wept not,’ 1 Cor. vii. 31. They are both coupled together, for one makes way for the other. So we find the other couple: 2 Peter i. 6, ‘Add to temperance patience.’ Where there is temperance and moderation in the use of worldly things, there will be patience, a submission to God in the loss of them. 383He lost them without grief, because he possessed them without love. The greatness of our affliction comes from our affection to these things. Did we sit more loose from our earthly comforts, it would not be so irksome to part with them. Grief is always a sign of affection: John xi. 34, and ‘Jesus wept;’ and then they said, ‘Behold how he loved him!’ When we are surprised with so great sorrow and trouble at the parting of outward things, it may be said, ‘Behold how we loved them.’ Our hearts are not at so great an indifferency as they should be. The root of all trouble of spirit lieth in our inordinate affection. Get off that, and then what comfortable lives might we live!
Secondly, I am to show how it hindereth us from complying with God’s testimonies. I shall do it by these arguments.
1. It disposeth and inclineth the soul to all evil, to break every command and law of God: 1 Tim. vi. 10, ‘The love of money is the root of all evil.’ Let that once get into the heart and reign there, and then a man will stick at no sin, he becomes, as Chrysostom speaks, a ready prey to the devil; such a man doth but stand watching for a temptation, that Satan may draw him to one sin or other: Micah ii. 2, ‘They covet fields, and take them by violence.’ First they covet; suffer that to possess the heart, and a man will stop at nothing, but break out into all that is unseemly. Let Judas be but inured to the bag, and enchant his thoughts with this pleasing supposition that he may make a gain of his master, and he will soon come to a quid dabitis: What will ye give me, and I will deliver him unto you? he will soon betray him. Gehazi, let him but affect a reward, and he will dishonour God, and lay a stumbling-block in the way of that noble Syrian, that new convert: ‘Is this a time to take bribes?’ &c. Let Achan’s heart be but tickled and pleased a little with the sight, and he will be purloining the wedge of gold and the Babylonish garment. Tell Balaam but of gold and silver, and he will curse Israel against his conscience, he will venture, though there be an angel in the way to stop him. Let Ahab but have a mind to Naboth’s vineyard, and he will soon consent to Naboth’s blood. Ananias and Sapphira, let them but look upon what they part withal, let but covetousness prevail upon their hearts, and they will keep back part of that which is dedicated to God. Simon Magus will deny religion, and return to his old sorceries again, that he may be some great one. So that there is no sin, be it never so foul, but covetousness will make it plausible, and reconcile it to the consciences of men.
2. As it doth dispose and incline the soul to evil, so it incapacitates us for God’s service, both in our general and particular calling.
In our general calling, it makes us incapable of serving God. Why? It destroys the principle of obedience, is contrary to the matter of obedience, and it slights the rewards of obedience.
[1.] It destroys the principle of obedience, which is the love of God. This is that which constrains us, which carrieth us out with life and sweetness in God’s service. Now, 1 John ii. 5, ‘If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him.’ It destroys the principle that should act us in obedience.
[2.] It is contrary to the matter of obedience, which are the commands of God. The commands of God and mammon are contrary, 384Mat. vi. 24. What are his commands? God saith, Pity the afflicted, relieve the miserable, venture all for a good conscience, seek heaven in the first place, seek it with your choicest affection, your earnest diligence. What saith mammon? Be sparing of your substance, follow the world as hard as you can, stick at nothing, lie, steal, swear, for swear, comply with the lusts of men, then you shall be rich. Well, now you see he that is ruled by mammon, or swayed by the inordinate love of worldly good, can never serve God; he is enslaved to another master; he loves wealth above all, he trusts it more than God’s providence, he serves it more than God himself. Though his tongue dares not say that the earth is better than heaven, that the things of this life are better than the favour of God, yet his life saith it; for more of his heart and care runs out upon these matters. In short, it unfits you not only for one duty, but for all duties required of us. God’s laws you know require respect to God, your neighbour, and to yourselves. Now he that is a slave to mammon, overcome by the love of worldly things, denies that which is due to God, his trust, his love, his choice affection. He denies what is necessary for his neighbour, and he denies what is comfortable for himself. He is unthankful to God, unmerciful to his neighbour, and cruel to himself.
