Review of Mark Valeri’s “The Economic Thought of Jonathan Edwards” – John Boruff

Jonathan Edwards (d. 1758)What a great journal article this was to read! Its available on JSTOR and was featured in the academic journal Church History in March of 1991. It’s an honest summary of the theology of Jonathan Edwards on a number of economic issues. You couldn’t ask for a more evangelical source on a proper Biblical view of business and money. Although it skips over some important subjects: namely, how to work, save, and invest–but evangelicals can make those ideas become more concrete by drawing inferences from Edwards’ observations. The article is based on Edwards’ study of the Bible and his application to his social surroundings in Northampton, Massachusetts. The time period in question: 1730 to 1750. What people don’t know is that this Hellfire and brimstone preacher was also quite a theologian about other subjects: he preached several sermons against financial sins; and it is these unpublished sermons that Valeri analyzes in this article. When it came to economic matters, Edwards preoccupied himself with preaching against financial sins: he didn’t really venture out into more concrete theories of economic growth. His primary concern was the salvation of souls; and by extension, that meant avoiding damnable sins related to money. I am going to highlight what I felt were the 12 most important subjects that Valeri brings up in this article:

1. Being Frugal Isn’t a Virtue If You Are Materialistic. Frugality (or being a penny-pinching, conservative miser with shrewd financial management skills) is not a virtue if you are still consumed with materialism (putting a higher priority on physical things than spiritual things). In fact, Edwards felt that when Christians defended their pursuit of wealth with the virtues of hard work and frugality, that it was just a cover-up for their selfish, materialistic attitudes. These same people had a tendency to exalt themselves over their neighbors through political ambition and strife; and by purchasing luxury items, creating a competition mentality (keeping up with the Joneses). This is destructive to Christian fellowship, said Edwards, because it generates jealousy, and puts people into the categories of winners and losers, instead of leveling out everyone as Christian brothers and sisters.

2. Greed Causes Fighting. Wealth, or at least the ostentatious display of it, causes social division and distraction from the Gospel: “a greedy man stirs up strife” (Prov. 28:25). Greedy people tend to have enemies; their attitudes are anti-friendship and not conducive to the very happiness they hope to attain. Happiness eludes them, because they misplace it in money rather than in the Gospel and in people.

3. Credit Scores and Trustworthy Lenders. Easy credit is a bad thing, because it can lead to being taken advantage of by loan sharks, repo men, or usurers (people who offer high interest loans). By inference, you might say that the modern practice of requiring credit scores for mortgages and car loans are good things, because it helps people to filter out more trustworthy, merciful lenders. Credit scores can also help to prevent spendthrifts from buying unnecessary luxury items with credit cards: they help people to exercise self-control: both moneylenders and borrowers.

4. Honesty Is Better Than Swindling. Honesty is the best policy for any business: whether it applies to research and development, sales, payroll, or customer service. Conversely: lying, cheating, and swindling for profit is a sin.

5. The Deceitfulness of Riches. When Edwards was a highly paid pastor, he held the view that godly rich people have the capacity to use their money and influence properly: but in 1750, when many of these men backslid, and fired him, he took a much more pessimistic view of capital accumulation.

6. Giving to the Poor Is More Important Than Having Private Property. Giving to the poor is a Biblical law; and is more important than private property. Edwards had moments when he preached against having private property as over against the care of the poor, but I will quote that it is a Biblical blessing: “everyone will sit under their own vine and under their own fig tree, and no one will make them afraid” (Micah 4:4). Sounds like private property to me. I think though, to his point, that if people have acres to spare, then they could give some property to care for orphans and widows (James 1:27). This is what George Whitefield did; he built an orphanage in Georgia.

7. Charity Funds and Banks at Church. While Edwards felt it was good to give directly to the poor (Luke 16), he felt that financial aid was most effectively carried out by churches. He argued that churches should have charity funds, or banks, specifically for deacons to withdraw money to give to the poor. But he encountered at least four excuses for why church people did not give to charity funds or directly to the poor: 1. The belief that a worker is entitled to enjoy the fruits of his labor. 2. The old “get a job ya bum” view: its the poor person’s responsibility to take care of himself. 3. Charity begins at home: taking care of my children is more important than giving to a homeless street beggar. 4. They have government aid programs and places like the Salvation Army they can go to. These four excuses were well entrenched in Jonathan Edwards’ church in 1733. Whenever Christians saw a beggar, and decided not to give him any extra money, they usually relied on these excuses. But will any of these excuses stand up to Luke 16? No, they won’t. From my point of view, these types of excuses are only pat answers, and widen the gap that already exists between the rich and the poor. It does not help poor people to learn good economic habits through dialogue, nor does it help the rich to understand the reasons or causes of poverty, through dialogue. When the Gospel and Christian love are absent, all that is left are competition, and the destruction of the weak. The problem of poverty never gets fixed, not even on an individual basis. The information necessary to lift up the poor isn’t given, nor is the compassion necessary to save the rich ever acquired. When all that is thought to give is a little coin, and no loving guidance; all that can remain is a widening chasm that perpetuates economic inequality, and lack of understanding between people who have been forced into the different “social classes” of the rich and the poor.

8. The Pastor’s Salary: A Weakness for Any Preacher. In 1748, Edwards ran into financial problems during a time of inflation. He began to beg his church for a higher salary, which they gave him; but he continued to beg for more. This angered the people in his church: people to whom he had preached against financial sins for years; and now that he was financially desperate, they found cause to criticize his spending habits. Things soured to the point that they fired him in 1750. It makes me think of Frank Viola’s criticism of pastor’s salaries in Pagan Christianity; and makes you think that a pastor is more stable when he is self-employed.

9. Extortion Is a Sin. Inflation is caused by greedy business owners who jack up prices in order to extort their customers. This keeps everyone in distress, especially the poor. In modern times, rising gas prices are an example of this. Edwards, especially in the 1740, when he was personally affected by this, had much to say against these unjust price fluctuations of the “free market.”

10. Fair Market Value: It Should Be Enforced by the Government. Although there is a degree of sense in the idea of “buy low, sell high,” which helps the seller to turn a profit, Edwards believed that without fixed prices, this leads to a kind of pricing lawlessness where anything goes with prices. People were then encouraged, that after they bought something they wanted to sell, they should research the fair market value before they put a price tag on it. Boston newspapers, for example, carried exchange rates (from English pounds, etc), but Edwards had hoped that fixed prices might be made universal, and also monitored by a Christian government. Edwards, at least in the mid 1740s, would not have been what Gary North has called a “free market” capitalist. He was by then a “guided market” capitalist, more akin to the view of William Diehl in Wealth and Poverty: Four Christian Views of Economics. He believed business needed to be held accountable to the government, at least in the area of fixing absolute concrete prices, so that fair and just prices would be regulated by the law. The only loophole to this view, he said, is that it could be sabotaged by godless rich businessmen, who end up bribing government officials, to fix prices according to their preferences. But Edwards’ idea of government involvement in business never even came close to promoting communism. He said, “‘Tis not agreeable to the design of the world that all men should be on a level.” Whether he just preferred more economic equality in pricing, or was just making the observation that New England would never accept a Christian communism, it’s clear he felt that certain highly priced goods, when so priced, made it harder on everyone except for the rich to live comfortably in life. Edwards was all about fair market value; and he believed it should fall to the government to enforce it.

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11. Rationalists and the “Greed Is Good” Idea. According to Valeri’s study, rationalistic Enlightenment philosophers like Bernard Mandeville, in his book The Fable of the Bees (1729), argued that the desire for luxury items motivated people to work hard and stimulate the economy. This idea was later reflected in a godless 1987 movie called Wall Street, where a main character said, “Greed is good.” Edwards saw these people as rebelling against Scripture. They were rationalists, deists, atheists, liberal Christians, and were to blame for the rejection of the former Puritan economic views that existed in 17th century New England; these men, godless false Christians and freethinkers, were anti-evangelical, anti-revival, and anti-Jonathan Edwards. They were the fathers of modern day capitalism. They were the society that the Founding Fathers largely took part in: Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, etc. Not really God-fearing men: freemasons, freethinkers, deistic, agnostic, rationalistic liberals who rejected the preaching and phenomena of the Great Awakening, and opened the door to a post-Puritan, watered-down Christian, secular Corporate America. “Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof” (2 Timothy 3:5). Rationalism and secularism were the philosophical underpinnings of modern capitalism…not the Bible. Now we call it social Darwinism. Survival of the fittest as it applies to business. That is the reason for the dog-eat-dog business culture that we live in today. Thanks a lot rationalists! Thanks a whole freakin’ lot for ruining our once Puritan settlement! But that’s the way its always been. Revivals come and go; and when they are over with, people go back to business as usual: chasing the dollar bill, keeping up with the Joneses, setting apart the haves and the have-nots, the winners and the losers, competition between companies and employees within companies, political debates, and gratifying the sinful nature but calling it by some harmless name.

12. Oftentimes, Ungodly Companies Are the Majority Rule. After being fired from his pastorate in 1750, Edwards held the view that “God oftentimes gives those men that He hates great outward prosperity.” This so that they may be blinded from the saving truths and experiences that come from the Gospel; and go to Hell to meet their just desserts. But after critiquing the 18th century economic system left and right throughout the article, I didn’t find a glint of economic hope coming from Edwards; and this is where his economic thought, if completely represented by Valeri, falls short. There needs to be an answer given to the Christian man who would ask, “Well, what should I do for a job? For saving? For investing? How can I, while siding with Edwards against economic vices, still find a way to care for my family?” My view of that would be as follows: 90% of the economic system that we have here in America is acquired through ill-gotten gain. Most employment situations at companies, in one way or another, are sinning in their business practices. Whether its deceptive sales tactics, competition between employees, a culture of profanity and sexual harassment, or pride being labeled as “confidence,” and then considered a virtue to imitate. Proverbs 1:17-19: “How useless to spread a net where every bird can see it! These men lie in wait for their own blood; they ambush only themselves! Such are the paths of all who go after ill-gotten gain; it takes away the life of those who get it.” Whether we’re talking about some lowlife joining a gang to steal and rob only to be turned on by his fellow gang members and killed; or we’re talking about a person that works for any old company and finds himself working with a bunch of dirt bags, sooner or later, if they find out that he doesn’t cuss, doesn’t harass women, and fears God, they will gang up on him and end his career in that company.

The Christian’s Pursuit of Well-Gotten Gain.Blessed is the one who does not walk in step with the wicked or stand in the way that sinners take or sit in the company of mockers” (Psalm 1:1). Fitting how the word “company” is used that verse. The devout Christian breadwinner should seek well-gotten gain, where the vices that Scripture warn against will not be thrust upon him every day. Then he will be truly blessed; and not led into temptation. This is a way of escape. So far as I can see, a truly godly Christian capitalism is possible under two conditions: 1. Self-employment (e.g., work-at-home/WAH jobs for customer service or sales on or, telemarketing for products like life, health, or P&C insurance, etc). 2. Working for those 10% of American businesses that consider themselves to be Christian companies (e.g., Walmart, Tyson Foods, Chick-fil-A, Hobby Lobby, Interstate Batteries, Terminix, Timberland, etc). Christian economics is for the persecuted, rejected, and marginalized devout Christian businessman. He can’t fit into the “real world,” because he’s not supposed to. John 15:19: “If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you.” Consider it a sign that you are genuinely saved, and filled with the Holy Spirit, if people in secular companies do not receive you as one of their own!

Self-Employment Is Ideal for the Christian. Self-employment is absolutely necessary for the devout Christian; or at least strongly recommended in my view. To seek employment at most companies on or through temp agencies, is “oftentimes” the domain of godless rationalists and ill-gotten gain that ignite the wrath of God. Ephesians 5:11: “Have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them.” But you can’t reprove them if you are one with them. Hateful attitudes, authoritarian ideas, and bad tempers are all over secular companies. They ruin the economic health of the Christian. Only widespread faith in the Gospel (lordship salvation) can heal the faltering economy. That only comes through evangelists and revivals. These things come and go. In their absence, all that most companies have to offer is an environment of competition, one-upmanship, backbiting, social Darwinism, arrogance, deceptive sales tactics, verbal abuse, insults, cussing, sexual harassment, and a nearly atheistic, godless capitalism that leaves millions of people running to the shrink for antidepressants. It’s not healthy! Since these companies are such cesspools of sin, I with the late Jonathan Edwards, will always remain skeptical of “successful” Christians who hold staid positions and decades of longevity at secular, non-Christian companies. What kind of testimony is that? One that implies crypto-Christianity at the least; and a liberal, antinomian Christianity at the worst. Way too much tolerance of sin!

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On The Danger Of Increasing Riches – John Wesley

Originally from here.

“If riches increase, set not thine heart upon them.” Ps. 62:10.

John Wesley (d. 1791)1. From that express declaration of our Lord, “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of heaven,” we may easily learn, that none can have riches without being greatly endangered by them. But if the danger of barely having them is so great, how much greater is the danger of increasing them! This danger is great even to those who receive what is transmitted to them by their forefathers; but it is abundantly greater to those who acquire them by their skill and industry. Therefore, nothing can be more prudent than this caution: “If riches increase, set not thine heart upon them.”

2. It is true, riches, and the increase of them, are the gift of God. Yet great care is to be taken, that what is intended for a blessing, do not turn into a curse. To prevent which, it is highly expedient to consider seriously,

I. What is meant by riches; and when they may be said to increase.

II. What is implied in setting our hearts upon them; and how we may avoid it.

I. Consider, First, what is here meant by riches. Indeed some may imagine that it is hardly possible to mistake the meaning of this common word. Yet, in truth, there are thousands in this mistake; and many of them quite innocently. A person of note, hearing a sermon preached upon this subject several years since, between surprise and indignation broke out aloud, “Why does he talk about riches here There is no rich man at Whitehaven, but Sir James L____r.” And it is true there was none but he that had forty thousand pounds a year, and some millions in ready money. But a man may be rich that has not a hundred a year, nor even one thousand pounds in cash. Whosoever has food to eat, and raiment to put on, with something over, is rich. Whoever has the necessaries and conveniences of life for himself and his family, and a little to spare for them that have not, is properly a rich man; unless he is a miser, a lover of money, one that hoards up what he can and ought to give to the poor. For it so, he is a poor man still, though he has millions in the bank; yea, he is the poorest of men; for

The beggars but a common lot deplore; The rich poor man’s emphatically poor.

2. But here an exception may be made. A person may have more than necessaries and conveniences for his family, and yet not be rich. For he may be in debt; and his debts may amount to more than he is worth. But if this be the case, he is not a rich man, how much money soever he has in his hands. Yea, a man of business may be afraid that this is the real condition of his affairs, whether it be or no; and then he cannot be so charitable as he would, for fear of being unjust. How many that are engaged in trade, are in this very condition! those especially that trade to a very large amount; for their affairs are frequently so entangled, that it is not possible to determine, with any exactness, how much they are worth, or, indeed, whether they are worth anything or nothing. Should we not make a fair allowance for them

3. And beware of forming a hasty judgment concerning the fortune of others. There may be secrets in the situation of a person, which few but God are acquainted with. Some years since, I told a gentleman, “Sir, I am afraid you are covetous.” He asked me, “What is the reason of your fear” I answered, “A year ago, when I made a collection for the expense of repairing the Foundery, you subscribed five guineas. At the subscription made this year you subscribed only half a guinea.” He made no reply; but after a time asked, “Pray, Sir, answer me a question: Why do you live upon potatoes” (I did so between three and four years.) I replied, “It has much conduced to my health.” He answered, “I believe it has. But did you not do it likewise to save money” I said, “I did; for what I save from my own meat, will feed another that else would have none.” “But, Sir”, said he, “if this be your motive you may save much more. I know a man that goes to the market at the beginning of every week: There he buys a pennyworth of parsnips, which he boils in a large quantity of water. The parsnips serve him for food, and the water for drink, the ensuing week So his meat and drink together cost him only a penny a week.” This he constantly did, though he had then two hundred pounds a year, to pay the debts which he had contracted before he knew God! And this was he, whom I had set down for a covetous man!

