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DISCOURSE XXIX.

LUKE xii. 21.

So is he that layeth up treasure for himself, and is not rich

towards God.

THE riches of the world being often the fruits of injustice and oppression, one wealthy man's estate being raised perhaps upon the ruin and poverty of hundreds, and built upon the tears and cries of widows and orphans ; and yet being sometimes represented in Scripture as the blessing of God upon the honest labour and industry of men diligent in their calling or profession; or as the reward bestowed upon a virtuous contentment, and resignation of mind to the providence of the Almighty : a great fortune being often used to very ill purposes, to the increase of luxury and wantonness, to the encouragement of vice, and to the mischief of all who are the unhappy neighbours of an overgrown rich man ; and yet being in itself applicable to the best uses in the world, to the promotion of virtue and holiness, to the advancement of the honour of God, and to the setting forward the common good and happiness of mankind: there being such different ways both of getting and enjoying the riches of the world, the poffeffion of them has been either valued or despised, condemned or approved by moralists and divines, according to the view they have had of them with relation to the several methods by which they are obtained and employed. The hand of the diligent, faith Solomon, maketh rich : and again, The blessing of the Lord it maketh rich, and he addeth no forrow with it; yet at other times he observed riches that had no blessing in them, There is a fore evil which I have seen under the sun, namely, Riches kept for the owners thereof to their hurt.

From this observation I think all disputes about riches may be reconciled: where they are ill got, or ill used, they are an hurt to the owner; where they are honestly got, and worthily enjoyed, they are a blessing to the owner, and through his means to many others. Thus far the case is plain : but then it is a matter of farther confideration, to see what the iniquity is that generally follows a large poffeffion. The rich man's crimes are commonly considered under the head of profuseness or covetousness: to the first are referred luxury, intemperance, and all the fins of pleasure which wealth furnishes and supports : to the second head are reduced fraud, oppression, want of kindness and charity, and all the iniquity that attends the unreasonable desire of getting or preserving an estate. All these indeed are very great and too common faults among rich men : but there is still a more secret iniquity that sticks close to great poffeffions, and which does not always discover itself in the ill effects before men, tioned : a man may have an estate honestly gotten, and in the eye of the world he may use it in all re{pects as he ought, and yet still be a very wicked rich man. What, you will say, although he be free from covetousness, given to hospitality, and li. beral to the poor? if these things will not preserve riches from the contagion of guilt, what will ? But before you judge too haftily in this cause, you must consider that virtue does not consist merely in the outward act; it is not the material action that denominates a man good or bad, but the judgment in this case must regard the principle from whence the actions flow. A prodigal man squanders his money without regard or distinction of persons or occa, fions: where tenderness and good-nature attend upon this vice, the poor and miserable often gather largely of the prodigal man's scatterings: but will you call this Christian charity, where perhaps the duty owing to God was never once thought on, and of all that was given, not one farthing offered as tribute to the great Giver of every good gift ; but the fountain-head was corrupt, though the stream indeed flowed in no ill channel?

If we consider the parable of the rich man, of which the words of the text are the moral or appliçation, we shall discover what particular evil in riches our Saviour pointed at, and designed to correct by the instruction of this parable. The story is this: The ground of a certain rich man brought forth plentifully: and he thought within himself, faying, What shall I do, because I have no room where to bestow my fruits ? And he said, This will I do: I will pull down my barns, and build greater; and there will I bestow all my fruits and my goods. And I will say to my foul, Soul, thou haft much goods laid up for many years ; take thine ease, eat, drink, and be merry. But God said unto him, Thou fool! this night thy foul shall be required of thee: then whose fhall those things be which thou haft provided ? After which follow the words of the text, So is he that layeth up treasure for himself, and is not rich towards God.

The first thing to be inquired into is the true drift and meaning of this parable. In the fifteenth verse of this chapter our Lord warns his hearers to beware of covetousness: in this parable he represents the foolish rich man enlarging his barns, that he might heap up his goods in store : in the text he warns us of the danger of laying up treasures for ourselves, whilst we neglect being rich towards God: and in the thirty-third verse he exhorts us to sell that we have, and give alms ; to provide for ourselves bags which wax not old, a treasure in the heavens that faileth not, where no thief approacheth, neither moth corrupteth. From these circumstances it is coinmonly understood, that covetousness was the rich man's crime; that enlarging his barns to receive his plentiful crop was the instance and proof of it; and that the only way to be rich towards God is to sell our goods, and to distribute them in works of charity and mercy. Thus this parable is commonly understood, but I think not rightly. Our Saviour, it is true, introduces this parable in consequence of the caution he had given against covetousness: but he had before given a reason against covetousness, For a man's life, says he, confifteth not in the abundance of the things which he pofSeseth: and the parable was added to illustrate this reason given against covetousness, and not to dis

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play the folly or vice of covetousness in general. The rich man is not described in the colours of a covetous man: his wealth arose from no oppression or usury; it was the product of his own land, which has always been esteemed as honest a way of being rich, and to proceed as much from the immediate bleffing of God, as any whatever : the ground was his own; he is not said to withhold from the rightful poffeffor by violence or by fraud. Thus far then there is no mark of covetousness, or of any other fault. But, when he found his crop to be great, he enlarged his barns; and this perhaps was his crime. But where was the iniquity of this ? Does not every man endeavour that his barns should be in proportion to the product of his land ? May not the most charitable man in the world have a barn, or build a barn, large enough to receive his crop, and yet be guiltless ? Nay, it is evident from hence, that covetousness, properly so called, was not his fault; for he built his barn to lay up stores for many years, proposing rest and fatisfaction in the goods already gotten, and intending to trouble himself no farther about wealth ; he had enough. A covetous man would rather have turned his goods into money, and put it to usury, and saved on still

Besides, in the twentieth verse, where God is brought in reproving the rich man for his folly, there is not one word said of his building large barns to receive his fruits : Thou fool, this night fall thy soul be required of thee. But, if the large barn had been the crime, the confiftency of the parable requires, that the reproof should have pointed to the crime, and it should have been said,

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