"Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon
earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through
and steal: But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither
moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor
steal; For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also. The light
of the body is the eye: if therefore thine eye be single, thy whole body
shall be full of light. But if thine eye be evil, thy whole body shall
be full of darkness. If therefore the light that is in thee be darkness,
how great is that darkness!" Matthew
1. From those which are commonly termed religious actions, and
which are real branches of true religion where they spring from a pure
and holy intention and are performed in a manner suitable thereto, -- our
Lord proceeds to the actions of common life, and shows that the same purity
of intention is as indispensably required in our ordinary business as in
giving alms, or fasting, or prayer.
And without question the same purity of intention "which makes our alms
and devotions acceptable must also make our labour or employment a proper
offering to God. If a man pursues his business that he may raise himself
to a state of honour and riches in the world, he is no longer serving God
in his employment, and has no more title to a reward from God than he who
gives alms that he may be seen, or prays that he may be heard of men. For
vain and earthly designs are no more allowable in our employments than
in our alms and devotions. They are not only evil when they mix with our
good works," with our religious actions, "but they have the same evil nature
when they enter into the common business of our employments. If it were
allowable to pursue them in our worldly employments, it would be allowable
to pursue them in our devotions. But as our alms and devotions are not
an acceptable service but when they proceed frond a pure intention, so
our common employment cannot be reckoned a service to him but when it is
performed with the same piety of heart."
2. This our blessed Lord declares in the liveliest manner in
those strong and comprehensive words which he explains, enforces, and enlarges
upon, throughout this whole chapter. "The light of the body is the eye:
If therefore thine eye be single, thy whole body shall be full of light:
but if thine eye be evil, thy whole body shall be full of darkness." The
eye is the intention: what the eye is to the body, the intention is to
the soul. As the one guides all the motions of the body, so does the other
those of the soul. This eye of the soul is then said to be single when
it looks at one thing only; when we have no other design but to "know God,
and Jesus Christ whom he hath sent," -- to know him with suitable affections,
loving him as he hath loved us; to please God in all things; to serve God
(as we love him) with all our heart and mind and Soul and strength; and
to enjoy God in all and above all things, in time and in eternity.
3. "If thine eye be" thus "single," thus fixed on God, "thy whole
body shall be full of light." "Thy whole body:" -- all that is guided by
the intention, as the body is by the eye. All thou art, all thou doest
thy desires, tempers, affections; thy thoughts, and words, and actions.
The whole of these "shall be full of light;" full of true divine knowledge.
This is the first thing we may here understand by light. "In his light
thou shalt see light." "He which of old commanded light to shine out of
darkness, shall shine in thy heart:" He shall enlighten the eyes of thy
understanding with the knowledge of the glory of God. His Spirit shall
reveal unto thee the deep things of God. The inspiration of the Holy One
shall give thee understanding, and cause thee to know wisdom secretly.
Yea, the anointing which thou receivest of him "shall abide in thee and
teach thee of all things."
How does experience confirm this! Even after God hath opened the eyes
of our understanding, if we seek or desire anything else than God, how
soon is our foolish heart darkened! Then clouds again rest upon our souls.
Doubts and fears again overwhelm us. We are tossed to and fro, and know
not what to do, or which is the path wherein we should go. But when we
desire and seek nothing but God, clouds and doubts vanish away. We who
"were sometime darkness are now light in the Lord." The night now shineth
as the day and we find "the path of the upright is light." God showeth
us the path wherein we should go, and maketh plain the way before our face.
4. The Second thing which we may here understand by light, is
holiness. While thou seekest God in all things thou shalt find him in all,
the fountain of all holiness, continually filling thee with his own likeness,
with justice, mercy, and truth. While thou lookest unto Jesus and Him alone
thou shalt be filled with the mind that was in him. Thy soul shall be renewed
day by day after the image of him that created it. If the eye of thy mind
be not removed from him, if thou endurest "as seeing him that is invisible,"
and seeking nothing else in heaven or earth, then as thou beholdest the
glory of the Lord thou shalt be transformed "into the same image, from
glory to glory, by the Spirit of the Lord."
