Plouto-Mastix: The Scourge of Covetousnesse

ΠΛΟΥΤΟΜΑΣΤΙΞ: THE SCOURGE OF Covetousnesse: OR, An Apologie for the Publike Good, against Privacie. A Sermon Preached at the Assises in Devon, at the Command of the Lord Byshop of Exon, Anno, 1630. BY THOMAS FOSTER, Master of Arts and Rector of Farway. Avaro nihil Scelestius. Eccles. 10. 9. Bonum, quò Communius, eò melius. Ethic. lib. 1.

PUBLISHED BY Michaell Sparke

TO THE RIGHT HONble. Sr. THOMAS RICHARDSON, Lord Chiefe Justice of his Majesties Common Pleas: And Sir JOHN DENHAM, one of his Majesties Barons of the Exchequer; All Health and Happinesse, here and hereafter.

Right Honourable:
I Will not say, Importunity of friends hath prest this Sermon to the Presse: that's a Common Plea; and implies a Tacit Commendation of the owne worke; which is not so commendable; it beeing as great Wisdome in our sufficiency, not to know our selves, as, in our Wants to know our selves. But I may boldly avouch, Ambition has no hand in the Impression. For had I beene that way affected I have had time enough, to be a foole in print (as well as some others) long ere now-Scribimus indocti, doctique. But I have ever beene as desirous to Suppresse my Labours, in this kinde, as others to Presse theirs. The truth is, the reason, why I have ventur'd to come on the Publike [Page] stage, and to make my Meditations Legible, is, To see whether I can finde more Charitable Readers of my Well meant Endeavours, then I had some Hearers; whose unhappy Misprision (making themselves, occasionally, guilty) would have made me guilty of that, I neyther spake, nor meant; (of that which I hate) A personall Invective. Whereas it may appeare (upon ingenuous perusall) neither the Person, nor the Place, but the too-well knowne Offence (Negligence) of some persons in those Places, is inveighed against. I can truely say with Saint Jerome-Nullum loesi, nullius nomen mea Scriptura designatum est: Neminem specialiter meus sermo pulsavit (ad Nepot.) And the Poet tels me (I take it) discreetly, Licuit, semperq licebit. - Parcere personis, dicere de vitijs. Whosoever takes offence at this, it is - Scandalum acceptum, indeed; and I suppose, he is no Competent Auditor. For if guilty Consciences, who are Parties should be admitted Judges of Divine Reprehension, the Pulpit should bee counted a Pasquil; every admonition thence (how discreetly-zealous soever) an invective Defamation. Guilty Consciences are like the Elephant: which being conscious of his owne Deformity, cannot abide to see his Face in the cleare Springs, but seekes for troubled and muddy Chanels, to drinke in; So they, knowing their soules to be so filthy, that they dare not view them in the cleare waters of Truth, and Sincere Admonition, flee to the troubled Chanels of Cavillation, and Contradiction. Arbitror te veritate superatum, ad detractionem, vitae meae, et maledicta converti, saith Jerome, (Contra Helvid.) But - Qui volens, detrahit famae meae, nolens addit mercedi, saith August. (Cont. Petil. lib. 3. cap. 7.) And thus, - Quandiu aegri, indignantur, whiles [Page] men are sicke of Impenitencie, they are Impatient of reproofe; - Sed sanati, gratulantur, but being cur'd by Repentance, they shake hands with the Monitor, and thanke him, saith August. (Ad Fest. Epist. 166.) Then they will acknowledge, 'Tis better once smart, then ever ake: And so a Galling truth shall have more thankes, at the last, than a smoothing Supparasitation, - Hee that rebuketh a man, shall finde more favour, at the length, than hee that flattereth with his tongue, (Prov. 28. 23.) But hee that can, now, play with his Euphemismes and Eulogium's, and cry, Pax pax, when there is no peace, makes the best musicke in the eares of this secure Age. He that bids the wicked AHABS, - Goe up to Ramoth Gilead, and prosper, (1. King. 22. 12.) is now the best Politician. Hee that that can - Dawbe with untempered morter, is counted the best Architect of Soules. This they call, Good temper, Mildnesse, Discretion. This is the way, they say, to sleepe in whole skinne, to rise to Preferment.(Obsequium amicos, veritas odium,) Such preferment God send them, who love the praise of Men, more than the praise of GOD. And - whether it be right in the sight of God, to obey men, rather than God, judge yee. But what shall I say?