4. But there are those who are conscious before God that they are rich. And, doubtless, some among you are of the number. You have more of the goods of this world than is needful either for yourself or your family. Let each consider for himself. Do your riches increase Do not you understand that plain expression Have you not more money, or more of money’s worth, than you had ten or twenty years ago, or at this time last year If you keep any account, you can easily know this. Indeed you ought to know; otherwise, you are not a good steward, even in this respect, of the mammon of unrighteousness. And every man, whether engaged in trade or not, ought to know whether his substance lessens or increases.

5. But many have found out a way never to be rich, though their substance increase ever so much. It is this: As fast as ever money comes in, they lay it out, either in land, or enlarging their business. By this means, each of these, keeping himself bare of money, can still say, “I am not rich;” yea, though he has ten, twenty, a hundred times more substance than he had some years ago. This may be explained by a recent case: A gentleman came to a merchant in London, a few years since, and told him, “Sir, I beg you will give me a guinea for a worthy family that is in great distress.” He replied, “Really, Mr. M., I cannot well afford to give you it just now; but if you will call upon me when I am worth ten thousand pounds, upon such an occasion I will give you ten guineas.” Mr. M., after some time, called upon him again, and said, “Sir, I claim your promise; now you are worth ten thousand pounds.” He replied, “That is very true: But I assure you, I cannot spare one guinea so well as I could then.”

6. It is possible for a man to cheat himself by this ingenious device. And he may cheat other men; for as long “as thou doest good unto thyself, men will speak well of thee.” “A right good man,” says the Londoner, “he is worth a plum” (a hundred thousand pounds). But, alas! he cannot deceive God; and he cannot deceive the devil. Ah, no! The curse of God is upon thee already, and on all that thou hast. And to-morrow, when the devil seizes thy soul, will he not say, “What do all thy riches profit thee” Will they purchase a pillow for thy head, in the lake of fire burning with brimstone Or will they procure thee a cup of “water to cool thy tongue,” while thou art tormented in that flame” O follow the wise direction here given! that God may not say unto thee, “Thou fool!”

7. This shift, therefore, will not avail. It will not be any protection, either against the wrath of God, or the malice and power of the devil. Thou art convicted already of “setting thy heart” upon thy riches, if thou layest all thou hast above the conveniences of life, on adding money to money, house to house, or field to field, without giving at least a tenth of thine income (the Jewish proportion) to the poor. By whatsoever means thy riches increase, whether with or without labor; whether by trade, legacies, or any other way; unless thy charities increase in the same proportion; unless thou give a full tenth of thy substance, of thy fixed and occasional income; thou dost undoubtedly set thy heart upon thy gold, and it will “eat thy flesh as fire!”

8. But O! who can convince a rich man that he sets his heart upon riches For considerably above half a century I have spoken on this head, with all the plainness that was in my power. But with how little effect! I doubt whether I have, in all that time, convinced fifty misers of covetousness. When the lover of money was described ever so clearly, and painted in the strongest colors, who applied it to himself To whom did God, and all that knew him, say, “Thou art the man!” If he speaks to any of you that are present, O do not stop your ears! Rather say, with Zacchaeus, “Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor; and if I have done any wrong to any man, I restore fourfold.” He did not mean that he had done this in time past; but that he determined to do so for the time to come. I charge thee before God, thou lover of money, to “go and do likewise!”

9. I have a message from God unto thee, O rich man! whether thou wilt hear, or whether thou wilt forbear. Riches have increased with thee; at the peril of thy soul, “set not thine heart upon them!” Be thankful to Him that gave thee such a talent, so much power of doing good. Yet dare not to rejoice over them, but with fear and trembling. Cave ne inhaereas, says pious Kempis, ne capiaris et pereas: “Beware thou cleave not unto them, lest thou be entangled and perish.” Do not make them thy end, thy chief delight, thy happiness, thy God! See that thou expect not happiness in money, nor anything that is purchasable thereby; in gratifying either the desire of the flesh, the desire of the eyes, or the pride of life.

10. But let us descend to particulars; and see that each of you deal faithfully with his own soul. If any of you have now twice, thrice, or four times as much substance as when you first saw my face, faithfully examine yourselves, and see if you do not set your hearts, if not directly on money or riches themselves, yet on some of the things that are purchasable thereby; which comes to the same thing. All those the Apostle John includes under that general name, the world; and the desire of them, or to seek happiness in them, under that form, “the love of the world.” This he divides into three branches, “the desire of the flesh, the desire of the eyes, and the pride of life.” Fairly examine yourselves with regard to these. And, First, as to “the desire of the flesh.” I believe this means the seeking of happiness in the things that gratify the senses. To instance in one: Do not you seek your happiness in enlarging the pleasure of tasting. To be more particular: Do you not eat more plentifully, or more delicately, than you did ten or twenty years ago Do not you use more drink, or drink of a more costly kind, than you did then Do you sleep on as hard a bed as you did once, suppose your health will bear it To touch on one point more: do you fast as often, now you are rich, as you did when you was poor Ought you not, in all reason, to do this rather more often than more seldom I am afraid your own heart condemns you. You are not clear in this matter.

11. The Second branch of the love of the world, “the desire of the eyes,” is of a wider extent. We may understand thereby, the seeking our happiness in gratifying the imagination, (which is chiefly done by means of the eyes,) by grand, or new, or beautiful objects; — If they may not all be reduced to one head; since neither grand nor beautiful objects are pleasing when the novelty of them is gone. But are not the veriest trifles pleasing as long as they are new Do not some of you, on the score of novelty, seek no small part of your happiness in that trifle of trifles — dress Do not you bestow more money, or (which is the same) more time or pains, upon it than you did once I doubt this is not done to please God. Then it pleases the devil. If you laid aside your need less ornaments some years since, — ruffles, necklaces, spider-caps, ugly, unbecoming bonnets, costly linen, expensive laces, — have you not, in defiance of religion and reason, taken to them again

12. Perhaps you say you can now afford the expense. This is the quintessence of nonsense. Who gave you this addition to your fortune; or (to speak properly) lent it to you To speak more properly still, who lodged it for a time in your hands as his stewards; informing you at the same time for what purposes he entrusted you with it And can you afford to waste your Lord’s goods, for every part of which you are to give an account; or to expend them in any other way than that which he hath expressly appointed Away with this vile, diabolical cant! Let it never more come out of your lips. This affording to rob God is the very cant of hell. Do not you know that God entrusted you with that money (all above what buys necessaries for your families) to feed the hungry, to clothe the naked, to help the stranger, the widow, the fatherless; and, indeed, as far as it will go, to relieve the wants of all mankind How can you, how dare you, defraud your Lord, by applying it to any other purpose When he entrusted you with a little, did he not entrust you with it that you might lay out all that little in doing good And when he entrusted you with more, did he not entrust you with that additional money that you might do so much the more good, as you had more ability Had you any more right to waste a pound, a shilling, or a penny, than you had before You have, therefore, no more right to gratify the desire of the flesh, or the desire of the eyes, now than when you was a beggar. O no! do not make so poor a return to your beneficent Lord! Rather, the more he entrusts you with, be so much the more careful to employ every mite as he hath appointed.

13. Ye angels of God, ye servants of his, that continually do his pleasure! our common Lord hath entrusted you also with talents far more precious than gold and silver, that you may minister in your various offices to the heirs of salvation. Do not you employ every mite of what you have received, to the end for which it was given you And hath he not directed us to do his will on earth, as it is done by you in heaven Brethren, what are we doing! Let us awake! Let us arise! Let us imitate those flaming ministers! Let us employ our whole soul, body and substance, according to the will of our Lord! Let us render unto God the things that are God’s; even all we are, and all we have!

14. Most of those who when riches increase set their hearts upon them, do it indirectly in some of the preceding instances. But there are others who do this more directly; being, properly, “lovers of money;” who love it for its own sake; not only for the sake of what it procures. But this vice is very rarely found in children or young persons; but only, or chiefly, in the old, — in those that have the least need of money, and the least time to enjoy it. Might not this induce one to think, that in many cases it is a penal evil; that it is a sin-punishing evil; that when a man has, for many years, hid his precious talent in the earth, God delivers him up to Satan, to punish by the inordinate love of it Then it is that he is more and more tormented by that auri sacra fames, “that execrable hunger after gold” which can never be satisfied. No: It is most true, as the very Heathen observes, Crescit amor nummi, quantum ipsa pecunia crescit, — “As money, so the love of money, grows; it increases in the same proportion.” As in a dropsy, the more you drink, the more you thirst; till that unquenchable thirst plunge you into the fire which ever shall be quenched!

15. “But is there no way,” you may ask, “either to prevent or to cure this dire disease” There is one preventative of it, which is also a remedy for it; and I believe there is no other under heaven. It is this. After you have gained (with the cautions above given) all you can, and saved all you can, wanting for nothing; spend not one pound, one shilling, or one penny, to gratify either the desire of the flesh, the desire of the eyes, or the pride of life; or indeed, for any other end than to please and glorify God. Having avoided this rock on the right hand, beware of that on the left. Secondly. Hoard nothing. Lay up no treasure on earth, but give all you can; that is, all you have. I defy all the men upon earth, yea, all the angels in heaven, to find any other way of extracting the poison from riches.

16. Let me add one word more. After having served you between sixty and seventy years; with dim eyes, shaking hands, and tottering feet, I give you one more advice before I sink into the dust. Mark those words of St. Paul: “Those that desire” or endeavor “to be rich,” that moment “fall into temptation.” Yea, a deep gulf of temptation, out of which nothing less than almighty power can deliver them. “They fall into a snare” — the word properly means a steel trap, which instantly crushes the animal, taken therein, to pieces; — “and into divers foolish and hurtful desires, which plunge men into destruction and perdition.” You, above all men, who now prosper in the world, never forget these awful words! How unspeakably slippery is your path! How dangerous every step! The Lord God enable you to see your danger, and make you deeply sensible of it! O may you “awake up after his likeness, and be satisfied with it!”

17. Permit me to come a little closer still. Perhaps I may not trouble you any more on this head. I am pained for you that are “rich in this world.” Do you give all you can You who receive five hundred pounds a year, and spend only two hundred, do you give three hundred back to God If not, you certainly rob God of that three hundred. You that receive two hundred, and spend but one, do you give God the other hundred If not, you rob him of just so much. “Nay, may I not do what I will with my own” Here lies the ground of your mistake. It is not your own. It cannot be, unless you are Lord of heaven and earth. “However, I must provide for my children.” Certainly. But how By making them rich Then you will probably make them Heathens, as some of you have done already. “What shall I do, then” Lord, speak to their hearts! else the Preacher speaks in vain. Leave them enough to live on, not in idleness and luxury, but by honest industry. And if you have not children, upon what scriptural or rational principle can you leave a groat behind you more than will bury you I pray consider, what are you the better for what you leave behind you What does it signify, whether you leave behind you ten thousand pounds, or ten thousand shoes and boots O leave nothing behind you! Send all you have before you into a better world! Lend it, lend it all unto the Lord, and it shall be paid you again! Is there any danger that his truth should fail It is fixed as the pillars of heaven. Haste, haste, my brethren, haste! lest you be called away before you settled what you have on this security! When this is done, you may boldly say, “Now I have nothing to do but to die! Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit! Come, Lord Jesus! Come quickly!”

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On Riches – John Wesley

Originally from here.

“It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God.” Matthew 19:24.

John Wesley (d. 1791)

1. In the preceding verses we have an account of a young man who came running to our Lord, and kneeling down, not in hypocrisy, but in deep earnestness of soul, and said unto him, “Good Master, what good thing shall I do, that I may have eternal life” “All the commandments,” saith he, “I have kept from my youth: What lack I yet” Probably he had kept them in the literal sense; yet he still loved the world. And He who knew what was in man knew that, in this particular case, (for this is by no means a general rule,) he could not be healed of that desperate disease, but by a desperate remedy. Therefore he answered, “Go and sell all that thou hast, and give it to the poor; and come and follow me. But when he heard this, he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions. So all the fair blossoms withered away! For he would not lay up treasure in heaven at so high a price! Jesus, observing this, “looked round about, and said unto his disciples,” (Mark 10:23, &c.,) “How hardly shall they that have riches enter into the kingdom of God! It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God! And they were astonished out of measure, and said among themselves, Who then can be saved”–if it be so difficult for rich men to be saved, who have so many and so great advantages, who are frees from the cares of this world, and a thousand difficulties to which the poor are continually exposed

2. It has indeed been supposed, he partly retracts what he had said concerning the difficulty of rich men’s being saved, by what is added in the tenth chapter of St. Mark. For after he had said, (verse 23,) “How hardly shall they that have riches enter into the kingdom of God!” when “the disciples were astonished at his words, Jesus answered again,” and said unto them, “How hard is it for them that trust in riches to enter into the kingdom of God!” (Verse 24.) But observe, (1.) Our Lord did not mean hereby to retract what he had said before. So far from it, that he immediately confirms it by that awful declaration, “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God.” Observe, (2.) Both one of these sentences and the other assert the very same thing. For it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for those that have riches not to trust in them.

3. Perceiving their astonishment at this hard saying, “Jesus, looking upon them,” (undoubtedly with an air of inexpressible tenderness, to prevent their thinking the case of the rich desperate,) “saith, With men it is impossible, but not with God: For with God all things are possible.”

4. I apprehend, by a rich man here is meant, not only a man that has immense treasures, one that has heaped up gold as dust, and silver as the sand of the sea; but anyone that possesses more than the necessaries and conveniences of life. One that has food and raiment sufficient for himself and his family, and something over, is rich. By the kingdom of God, or of heaven, (exactly equivalent terms,) I believe is meant, not the kingdom of glory, (although that will, without question, follow,) but the kingdom of heaven, that is, true religion, upon earth. The meaning then of our Lord’s assertion is this,–that it is absolutely impossible, unless by that power to which all things are possible, that a rich man should be a Christian; to have the mind that was in Christ, and to walk as Christ walked: Such are the hindrances to holiness, as well as the temptations to sin, which surround him on every side.

I. First. Such are the hindrances to holiness which surround him on every side. To enumerate all these would require a large volume: I would only touch upon a few of them.