And it is also matter of daily experience that "by grace we are" thus
"saved through faith." It is by faith that the eye of the mind is opened
to see the light of the glorious love of God. And as long as it is steadily
fixed thereon, on God in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself, we
are more and more filled with the love of God and man, with meekness, gentleness,
long-suffering; with all the fruits of holiness, which are, through Christ
Jesus, to the glory of God the Father.
5. This light which fills him who has a single eye implies, Thirdly,
happiness as well as holiness. Surely "light is sweet, and a pleasant thing
it is to see the sun:" But how much more to see the Sun of Righteousness
continually shining upon the soul! And if there be any consolation in Christ,
if any comfort of love, if any peace that passeth all understanding, if
any rejoicing in hope of the glory of God, they all belong to him whose
eye is single. Thus is his "whole body full of light." He walketh in the
light as God is in the light, rejoicing evermore, praying without ceasing,
and in everything giving thanks, enjoying whatever is the will of God concerning
him in Christ Jesus.
6. "But if thine eye be evil, thy whole body shall be full of
darkness." "If thine eye be evil:" -- We see there is no medium between
a single and an evil eye. If the eye be not single, then it is evil. If
the intention in whatever we do be not singly to God, if we seek anything
else, then our "mind and conscience are defiled."
Our eye therefore is evil if in anything we do we aim at any other end
than God; if we have any view, but to know and to love God, to please and
serve him in all things; if we have any other design than to enjoy God,
to be happy in him both now and for ever.
7. If thine eye be not singly fixed on God, "thy whole body shall
be full of darkness." The veil shall still remain on thy heart. Thy mind
shall be more and more blinded by "the God of this world," "lest the light
of the glorious gospel of Christ should shine upon thee." Thou wilt be
full of ignorance and error touching the things of God, not being able
to receive or discern them. And even when thou hast some desire to serve
God, thou wilt be full of uncertainty as to the manner of serving him;
finding doubts and difficulties on every side, and not seeing any way to
Yea, if thine eye be not single, if thou seek any of the things of earth,
thou shalt be full of ungodliness and unrighteousness, thy desires, tempers,
affections, being all out of course, being all dark, and vile, and vain.
And thy conversation will be evil as well as thy heart, not "seasoned with
salt," or "meet to minister grace unto the hearers;" but idle, unprofitable,
corrupt, grievous to the Holy Spirit of God.
8. Both destruction and unhappiness are in thy ways; "for the
way of peace hast thou not known." There is no peace, no settled, solid
peace, for them that know not God. There is no true nor lasting content
for any who do not seek him with their whole heart. While thou aimest at
any of the things that perish, '"all that cometh is vanity;" yea, not only
vanity, but "vexation of spirit," and that both in the pursuit and the
enjoyment also. Thou walkest indeed in a vain shadow, and disquietest thyself
in vain. Thou walkest in darkness that may be felt. Sleep on; but thou
canst not take thy rest. The dreams of life can give pain, and that thou
knowest; but ease they cannot give. There is no rest in this world or the
world to come, but only in God, the centre of spirits.
"If the light which is in thee be darkness, how great is that darkness!"
If the intention which ought to enlighten the whole soul, to fill it with
knowledge, and love, and peace, and which in fact does so as long as it
is single, as long as it aims at God alone -- if this be darkness; if it
aim at anything beside God, and consequently cover the soul with darkness
instead of light, with ignorance and error, with sin and misery: O how
great is that darkness! It is the very smoke which ascends out of the bottomless
pit! It is the essential night which reigns in the lowest deep, in the
land of the shadow of death!
9. Therefore, "lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth,
where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal."
If you do, it is plain your eye is evil; it is not singly fixed on God.