Pro captu Lectoris habent sua fata Libelli.

As Bookes, so Sermons have their Credit or discredit from the fancy of their Readers or Hearers. And it is ever an easier matter to Dislike, than to Doe the like. - Facilia sic putant omnes, quae iam facta; nec de salebris cogitant vbi via strata, (Lips.) If you come to an Inne in Germany, and dislike your fare, dyet, lodging, the Dutch Host tels you, in a surly tone, - Aliud tibi quaeras diversorium, (Erasm. Dial.) Such is my resolution: who likes not this, may reade some other thing.


My Lords, I have not without Cause, Inscrib'd this Sermon unto your Names. First, it was Preach'd in the great Assembly, whereof your selves were a Principall part. Secondly, Preach'd on that Subject, wherein your Places have a Principall interest; The Common Good of Church and Common-weale. A Subject as necessary for those Times, as the Times are Subject to Necessity: Private ends having brought the Publike Good, almost, to it's End; and Hungry Coveteousnesse, like PHARAOH's leane kine, devour'd this fat and flourishing Common-weale. To you therefore (as being - Patres Patriae, and - Ecclesiae Patroni) this Weake, but Well-meant Labour of mine, flees for Patrociny and protection. I shall make it my humble Suite, that you will be pleas'd to entertaine it, as DAVID, lame MEPHIBOSHETH, for his Father JONATHAN's sake. Lame it is in both feet. (Lame in the Birth, by unskilfull handling, lame in the Nursing, by uncharitable scanning) yet entertaine it for it's fathers sake, Your Country's sake, whose Love begat it. I remember that Apologue in the Talmud; the grapes in Babel, sent, upon a time, to the Vine-leaves, in Judaea desiring them, to come and over-shadow them; otherwise the heat would consume them, and so they should never come to Maturity. Your Lordships may easily guesse at the Mythology. If Learning be not sheltred by those, who are in Eminent place, and if they cast not their Shadow over it, it will soone perish; But where they favour it, it prospers. If the Spring bee cold, the Plants, Herbes, and Blossomes are nipt and wither; But where the Influence is seasonable, there all things revive, thrive, flourish. So where Great Persons are averse from Learning, the Spirits, which would otherwise, blossome, doe [Page] wither and decay. But when it is upholden by men of Higher place, it is like a Fountaine of Living Water. For my part I cannot praise my Present otherwise, then by the Truth of that heart, from which it proceeds: which shall bee Ambitious of all occasions, that may testifie a Gratefull acknowledgement of your Lordships undeserved favours; and wherewith, I will daily Petition the Lord of Lords for the continuance of your Happinesse and Welfare.

Your Lordships most obsequious Servant, in the Lord, THO: FOSTER.


SOme faults (by reason of hast) are escaped in the printing. Blame the Printer, excuse the Author: Whom desires you to Correct judiciously, and Judge charitably -
In multis offendimus omnes.


1. THE SCOURGE OF Covetousnesse.
PHILIP. 2. 4.
Looke not every man on his owne Things, but every man also on the thinges of other men.

IT is an old saying, verified by common Experience, - Senes nimis sunt ad rem attenti: And - Avaritia in sene juvenesset, Covetousnesse raignes most in old age. Thus this Old age of the world dotes too much on the things of the world. And our Apostle foretold it long agoe, - In the last dayes, , men shall be Covetous, (2. Tim. 3. 1, 2.) Covetousnesse is a Disease fallen into the legs of those latter times; And our Saviour (the great Physician of Soules) tels us, by a double Caveat, 'tis a dangerous one (very Epidemicall) - Take heed, and beware of Covetousnesse, (Luk. 12.) Dangerous to the Church, Commonwealth, our selves, Avarus nulli bonus, sibi pessimus: The Covetous, as he is good to no man, so he is worst to himselfe. [Page 2] It is an ill Habit - Remedijs non cedens, medendo exasperatur (Badaeus.) It growes the worse for Curing, it yeelds to no remedies. But whosoever is infected with it, cannot have a more soveraigne Remedy, than is here prescribed, - Looke not every man on his owne thinges, &c.

The Remedy consists of a double Direction, delivered in a double Proposition, -

  1. Negat. -- Looke not every man, &c.
  2. Affirmat. -- But every man also, &c.

And both these Universall.

