Tag Archives: covetousness

The World, The Christ, and Us – Part 1

The lust of the eyes, the lust of the flesh, and the boastful pride of life…

Adulterers and adulteresses! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Whoever therefore wants to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. (James 4:4 NKJV)

15Do not love the world nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.  16For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world.  17The world is passing away, and also its lusts; but the one who does the will of God lives forever. (1 John 2:15-17 NASB)

15 Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. 16 For all that is in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—is not of the Father but is of the world. 17 And the world is passing away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides forever. (1 John 2:15-17 NKJV)

15 Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him.  16 For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the vain glory of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world.  17 And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever.  (1 John 2:15-17 ASV)

15 Do not love the world or the things that belong to the world. If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in him. Because everything that belongs to the world— 16 the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride in one’s lifestyle—is not from the Father, but is from the world. 17 And the world with its lust is passing away, but the one who does God’s will remains forever. (1 John 2:15-17 HCSB)

15Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him.  16For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world.  17And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever. (1 John 2:15-17 KJV)

15Love not ye the world, nor the things in the world; if any one doth love the world, the love of the Father is not in him,  16because all that [is] in the world — the desire of the flesh, and the desire of the eyes, and the ostentation of the life — is not of the Father, but of the world,  17and the world doth pass away, and the desire of it, and he who is doing the will of God, he doth remain — to the age. (1 John 2:15-17 YLT)

15Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. 16For everything in the world—the cravings of sinful man, the lust of his eyes and the boasting of what he has and does—comes not from the Father but from the world. 17The world and its desires pass away, but the man who does the will of God lives forever. (1 John 2:15-17 NIV)

15 Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. 16For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the des ires of the eyes and pride in possessions—is not from the Father but is from the world. 17And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever. (1 John 2:15-17 ESV)

I looked this verse up in many translations that I would consider to be reliable and printed them here to reflect on.  I like the ESV translation, especially with regards to the first two of the three—“the desires of the flesh” and “the desires of the eyes”—but as I continue to mull over and meditate on this passage I think that “pride in possessions” falls a little short of what I think John is saying.  I’ll try to make more sense of that as I proceed.  First, though, I’d like to consider the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes.

The lust (or the desires) of the flesh… these are physical appetites of the body.  It is important to understand that these may be God-given needs—such as food to feed the body, physical comfort (so that we may rest), and sex (both for pleasure and for pro-creation).  But as a result of Adam’s sin, and of our fallen and corrupt natures, these physical needs and appetites are distorted and out of balance.  We should be in control of our appetites.  But because of sin, they are most often in control of us.  We are slaves to food, alcohol (or other intoxicants), and to sexual passions, but God did not create man to be enslaved by these things.  He created these (some of them anyway) for man’s enjoyment, not his enslavement.  The enslavement to them is a result of sin, and results in further bondage to sin.

I understand the lust (or the desires) of the eyes pertain to those things that are external to our bodies.  The lust of the eyes is most often associated with covetousness.  Our eyes are seeking things to derive pleasure (or worth) from, although this is a certainly different from the sensual pleasure that comes from sex, food, or intoxicating substances that have a direct effect on our physical nature.  The pleasure that comes from gambling or winning the lottery, from buying a boat or a new car or a new house, or even some new clothes or jewelry is very real and can be very intense.  And most certainly there is an emotional aspect to the acquisition of such things, but it is obviously pleasure of a very different sort than would be had from a large meal, sexual intercourse, or an intoxicating substance.  It is a pleasure that is more oriented to the mind or, as our Christian forefathers centuries ago might say to the “affections” (or the heart) than it is to the body.

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Directions Against Covetousness (Baxter)

Directions Against Covetousness, or Love of Riches, and Against Worldly Cares
by Richard Baxter

I shall say but little on this subject now, because I have written a Treatise of it already, called “The Crucifying of the World by the Cross of Christ;” in which I have given many directions (in the preface and treatise) against this sin.

Direct. I. Understand well the nature and malignity of this sin; both what it is, and why it is so great and perilous. I shall here show you, 1. What love of riches is lawful. 2. What it is that is unlawful; and in what this sin of covetousness or worldliness doth consist 3. Wherein the malignity or greatness of it lieth. 4. The signs of it. 5. What counterfeits of the contrary virtue do hide this sin from the eyes of worldlings. 6. What false appearances of it do cause many to be suspected of covetousness unjustly.

Lawful Love of Creatures

I. All love of the creature, the world or riches, is not sin. For: 1. The works of God are all good, as such; and all goodness is worthy of love. As they are related to God, and his power, and wisdom, and goodness are imprinted on them, so we must love them, even for his sake. 2. All the impressions of the attributes of God appearing on his works, do make them as a mirror, in which at this distance we must see the Creator; and their sweetness is a drop from him; by which his goodness and love are tasted. And so they were all made to lead us up to God, and help our minds to converse with him, and kindle the love of God in our breasts, as a love-token from our dearest friend; and thus, as the means of our communion with God, the love of them is a duty, and not a sin. 3. They are naturally the means of sustaining our bodies, and preserving life, and health, and alacrity; and as such, our sensitive part hath a love to them, as every beast hath to its food and this love in itself is not of a moral kind, and is neither a virtue nor a vice, till it either be used in obedience to our reason, (and so it is good,) or in disobedience to it (and so it is evil). 4. The creatures are necessary means to support our bodies, while we are doing God the service which we owe him in the world; and so they must be loved, as a means to his service; though we cannot say properly that riches are ordinarily thus necessary. 5. The creatures are necessary to sustain our bodies in our journey to heaven, while we are preparing for eternity; and thus they must be loved as indirect helps to our salvation. And in these two last respects we call it in our prayers “our daily bread.” 6. Riches may enable us to relieve our needy brethren, and to promote good works for church or state. And thus also they may be loved; so far as we must be thankful for them, so far we may love them; for we must be thankful for nothing but what is good.

What is Covetousness?

II. But worldliness, or sinful love of riches, is, 1. When riches are loved and desired, and sought more for the flesh than for God or our salvation; even as the matter or means of our worldly prosperity, that the flesh may lack nothing to please it, and satisfy its desires.(Phil. 3:7-9; Jam. 1:10; Phil. 4:11; 1 Tim. 6:5; Prov. 23:4, “Labour not to be rich.”) Or that pride may have enough wherewith to support itself, by gratifying and obliging others, and living ostentatiously, and in that splendor, as may show our greatness, or further our domination over others. 2. And when we therefore desire them in that proportion which we think most agreeable to these carnal ends, and are not contented with our daily bread, and that proportion which may sustain us as passengers to heaven, and tend most to the securing of our souls, and to the service of God. So that it is the end by which a sinful love of riches is principally to be discerned; when they are loved for pride or flesh-pleasing, as they are the matter of a worldly, corporal felicity, and not principally for God and his service, and servants and our salvation. And indeed, as sensualists love them, they should be hated.

When Worldliness is Predominant.

Worldliness is either predominant, and so a certain sign of death; or else mortified, and in a subdued degree, consistent with some saving grace. Worldliness predominant, as in the ungodly, is, when men that have not a lively belief of the everlasting happiness, nor have laid up their treasure and hopes in heaven, do take the pleasure and prosperity of this life for that felicity which is highest in their esteem, and dearest to their hearts, and therefore love the riches of the world, or full provisions, as the matter and means of this their temporal felicity.(Luke 14:26, 33.) Worldliness in a mortified person, is, when he that hath laid up his treasure in heaven, and practically esteemeth his everlasting hopes above all the pleasure and prosperity of the flesh, and seeketh first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and useth his estate principally for God and his salvation, hath yet some remnants of inordinate desire to the prosperity and pleasure of the flesh, and some inordinate desire of riches for that end; which yet he hateth, lamenteth, resisteth, and so far subdueth, that it is not predominant, against the interest of God and his salvation.(Matt. 6:19-21,33; John 6:27; Luke 12:19, 20 18:22,23.) Yet this is a great sin, though it be forgiven.

The malignity of it.

III. The malignity or greatness of this sin consisteth in these points (especially when it is predominant). 1. The love of the world, or of riches, is a sin of deliberation, and not of mere temerity or sudden passion: worldlings contrive the attaining of their ends. 2. It is a sin of interest, love, and choice, set up against our chiefest interest: it is the setting up of a false end, and seeking that; and not only a sin of error in the means, or a seeking the right end in a mistaken way. 3. It is idolatry,(Eph. 5:5; Col. 3:5; James 4:4.) or a denying God, and deposing him in our hearts, and setting up his creatures in his stead, in that measure as it prevaileth. The worldling giveth that love and that trust unto the creature, which are due to God alone; he delighteth in it instead of God, and seeketh and holdeth it as his felicity instead of God: and therefore, so far as any man loveth the world, the love of the Father is not in him, 1 John 2:15. And the friendship of the world is enmity to God. 4. It is a contempt of heaven; when it must be neglected, and a miserable world preferred. 5. It showeth that unbelief prevaileth at the heart so far as worldliness prevaileth: for if men did practically believe the heavenly glory, and the promise thereof, they would be carried above these present things. 6. It is a debasing of the soul of man, and using it like the brutes, while it is principally set upon the serving of the flesh, and on a temporal felicity, and neglecteth its eternal happiness and concernments. 7. It is a perverting of the very drift of a man’s life, as employed in seeking a wrong end, and not only of some one faculty or act: it is an habitual sin of the state and course of mind and life, and not only a particular actual sin. 8. It is a perverting of God’s creatures to an end and use clean contrary to that which they were made and given for; and an abusing God by his own gifts, by which he should he served and honoured; and a destroying our souls with those mercies which were given us for their help and benefit. This is the true character of this heinous sin. In a word, it is the forsaking God, and turning the heart from him, and alienating the life from his service, to this present world, and the service of the flesh. Fornication, drunkenness, murder, swearing, perjury, lying, stealing, &c. are very heinous sins. But a single act of one of these, committed rashly in the violence of passion, or temptation, speaketh not such a malignant turning away of the heart habitually from God, as to say a man is covetous, or a worldling.

Signs of Covetousness.