1. The root of all religion is faith, without which it is impossible to please God. Now, whether you take this in its general acceptation, for an “evidence of things not seen,” of the invisible and the eternal world, of God and the things of God, how natural a tendency have riches to darken this evidence, to prevent your attention to God and the things of God, and to things invisible and eternal! And if you take it in another sense, for a confidence; what a tendency have riches to destroy this; to make you trust, either for happiness or defense, in them, not “in the living God!” Or if you take faith, in the proper Christian sense, as a divine confidence in a pardoning God; what a deadly, what an almost insuperable, hindrance to this faith are riches! What! Can a wealthy, and consequently an honorable, man come to God as having nothing to pay Can he lay all his greatness by, and come as a sinner, a mere sinner, the vilest of sinners; as on a level with those that feed the dogs of his flock; with that “beggar who lies at his gate full of sores” Impossible; unless by the same power that made the heavens and the earth. Yet without doing this, he cannot, in any sense, “enter into the kingdom of God.”

2. What a hindrance are riches to the very first fruit of faith,–namely, the love of God! “If any man love the world,” says the Apostle, “the love of the Father is not in him.” But how is it possible for a man not to love the world who is surrounded with all its allurements How can it be that he should then hear the still small voice which says, “My son, give me thy heart” What power, less than almighty, can send the rich man an answer to that prayer,–

Keep me dead to all below, Only Christ resolved to know; Firm, and disengaged, and free, Seeking all my bliss in Thee!

3. Riches are equally a hindrance to the loving our neighbor as ourselves; that is, to the loving all mankind as Christ loved us. A rich man may indeed love them that are of his own party, or his own opinion. He may love them that love him: “Do not even Heathens,” baptized or unbaptized, “the same” But he cannot have pure, disinterested good-will to every child of man. This can only spring from the love of God, which his great possessions expelled from his soul.

4. From the love of God, and from no other fountain, true humility likewise flows. Therefore, so far as they hinder the love of God, riches must hinder humility likewise. They hinder this also in the rich, by cutting them off from that freedom of conversation whereby they might be made sensible of their defects, and come to a true knowledge of themselves. But how seldom do they meet with a faithful friend; with one that can and will deal plainly with them! And without this we are likely to grow grey in our faults; yea, to die “with all our imperfections on our head.”

5. Neither can meekness subsist without humility; for “of pride” naturally “cometh contention.” Our Lord accordingly directs us to learn of Him at the same time “to be meek and lowly in heart” Riches therefore are as great a hindrance to meekness as they are to humility. In preventing lowliness of mind, they of consequence prevent meekness; which increases in the same proportion as we sink in our own esteem; and, on the contrary, necessarily decreases as we think more highly of ourselves.

6. There is another Christian temper which is nearly allied to meekness and humility; but it has hardly a name. St. Paul terms it epieikeia. Perhaps, till we find a better name, we may call it yieldingness; a readiness to submit to others, to give up our own will. This seems to be the quality which St. James ascribes to “the wisdom from above,” when he styles it ,– which we render, easy to be entreated; easy to be convinced of what is true; easy to be persuaded. But how rarely is this amiable temper to be found in a wealthy man! I do not know that I have found such a prodigy ten times in above threescore and ten years!

7. And how uncommon a thing is it to find patience in those that have large possessions! unless when there is a counterbalance of long and severe affliction, with which God is frequently pleased to visit those he loves, as an antidote to their riches. This is not uncommon: He often sends pain, and sickness, and great crosses, to them that have great possessions. By these means, “patience has its perfect work,” till they are “perfect and entire, lacking nothing,”

II. Such are some of the hindrances to holiness which surround the rich on every side. We may now observe, on the other side, what a temptation riches are to all unholy tempers.

1. And, First, how great is the temptation to Atheism which naturally flows from riches; even to an entire forgetfulness of God, as if there was no such Being in the universe. This is at present usually termed dissipation,–a pretty name, affixed by the great vulgar to an utter disregard for God, and indeed for the whole invisible world. And how is the rich man surrounded with all manner of temptations to continual dissipation! Yes, how is the art of dissipation studied among the rich and great! As Prior keenly says,–

Cards are dealt, and dice are brought, Happy effects of human wit,  That Alma may herself forget.

Say rather, that mortals may their God forget; that they may keep Him utterly out of their thoughts, who, though he sits on the circle of the heavens, yet is “about their bed, and about their path, and spies out all their ways.” Call this wit, if you please; but is it wisdom O no! It is far, very far from it. Thou fool! Dost thou imagine, because thou dost not see God, that God doth not see thee Laugh on; play on; sing on; dance on: But “for all these things God will bring thee to judgment!”

2. From Atheism there is an easy transition to idolatry; from the worship of no God to the worship of false gods: And, in fact, he that does not love God (which is his proper, and his only proper worship) will surely love some of the works of his hands; will love the creature, if not the Creator. But to how many species of idolatry is every rich man exposed! What continual and almost insuperable temptations is he under to “love the world!” and that in all its branches,–“the desire of the flesh, the desire of the eyes, and the pride of life.” What innumerable temptations will he find to gratify the “desire of the flesh!” Understand this right. It does not refer to one only, but all the outward senses. It is equal idolatry to seek our happiness in gratifying any or all of these. But there is the greatest danger lest men should seek it in gratifying their taste; in a moderate sensuality; in a regular kind of Epicurism; not in gluttony or drunkenness: Far be that from them! They do not disorder the body; they only keep the soul dead,–dead to God and all true religion.

3. The rich are equally surrounded with temptations from the “desire of the eyes;” that is, the seeking happiness in gratifying the imagination, the pleasures of which the eyes chiefly minister. The objects that give pleasure to the imagination are grand, or beautiful, or new. Indeed, all rich men have not a taste for grand objects; but they have for new and beautiful things, especially for new; the desire of novelty being as natural to men as the desire of meat and drink. Now, how numerous are the temptations to this kind of idolatry, which naturally springs from riches! How strongly and continually are they solicited to seek happiness (if not in grand, yet) in beautiful houses, in elegant furniture, in curious pictures, in delightful gardens! perhaps in that trifle of all trifles,–rich or gay apparel! Yea, in every new thing, little or great, which fashion, the mistress of fools, recommends. How are rich men, of a more elevated turn of mind, tempted to seek happiness, as their various tastes lead, in poetry, history, music, philosophy, or curious arts and sciences! Now, although it is certain all these have their use, and therefore may be innocently pursued, yet the seeking happiness in any of them, instead of God, is manifest idolatry; and therefore, were it only on this account, that riches furnish him with the means of indulging all these desires, it might well be asked, “Is not the life of a rich man, above all others, a temptation upon earth”

4. What temptation, likewise, must every rich man have to seek happiness in “the pride of life!” I do not conceive the Apostle to mean thereby pomp, or state, or equipage; so much as “the honour that cometh of men,” whether it be deserved or not. A rich man is sure to meet with this: It is a snare he cannot escape. The whole city of London uses the words rich and good as equivalent terms. “Yes,” say they, “he is a good man; he is worth a hundred thousand pounds.” And indeed everywhere, “if thou doest well unto thyself,” if thou increasest in goods, “men will speak well of thee.” All the world is agreed,

            A thousand pound supplies The want of twenty thousand qualities.

And who can bear general applause without being puffed up,– without being insensibly induced to think of himself “more highly than he ought to think”

5. How is it possible that a rich man should escape pride, were it only on this account,–that his situation necessarily occasions praise to flow in upon him from every quarter For praise is generally poison to the soul; and the more pleasing, the more fatal; particularly when it is undeserved. So that well might our Poet say,–

Parent of evil, bane of honest deeds, Pernicious flattery! thy destructive seeds, In an ill hour, and by a fatal hand, Sadly diffused o’er virtue’s gleby land, With rising pride amid the corn appear, And check the hope and promise of the year!

And not only praise, whether deserved or undeserved, but every thing about him tends to inspire and increase pride. His noble house, his elegant furniture, his well-chosen pictures, his fine horses, his equipage, his very dress, yea, even “the embroidery plastered on his tail,”–all these will be matter of commendation to some or other of his guests, and so have an almost irresistible tendency to make him think himself a better man than those who have not these advantages.

6. How naturally, likewise, do riches feed and increase the self-will which is born in every child of man! as not only his domestic servants and immediate dependents are governed implicitly by his will, finding their account therein; but also most of his neighbors and acquaintance study to oblige him in all things: So his will being continually indulged, will of course be continually strengthened; till at length he will be ill able to submit to the will either of God or men.

7. Such a tendency have riches to beget and nourish every temper that is contrary to the love of God. And they have equal tendency to feed every passion and temper that is contrary to the love of our neighbor: Contempt, for instance, particularly of inferiors, than which nothing is more contrary to love:– Resentment of any real or supposed offence; perhaps even revenge, although God claims this as his own peculiar prerogative:–At least anger; for it immediately rises in the mind of a rich man, “What! to use me thus! Nay, but he shall soon know better: I am now able to do myself justice!”

8. Nearly related to anger, if not rather a species of it, are fretfulness and peevishness. But are the rich more assaulted by these than the poor All experience shows that they are. One remarkable instance I was a witness of many years ago:–A gentleman of large fortune, while we were seriously conversing, ordered a servant to throw some coals on the fire: A puff of smoke came out: He threw himself back in his chair, and cried out, “O Mr. Wesley, these are the crosses which I meet with every day!” I could not help asking, “Pray, Sir John, are these the heaviest crosses you meet with” Surely these crosses would not have fretted him so much, if he had had fifty, instead of five thousand, pounds a year!

9. But it would not be strange, if rich men were in general void of all good dispositions, and an easy prey to all evil ones; since so few of them pay any regard to that solemn declaration of our Lord, without observing which we cannot be his disciples: “And he said unto them all,”–the whole multitude, not unto his Apostles only,–“If any man will come after me,”–will be a real Christian,–“let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me.” (Luke 9:23.) O how hard a saying is this to those that are “at ease in the midst of their possessions!” Yet the Scripture cannot be broken. Therefore, unless a man do “deny himself” every pleasure which does not prepare him for taking pleasure in God, “and take up his cross daily,”–obey every command of God, however grievous to flesh and blood,–he cannot be a disciple of Christ; he cannot “enter into the kingdom of God.”

10. Touching this important point, of denying ourselves, and taking up our cross daily, let us appeal to matter of fact; let us appeal to every man’s conscience in the sight of God. How many rich men are there among the Methodists (observe, there was not one, when they were first joined together) who actually do “deny themselves and take up their cross daily” who resolutely abstain from every pleasure, either of sense or imagination, unless they know by experience that it prepares them for taking pleasure in God Who declines no cross, no labor or pain, which lies in the way of his duty Who of you that are now rich, deny yourselves just as you did when you were poor Who as willingly endure labor or pain now, as you did when you were not worth five pounds Come to particulars. Do you fast now as often as you did then Do you rise as early in the morning Do you endure cold or heat, wind or rain, as cheerfully as ever See one reason among many, why so few increase in goods, without decreasing in grace! Because they no longer deny themselves and take up their daily cross. They no longer, alas! endure hardship, as good soldiers of Jesus Christ!

11. “Go to now, ye rich men! Weep and howl for the miseries that are coming upon you;” that must come upon you in a few days, unless prevented by a deep and entire change! “The canker of your gold and silver” will be “a testimony against you,” and will “eat your flesh as fire!” O how pitiable is your condition! And who is able to help you You need more plain dealing than any men in the world, and you meet with less. For how few dare speak as plain to you, as they would do to one of your servants! No man living, that either hopes to gain anything by your favor, or fears to lose anything by your displeasure. O that God would give me acceptable words, and cause them to sink deep into your hearts! Many of you have known me long, well nigh from your infancy: You have frequently helped me, when I stood in need. May I not say, you loved me But now the time of our parting is at hand: My feet are just stumbling upon the dark mountains. I would leave one word with you before I go hence; and you may remember it when I am no more seen.

12. O let your heart be whole with God! Seek your happiness in him and him alone. Beware that you cleave not to the dust! “This earth is not your place.” See that you use this world as not abusing it; use the world, and enjoy God. Sit as loose to all things here below, as if you were a poor beggar. Be a good steward of the manifold gifts of God; that when you are called to give an account of your stewardship, he may say, “Well done, good and faithful servant, enter thou into the joy of thy Lord!”

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The Danger of Riches – John Wesley

Originally from here.

“They that will be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and hurtful desires, which drown men in destruction and perdition.” 1 Tim. 6:9.

John Wesley (d. 1791)

1. How innumerable are the ill consequences which have followed from men’s not knowing, or not considering, this great truth! And how few are there even in the Christian world, that either know or duly consider it! Yea, how small is the number of those, even among real Christians, who understand and lay it to heart! Most of these too pass it very lightly over, scarce remembering there is such a text in the Bible. And many put such a construction upon it, as makes it of no manner of effect. “They that will be rich,” say they, “that is, will be rich at all events, who Will be rich right or wrong; that are resolved to carry their point, to compass this end, whatever means they use to attain it; they ‘fall into temptation,” and into all the evils enumerated by the Apostle.” But truly if this were all the meaning of the text, it might as well have been out of the Bible.

2. This is so far from being the whole meaning of the text, that it is no part of its meaning. The Apostle does not here speak of gaining riches unjustly, but of quite another thing: His words are to be taken in their plain obvious sense, without any restriction or qualification whatsoever. St. Paul does not say, “They that will be rich by evil means, by theft, robbery, oppression, or extortion; they that will be rich by fraud or dishonest art; but simply, “they that will be rich:” These, allowing, supposing the means they use to be ever so innocent, “fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and hurtful desires, which drown men in destruction and perdition.”

3. But who believes that Who receives it as the truth of God Who is deeply convinced of it Who preaches this Great is the company of preachers at this day, regular and irregular; but who of them all openly and explicitly, preaches this strange doctrine It is the keen observation of a great man, “The pulpit is a fearful preacher’s strong-hold.” But who even in his strong-hold, has the courage to declare so unfashionable a truth I do not remember that in threescore years I have heard one sermon preached upon this subject. And what author, within the same term, has declared it from the press at least, in the English tongue I do not know one. I have neither seen nor heard of any such author. I have seen two or three who just touch upon it; but none that treats of it professedly. I have myself frequently touched upon it in preaching, and twice in what I have published to the world: Once in explaining our Lord’s Sermon on the Mount, and once in the discourse on the “Mammon of unrighteousness;” but I have never yet either published or preached any sermon expressly upon the subject. It is high time I should;–that I should at length speak as strongly and explicitly as I can, in order to leave a full and clear testimony behind me, whenever it pleases God to call me hence.

4. O that God would give me to speak right and forcible words; and you to receive them in honest and humble hearts! Let it not be said, “They sit before thee as my people, and they hear thy words; but they will not do them. Thou art unto them as one that hath a pleasant voice, and can play well on an instrument; for they hear thy words, but they do them not!” O that ye may “not be forgetful hearers, but doers of the word,” that ye may be “blessed in your deed!” In this hope I shall endeavor,

I. To explain the Apostle’s words. And,

II. To apply them.

But O! “who is sufficient for these things” Who is able to stem the general torrent to combat all the prejudices, not only of the vulgar, but of the learned and the religious world Yet nothing is too hard for God! Still his grace is sufficient for us. In his name, then, and by his strength I will endeavor.

I. To explain the words of the Apostle.

1. And, First, let us consider, what it is to be rich. What does the Apostle mean by this expression

The preceding verse fixes the meaning of that: “Having food and raiment,” (literally coverings; for the word includes lodging as well as clothes) “let us be therewith content.” “But they that will be rich;” that is, who will have more than these; more than food and coverings. It plainly follows, whatever is more than these is, in the sense of the Apostle, riches; whatever is above the plain necessaries, or at most conveniences, of life. Whoever has sufficient food to eat, and raiment to put on, with a place where to lay his head, and something over, is rich.

