« ForrigeFortsett »
S E R M ON VIII.
I TIM. vi.
Charge them that are rich in this World, that
they be not high-minded, nor trust in uncertain Riches, but in the living God, who giveth us richly all Things to enjoy : that they do good, that they be rich in good Works, ready to distribute, willing to communicate.
N this Passage the Apostle requires the
Ministers of God's Word, first, to caution Persons of Wealth and Rank against the Sins of which they are peculiarly in Danger : then to lay before them the Duties, to which they are peculiarly bound. I have endeavoured already to obey his Injunction, in Relation to the former of the two Sins, which he specifies, that of being high-minded; and now proceed to the latter, trusting in uncertain Riches: which Phrafe comprehends placing the Happiness of
Life either in Wealth itself, or in those Pleasures and Amusements, which it is commonly made the Instrument of procuring. The Prohibition therefore of doing this extends to regulate the Acquisition, the Possession and Use of a great Fortune : and to go through the Subject fully, each of these. Points must be considered.
1. The Acquisition. In Speculation it feems hardly to be expected, that any one, who is once Master of enough to anfwer his real and reasonable Wants, should feel any Defire almost, on his own Account, of having more: that he should take much Pains about it, is very wonderful; and that he should do any Thing wrong for it, quite unaccountable. But that they, who have superfluous Wealth already, should both disquiet themselves and injure others merely to obtain a larger Superfluity, is incredibly absurd. And
in fact, these are the Persons whose Passion for augmenting their Incomes is usually the strongest. When Riches increase, set not your Heart upon
, them, is the Caution of Scripture* ; and accordingly the Son of Sirach pronounces, Blefsed is the Rich, that is found without Blemish, a Pf. lxii. io.
and hath not gone after Gold. Who is he? and we will call him blessed; for wonderful Things hath be done among bis People. Who bath been tried thereby, and found perfect? then let him glory. For indeed neither the mean nor the unjust Things, to which Necessity prompts the Poor, are to be compared with those, which Persons, far above Necessity, will notwithstanding do for Gain. Too many there are, who seem to account their Follies and their Vices in the Number of Things necessary ; and though they have abundantly sufficient to live according to their Rank, provided they would live prudently and virtuoully, will submit to acquire, by wicked Means, what they want only to support them in wicked Courses. And others, though unable to find out either good or bad Uses for what they have already, yet are not at all the less eager for adding more to it; but will do almost any Thing to enlarge, what they enjoy nothing from, except, as Solomon obferves, bebolding it with their Eyes“; and he hath observed further, that the Eye is not satisfied with feeingDesires increase continually, and Cares along with them.
Ecclus xxxi, 8, 9, 10. Comp. iv. &, V, 10.
- Eccl. v. 11.
Eccl, i. 8.
Such Acquisitions cannot really promote even their present Happiness; or supposing they could, yet if using unfair or low Arts to serve their own Interests be excusable in the Wealthy, in whom is it that any Thing is inexcusable ? No Temptation is a Warrant for doing wrong; but to do wrong, without
any Thing that deserves the Name of a Temptation, is exceedingly bad. And it cannot be Nature, but merely an absurd Habit, wilfully indulged, that tempts Men to accumulate what they have no Need of.
But though Riches alone render Eagerness for more very blameable and unbecoming, yet Greatness added to them doubles the Fault. For exalted Rank absolutely calls for the Exercise of honourable Disinterestedness. And there are several Things, in Strictness, very lawful and honest, which yet are beneath People of Condition ; who, as far as they can with any tolerable Prudence, ought ever to avoid the Shadow of a mean Action; and leave no Room for the Imputation of being milled by sordid Motives in any Part of Life. For who shall set the Example of resisting fuch Considerations, if they give Way to them? And yet what Sort of Example is there more
needful or more beneficial? Not that People of Birth and Fortune ought to think thema' selves above all Views, either of private Advantage or of due Recompence for their public Services. This, in many Cases, would be a false and romantic Delicacy ; unreasonably detrimental to themselves and their families, and productive of no Benefit, but Harm, to the World around them. But in every Cafe, to act with a steady Regard to Truth and Right and common Good, and, without Hesitation, to prefer their Character before their Interest, when they interfere, is indeed the general Duty of all Men, but of the Rich and Great above all. Whoever violates it in private Life is almost sure to contract an Infamy, that will make his Gains a dear Purchase. And in Affairs of a more public Nature the Guilt at least is the fame; often greater, as the Mischief done, or however the bad Example fet, is more extensive. I ass very sensible how common it is for Men of Seriousness and Worth in other Refpects, not to consider these Things as Matter of Conscience at all, and accordingly to take strange Liberties in Relation to them. But a little impartial Reflection would soon shew, that both Reason and Religion prohibit Vol. III,