1. Universall Negat. - Not every man, Id est (in Equipollency) No man; Contrary, I confesse, to the rule of Logick - Non omnis, id est, quidam; But the Hebrew phrase, having the Signe, [Non omnis] aequiposset universaeli neganti, (Keck. Sist. Log. lib. 2. de Aequip.) Neyther is it simply Negat. but - ad modum: It is not meant, a man should not, at all, looke on (regard, intend) his owne things; but not meerely, or too much affect them.

2. Universall Affirmat. Thus - Let every man intend the Mutuall good. The One, you see, forbids Covetousnesse, and Privacy: the other commands publike Community.

I hope I shall not need to make an Apologie for my Division: indeed I might have Torne my Text into more parts by division and subdivision. But I have learn'd of the learned Artists, that a Dichotomy is, commonly, most commendable. It is a Canon, - Omnis divisio, debet esse bimembris, (Keck.) And a Philosophicall Maxime, Frustra sit per plura, &c. It is In this I professe my selfe a Disciple to Apollonius: I labor wholly to informe my Hearers understanding, not to please his eare. true - Variet as delectat. But I desire, rather to profit, than to please. Therefore, in imitation of the best Methodist, who contracted 10. Com. into two. - Deum & proximum, (Math. 22. 20.) God and our Neighbour, I have divided the Text into two naturall parts. And indeed, what is our whole Christian profession, but a Dichotomy? Didacticall, Practicall: the one to informe the understanding, th'other, to Reforme the Will. And the Practicall is a Dichotomy too, Phill. lib. 8. vit Apol, expressed by the Psal. Declina à malo, Fac bonum. Eschew Evill, doe Good. (Psal. 34. 14.) And accordingly, it is [Page 3] office, of the Ministery, Bona decere, Mala dedocere. (August. de Doct. Christum. Lib. 4. Cap. 3.) To perswade to Good, to disswade from Evill. Here you have both Evill and Good: And if I can perswade to the one, and disswade from the other, I shall thinke this houre happily spent.

And so I begin with the former, the Universall Negat. Looke not every man on his owne things. The Greeke Text reades - : wherein two words are Emphaticall. 1. ; This intimates, that worldly men thinke they have an absolute Propriety in those Goods of Fortune; that they are their Owne; Gotten by their Owne Providence, Kept by their owne Diligence; Their Owne to use, their Owne to dispose. Their Owne, and Theirs onely. As though God had no right in them, eyther by Donation, or Disposition. As though they were - Domini, not - Dispensatores; (a meere Solaecisme in Divinity) The Church, the Common-wealth, the Poore, their Neighbours, in necessity, shall have no part nor portion in them; They are - , their owne things. Hence their common Proverbe - Shall I not doe with mine owne as I list? Which can suite to no man, but him that is God and Man - Is it not lawfull for me, to doe with mine owne as I will. (Math. 20. 15.) 2. : Which signifies - Observare, Considerare, animo volutare. To observe, Contemplate, and thinke on; To denote the vehemency of these mens affection, to those earthly things. It doth them good to thinke on them, muse on them, Gaze on them - Simul & nummos Contemplorin arca, saith he in the Poet - Immoritur studijs, & amore senescit habendi, saith AUGUST. (Lib. 3. de lib. Arbitr.) And SALOMON Englishes it - The greatest benefit, they have of them, is to looke on them with their eyes. (Eccles. 5. 10.) - Cernere divitias oculis: a notable pleonasmus, to shew the bent of their affection to earthly things; They are as it were ravisht with the very sight of them, as Narcissus with the sight of his supposed-selfe - Adstupet ipse sibi, vultu{que} immotus eodem - Haeret (Metam. lib. 3.) Or as the Disciples were, with Contemplating the Temple - Quales Lapides, [Page 4] quales structurae? (Mark. 13. 1.) So doe these men - Looke on their owne things.