[3.] It slights the encouragements of obedience, which are the rewards of God, as it weakens our future hopes, and depresseth the heart from looking after spiritual and heavenly things. They despise their birth right for a mess of pottage; and when they are invited to the wedding, the choice things God hath provided for us in the gospel, they prefer their farm, oxen, merchandise before it. As it unfits us for the duty of our general, so for our particular. callings and relations.’ The love of the world will make him altogether unfit for magistracy, ministry, the master of a family, or any such relation. In magistracy, who are the men that are qualified for that office? Exod. xviii. 21, ‘Such as fear God, men of truth, hating covetousness.’ Let covetousness possess the heart a little, and it will make a man act unworthily, timorously, with a base heart. Nay, for a piece of bread will that man transgress. Take a minister, and what a poor meal-mouthed minister will he make if his heart be carried out with love to worldly things? Therefore it is the qualification of his person: 1 Tim. iii. 3, ‘Not greedy of filthy lucre.’ Let a minister be greedy of gain, it makes him sordid, low-spirited, flattering and daubing, to curry favour with men, more intent upon his gain and profit than the saving of souls. So for his work: 1 Peter v. 2, ‘Feed the flock of God which is among you; not for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind.’ What a low flat ministry will that be, that is inspired with no other aim and impulsion but the sense of his own profit! If that be his great inducement to undertake that calling, and his great encouragement in discharging the duty of that calling, how will men strain themselves to please men, especially great ones, and writhe themselves into all postures and shapes that they may soothe the humours and lusts of others! He will curse where God hath blessed, if he be such as Balaam, who ‘loved the wages of un righteousness.’ It is a powerful imperious lust, saith God, ‘Will you pollute me for handfuls of barley and pieces of bread, to slay the souls that should not die, and to save the souls alive that should not live?’ 385Then you shall have them declaiming against the good, hardening the evil, complying with the fashions of the world. So in other callings. If a man be called to be a master of a family: Prov. xv. 27, ‘He that is greedy of gain troubleth his own house.’ What a trouble and burden will this man be to his servants and all about him! and how little will he glorify God in that relation! Nay, in all other stations this will make him an oppressing landlord, a false tradesman, an ill neighbour; and therefore it is the very pest and bane of human societies. Thus you see how it unfits us for the service of God, both in our general and particular calling.
3. It hinders the receiving of good, and those means of reformation that should make us better. It fills us with prejudice against what ever shall be spoken for God and for the concernments of another world: Luke xvi. 14, ‘And the Pharisees also, who were covetous, heard all these things, and derided him.’ Come with any strict and holy doctrine that shall carry out men to the interest of another life, and they will make a scoff at it. If the word stir us a little, and make us anxious and thoughtful about our eternal condition, the thorns, which are the cares of this world, choke the good seed, Mat. xiii.; it stifles our conviction, while it distracts our head with cares, and puts us out of all thought about things to come. If a man begins to do some outward thing, it makes him soon weary of religion and attendance upon the duties thereof: Amos viii. 5, ‘When will the Sabbath be gone, that we may set forth wheat?’ They think all lost that is bestowed upon God. As Seneca said of the Jews, they were a foolish people, they lost the full seventh of their lives because of the Sabbath; so they think all Sabbath time lost. Nay, it distracts in duty: Ezek. xxxiii. 31, ‘With their mouth they show much love, but their heart goeth after their covetousness.’ It interlines our prayers, and the world will still be creeping; and when we are offering incense to God, we shall be mingling sulphur and brimstone of worldly thoughts with it; our minds will be taken up with worldly projects; and then it perverts the good we do, as they followed Christ for the loaves, John vi. It turneth religion into venale artificium, a trade to live by. If they do good things, it is for worldly ends; they make a market of their devotion, as the Shechemites would be circumcised, for then their substance and their cattle will be ours.
