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Happiness confifteth not in Abundance.
[From Doctor South's Fourth Volume.]
LUKE xii. latter Part of ver. 15. : ---Aman's life confifleth not in the abundance
of the things which he poleseth.
HESE words are an answer of our
Saviour, to an argument formed in - the minds of moit men, in the be- · half of covetousness; which grounding itself, upon that universal principle, that all men desire to make their life in this world as happy as they can, proceed to the main conclution by thele two iteps ; to wit, that riches are the direct and proper means to acquire this happiness, and covetoufness the proper way to get and obtain riches,
The ground of which arguments, namely, that every man may design to himself as much happiness in this life, as by all lawful means he can compass, our Saviour allows, and contradicts not in the least; as being indeed the first, and most native result of thofe principles, which every man brings into the world with him. But as for the two confequences drawn from thence ; the first of them, - that riches are the direct and proper means to acquire happiness, our Saviour denies, as abfolutely false; and the second, - that covetousness is the proper way to obtain riches, he doth by no means allow for certainly true, though he doth not set himfelf here directly to difprove it, but only insists upon the falsehood of the former consequence, in order to demonstrate the inability of riches for the attainment of true happiness, and thereby to make good the main point insisted on, that man's life conSyteth, not in the abundance of the things which be pofselseth.
Where by life, I suppose, there can be no need of proving, that our Saviour doth not here mean life barely and strictly so
taken, and no more; which is but a poor thing (God knows); but by life, according to an usual way of expression, he understands the happiness of life, in the very same fenfe wherein St. Paul takes this word in i Thes; ii. 8. Now (fays he) we live, if we stand fast in the Lord: i.e. we live with comfort, and a fatisfactory enjoyment of ourselves.
Now that riches, wealth, and abundance are not, aş men are apt to persuade themselves, such sure unfailing causes of that felicity, which the grand desires of their nature so eagerly press after, will appear from these following considerations.
First, That no man, generally speaking, acquires or takes possession of the riches of this world, but with great toil and labour, and that very frequently even to the utmost fatigue. The first and leading curse, which God pronounced upon mankind in Adam, was, that in the sweat of his face he should eat bread. And if it be a curse for a man to be forced to toil for his bread, i.e. for the most necessary fupport of life; how doth he heighten
and multiply the curse upon himself, who toils for superfluities, and spends his time and strength in hoarding up that, which he has no real 'need of; and which, it is ten to one, but he may never have any occasion for. For fo is all that wealth, which exceeds such a competence, as anfwers the present occasions and wants of nature. And when God comes to account with us, let our own measures be what they will, he will consider no more.
Now certain it is, that the general stated way of gathering riches, must be by labour and travail; by serving other men's needs, and prosecuting their business, and thereby doing our own. For there is a general intercourse of these two; which circulates, and goes about the world, and governs all the affairs of it; one man's la. bour being the stated price of another man's money; that is to say, let my neighbour help me with his art, skill, or strength, and I will help him in proportion with what I possess.
And this is the original cause and reason, why riches come not without toil and labour ; this, I say, is the original cause, even 4
--for, it is certain, the world being once settled, estates come to be transmitted to many by inheritance; and such need nothing else to render them wealthy, but only to be born into the world. Sometimes alfo, riches fall into men's hands by favour or fortune; but this is but seldom, and these make but a small number in comparison of those, who get what they have by dint of labour, and severe travail. And therefore, (as I said at first), this is not the common stated way, which providence allows men to grow rich by.
But now, can any man reconcile temporal happiness to perpetual toil? or can he enjoy any thing truly, who never enjoys his ease? I mean, that lawful ease, which God allows, and nature calls for, upon the vicissitudes of rest and labour. But he who will be vastly rich, must bid adieu to his rest, and resolve to be a slave, and a drudge all his days. And at last, when his time is spent in heaping up, and the heap is grown big, and calls upon the man to enjoy it, his years of enjoyment are past, and he must quit the world, and die like a fool, only to leaye his fon, or his