And he said to them, Take heed, and beware of covetousness…
I. THE MANNER OF THE CAUTION.
1. The great danger of this sin.
(1) How apt we are to fall into it.
(2) Of how pernicious a consequence it is to those in whom it reigns.
2. The great care men ought to use to preserve themselves from it.
II. THE MATTER OF THE CAUTION. The vice our Saviour warns His hearers against is covetousness.
1. The nature of this vice. The shortest description that I can give of it is this: that it is an inordinate desire and love of riches; but when this desire and love are inordinate, is not so easy to be determined. And, therefore, that we may the better understand what the sin of covetousness is, which our Saviour doth so earnestly caution against, it will be requisite to consider more particularly wherein the vice and fault of it doth consist; that, whilst we are speaking against covetousness, we may not under that general word condemn anything that is commendable or lawful. To the end, then, that we may the more clearly and distinctly understand wherein the nature of this vice doth consist, I shall — First, Endeavour to show what is not condemned under this name of covetousness, either in Scripture or according to right reason; and — Secondly, What is condemned by either of these, as a plain instance or branch of this sin.
I. WHAT THINGS ARE NOT CONDEMNED UNDER THE NAME OF COVETOUSNESS, either in Scripture or according to right reason, which yet have some appearance of it; namely, these three things:
1. Not a provident care about the things of this present life.
2. Not a regular industry and diligence for the obtaining of them; nor —
3. Every degree of love and affection to them. I mention these three, because they may all seem to be condemned by Scripture, as parts or degrees of this vice, but really are not.
II. I COME NOW TO SHOW WHAT IS CONDEMNED IN SCRIPTURE UNDER THE NAME OF COVETOUSNESS; and by this we shall best understand wherein the nature of this sin doth consist. Now covetousness is a word of a large signification, and comprehends in it most of the irregularities of men's minds, either in desiring, or getting, or in possessing, and using an estate.
2. The evil and unreasonableness of this sin.
(1) Because it takes men off from religion and the care of their souls.
(2) Because it tempts men to do many things which are inconsistent with religion and directly contrary to it.
(3) Because it is an endless and insatiable desire.
(4) Because the happiness of human life doth not consist in riches.
(5) Because fiches do very often contribute very much to the misery and infelicity of men.
III. I come now, in the last place, to make some application of this discourse to ourselves.
1. Let our Saviour's caution take place with us, let these words of His sink into our minds: "Take heed and beware of covetousness." Our Saviour doubles the caution, that we may double our care. It is a sin very apt to steal upon us, and slily to insinuate itself into us under the specious pretence of industry in our callings, and a provident care of our families: but however it may be coloured over, it is a great evil dangerous to ourselves, and mischievous to the world. Now to kill this vice in us, besides the considerations before mentioned taken from the evil and unreasonableness of it, I will urge these three more:
(1) That the things of this world are uncertain.
(2) That our lives are as uncertain as these things; and —
(3) That there is another life after this.
2. By way of remedy against this vice of covetousness, it is good for men to be contented with their condition.
3. By way of direction, I would persuade those who are rich to be charitable with what they have.
Parallel VersesKJV: And he said unto them, Take heed, and beware of covetousness: for a man's life consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he possesseth.