Use 1. It informs us of the evil of covetousness. Most will stroke it with a gentle censure, and say, Such an one is a good man, but a little worldly, as if it were no great matter to be so. Nay, they are apt to applaud those that are tainted with it: Ps. x. 3, ‘He blesseth the covetous, whom the Lord abhorreth.’ He that getteth honour and riches by hook and crook is the only prudent and serious man in their account. It is a foul sin, though the men of the world will not believe it. Surely we have too mild thoughts of it, therefore do not watch, and strive against it. The sensualist shames himself before others; but covetousness is worse than prodigality in many respects, as being not occasioned by the distemper of the body, as excess of drinking and lust is, but by the depravation of the mind; and when other sins decay, this grows with them; it is an incurable dropsy, Luke xii. 15. The words are doubled for the more vehemency. Christ doth not only 386say, ‘Take heed,’ but ‘Take heed and beware of covetousness.’ Sins that are more gross and sensual are more easily discovered, and a sinner sooner reclaimed; but this is a secret sin, that turns away the heart from God, and is incessantly working in the soul. Look, as the scripture tells you, to make you careful against rash anger, that it is murder, 1 John iii. 15; so to make you careful to avoid covetousness, the scripture tells you it is idolatry; and is that a small crime? What, to set up another God? Who are you that dare to harbour so great an evil in your bosom, and make no great matter of it? Will you dethrone that God which made you, and set up another in his stead? How can you hope he will be good to you any longer when you offer him so vile an abuse? It is adultery; it is a breach of your conjugal vow. You promised to renounce the world in your baptism, and gave up yourselves to his service, and will you cherish your whorish and disloyal affections that will carry you to the world in God’s stead? We cannot think badly enough of such a sin.
Use 2. If covetousness be the great let and hindrance from keeping God’s testimonies, then let us examine ourselves, Are we guilty of it? Doting upon the creature, and an inordinate affection to sensible things, is a natural, a hereditary disease, more general than we are aware of: Jer. vi. 13, ‘From the least to the greatest every one is given to covetousness.’ It is a relic of original sin, and it is in part in the godly man, though it do not bear sway in him; there is too much of this worldly wretched inclination in a godly man’s heart. Nay, those that seem most remote from it may be tainted with it. A prodigal, that is lavish enough upon his lusts, yet he may be sparing to good uses; so he is covetous; as the rich man that fared deliciously every day yet denied a crum to Lazarus, Luke xvi. 19-21. Those that aim at no great matter for themselves, that have not ravenous impatient desires, yet may be full of envy at the increase of others, and vexed to see them flourish; it may be they have no ability or opportunity to do anything for themselves, but have an evil eye at the increase of others. Most men are more industrious for the world, whereas they are overly and slight in heavenly matters; and that is evidence enough. Some are not greedy, but they are too sparing. They seek not, it may be, a higher estate, but they are too much delighted with present comforts. The gallant that pampers himself, and wastes freely upon his pride and lusts, may laugh in his sleeve, and say, I am free from this evil; yet his heart desires wherewith to feed his excess and bravery and pride. Covetousness may be entertained as a servant where it is not entertained as a master; entertained as a servant to provide oil and fuel to make other sins burn. Therefore let us see indeed whether we be not guilty of this sin?
1. It may be discovered by frequent thoughts, which are the genuine issue of the soul, and discover the temper of the mind; thoughts either by way of contemplation or contrivance. By way of contemplation, when our minds only run upon earthly things, and that with a savour and sweetness: Phil. iii. 19, ‘Minding earthly things.’ What a man doth muse upon, most think of when he is alone, and speak of in company, that will show him the temper of his heart. When men think of the world, and speak of the world, their heart is where their treasure 387is, Mat. vi. 21. Nay, when they cannot disengage themselves from these thoughts in God’s worship; their hearts go away in covetousness, Ezek. xxxiii. 31. Or else thoughts by way of contrivance: Isa. xxxii. 7, 8, ‘The liberal man deviseth liberal things, and the wicked man deviseth wicked devices.’ The deliberations and debates of the soul discover the temper of it. A carnal heart is altogether exercised in carnal projects, as the rich fool discoursed and dialogised with himself. When men are framing endless projects, carking and caring, not how to grow good and gracious, but great and high in the world, they discover the spirit of the world.
2. And as by thoughts, so by burning and urgent desires; they are the pulses of the soul. As physicians judge by appetite, so may you by desires. A spiritual dropsy or an unsatisfied thirst argues a distempered soul, when, like the horseleech’s daughter, you still cry, Give, give, and you are never contented, but must have more.
