THE Foolish Abuse and wise Use OF RICHES
Foolish Abuse and wise Use
Preach'd in the Parish-Church of
Worcester-shire, May 1. 1695.
Upon occasion of a Charity given to that Place,
Sir Thomas Cookes of Bentley, Kt. Bar.
By W. Talbot, D. D. Dean of Worcester, and
Chaplain in Ordinary to His Majesty.
Printed for Tho. Bennet, at the Half Moon in St. Paul's
PUBLISHED FOR Tho. Bennet
Sir Thomas Cookes
BENTLEY, Knight Baronet.
SInce that too favourable Account which those worthy Gentlemen, that heard my Sermon, gave you of it, has out-weighed those Reasons which I offer'd against Printing it, and you have so far taken their Character of it, rather than mine, as to joyn with them in soliciting me to make it Publick, I do here present you with it just as I delivered it, without the least Alteration, or any Addition, except of a few Lines in the Close, which concern some Matters that I was not then fully instructed in.
If any shall be prevailed upon by any thing I have said, to imitate so fair an Example as you have set them, I shall repent of nothing relating to the Publishing [Page]of this plain Discourse, but that I have so long delay'd complying with your Desires.
May you, Sir, live to see not only your great Designs accomplish'd, but Justice done you in a more full and perfect account of them, by some of those Children for whose Education you are making such Charitable Provision: But if they should hold their Peace, the very Stones you have laid will cry out, and transmit you honourably to Posterity. I am, Sir,
Faithful Humble Servant,
St. LUKE, Chap. XII. verse xxi.
So is he that layeth up treasure for himself, and is not
rich towards God.
WHich Words are our Lord's Application of a Parable which He put forth, upon occasion of a certain Man's coming to him, and begging of him, ver. 13. to speak to his Brother to divide the Inheritance with him. There was, it seems, some difference between two Brethren about the division of their Patrimony; one of them had detained more than his share, at least the other thought so, who therefore applies himself to Christ, desiring Him that He would order his Brother to come to a fair Account with him, and allow him that proportion of his Father's Goods, which of right descended to him: But he declines this office with a, Man who made me a Judge or Divider over you? ver. 14. As if he should have said, My Kingdom is not of this World, John 18.36. My Power no temporal [Page 2] Power, nor is it my business to Rule and Dispose of Men's Bodies or Estates, but to instruct their Minds; all that I have therefore to say to you (and what I say to you, I say to the rest of my Hearers) is by way of Advice to caution you against Covetousness, ver. 15. which as it has plainly been the occasion of this present Dispute, and that Injustice which one of you complain of, so will certainly always make a Man uneasie, but never happy, ver. 15. For a man's life consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he possesses. And to make them the more sensible of this, He tells them the following Story of a rich man whose ground, ver. 16. either by reason of the Fertility of the Soil, or his good husbanding and manuring of it, together with the concurrence of God's common Providence, brought forth plentifully, in so much that his Barns were not able to receive them; and therefore he plotted and contrived with himself where he should bestow all his Plenty, ver. 17. was then as careful and as much at a loss where to dispose of it, as before how to get it; at last he comes to this Resolution, That he would pull down his Barns and build greater, ver. 18. such as should he of capacity to hold his mighty increase, and there he could store it up, and then say to his Soul, Soul, thou hast much Food laid up for many years, take thine ease, eat, drink, and be merry, ver. 18. Thus being made rich, as David speaks in the 49 Psal. ver. 18. he blessed his Soul, and no doubt, as it there follows, Men praised him for doing well unto himself; and as he accounted himself an happy Man, so they thought him to be a wise and prudent Man. But to shew us that the wisdom of this World is foolishness with God, our Saviour tells us, That whatever he was in his own, or others Opinion, he was but a Fool in God's account, For God said unto him, Thou Fool, ver. 20.
Fool! For what? For making the best of his Estate, for carefully gathering the Fruits of it, for safely laying up that Increase wherewith God had blessed him, for providently [Page 3] taking care for the Years to come? What is there unreasonable in all this? We do not find that he got his Wealth by any indirect Methods; his Abundance, as far as appears, was only the lawful product of his own Land and Industry; nor do we read that he was so insatiable as never to be contented, or so ridiculous as to resolve to spend all his time in heaping up Wealth, and allow himself none for the enjoyment of it. On the contrary he gave himself a quietus, Soul take thine ease, he knew when he had enough, thou hast goods laid up for many years, ver. 19. sufficient Provisions for many Years luxurious Living, and he resolved to make the remainder of his Life comfortable by the free use of that Plenty which he had got together in the former part of it, eat, drink, and be merry.
There is no reason to believe that there is any thing of injustice or dishonesty that our Saviour intends to censure in this Story, nor had He any occasion to do so from the behaviour of that Person, upon whose account he told it.
For among the Jews, where a Man left more Sons than one, all might claim an equal dividend of the Estate, excepting that the first-born was to have a double Portion of all that the Father dyed possest of; so that this Brother had certainly a right to his proportion, and as certainly it was not unlawful for him by lawful Methods to assert that right; and for the Method he took, 'twas not only a lawful but commendable one, to have a difference between so near Relations shortly accomodated by the amicable way of Arbitration, rather than decided by the tedious methods of Law, which might probably also lengthen and increase their Enmity and Animosities: And though he was mistaken in the Person he addrest to, who would by no means intermeddle in Affairs of that nature, yet his mistake was no very culpable one, but what he might be very easily and innocently [Page 4] led into, either by the Fame or Knowledge of his great Justice and Integrity; or by that Relation which he or his Brother, or both might stand in to Him, as possibly being his Disciples, and then who more fit to determine the Dispute between them, than their Master? or it may be by the 4th. Verse of the 72 Psal. (which Psalm, Jews as well as Christians have look'd upon as a Prophecy relating to the Messiah) where he is set forth as a Judge of the People, and Vindicator of the Rights of the Children, &c. But this notwithstanding, though he might without fault insist upon his right, and though the course he took to maintain it by reference, was a very justifiable and praise-worthy one, yet certainly he timed his business very imprudently; 'twas a mighty oversight in him to imploy those Minutes about it, which he had then opportunity of improving to the more concerning Interests of his Soul; and to importune Christ to help him to recover a temporary Inheritance, to whom he might, with success, have applied himself to have directed and assisted him in the obtaining of an Incorruptible and Eternal one: This seems to me to be the folly that this Brother was chargeable with, an inordinate desire, and over eager pursuit, tho by lawful means, of the unnecessary things of this present Life, to the neglect of the more weighty concerns of that which is to come.