2. Let us consider, Secondly, What is implied in that expression, “They that will be rich” And does not this imply, First, they that desire to be rich, to have more than food and coverings; they that seriously and deliberately desire more than food to eat, and raiment to put on, and a place where to lay their head, more than the plain necessaries and conveniences of life All, at least, who allow themselves in this desire, who see no harm in it, desire to be rich.

3. And so do, Secondly, all those that calmly, deliberately, and of set purpose endeavor after more than food and coverings; that aim at and endeavor after, not only so much worldly substance as will procure them the necessaries and conveniences of life, but more than this, whether to lay it up, or lay it out in superfluities. All these undeniably prove their “desire to be rich” by their endeavors after it.

4. Must we not, Thirdly, rank among those that desire to be rich, all that, in fact “lay up treasures on earth” a thing as expressly and clearly forbidden by our Lord as either adultery or murder. It is allowed, (1.) That we are to provide necessaries and conveniences for those of our own household: (2.) That men in business are to lay up as much as is necessary for the carrying on of that business: (3.) That we are to leave our children what will supply them with necessaries and conveniences after we have left the world: and (4.) That we are to provide things honest in the sight of all men, so as to “owe no man anything.” But to lay up any more, when this is done, is what our Lord has flatly forbidden. When it is calmly and deliberately done, it is a clear proof of our desiring to be rich. And thus to lay up money is no more consistent with good conscience, than to throw it into the sea.

5. We must rank among them, Fourthly, all who possess more of this world’s goods than they use according to the will of the Donor: I should rather say, of the Proprietor; for He only lends them to us as Stewards; reserving the property of them to himself. And, indeed, he cannot possibly do otherwise, seeing they are the work of his hands; he is, and must be, the possessor of heaven and earth. This is his unalienable right; a right he cannot divest himself of. And together with that portion of his goods which he hath lodged in our hands he has delivered to us a writing, specifying the purposes for which he has entrusted us with them. If therefore we keep more of them in our hands than is necessary for the preceding purposes, we certainly fall under the charge of “desiring to be rich.” Over and above, we are guilty of burying our Lord’s talent in the earth, and on that account are liable to be pronounced wicked, because unprofitable, servants.

6. Under this imputation of “desiring to be rich,” fall, Fifthly, all “lovers of money.” The word properly means, those that delight in money; those that take pleasure in it; those that seek their happiness therein; that brood over their gold and silver, bills or bonds. Such was the man described by the fine Roman painter, who broke out into that natural Soliloquy:–

. . . Populus me sibilat, at mihi plaudo Ipse domi simul ac nummos contemplor in arca.

[The following is Francis’s translation of these lines from Horace:

“Let them his on, While, in my own opinion fully blest, I count my money, and enjoy my chest.” — Edit.]

If there are any vices which are not natural to man, I should imagine this is one; as money of itself does not seem to gratify any natural desire or appetite of the human mind; and as, during an observation of sixty years, I do not remember one instance of a man given up to the love of money, till he had neglected to employ this precious talent according to the will of his Master. After this, sin was punished by sin; and this evil spirit was permitted to enter into him.

7. But beside this gross sort of covetousness, the love of money, there is a more refined species of covetousness, mentioned by the great Apostle, pleonexia, — which literally means a desire of having more; more than we have already. And those also come under the denomination of “they that will be rich.” It is true that this desire, under proper restrictions, is innocent; nay, commendable. But when it exceeds the bounds, (and how difficult is it not to exceed them!) then it comes under the present censure.

8. But who is able to receive these hard sayings Who can believe that they are the great truths of God Not many wise not many noble, not many famed for learning; none, indeed, who are not taught of God. And who are they whom God teaches Let our Lord answer: “If any man be willing to do His will, he shall know of the doctrine whether it be of God.” Those who are otherwise minded will be so far from receiving it, that they will not be able to understand it. Two as sensible men as most in England sat down together, some time since, to read over and consider that plain discourse on, “Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth.” After much deep consideration, one of them broke out, “Positively, I cannot understand it. Pray, do you understand it, Mr. L.” Mr. L. honestly replied, “Indeed, not I. I cannot conceive what Mr. W. means. I can make nothing at all of it.” So utterly blind is our natural understanding touching the truth of God!

9. Having explained the former part of the text, “They that will be rich,” and pointed out in the clearest manner I could, the persons spoken of; I will now endeavor, God being my helper, to explain what is spoken of them: “They fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and hurtful desires, which drown men in destruction and perdition.”

“They fall into temptation.” This seems to mean much more than simply, “they are tempted.” They enter into the temptation: They fall plump down into it. The waves of it compass them about, and cover them all over. Of those who thus enter into temptation, very few escape out of it. And the few that do are sorely scorched by it, though not utterly consumed. If they escape at all, it is with the skin of their teeth, and with deep wounds that are not easily healed.

10. They fall, Secondly, “into a snare,” the snare of the devil, which he hath purposely set in their way. I believe the Greek word properly means a gin, a steel trap, which shows no appearance of danger. But as soon as any creature touches the spring it suddenly closes; and either crushes its bones in pieces, or consigns it to inevitable ruin.

11. They fall, Thirdly, “into many foolish and hurtful desires;” anohtous, — silly, senseless, fantastic; as contrary to reason, to sound understanding, as they are to religion; Hurtful, both to body and soul, tending to weaken, yea, destroy every gracious and heavenly temper: Destructive of that faith which is of the operation of God; of that hope which is full of immortality; of love to God and to our neighbor, and of every good word and work.

12. But what desires are these This is a most important question, and deserves the deepest consideration.

In general they may all be summed up in one, the desiring happiness out of God. This includes, directly, or remotely, every foolish and hurtful desire. St. Paul expresses it by “loving the creature more than the Creator;” and by being “lovers of pleasure more than lovers of God.” In particular they are (to use the exact and beautiful enumeration of St. John,) “the desire of the flesh, the desire of the eyes, and the pride of life;” all of which the desire of riches naturally tends both to beget and to increase.

13. “The desire of the flesh” is generally understood in far too narrow a meaning. It does not, as is commonly supposed, refer to one of the senses only, but takes in all the pleasures of sense, the gratification of any of the outward senses. It has reference to the taste in particular. How many thousands do we find at this day, in whom the ruling principle is, the desire to enlarge the pleasure of tasting! Perhaps they do not gratify this desire in a gross manner, so as to incur the imputation of intemperance; much less so as to violate health or impair their understanding by gluttony or drunkenness. But they live in a genteel, regular sensuality; in an elegant Epicurism, which does not hurt the body, but only destroys the soul, keeping it at a distance from all true religion.

14. Experience shows that the imagination is gratified chiefly by means of the eye: Therefore, “the desire of the eyes,” in its natural sense, is the desiring and seeking happiness in gratifying the imagination. Now, the imagination is gratified either by grandeur, by beauty, or by novelty: Chiefly by the last; for neither grand nor beautiful objects please any longer than they are new.

15. Seeking happiness in learning, of whatever kind, falls under “the desire of the eyes;” whether it be in history, languages, poetry, or any branch of natural or experimental philosophy: Yea, we must include the several kinds of learning, such as Geometry, Algebra, and Metaphysics. For if our supreme delight be in any of these, we are herein gratifying “the desire of the eyes.”

16. “The pride of life” (whatever else that very uncommon expression h alazoneia tou biou, may mean) seems to imply chiefly, the desire of honor, of the esteem, admiration, and applause of men; as nothing more directly tends both to beget and cherish pride than the honor that comes of men. And as riches attract much admiration, and occasion much applause, they proportionately minister food for pride, and so may also be referred to this head.

17. Desire of ease is another of these foolish and hurtful desires; desire of avoiding every cross, every degree of trouble, danger, difficulty; a desire of slumbering out life, and going to heaven (as the vulgar say) upon a feather-bed. Everyone may observe how riches first beget, and then confirm and increase, this desire, making men more and more soft and delicate; more unwilling, and indeed more unable, to “take up their cross daily;” to “endure hardship as good soldiers of Jesus Christ,” and to “take the kingdom of heaven by violence.”

18. Riches, either desired or possessed, naturally lead to some or other of these foolish and hurtful desires; and by affording the means of gratifying them all, naturally tend to increase them. And there is a near connection between unholy desires, and every other unholy passion and temper. We easily pass from these to pride, anger, bitterness, envy, malice, revenge; to an head-strong, unadvisable, unreprovable spirit: Indeed to every temper that is earthly, sensual, or devilish. All these the desire or possession of riches naturally tends to create, strengthen, and increase.

19. And by so doing, in the same proportion as they prevail, they “pierce men through with many sorrows;” sorrows from remorse, from a guilty conscience; sorrows flowing from all the evil tempers which they inspire or increase; sorrows inseparable from those desires themselves, as every unholy desire is an uneasy desire; and sorrows from the contrariety of those desires to each other, whence it is impossible to gratify them all. And, in the end, “they drown” the body in pain, disease, “destruction,” and the soul in everlasting “perdition.”

II. 1. I am, in the Second place, to apply what has been said. And this is the principal point. For what avails the clearest knowledge, even of the most excellent things, even of the things of God, if it go no farther than speculation, if it be not reduced to practice He that hath ears to hear, let him hear! And what he hears, let him instantly put in practice. O that God would give me the thing which I long for! that, before I go hence and am no more seen, I may see a people wholly devoted to God, crucified to the world, and the world crucified to them; a people truly given up to God, in body, soul, and substance! How cheerfully should I then say, “Now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace!”

2. I ask, then, in the name of God, Who of you “desire to be rich” Which of you (ask your own hearts in the sight of God) seriously and deliberately desire (and perhaps applaud yourselves for so doing, as no small instance of your prudence) to have more than food to eat, and raiment to put on, and a house to cover you Who of you desires to have more than the plain necessaries and conveniences of life Stop! Consider! What are you doing Evil is before you! Will you rush upon the point of a sword By the grace of God, turn and live!

3. By the same authority I ask, Who of you are endeavoring to be rich to procure for yourselves more than the plain necessaries and conveniences of life Lay, each of you, your hand to your heart, and seriously inquire, “Am I of that number Am I laboring, not only for what I want, but for more than I want” May the Spirit of God say to everyone whom it concerns, “Thou art the man!”

4. I ask, “Thirdly, Who of you are in fact “laying up for yourselves treasures upon earth” increasing in goods adding, as fast as you can, house to house, and field to field! As long as thou thus “dost well unto thyself, men will speak good of thee.” They will call thee a wise, a prudent man! a man that minds the main chance. Such is, and always has been, the wisdom of the world. But God saith unto thee, “‘Thou fool!’ art thou not ‘treasuring up to thyself wrath against the day of wrath, and revelation of the righteous judgment of God'”

5. Perhaps you will ask, “But do not you yourself advise, to gain all we can, and to save all we can And is it possible to do this without both desiring and endeavoring to be rich nay, suppose our endeavors are successful, without actually laying up treasures upon earth” I answer, It is possible. You may gain all you can without hurting either your soul or body; you may save all you can, by carefully avoiding every needless expense; and yet never lay up treasures on earth, nor either desire or endeavor so to do.

6. Permit me to speak as freely of myself as I would of another man I gain all I can (namely, by writing) without hurting either my soul or body. I save all I can, not willingly wasting anything, not a sheet of paper, not a cup of water. I do not lay out anything, not a shilling, unless as a sacrifice to God. Yet by giving all I can, I am effectually secured from “laying up treasures upon earth.” Yea, and I am secured from either desiring or endeavoring, it as long as I give all I can. And that I do this, I call all that know me, both friends and foes, to testify.

7. But some may say, “Whether you endeavor it or no, you are undeniably rich. You have more than the necessaries of life.” I have. But the Apostle does not fix the charge, barely on possessing any quantity of goods, but on possessing more than we employ according to the will of the Donor.

Two-and-forty years ago, having a desire to furnish poor people with cheaper, shorter, and plainer books than any I had seen, I wrote many small tracts, generally a penny a-piece; and afterwards several larger. Some of these had such a sale as I never thought of; and, by this means, I unawares became rich. But I never desired or endeavored after it. And now that it is come upon me unawares, I lay up no treasures upon earth: I lay up nothing at all. My desire and endeavor, in this respect is to “wind my bottom round the year.” I cannot help leaving my books behind me whenever God calls me hence; but, in every other respect, my own hands will be my executors.

8. Herein, my brethren, let you that are rich, be even as I am. Do you that possess more than food and raiment ask: “What shall we do Shall we throw into the sea what God hath given us” God forbid that you should! It is an excellent talent: It may be employed much to the glory of God. Your way lies plain before your face; if you have courage, walk in it. Having gained, in a right sense, all you can, and saved all you can; in spite of nature, and custom, and worldly prudence, give all you can. I do not say, “Be a good Jew, giving a tenth of all you possess.” I do not say, “Be a good Pharisee, giving a fifth of all your substance.” I dare not advise you to give half of what you have; no, nor three quarters; but all! Lift up your hearts, and you will see clearly, in what sense this is to be done. If you desire to be a “faithful and a wise steward,” out of that portion of your Lord’s goods which he has for the present lodged in your hands, but with the right of resumption whenever it pleases him, (1.) Provide things needful for yourself; food to eat, raiment to put on; whatever nature moderately requires, for preserving you both in health and strength; (2.) Provide these for your wife, your children, your servants, or any others who pertain to your household. If, when this is done, there be an overplus left, then do good to “them that are of the household of faith.” If there be an overplus still, “as you have opportunity, do good unto all men.” In so doing, you give all you can; nay, in a sound sense, all you have. For all that is laid out in this manner, is really given to God. You render unto God the things that are God’s, not only by what you give to the poor, but also by that which you expend in providing things needful for yourself and your household.

9. O ye Methodists, hear the word of the Lord! I have a message from God to all men; but to you above all. For above forty years I have been a servant to you and to your fathers. And I have not been as a reed shaken with the wind: I have not varied in my testimony. I have testified to you the very same thing from the first day even until now. But “who hath believed our report” I fear, not many rich: I fear there is need to apply to some of you those terrible words of the Apostle: “Go to now, ye rich men! weep and howl for the miseries which shall come upon you. Your gold and silver is cankered, and the rust of them shall witness against you and shall eat your flesh, as it were fire.” Certainly it will, unless ye both save all you can and give all you can. But who of you hath considered this since you first heard the will of the Lord concerning it Who is now determined to consider and practice it By the grace of God begin today!

10. O ye lovers of money, hear the word of the Lord! Suppose ye that money, though multiplied as the sand of the sea, can give happiness Then you are “given up to a strong delusion, to believe a lie;” — a palpable lie, confuted daily by a thousand experiments. Open your eyes! Look all around you! Are the richest men the happiest Have those the largest share of content who have the largest possessions Is not the very reverse true Is it not a common observation, that the richest of men are, in general, the most discontented, the most miserable Had not the far greater part of them more content when they had less money Look into your breasts. If you are increased in goods, are you proportionately increased in happiness You have more substance; but have you more content You know that in seeking happiness from riches, you are only striving to drink out of empty cups. And let them be painted and gilded ever so finely, they are empty still.