IV. The signs of covetousness are these: 1. Not preferring God and our everlasting happiness before the prosperity and pleasure of the flesh; but valuing and loving fleshly prosperity above its worth.(Rom. 13:14; Matt. 6:19; 1 Tim. 3:8; Phil 3:19; Ezek. 33:31; Jer. 9:23.) 2. Esteeming and loving the creatures of God as provision for the flesh, and not to further us in the service of God. 3. Desiring more than is needful or useful to further us in our duty. 4. An inordinate eagerness in our desires after earthly things. 5. Distrustfulness, and vexatious cares, and contrivances for time to come. 6. Discontent, and trouble, and a longing discontent at a poor condition, when we have no more than our daily bread. 7. When the world taketh up our thoughts inordinately: when our thoughts will more easily run out upon the world, than upon better things: and when our thoughts of worldly plenty are more pleasant and sweet to us, than our thoughts of Christ, and grace, and heaven; and our thoughts of neediness and poverty are more bitter and grievous to us, than our thoughts of sin and God’s displeasure. 8. When our speech is freer and sweeter about prosperity in the world, than about the concernments of God and our souls. 9. When the world beareth sway in our families and converse, and shutteth out all serious endeavours in the service of God, and for our own and others’ souls: or at least doth cut short religious duties, and is preferred before them, and thrusteth them into a corner, and maketh us slightly huddle them over. 10. When we are dejected overmuch, and impatient under losses, and crosses, and worldly injuries from men. 11. When worldly matters seem sufficient to engage us in contentions, and to make us break peace: and we will by lawsuits seek our right, when greater hurt is more likely to follow to our brother’s soul, or greater wrong to the cause of religion, or the honour of God, than our right is worth. 12. When in our trouble and distress we fetch our comfort more from the thoughts of our provisions in the world, or our hopes of supply, than from our trust in God, and our hopes of heaven.(Job 1:21.) 13. When we are more thankful to God or man for outward riches, or any gift for the provision of the flesh, than for hopes or helps in order to salvation; for a powerful ministry, good books, or seasonable instructions for the soul. 14. When we are quiet and pleased if we do but prosper, and have plenty in the world, though the soul be miserable, unsanctified, and unpardoned. 15. When we are more careful to provide a worldly than a heavenly portion, for children and friends, and rejoice more in their bodily than their spiritual prosperity, and are troubled more for their poverty than their ungodliness or sin. 16. When we can see our brother have need, and shut up the bowels of our compassion, or can part with no more than mere superfluities for his relief: when we cannot spare that which makes but for our better being, when it is necessary to preserve his being itself; or when we give unwillingly or sparingly.(1 Tim. 6:17,18; Mal. 3:8, 9; Judges. 7:21.) 17. When we will venture upon sinful means for gain, as lying, overreaching, deceiving, flattering, or going against our consciences, or the commands of God. 18. When we are too much in expecting liberality from others, and think that all we buy of should sell cheaper to us than they can afford, and consider not their loss or need, so that we have the gain: nor are contented if they be never so bountiful to others, if they be not so to us.(When Alexander sent Phocion a hundred talents, he asked, Why he rather sent it to him than all the rest of the Athenians? He answered, Because he took him to be the only honest man in Athens: whereupon Phocion returned it to him again, entreating him to give him leave to be honest still.) 19. When we make too much ado in the world for riches, taking too much upon us, or striving for preferment, and flattering great ones, and envying any that are preferred before us, or get that which we expected. 20. When we hold our money tighter than our innocency, and cannot part with it for the sake of Christ, when he requireth it; but will stretch our consciences and sin against him, or forsake his cause, to save our estates; or will not part with it for the service of his church, or of our country, when we are called to it. 21. When the riches which we have, are used but for the pampering of our flesh, and superfluous provision for our posterity, and nothing but some inconsiderable crumbs or driblets are employed for God and his servants, nor used to further us in his service, and towards the laying up of a treasure in heaven. These are the signs of a worldly, covetous wretch.

V. The counterfeits of liberality or freedom from covetousness, which deceive the worldling, are such as these 1. He thinks he is not covetous because he hath a necessity of doing what he doth for more. Either he is in debt or he is poor, and scarcely hath whereon to live; and the poor think that none are worldlings and covetous but the rich. But he may love riches that lacketh them, as much as he that hath them. If you have a necessity of laboring in your callings, you have no necessity of loving the world, or of caring inordinately, or of being discontented with your estate. Impatience under your poverty shows a love of the world and flesh, as much as other men’s bravado that possess it.

2. Another thinks he is not a worldling, because if he could but have necessaries, even food and raiment, and conveniences for himself and family, he would be content; and it is not riches or great matters that he desireth. (It was one of Chilon’s sayings, Lapideis cotibus aurum examinari: auro autem bonorum malorumque hominum mentem cujusmodi sit comprobari: i.e. As the touchstone trieth gold, so gold trieth men’s minds, whether they be good or bad. Laertius in Chil. p. 43.) But if your hearts are more set upon the getting of these necessaries or little things, than upon the preparing for death, and making sure of the heavenly treasure, you are miserable worldlings still. And the poor man that will set his heart more upon a poor and miserable life, than upon heaven, is more inexcusable than he that setteth his heart more upon lordships and honours than upon heaven; though both of them are but the slaves of the world, and have as yet no treasure in heaven, Matt. 6:19-21. And, moreover, you that are now so covetous for a little more, if you had that, would be as covetous for a little more still; and when you had that, for a little more yet. You would next wear better clothing, and have better fare; and next you would have your house repaired, and then you would have your land enlarged, and then you would have something more for your children, and you would never be satisfied. You think otherwise now; but your hearts deceive you; you do not know them. If you believe me not, judge by the case of other men that have been as confident as you, that if they had but so much or so much they would be content; but when they have it, they would still have more. And this, which is your pretense, is the common pretense of almost all the covetous: for lords and princes think themselves still in as great necessity as you think yourselves: as they have more, so they have more to do with it; and usually are still wanting as much as the poor. The question is not how much you desire? But to what use, and to what end, and in what order?

3. Another thinks he is not covetous, because he coveteth not any thing that is his neighbour’s: he thinks that covetousness is only a desiring that which is not our own. But if you love the world and worldly plenty inordinately, and covet more, you are covetous worldlings, though you wish it not from another. It is the worldly mind and love of wealth that is the sin at the root: the ways of getting it are but the branches.

4. Another thinks he is no worldling, because he useth no unlawful means, but the labour of his calling, to grow rich. The same answer serves to this. The love of wealth for the satisfying of the flesh is unlawful, whatever the means be. And is it not also an unlawful means of getting, to neglect God and your souls, and the poor, and shut out other duties for the world, as you often do?

5. Another thinks he is no worldling, because he is contented with what he hath, and coveteth no more. When that which he hath is a full provision for his fleshly desires. But if you over-love the world, and delight more in it than God, you are worldlings, though you desire no more. He is described by Christ as a miserable, worldly fool, Luke 12:19, 20, that saith, “Soul, take thy ease, eat, drink, and be merry, thou hast much goods laid up for many years.” To over-love what you have, is worldliness, as well as to desire more.

6. Another thinks he is no worldling, because he gives God thanks for what he hath, and asked it of God in prayer. But if thou he a lover of the world, and make provision for the desires of the flesh, it is but an aggravation of thy sin, to desire God to be a servant to thy fleshly lusts, and to thank him for satisfying thy sinful desires. Thy prayers and thanks are profane and carnal: they were no service to God, but to thy flesh. As if a drunkard or a glutton should beg of God provision for their greedy throats, and thank him for it when they have it: or a fornicator should pray God to pander to his lusts, and then thank him for it: or a wanton man of fashion should make fine clothes and gallantry the matter of his prayer and thanksgiving.

7. Another thinks he is no worldling, because he hath some thoughts of heaven, and is loath to be damned when he can keep the world no longer, and prayeth often, and perhaps fasteth with the Pharisee twice a week, and giveth alms often, and payeth tithes, and wrongeth no man.(Luke 18:11-13; Matt. 6:16,18.) But the Pharisees were covetous for all these, Luke 16:14. The question is not whether you think of heaven, and do something for it? But whether it be heaven or earth which you seek first, and make the end of all things else, which all are referred to? Every worldling knoweth that he must die, and therefore he would have heaven at last for a reserve, rather than hell. But where is it that you are laying up your treasure, and that you place all your happiness and hopes? And where are your hearts? On earth, or in heaven? Col. 3:1-3; Matt. 6:20, 21. The question is not whether you give now and then an alms to deceive your consciences, and part with so much as the flesh can spare, as a swine will do when he can eat no more? but whether all that you have be devoted to the will of God, and made to stoop to his service and the saving of your souls, and can be forsaken rather than Christ forsaken, Luke 14:33.

8. Another thinks that he is not covetous, because it is but for his children that he provideth: and “he that provideth not for his own, is worse than an infidel,” 1 Tim. v.8. But the text speaketh only of providing necessaries for our families and kindred, rather than cast them on the church to be maintained. If you so overvalue the world, that you think it the happiness of your children to be rich, you are worldlings and covetous, both for yourselves and them. It is for their children that the richest and greatest make provision, that their posterity may be great and wealthy after them: and this maketh them the more worldlings, and not the less; because they are covetous for after-ages, when they are dead, and not only for themselves.

9. Another thinks he is no worldling, because he can speak as severely of covetous men as any other. But many a one revileth others as covetous that is covetous himself; yea, covetous men are aptest to accuse others of covetousness, and of selling too dear, and buying too cheap, and giving too little, because they would get the more themselves. And many preachers, by their reading and knowledge, may make a vehement sermon against worldliness, and yet go to hell at last for being worldlings. Words are cheap.

10. Another thinks he is not covetous, because he purposeth to leave much to charitable uses when he is dead. I confess that much is well: I would more would do so. But the flesh itself can spare it, when it seeth that it must lie down in the grave. If they could carry their riches with them and enjoy them after death, they would do it no doubt: to leave it when you cannot keep it any longer, is not thank-worthy. So the glutton, and drunkard, and whoremonger, and the proud must all leave their pleasure at the grave. But do you serve God or the flesh with your riches while you have them? And do you use them to help or to hinder your salvation? Deceive not yourselves, for God is not mocked, Gal. 6:7.

False Accusations of Covetousness

VI. Yet many are falsely accused of covetousness upon such grounds as these: 1. Because they possess much and are rich: for the poor take the rich for worldlings. But God giveth not to all alike: he putteth ten talents into the hands of one servant, and but one into another’s: and to whom men commit much, of them will they require the more.(Luke 12:48; 16:9,10; 2 Cor. 8:14,15.) Therefore, to be intrusted with more than others is no sin, unless they betray that trust.

2. Others are accused as covetous, because they satisfy not the covetous desires of those they deal with, or that expect much from them, and because they give not where it is not their duty, but their sin to give. Thus the buyer saith the seller is covetous; and the seller saith the buyer is covetous, because they answer not their covetous desires. An idle beggar will accuse you of uncharitableness, because you maintain him not in sinful idleness. The proud look you should help to maintain their pride. The drunkard, and riotous, and gamesters expect their parents should maintain their sin. No man that hath any thing, shall escape the censure of being covetous, as long as there is another in the world that coveteth that which he hath: selfishness looketh to no rules but their own desires.

3. Others are judged covetous, because they give not that which they have not to give. Those that know not another’s estate, will pass conjectures at it; and if their handsome apparel or deportment, or the common fame, do make men think them richer than they are, then they are accounted covetous, because their bounty answereth not men’s expectations.