The point of Observation then, must needs be this - It is not lawfull, it is not Christian-like for any man, too much to love, to like his owne Private. This is a common place, so copious, that the most barren invention may be luxuriant in proofes, precepts, examples, to verifie, amplifie, exemplifie the truth of this Position. If you please to peruse the sacred volumes, you shall finde Covetousnesse and Selfe-love, ranked among the greatest sinnes, and the Marke of Gods Minacings. ISAIAH thunders on it - These greedy Dogs can never have enough: for they all looke to their owne way, every one for his advantage, and for his owne purpose. (Isa. 56. 11.) And - For his wicked Covetousnesse I am angry with him. (Cap. 57. 17.) JEREM. seconds him - Thine eyes and thy heart are but onely for thy Covetousnesse. (Jer. 22. 17.) Ezechiel joynes - Thou hast taken Usury, and the increase, and thou hast defrauded thy Neighbours by extortion. Behold therefore I have smitten my hands upon thy Covetousnesse. (Ezech. 22. 12, 13.) Complosi manus: To shew how God is incens'd against Covetousnesse: He wrings his fist, and beats his hands - Ad modum irascentis, & ultionem minantis. (Carth. in loc.) HABACCUK is sent with a Proclamation against it - Ho, he that coveteth an evill Covetousnesse to his house, that he may set his nest on high. (Cap. 2. 9.) Our Saviour makes it good with an oath - Amen dico vobis: Verely I say unto you, that a rich man, (a Covetous rich man) shall hardly enter, &c. (Mat. 19. 23.) Our Apostle strikes it dead - No covetous person hath any inheritance in the Kingdome of Christ, (Eph. 5. 5.) He will give you good reason for it. 1. It is - Radix omnum malorum. (1. Tim. 6.) And humane reason hath espyed as much - Indè ferè scelerum causae. (Juven. Sat. 14.) All wickednesse, almost, springs from this Roote. Pride, Ambition, Oppression, Fraud, Fallacy, Injury, Perjury, Luxury, Inhamanity, Usury, Bribery, Anxiety of Mind, Hardnesse of heart, Contempt of GOD, Neglect of Death, Hell, and Judgement. For these things are not suffered to approach the sight or sence of Covetous [Page 5] worldlings - O death how bitter is the remembrance of thee to a man, that liveth at rest in his possessions, &c. (Eccles. 41. 1.) And thus Pullulat herba satis, quae nil habet Utilitatis: This ill Weed, this stinking Roote, growes a pace: No good Husband, (good Christian) will suffer it in the Garden of his heart.

2. It makes men erre from the faith, (1. Tim. 6.) Covetous men can have no true Faith in CHRIST, - Sibi scopum alium, prefigentes, quam Christum, (Erasm. in loc.) The Covetous mans object is not Christs Crosse, but the worlds Drosse. I dare make it a part of my Faith, (yet avouch my selfe no Hereticke) That a Covetous man hath no true Faith. 'Tis a rare thing to see a rich man Religious. 3. And needs must they erre from the Faith: for they are - Idolaters, (Ephes. 5. 5.) How Idolaters? - Sicut idolatra idola colit, magis quam Deum verum, &c. (Carth. in loc.) As an Idolater worships Idols, more then the true GOD: so they make more of theyr Mammon, then of theyr Maker. Our common Proverbe shewes it: When Riches are conferr'd upon a man, they say - He is a man made: as tho the Riches made the Man, not God. Therefore Joh. de Comb. sayes, - Homo avarus exhibet Creaturae, quod debe Creatori, (De Avarit.) A Covetous man ascribes that to the Creature, which is due to the Creator; viz. - Fidem, Spem, & Delectationem, Faith, Hope, and Love. 1. Faith: Thus in affiance, they Cry, like Israel, - These are thy Gods, O Israel, (Exod. 32. 4.) 2. Hope: - They make Gold their hope, (Job, 31. 24.) And - The rich mans riches are his strong hold, (Prov. 8. 11.) Herein is his Confidence; this is his - Anchora firma spei, his fort of Defence, to beare him out; his friend, to Buy him out of dangers. But, as our translation has well exprest it, - The rich mans riches are as an high wall, in his well imagination, (Ibid.) It is but in Imagination, not alwayes in fact: For Great riches have sold more men, then they have bought out of troubles, (Bac. Ess. 34.) Mens Great riches doe, many times, rob them of their lives or liberties: It makes them, eyther a Prey to Theeves, or a B [...]oty to Tyrants. What was the overthrow of the flourishing Roman state, but [Page 6] - Nimia falicitas, Too much Wealth? (Florus.) And this Great Wealth was one cause of Cardinall Wolsey's ruine: who being swollen so bigge by the blasts of Promotion, as the Bladder not able to containe more greatnesse, suddenly burst, and vented forth the Wind of all former favours, (Speed. Chron. in vit. Hen. 8.) 3. Delectation, or Love: Hereupon our Apostle stiles Covetous men - , Lovers-of-Money, (2. Tim. 3, 2.) and the Common definition shewes it, - Est immoderatus amor habendi, an excessive love of Having, (Bonavent. cap. 6. Diet. Salut.) And the Etymon expresseth as much, - Avarw, quasi avidus aeris, A covetous man has a greedy desire of Money.

