On Prescription Against Covetousness, out of Holy Writ
Consider first, in what manner the word of God, in innumerable places, declares itself against this vice of covetousness. The wise man tells us, Prov. i. 19. that 'the ways of every covetous man destroy the soul of the possessor.' and Ecclesiasticus, 9, that 'nothing is more wicked than a covetous man.' Isaias, chap. v. 9, pronounces a woe against the covetous; and chap. xxxiii. 15, promises eternal blessings to them that cast away covetousness. Jeremias threatens the Jews with the worst of evils, chap. vi. and viii., because from the least to the greatest they all were given to covetousness. Amos also, ix. 1, and Habacuc ii. 6, 9, denounce the like judgments and woes from God against the covetous. Our Lord himself, Mark viii. 22, reckons covetousness amongst those crimes of the heart that defile a man. And St. Paul, Rom. i. 29, gives it a place in that black list of sins, of which he pronounces, v. 32, 'that they who do such things are worthy of death,' even the second death of a miserable eternity. And again, 1 Cor. vi. 10, he declares that the covetous shall never possess the kingdom of God. And Eph. v. 5, that 'they have no inheritance in the kingdom of Christ.' And shall not the thunder of so many terrible sentences, pronounced by the Spirit of God against covetousness, deter Christians from this unhappy love of money?
Consider 2ndly, from the word of God, that these riches, which men so earnestly covet, are not capable of making them happy, or of satisfying the heart. 'A covetous man,' saith Solomon, Eccles. v. 9, 'shall not be satisfied with money, and he that loveth riches shall reap no fruit from them.' Daily experience confirms to us the truth, which this wisest of men had learned by his own experience, that the wealth of this world, instead of bringing along with it true content and peace to the soul, is generally attended with nothing but 'vanity and vexation of mind,' Eccles. ii. 11. Riches are deceitful, St. Matt. xiii., because they promise a happiness which they cannot give; they are thorns that wound and gore the soul, and they expose the possessors to many dreadful dangers of losing their souls for ever; because it is hard to possess them and not to abuse them, or put confidence in them, or at least set the heart too much upon them; witness that terrible sentence, Matt. xix. 24, 'It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of heaven.' Hence our Lord pronounces a woe to the rich, Luke vi. 24, 'because they have their consolation here.' and the apostle, 1 Tim. vi. 9, 10, warns us against the love of riches, as of all things the most dangerous and pernicious to our souls. O that men would be wise, and lay up in their heart these scripture truths! O that they would learn to despise these false riches, and only seek for such as are true, which men can never give nor take away! O that they would always seek to be rich in good works, and so to 'lay up to themselves treasures in heaven, where neither rust nor moth can consume, nor thieves break through and steal'! Matt. vi. 20.
Consider 3rdly, that the word of God recommend the remembrance of death, and the shortness and uncertainty of human life, as a powerful remedy against covetousness. Alas! how quickly will death be with us! And where shall our riches be then! 'I will say to my soul,' saith the rich man, Luke xii. 19, 20, 'thou hast much goods laid up for many years, take thy rest, eat, drink, and be merry. But God said to him: Thou fool, this night shall thy soul be called for, and whose shall those things be which thou hast provided?' O how true it is, with regard to the worldly rich, that the satisfaction which they take, or promise to themselves in their wealth, is at the best but a dream, and that when they have slept out their short sleep, 'they find nothing in their hands,' Ps. lxxv. No: 'we brought nothing with us into the world and certainly we can carry nothing out,' 1 Tim. vi. 7. 'wherefore having food and wherewith to be covered, let us be content.' Now these necessaries will never be wanting to such as seek in the first place 'the kingdom of God and his justice' - we have Christ's own word for it, Matt. vi. 33. Give ear again to the apostle, Heb xiii. 5, 'Let your manners be without covetousness, contented with such things as you have;' for he hath said: 'I will not leave thee, neither will I forsake thee.'
Conclude to oppose these divine lessons against all the temptations of covetousness and worldly solicitude. If you are poor by condition, be content with your condition; you are more like Jesus Christ and his saints. Take care not to lose by your murmuring or impatience, the opportunity he gives you of merit. If you are rich, take occasion of humbling yourselves, to see the wide distance between your way of living and that of your Saviour. Dread the dangers you are exposed to by your riches, and arm yourselves against them, by poverty of spirit and humility - you have no other security for your souls.