With regard to most of the commandments of God, whether relating to
the heart or life, the Heathens of Africa or America stand much on a level
with those that are called Christians. The Christians observe them (a few
only being excepted) very near as much as the Heathens. For instance: the
generality of the natives of England, commonly called Christians, are as
sober and as temperate as the generality of the heathens near the Cape
of Good Hope. And so the Dutch or French Christians are as humble and as
chaste as the Choctaw or Cherokee Indians. It is not easy to say, when
we compare the bulk of the nations in Europe with those in America, whether
the superiority lies on the one side or the other. At least the American
has not much the advantage. But we cannot affirm this with regard to the
command now before us. Here the heathen has far the pre-eminence. He desires
and seeks nothing more than plain food to eat and plain raiment to put
on. And he seeks this only from day to day. He reserves, he lays up nothing;
unless it be as much corn at one season of the year as he will need before
that season returns. This command, therefore, the heathens, though they
know it not, do constantly and punctually observe. They "lay up for themselves
no treasures upon earth;" no stores of purple or fine linen, of gold or
silver, which either "moth or rust may corrupt", or "thieves break through
and steal." But how do the Christians observe what they profess to receive
as a command of the most high God? Not at all! Not in any degree; no more
than if no such command had ever been given to man. Even the good Christians,
as they are accounted by others as well as themselves, pay no manner of
regard thereto. It might as well be still hid in its original Greek for
any notice they take of it. In what Christian city do you find one man
of five hundred who makes the least scruple of laying up just as much treasure
as he can? -- of increasing his goods just as far as he is able? There
are indeed those who would not do this unjustly; there are many who will
neither rob nor steal; and some who will not defraud their neighbour; nay,
who will not gain either by his ignorance or necessity. But this is quite
another point. Even these do not scruple the thing, but the manner of it.
They do not scruple the "laying up treasures upon earth," but the laying
them up by dishonesty. They do not start at disobeying Christ, but at a
breach of heathen morality. So that even these honest men do no more obey
this command than a highwayman or a house-breaker. Nay, they never designed
to obey it. From their youth up it never entered into their thoughts. They
were bred up by their Christian parents, masters, and friends, without
any instruction at all concerning it; unless it were this, -- to break
it as soon and as much as they could, and to continue breaking it to their
10. There is no one instance of spiritual infatuation in the
world which is more amazing than this. Most of these very men read or hear
the Bible read, -- many of them every Lord's day. They have read or heard
these words an hundred times, and yet never suspect that they are themselves
condemned thereby, any more than by those which forbid parents to offer
up their sons or daughters unto Moloch. O that God would speak to these
miserable self-deceivers with his own voice, his mighty voice! That they
may at last awake out of the snare of the devil, and the scales may fall
from their eyes!
11. Do you ask what it is to "lay up treasures on earth?" It
will be needful to examine this thoroughly. And let us, First, observe
what is not forbidden in this command, that we may then clearly discern
We are not forbidden in this command, First, to "provide things honest
in the sight of all men," to provide wherewith we may render unto all their
due, -- whatsoever they can justly demand of us. So far from it that we
are taught of God to "owe no man anything." We ought therefore to use all
diligence in our calling, in order to owe no man anything: this being no
other than a plain law of common justice which our Lord came "not to destroy
but to fulfil."
Neither, Secondly, does he here forbid the providing for ourselves such
things as are needful for the body; a sufficiency of plain, wholesome food
to eat, and clean raiment to put on. Yea, it is our duty, so far as God
puts it into our power, to provide these things also; to the end we may
"eat our own bread," and be burdensome to no man.
Nor yet are we forbidden, Thirdly, to provide for our children, and
for those of our own household. This also it is our duty to do, even upon
principles of heathen morality. Every man ought to provide the plain necessaries
of life both for his own wife and children, and to put them into a capacity
of providing these for themselves when he is gone hence and is no more
seen. I say, of providing these, the plain necessaries of life;
not delicacies, not superfluities; -- and that by their diligent labour;
for it is no man's duty to furnish them any more than himself with the
means either Of luxury or idleness. But if any man provides not thus far
for his own children (as well as for the widows of his own house, of whom
primarily St. Paul is speaking in those well-known words to Timothy), he
hath practically "denied the faith, and is worse than an infidel," or Heathen.
Lastly. We are not forbidden, in these words, to lay up, from time to
time what is needful for the carrying on our worldly business in such a
measure and degree as is sufficient to answer the foregoing purposes; --
in such a measure as, First, to owe no man anything; Secondly, to procure
for ourselves the necessaries of life; and, Thirdly, to furnish those of
our own house with them while we live, and with the means of procuring
them when we are gone to God.
