Wealth and Riches - by Dr. Thomas Manton (1620-1677)Articles on Christian Stewardship
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He gives the continuance of our blessings, that we may keep what we have; for unless the Lord do daily support us, we cannot keep our comforts for one day. How soon can God blast them! It is at his pleasure to do what he will with you. He gave Satan power over Job’s estate: chap. i. 12, ‘Behold, all that he hath is in thy power.’ Our life, it is continued to us by the indulgence of God, and by his providential influence and supportation. For as the beams of the sun are no longer continued in the air than the sun shineth, or, as the water retains the impress and stamp no longer than the seal is kept on it, so when God takes off his providential influence, all vanisheth into nothing. Thus he is said, Heb. i. 3, to ‘uphold all things by the word of his power.’
The Holy Ghost seems there to compare riches to a flock of birds, which pitcheth in a man’s field tonight, but to-morrow they are gone. Who is the richer for a flock of wild fowls because they pitch in his field now? So all these outward things are so flying that they are soon gone by many accidents, unless he preserves them and continues our possession of them. For God he can give a charge and commission to the fire, to the fury of men, one way or other, to deprive us of these things: ‘Behold, all he hath is in thy hands,’ Job i. 12. When a man hath gotten abundance of worldly comforts about him, and seemeth to be entrenched and provided against all hazards, the man is taken away, and cannot enjoy what he had heaped together with a great deal of care and solicitude.
[4.] We beg leave to use them. It is good manners in religion to ask God’s leave in all things. It is robbery to make use of a man’s goods, and to waste and consume them without his leave. We must ask God’s leave upon this account, because, though God gives these good things to men, yet he still reserves the property in himself; for by distributing blessings to the creature, he never intended to divest himself of the right. As a husbandman, by scattering his corn in the field, did not dispossess himself, but still keeps a right and means to have the increase ; so when the Lord scattereth his blessings, we only receive them as stewards, not as owners and proprietors: God still is the supreme Lord, and only hath the property and dominion. In life it is clear man is not dominus vitce, but custos; not lord of his life, but only the steward and guardian of it; he cannot live or die at his own pleasure: if a man kills himself he runs the danger of God’s law.
What is said of life is true also of his estate: he is not an owner so much as a steward; that is the notion of our possession: we are stewards, and must render an account to God: Hos. ii. 9, ‘I will re¬turn and take away my corn in the time thereof, and my wine in the season thereof, and will recover my wool and my flax.’ Though God hath communicated these things to the children of men, yet he hath reserved the dominion in his own hands: so Hag. ii. 8,’ The silver is mine, and the gold is mine, saith the Lord of hosts.’ He never disposed anything so into the creature’s hands, but still he hath reserved a right and interest in it; and therefore it is, Gen. xiv. 19;
that the Lord is not only called the creator of heaven and earth, but , ‘possessor of heaven and earth.’ He is not only the possessor of heaven where he dwells, which he hath reserved to his own use, but he is possessor of earth, which he hath committed to the use of men. And God will have his right acknowledged from day to day.
[5.] It is he that giveth us ability to use them: we beg that we may not only have the comforts, but life and strength to use them; for God can blast us in the very midst of our enjoyments. It is the case of many, when they have hunted after a worldly portion, and begin to think, now I will sit down and enjoy it; when the gain is come into his bands, and he thinks to waste that which he hath got in hunting, death takes him away, and he hath not power to use them. Thus it was with the rich fool; when he began to sing lullabies to his soul, and enjoy what he had got, he is taken away by death: Luke xii. 20, ‘Thou fool, this night thy soul shall be required of thee; then whose shall those things be which thou hast provided?’ And it is said, Num. xi. 33, when those people had gotten quails, that’ while the flesh was yet between their teeth, ere it was chewed, the wrath of the Lord was kindled against the people; and the Lord smote them with a very great plague. So Job xxi. 23,’ One dieth in his full strength, “being wholly at ease and quiet:’ when he has gotten abundance of worldly comforts about him, death seizes on him of a sudden.