As for the Rich Man, his folly seems to be of the same kind, but more extravagant; his desires and designs were all turn'd to this world, here he sets up his rest, and places his chief happiness in the goods he had laid up, and hugs and caresses himself with the pleasing prospect of a long voluptuous enjoyment of them; as for the other World, he had not a thought for it, that was so little regarded by him, that he did not judg Heaven worth the Purchasing at the expence only of his superfluities: God had blest him with a very plentiful Fortune, he had more than he wanted [Page 5] or knew what to do with: What opportunity had he of being Rich here and hereafter to? Of laying up sufficient for the necessities and conveniencies of this Life, and 1 Tim. 6.19. of laying up in store also a good foundation against the time to come, that he might lay hold upon eternal Life? But alas, this Treasure was put into the hand of a Fool that had not an Heart to make use of it; tho he had so much that he could not tell where to bestow it, he never thinks of making any return to that God that gave all, but chooses to be at the charge of pulling down and enlarging his Barns, there to lay up his Goods to be a prey to Theeves and Robbers, and food for Vermin, rather than to treasure them up in Heaven, where no such devourers can approach: And this is that imprudent management for which God calls him Fool; and he had presently a very sad conviction of his folly; for while he was entertaining himself with a vain Dream of many Years Happiness, in an unrestrain'd Enjoyment of his Fruits and Goods, he was surprised with the unwelcome tidings,v. 20. that that Night his Soul would be required of him.
He and his Riches immediately part, they have another Master, and he be removed into another state, where he cannot take them along with him, and where having neglected to make any Friends with his Idoliz'd Mammon, to send any Treasure before-hand, or lay up any Provisions, he cannot expect to bereceived into everlasting Habitations, unless those prepared for the Devil and his Angels, or to enjoy any portion, but one of Fire and Brimstone, without a Drop of Water to cool his Tongue, all Torment without any alloy or mixture: And so is he, i.e. This is the Character of every such Rich Man, and this will be his Case; he is a Fool, and will one day be sensible of it, that thus lays up Treasure for himself, that considers only himself in the storing up, or spending of his Plenty and Increase, that amasses [Page 6] wealth meerly for his own satisfaction, either in the beholding it with his Eyes, or consuming it upon his Lusts, and is not rich towards God; does not imploy a proportion of his abundance to the service and glory of God, in Works of Mercy and Charity: The words thus explained afford us these two Subjects of Discourse.
- The folly of those that lay up Treasure for themselves.
- The true way of making a Wise use and improvement of Riches, by being Rich towards God.
The folly of those that lay up Treasure for themselves. I intend not to declaim against an honest Care and Endeavour in any one to provide the necessaries for supporting not only Life, but a comfortable Life, and for enabling him to maintain the Character, and discharge the Duties belonging to those Relations which he bears in the World; for such care and endeavour, provided it does not imply, 1 Tim. 6.17. a trusting in uncertain Riches, or a resting in them as a Man's chief good, but he can clear himself with Job, and say, Job. 31.24. I have not made Gold my hope, nor said unto fine Gold, thou art my Confidence, if it includes not a discontentedness, and repining at his present lot, nor a distrust of God's Providence for the future, but he thankfully enjoys what he has already, acknowledging himself less than the least of God's Mercies; and for the time to come, having used means allowed by God, can contentedly and faithfully rely upon him for the event, resolving fully to acquiesce in whatsoever portion his Wisdom shall think meet for him; a Care and Industry, I say, to gain or keep the good things of this Life, so moderated and bounded, is not, that I know of, condemned in Scripture; nay, we are there told, 1 Tim. 4.8. That Godliness has the Promise of the Life that now is; and certainly a Man may not only enjoy the Promises of [Page 7] God, when he makes them good, but likewise by Lawful Methods cooperate with, and be Instrumental to his Providence in the bringing them about: But that which I design to censure, is the laying up of abundance beyond what true necessity or real conveniency require; the placing a man's chief Happiness in Riches; the making them his Treasure, v. 34. and consequently, Psal. 62.10. setting his Heart upon them, and directing all his Studies and Labours to the obtaining or keeping of them; the resting in them as his end; and in his own endeavours, as the means for the Procurement of them. And he that does so is a Fool upon three accounts, because,
- He quite mistakes the thing which he proposes as his end.
- He makes use of Incompetent means for the obtaining of it. And,
- It is that, which if he should obtain, is not worth his Time and Labour: These Instances of his Folly I have chosen to insist upon, they being what our Saviour has suggested in the Discourse now before us.