12. We may now clearly discern (unless we are unwilling to discern
it) what that is which is forbidden here. It is the designedly procuring
more of this world's goods than will answer the foregoing purposes; the
labouring after a larger measure of worldly substance, a larger increase
of gold and silver, -- the laying up any more than these ends require,
-- is what is here expressly and absolutely forbidden. If the words have
any meaning at all, it must be this; for they are capable of no other.
Consequently, whoever he is that, owing no man anything, and having food
and raiment for himself and his household, together with a sufficiency
to carry on his worldly business so far as answers these reasonable purposes;
whosoever, I say, being already in these circumstances, seeks a still larger
portion on earth; he lives in an open habitual denial of the Lord that
bought him. He hath practically denied the faith, and is worse than" an
African or American "infidel."
13. Hear ye this, all ye that dwell in the world, and love the
world wherein ye dwell. Ye may be "highly esteemed of men;" but ye are
"an abomination in the sight of God." How long shall your souls cleave
to the dust? How long will ye load yourselves with thick clay? When will
ye awake and see that the open, speculative Heathens are nearer the kingdom
of heaven than you? When will ye be persuaded to choose the better part;
that which cannot be taken away from you? When will ye seek only to "lay
up treasures in heaven," renouncing, dreading, abhorring all other? If
you aim at "laying up treasures on earth," you are not barely losing your
time and spending your strength for that which is not bread: for what is
the fruit if you succeed? -- You have murdered your own soul! You have
extinguished the last spark of spiritual life therein! Now indeed, in the
midst of life you are in death! You are a living man, but a dead Christian.
"For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also." Your heart
is sunk into the dust, your soul cleaveth to the ground. Your affections
are set, not on things above, but on things of the earth; on poor husks
that may poison, but cannot satisfy an everlasting spirit made for God.
Your love your joy, your desire are all placed on the things which perish
in the using. You have thrown away the treasure in heaven: God and Christ
are lost! You have gained riches, and hell-fire!
14. O "how hardly shall they that have riches enter into the
kingdom of God!" When our Lord's disciples were astonished at his speaking
thus he was so far from retracting it that he repeated the same important
truth in stronger terms than before. "It is easier for a camel to go through
the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God."
How hard is it for them whose very word is applauded not to be wise in
their own eyes! How hard for them not to think themselves better than the
poor, base, uneducated herd of men! How hard not to seek happiness in their
riches, or in things dependent upon them; in gratifying the desire of the
flesh, the desire of the eye, or the pride of life! O ye rich, how can
ye escape the damnation of hell? Only, with all God all things are possible!
15. And even if you do not succeed, what is the fruit of your
endeavouring to lay up treasures on earth? "They that will be rich" (hoi
boulomenoi ploutein, they that desire, that endeavour
after it, whether they succeed or no,) "fall into a temptation and a snare,"
-- a gin, a trap of the devil; "and into many foolish and hurtful lusts;"
epithymias anoEtous, desires with which reason hath nothing
to do; such as properly belong, not to rational and immortal beings,
but only to the brute beasts which have no understanding; -- "which drown
men in destruction and perdition," in present and eternal misery. Let us
but open our eyes, and we may daily see the melancholy proofs of this,
-- men who, desiring, resolving to be rich, coveting after money, the root
of all evil, have already pierced themselves through with many sorrows,
and anticipated the hell to which they are going!
The cautiousness with which the Apostle here speaks is highly observable.