11. O ye that desire or endeavor to be rich, hear ye the word of the Lord! Why should ye be stricken any more Will not even experience teach you wisdom Will ye leap into a pit with your eyes open Why should you any more “fall into temptation” It cannot be but temptation, will beset you, as long as you are in the body. But though it should beset you on every side, why will you enter into it There is no necessity for this: it is your own voluntary act and deed. Why should you any more plunge yourselves into a snare, into the trap Satan has laid for you, that is ready to break your bones in pieces to crush your soul to death After fair warning, why should you sink any more into “foolish and hurtful desires” desires as inconsistent with reason as they are with religion itself; desires that have done you more hurt already than all the treasures upon earth can countervail.

12. Have they not hurt you already, have they not wounded you in the tenderest part, by slackening, if not utterly destroying, your “hunger and thirst after righteousness” Have you now the same longing that you had once, for the whole image of God Have you the same vehement desire as you formerly had, of “going on unto perfection” Have they not hurt you by weakening your faith Have you now faith’s “abiding impression, realizing things to come” Do you endure, in all temptations, from pleasure or pain, “seeing Him that is invisible” Have you every day, and every hour, an uninterrupted sense of his presence Have they not hurt you with regard to your hope Have you now a hope full of immortality Are you still big with earnest expectation of all the great and precious promises Do you now “taste the powers of the world to come” Do you “sit in heavenly places with Christ Jesus”

13. Have they not so hurt you, as to stab your religion to the heart Have they not cooled (if not quenched) your love to God This is easily determined. Have you the same delight in God which you once had Can you now say,

I nothing want beneath, above; Happy, happy in thy love!

I fear not. And if your love of God is in any wise decayed, so is also your love of your neighbor. You are then hurt in the very life and spirit of your religion! If you lose love, you lose all.

14. Are not you hurt with regard to your humility If you are increased in goods, it cannot well be otherwise. Many will think you a better, because you are a richer, man; And how can you help thinking so yourself especially considering the commendations which some will give you in simplicity, and many with a design to serve themselves of you.

If you are hurt in your humility it will appear by this token: You are not so easy to be teachable as you were, not so advisable; you are not so easy to be convinced, not so easy to be persuaded; you have a much better opinion of your own judgment and are more attached to your own will. Formerly one might guide you with a thread; now one cannot turn you with a cart-rope. You were glad to be admonished or reproved; but that time is past. And you now account a man your enemy because he tells you the truth. O let each of you calmly consider this, and see if it be not your own picture!

15. Are you not equally hurt with regard to your meekness You had once learned an excellent lesson of him that was meek as well as lowly in heart. When you were reviled, you reviled not again. You did not return railing for railing, but contrariwise, blessing. Your love was not provoked, but enabled you on all occasions to overcome evil with good. Is this your case now I am afraid not. I fear you cannot “bear all things.” Alas, it may rather be said, you can bear nothing; no injury, nor even affront! How quickly are you ruffled! How readily does that occur, “What! to use me so! What insolence is this! How did he dare to do it! I am not now what I was once. Let him know, I am now able to defend myself.” You mean, to revenge yourself. And it is much if you are not willing, as well as able; if you do not take your fellow servant by the throat.

16. And are you not hurt in your patience too Does your love now “endure all things” Do you still “in patience possess your soul,” as when you first believed O what a change is here! You have again learnt to be frequently out of humor. You are often fretful; you feel, nay, and give way to peevishness. You find abundance of things go so cross that you cannot tell how to bear them.

Many years ago I was sitting with a gentleman in London, who feared God greatly, and generally gave away, year by year, nine tenths of his yearly income. A servant came in and threw some coals on the fire. A puff of smoke came out. The baronet threw himself back in his chair and cried out, “O Mr. Wesley, these are the crosses I meet with daily!” Would he not have been less impatient, if he had had fifty, instead of five thousand, pounds a year

17. But to return. Are not you who have been successful in your endeavors to increase in substance, insensibly sunk into softness of mind, if not of body too You no longer rejoice to “endure hardship, as good soldiers of Jesus Christ.” You no longer “rush into the kingdom of heaven, and take it as by storm.” You do not cheerfully and gladly “deny yourselves, and take up your cross daily.” You cannot deny yourself the poor pleasure of a little sleep, or of a soft bed, in order to hear the word that is able to save your souls! Indeed, you “cannot go out so early in the morning: besides it is dark, nay, cold, perhaps rainy too. Cold, darkness, rain, all these together, — I can never think of it.” You did not say so when you were a poor man. You then regarded none of these things. It is the change of circumstances which has occasioned this melancholy change in your body and mind; You are but the shadow of what you were! What have riches done for you

“But it cannot be expected I should do as I have done. For I am now grown old.” Am not I grown old as well as you Am not I in my seventy-eighth year Yet by the grace of God, I do not slack my pace yet. Neither would you, if you were a poor man still.

18. You are so deeply hurt that you have well nigh lost your zeal for works of mercy, as well as of piety. You once pushed on through cold or rain, or whatever cross lay in your way, to see the poor, the sick, the distressed. You went about doing good, and found out those who were not able to find you. You cheerfully crept down into their cellars, and climbed up into their garrets,

To supply all their wants, And spend and be spent in assisting his saints.

You found out every scene of human misery, and assisted according to your power:

Each form of woe your generous pity moved; Your Savior’s face you saw, and, seeing, loved.

Do you now tread in the same steps What hinders Do you fear spoiling your silken coat Or is there another lion in the way Are you afraid of catching vermin And are you not afraid lest the roaring lion should catch you Are you not afraid of Him that hath said, “Inasmuch as ye have not done it unto the least of these, ye have not done it unto me” What will follow “Depart, ye cursed, into everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels!”

19. In time past how mindful were you of that word: “Thou shalt not hate thy brother in thy heart: Thou shalt in any wise reprove thy brother, and not suffer sin upon him!” You did reprove directly or indirectly, all those that sinned in your sight. And happy consequences quickly followed. How good was a word spoken in season! It was often as an arrow from the hand of a giant. Many a heart was pierced. Many of the stout-hearted, who scorned to hear a sermon,

Fell down before his cross subdued, And felt his arrows dipped in blood.

But which of you now has that compassion for the ignorant, and for them that are out of the way They may wander on for you, and plunge into the lake of fire, without let or hindrance. Gold hath steeled your hearts. You have something else to do.

Unhelp’d, unpitied let the wretches fall.

20. Thus have I given you, O ye gainers, lovers, possessors of riches, one more (it may be the last) warning. O that it may not be in vain! May God write it upon all your hearts! Though “it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of heaven,” yet the things impossible with men are possible with God.” Lord, speak! and even the rich men that hear these words shall enter thy kingdom, shall “take the kingdom of heaven by violence,” shall “sell all for the pearl of great price:” shall be “crucified to the world, and count all things dung, that they may win Christ!”

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The Use of Money – John Wesley

Originally from here.

“I say unto you, Make unto yourselves friends of the mammon of unrighteousness; that, when ye fail, they may receive you into the everlasting habitations.” Luke 16:9.

John Wesley (d. 1791)1. Our Lord, having finished the beautiful parable of the Prodigal Son, which he had particularly addressed to those who murmured at his receiving publicans and sinners, adds another relation of a different kind, addressed rather to the children of God. “He said unto his disciples,” not so much to the scribes and Pharisees to whom he had been speaking before, — “There was a certain rich man, who had a steward, and he was accused to him of wasting his goods. And calling him, he said, Give an account of thy stewardship, for thou canst be no longer steward.” (Luke 16:1, 2.) After reciting the method which the bad steward used to provide against the day of necessity, our Savior adds, “His lord commended the unjust steward” namely, in this respect, that he used timely precaution; and subjoins this weighty reflection, “The children of this world are wiser in their generation than the children of light:” (Luke 16:8:) Those who seek no other portion than this world “are wiser” (not absolutely; for they are one and all the veriest fools, the most egregious madmen under heaven; but, “in their generation,” in their own way; they are more consistent with themselves; they are truer to their acknowledged principles; they more steadily pursue their end) “than the children of light;” — than they who see “the light of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.” Then follow the words above recited: “And I,” — the only-begotten Son of God, the Creator, Lord, and Possessor of heaven and earth and all that is therein; the Judge of all, to whom ye are to “give an account of your stewardship,” when ye “can be no longer stewards;” “I say unto you,” — learn in this respect, even of the unjust steward, — “make yourselves friends,” by wise, timely precaution, “of the mammon of unrighteousness.” “Mammon” means riches or money. It is termed “the mammon of unrighteousness,” because of the unrighteous manner wherein it frequently procured, and wherein even that which was honestly procured is generally employed. “Make yourselves friends” of this, by doing all possible good, particularly to the children of God; “that, when ye fail,” — when ye return to dust, when ye have no more place under the sun, — those of them who are gone before “may receive you,” may welcome you, into the “everlasting habitations.”

2. An excellent branch of Christian wisdom is here inculcated by our Lord on all his followers, namely, the right use of money — a subject largely spoken of, after their manner, by men of the world; but not sufficiently considered by those whom God hath chosen out of the world. These, generally, do not consider, as the importance of the subject requires, the use of this excellent talent. Neither do they understand how to employ it to the greatest advantage; the introduction of which into the world is one admirable instance of the wise and gracious providence of God. It has, indeed, been the manner of poets, orators, and philosophers, in almost all ages and nations, to rail at this, as the grand corrupter of the world, the bane of virtue, the pest of human society. Hence nothing so commonly heard, as:

Nocens ferrum, ferroque nocentius aurum: And gold, more mischievous than keenest steel.

Hence the lamentable complaint,

Effodiuntur opes, irritamenta malorum. [Wealth is dug up, incentive to all ill.]

Nay, one celebrated writer gravely exhorts his countrymen, in order to banish all vice at once, to ” throw all their money into the sea:”

  . . . in mare proximum [. . .]  Summi materiem mali!

But is not all this mere empty rant Is there any solid reason therein By no means. For, let the world be as corrupt as it will, is gold or silver to blame “The love of money,” we know, “is the root of all evil;” but not the thing itself. The fault does not lie in the money, but in them that use it. It may be used ill: and what may not But it may likewise be used well: It is full as applicable to the best, as to the worst uses. It is of unspeakable service to all civilized nations, in all the common affairs of life: It is a most compendious instrument of transacting all manner of business, and (if we use it according to Christian wisdom) of doing all manner of good. It is true, were man in a state of innocence, or were all men “filled with the Holy Ghost,” so that, like the infant Church at Jerusalem, “no man counted anything he had his own,” but “distribution was made to everyone as he had need,” the use of it would be superseded; as we cannot conceive there is anything of the kind among the inhabitants of heaven. But, in the present state of mankind, it is an excellent gift of God, answering the noblest ends. In the hands of his children, it is food for the hungry, drink for the thirsty, raiment for the naked: It gives to the traveler and the stranger where to lay his head. By it we may supply the place of an husband to the widow, and of a father to the fatherless. We maybe a defense for the oppressed, a means of health to the sick, of ease to them that are in pain; it may be as eyes to the blind, as feet to the lame; yea, a lifter up from the gates of death!

3. It is therefore of the highest concern that all who fear God know how to employ this valuable talent; that they be instructed how it may answer these glorious ends, and in the highest degree. And, perhaps, all the instructions which are necessary for this may be reduced to three plain rules, by the exact observance whereof we may approve ourselves faithful stewards of “the mammon of unrighteousness.”

I. 1. The first of these is (he that heareth, let him understand!) “Gain all you can.” Here we may speak like the children of the world: We meet them on their own ground. And it is our bounden duty to do this: We ought to gain all we can gain, without buying gold too dear, without paying more for it than it is worth. But this it is certain we ought not to do; we ought not to gain money at the expense of life, nor (which is in effect the same thing) at the expense of our health. Therefore, no gain whatsoever should induce us to enter into, or to continue in, any employ, which is of such a kind, or is attended with so hard or so long labor, as to impair our constitution. Neither should we begin or continue in any business which necessarily deprives us of proper seasons for food and sleep, in such a proportion as our nature requires. Indeed, there is a great difference here. Some employments are absolutely and totally unhealthy; as those which imply the dealing much with arsenic, or other equally hurtful minerals, or the breathing an air tainted with steams of melting lead, which must at length destroy the firmest constitution. Others may not be absolutely unhealthy, but only to persons of a weak constitution. Such are those which require many hours to be spent in writing; especially if a person write sitting, and lean upon his stomach, or remain long in an uneasy posture. But whatever it is which reason or experience shows to be destructive of health or strength, that we may not submit to; seeing “the life is more” valuable “than meat, and the body than raiment.” And if we are already engaged in such an employ, we should exchange it as soon as possible for some which, if it lessen our gain, will, however not lessen our health.

2. We are, Secondly, to gain all we can without hurting our mind any more than our body. For neither may we hurt this. We must preserve, at all events, the spirit of an healthful mind. Therefore we may not engage or continue in any sinful trade, any that is contrary to the law of God, or of our country. Such are all that necessarily imply our robbing or defrauding the king of his lawful customs. For it is at least as sinful to defraud the king of his right, as to rob our fellow subjects. And the king has full as much right, to his customs as we have to our houses and apparel. Other businesses there are, which however innocent in themselves, cannot be followed with innocence now at least, not in England; such, for instance, as will not afford a competent maintenance without cheating or lying, or conformity to some custom which not consistent with a good conscience: These, likewise, are sacredly to be avoided, whatever gain they may be attended with provided we follow the custom of the trade; for to gain money we must not lose our souls. There are yet others which many pursue with perfect innocence, without hurting either their body or mind; And yet perhaps you cannot: Either they may entangle you in that company which would destroy your soul; and by repeated experiments it may appear that you cannot separate the one from the other; or there may be an idiosyncrasy, — a peculiarity in your constitution of soul, (as there is in the bodily constitution of many,) by reason whereof that employment is deadly to you, which another may safely follow. So I am convinced, from many experiments, I could not study, to any degree of perfection, either mathematics, arithmetic, or algebra, without being a Deist, if not an Atheist: And yet others may study them all their lives without sustaining any inconvenience. None therefore can here determine for another; but every man must judge for himself, and abstain from whatever he in particular finds to be hurtful to his soul.

3. We are. Thirdly, to gain all we can without hurting our neighbor. But this we may not, cannot do, if we love our neighbor as ourselves. We cannot, if we love everyone as ourselves, hurt anyone in his substance. We cannot devour the increase of his lands, and perhaps the lands and houses themselves, by gaming, by overgrown bills (whether on account of physic, or law, or anything else,) or by requiring or taking such interest as even the laws of our country forbid. Hereby all pawn-broking is excluded: Seeing, whatever good we might do thereby, all unprejudiced men see with grief to be abundantly overbalanced by the evil. And if it were otherwise, yet we are not allowed to “do evil that good may come.” We cannot, consistent with brotherly love, sell our goods below the market price; we cannot study to ruin our neighbor’s trade, in order to advance our own; much less can we entice away or receive any of his servants or workmen whom he has need of. None can gain by swallowing up his neighbor’s substance, without gaining the damnation of hell!