He quite mistakes the thing which he proposes as his end. And surely 'tis a very great folly for a Man to propose a thing as his chief end, and not know what it is, but think he pursues one thing, when he really does another; and yet this is plainly the case of the Man I am speaking of: The end he designs and thinks he pursues, is to lay up Treasure for himself; and yet he does not do this, but lays up rather for any Body else: Thou Fool whose shall those things he that thou hast provided? Dost thou lay up thy Riches not to spend, but to keep them by thee, to possess rather than to use; or doest thou lay up that thou may'st extravagantly squander them away in Luxury and Vain-glory? Which [Page 8] ever thou intendest, thou art as unfaithful a Steward to thy self, as thou art to God, and doest deceive and cheat thy self, as well as rob him: For let us consider the Man that lays up, not to use, but to keep and possess his Wealth, he may be a very wise and good manager for his Bags and Chests, for his Heirs and Executors; but by all his Providence, does not at all advantage himself, who would be in as truly comfortable a condition, if his Repositories were stored with stones and dirt, as with Gold and Jewels, while they lie useless by him; and God knows so they are like to lie while he lives, whether the heap be increased or diminished; for he that is afraid of spending his Wealth, when he has a great deal, would not probably be less tenacious of it, if it should decrease; and he is as little likely to be Cured of this narrowness of Soul, should his fortune be never so far extended, for in such persons, Riches, like Hydropical Humors, the more they increase, create the more violent thirst; nor can time it self work off this Humour, for old Age is much more apt to contract, than open the Purse, as well as hand. So that no change of his Circumstances, no Ebb, or Flow of his Fortune, are ever like to make him change his Practice, Psal. 39.6. Of heaping up Riches, which he can't tell who shall gather. Eccl. 2.18, 19. But which he must leave to the man that comes after him, who whether he be a wise man or a Fool, he knows not, but must have Rule over all his Labours wherein he has laboured. And surely this man does not lay up Treasure for himself. Let us in the next place take a view of the other layer up, that gathers, that he may scatter in extravagance and ryot, and have wherewith to feed his vain Glory and Luxury; he certainly seems to lay up for himself. No, no, for if he only resolves to spend what he has got, and lives not to Execure his purpose, Eccles. 11.18, 19. If after he is waxed Rich with his wariness and pinching, as the Son ofSyrack speaks, he should say, I have found rest, and will eat continually of my Goods; if, as he adds, the time should come upon [Page 9] him that he must leave those things to others and dye, as the rich Man's case was in this Parable, why, then his condition is eventually the same with the Miser's I mention'd before; but if he should have time and opportunity as he intends to lavish away and consume his Wealth, yet 'twill appear that he, as well as the Miser, has laid up for others; the only difference is, no Body was the better for the one 'till his death, whereas the other in his life time disposed of his Goods to those for whom he laid them up (i. e.) to others: for whose sake does the vainglorious Man adorn his House with costly Furniture, himself with rich Apparel, and appear with a splendid Equipage, is it not for others to feed their Eyes, and gratifie their curiosity, and afford subject for their Discourse, that they may see, and admire, and talk of his Pomp and Magnificence? For whom does the Extravagant inlarge his Table, is it not for others? For multitudes of Attendants, Visitants, and Parasites, as Solomon long since observed, Eccles. 5. v. 11. When goods increase, they are increased that eat them, and what good is there to the owners thereof, saving the beholding them with their Eye? Alas, did the Man consider himself only, meaner Furniture, a cheaper Habit, a slenderer Table, and smaller Retinue would serve the turn as well, be every jot as useful to him, and answer all the ends of necessity and conveniency: For a Man may, when his Goods and Riches increase, enlarge his Barns and Bags to receive them, but he cannot enlarge his own Natural Appetites, nor stretch his real Wants and Capacity; his own Stomach craves no greater a Portion of Food, nor does his Body take up any more room, or need other Defensatives to guard it from cold, or other accidents than before; and therefore whatever extraordinary provisions he now makes, they are for others, and consequently the Riches wherewith he supports this Extravagance, he did not lay up for himself; so that neither he that hoards up his Riches to keep them, that starves in present, lest he should want [Page 10] hereafter (which is such a piece of Wisdom, as if a Man should cut his own Throat, for fear of being knockt on the Head he knows not when) no, nor he that lays up that he may spend in Luxury and Vanity, neither does lay up for themselves; and yet this is the end they both think they propose, which it is plain they grossly mistake; and that is the first instauce of their Folly. The
Is they make use of incompetent means for the obtaining their end: They depend upon themselves and second causes for it; they use a great deal of care and thoughtfulness, and abundance of Labour and Toil; but that these are not to be relied upon, our Saviour tells four verses after my Text; v. 25. For which of you, says he, by taking thought can add to his Stature, or to the term of Life, as some understand it, one cubit, nay, can do so much as make one hair white or black? Alas! all our Endeavours without God's Blessing and Concurrence can turn to no account: If he works not with us, 'tis but lost labour, that we haste to rise up early and late, take rest, and eat the bread of carefulness, Psalm 127.3. After all our planting and watering, he only can give the increase: And he only can preserve it to us after he has given it; Our Care and Power are not sufficient to secure our Goods and Fruits from Moths and Vermine, nor our Bags from Thieves and Rohbers; wherehe is not the Keeper, the Watchman waketh but in vain. But how can that man expect God's Blessing and Protection who daily forfeits them by distrusting him? by acting as if he believed his Providence extended not to him; as if he thought him ignorant of his concerns, or unable or unwilling to take care of him? And what an aggravated provocation is it for a man to question whether God's Care extends to him, when he daily sees it reaches to the very Birds of the Air and Flowers of the Field? v. 24, 27. When he sees that God gives Food so plentifully to those inferiour Creatures, and Arrays them so [Page 11] Gloriously, to doubt whether he can or will make provision for man whom he has appointed to be Lord of those Creatures, and for whose use and service they were made; nay, when he has had experience in himself of Gods Power and goodness in greater instances, to distrust them in less; v. 23. when God has bestowed a Body and Life upon him, to doubt his affording him the means for support of them; these are such unworthy and provoking returns, that whoever is guilty of them, has little reason to expect any thing further from him: And however he may pretend in words to believe a Providence; this is a plain denying of it in Practice, and disclaiming all hope and Expectation from it; and how well that man consults the safety of what he already has, or what further success he can reasonably hope for of Labours, that places them out of the care of God's Providence, every one may easily Judg. But,