4. Others are thought covetous, because they are laborious in their callings, and thrifty, and saving, not willing that any thing be lost. But all this is their duty: if they were lords or princes, idleness and wastefulness would be their sin. God would have all men labour in their several callings, that are able: and Christ himself said, when he had fed many thousands by miracle, yet “Gather up the fragments that remain, that nothing be lost.” The question is, How they use that which they labour so hard for, and save so sparingly. If they use it for God, and charitable uses, there is no man taketh a righter course. He is the best servant for God, that will be laborious and sparing, that he may be able to do good.

5. Others are thought covetous, because, to avoid hypocrisy, they give in secret, and keep their works of charity from the knowledge of men. These shall have their reward from God: and his wrath shall be the reward of their presumptuous censures.

6. Others are thought covetous, because they lawfully and peaceably seek their right, and let not the unjust and covetous wrong them at their pleasure. It is true, we must let go our right, whenever the recovering of it will do more hurt to others than it will do us good. But yet the laws are not made in vain: nor must we encourage men in covetousness, thievery, and deceit, by letting them do what they desire: nor must we be careless of our Master’s talents; if he entrust us with them, we must not let every one take them from us to serve his lusts with.

Consider the Greatness of Heaven

Direct. II. Seriously consider of your everlasting state, and how much greater things than riches you have to mind. Behold by faith the endless joys which you may have with God, and the endless misery which worldlings must undergo in hell. There is no true cure for an earthly mind, but by showing it the far greater matters to be minded: by acquainting it better with its own concernments; and with the greater miseries than poverty or want, which we have to escape; and the greater good than worldly plenty, which we have to seek. It is lack of faith that makes men worldlings: they see not what is in another world: they say their creed, but do not heartily believe the day of judgment, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting. There is not a man of them all, but, if he had one sight of heaven and hell, would set lighter by the world than ever he did before; and would turn his covetous care and toil to a speedy and diligent care of his salvation. If he heard the joyful praises of the saints, and the woeful lamentations of the damned, but one day or hour, he would think ever after that he had greater matters to mind than the scraping together a heap of wealth. Remember, man, that thou hast another world to live in; and a far longer life to make provision for; and that thou must be in heaven or hell for ever. This is true, whether thou believe it or not: and thou hast no time but this to make all thy preparation in: and as thou believest, and livest, and labourest now, it must go with thee to all eternity. These are matters worthy of thy care. Canst thou have while to make such a disturbance here in the dust, and care and labour for a thing of nought, while thou hast such things as these to care for, and a work of such transcendent consequence to do? Can a man that understands what heaven and hell are, find room for any needless matters, or time for so much unnecessary work? The providing for thy salvation is a thing that God hath made thy own work, much more than the providing for the flesh. When he speaks of thy body, he saith, “Take no thought for your life, what you shall eat or drink, nor for your body, what you shall put on: —for your Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things,” Matt. 6:25, 32. “Be careful for nothing,” Phil. 4:6. “Cast all your care upon him, for he careth for you,” 1 Pet. 5:7. But when he speaks of your salvation, he bids you “work it out with fear and trembling,” Phil. 2:12; and “give diligence to make your calling and election sure,” 2 Pet. 1:10; and “strive to enter in at the strait gate,” Matt. 7:13; Luke 13:24. “Labour not for the meat that perisheth, but for that which endureth to everlasting life,” John 6:27. That is, “Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you,” Matt. 6:33. Look up to heaven, man, and remember that there is thy home, and there are thy hopes, or else thou art a man undone for ever; and therefore it is for that that thou must care and labour. Believe unfeignedly that thou must dwell for ever in heaven or hell, as thou makest thy preparation here, and consider of this as becometh a man, and then be a worldling and covetous if thou canst: riches will seem dust and chaff to thee, if thou believe and consider thy everlasting state. Write upon the doors of thy shop and chamber, I must be in heaven or hell for ever; or, This is the time on which my endless life dependeth; and methinks every time thou readest it, thou shouldst feel thy covetousness stabbed at the heart. O blinded mortals! that love, like worms, to dwell in earth! Would God but give you an eye of faith, to foresee your end, and where you must dwell to all eternity, what a change would it make upon your earthly minds! Either faith or sense will be your guides. Nothing but reason sanctified by faith can govern sense. Remember that thou art not a beast, that hath no life to live but this: thou hast a reasonable, immortal soul, that was made by God for higher things, even for God himself, to admire him, love him, serve him, and enjoy him. If an angel were to dwell awhile in flesh, should he turn an earthworm, and forget his higher life of glory? Thou art like to an incarnate angel; and mayst be equal with the angels, when thou art freed from this sinful flesh, Luke 20:36. O beg of God a heavenly light, and a heavenly mind, and look often into the word of God, which tells thee where thou must be for ever; and worldliness will vanish away in shame.

Remember the Shortness of Life

Direct. III. Remember how short a time thou must keep and enjoy the wealth which thou hast gotten. How quickly thou must be stripped of all! Canst thou keep it when thou hast it? (1 Cor. 7:31.) Canst thou make a covenant with death, that it shall not call away thy soul? Thou knowest beforehand that thou art of short continuance, and the world is but thy inn or passage; and that a narrow grave for thy flesh to rot in, is all that thou canst keep of thy largest possessions, save what thou layest up in heaven, by laying it out in obedience to God. How short is life! How quickly gone! Thou art almost dead and gone already! What are a few days or a few years more? And wilt thou make so much ado for so short a life? and so careful a provision for so short a stay? Yea, how uncertain is thy time, as well as short! Thou canst not say what world thou shalt be in tomorrow. Remember, man, that Thou must die! Thou must die! Thou must quickly die! Thou knowest not how soon! Breathe yet a few breaths more, and thou art gone! And yet canst thou be covetous, and drown thy soul with earthly cares? Dost thou soberly read thy Savior’s warning, Luke 12:19-21? Is it not spoken as to thee? “Thou fool, this night thy soul shall be rerequired of thee; then whose shall those things be which thou hast provided? So is every one that layeth up riches for himself, and is not rich towards God.”(Remember Gehazi, Achan, Judas, Ananias and Sapphira, Demetrius, Demas. Jer. 6:13; 8:10.) If thou be rich today, and be in another world tomorrow, had not poverty been as good? Distracted soul! Dost thou make so great a matter of it, whether thou have much or little for so short a time? And takest no more care, either where thou shalt be, or what thou shalt have to all eternity? Dost thou say, thou wilt cast this care on God? I tell thee, he will make thee care thyself; and care again before he will save thee. And why canst thou not cast the care of smaller matters on him, when he commandeth thee? Is it any great matter whether thou be rich or poor, that art going so fast unto another world, where these are things of no signification? Tell me, if thou wert sure that thou must die tomorrow, (yea, or the next month or year,) wouldst thou not be more indifferent whether thou be rich or poor, and look more after greater things? Then thou wouldst be of the apostle’s mind, 2 Cor. 4:18, “We look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal.” Our eye of faith should be so fixed on invisible, eternal things, that we should scarce have leisure or mind to look at or once regard the things that are visible and temporal. A man that is going to execution scarce looks at all the bustle or business that is done in streets and shops as he passeth by; because these little concern him in his departing case. And how little do the wealth and honours of the world concern a soul that is going into another world, and knows not but it may be this night! Then keep thy wealth, or take it with thee, if thou canst.

Consider What You Really Need

Direct. IV. Labour to feel thy greatest needs, which worldly wealth will not supply. Thou hast sinned against God, and money will not buy thy pardon.(Prov. 11:4, “Riches profit not in the day of wrath.”) Thou hast incurred his displeasure, and money will not reconcile him to thee. Thou art condemned to everlasting misery by the law, and money will not pay thy ransom. Thou art dead in sin, and polluted, and captivated by the flesh, and money will sooner increase thy bondage than deliver thee. Thy conscience is ready to tear thy heart for thy willful folly and contempt of grace, and money will not bribe it to be quiet. Judas brought back his money, and hanged himself, when conscience was but once awakened. Money will not enlighten a blinded mind, nor soften a hard heart, nor humble a proud heart, nor justify a guilty soul. It will not keep off a fever or consumption, nor ease the gout, or stone, or toothache. It will not keep off ghastly death, but die thou must, if thou have all the world! Look up to God, and remember that thou art wholly in his hands; and think whether he will love or favour thee for thy wealth. Look unto the day of judgment, and think whether money will there bring thee off, or the rich speed better than the poor.

Riches are Useless at Death

Direct. V. Be often with those that are sick and dying, and mark what all their riches will do for them, and what esteem they have then of the world; and mark how it useth all at last. Then you shall see that it forsaketh all men in the hour of their greatest necessity and distress; (Jer. 17:11; Jam. 5:1-3.) when they would cry to friends, and wealth, and honour, if they had any hopes, If ever you will help me, let it be now; if ever you will do any thing for me, O save me from death, and the wrath of God! But, alas! such cries would be all in vain! Then, oh then! One drop of mercy, one spark of grace, the smallest well-grounded hope of heaven, would be worth more than the empire of Caesar or Alexander! Is not this true, sinner? Dost thou not know it to be true? And yet wilt thou cheat and betray thy soul? Is not that best now, which will be best then? And is not that of little value now, which will be then so little set by? Dost thou not think that men are wiser then than now? Wilt thou do so much, and pay so dear for that, which will do thee no more good, and which thou wilt set no more by when thou hast it? Doth not all the world cry out at last of the deceitfulness of riches, and the vanity of pleasure and prosperity on earth, and the perniciousness of all worldly cares? And doth not thy conscience tell thee, that when thou comest to die, thou art like to have the same thoughts thyself? And yet wilt thou not be warned in time? Then all the content and pleasure of thy plenty and prosperity will be past: and when it is past it is nothing. And wilt thou venture on everlasting woe, and cast away everlasting joy, for that which is today a dream and shadow, and tomorrow, or very shortly, will be nothing? The poorest then will be equal with thee. And will honest poverty, or over-loved wealth; be sweeter at the last? How glad then wouldst thou be, to have been without thy wealth, so thou mightst have been without the sin and guilt, How glad then wouldst thou be to die the death of the poorest saint! Do you think that poverty, or riches, are liker to make a man loath to die? Or are usually more troublesome to the conscience of a dying man? O look to the end, and live as you die, and set most by that, and seek that now, which you know you shall set most by at last when full experience hath made you wiser!