4. Neither may we gain by hurting our neighbor in his body. Therefore we may not sell anything which tends to impair health. Such is, eminently, all that liquid fire, commonly called drams or spirituous liquors. It is true, these may have a place in medicine; they may be of use in some bodily disorders; although there would rarely be occasion for them were it not for the unskillfulness of the practitioner. Therefore, such as prepare and sell them only for this end may keep their conscience clear. But who are they Who prepare and sell them only for this end Do you know ten such distillers in England Then excuse these. But all who sell them in the common way, to any that will buy, are poisoners general. They murder His Majesty’s subjects by wholesale, neither does their eye pity or spare. They drive them to hell like sheep. And what is their gain Is it not the blood of these men Who then would envy their large estates and sumptuous palaces A curse is in the midst of them: The curse of God cleaves to the stones, the timber, the furniture of them. The curse of God is in their gardens, their walks, their groves; a fire that burns to the nethermost hell! Blood, blood is there: The foundation, the floor, the walls, the roof are stained with blood! And canst thou hope, O thou man of blood, though thou art “clothed in scarlet and fine linen, and farest sumptuously every day;” canst thou hope to deliver down thy fields of blood to the third generation Not so; for there is a God in heaven: Therefore, thy name shall soon be rooted out. Like as those whom thou hast destroyed, body and soul, “thy memorial shall perish with thee!”

5. And are not they partakers of the same guilt, though in a lower degree, whether Surgeons, Apothecaries, or Physicians, who play with the lives or health of men, to enlarge their own gain Who purposely lengthen the pain or disease which they are able to remove speedily who protract the cure of their patient’s body in order to plunder his substance Can any man be clear before God who does not shorten every disorder “as much as he can,” and remove all sickness and pain “as soon as he can” He cannot: For nothing can be more clear than that he does not “love his neighbor as himself;” than that he does not “do unto others as he would they should do unto himself.”

6. This is dear-bought gain. And so is whatever is procured by hurting our neighbor in his soul; by ministering, suppose, either directly or indirectly, to his unchastity, or intemperance, which certainly none can do, who has any fear of God, or any real desire of pleasing Him. It nearly concerns all those to consider this, who have anything to do with taverns, victualling-houses, opera-houses, play-houses, or any other places of public, fashionable diversion. If these profit the souls of men, you are clear; your employment is good, and your gain innocent; but if they are either sinful in themselves, or natural inlets to sin of various kinds, then, it is to be feared, you have a sad account to make. O beware, lest God say in that day, “These have perished in their iniquity, but their blood do I require at thy hands!”

7. These cautions and restrictions being observed, it is the bounden duty of all who are engaged in worldly business to observe that first and great rule of Christian wisdom with respect to money, “Gain all you can.” Gain all you can by honest industry. Use all possible diligence in your calling. Lose no time. If you understand yourself and your relation to God and man, you know you have none to spare. If you understand your particular calling as you ought, you will have no time that hangs upon your hands. Every business will afford some employment sufficient for every day and every hour. That wherein you are placed, if you follow it in earnest, will leave you no leisure for silly, unprofitable diversions. You have always something better to do, something that will profit you, more or less. And “whatsoever thy hand finds to do, do it with thy might.” Do it as soon as possible: No delay! No putting off from day to day, or from hour to hour! Never leave anything till to-morrow, which you can do to-day. And do it as well as possible. Do not sleep or yawn over it: Put your whole strength to the work. Spare no pains. Let nothing be done by halves, or in a slight and careless manner. Let nothing in your business be left undone if it can be done by labor or patience.

8. Gain all you can, by common sense, by using in your business all the understanding which God has given you. It is amazing to observe, how few do this; how men run on in the same dull track with their forefathers. But whatever they do who know not God, this is no rule for you. It is a shame for a Christian not to improve upon them, in whatever he takes in hand. You should be continually learning, from the experience of others, or from your own experience, reading, and reflection, to do everything you have to do better to-day than you did yesterday. And see that you practice whatever you learn, that you may make the best of all that is in your hands.

II. 1. Having gained all you can, by honest wisdom and unwearied diligence, the second rule of Christian prudence is,” Save all you can.” Do not throw the precious talent into the sea: Leave that folly to heathen philosophers. Do not throw it away in idle expenses, which is just the same as throwing it into the sea. Expend no part of it merely to gratify the desire of the flesh, the desire of the eye, or the pride of life.

2. Do not waste any part of so precious a talent merely in gratifying the desires of the flesh; in procuring the pleasures of sense of whatever kind; particularly, in enlarging the pleasure of tasting. I do not mean, avoid gluttony and drunkenness only: An honest heathen would condemn these. But there is a regular, reputable kind of sensuality, an elegant Epicurism, which does not immediately disorder the stomach, nor (sensibly, at least) impair the understanding. And yet (to mention no other effects of it now) it cannot be maintained without considerable expense. Cut off all this expense! Despise delicacy and variety, and be content with what plain nature requires.

3. Do not waste any part of so precious a talent merely in gratifying the desire of the eye by superfluous or expensive apparel, or by needless ornaments. Waste no part of it in curiously adorning your houses; in superfluous or expensive furniture; in costly pictures, painting, gilding, books; in elegant rather than useful gardens. Let your neighbors, who know nothing better, do this: “Let the dead bury their dead.” But “what is that to thee” says our Lord: “Follow thou me.” Are you willing Then you are able so to do.

4. Lay out nothing to gratify the pride of life, to gain the admiration or praise of men. This motive of expense is frequently interwoven with one or both of the former. Men are expensive in diet, or apparel, or furniture, not barely to please their appetite, or to gratify their eye, their imagination, but their vanity too. “So long as thou dost well unto thyself, men will speak good of thee.” So long as thou art “clothed in purple and fine linen, and farest sumptuously” every day,” no doubt many will applaud thy elegance of taste, thy generosity and hospitality. But do not buy their applause so dear. Rather be content with the honor that comes from God.

5. Who would expend anything in gratifying these desires if he considered that to gratify them is to increase them Nothing can be more certain than this: Daily experience shows, the more they are indulged, they increase the more. Whenever, therefore, you expend anything to please your taste or other senses, you pay so much for sensuality. When you lay out money to please your eye, you give so much for an increase of curiosity, — for a stronger attachment to these pleasures which perish in the using. While you are purchasing anything which men use to applaud, you are purchasing more vanity. Had you not then enough of vanity, sensuality, curiosity before Was there need of any addition And would you pay for it, too What manner of wisdom is this Would not the literally throwing your money into the sea be a less mischievous folly

6. And why should you throw away money upon your children, any more than upon yourself, in delicate food, in gay or costly apparel, in superfluities of any kind Why should you purchase for them more pride or lust, more vanity, or foolish and hurtful desires They do not want any more; they have enough already; nature has made ample provision for them: Why should you be at farther expense to increase their temptations and snares, and to pierce them through with more sorrows

7. Do not leave it to them to throw away. If you have good reason to believe that they would waste what is now in your possession in gratifying and thereby increasing the desire of the flesh, the desire of the eye, or the pride of life at the peril of theirs and your own soul, do not set these traps in their way. Do not offer your sons or your daughters unto Belial, any more than unto Moloch. Have pity upon them, and remove out of their way what you may easily foresee would increase their sins, and consequently plunge them deeper into everlasting perdition! How amazing then is the infatuation of those parents who think they can never leave their children enough! What! cannot you leave them enough of arrows, firebrands, and death Not enough of foolish and hurtful desires Not enough of pride, lust, ambition vanity not enough of everlasting burnings Poor wretch! thou fear where no fear is. Surely both thou and they, when ye are lifting up your eyes in hell, will have enough both of the “worm that never dieth,” and of “the fire that never shall be quenched!”

8. “What then would you do, if you was in my case If you had a considerable fortune to leave” Whether I would do it or no, I know what I ought to do: This will admit of no reasonable question. If I had one child, elder or younger, who knew the value of money; one who I believed, would put it to the true use, I should think it my absolute, indispensable duty to leave that child the bulk of my fortune; and to the rest just so much as would enable them to live in the manner they had been accustomed to do. “But what, if all your children were equally ignorant of the true use of money” I ought then (hard saying! who can hear it) to give each what would keep him above want, and to bestow all the rest in such a manner as I judged would be most for the glory of God.

III. 1. But let not any man imagine that he has done anything, barely by going thus far, by “gaining and saving all he can,” if he were to stop here. All this is nothing, if a man go not forward, if he does not point all this at a farther end. Nor, indeed, can a man properly be said to save anything, if he only lays it up. You may as well throw your money into the sea, as bury it in the earth. And you may as well bury it in the earth, as in your chest, or in the Bank of England. Not to use, is effectually to throw it away. If, therefore, you would indeed “make yourselves friends of the mammon of unrighteousness,” add the Third rule to the two preceding. Having, First, gained all you can, and, Secondly saved all you can, Then “give all you can.”

2. In order to see the ground and reason of this, consider, when the Possessor of heaven and earth brought you into being, and placed you in this world, he placed you here not as a proprietor, but a steward: As such he entrusted you, for a season, with goods of various kinds; but the sole property of these still rests in him, nor can be alienated from him. As you yourself are not your own, but his, such is, likewise, all that you enjoy. Such is your soul and your body, not your own, but God’s. And so is your substance in particular. And he has told you, in the most clear and express terms, how you are to employ it for him, in such a manner, that it may be all an holy sacrifice, acceptable through Christ Jesus. And this light, easy service, he has promised to reward with an eternal weight of glory.

3. The directions which God has given us, touching the use of our worldly substance, may be comprised in the following particulars. If you desire to be a faithful and a wise steward, out of that portion of your Lord’s goods which he has for the present lodged in your hands, but with the right of resuming whenever it pleases him, First, provide things needful for yourself; food to eat, raiment to put on, whatever nature moderately requires for preserving the body in health and strength. Secondly, provide these for your wife, your children, your servants, or any others who pertain to your household. If when this is done there be an overplus left, then “do good to them that are of the household of faith.” If there be an overplus still, “as you have opportunity, do good unto all men.” In so doing, you give all you can; nay, in a sound sense, all you have: For all that is laid out in this manner is really given to God. You “render unto God the things that are God’s,” not only by what you give to the poor, but also by that which you expend in providing things needful for yourself and your household.

4. If, then, a doubt should at any time arise in your mind concerning what you are going to expend, either on yourself or any part of your family, you have an easy way to remove it. Calmly and seriously inquire, “(1.) In expending this, am I acting according to my character Am I acting herein, not as a proprietor, but as a steward of my Lord’s goods (2.) Am I doing this in obedience to his Word In what Scripture does he require me so to do (3.) Can I offer up this action, this expense, as a sacrifice to God through Jesus Christ (4.) Have I reason to believe that for this very work I shall have a reward at the resurrection of the just” You will seldom need anything more to remove any doubt which arises on this head; but by this four-fold consideration you will receive clear light as to the way wherein you should go.

5. If any doubt still remain, you may farther examine yourself by prayer according to those heads of inquiry. Try whether you can say to the Searcher of hearts, your conscience not condemning you, “Lord, thou see I am going to expend this sum on that food, apparel, furniture. And thou knowest, I act herein with a single eye as a steward of thy goods, expending this portion of them thus in pursuance of the design thou hadst in entrusting me with them. Thou knowest I do this in obedience to the Lord, as thou commandest, and because thou commandest it. Let this, I beseech thee, be an holy sacrifice, acceptable through Jesus Christ! And give me a witness in myself that for this labour of love I shall have a recompense when thou rewardest every man according to his works.” Now if your conscience bear you witness in the Holy Ghost that this prayer is well-pleasing to God, then have you no reason to doubt but that expense is right and good, and such as will never make you ashamed.

6. You see then what it is to “make yourselves friends of the mammon of unrighteousness,” and by what means you may procure, “that when ye fail they may receive you into the everlasting habitations.” You see the nature and extent of truly Christian prudence so far as it relates to the use of that great talent, money. Gain all you can, without hurting either yourself or your neighbor, in soul or body, by applying hereto with unintermitted diligence, and with all the understanding which God has given you; — save all you can, by cutting off every expense which serves only to indulge foolish desire; to gratify either the desire of flesh, the desire of the eye, or the pride of life; waste nothing, living or dying, on sin or folly, whether for yourself or your children; — and then, give all you can, or, in other words, give all you have to God. Do not stint yourself, like a Jew rather than a Christian, to this or that proportion. “Render unto God,” not a tenth, not a third, not half, but all that is God’s, be it more or less; by employing all on yourself, your household, the household of faith, and all mankind, in such a manner, that you may give a good account of your stewardship when ye can be no longer stewards; in such a manner as the oracles of God direct, both by general and particular precepts; in such a manner, that whatever ye do may be “a sacrifice of a sweet-smelling savor to God,” and that every act may be rewarded in that day when the Lord comes with all his saints.

7. Brethren, can we be either wise or faithful stewards unless we thus manage our Lord’s goods We cannot, as not only the oracles of God, but our own conscience bears witness. Then why should we delay Why should we confer any longer with flesh and blood, or men of the world Our kingdom, our wisdom is not of this world: Heathen custom is nothing to us. We follow no men any farther than they are followers of Christ. Hear ye him. Yea, to-day, while it is called to-day, hear and obey his voice! At this hour, and from this hour, do his will: Fulfil his word, in this and in all things! I entreat you, in the name of the Lord Jesus, act up to the dignity of your calling! No more sloth! Whatsoever your hand findeth to do, do it with your might! No more waste! Cut off every expense which fashion, caprice, or flesh and blood demand! No more covetousness! But employ whatever God has entrusted you with, in doing good, all possible good, in every possible kind and degree to the household of faith, to all men! This is no small part of “the wisdom of the just.” Give all ye have, as well as all ye are, a spiritual sacrifice to Him who withheld not from you his Son, his only Son: So “laying up in store for yourselves a good foundation against the time to come, that ye may attain eternal life!”    

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Directions for the Rich – Richard Baxter

Richard Baxter (d. 1691)

Taken from Richard Baxter’s A Christian Directory, Part II: Christian Economics, XXVIII: “Directions for the Rich.”

I have said so much of this already, part i. about covetousness or worldliness, and about good works, and in my book of “Self-denial,” and that of “Crucifying the World;” that my reason commands me brevity in this place.[114]

Direct. I. Remember that riches are no part of your felicity; or that if you have no better, you are undone men. Dare you say that they are fit to make you happy? Dare you say, that you will take them for your part? and be content to be turned off when they forsake you? They reconcile not God; they save not from his wrath; they heal not a wounded conscience: they may please your flesh, and adorn your funeral, but they neither delay, nor sanctify, nor sweeten death, nor make you either better or happier than the poor. Riches are nothing but plentiful provision for tempting, corruptible flesh. When the flesh is in the dust, it is rich no more. All that abounded in wealth, since Adam’s days till now, are leveled with the lowest in the dust.

Direct. II. Yea, remember that riches are not the smallest temptation and danger to your souls. Do they delight and please you? By that way they may destroy you. If they be but loved above God, and make earth seem better for you than heaven, they have undone you. And if God recover you not, it had been better for you to have been worms or brutes, than such deceived, miserable souls. It is not for nothing, that Christ gives you so many terrible warnings about riches, and so describes the folly, the danger, and the misery of the worldly rich, Luke xii. 17-20; xvi. 19-21, &c; xviii. 21-23, &c.; and tells you how hardly the rich are saved. Fire burns most, when it hath most fuel; and riches are the fuel of worldly love and fleshly lust, 1 John ii. 15, 16; Rom. xiii. 13, 14.