Lastly, the Man that lays up Treasures for himself, proposes an end, that if obtained, is not worth his care and pains: Nor can contribute any thing to his real Happiness. For suppose him possest of as great abundance as his present wishes reach to, is he sure he would be then content? Would not his wishes probably be enlarged with his Estate, and carry him on as much further yet? Thou wilt pull down thy Barns, says St.Basil, (of the Rich Man in this Parable,) and build greater; and when thou hast done that, what resolutions wilt thou take afterwards? Wilt not thou again pull down, and build again? When men's desires of Wealth go beyond the bounds of necessity and conveniency, they become infinite, there is no limiting of them: They are, as that great Father says, like men running down a steep Precipice, there's no fixing of their Foot, or stopping of their course: And if a man cannot gain his ease with his end, but after all the success of his Labours, he shall continue to be as restless, and want as much, and desire [Page 12] as much as before, surely his pains are bestowed to very little purpose: But supposing his eager thirst after more should be allay'd, that he should know when he had enough, and be satisfied with that proportion which he hath laid up, and bid his Soul take its ease, as this Man resolv'd to do, though he did not live to try whether he could keep his resolution, yet what would he then do with it? would he store up his abundance and not use it? What good would it then do him? Or, how would he be happier for having so much useless Lumber lodg'd in his own House, than he would be if so much were laid up in his Neighbour's House; he would have no pleasure by it but in opinion, but would have the real pain of perplexing thoughts how to secure it, and tormenting fears lest he should lose it? But if he should resolve to spend it, yet of all that he shall extravagantly squander, 'twill, as I observ'd before, be but a small proportion that he will bestow upon himself; and of all the mighty Provisions that shall be purchased thereby, but a little will come to his own share: And is it a happiness to be continually caring and providing for others? Men that look at a distance, see only the out-side, and judge according to appearance, may think great and rich Men very happy, and possibly some of them that know no better may think themselves so, but if we will take the opinion of one who was every way qualified to make a true judgment of this Matter, who had Wealth enough to procure, and curiosity to make tryal of all manner of earthly delights, and wisdom to pass a just censure of them, we shall find it far otherwise. For Solomon, who was great, as he himself says, Eccles. 2. v. 9, 10. and increased above all that went before him in Jerusalem, who kept not, as he adds, from his eyes, whatsoever they desir'd, nor with-held his heart from any joy, and who was also, as the Scripture witnesses, wiser than all men, he, upon a strict review of all the Greatness and mighty Treasure he was possest of, and that circle of diversified Delights [Page 13] which they enabled him to entertain himself with, a large catalogue whereof he sets down in the 2d. of Eccles. gives this account of them all in the 11. ver. That all was vanity and vexation of Spirit: that he had found nothing of true satisfaction, or solid pleasure in them, they did but deceive his expectation, and occasion a great deal of uneasiness by the disappointment: And a greater than Solomon has assured us, That a man's life does not consist in the abundance of the things which he possesses, Luke 12.15. They are no more necessary or useful to his well-being, than able to prolong his being; a Man may be here very miserable with them, and very happy here without them: and when he comes to dye, they cannot keep him in this World, nor go with him into the next. Then indeed, in that night when his Soul is required of him, will the vanity of all earthly Treasures, and the folly of him that has laid them up, most eminently appear; what will they all then signifie to him, when he cannot use them, and must leave them? All his Riches cannot compound with Death, nor all his Power and Greatness secure him from the Grave; he must quit his spacious Habitations for a narrow Coffin, and all his Gayety for a poor Shroud; his large Demeans, which he has extended far and wide, by adding Field to Field, must dwindle into six Foot of dark Earth, and all his Attendants and Parasites be changed for the Society of Worms, which will prey upon his Body, as they had done upon his Estate. And for his poor Soul, with what horror and amazement will it be surprised, when it must be uncloth'd, stript of its earthly House, the Body, and has not any Mansions prepared for it above? When it must go naked and destitute of all the imaginary Advantages it injoyed in the Body, into a place of Torment, to be kept in Chains of Darkness to the Judgment of the Great Day, 'till they shall both meet again to be made compleatly miserable.
Go to now ye rich Men, weep and howl, for the miseries that are coming upon you, James 5.1. Ye that heaped up Treasures, have only heap'd up fire for the last day to consume you, ver. 3. Ye that have wasted it in Luxury and Riot, have lived in pleasure upon the Earth, and been wanton, have only nourisht your hearts as against the day of slaughter, ver. 5. Behold your Judge stands before the door, v. 9. expecting an account of those Talents wherewith he intrusted you; Mountains of Wealth heaped one upon another, will not cover you from his presence, nor blind his Eyes, nor suborn the Evidences that will come in; the Rust of that Gold and Silver which you Misers have unprofitably hoarded up, and the very Ministers to your Pride, and Luxury, and Vices, on whom ye Prodigals have wasted it, as well as the Poor whom ye have both defrauded, will witness against you, and what Mercy can ye expect from your Judge, who have shew'd none to his Members?