He does not affirm this absolutely of the rich: For a man may possibly
be rich, without any fault of his, by an overruling Providence, preventing
his own choice: But he affirms it of hoi boulomenoi plourein, those
who desire or seek to be rich. Riches, dangerous as they are,
do not always "drown men in destruction and perdition;" but the desire
of riches does: those who calmly desire and deliberately seek to attain
them, whether they do, in fact, gain the world or no, do infallibly lose
their own souls. These are they that sell him who bought them with his
blood, for a few pieces of gold or silver. These enter into a covenant
with death and hell; and their covenant shall stand. For they are daily
making themselves meet to partake of their inheritance with the devil and
16. O who shall warn this generation of vipers to flee from the
wrath to come! Not those who lie at their gate, or cringe at their feet,
desiring to be fed with the crumbs that fall from their tables. Not those
who court their favour or fear their frown: none of those who mind earthly
things. But if there be a Christian upon earth, if there be a man who hath
overcome the world, who desires nothing but God, and fears none but him
that is able to destroy both body and soul in hell; thou, O man of God,
speak and spare not; lift up thy voice like a trumpet! Cry aloud, and show
these honourable sinners the desperate condition wherein they stand! It
may be, one in a thousand may have ears to hear, may arise and shake himself
from the dust; may break loose from these chains that bind him to the earth,
and at length lay up treasures in heaven.
17. And if it should be that one of these, by the mighty power
of God, awoke and asked, "What must I do to be saved?" the answer, according
to the oracles of God, is clear, full, and express. God doth not say to
thee, "Sell all that thou hast." Indeed he who seeth the hearts of men
saw it needful to enjoin this in one peculiar case, that of the young,
rich ruler. But he never laid it down for a general rule to all rich men,
in all succeeding generations. His general direction is, first, "Be not
high minded." God seeth not as man seeth." He esteems thee not for thy
riches, grandeur or equipage, for any qualification or accomplishment which
is directly or indirectly owing to thy wealth, which can be bought or procured
thereby. All these are with him as dung and dross: let them be so with
thee also. Beware thou think not thyself to be one jot wiser or better
for all these things. Weigh thyself in another balance: estimate thyself
only by the measure of faith and love which God hath given thee. If thou
hast more of the knowledge and love of God than he, thou art on this account,
and no other, wiser and better, more valuable and honourable than him who
is with the dogs of thy flock. But if thou hast not this treasure those
art more foolish, more vile, more truly contemptible, I will not say, than
the lowest servant under thy roof, but than the beggar laid at thy gate,
full of sores.
18. Secondly. "Trust not in uncertain riches." Trust not in them
for help: And trust not in them for happiness.
First. Trust not in them for help. Thou art miserably mistaken if thou
lookest for this in gold or silver. These are no more able to set thee
above the world than to set thee above the devil. Know that both
the world, and the prince of this world, laugh at all such preparations
against them. These will little avail in the day of trouble-even if they
remain in the trying hour. But it is not certain that they will; for how
oft do they "make themselves wings and fly away!" But if not, what support
will they afford, even in the ordinary troubles of life? The desire of
thy eyes, the wife of thy youth, thy son, thine only son, or the friend
which was as thy own soul, is taken away at a stroke. Will thy riches re-animate
the breathless clay, or call back its late inhabitant? Will they secure
thee from sickness, diseases, pain? Do these visit the poor only? Nay,
he that feeds thy flocks or tills thy ground has less sickness and pain
than thou. He is more rarely visited by these unwelcome guests: and if
they come there at all they are more easily driven away from the little
cot than from the "cloud-topt palaces." And during the time that thy body
is chastened with pain, or consumes away with pining sickness, how do thy
treasures help thee? Let the poor Heathen answer, --
19. But there is at hand a greater trouble than all these. Thou
art to die! Thou art to sink into dust; to return to the ground from which
thou wast taken, to mix with common clay. Thy body is to go to the earth
as it was, while thy spirit returns to God that gave it. And the time draws
on: the years slide away with a swift though silent pace. Perhaps your
day is far spent: the noon of life is past, and the evening shadows begin
to rest upon you. You feel in yourself sure approaching decay. The springs
of life wear away apace. Now what help is there in your riches? Do they
sweeten death? Do they endear that solemn hour? Quite the reverse. "O death,
how bitter art thou to a man that liveth at rest in his possessions!" How
unacceptable to him is that awful sentence, "This night shall thy soul
be required of thee!" -- Or will they prevent the unwelcome stroke, or
protract the dreadful hour? Can they deliver your soul that it should not
see death? Can they restore the years that are past? Can they add to your
appointed time a month, a day, an hour, a moment? -- Or will the good things
you have chosen for your portion here follow you over the great gulf? Not
so. Naked came you into this world; naked must you return.
