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SErm.the restraints of strict honesty, and then the XI. mind inventing plausible pretences, whereby to deceive itself, is brought by degrees to form designs of acquiring its beloved object even by the violation of right; at least men by indulging themselves in a very eager desire of riches, lay snares for their own fouls, and are brought under vehement temptations. to transgress the bounds of justice 3 so that upon the whole, the only sure preservative of innocence, I mean with respect to the rights of our neighbours, is to be moderate in our love of the world, and contented with such things as we have.
It is 'in this last and most comprehensive fense I understand our Saviour's exhortation in the text, to take heed and beware of covetousness, because the argument he useth properly relateth to it in its full extent; for that the life of man doth not consist in the abundance of his pose [sons, is a very good reason why we should not inordinately desire and pursue such possessions whatever the method of acquiring them be, even though altogether free from the imputation of unrighteousness. I cannot help wishing, that christians, in considering the discourses of our Saviour, would not only regard his authority as binding their consciences, but deliberately liberately enter into the reason of his in-SERM. structions, which I am perswaded would XI. then take fast hold of their hearts, as being agreeable to the uncorrupted dictates, and the best sentiments of the human mind, and they would be convinced he is perfectly wise and good in the rules he hath prescribed, as well as the supreme Lord, whom we ought to hear and obey in all things. My design in this discourse is,
First, to explain the argument before us," and to justify it, that is, to shew the meaning of the assertion, that a man's life doth not consist in the abundance of his possessions, and to shew that it is strickly true.
Secondly, to apply it to the purpose of the text, namely as a dissuasive from covetousness.
First, to explain the argument before us, and to justify it: Every one knoweth what the life of man is, so far as is necessary to my present purpose, that is, to shew that it doth not consist in the abundance of worldly possessions. We are each of us for ourselves conscious of a vital intellectual being, compounded of a corporeal system, which we call our own body, by the means
Sx R M. of which we have the preceptions of exterXI. nal objects, and its members are moved by the sole determination of our wills; compounded I fay, of this corporeal system and a thinking active principle which animateth it. By these different parts of the composition, life comprehendeth a great variety of interests and affairs, which we consider as ours, and they are of importance to us; inward perceptions, the exercise of understanding, memory, will, and affections, with a consciousness of them all; at the fame time the proper disposition of the bodily organs, each holding its own place and performing its function in the machine: and by this exterior part life is related to and dependeth upon the ambient air, materials for nourishment, and other external things which are obvious to all. Life is to be considered as the fundamental capacity of all animal operations, and of all rational actions in the present state, together with the important consequences which follow them: by it we are attached to the earth, and engaged in its various concerns, in families, nations, and other communities formed for the purposes of the present state, and in the pursuit of the various interests belonging to them; and upon it as a necessary preparation and
introduction introduction dependeth our condition of ex- Se Rw; istence hereafter. Life also is the essential XI. foundation of enjoyment in the whole com-' pass of it, and all its various kinds. On the contrary, the dead know not any thing; their hatreds and love, and envy, are perished, neither have they a portion in any thing that is done under the fun; there is no labour, no wisdom, nor device, in the grave-, to all the purposes either of good or evil in this world, or of preparation for another, the opportunity is lost when life endeth, and is never to be recovered. What I have said on this head is I think sufficient to the present purpose, that is, to give us such a notion of life as may enable us to judge whether it consifteth in, or if the ends of it have any necessary dependance on, the abundance of his riches which are the things here meant that a man possesseth. And that it doth not, I shall next endeavour to shew.
First, that the being and preservation of life doth not consist in nor hath any dependence on these things, every one must be sensible. No man imagineth that riches contributed to his existence, or that they are essential to the human constitution; not one power of nature is either the more or the < less
Sekm. less perfect for our having or wanting them. XI As Job wisely observeth concerning himself when he was stripped of all worldly postessions, that he came naked into the world, and jhould go naked out tfit} riches and poverty might make an accidental alteration in his state while here, but had nothing to do either with the commencement or the end of life; the interior faculties of thinking, reasoning, and willing, and the exercise of them, together with all the noble affections of the mind, and the enjoyments they afford; all these are independent on our outward possessions; and so is the animal life itself; for it equally subsisteth in the poor and in the rich; the latter by all his care and and solicitude, however successful he may fee in earthly acquisitions, can no more than the other add one cubit to his stature, or one hour to his age. The truth is, this part of our nature dependeth much more upon those things which are not the engross'd property of a few, but the common gifts of providence to all mankind, and all living things, as the fun, the air, earth, and water; I fay, it dependeth much more upon these than upon those things, the abundance of which distinguished the external condition of some men from others. If it