But are Riches always kept to the hurt of the owners thereof? Must a plentiful Estate lawfully descending from the Father disinherit the Son of the Kingdom of Heaven? or the blessings of God's left Hand upon his own honest Labours necessarily intitle him to be placed upon the left Hand hereafter? God forbid any should say thus. No, Riches in themselves consider'd are neither good nor bad, but indifferent, as Poverty is; both States are capable of being improved to very good purposes, or abused to very ill ones; both have their Temptations, and both have their Advantages. If Riches may tempt a Man to Pride and Luxury, to love of the World, and forgetfulness of God, Poverty may be too apt to incline him to murmur and repine at God, to Steal, and take his Name in vain: And if Poverty put a Man upon the exercise of Patience, Contentedness, and Faith, Riches may give him opportunities of exercising a [Page 15] Grace which the Apostle prefers before all these, that of Charity, and by the due practice whereof, we do most nearly resemble the most perfect of all Beings, our Father which is in Heaven. The Vertues which Riches may enable a Man to perform have that advantage over those which are owing meerly to Poverty, which St. Paul gives Prophecy over Speaking in an unknown Tongue, he that speaketh in an unknown Tongue edifieth himself, but he that prophesieth edifieth the Church, 1 Cor. 14. The Vertues of the poor Man, as he is such, center in himself only, but the rich Man may cast his benign Influence on all about him, may be Eyes to the Blind, Feet to the Lame, a Father to the Poor and Fatherless, and cause the Widows heart to dance for Joy, as Job speaks; may do good not only to the present age, but to the Generations that are to come; he may in a Sense be always with the Poor, may make Provision for the Feeding and Clothing of their Bodies, for the instructing and forming of their Minds, and for the putting them into Capacities of being serviceable to God, and useful to Men in their Generations; and by so doing may become a sort of a Saviour to them, contribute mightily, not only to the saving of their Bodies from shame and misery here, but both Souls and Bodies from eternal confusion and torment hereafter. And this is,
The true way of making a wise improvement of Riches, which is the Second General Head I proposed to discourse upon, and is included in the Phrase rich towards God, and to be so, is, as our Saviour expounds it at 33 ver. to give Alms, or in St. Paul's Expression, to be rich in good Works, ready to distribute, willing to Communicate, 1 Tim. 6.18. To make the needy share with me in my Plenty, and minister out of my Abundance to the necessities of those who have no Portions provided for them: And he that does so may be said to be rich towards God, either as he performs a service [Page 16] highly acceptable to God; not that he is benefited by our largest Charity, our Goodness extends not to him, but to the Saints that are upon the Earth, Psal. But yet it is very grateful to him, as the Apostle assures us, To do good, and to distribute, forget not, for with such Sacrifices God is pleased, Heb. 13.16. And this likewise may occasion another pleasing Sacrifice to him, that of Praise and Thanksgiving, for so St. Paul says, The administration of this Service not only supplies the wants of the Saints, but is abundant also by many Thanksgivings to God, 2 Cor. 9.12. Nay, the Scripture represents the Money which the charitable Man gives to the Poor, as a Loan lent to God; and our Saviour tells us, That He resents the merciful Offices done to them, as perform'd to Himself. He that hath pity on the Poor, lendeth unto the Lord, Prov. 19.17. And in as much as ye did it to one of these my Brethren, ye did it to me, Matth, 25. So that in this sense he that abounds in works of Charity, may be said to be [...], rich towards God: or there may be another sense of the Phrase, which the Learned Grotius contends for (Grot. in Loc.) who will have [...], which we render rich, to be all one with [...], which signifies laying up Treasure; and [...], which we render towards God, to be as much as [...], with God; and then to be rich towards God, as we Translate it, is to lay up Treasure for our selves with God; and this Christ implies the charitable Man does at the fore-mentioned 33d. Verse of this Chapter, when he advises us, if we cannot otherwise do it, to sell some part of what we have, and give Alms, and so provide Bags that wax not old, and treasure in Heaven that fails not. We need not be curious which of these Senses to take, for the truly Charitable Man is rich in both of them; he is Rich towards God, and he lays up Treasure for himself with God; and he that does so, certainly makes the wisest use and best improvement of his Riches.[Page 17]
For being rich towards God, what more prudent course can a Man take, than by making a grateful return of some of his Plenty to that bountiful hand from whom he received all, to engage his Blessing upon the rest? And by distributing out of what he hasalready given, to those whom he has appointed as his Substitutes to receive those expressions of our Love and Gratitude, which he is not capable of, to secure his further Favours for the future? Now that the merciful and charitable Man does this, the Scripture tells us in many places; I will name three or four, in Psal. 41. David describing the Blessedness of the Man that provides for the poor and needy, says, That the Lord will deliver him in the time of trouble, will preserve and keep him alive, and he shall be blessed upon the Earth; and in the 37th. speaking of the righteous Man, and what he means by a righteous Man in that Psalm, is very plain from 21. and 26. verses of it: In the former the righteous sheweth mercy, and giveth; and in the other, he is ever, or your Margin has it, all the day merciful, and lendeth; of this Righteous, i. e. this merciful, liberal man, he says, v. 19. He shall not be ashamed in evil times, and in time of famine he shall have enough. Ver. 29. The righteous shall inherit the Land, and dwell in it for ever. And to the same purpose, ver. 34. and in the 25th. I have been young, and now am old, yet never saw I the righteous forsaken, nor his Seed begging their Bread. And ver. 26. his Seed shall be blessed. And in Psal. 112. speaking of the same righteous Man, whom he explains to be one that is gracious and full of compassion, v. 4. A God-like Character: and v. 5. That sheweth favour, and lendeth: and in 9. hath dispersed and given to the poor, his righteousness endureth for ever, he shall be afraid of no evil tidings, v. 8. Wealth and Riches shall be in his House, v. 3. His Horn shall be exalted with honour, v. 9. his Seed shall be mighty upon the earth; the generation of the upright shall be blessed. And his Son Solomon assures us, in Prov. 25.9. That he [Page 18] that hath a bountiful eye shall be blessed, for he giveth of his Bread to the poor. And Chap. 28.27. He that giveth to the Poor shall not lack. Not far from that, for in 11.25. The liberal Soul shall be made fat, and he that watereth shall be watered again. I will add but one Passage more, and that is in the 3d. Mal. 10. Bring me, says God, all the Tithes into the Store-house. All the Tithes, that is, the third Years Tithes, as well as the every Years, those that were for the Poor, as well as those for the Priest, as God appointed, Deut. 14.28. At the end of the third Year, thou shalt bring forth all the Tithes of thine increase the same Year, and the Levite, and the Stranger, and the Fatherless, and the Widow, shall come and eat, and be satisfied. Bring me all these Tithes, and prove me herewith says the Lord of Host, if I will not open you the windows of Heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it. And let not any one think that this related to the Jews only under the Old Testament Oeconomy, and concerns not us Christians; for though there be something positive in the Proportion which God required to be laid aside for the Poor, viz. the Tithe of the increase of the third Year; yet certainly the duty it self of feeding the Stranger, the Fatherless and Widow, is moral, and of Eternal Obligation: and if the Duty extends to us, why should any one doubt but the Promise does too, unless he can believe that no Temporal Blessings are promised under the Evangelical Dispensation, and he that does so must contradict St. Paul, who says not only, That Godliness in general has the promise of this Life, as well as that which is to come, 1 Tim. 4.8. 