Ut lippum pictae tabulae, fomenta podagrum,
Auriculas citharae collecta sorde dolentes.
[Such help as pictures to sore eyes afford,
As heap'd-up tables to their gouty lord.]
[The following is Boscawen's translation of these verses from Horace:]
Linquenda tellus, et domus, et placens
Uxor; neque harum quas colis, arborum,
Te, praeter invisam cupressos,
Ulla brevem dominum sequetur!
Surely, were not these truths too plain to be observed, because they are
too plain to be denied, no man that is to die could possibly trust for
help in uncertain riches.
Thy lands, thy dome, thy pleasing wife,
These must thou quit; 'tis nature's doom.
No tree, whose culture charms thy life,
Save the sad cypress, waits thy tomb.
20. And trust not in them for happiness: For here also they will
be found "deceitful upon the weights." Indeed this every reasonable man
may infer from what has been observed already. For if neither thousands
of gold and silver, nor any of the advantages or pleasures purchased thereby,
can prevent our being miserable, it evidently follows they cannot make
us happy. What happiness can they afford to him who in the midst of all
is constrained to cry out,
Indeed experience is here so full, strong, and undeniable, that it makes
all other arguments needless. Appeal we therefore to fact. Are the rich
and great the only happy men? And is each of them more or less happy in
proportion to his measure of riches? Are they happy at all? I had well
nigh said, they are of all men most miserable! Rich man, for once, speak
the truth from thy heart. Speak, both for thyself, and for thy brethren!
To my new courts sad thought does still repair,
And round my gilded roofs hangs hovering care?
Yea, and so it will, till thy wearisome days of vanity are shut up in the
night of death.
Amidst our plenty something still,-
To me, to thee, to him is wanting!
That cruel something unpossessed
Corrodes and leavens all the rest.
Surely then, to trust in riches for happiness is the greatest folly
of all that are under the sun! Are you not convinced of this? Is it possible
you should still expect to find happiness in money or all it can procure?
What! Can silver and gold, and eating and drinking, and horses and servants,
and glittering apparel, and diversions and pleasures (as they are called)
make thee happy? They can as soon make thee immortal!
21. These are all dead show. Regard them not. Trust thou in the
living God; so shalt thou be safe under the shadow of the Almighty; his
faithfulness and truth shall be thy shield and buckler. He is a very present
help in time of trouble, such an help as can never fail. Then shalt thou
say, if all thy other friends die, "The Lord liveth, and blessed be my
strong helper!" He shall remember thee when thou liest sick upon thy bed;
when vain is the help of man. When all the things of earth can give no
support, he will "make all thy bed in thy sickness." He will sweeten thy
pain; the consolations of God shall cause thee to clap thy hands in the
flames. And even when this house of earth" is well nigh shaken down, when
it is just ready to drop into the dust, he will teach thee to say, "O death,
where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory? Thanks be unto God,
who giveth" me "the victory, through" my "Lord Jesus Christ."
O trust in Him for happiness as well as for help. All the springs of
happiness are in him. Trust in him "who giveth us all things richly to
enjoy," parechonti plousiOs panta eis apolausin.-- who, of his own
rich and free mercy holds them out to us as in his own hand, that receiving
them as his gift, and as pledges of his love, we may enjoy all that we
possess. It is his love gives a relish to all we taste, -- puts life and
sweetness into all, while every creature leads us up to the great Creator,
and all earth is a scale to heaven. He transfuses the joys that are at
his own right hand into all he bestows on his thankful children; who, having
fellowship with the Father and his Son Jesus Christ, enjoy him in all and
22. Thirdly, seek not to increase in goods. "Lay not up for"
thyself "treasures upon earth." This is a flat, positive command; full
as clear as "Thou shalt not commit adultery." How then is it possible for
a rich man to grow richer without denying the Lord that bought him? Yea,
how can any man who has already the necessaries of life gain or aim at
more, and be guiltless? "Lay not up," saith our Lord, "treasures upon earth."
If, in spite of this, you do and will lay up money or goods, which "moth
or rust may corrupt, or thieves break through and steal;" if you will add
house to house, or field to field, -- why do you call yourself a Christian?