Beware the Perils of Riches

Direct. VI. Remember that riches do make it much harder for a man to be saved; and the love of this world is the commonest cause of men’s damnation. This is certainly true, for all that poverty also hath its temptations; and for all that the poor are far more numerous than the rich. For even the poor may be undone by the love of that wealth and plenty which they never get; and those may perish for over-loving the world, that yet never prospered in the world. And if thou believe Christ, the point is out of controversy: for he saith, Luke 18:24-27, “How hardly shall they that have riches enter into the kingdom of God! For it is easier for a camel to go through a needle’s eye, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God. And they that heard it said, Who then can be saved? And he said, The things which are impossible with men, are possible with God.” So Luke 6:24, 25, “But woe unto you that are rich! for ye have received your consolation: woe unto you that are full! for ye shall hunger.” Make but sense of these and many such like texts, and you can gather no less than this from them, that riches make the way to heaven much harder, and the salvation of the rich to be more difficult and rare, proportionably, than of other men. And Paul saith, 1 Cor. 1:26, “Not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble are called.” And the lovers of riches, though they are poor, must remember that it is said, “That the love of money is the root of all evil,” 1 Tim. 6:10. And, “Love not the world, nor the things that are in the world: for if any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him,” 1 John 2:15. Do you believe that here lieth the danger of your souls? and yet can you so love, and choose, and seek it? Would you have your salvation more difficult, and doubtful, and impossible with men? You had rather choose to live where few die young, than where most die young; and where sicknesses are rare, than where they are common. If you were sick, you had rather have the physician, and medicines, and diet which cure most, than those which few are cured by. If the country were beset with thieves, you had rather go the way that most escape in, than that few escape in. And yet, so it may but please your flesh, you will choose that way to heaven, that fewest escape in; and you will choose that state of life, which will make your salvation to be most hard and doubtful. Doth your conscience say that is wisely done? 1 know that if God put riches into your hand, by your birth, or his blessing on your honest labours, you must not cast away your Master’s talents, because he is austere; but by a holy improvement of them, you may further his service and your salvation. But this is no reason why you should over-love them, or desire and seek so great a danger. Believe Christ heartily, and it will quench your love of riches.

The More You Have…

Direct. VII. Remember that the more you have, the more you have to give account for. And if the day of judgment be dreadful to you, you should not make it more dreadful by greatening your own accounts… If you desired riches but for the service of your Lord, and have used them for him, and can truly give in this account, that you laid them not out for the needless pleasure or pride of the flesh, but to furnish yourselves, and families, and others, for his service, and as near as you could, employ them according to his will, and for his use, then you may expect the reward of good and faithful servants; but if you desired and used them for the pride and pleasure of yourselves while you lived, and your posterity or kindred when you are dead, dropping some inconsiderable crumbs for God, you will then find that Mammon was an unprofitable master, and godliness, with content, would have been greater gain.(Prov. 3:14; 1 Tim. 6:5, 6)

Consider the Cost

Direct. VIII. Remember how dear it costeth men, thus to hinder their salvation, and greaten their danger and accounts. What a deal of precious time is lost upon the world, by the lovers of it, which might have been improved to the getting of wisdom and grace, and making their calling and election sure! If you had believed that the gain of holy wisdom had been so much better than the gaming of gold, as Solomon saith, Prov. 3:14, you would have laid out much of that time in laboring to understand the Scriptures, and preparing for your endless life. How many unnecessary thoughts have you cast away upon the world, which might better have been laid out on your greater concernments! How many cares, and vexations, and passions doth it cost men, to overload themselves with worldly provisions! Like a foolish traveler, who having a day’s journey to go, doth spend all the day in gathering together a load of meat, and clothes, and money, more than he can carry, for fear of lacking by the way: or like a foolish runner, that hath a race to run for his life, and spends the time in which he should be running, in gathering a burden of pretended necessaries.(Saith Plutarch. de trauquillit. anim. Alexander wept because he was not lord of the world; when Crates, having but a wallet and a threadbare cloak, spent his whole life in mirth and joy, as if it had been a continual festival holiday.) You have all the while God’s work to do, and your souls to mind, and judgment to prepare for, and you are tiring and vexing yourselves for unnecessary things, as if it were the top of your ambition to be able to say, in hell, that you died rich. 1 Tim. 6:6-10, “Godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain that we can carry nothing out And having food and raiment let us be therewith content. But they that will be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and hurtful lusts, which drown men in destruction and perdition. For the love of money is the root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred (or been seduced) from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows.” Piercing sorrows here, and damnation hereafter, are a very expensive price to give for money.(Psalm 37:16; Prov. 16:8) For saith Christ himself, “What shall it profit a man to gain all the world, and lose his own soul? Or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?” Mark 8:36, 37; that is, What money or price will recover it, if for the love of gain he lose it? Prov. 15:27, “He that is greedy of gain troubleth his own house; but he that hateth gifts shall live.” Do you not know that a godly man contented with his daily bread, hath a far sweeter and quieter life and death than a self-troubling worldling? You may easily perceive it. Prov. 15:16, “Better is little with the fear of the Lord, than great treasure and trouble therewith.”

Consider Christ’s Example

Direct. IX. Look much on the life of Christ on earth, and see how strangely he condemneth worldliness by his example. Did he choose to be a prince or lord, or to have great possessions, lands, or money, or sumptuous buildings, or gallant attendance, and plentiful provisions? His housing you may read of, Matt. 8:20; Luke 9:58, “Foxes have holes, and the birds of the air have nests, but the Son of man hath not where to lay his head.” His clothing you may read of at his crucifying, when they parted it. As for money, he was fain to send Peter to a fish for some to pay their tribute. If Christ did scrape and care for riches, then so do thou: if he thought it the happiest life, do thou think so too. But if he contemned it, do thou contemn it: if his whole life was directed to give thee the most perfect example of the contempt of all the prosperity of this world, then learn of his example, if thou take him for thy Saviour, and if thou love thyself. “Though he was rich, yet for our sakes he became poor, that you through his poverty might be rich,” 2 Cor. 8:9.

Consider the Early Christians

Direct. X. Think on the example of the primitive Christians, even the best of Christ’s servants, and see how it condemneth worldliness. They that by miracle in the name of Christ could give limbs to the lame, yet tell him, “Silver and gold have we none,” Acts 3:6. Those that had possessions sold them, and laid the money at the apostles’ feet, and they had all things common, to show that faith overcometh the world, by contemning it, and subjecting it to charity, and devoting it entirely to God. Read whether the apostles did live sumptuous houses, with great attendance, and worldly plenty and prosperity? And so of the rest.(Chrysostom saith, his enemies charged him with many crimes, but never with covetousness or wantonness. And so it was with Christ and his enemies.)

Remember the Purpose of Worldly Goods

Direct. XI. Remember to what ends all worldly things were made and given you, and what a happy advantage you may make of them by renouncing them, as they would be provision for your lusts, and by devoting yourselves and them to God. The use of their sweetness is, to draw your souls to taste by faith the heavenly sweetness. They are the looking-glass of souls in flesh, that are not yet admitted to see these things spiritual face to face. They are the provender of our bodies; our traveling furniture and helps; our inns, and solacing company in the way; they are some of God’s love-tokens, some of the lesser pieces of his coin, and bear his image and superscription. They are drops from the rivers of the eternal pleasures; to tell the mind by the way of the senses how good the Donor is, and how amiable; and what higher delights there are for souls; and to point us to the better things which these foretell. They are messengers from heaven, to testify our Father’s care and love, and to bespeak our thankfulness, love, and duty; and to bear witness against sin, and bind us more tightly to obedience. They are the first volume of the word of God; the first book that man was set to read, to acquaint him fully with his Maker. As the word which we read and hear is the chariot of the Spirit, by which it maketh its accesses to the soul; so the delights of sight, and taste, and smell, and touch, and hearing, were appointed as an ordinary way for the speedy access of heavenly love and sweetness to the heart, that upon the first perception of the goodness and sweetness of the creature, there might presently he transmitted by a due progression, a deep impression of the goodness of God upon the soul; that the creatures, being the letters of God’s book, which are seen by our eye, the sense (even the love of our great Creator) might presently be perceived by the mind: and no letter might once be looked upon but for the sense; no creature ever seen, or tasted, or heard, or felt in any delectable quality, without a sense of the love of God; that as the touch of the hand upon the strings of the lute do cause the melody, so God’s touch by his mercies upon our hearts, might presently tune them into love, and gratitude, and praise. They are the tools by which we must do much of our Master’s work. They are means by which we may refresh our brethren, and express our love to one another, and our love to our Lord and Master in his servants. They are our Master’s stock, which we must trade with, by the improvement of which, no less than the reward of endless happiness may be attained. These are the uses to which God gives us outward mercies. Love them thus, and delight in them, and use them thus, and spare not; yea, seek them thus, and be thankful for them. But when the creatures are given for so excellent a use, will you debase them all by making them only the fuel of your lusts, and the provisions for your flesh? And will you love them, and dote upon them in these base respects; while you utterly neglect their noblest use? You are just like children that cry for books, and can never have enow; but it is only to play with them because they are fine; but when they are set to learn and read them, they cry as much because they love it not: or like one that should spend his life and labour in getting the finest clothes, to dress his dogs and horses with, but himself goes naked and will not wear them.(Even Dionysius the tyrant was bountiful to philosophers. To Plato he gave above fourscore talents, Laert. in Platone, and much to Aristippus and many more, and he offered much to many philosophers that refused it. And so did Croesus.)

Remember God’s Promises

Direct. XII. Remember that God hath promised to provide for you, and that you shall lack nothing that is good for you, if you will live above these worldly things, and seek first his kingdom, and the righteousness thereof. And cannot you trust his promise? If you truly believe that he is God, and that he is true, and that his particular providence extendeth to the very numbering of your hairs,(Matt. 10:30; Luke 12:7) you will sure trust him, rather than trust to your own forecast and industry. Do you think his provision is not better for you than your own? All your own care cannot keep you alive an hour, nor can prosper any of your labours, if you provoke him to blast them. And if you are not content with his provisions, nor submit yourselves to the disposal of his love and wisdom, you disoblige God, and provoke him to leave you to the fruits of your own care and diligence: and then you will find that it had been your wiser way to have trusted God.

The Mischiefs of a Worldly Mind.