2 Cor. 9.9. but particularly applies to the Righteous, i. e. the Charitable Man the Promises I mention'd before in the 112 Psalm, and encourages the Corinthians to a liberal Contribution to the poor Christians in Judea, from this consideration, That God is able to make all Grace, i. e. all plenty abound to them, v. 8. From these Scriptures then it appears, That both Deliverances from want and danger, and positive Blessings too, both security [Page 19] and increase of what he has, earthly Blessings upon himself, and upon his Posterity also, are promised by God to that Man that is Rich towards him: And although these, as all temporal Promises are to be understood, as Divines express it, cum exceptione crucis, i. e. not absolutely, but with this reserve, unless God sees it best for his Servants to order it otherwise, yet this is no impeachment of that Man's Wisdom, that ventures his Goods upon this bottom, for either he will have that very return in kind, which God has promised, or that which God Judges to be better for him, and that certainly is so, and then he will have no reason to charge either God with injustice, or himself with folly.
But whatever befals him here, 'tis enough to justifie the prudence of his Conduct, that he will be sure to enjoy hereafter the treasures he has laid up with God; and if he does with the expence of his temporary, uncertain, perishing treasures, that are daily liable to inward corruption, and to outward violence, purchase those that are certain, incorruptible, and eternal, no one can say, but he makes a very wise use and improvement of them.
We must not indeed pretend by the largest and most disinterested Distributions of our Charity, or by any thing we can do, to satisfie for our sins, or deserve Heaven; Christ alone has made satisfaction for those, and merited this for us: we are unprofitable Servants when we have done all, and all our righteousness as filthy rags; our good Works can plead no merit with God, when 'tis he alone that works in us both to will and to do of his good pleasure; and particularly our Charity to others is purely the effect of his Bounty to us, who bestows upon us both the means and the heart to be charitable; but yet the Scripture makes this Grace of Charity to be of so great price in the sight of God, that as it more than once informs us, it can cover a multitude of sins, Jam. 5.20. 1 Pet. [Page 20] 4.8. cast a vail over several slips and imperfections in the Person eminent for it, which God would not over-look in the Man destitute of it.
Nay the true Riches, Treasure in Heaven, eternal Life, are there assured to the due performance of it, not as an efficient meritorious cause, but a condition required on our part to qualifie us for the application of our Saviours Blood, which only can take away sin, and give us a title to Heaven: And so necessary a condition it is, that Christ, in his description of the last Judgment, Mat. 25. gives such an account of his procedure in that day, as if the only matter he should come to inquire into, would be the performance or neglect of this great Duty. Not but that all our works done in the flesh, our very words and thoughts, will then be judg'd, but this will be a Matter of very special and particular inquiry; this being a Duty which our Lord has recommended to us, both by Precept and Example, it being what he was, a most eminent instance of himself, the New Commandment which he has given to his Disciples, and the distinguishing Badg and Character by which he would have them to be known from the rest of the World. And indeed, wheresoever this Grace is found in its due measure, and with its requisite qualifications, as well as to the inward affection and habit, as to the outward effects and exercises of it, other Vertues and Graces cannot be wanting. There may be a great show of Charity; a Man may give Alms plentifully, and do many things outwardly, from whence the World may judge him to be very charitable, when through some inward defect he is in reality far otherwise: There must be, as the Schoolmen observe, to make an Action good, a concurrence of all requisite conditions, whereas one single defect in any one condition, will make an Action evil; (so much easier is it to do evil than good.) Thus to make an Action truly charitable, there is something more requisite than the bare bestowing my Money, and disposing of my Fruits to the Poor, though it be in [Page 21] never so large a proportion; for a Man may, as St. Paul intimates, 1 Cor. 13. give all his Goods to feed the Poor, and yet not have Charity. I cannot insist upon all the requisites, but will mention two, which wherever they are wanting, there can be no true Charity, and wherever they are found it cannot be false: And they are such that any Man may easily try whether they be in him or not, and consequently judge of his Charity; and they are, a right Principle, and a right End. If my Charity proceed from a corrupt Principle, as love of my self, or be directed to an ill end, as to raise my own reputation in the World, that I may have Praise and Glory of Men, or any secular advantage, 'tis no Charity, it profits me nothing as to any future account, nor must I expect any reward from my Father which is in Heaven: but if a sincere Love to God, and my Neighbour for his sake, be the Principle, and the promotion and advancement of his Glory the end of my Charity, it cannot easily be defective upon any other account; for where Love is the moving Principle, the Man will give chearfully and liberally, he that acts out of Love, acts with a great deal of alacrity, and never thinks he can do too much for the party loved; and where God's Glory is his end, he will be very cautious, lest any sinister or by end intermix with it; he will take all due and prudent care to testifie one, and promote the other; and then whatever unwilling mistakes he may be guilty of in any of the less concerning circumstances of it, they will certainly be some of that multitude of sins which such a Charity will cover; nay, in whom there is such a noble Principle, and such a noble End, all other Vertues and Graces must accompany this of Charity, and no instance of Obedience will be wanting; for he that does any thing out of Love to God, and for the advancement of his Glory, will be ready out of the same Principle to do every thing that may promote that end.