Direct. III. Understand what it is to love and trust in worldly prosperity and wealth. Many here deceive themselves to their destruction. They persuade themselves, that they desire and use their riches but for necessity: but that they do not love them, nor trust in them, because they can say that heaven is better, and wealth will leave us to a grave! But do you not love that ease, that greatness, that domination, that fullness, that satisfaction of your appetite, eye, and fancy, which you cannot have without your wealth? It is fleshly lust, and will, and pleasure, which carnal worldlings love for itself; and then they love their wealth for these. And to trust in riches, is not to trust that they will never leave you; for every fool doth know the contrary. But it is to rest, and quiet, and comfort your minds in them, as that which most pleases you, and makes you well, or to be as you would be. Like him in Luke xii. 18, 19, that said, “Soul, take thy ease, eat, drink, and be merry, thou hast enough laid up for many years.” This is to love and trust in riches.

Direct. IV. Above all the deceits and dangers of this world, take heed of a secret, hypocritical hope of reconciling the world to heaven, so as to make you a felicity of both; and dreaming of a compounded portion, or of serving God and mammon.[115] The true state of the hypocrite’s heart and hope is, to love his worldly prosperity best, and desire to keep it as long as he can, for the enjoyment of his fleshly pleasures; and when he must leave this world against his will, he hopes then to have heaven as his reserve; because he thinks it better than hell, and his tongue can say, It is better than earth, though his will and affections say the contrary. If this be your case, the Lord have mercy upon you, and give you a more believing, spiritual mind, or else you are lost, and you and your treasure will perish together.

Direct. V. Accordingly take heed, lest when you seem to resign yourselves, and all that you have, to God, there should be a secret purpose at the heart, that you will never be undone in the world for Christ, nor for the hopes of a better world. A knowing hypocrite is not ignorant, that the terms of Christ, proposed in the gospel, Luke xiv. 26, 27, 33, are no lower than forsaking all; and that in baptism, and our covenant with Christ, all must be designed and devoted to him, and the cross taken up instead of all, or else we are no Christians, as being not in covenant with Christ. But the hypocrite’s hope is, that though Christ put him upon these promises, he will never put him to the trial for performance, nor ever call him to forsake all indeed: and therefore, if ever he be put to it, he will not perform the promise which he hath made. He is like a patient that promises to be wholly ruled by his physician, as hoping that he will put him upon nothing which he cannot bear. But when the bitter potion or the vomit comes, he saith, I cannot take it, I had hoped you would have given me gentler physic.

Direct. VI. And accordingly take heed lest while you pretend to live to God, and to use all that you have as his stewards for his service, you should deceitfully put him off with the leavings of your lusts, and give him only so much as your flesh can spare. It is not likely that the damned gentleman, Luke xvi. was never used to give any thing to the poor; else what did beggars use his doors for? When Christ promises to reward men for a cup of cold water, the meaning is, when they would give better if they had it. There are few rich men of all that go to hell, that were so void of human compassion, or of the sense of their own reputation, as to give nothing at all to the poor; but God will have all, though not all for the poor, yet all employed as he commands; and will not be put off with your tithes or scraps. His stewards confess that they have nothing of their own.

Direct. VII. Let the use of your riches in prosperity show, that you do not dissemble when you promise to forsake all for Christ in trial, rather than forsake him. You may know whether you are true or false in your covenant with Christ, and what you would do in a day of trial, by what you do in your daily course of life. How can that man leave all at once for Christ, that cannot daily serve him with his riches, nor leave that little which God requires, in the discharge of his duty in pious and charitable works? What is it to leave all for God, but to leave all rather than to sin against God? And will he do that, who daily sins against God by omission of good works, because he cannot leave some part? Study, as faithful stewards, to serve God to the utmost with what you have now, and then you may expect that his grace should enable you to leave all in trial, and not prove withering hypocrites and apostates.

Direct. VIII. Be not rich to yourselves, or to your fleshly wills and lusts;[116] but remember that the rich are bound to be spiritual, and to mortify the flesh, as well as the poor. Let lust fare never the better for all the fullness of your estates. Fast and humble your souls never the less; please an inordinate appetite never the more in meat and drink; live never the more in unprofitable idleness. The rich must labor as constantly as the poor, though not in the same kind of work. The rich must live soberly, temperately, and heavenly, and must as much mortify all fleshly desires, as the poor. You have the same law and Master, and have no more liberty to indulge your lusts; but if you live after the flesh, you shall die as well as any other. Oh the partiality of carnal minds! They can see the fault of a poor man, that goes sometimes to an ale-house, who perhaps drinks water (or that which is next to it) all the week; when they never blame themselves, who scarce miss a meal without wine and strong drink, and eating that which their appetite desires. They think it a crime in a poor man, to spend but one day in many in such idleness, as they themselves spend most of their lives in. Gentlemen think that their riches allow them to live without any profitable labor, and to gratify their flesh, and fare deliciously every day; as if it were their privilege to be sensual, and to be damned, Rom. viii. 1, 5-9, 13.

Direct. IX. Nay, remember that you are called to far greater self-denial, and fear, and watchfulness against sensuality, and wealthy vices, than the poor are. Mortification is as necessary to your salvation, as to theirs, but much more difficult. If you live after the flesh, you shall die as well as they. And how much stronger are your temptations! Is not he easier drawn to gluttony or excess in quality or quantity, who hath daily a table of plenty, and enticing, delicious food before him, than he that never sees such a temptation once in half a year? Is it not harder for him to deny his appetite who hath the baits of pleasant meats and drinks daily set upon his table, than for him that is seldom in sight of them, and perhaps in no possibility of procuring them; and therefore hath nothing to solicit his appetite or thoughts? Doubtless the rich, if ever they will be saved, must watch more constantly, and set a more resolute guard upon the flesh, and live more in fear of sensuality, than the poor, as they live in greater temptations and dangers.

Direct. X. Know therefore particularly what are the temptations of prosperity, that you may make a particular, prosperous resistance. And they are especially these:

1. Pride. The foolish heart of man is apt to swell upon the accession of so poor a matter as wealth; and men think they are got above their neighbors, and more honor and obeisance is their due, if they be but richer.[117]

2. Fullness of bread.[118] If they do not eat till they are sick, they think the constant and costly pleasing of their appetite in meats and drinks, is lawful.

3. Idleness. They think he is not bound to labor, that can live without it, and hath enough.

4. Time-wasting sports and recreations. They think their hours may be devoted to the flesh, when all their lives are devoted to it; they think their wealth allows them to play, and court, and compliment away that precious time, which no men have more need to redeem; they tell God that he hath given them more time than they have need of; and God will shortly cut it off, and tell them that they shall have no more.

5. Lust and wantonness, fullness and idleness, cherish both the cogitations and inclinations unto filthiness; they that live in gluttony and drunkenness, are like to live in chambering and wantonness.[119]

6. Curiosity, and wasting their lives in a multitude of little, ceremonious, unprofitable things, to the exclusion of the great businesses of life.[120] Well may we say, that men’s lusts are their jailers, and their fetters, when we see to what a wretched kind of life a multitude of the rich (especially ladies and gentlewomen) do condemn themselves. I should pity one in jail, that were but tied so to spend their time; when they have poor, ignorant, proud, worldly, peevish, hypocritical, ungodly souls to be healed, and a life of great and weighty business to do for eternity, they have so many little things all day to do, that leave them little time to converse with God, or with their consciences, or to do any thing that is really worth the living for: they have so many fine clothes and ornaments to get, and use; and so many rooms to beautify and adorn, and so many servants to talk with, that attend them, and so many dishes and sauces to bespeak, and so many flowers to plant, and dress, and walks, and places of pleasure to mind; and so many visitors to entertain with whole hours of unprofitable talk; and so many great persons accordingly to visit; and so many laws of ceremony and compliment to observe; and so many games to play, (perhaps,) and so many hours to sleep, that the day, the year, their lives are gone, before they could have while to know what they lived for. And if God had but damned them to spend their days in picking straws or filling a bottomless vessel, or to spend their days as they choose themselves to spend them, it would have tempted us to think him unmerciful to his creatures.

7. Tyranny and oppression: when men are above others, how commonly do they think that their wills must be fulfilled by all men, and none must cross them, and they live as if all others below them were as their beasts, that are made for them, to serve and please them.

Direct. XI. Let your fruitfulness to God, and the public good, be proportionate to your possessions.[121] Do as much more good in the world than the poor, as you are better furnished with it than they. Let your servants have more time for the learning of God’s word, and let your families be the more religiously instructed and governed. To whom God gives much, from them he doth expect much.

Direct. XII. Do not only take occasions of doing good, when they are thrust upon you; but study how to do all the good you can, as those “that are zealous of good works,” Tit. ii. 14.[122] Zeal of good works will make you, 1. Plot and contrive for them. 2. Consult and ask advice for them. 3. It will make you glad when you meet with a hopeful opportunity. 4. It will make you do it largely, and not sparingly, and by the halves. 5. It will make you do it speedily, without unwilling backwardness and delay. 6. It will make you do it constantly to your lives’ end. 7. It will make you pinch your own flesh, and suffer somewhat yourselves to do good to others. 8. It will make you labor in it as your trade, and not only consent that others do good at your charge. 9. It will make you glad when good is done, and not to grudge at what it cost you. 10. In a word, it will make your neighbors to be to you as yourselves, and the pleasing of God to be above yourselves, and therefore to be as glad to do good, as to receive it.

Direct. XIII. Do good both to men’s souls and bodies; but always let bodily benefits be conferred in order to those of the soul, and in due subordination, and not for the body alone. And observe the many other rules of good works, more largely laid down, part i. chap. iii. direct. 10.

Direct. XIV. Ask yourselves often, how you shall wish at death and judgment your estates had been laid out; and accordingly now use them. Why should not a man of reason do that which he knows beforehand he shall vehemently wish that he had done?

Direct. XV. As your care must be in a special manner for your children and families; so take heed of the common error of worldlings, who think their children must have so much, as that God and their own souls have very little. When selfish men can keep their wealth no longer to themselves, they leave it to their children, who are as their surviving selves. And all is cast into this gulf, except some inconsiderable parcels.

Direct. XVI. Keep daily account of your use and improvement of your Master’s talents.[123] Not that you should too much remember your own good works, but remember to do them; and therefore ask yourselves, What good have I done with all that I have, this day or week?

Direct. XVII. Look not for long life; for then you will think that a long journey needs great provisions; but die daily, and live as those that are going to give up their account: and then conscience will force you to ask, whether you have been faithful stewards, and to lay up a treasure in heaven, and to make you friends of the mammon that others use to unrighteousness, and to lay up a good foundation for the time to come, and to be glad that God hath given you that, the improvement of which may further the good of others, and your salvation.[124] Living and dying, let it be your care and business to do good.


[114]   See more in my “Life of Faith.”

[115]   Heb. x. 34; Luke xviii. 22; Matt. xiii. 20-22; Acts v. 1, &c; ii. 45; Luke xiv. 33.

[116]   Luke xii. 21; Acts x. 1-3.

[117]   Jam. v. 1-6.

[118]   Ezek. xvi.

[119]   Rom. xiii. 13, 14.

[120]   Luke x. 40-42.

[121]   John xv. 5; Mark xii. 41; Luke xii. 48.

[122]   Matt. v. 16; Gal. 6-10; 1 Pet. ii. 12; Heb. x. 24; Tit. iii. 8, 14; ii. 7; Eph. ii. 10; 1 Tim. ii. 10; v. 10; Acts ix. 36.

[123]   Matt. xxv. 14, 15.

[124]   1 Tim. vi. 18; 1 Cor. iv. 1, 2; Luke xvi. 10; 1 Tim. v. 25.

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Directions for the Poor – Richard Baxter

Richard Baxter (d. 1691)

Taken from Richard Baxter’s A Christian Directory, Part II: Christian Economics, XXVII: “Directions for the Poor.”

There is no condition of life so low or poor, but may be sanctified, and fruitful, and comfortable to us, if our own misunderstanding, or sin and negligence, do not pollute it or embitter it to us: if we do the duty of our condition faithfully, we shall have no cause to murmur at it. Therefore I shall here direct the poor in the special duties of their condition; and if they will but conscientiously perform them, it will prove a greater kindness to them, than if I could deliver them from their poverty, and give them as much riches as they desire. Though I doubt this would be more pleasing to the most, and they would give me more thanks for money, than for teaching them how to want it.

Direct. I. Understand first the use and estimate of all earthly things: that they were never made to be your portion and felicity, but your provision and helps in the way to heaven.[100] And therefore they are neither to be estimated nor desired simply for themselves, (for so there is nothing good but God,) but only as they are means to the greatest good. Therefore neither poverty nor riches are simply to be rejoiced in for themselves, as any part of our happiness; but that condition is to be desired and rejoiced in, which affords us the greatest helps for heaven, and that condition only is to be lamented and disliked, which hinders us most from heaven, and from our duty.

Direct. II. See therefore that you really take all these things, as matters in themselves indifferent, and of small concern to you; and as not worthy of much love, or care, or sorrow, further than they conduce to greater things. We are like runners in a race, and heaven or hell will be our end; and therefore woe to us, if by looking aside, or turning back, or stopping, or trifling about these matters, or burdening ourselves with worldly trash, we should lose the race, and lose our souls. O sirs, what greater matters than poverty or riches have we to mind! Can those souls that must shortly be in heaven or hell, have time to bestow any serious thoughts upon these impertinencies? Shall we so much as “look at the temporal things which are seen, instead of the things eternal that are unseen?” 2 Cor. iv. 18. Or shall we whine under those light afflictions, which may be so improved, as to “work for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory?” ver. 17. Our present “life is not in the abundance of the things which we possess,” Luke xii. 15; much less is our eternal life.

Direct. III. Therefore take heed that you judge not of God’s love, or of your happiness or misery, by your riches or poverty, prosperity or adversity, as knowing that they come alike to all,[101] and love or hatred is not to be discerned by them; except only God’s common love, as they are common mercies to the body. If a surgeon is not to be taken for a hater of you, because he lets your blood, nor a physician because he purges his patient, nor a father because he corrects his child; much less is God to be judged an enemy to you, or unmerciful, because his wisdom and not your folly disposes of you, and proportions your estates. A carnal mind will judge of its own happiness and the love of God by carnal things, because it savors not spiritual mercies: but grace gives a christian another judgment, relish, and desire; as nature sets a man above the food and pleasures of a beast.

Direct. IV. Steadfastly believe that God is every way fitter than you to dispose of your estate and you.[102] He is infinitely wise, and knows what is best and fittest for you: he knows beforehand what good or hurt any state of plenty or want will do you: he knows all your corruptions, and what condition will most conduce to strengthen them or destroy them, and which will be your greatest temptations and snares, and which will prove your safest state; much better than any physician or parent knows how to diet his patient or his child. And his love and kindness are much greater to you, than yours are to yourself; and therefore he will not be wanting in willingness to do you good: and his authority over you is absolute, and therefore his disposal of you must be unquestionable. “It is the Lord: let him do what seems him good,” 1 Sam. iii. 18. The will of God should be the rest and satisfaction of your wills, Acts xxi. 14.