3. By the course of your lives and actions, and the uniformity of your endeavours. How shall we know who is the covetous man whom the Lord abhors? Luke xii. 21, ‘So is he that layeth up treasure for himself, and is not rich towards God,’ a man that is always growing in estate, and never looks to his soul, and to be rich in grace, spiritual experiences, and rich in good works, which is chiefly meant there by being rich towards God, a man that seeks not the kingdom of God in the first place, for that which you love best you will seek for, you will be most careful and diligent to obtain. Well, then, when you mind heavenly things by the by, and are very slight in seeking and inquiring after God, furnishing your souls with grace, and getting assured hopes of heaven, and do not spy out advantages for the inward man, this evil disposition of the soul hath mightily invaded you, and then you can never do God any service.
Use 3. To press you to take heed of this great sin; and if you would mortify it, mortify the roots of it, which are distrust and discontent.
1. Distrust of God’s providence. You that think you cannot do well unless you have a greater portion of worldly things, and that sets you upon carking, and if you have not this you cannot see how you and yours can be provided for; cure this. How? By God’s promises: 1 Peter v. 7, ‘Cast all your care upon him, for he careth for you.’ Cannot you trust God upon the security of a promise? Cannot you go on in well-doing when the Lord hath said, ‘I will never leave thee nor forsake thee’? Cure it by observing the usual course of God’s providence. God provides for the young ravens, he clothes the lilies. It is Christ’s argument, Will he be more kind to a raven than a child? will he take more care of a flower than of a son, one that is in covenant with him? Cure it by holy maxims and considerations. Remember all dependeth upon God’s blessing: Luke xii. 15, ‘Take heed and beware of covetousness.’ How should we do so? ‘For a man’s life consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he possesseth.’ Alas! all is in God’s hand, both being and well-being, life and estate, and all things else. God can soon blast abundance, and can relieve us in the deepest wants; he can give you a sufficiency in your deep poverty, 2 Cor. viii. 2. If you should go on carking and caring and 388feathering your nests, God may take you off, or set your nests on fire. A little serves the turn to bring us to heaven; and when our desires are moderate, God will not fail: Prov. xvi. 8, ‘Better is a little with righteousness than great revenues without right.’
2. For discontent with your portion, that you may not always be craving more, meditate upon the baseness and vanity of worldly things. They do but deceive us with a vain show; they cannot give us any true joy of heart, or peace of conscience, or security against future evil; they cannot give you health of body, nor add one cubit to your stature, nor one day to your lives. Now, should we disquiet ourselves for a vain show? Shall there be such toil in getting, such fear of losing, when they are of no more use to us in the hour of death? When you need strength and comfort most, all these things will leave you shiftless, helpless, if they continue with you so long. Nay, reason thus: the more estate the more danger, the greater charge lieth upon you. Larger gates do but open to larger cares. There is more duty, more danger, more snares, more temptations. When you have more, you will be more difficultly saved. It is a truth pronounced by the Lord of truth, that it is ‘a hard matter for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of heaven.’ It will be more hard to keep the flesh in order, to guide our spirits aright in the ways of God. If you must needs be coveting, labouring, and carking, you are called to better things: John vi. 27, ‘Labour not for the meat which perisheth, but for the meat which endureth unto everlasting life;’ ‘Covet the best gifts,’ 1 Cor. xii. 31. Be as passionate for grace as others are for the world. If once you were acquainted with these better things, it would be so with you; you would never leave the fair and fresh pastures of grace for the barren heath of the world. If you did once taste the sweet of heavenly things, then let dogs scramble for bones and scraps; you have hidden manna to feed upon, the sense of God’s love to look after, hopes of everlasting glory wherewith to solace your souls. If once you did taste of these everlasting riches you would do so: 1 Tim. vi. 10, 11, there are many that ‘through the love of money have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows. But thou, man of God, flee these things, and follow after righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, meekness.’ Let the men of the world, whose portion and happiness lieth here, scramble for these things; but you, that profess yourselves children of God, follow after all the gifts and graces of the Spirit; let that be your holy covetousness, to increase in these things.
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