Whether for these, or whatever other reasons our Saviour and Judge was pleased in his description of the Process in the [Page 22] great and terrible Day, to give particular instances only in works of Charity and Mercy, as Clothing, Feeding, Visiting, &c. the Naked, Hungry, Sick, and Imprisoned, &c. and to tell us that the irreversible Sentence of Glory or Misery shall be past upon us, as we have done, or not done them. This is certainly enough to shew how necessary a Duty this of Charity is, and to encourage us to abound in this Grace, and be rich in good works, and to be merciful according to our power. God is not that hard Master that looks to gather where he has not strawed; he does not expect that those that have but little should give much, no, if they do but their diligence to give of that little, they gather to themselves a good Reward against the day of Adversity, Mark 12.42. The poor Widows two mites, which she cast in amongst the Free-will-offerings were well accepted, and her Charity highly commended by Christ, who has assured us, That even a Cup of cold Water given to a Disciple in the Name of a Disciple, shall not lose its reward. But from those to whom he has given greater Abilities, God expects larger returns of Charity. And surely 'tis their Wisdom to make them in the most ample manner they can, since he has promised that he will not forget their labours of love: who would Sow sparingly, that can do it plentifully, when he that Ministers Seed to the Sower, and increases the fruits of their righteousness, 2 Cor. 9.10. has told them that their crop shall be proportionable in quantity to the Seed they sow; he that soweth sparingly, shall reap sparirnly; but he that soweth bountifully, shall reap bountifully, v. 6.
The Sum is Liberality and Charity to the Poor have promises of the Blessings, both of this World and the next, and though the former Promises are conditional, yet the performance of the duties have the advantage over all other Methods we can use to gain the good things of Life, in two respects, first in that they are more likely to obtain them for us, and secondly, they cannot fail but when 'tis our Interest to be without them.[Page 23]
But the latter are absolute and peremptory, and will one Day infallibly be made good, to all such as are truly rich towards God: Where then can we dispose of our Riches, better than to him, in what hands can we lodge them saser, and from whom can we expect a more advantageous account of them? He will manage them to our greatest Interest, both here and hereafter, repay us with usury here, either in kind, or in that which shall be better, and repay us hereafter with bags that wax not old, and durable treasures in Heaven, which nothing can corrupt or take from us.
What then remains, but that I address my self to you in the words of the Apostle, 1 Cor. 15.58. Wherefore my beloved brethren, be ye stedfast, unmoveable, always abounding in this work of the Lord, for as much as ye know that your Labours shall not be in vain in the Lord. If ye Sow, ye are assured ye shall reap in due time, if ye faint not: And what if ye should miss of a Crop here? Is it a great matter for you to sow temporal things, if ye shall reap spiritual and eternal things? What if ye must tarry for one 'till hereafter? Does not the Husband wait with long patience for the precious Fruit of the Earth? Be ye also patient therefore until the coming of the Lord, which draweth nigh; behold he comes quickly, and his reward is with him: And then when he shall be seated upon the Throne of his Glory, attended with all his holy Angels, and all Nations shall be gathered before him, then will appear who has been the wise Man, and who the Fool, the unprofitable and unfaithful Steward, of the unrighteous Mammon, that has either hid his Lord's Talent, and let it lye useless by him; or imbezled and misspent it in Luxury and Riot; or he that has made himself Friends with it, by imploying it to pious and charitable uses: when they shall be amazed, as the wise Man speaks, Wisd. 5. at the strangeness of his Salvation beyond all that they had looked for, and repenting and grieving for anguish of Spirit, shall say within themselves, This is he whom we had sometime in derision, and a proverb of reproach, whom we accounted a mad Man [Page 24] for thinking to increase by scattering, and for laying out certain and present Treasures in prospect of uncertain future Advantage, how do we prove the Fools, and he the wise man; And what has our pride profited us, or what good have our Riches, with our vaunting, brought us; all those things are passed away as a shadow, and as a Post that hasteth by, but as for him, how is he numbred among the Children of God, and his Lot among the Saints? When they shall thus censure themselves, and with trembling and confusion hear the dreadful Sentence of their Judge. Then shall he stand with great boldness before the Face of those who made no account of his Labours of Love, and before the Face of his Judge too: Being prepared to answer those Interrogatories that shall then be put to him, with a Here Lord are thy poor naked Members which I have clothed; here are the hungry Bellies that I have fed; here are the Strangers, the Sick and Imprisoned to whom I have Minister'd. Then shall he receive a beautiful Crown from the Lord's hand, who shall tell him, In as much as thou hast done it to these, thou hast done it to me, Come therefore thou blessed Child, inherit the Kingdom prepared for thee from the foundation of the World.
Thus have I dispatch'd the Two Things I proposed; and shew'd, 1. The Folly of those that lay up Treasure for themselves, and 2. The true way of making a wise improvement of Riches, by being rich towards God.