You do not obey Jesus Christ. You do not design it. Why do you name yourself
by his name? "Why call ye me, Lord, Lord," saith he himself, "and do not
the things which I say?"
23. If you ask, "But what must we do with our goods, seeing we
have more than we have occasion to use, if we must not lay them up? Must
we throw them away?" I answer: If you threw them into the sea, if you were
to cast them into the fire and consume them, they would be better bestowed
than they are now. You cannot find so mischievous a manner of throwing
them away as either the laying them up for your posterity or the laying
them out upon yourselves in folly and superfluity. Of all possible methods
of throwing them away, these two are the very worst; the most opposite
to the gospel of Christ, and the most pernicious to your own soul.
How pernicious to your own soul the latter of these is has been excellently
shown by a late writer:
"If we waste our money we are not only guilty of wasting a talent which
God has given us, but we do ourselves this farther harm, we turn this useful
talent into a powerful means of corrupting ourselves; because so far as
it is spent wrong, so far it is spent in the support of some wrong temper,
in gratifying some vain and unreasonable desires, which as Christians we
are obliged to renounce.
"As wit and fine parts cannot be only trifled away, but will expose
those that have them to greater follies, so money cannot be only trifled
away, but if it is not used according to reason and religion, will make
people live a more silly and extravagant life than they would have done
without it. If therefore you don't spend your money in doing good to others,
you must spend it to the hurt of yourself. You act like one that refuses
the cordial to his sick friend which he cannot drink himself without inflaming
his blood. For this is the case of superfluous money, if you give it to
those who want it is a cordial; if you spend it upon yourself in something
that you do not want it only inflames and disorders your mind.
"In using riches where they have no real use, nor we any real want,
we only use them to our great hurt, in creating unreasonable desires, in
nourishing ill tempers, in indulging in foolish passions, and supporting
a vain turn of mind. For high eating and drinking, fine clothes and fine
houses, state and equipage, gay pleasures and diversions, do all of them
naturally hurt and disorder our heart. They are the food and nourishment
of all the folly and weakness of our nature. They are all of them the support
of something that ought not to be supported. They are contrary to that
sobriety and piety of heart which relishes divine things. They are so many
weights upon our mind, that makes us less able and less inclined to raise
our thoughts and affections to things above.
"So that money thus spent is not merely wasted or lost, but it is spent
to bad purposes and miserable effects; to the corruption and disorder of
our hearts; to the making us unable to follow the sublime doctrines of
the gospel. It is but like keeping money from the poor to buy poison for
24. Equally inexcusable are those who lay up what they do not need for
any reasonable purposes:
"If a man had hands and eyes and feet that he could give to those that
wanted them; if he should lock them up in a chest instead of giving them
to his brethren that were blind and lame, should we not justly reckon him
an inhuman wretch? If he should rather choose to amuse himself with hoarding
them up than entitle himself to an eternal reward by giving them to those
that wanted eyes and hands, might we not justly reckon him mad?
"Now money has very much the nature of eyes and feet. If therefore we
lock it up in chests, while the poor and distressed want it for their necessary
uses, we are not far from the cruelty of him that chooses rather to hoard
up the hands and eyes than to give them to those that want them. If we
choose to lay it up rather than to entitle ourselves to an eternal reward
by disposing of our money well, we are guilty of his madness that rather
chooses to lock up eyes and hands than to make himself for ever blessed
by giving them to those that want them."
25. May not this be another reason why rich men shall so hardly
enter into the kingdom of heaven? A vast majority of them are under a curse,
under the peculiar curse of God; inasmuch as in the general tenor of their
lives they are not only robbing God continually, embezzling and wasting
their Lord's goods, and by that very means corrupting their own souls;
but also robbing the poor, the hungry, the naked, wronging the widow and
the fatherless, and making themselves accountable for all the want, affliction,
and distress which they may but do not remove. Yea, doth not the blood
of all those who perish for want of what they either lay up or lay out
needlessly, cry against them from the earth? O what account will they give
to him who is ready to judge both the quick and the dead!