But marke our Apostles conjunction in the former place, - : These two, Lovers-of-themselves, and Lovers-of-Money are one, as it were: so reciprocate, and correlate in nature, that they can hardly bee separated. For what is Pride and Selfe-love, but the Daughter of Prosperity? Decet res secundas Superbia; As Plautus ironically jerkes at it. So odious and detestable is this Sinne, that th' Apostle hates the shadow of it: forbids the Name and memory of it - Nec nominetur, Let it not be once named among you. (Eph. 5. 3.) Nec suspicio sit in vobis. (Ordin. Glos. in loc.) Let there be no name nor fame of Covetousnesse; Let no man be able justly to taxe you for it. For we must not onely, Bee good, but not, Seeme ill; Bee good, for our selves (-Con-scientia propterte) Not, Seeme, ill, for others (- Fama propter Proximum) Appearance alone, which in good is too little, in evill, is too much. It was well said of CAESAR - Caesars wife should not onely be free from sinne, but from suspicion; So Gods Saints must not onely be voyd of the fact of Covetousnesse, but of the Fame. So heynous a delinquent is the Covetous, that our Apostle excommunicates him, Ipso facto: Separates him from Christian society - Cum ejusmodi ne edatis quidum. (1. Cor. 5. 11.) A cursed sinner he is - Maledictus dispensator avarus, cujus largus est Dominus. (August.) Cursed is the Covetous Steward, that hath so liberall a Lord - The Lord is bountifull, indeed. He gives all, [Page 7] . (la[m] 1. 17.) And he forgives all, Which forgives all thine iniquities. (Psa. 103. 3.) Therefore the Covetous must needs be odious to God; For it is Likenesse that causeth love - : And - Simile gaudet simili, every thing delights in his like. Thus - God loves (his like) a cheerfull giver. (2. Cor. 9. 7.)

Haec res & jungit, junctos & servat amico [...]. (Horat.) Whence is that secret sympathy, and miraculous Combination of love, betweene the Loadstone and the steele, but from a ik [...]nesse of qualities? But - Quam malè conveniunt? How unlike are Christ and the covetous? He is an Antipathite to Christ. What agreement hath the Temple of God with Idols? (2. Cor. 6. 16.) And covetousnesse (you have heard) is Idolatry. Surely as long as Idolatry it selfe, and this picture of Idolatry (Covetousnesse) beares any sway in this Kingdome, God cannot be in love with us, in league with us, there can be no good liking betweene us; we must looke for Plague upon plague, Warre upon warre, Famine upon famine.

This is a selection from the original text


bountiful, evil, famine, idolatry, plague, war

Source text

Title: Plouto-Mastix: The Scourge of Covetousnesse

Author: Thomas Foster

Publisher: B. Alsop, T. Fawcet

Publication date: 1631

Edition: 2nd Edition

Place of publication: London

Provenance/location: This text was transcribed from images available at Early English Books Online: Bibliographic name / number: STC (2nd ed.) / 11202 Physical description: [8], 26, [2] p. Copy from: Bodleian Library Reel position: STC / 837:14

Digital edition

Original author(s): Thomas Foster

Language: English

Selection used:

  • 1 ) tp to p.7 (upto "...famine upon famine").


Texts collected by: Ayesha Mukherjee, Amlan Das Gupta, Azarmi Dukht Safavi

Texts transcribed by: Muhammad Irshad Alam, Bonisha Bhattacharya, Arshdeep Singh Brar, Muhammad Ehteshamuddin, Kahkashan Khalil, Sarbajit Mitra

Texts encoded by: Bonisha Bhattacharya, Shreya Bose, Lucy Corley, Kinshuk Das, Bedbyas Datta, Arshdeep Singh Brar, Sarbajit Mitra, Josh Monk, Reesoom Pal

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Genre: Britain > non-fiction prose > religion: sermons

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