Direct. XIII. Think often on the dreadful importance and effects of the love of riches, or a worldly mind.(Look upon the face of the calamitous world, and inquire into the causes of all the oppressions, rapines, cruelties, and inhumanity which have made men so like to devils: look into the corrupted, lacerated churches, and inquire into the cause of their contentions, divisions, usurpations, malignity, and cruelty against each other: and you will find that pride and worldliness are the causes of all. When men of a proud and worldly mind have by fraud, and friendship, and simony usurped the pastorship of the churches, according to their minds and ends, they turn it into a malignant domination, and the carnal, worldly part of the church, is the great enemy and persecutor of the spiritual part; and the fleshly hypocrite, as Cain against Abel, is filled with envy against the serious believer, even out of the bitter displeasure of his mind, that his deceitful sacrifice is less respected.) 1. It is a most certain sign of a state of death and misery, where it hath the upper hand. It is the departing of the heart from God to creatures. See the malignity of it before. Good men have been overtaken with heinous sins; but it is hard to find where Scripture calleth any of them covetous. A heart secretly cleaving most to this present world and its prosperity, is the very killing sin of every hypocrite, yea, and of all ungodly men. 2. Worldliness makes the word unprofitable; and keepeth men from believing and repenting, and coming home to God, and minding seriously the everlasting world. What so much hindereth the conversion of sinners, as the love and cares of earthly things? They cannot serve God and mammon: their treasure and hearts cannot chiefly be both in heaven and earth! They will not yield to the terms of Christ that love this world: they will not forsake all for a treasure in heaven. In a word, as you heard, the love of money is the root of all evil, and the love of the Father is not in the lovers of the world.(Matt. 6:25,; 13:22; Luke 16:13,14; 14:33; 18:22, 23; Matt. 6:19-21; 1 Tim. 6:6-8; 1 John 2:15; Prov. 28:9; 18:8; James 4:3; Prov. 28:20, “He that maketh haste to be rich shall not be innocent.”) 3. It destroyeth holy meditation and conference, and turneth the thoughts to worldly things: and it corrupteth prayer, and maketh it but a means to serve the flesh, and therefore maketh it odious to God. 4. it is the great hinderance of men’s necessary preparation for death and judgment, and stealeth away their hearts and time till it is too late. 5. It is the great cause of contentions even among the nearest relations; and the cause of the wars and calamities of nations; and of the woeful divisions and persecutions of the church; when a worldly generation think that their worldly interest doth engage them, against self-denying and spiritual principles, practices, and persons. 6. It is the great cause of all the injustice, and oppression, and cruelty that rageth in the world. They would do as they would be done by, were it not for the love of money. It maketh men perfidious and false to all their friends and engagements: no vows to God; nor obligations to men, will hold a lover of the world.(Jam. 5:1-5; 1 John 3:17.) The world is his god, and his worldly interest is his rule and law. 7. It is the great destroyer of charity and good works. No more is done for God and the poor, because the love of the world forbids it. 8. It disordereth and profaneth families; and betrayeth the souls of children and servants to the devil. It turneth out prayer, and reading the Scripture, and good books, and all serious speeches of the life to come, because their hearts are taken up with the world, and they have no relish of any thing but the provisions of their flesh. Even the Lord’s own day cannot be reserved for holy works, nor a duty performed, but the world is interposing, or diverting the mind. 9. It tempteth men to sin against their knowledge, and to forsake the truth, and fit themselves to the rising side, and save their bodies and estates, whatever become of their souls. It is the very price that the devil gives for souls! With this he bought the soul of Judas, who went to the Pharisees, with a “What will you give me, and I will deliver him to you.” With this he attempted Christ himself, Matt. 4:9, “All these will I give thee, if thou wilt fall down and worship me.” It is the cause of apostasy and unfaithfulness to God.(2 Tim. 4:10) And it is the price that sinners sell their God, their conscience, and their salvation for. 10. It depriveth the soul of holy communion with God, and comfort from him, and of all foretaste of the life to come, and finally of heaven itself.(b) For as the love of the world keepeth out the love of God and heaven, it must needs keep out the hopes and comforts which should arise from holy love. It would do much to cure the love of money, and of the world, if you knew how pernicious a sin it is.(1 Tim. 6:17-19)

Consider the Lowliness of this Sin.

Direct. XIV. Remember how base a sin it is, and how dishonorable and debasing to the mind of man. If earth be baser than heaven, and money than God, then an earthly mind is baser than a heavenly mind. As the serpent’s feeding on the dust is a baser life than that of angels, that are employed in admiring, and obeying, and praising the Most Holy God.

Consider God’s Judgement

Direct. XV. Call yourselves to a daily reckoning, how you lay out all that God committeth to your trust; and try whether it be so as you would hear of it at judgment. If you did but use to sit in judgment daily upon yourselves, as those that believe the judgment of God, it would make you more careful to use well what you have, than to get more; and it would quench your thirst after plenty and prosperity, when you perceived you must give so strict an account of it. The flesh itself will less desire it, when it finds it may not have the use of it.(Plato compareth our life to a game at tables. We may wish for a good throw, but whatever it be, we must play it as well as we can. Plutarch. de Tranquil. Anim.)

Fight your Covetousness when it is Strong

Direct. XVI. When you find your covetousness most eager and dangerous, resolve most to cross it, and give more to pious or charitable uses than at another time. For a man hath reason to fly furthest from that sin, which he is most in danger of. And the acts tend to the increase of the habit. Obeying your covetousness doth increase it: and so the contrary acts, and the disobeying and displeasing it, do destroy it. This course will bring your covetousness into a despair of attaining its desire; and so will make it sit down and give over the pursuit. It is an open protesting against every covetous desire; and an effectual kind of repenting; and a wise and honest disarming sin, and turning its motions against itself, to its own destruction. Use it thus oft, and covetousness will think it wisdom to be quiet.

Do not Save Heaven for Last

Direct. XVII. Above all take heed that you think not of reconciling God and mammon, and mixing heaven and earth to be your felicity, and of dreaming that you may keep heaven for a reserve at last, when the world hath been loved as your best, so long as you could keep it. Nothing so much defendeth worldliness, as a cheating hope, that you have it but in a subdued, pardoned degree; and that you are not worldlings when you are. And nothing so much supports this hope, as because you confess that heaven only must be your last refuge, and full felicity, and therefore you do something for it on the bye. But is not the world more loved, more sought, more delighted in, and harder held? Hath it not more of your hearts, your delight, desire, and industry? If you cannot let go all for heaven, and forsake all this world for a treasure above, you cannot be Christ’s true disciples, Luke 14:26,27,30,33.

Mortify the Flesh

Direct. XVIII. If ever you would overcome the love of the world, your great care must be to mortify the flesh; for the world is desired but as its provision. A mortified man hath no need of that which is a sensualist’s felicity. Quench your insatiable, feverish thirst, and then you will not make such a stir for drink. Cure the disease which enrageth your appetite; and that is the safest and cheapest way of satisfying it. Then you will be thankful to God, when you look on other men’s wealth and gallantry, that you need not these things. And you will think what a trouble and burden, and interruption of your better work and comfort it would be to you, to have so much land, and so many servants, and goods, and business, and persons to mind, as rich men have. And how much better you can enjoy God and yourself in a more retired, quiet state of life. But of this more in the next part.

Conclusion

Did men but know how much of an ungodly, damnable state doth consist in the love of the world; and how much it is the enemy of souls; and how much of our religion consisteth in the contempt and conquest of it; and what is the meaning of their renouncing the world in their baptismal covenant; and how many millions the love of the world will damn for ever; they would not make such a stir for nothing, and spend all their days in providing for their perishing flesh; nor think them happiest that are richest; nor “boast themselves of their heart’s desire, and bless the covetous whom the Lord abhorreth,” Psalm 10:3. They would not think that so small a sin which Christians should not so much as “name,” but in detestation, Eph. 5:3; when God hath resolved that the “covetous shall not inherit the kingdom of God,” 1 Cor. 6:10; Eph. v.5; and a Christian must not so much as eat with them, 1 Cor. v.11. Did Christ say in vain, “Take heed and beware of covetousness,” Luke 12:15. “Woe to him that coveteth an evil covetousness to his house, that he may set his nest on high, that he may be delivered from the power of evil,” Hab. 2:9. Oh what deserving servants hath the world, that will serve it so diligently, so constantly, and at so costly a rate, when they beforehand know, that besides a little transitory, deluding pleasure, it will pay them with nothing but everlasting shame! Oh wonderful deceiving power, of such an empty shadow, or rather wonderful folly of mankind! That when so many ages have been deceived before us, and almost every one at death confesseth it did but deceive them, so many still should be deceived, and take no warning by such a world of examples! I conclude with Heb. 13:5, “Let your conversation be without covetousness, and be content with such things as ye have: for he hath said, I will never leave thee nor forsake thee.”

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Soul Idolatry

SOUL IDOLATRY

David Clarkson (1621 – 1686)

“You can be sure that no immoral, impure, or covetous person will inherit the Kingdom of Christ and of God. For a such a person is really an idolater who worships the things of this world.” Ephesians 5:5

A covetous man is an idolater. Not only the covetous, but the immoral, are idolaters. For the apostle, who here makes covetousness to be idolatry, considers voluptuous people to be idolaters also, where he speaks of some who make their belly their God (Phil. 3:19). Indeed, every reigning lust is an idol—and every person in whom it reigns is an idolater. “The lust of the flesh, the lust of the eye, and the pride of life.” Pleasures, and riches, and honors are the carnal man’s trinity. These are the three great idols of worldly men, to which they prostrate their souls! And giving that to them which is due only to God, they hereby become guilty of idolatry. That this may be more evident—that covetousness, immorality, and other lusts are idolatry—let us consider what it is and the several kinds of it.

Idolatry is to give that honor and worship to ‘the creature’, which is due to the Creator alone. When this worship is communicated to other things, whatever they are, we thereby make them idols, and commit idolatry. Now this worship due to God alone, is not only given by the savage heathen to their stick and stones—and by papists to angels, saints and images—but also by carnal men to their lusts.

There is a twofold worship due only to God–

1. External, which consists in acts and gestures of the body. When a man bows to or prostrates himself before a thing, this is the worship of the body. And when these gestures of bowing, prostration are used, not out of a civil, but a religious respect, with an intention to testify divine honor, then it is worship due only to God.

2. Internal, which consists in the acts of the soul and actions answerable thereto. When the mind is most taken up with an object and the heart and affections most set upon it, this is ‘soul worship’—and this is due only to God. For He being the chief good and the chief end of intelligent creatures, it is His due, proper to Him alone, to be most minded and most loved. It is the honor due only to the Lord to have the first, the highest place, both in our minds and hearts and endeavors.

Now according to this distinction of worship, there are two sorts of idolatry–

1. Open, outward idolatry, when men, out of a religious respect, bow to, or prostrate themselves before anything besides the true God. This is the idolatry of the heathen, and in part, the idolatry of papists.

2. Secret and soul idolatry, when the mind is set on anything more than God; when anything is more valued than God, more desired than God, more sought than God, more loved than God. Then is that soul worship, which is due only to God.

Hence, “secret idolaters” shall have no inheritance in the kingdom of God. Soul idolatry will exclude men out of heaven as well as open idolatry. He who serves his lusts is as incapable of entering heaven, as he who worships idols of wood or stone!

Before we come to confirm and apply this truth, it will be requisite to make a more clear discovery of this secret idolatry. In order thereunto, observe, there are thirteen acts of soul worship–

1. ESTEEM. That which we most highly value, we make our God. For esteem is an act of soul worship. Worship is the mind’s esteem of a thing as most excellent. Now the Lord demands the highest esteem, as an act of honor and worship due only to Himself. Therefore, to have an high esteem of other things, when we have low thoughts of God, is idolatry. To have an high opinion—of ourselves—of our abilities and accomplishments—of our relations and enjoyments—of our riches and honors—or those that are rich and honorable—or anything of like nature, when we have low opinions of God, is to advance these things into the place of God—to make them idols and give them that honor and worship which is due only to the divine Majesty. What we most esteem—we make our god. If you hold other things in higher esteem than the true God, you are idolaters (Job 21:14).