And blessed be God, though our Age and Country abound too much with Examples of the former, yet we do not want some Instances to exemplifie the latter part of my Discourse; our Saviour's Prophecy, Mat. 24. v. 12. That the love of many shall wax cold; and St. Paul's account of the last days, 2 Tim. 3. v. 12. wherein Men shall be lovers of themselves and covetous, without natural affection, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God; are but too visibly verified in us, upon whom the ends of the World are come: But yet as far as [Page 25] we are removed from the first dawnings of the Gospel Age, and from the more immediate influences of those bright Examples the first Embracers of it, who sold their possessions and laid them at the Apostles feet, whereof distribution was made to every Man as he had need. As late as we live, and as cold as our Climate is, we have had, and have some burning and shining Lights, who by their charitable works have both warm'd and refreshed many of their poor Brethren, and by the Light of their good Examples invited and encouraged others to do likewise, and occasion'd many Thanksgivings to God on their behalf: We can produce instances of useful Charities that have been given since the Reformation, sufficient to convince the Romanists, That Protestants do as much acknowledge the Obligation, as they disclaim the merit of good works; Instances so many, and great, in proportion to the little time that the People of thy Holiness, O Lord, have possest thy Sanctuary, as may justly make them blush to charge us with denying the necessity of good Works: If any have taught that a naked dead Faith, destitute of Works, is the whole intire condition of Justification, let them bear their own burden, but let not the Church be charged, which always subscribes to that of St. James, Jam. 2.26. As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also. Though with our Saviour she teaches us to say, when we have done all, we are unprofitable Servants: We can, I say, shew our faith by our works. I need not go out of this County to find several Instances; a Commission now in foot for the enquiring into, and redressing any Abuses in the management of them, has given me an opportunity of knowing this. But having trespassed too far already, I must suppress a great deal that I might say upon this Subject, and shall only mention some few Instances of Charity, given and design'd to very good uses within our own Memories, and in the Lifetime of the Donors, some already perfected, and some not yet compleated: Among the first sort I reckon the Hospital [Page 26] at Old Swinford; and this I do the rather instance in; because this Parish partakes in the Charity of that Noble Foundation, which, through the munificence of the Founder, the care of the Managers, and prudence and industry of the present Master, is, it may be, one of the most useful Charities that late Years have produced, at least in these Parts.
Of this sort likewise is that which is the occasion of our present Meeting, and is more intirely given for the benefit of this Place and Neighbourhood, and is design'd not only for the Clothing of the Bodies of some of your poorer Children, but for the Adorning of their Minds, and putting them into Capacities of providing for themselves, and being useful to the World: Here you have a beautiful and convenient Structure built, and a competent Provision made for a School-Master, to instruct such as shall be admitted into it, not only in the Rudiments of Grammar, but also in the Principles of the Christian Religion, as they are briefly comprised in that excellent Summary, our Church Catechism: And whoever considers what a mighty Influence the Education of Children has upon them, when they come to be Men, how tenacious they are of those Principles which they imbibe in their Child-hood, especially how closely those they then suck in relating to Religion stick to them afterward, (as we have sad experience in too many unhappy Persons, upon whom prejudice of Education has wrought more than force of Argument) must certainly own it to be a most pious and prudent Design of your Charitable Benefactor, to provide for the early Institution of such, whose mean Circumstances may either render them destitute of any Education, o , which is not better, expose them to a bad one; and for the leading them into the Truth, and possessing them with right Notions, while the pliableness and tenderness of their Age, make them very Ductile, and capable of any impressions. But I must not dwell upon this, nor may enlarge upon other [Page 27] Subjects, which are offer'd me by the further generous Designs of that worthy Person who has occasion'd our coming together at this time, who is settling the same Charity on a Neighbouring Parish that he has bestowed upon this, and making the same pious Provision for the poor Children of Fecknam, that he has done for those of Bromsgrove. Nor does his Charitable Intentions stop here, or leave the Children at the Schools he is building for them, but carry them on to the University, where he has laid large and noble designs indeed, which we may hope ere long to see executed.
But I must forbear, and shall conclude with a hearty Address to the Father of Lights, from whom every good and perfect Gift comes, that for this Loan, which is already lent unto the Lord, he would return it double into the Bosom of the Lender, in the Blessings of this Life and the next. That he, who worketh in us to will and to do of his good pleasure, would perfect what he has begun in him; That he would make him to abound more and more in this Grace, and to that end, That he would make all Grace abound towards him, that he always having All-sufficiency in all things, may abound to every good work, being enrich'd in every thing, to all bountifulness, which causes through us Thanksgivings to God. Amen.
Appendix A Books lately Printed for Tho. Bennet.
THE Lives of all the Princes of Orange, from William the Great, Founder of the Common-wealth of the United Provinces. Written in French by the Baron Maurier, in 1682. whose Father was Twenty Years Ambassador at the Hague. And Published at Paris, by Order of the French King. To which is added the Life of His Present Majesty, King William the Third. By Mr. Thomas Brown. Together with each Prince's Head before his Life. Done from Original Draughts, by Mr. Robert White.
Mr. Bossu's Treatise of the Epick Poem, containing Curious Reflections, very useful and necessary for the Right Understanding and Judging of the excellency of Homer and Virgil: done into English, with some Reflections on Prince Arthur, by W. S. To which are added an Essay on Satyr, by Monsieur Dacier; and a Treatise upon Pastoral Poetry, by Monsieur Fontanelle.
Monsieur Rapin's Reflections upon Aristotle's Poetry, Englished by Mr. Rymer, together with some Reflections on our Modern Poets.
Sermons upon several Occasions, by R. Meggot, D.D. llate Dean of Winchester.