26. The true way of employing what you do not want yourselves
you may, Fourthly, learn from those words of our Lord which are the counterpart
of what went before: "Lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven; where
neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through
and steal." Put out whatever thou canst spare upon better security than
this world can afford. Lay up thy treasures in the bank of heaven; and
God shall restore them in that day. "He that hath pity upon the poor lendeth
unto the Lord, and look, what he layeth out, it shall be paid him again."
"Place that," saith he, "unto my account. Howbeit, thou owest me thine
own self besides!"
Give to the poor with a single eye, with an upright heart, and write,
"So much given to God." For "Inasmuch as ye did it unto one of the least
of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me."
This is the part of a "faithful and wise steward:" Not to sell either
his houses or lands, or principal stock, be it more or less, unless some
peculiar circumstance should require it; and not to desire or endeavour
to increase it, any more than to squander it away in vanity; but to employ
it wholly to those wise and reasonable purposes for which his Lord has
lodged it in his hands. The wise steward, after having provided his own
household with what is needful for life and godliness, makes himself friends
with all that remains from time to time of the "mammon of unrighteousness;
that when he fails they may receive him into everlasting habitations,"
-- that whensoever his earthly tabernacle is dissolved, they who were before
carried into Abraham's bosom, after having eaten his bread, and worn the
fleece of his flock, and praised God for the consolation, may welcome him
into paradise, and to "the house of God, eternal in the heavens."
27. We "charge" you, therefore, "who are rich in this world,"
as having authority from our great Lord and Master, agathoergein,
-- to be habitually doing good, to live in a course of good works.
"Be ye merciful as your Father which is in heaven is merciful;" who doth
good, and ceaseth not. "Be ye merciful," -- how far? After your power,
with all the ability which God giveth. Make this your only measure of doing
good, not any beggarly maxims or customs of the world. We charge you to
"be rich in good works;" as you have much, to give plenteously. "Freely
ye have received; freely give;" so as to lay up no treasure but in heaven.
Be ye "ready to distribute" to everyone according to his necessity. Disperse
abroad, give to the poor: deal your bread to the hungry. Cover the naked
with a garment, entertain the stranger, carry or send relief to them that
are in prison. Heal the sick; not by miracle, but through the blessing
of God upon your seasonable support. Let the blessing of him that was ready
to perish through pining want come upon thee. Defend the oppressed, plead
the cause of the fatherless, and make the widow's heart sing for joy.
28. We exhort you in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ to be
"willing to communicate;" koinOnikous einai: to be of the same spirit
(though not in the same outward state) with those believers of ancient
times, who remained steadfast en tEi koinOniai, in that blessed
and holy fellowship, wherein "none said that anything was his own,
but they had all things common." Be a steward, a faithful and wise steward,
of God and of the poor; differing from them in these two circumstances
only, that your wants are first supplied out of the portion of your Lord's
goods which remains in your hands, and that you have the blessedness of
giving. Thus "lay up for yourselves a good foundation," not in the world
which now is, but rather "for the time to come, that ye may lay hold on
eternal life." The great foundation indeed of all the blessings of God,
whether temporal or eternal, is the Lord Jesus Christ, -- his righteousness
and blood, -- what he hath done, and what he hath suffered for us. And
"other foundation," in this sense, "can no man lay;" no, not an Apostle,
no, not an angel from heaven. But through his merits, whatever we do in
his name is a foundation for a good reward in the day when "every man shall
receive his own reward, according to his own labour." Therefore "labour"
thou "not for the meat that perisheth, but for that which endureth unto
everlasting life." Therefore "whatsoever thy hand" now "findeth to do,
do it with thy might." Therefore let
"By patient continuance in well-doing, seek" thou "for glory and honour
and immortality." In a constant, zealous performance of all good works,
wait thou for that happy hour when the King shall say, "I was an hungered,
and ye gave me meat; I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink. I was a stranger,
and ye took me in, Naked, and ye clothed me. I was sick, and ye visited
me; I was in prison, and ye came unto me. -- Come, ye blessed of my Father,
receive the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world!"
No fair occasion pass unheeded by;
Snatching the golden moments as they fly,
Thou by few fleeting years ensure eternity!