2. MINDFULNESS. That which we are most mindful of—we make our God. For to be most remembered, to be most minded, is an act of worship which is proper to God, and which He requires as due to Himself alone (Ecc. 12:1). Other things may be minded; but if they be more minded than God, it is idolatry—the worship of God is given to the creature. When you mind yourselves, mind your estates and worldly interests, mind your profits or pleasures more than God—you set these up as idols in the place of God.

When that time, which should be taken up with thoughts of God, is spent in thoughts of other things—when God is not in all your thoughts—or if He sometimes is there, yet if other things take a higher place in your thoughts—if when you are called to think of God—as sometimes every day we should do with all seriousness—if ordinarily and willingly you make these thoughts of God give place to other things, it is idolatry.

If either you do not think of God or think otherwise of Him than He is—think Him all mercy, disregarding His justice—think Him all pity and compassion, disregarding His purity and holiness—think of His faithfulness in performing promises, not at all regarding His truth in execution of threatenings—think Him all love, not regarding His sovereignty—this is to set up an idol instead of God. Thinking otherwise of God than He has revealed Himself—or minding other things as much or more than God—is idolatry.

3. INTENTION. That which we most aim at, we make our God. For to be most intended is an act of worship due only to the true God. For He being the chief good—He must be the chief end. Now the chief end must be our chief aim—it must be intended and aimed at for itself; and all other things must be aimed at for its sake in a subserviency to it.

Now, when we make other things our chief aim or main design, we set them up in the stead of God and make them idols. When our chief design is to be rich, or great, or safe, or famous, or powerful—when our great aim is our own ease, or pleasure, or credit, or profit and advantage—when we aim at, or intend anything more, or anything as much, as the glorifying and enjoying of God—this is soul idolatry.

4. RESOLUTION. What we are most resolved for, we worship as God. Resolvedness for God, above all things, is an act of worship which He demands as due to Himself alone. To communicate it to other things is to give the worship of God unto them, and so to make them gods. When we are fully resolved for other things—for our lusts, pleasures, outward advantages—and but faintly resolved for God, His ways, honor, service—this is soul idolatry.

When we resolve presently for other things, but refer our resolves for God to the future—”Let me get enough of the world, of my pleasure, of my lusts, now—I will think of God hereafter, in old age, in sickness, on a deathbed”—these are idolatrous resolutions. God is thrust down—the creatures and your lusts advanced into the place of God—and that honor which is due only to Him, you give unto idols.

5. LOVE. That which we most love—we worship as our God. For love is an act of soul-worship. To love and to adore are sometimes both one. That which one loves—he worships. This is undoubtedly true, if we intend hereby that love which is superlative and transcendent—for to be loved above all things is an act of honor and worship, which the Lord demands as His due in peculiar (Deut. 6:5). In this the Lord Christ summed up all that worship which is required of man (Mat. 22:37). Other things may be loved—but He will be loved above all other things. He is to be loved transcendently, absolutely, and for Himself. All other things are to be loved in Him and for Him. He looks upon us as not worshiping Him at all, not taking Him for a God, when we love other things more or as much as Himself (1 John 2:15). Love to the creature, whenever it is inordinate, it is an idolatrous affection.

6. TRUST. That which we most trust we make our God. For confidence and dependence is an act of worship, which the Lord calls for as due only to Himself. And what act of worship is there which the Lord more requires than this soul-dependence upon Him alone? “Trust in the Lord with all your heart” (Prov. 3:5). He will allow no place for confidence in anything else. Therefore, it is idolatry to trust in ourselves—to rely upon our own wisdom, judgments, abilities, accomplishments. The Lord forbids it (Prov. 3:5).

To trust in wealth or riches—Job disclaims this and reckons it among those idolatrous acts that were punishable by the judge (Job 31:24). And our apostle, who calls covetousness idolatry, dissuades from this ‘confidence in riches’ as inconsistent with confidence in God (1 Tim. 6:17). To trust in friends though many and mighty—He fixes a curse upon this as being a departing from—a renouncing of God—an advancing of that we trust into the room of God (Psalm 136:3). Psalm 118:8, 9—”It is better to trust in the Lord than to put confidence in man. It is better to trust in the Lord than to put confidence in princes.” The idolatry of this confidence is expressed, in that the true God is laid aside. Trust in the creature is always idolatrous.

7. FEAR. That which we most fear, we worship as our God. For fear is an act of worship. He who fears, worships that which is feared—which is unquestionable when his fear is transcendent. The whole worship of God is frequently in Scripture expressed by this one word “fear” (Mat. 4:10; Deu. 6:13); and the Lord demands this worship, this fear, as due to Him alone (Isa 50:12, 19). That is our god which is our fear and dread (Luke 12:4, 5). If you fear others more than Him, you give that worship to them which is due only to God—and this is plain idolatry.

8. HOPE. That which we make our hope we worship as God. For hope is an act of worship—and worship is due only to God. It is His prerogative to be the hope of His people (Jer. 17:13; Rom. 15:13). When we make other things our hope, we give them the honor due only to God. It is a forsaking of the Lord the ‘Fountain’—and setting up of ‘broken cisterns’ into His place (Jer 2:13), hereby worshiping them as God. Thus do the papists openly, when they call the virgin mother, the wooden cross, and departed saints, their hope. And thus do others among us, who make their prayers, their sorrow for sin, their works of charity, or any acts of religion or righteousness, their hope—when men expect hereby to satisfy God’s justice, to pacify God’s displeasure, and to procure heaven. Nothing can effect this, but that which is infinite—the righteousness of God. And this we have only in and from Christ. He is therefore called our hope (1 Tim. 1:1); “our hope of glory” (Col 1:27). Those who make their own righteousness the foundation of their hope—they exalt it into the place of Christ and honor it as God.

9. DESIRE. That which we most desire—we worship as our God. For that which is chiefly desired, is the chief good, in the estimation of the one who desires it. And what he counts his chief good, that he makes his god. Desire is an act of worship—and to be most desired is that worship, that honor, which is due only to God. To desire anything more, or as much, as the enjoyment of God—is to idolize it, to prostrate the heart to it, and worship it as God alone should be worshiped. He alone should be that one thing desirable to us above all things. “One thing have I desired of the Lord, that will I seek after—that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the Lord, and to enquire in his temple.” Psalm 27:4

10. DELIGHT. That which we most delight and rejoice in—that we worship as God. For transcendent delight is an act of worship due to God alone. And this affection in its height and elevation is called glorying. That which is our delight above all things, we glory in it—and this is the prerogative which the Lord demands (1 Cor. 1:31; Jer. 9:23, 24). To rejoice more in our wisdom, strength, riches, than in the Lord—is to idolize them. To take more delight in relations, wife, or children, in outward comforts and accommodations, than in God—is to worship them, as we ought only to worship God. To take more pleasure in any way of sin, uncleanness, intemperance, earthly employments—than in the holy ways of God—than in those spiritual and heavenly services wherein we may enjoy God—is idolatry.

11. ZEAL. That for which we are most zealous, we worship as God. For such a zeal is an act of worship due only to God. Therefore, it is idolatrous to be more zealous for our own things—than for the things of God—to be eager in our own cause; and careless in the cause of God—to be more vehement for our own pleasure, interests, advantages; than for the truths, ways, honor of God—to be fervent in following our own business, promoting our designs; but lukewarm and indifferent in the service of God—to count it intolerable for ourselves to be reproached, slandered, reviled; but manifest no indignation when God is dishonored, His name, Sabbaths, worship, profaned; His truths, ways, people, reviled—this is idolatrous.

12. GRATITUDE. That to which we are most grateful, that we worship as God. For gratitude is an act of worship. We worship that for which we are most thankful. We may be thankful to men, we may acknowledge the helpfulness of means and instruments—but if we rest here and rise not higher in our thanks and acknowledgments—if the Lord is not remembered as Him without whom all these are nothing—it is idolatry. For this the Lord threatens those idolaters (Hos. 2:5, 8). Thus when we ascribe—our plenty and riches to our care and industry—our success to our prudence and diligence—our deliverances to friends, means, instruments—without looking higher—or not so much to God as unto these—we idolize them, sacrifice to them, as the prophet expresses it (Hab. 1:16). To ascribe that, which comes from God unto the creatures, is to set them in the place of God and so to worship them.

13. When our care and industry is more for other things, than for God—this is idolatrous. No man can serve two masters. We cannot serve God and mammon—God and our lusts also—because this service of ourselves and of the world, takes up that care, that industry, those endeavors, which the Lord must have of necessity, if we will serve Him as God. And when our time and endeavors are laid out for the world and our lusts, we serve them as the Lord ought to be served—and so make them our gods. When you are more careful and industrious to please men or yourselves, than to please God—when you are more careful to provide for yourselves and posterity, than to be serviceable unto God—when you are more careful as to what you shall eat, drink, or be clothed, than how you may honor and enjoy God—when you are more careful to make provision for the flesh, to fulfill the lusts thereof, than how to fulfill the will of God—when you are more industrious to promote your own interests, than the designs of God—when you are more careful to be rich, or great, or respected among men, than that God may be honored and advanced in the world—when you are more careful how to get the things of the world, than how to employ them for God—when you rise early, go to bed late, eat the bread of carefulness, that your outward estate may prosper, while the cause, and ways, and interests of Christ have few or none of your endeavors—this is to idolize the world, yourselves, your lusts, your relations, while the God of heaven is neglected! And the worship and service due unto Him alone is hereby idolatrously given to other things!

He who makes Christ his chief aim, if at length he finds Him whom his soul loves—this quiets his heart—whatever he lacks, whatever he loses besides. He counts this a full recompense for all his tears, prayers, inquiries, waitings, endeavors.

“Therefore, my dearly beloved, flee from idolatry!” 1 Corinthians 10:14

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Contentment (A.W. Pink)

Contentment

by A. W. Pink


“I have learned in whatsoever state I am therewith to be content” (Philippians 4:11)

Discontent! Was there ever a time when there was so much restlessness in the world as there is today? We very much doubt it. Despite our boasted progress, the vast increase of wealth, the time and money expended daily in pleasure, discontent is everywhere. No class is exempt. Everything is in a state of flux, and almost everybody is dissatisfied. Many even among God’s own people are affected with the evil spirit of this age.