Direct. V. Steadfastly believe that, ordinarily, riches are far more dangerous to the soul than poverty, and a greater hindrance to men’s salvation. Believe experience; how few of the rich and rulers of the earth are holy, heavenly, self-denying, mortified men! Believe our Savior, “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,” Luke xviii. 24, 25, 27. So that you see the difficulty is so great of saving such as are rich, that to men it is a thing impossible, but to God’s omnipotence only it is possible. So 1 Cor. i. 26, “For ye see your calling, brethren, how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble are called.” Believe this, and it will prevent many dangerous mistakes.

Direct. VI. Hence you may perceive, that though no man must pray absolutely either for riches or poverty, yet of the two it is more rational ordinarily to pray against riches than for them, and to be rather troubled when God makes us rich, than when he makes us poor. (I mean it, in respect to ourselves, as either of them seems to conduce to our own good or hurt; though to do good to others, riches are more desirable.) This cannot be denied by any man that believes Christ: for no wise man will long for the hindrance of his salvation, or pray to God to make it as hard a thing for him to be saved, as for a camel to go through a needle’s eye; when salvation is a matter of such unspeakable moment, and our strength is so small, and the difficulties so many and great already.

Object. But Christ doth not deny but the difficulties to the poor may be as great. Answ. To some particular persons upon other accounts it may be so; but it is clear in the text, that Christ speaks comparatively of such difficulties as the rich had more than the poor.

Object. But then how are we obliged to be thankful to God for giving us riches, or blessing our labors?[103] Answ. 1. You must be thankful for them, because in their own nature they are good, and it is by accident, through your own corruption, that they become so dangerous. 2. Because you may do good with them to others, if you have hearts to use them well. 3. Because God in giving them to you rather than to others, doth signify (if you are his children) that they are fitter for you than for others. In Bedlam and among foolish children, it is a kindness to keep fire, and swords, and knives out of their way; but yet they are useful to people that have the use of reason. But our folly in spiritual matters is so great, that we have little cause to be too eager for that which we are inclined so dangerously to abuse, and which proves the bane of most that have it.

Direct. VII. See that your poverty be not the fruit of your idleness, gluttony, drunkenness, pride, or any other flesh-pleasing sin.[104] For if you bring it thus upon yourselves, you can never look that it should be sanctified to your good, till sound repentance have turned you from the sin: nor are you objects worthy of much pity from man (except as you are miserable sinners). He that rather chooses to have his ease and pleasure, though with want, than to have plenty, and to want his ease and pleasure, it is pity that he should have any better than he chooses.

1. Slothfulness and idleness are sins that naturally tend to want, and God hath caused them to be punished with poverty; as you may see, Prov. xii. 24, 27; xviii. 9; xxi. 25; xxiv. 34; xxvi. 14, 15; vi. 11; xx. 13. Yea, he commands that if any (that is able) “will not work, neither should he eat,” 2 Thess. iii. 10. In the sweat of their face must they eat their bread, Gen. iii. 19; and “six days must they labor and do all that they have to do.” To maintain your idleness is a sin in others. If you will please your flesh with ease, it must be displeased with want; and you must suffer what you choose.

2. Gluttony and drunkenness are such beastly devourers of mercy, and abusers of mankind, that shame and poverty are their punishment and cure. Prov. xxiii. 20, 21, “Be not among winebibbers, among riotous eaters of flesh: for the drunkard and the glutton shall come to poverty, and drowsiness shall clothe a man with rags.” It is not lawful for any man to feed the greedy appetites of such: if they choose a short excess before a longer competency, let them have their choice.

3. Pride also is a most consuming, wasteful sin: it sacrifices God’s mercies to the devil, in serving him by them, in his first-born sin. Proud persons must lay it out in pomp and gaudiness, to set forth themselves to the eyes of others; in buildings, and entertainments, and fine clothes, and curiosities: and poverty is also both the proper punishment and cure of this sin: and it is cruelty for any to save them from it, and resist God, that by abasing them takes the way to do them good, Prov. xi. 2; xxix. 23; xvi. 18.

4. Falsehood also, and deceit, and unjust getting, tend to poverty; for God doth often, even in this present life, thus enter into judgment with the unjust. Ill-gotten wealth is like fire in the thatch, and brings ofttimes a secret curse and destruction upon all the rest. The same may be said of unmercifulness to the poor; which is oft cursed with poverty, when the liberal are blessed with plenty, Prov. xi. 24, 25; Isa. xxxii. 8; Psal. lxxiii. 21, 22, 25, 26, 34, 35.

Direct. VIII. Be acquainted with the special temptations of the poor, that you may be furnished to resist them. Every condition hath its own temptations, which persons in that condition must specially be fortified and watch against; and this is much of the wisdom and safety of a christian.

Tempt. I. One temptation of poverty will be to draw you to think higher of riches and honors than you ought; to make you think that the rich are much happier than they are. For the world is like all other deceivers; it is most esteemed where it is least known. They that never tried a life of wealth, and plenty, and prosperity, are apt to admire it, and think it braver and better than it is. And so you may be drawn as much to over-love the world by want, as other men by plenty. Against this remember, that it is folly to admire that which you never tried and knew; and mark whether all men do not vilify it, that have tried it to the last: dying men call it no better than vanity and deceit. And it is rebellious pride in you so far to contradict the wisdom of God, as to think most highly of that condition which he hath judged worst for you; and to fall in love with that which he denies you.

Tempt. II. The poor will also be tempted to over-much care about their wants and worldly matters;[105] they will think that necessity requires it in them, and will excuse them. So much care is your duty, as is needful to the right doing of your work. Take care how to discharge your own duties; but be not too careful about the event, which belongs to God. If you will care what you should be and do, God will care sufficiently what you shall have.[106] And so be it you faithfully do your business, your other care will add nothing to the success, nor make you any richer, but only vex and disquiet your minds. It is the poor as well as the rich, that God hath commanded to be careful for nothing, and to cast all their care on him.

Tempt. III. Poverty also will tempt you to repining, impatience, and discontent, and to fall out with others; which because it is one of the chief temptations, I will speak to by itself anon.

Tempt. IV. Also you will be tempted to be coveting after more:[107] Satan makes poverty a snare to draw many needy creatures to greater covetousness than many of the rich are guilty of; none thirst more eagerly after more; and yet their poverty blinds them, so that they cannot see that they are covetous, or else excuse it as a justifiable thing. They think that they desire no more but necessaries, and that it is not covetousness, if they desire not unnecessary things. But do you not covet more than God allots you? and are you not discontent with his allowance? And doth not he know best what is necessary for you, and what superfluous? What then is covetousness, if this be not?

Tempt. V. Also you will be tempted to envy the rich, and to censure them in matters where you are incompetent judges. It is usual with the poor to speak of the rich with envy and censoriousness; they call them covetous, merely because they are rich, especially if they give them nothing; when they know not what ways of necessary expense they have, nor know how many others they are liberal to, that they are unacquainted with. Till you see their accounts you are unfit to censure them.

Tempt. VI. The poor also will be tempted to use unlawful means to supply their wants.[108] How many by the temptation of necessity have been tempted to comply with sinners, and wound their consciences, and lie and flatter for favor or preferment, or to cheat, or steal, or over-reach! A dear price! to buy the food that perishes, with the loss or hazard of everlasting life; and lose their souls to provide for their flesh!

Tempt. VII. Also you will be tempted to neglect your souls, and omit your spiritual duties, and, as Martha, to be troubled about many things, while the one thing needful is forgotten; and you will think that necessity will excuse all this; yea, some think to be saved because they are poor, and say, God will not punish them in this life and another too. But alas, you are more inexcusable than the rich, if you are ungodly and mindless of the life to come. For he that will love a life of poverty and misery better than heaven, deserves indeed to go without it, much more than he that prefers a life of plenty and prosperity before it. God hath taught you by his providence to know, that you must either be happy in heaven, or no where;—if you would be worldlings, and part with heaven for your part on earth, how poor a bargain are you like to make! To love rags, and toil, and want, and sorrow, better than eternal joy and happiness, is the most unreasonable kind of ungodliness in the world. It is true, that you are not called to spend so many hours of the week days in reading and meditation, as some that have greater leisure are; but you have reason to seek heaven, and set your hearts upon it, as much as they; and you must think of it when you are about your labor, and take those opportunities for your spiritual duties which are allowed you. Poverty will excuse ungodliness in none! Nothing is so necessary as the service of God and your salvation; and therefore no necessity can excuse you from it. Read the case of Mary and Martha, Luke x. 41, 42. One would think that your hearts should be wholly set upon heaven, who have nothing else but it to trust to. The poor have fewer hindrances than the rich, in the way to life eternal! And God will save no man because he is poor; but condemn poor and rich that are ungodly.

Tempt. VIII. Another great temptation of the poor, is to neglect the holy education of their children; so that in most places, there are none so ignorant, and rude, and heathenish, and unwilling to learn, as the poorest people and their children: they never teach them to read, nor teach them any thing for the saving of their souls; and they think that their poverty will be an excuse for all; when reason tells them, that none should be more careful to help their children to heaven, than they that can give them nothing upon earth.

Direct. IX. Be acquainted with the special duties of the poor; and carefully perform them. They are these:

1. Let your sufferings teach you to contemn the world; it will be a happy poverty if it do but help to wean your affections from all things below; that you set as little by the world as it deserves.

2. Be eminently heavenly-minded; the less you have or hope for in this life, the more fervently seek a better.[109] You are at least as capable of the heavenly treasures as the greatest princes; God purposely straightens your condition in the world, that he may force up your hearts unto himself, and teach you to seek first for that which indeed is worth your seeking, Matt. vi. 33, 19-21.

3. Learn to live upon God alone; study his goodness, and faithfulness, and all-sufficiency; when you have not a place nor a friend in the world, that you can comfortably betake yourselves to for relief, retire unto God, and trust him, and dwell the more with him.[110] If your poverty have but this effect, it will be better to you than all the riches in the world.

4. Be laborious and diligent in your callings: both precept and necessity call you unto this; and if you cheerfully serve him in the labor of your hands, with a heavenly and obedient mind, it will be as acceptable to him, as if you had spent all that time in more spiritual exercises; for he had rather have obedience than sacrifice; and all things are pure and sanctified to the pure; if you cheerfully serve God in the meanest work, it is the more acceptable to him, by how much the more subjection and submission there is in your obedience.[111]

5. Be humble and submissive unto all. A poor man proud is doubly hateful; and if poverty cure your pride, and help you to be truly humble, it will be no small mercy to you.[112]

6. You are specially obliged to mortify the flesh, and keep your senses and appetites in subjection; because you have greater helps for it than the rich; you have not so many baits of lust, and wantonness, and gluttony, and voluptuousness as they.

7. Your corporal wants must make you more sensibly remember your spiritual wants; and teach you to value spiritual blessings: think with yourselves, if a hungry, cold, and naked body, be so great a calamity, how much greater is a guilty, graceless soul, a dead or diseased heart! If bodily food and necessaries are so desirable, oh how desirable is Christ and his Spirit, and the love of God and life eternal!

8. You must above all men be careful redeemers of your time; especially of the Lord’s day; your labors take up so much of your time, that you must be the more careful to catch every opportunity for your souls! Rise earlier to get half an hour for holy duty; and meditate on holy things in your labors, and spend the Lord’s day in special diligence, and be glad of such seasons; and let scarcity preserve your appetites.

9. Be willing to die; seeing the world gives you so cold entertainment, be the more content to let it go, when God shall call you; for what is here to detain your hearts?

10. Above all men, you should be most fearless of sufferings from men, and therefore true to God and conscience; for you have no great matter of honor, or riches, or pleasure to lose: as you fear not a thief, when you have nothing for him to rob you of.

11. Be specially careful to fit your children also for heaven: provide them a portion which is better than a kingdom; for you can provide but little for them in the world.

12. Be exemplary in patience and contentedness with your state: for that grace should be the strongest in us which is most exercised; and poverty calls you to the frequent exercise of this.

Direct. X. Be specially furnished with those reasons which should keep you in a cheerful contentedness with your state; and may suppress every thought of anxiety and discontent.[113] As, 1. Consider as aforesaid, that that is the best condition for you which helps you best to heaven; and God best knows what will do you good, or hurt. 2. That it is rebellion to grudge at the will of God; which must dispose of us, and should be our rest. 3. Look over the life of Christ, who chose a life of poverty for your sake; and had not a place to lay his head. He was not one of the rich and voluptuous in the world; and are you grieved to be conformed to him? Phil. iii. 7-9. 4. Look to all his apostles, and most holy servants and martyrs. Were not they as great sufferers as you? 5. Consider that the rich will shortly be all as poor as you: naked they came into the world, and naked they must go out; and a little time makes little difference. 6. It is no more comfort to die rich than poor; but usually much less; because the pleasanter the world is to them, the more it grieves them to leave it. 7. All men cry out, that the world is vanity at last. How little is it valued by a dying man! and how sadly will it cast him off! 8. The time is very short and uncertain, in which you must enjoy it; we have but a few days more to walk about, and we are gone. Alas, of how small concern is it, whether a man be rich or poor, that is ready to step into another world! 9. The love of this world drawing the heart from God, is the common cause of men’s damnation; and is not the world liker to be over-loved, when it entertains you with prosperity, than when it uses you like an enemy? Are you displeased, that God thus helps to save you from the most damning sin? and that he makes not your way to heaven more dangerous? 10. You little know the troubles of the rich. He that hath much, hath much to do with it, and much to care for; and many persons to deal with, and more vexations than you imagine. 11. It is but the flesh that suffers; and it furthers your mortification of it. 12. You pray but for your daily bread, and therefore should be contented with it. 13. Is not God, and Christ, and heaven, enough for you? should that man be discontent that must live in heaven? 14. Is it not your lust, rather than your well-informed reason, that repines? I do but name all these reasons for brevity: you may enlarge them in your meditations.


[100]   Prov. xxviii. 6; Jam. ii. 5.

[101]   Eccles. ii. 14; ix. 2, 3.

[102]   Psal. x. 15; 1 Sam. ii. 7.

[103]   Saith Aristippus to Dionysius, Quando sapientia egebam, adii Socratem? nunc pecuniarum egens, ad te veni. Laert. in Aristip.

[104]   1 Cor. vii. 35.

[105]   Luke x. 41.

[106]   Matt. vi.; 1 Pet. v. 7; Phil. iv. 6.

[107]   Prov. xxiii. 4.

[108]   Prov. xxx. 8, 9; John vi. 27.

[109]   Phil. iii. 18, 20, 21; 2 Cor. v. 7, 8.

[110]   Gal. ii. 20; Psal. lxxiii. 25-28; 2 Cor. i. 10.

[111]   Eph. iv. 28; Prov. xxi. 25; 1 Sam. xv. 22; 2 Thess. iii. 8, 10.

[112]   Prov. xviii. 23.

[113]   Phil. iv. 11-13; Matt. v. 3; 1 Sam. ii. 7; Matt. vi. 25, &c; Psal. lxxviii. 20; Numb. xiv. 11; Matt. xvi. 9; Job xiii. 15; Eccl. v. 12; 1 Cor. vii. 29-31; Psal. lxxxiv. 11; xxxvii. 25; x. 14; lv. 22; Rom. ix. 20; Psal. xxxiv. 9, 10; Rom. viii. 28; Heb. xiii. 5.

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