Contentment! Is such a thing realizable, or is it nothing more than a beautiful ideal, a mere dream of the poet? Is it attainable on earth or is it restricted to the inhabitants of heaven? If practicable here and now, may it be retained, or are a few brief moments or hours of contentment the most that we may expect in this life? Such questions as these find answer, an answer at least, in the words of the apostle Paul: “Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content” (Phil. 4:11).

The force of the apostle’s statement will be better appreciated if his condition and circumstances at the time he made it be kept in mind. When the apostle wrote (or most probably dictated) the words, he was not luxuriating in a special suite in the Emperor’s palace, nor was he being entertained in some exceptional Christian household, the members of which were marked by unusual piety. Instead, he was “in bonds” (cf. Phil. 1:13, 14); “a prisoner” (Eph. 4:1), as he says in another Epistle. And yet, notwithstanding, he declared he was content!

Now, there is a vast difference between precept and practice, between the ideal and the realization. But in the case of the apostle Paul contentment was an actual experience, and one that must have been continuous, for he says, “in whatsoever state I am.” How then did Paul enter into this experience, and of what did the experience consist? The reply to the first question is to be found in the word, “I have learned . . . to be content.” The apostle did not say, “I have received the baptism of the Spirit, and therefore contentment is mine.” Nor did he attribute this blessing to his perfect “consecration.” Equally plain is it that it was not the outcome of natural disposition or temperament. It is something he had learned in the school of Christian experience. It should be noted, too, that this statement is found in an Epistle which the apostle wrote near the close of his earthly career!

From what has been pointed out it should be apparent that the contentment which Paul enjoyed was not the result of congenial and comfortable surroundings. And this at once dissipates a vulgar conception. Most people suppose that contentment is impossible unless one can have gratified the desires of the carnal heart. A prison is the last place to which they would go if they were seeking a contented man. This much, then, is clear: contentment comes from within not without; it must be sought from God, not in creature comforts.

But let us endeavor to go a little deeper. What is “contentment”? It is the being satisfied with the sovereign dispensations of God’s providence. It is the opposite of murmuring, which is the spirit of rebellion-the clay saying to the Potter, “Why hast Thou made me thus?” Instead of complaining at his lot, a contented man is thankful that his condition and circumstances are no worse than they are. Instead of greedily desiring something more than the supply of his present need, he rejoices that God still cares for him. Such an one is “content” with such as he has (Heb. 13:5).

One of the fatal hindrances to contentment is covetousness, which is a canker eating into and destroying present satisfaction. It was not, therefore, without good reason, that our Lord gave the solemn commandment to His followers-Take heed, and beware of covetousness” (Luke 12:15). Few things are more insidious. Often it poses under the fair name of thrift, or the wise safeguarding of the future-present economy so as to lay up for a “rainy day.” The Scripture says, covetousness which is idolatry” (Col. 3:5)-the affection of the heart being set upon material things rather than upon God. The language of a covetous heart is that of the horseleach’s daughter, Give! Give! The covetous man is always desirous of more, whether he has little or much. How vastly different the words of the apostle-“And having food and raiment let us be therewith content” (I Tim. 6:8). A much needed word is that of Luke 3:14: “Be content with your wages”!

“Godliness with contentment is great gain” (I Tim. 6:6). Negatively, it delivers from worry and fretfulness, from avarice and selfishness. Positively, it leaves us free to enjoy what God has given us. What a contrast is found in the word which follows-“But they that will be (desire to be) rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and hurtful lusts, which drown men in destruction and perdition. For the love of money is the root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows” (I Tim. 6:9,10). May the Lord in His grace deliver us from the spirit of this world, and make us to be “content with such things as we have.”

Contentment, then, is the product of a heart resting in God. It is the soul’s enjoyment of that peace which passeth all understanding. It is the outcome of my will being brought into subjection to the Divine will. It is the blessed assurance that God doeth all things well, and is, even now, making all things work together for my ultimate good. This experience has to be “learned” by “proving what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God” (Rom. 12:2). Contentment is possible only as we cultivate and maintain that attitude of accepting everything which enters our lives as coming from the Hand of Him who is too wise to err, and too loving to cause one of His children a needless tear.

Let our final word be this: real contentment is only possible by being much in the presence of the Lord Jesus. This comes out clearly in the verses which follow our opening text; “I know both how to be abased, and I know how to abound: everywhere and in all things I am instructed both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and suffer need. I can do all things through Christ which strengthens me” (Phil. 4:12, 13). It is only by cultivating intimacy with that One who was never discontent that we shall be delivered from the sin of complaining. It is only by daily fellowship with Him Who ever delighted in the Father’s will that we shall learn the secret of contentment. May both writer and reader so behold in the mirror of the Word the glory of the Lord that we shall be “changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord” (2 Cor. 3:18).

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COVETOUSNESS – by John Newton

This past year or so, God has really pressed upon me the battle that rages between the world and the Spirit — in my own heart… between the covetousness that comes from the world and the contentment that comes from Christ.  It is a real struggle (especially in our consumption-driven society) to be content with God’s portion.  We often find ourselves discontent, disappointed with God, and desiring something in addition to or other than what He has graciously blessed us with.  How rarely do we admit this is the truth, even to ourselves?  How often do we gloss over our covetous hearts, justify our selfish desires and sinful habits, and ignore our poor stewardship of God’s grace?  This is nothing but wickedness in our own hearts. 

I read this piece from John Newton yesterday and thought it very valuable and well worth the time to read.  I urge you to read it, to ponder it, and to search your own heart before God.  If this sin be in you (and I will suggest that it most certainly is), REPENT!

COVETOUSNESS
(by John Newton)

October 2, 1795
“For of this you can be sure: that no sexually immoral or impure nor covetousness person—such a man is an idolater—has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God.” Ephesians 5:5

What is covetousness?

Covetousness is a besetting sin, from which few people are entirely free.

Covetousness is eminently a deceitful sin! It is decried and condemned in others—by multitudes who live in the habit of it themselves! It is very difficult to fix a conviction of this sin—upon those who are guilty of it!

Whether drunkards or profligates regard the warnings of the preacher or not, when he declares that those who persist in those evil practices, shall not inherit the kingdom of God—they know at least their own characters, and are sensible that they are the people intended.

But if the preacher adds, “nor the covetousness person—such a man is an idolater” —the covetous man usually sits unmoved, and is more ready to apply the threatening to his neighbor—than to himself! If he is willing to entertain the minister sometimes at his table; if he now and then gives a few dollars to some charity—he does not suspect that he is liable to the charge of covetousness!

There are two words in the Greek Testament, which are rendered covetousness in our version. The one literally signifies, “the love of money”; the other, “a desire of more”. The senses are indeed concurrent, for no man would desire more of that which he does not love; and as he who loves silver cannot be satisfied with the silver that he already possesses—he will of course desire more.

Money is generally loved and valued at first, as a means of procuring other things which appear desirable; but many, who begin thus, are brought at length to love money for its own sake. Such people are called misers. We meet with those who, so far from being benevolent to others—are cruel to themselves, and, though abounding in wealth, can hardly afford themselves the necessities of life. But a man may be very covetous, though, not being yet given up to this mental infatuation—he may congratulate himself, and thank God that “he is not a miser!”

I consider covetousness as the most generally prevailing and ensnaring sin, by which professors of the gospel, in our materialistic society, are hindered in their spiritual progress. A disposition deeply rooted in our fallen nature, strengthened by the custom of all around us, the power of habit, and the fascinating charm of wealth—is not easily counteracted.

If we are, indeed, genuine believers in Christ—we are bound by obligation, and required by our Scriptural rule—to set our affections on the things that are above, not on the things on the earth. Christ has called us out of the world, and cautioned us against conformity to its spirit. While we are in the world—it is our duty, privilege, and honor, to manifest that grace—which has delivered us from the love of the world. Christians must indeed eat and drink, and may buy and sell, as other people do. But the principles, motives, and ends of their conduct, are entirely different—they are to adorn the doctrine of God their Savior, and to do all for His glory!

By His wisdom and providence, he places them in different situations, that the power and sufficiency of his grace may appear under a great variety of outward circumstances. He gives them talents, to some more, to others less; but all to be improved for him. Whether they are rich or poor, bond or free, they are so by his appointment—with which, if they cheerfully comply, they shall, in due time, be sensible that he chooses better for them, than they could have chosen for themselves.

The language of faith, when in exercise, will not be, “What is most conducive to my temporal ease and prosperity?” But “What will give me the best opportunity of glorifying him, who has bought me with his blood, and called me out of darkness into his marvelous light? Too much of my time has already been wasted—how shall I improve the little uncertain remainder of my time for his service? I am too short-sighted to judge for myself—but he has thus far determined it. I am where he has placed me; and the calling in which his mercy found me, (if it be a lawful one,) is that in which, for the present, I am to abide, as the best for me. When it ceases to be so, I may depend upon him to appoint me another. But, until then, I desire to be contented with such things as I have, and to be thankful for them. He knows my frame, my feelings, my needs, and my trials; he permits, yes, invites me to cast all my cares upon him. He assures me that he cares for me, and therefore I only wish to do or to suffer according to his will today, and to leave the concerns of tomorrow in his hands. While I live—may I live for him! And when I die—may I go to him! May his grace be sufficient for me—and all shall be well.”

The Christian knows, or should know, that it is not necessary to be rich, or to be admired or envied by the vain unthinking world—and that it is absolutely necessary for him to maintain peace of conscience, communion with God, and a cheerful activity of spirit in his service. And, as his gracious Lord accepts him, not according to what he actually does—but according to what he would do if he could, so that he who can only give a cup of cold water to a prophet, in the name of a prophet, should receive a prophet’s reward; in this respect all his people, however differently situated, are exactly upon a par. Luke. 21:3-4.

But, alas! how many who profess to know and value the gospel are far otherwise minded! The chief mark of their profession is their attendance upon the Sunday service! At other times, and in other respects—they are not easily distinguished from the world. If their houses, furniture, tables, and other belongings, secure them from the suspicion of being misers, the manner in which they seek worldly things, sufficiently proves them to be covetous. If, when they can find leisure to speak of religion, they complain that their frames are low, and that they have but little comfort in the ways of God; this is t
he most favorable token we can find to encourage our hope that, in the midst of all their hurry, there may be a latent sincerity at the bottom. For how can it be otherwise, if they had a spark of spiritual life and grace in their hearts, while they attempt to look two ways at once, and to reconcile the incompatible claims of God and mammon? Their love of money, and the desire of more—are always in exercise. As to these, their frames seldom vary, from the beginning to the end of the year. They rise early, go to bed late, and eat the bread of worry—that they may be able to vie with the world in their possessions, and to lay up snares, and thorns, and encumbrances for their children!

Often, when already possessed of a lawful employment, which affords a competence for a comfortable support, if opportunity offers, they eagerly catch at some other prospect of gain, though they thereby double their anxieties, and encroach still more upon that time (too little before) which they should afford to allot to the concerns of their souls. Such opportunities they call providential openings, and perhaps say they are thankful for them; not considering that such openings of Providence are frequently temptations or tests, which the Lord permits a man to meet with, to prove what is in his heart, and to try him, whether he will hold fast his integrity or not, and whether his affections be indeed set on the things above—or still cleave to the earth.

It is sometimes the pleasure of the Lord, to give a servant of his—what the world calls ‘prosperity’. He places him in a line of life suited to his desire and ability, prepares a plain path before him, and, by a blessing upon his industry and economy, the man, perhaps, from small beginnings, increases in wealth, almost imperceptibly, with little other solicitude on his own part, than a faithful attention to the duties of his calling from day to day. Such a person is a public benefit. The Lord, who gives him riches, teaches him likewise how to use them. He chiefly values the increase of his property and influence, as they enlarge his sphere of Christian usefulness. He is ready and active to promote the cause of God in the world, and to relieve the needs and miseries of his fellow-creatures. He is eyes to the blind, and feet to the lame; the friend of the fatherless and the widow. People of this character are to be found among us; but, compared with the bulk of professors, the world swallows up the most of them!

For those who, as the apostle expresses it, “long to be rich,” who will strain every nerve to load themselves with thick clay, and to be found in the list of those who gain much money—may, and often do, obtain the poor reward they seek. As in the case of Israel, when, not satisfied with bread from heaven, they importunately clamored for meat likewise; God gives them their desire—but sends leanness withal into their souls. They expose themselves to temptations and snares, to foolish passions and pursuits; and thus too many, who promised fair at the first setting out, are drowned in destruction and perdition! For it is written in the Scripture, that “no covetous man, who is an idolater, shall inherit the kingdom of God!” And the Scriptures cannot be broken!

At the best, if they do not finally perish, they are in great danger of erring from the faith, and certainly pierce themselves through with many sorrows—for the love of money is the root of all evil. We may err from the faith, without changing the form of our creed, or imbibing doctrinal errors. Faith is an active, powerful principle; it realizes things unseen, it leads to the throne of grace, it feeds upon the Word of life, it desires and obtains communion with God, and power from the Spirit of grace, by which it purifies the heart, works by love, and overcomes the world. These are the sure effects of faith; and he who does not in some measure experience them in himself, may have an opinion, a notion of the truths of the gospel, and may be right in theory; but he is either an utter stranger to the faith of God’s people—or has greatly erred from it!

“For the love of money is at the root of all kinds of evil. And some people, craving money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many sorrows!” 1 Timothy 6:10. Who can enumerate the many sorrows with which the covetous and worldly-minded professor is pierced! Especially if it is the Lord’s pleasure to be gracious to him, and he purposes to bring him at last out of the snares in which he is entangled. Then, sooner or later, his schemes are broken; losses, crosses, disappointments, and anxieties, wear down his spirit. Improper connections, which he would form, because he would be rich, become thorns in his sides and in his eyes! He trusted in men—and men deceive him! He leaned upon a weak reed—which breaks, and he falls. Thus he finds that the way of transgressors and backsliders is hard! His distresses are aggravated by the voice of conscience, which will speak, and will be heard, “Have you not procured these things to yourself, in that you have forsaken the Lord your God, when he led you along the way?”

Covetousness, or the love of the world, is one great cause of the many trials we meet with in life. The principle of this evil is so strong in us, and so powerfully nourished by almost everything around us, that it is seldom suppressed, but by a course of sharp discipline. Many people have now reason to be thankful for those dispensations of Providence which once seemed most severe. If the Lord had not seasonably defeated their plans of life, withered their gourds, broken their cisterns, and wounded them where they were most keenly sensible—they might, yes, they would have gone on from bad to worse! But losses are gains, and the heaviest trials are mercies—when sanctified to bring us to our right minds, and to guide our feet into the paths of peace!

If therefore, my dear reader, you wish to avoid trouble, and to pass through life as smoothly as possible, take heed and beware of covetousness! If the Lord loves you, he will not lose you; and therefore he will beat you, as it were, in a mortar, if necessary, rather than permit that covetousness to remain in you which his soul abhors, and which, if it were to remain, would exclude you from his kingdom. He has said, and daily experience and observation confirm his aphorism, “A man’s life (the real comforts of it) consists not in the abundance of things which he possesses.” Gold cannot communicate peace of mind, nor compensate for the lack of it. Surely those who are satisfied with a little of this world’s goods, must be more happy than those who are not satisfied with a great deal. Remember likewise, that where much is given, much will be required; and seriously consider, what will it profit a man, if he should gain the whole world, and lose his own soul!

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Covetousness and Contentment, in Contrast and Contradiction

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If one had a double-sided mirror, with one side facing directly at the Light, and the other at the darkness, you might say that the side reflecting Light was Contentment, and the side reflecting darkness was Covetousness. That is precisely how close and yet how far apart the two are. They are in direct contradiction to one another, just as are pride and humility. And is not even pride a portion of the effect of that same reflection of darkness which we call Covetousness… and is not humility just as much an effect of the reflection of Light we have called Contentment. It is the heart that is surrendered to the Light, and no longer besieged with its own infernal desire to be exalted as righteous of its own accord—but rather the heart that is abased and that willingly confesses its own deep wellspring of iniquity and depravity—this is where the Light shines. This is where Contentment lives. But the heart that seeks of its own (and for its own) the unrequited passions rooted in feeding and pleasing itself at the expense of all else, seeking to appease its own voracious need for elevation, exaltation, and erudition—this is the heart of the devil himself; it is the heart of darkness. This is where Covetousness grows and spreads like a cancer.

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Covetousness, Idolatry, and the Heart of the Believer – 2

You have heard much against SIN. Are you hearers—or are you learners? How many sermons have you heard against covetousness, that it is the root, on which pride and idolatry grow? One calls it a metropolitan sin; it is a complex evil, it does twist a great many sins in with it. There is hardly any sin—but covetousness is a main ingredient of it.”
–Thomas Watson, The Art of Divine Contentment

Here are some scriptural examples of covetousness–particularly with regards to material possessions.  I think too often we define the sin of coveting in terms of a desire for material things; this desire to possess material things is often translated as “greed”.  However, it is important to understand that the covetous heart does not always desire material things.  In the posts that shall follow, we will see from scripture that coveting can (and in all actuality, almost always does) transcend material desires.  Though at its most base, it can be seen in this desire to obtain material possessions, this is just the farthest reaching branch of this detestable sin.  The root of coveting at its heart is discontentment with and rebellion against God.

We will begin with the branch, though, that we often call greed, working backwards from just a few examples we have in the Scriptures.

Acts 5: Ananias and Sapphira

1 But a man named Ananias, with his wife Sapphira, sold a piece of property,2 and with his wife’s knowledge he kept back for himself some of the proceeds and brought only a part of it and laid it at the apostles’ feet.3 But Peter said, “Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and to keep back for yourself part of the proceeds of the land?4 While it remained unsold, did it not remain your own? And after it was sold, was it not at your disposal? Why is it that you have contrived this deed in your heart? You have not lied to men but to God.”5 When Ananias heard these words, he fell down and breathed his last. And great fear came upon all who heard of it.6 The young men rose and wrapped him up and carried him out and buried him.

7 After an interval of about three hours his wife came in, not knowing what had happened.8 And Peter said to her, “Tell me whether you sold the land for so much.” And she said, “Yes, for so much.”9 But Peter said to her, “How is it that you have agreed together to test the Spirit of the Lord? Behold, the feet of those who have buried your husband are at the door, and they will carry you out.”10 Immediately she fell down at his feet and breathed her last. When the young men came in they found her dead, and they carried her out and buried her beside her husband.11 And great fear came upon the whole church and upon all who heard of these things.

Ezekiel 33:30-33

30 “As for you, son of man, your people who talk together about you by the walls and at the doors of the houses, say to one another, each to his brother, ‘Come, and hear what the word is that comes from the LORD.’31 And they come to you as people come, and they sit before you as my people, and they hear what you say but they will not do it; for with lustful talk in their mouths they act; their heart is set on their gain.32 And behold, you are to them like one who sings lustful songs with a beautiful voice and plays well on an instrument, for they hear what you say, but they will not do it.33 When this comes—and come it will!—then they will know that a prophet has been among them.”

Joshua 7:10-26: The Sin of Achan

10 The LORD said to Joshua, “Get up! Why have you fallen on your face?11 Israel has sinned; they have transgressed my covenant that I commanded them; they have taken some of the devoted things; they have stolen and lied and put them among their own belongings.12 Therefore the people of Israel cannot stand before their enemies. They turn their backs before their enemies, because they have become devoted for destruction. I will be with you no more, unless you destroy the devoted things from among you.13 Get up! Consecrate the people and say, ‘Consecrate yourselves for tomorrow; for thus says the LORD, God of Israel, “There are devoted things in your midst, O Israel. You cannot stand before your enemies until you take away the devoted things from among you.”14 In the morning therefore you shall be brought near by your tribes. And the tribe that the LORD takes by lot shall come near by clans. And the clan that the LORD takes shall come near by households. And the household that the LORD takes shall come near man by man.15 And he who is taken with the devoted things shall be burned with fire, he and all that he has, because he has transgressed the covenant of the LORD, and because he has done an outrageous thing in Israel.'”

16 So Joshua rose early in the morning and brought Israel near tribe by tribe, and the tribe of Judah was taken.17 And he brought near the clans of Judah, and the clan of the Zerahites was taken. And he brought near the clan of the Zerahites man by man, and Zabdi was taken.18 And he brought near his household man by man, and Achan the son of Carmi, son of Zabdi, son of Zerah, of the tribe of Judah, was taken.19 Then Joshua said to Achan, “My son, give glory to the LORD God of Israel and give praise to him. And tell me now what you have done; do not hide it from me.”20 And Achan answered Joshua, “Truly I have sinned against the LORD God of Israel, and this is what I did:21 when I saw among the spoil a beautiful cloak from Shinar, and 200 shekels of silver, and a bar of gold weighing 50 shekels, then I coveted them and took them. And see, they are hidden in the earth inside my tent, with the silver underneath.”

22 So Joshua sent messengers, and they ran to the tent; and behold, it was hidden in his tent with the silver underneath.23 And they took them out of the tent and brought them to Joshua and to all the people of Israel. And they laid them down before the LORD.24 And Joshua and all Israel with him took Achan the son of Zerah, and the silver and the cloak and the bar of gold, and his sons and daughters and his oxen and donkeys and sheep and his tent and all that he had. And they brought them up to the Valley of Achor.25 And Joshua said, “Why did you bring trouble on us? The LORD brings trouble on you today.” And all Israel stoned him with stones. They burned them with fire and stoned them with stones.26 And they raised over him a great heap of stones that remains to this day. Then the LORD turned from his burning anger. Therefore, to this day the name of that place is called the Valley of Achor.

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