[6.] God yet is further interested in these mercies, so as to give us a sanctified use of them, that we may take our bread out of God’s hands with prayer and thanksgiving, and due acknowledgments of God. In 1 Tim. iv, 4, 5, ‘Every creature of God is good, and nothing to be (refused, if it be received with thanksgiving; for it is sanctified by the Word of God and prayer.’ Then are the creatures sanctified to us, and we enjoy God in them and can love him the more for every gift. Carnal men, i.e. swine, [crave] upon the acorns, but look not up to the oak, from whence they drop. In the Canticles (Song of Solomon), the spouse’s eyes are compared dove’s eyes. They which make the allusion say this is the mean¬ly look, as a dove pecks, and looks upward; so upon every grain of mercy, we should look up to the God of mercies: it is not enough to taste the sweet of the creatures, but also to own God, his love and bounty in them, so to have them sanctified to us. This is the privilege we have as men, that we can know the first cause, and who is the capable of knowing it. And this is our privilege as Christians, to have this capacity reduced into act. It is of the Lord’s grace to give us a sanctified use of these things.
[7.] We beg of God the natural blessing upon the holy use of out¬ward comforts, so as they may continue us in health and vigor for the service of God; for nothing will prosper with us but by his blessing: Ps. cvi. 15, ‘He gave them their request, but sent leanness into their souls;’ that is, they had no natural comfort by that which they had obtained. God may give a man meat, yet not an appetite; he may not give him the comfortable use of it, a blessing with it. And therefore the apostle makes it to be an argument of God’s bounty to the heathen, that as he gave them food, so he gave them gladness of heart; Acts xiv. 17, ‘He gave them rain from heaven, and fruitful seasons, filling their hearts with food and gladness ;’ that is, gave them a comfortable use, a blessing upon the use of outward things. And Lev. xxvi., you will find a distinction between ‘bread,’ and the ‘staff of bread.’ We may have bread, yet not the staff of bread. Many have worldly comforts, but not with a natural blessing: Eccles. iii. 13, ‘That every man should eat and drink, and enjoy the good of all his labour ; it is the gift of God:’ not only that he should have increase by his labour, but enjoy good; to have the comfortable use of that increase.
Obs. 1. Riches are not altogether inconsistent with Christianity. ‘Let the rich,’ that is, the rich brother. Usually they are a great snare. It is a hard matter to enjoy the world without being en¬tangled with the cares and pleasures of it. The moon never suffereth eclipse but when it is at the full ; and usually in our fulness we mis¬carry ; and therefore our Saviour saith, Mat. xix. 24, ‘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.’ It is a Jewish proverb to note an impossibility. Rich men should often think of it. A camel may as soon go through a needle’s eye, as you enter into the kingdom of God. That were a rare miracle of nature, indeed, to see a camel or an elephant to pass through a needle’s eye; and it is as rare a miracle of grace to see a rich man gained to Christ and a love of heaven. Of all person sin the world, they are least apprehensive of spiritual excellences. Christ himself came in poverty, in a prejudice, as it were, to them that love riches. Plato, an heathen, saith the same almost with Christ, that it is impossible for a man to be eminently rich and eminently good. The way of grace is usually so strait, that there is scarce any room for them that would enter with their great burdens of riches and honour. But you will say, What will you have Christians to do then? In a lavish luxury to throw away their estates? or in an excess of charity to make others full, when themselves are empty? I answer—No; there are two passages to mollify the rigor of our Lord’s saying. One is in the context,’ With God all things are possible,’ Mat. xix. 26. Difficulties in the way to heaven serve to bring us to a despair of ourselves, not of God. He can loosen the heart from the world, that riches shall be no impediment; as Job by providence was made eminently rich, and by grace eminently godly— ‘none like him in all the earth,’ Job i. 8. The other passage is in Mark x. 23, 24, ‘Jesus said, How hard is it for them that have riches to enter into the kingdom of God! And the disciples were astonished at his words; but Jesus answereth again, How hard is it for them that trust riches to enter into the kingdom of God!’ It is not the having, but the trusting. Riches in the having, in the bare possession, are not a hindrance to Christianity, but in our abuse of them.
The sum of all is, it is impossible to trust in riches and enter into the kingdom of God, and it to us is impossible to have riches and not to trust in them. Well, then, of all men, rich men should be most careful. A man may be rich and godly, but it is because now and then God will work some miracles of grace. Your possessions will not be your ruin till your corruptions mingle with them. Under the law the poor and rich were to pay the same ransom, Exod. xxx. 15, intimating they may have interest in the same Christ. It is Austin’s [Augustine’s] observation that poor Lazarus was saved in the bosom of rich Abraham. Riches in themselves are God’s blessings that come within a promise. It is said, Ps. cxii., of him that feareth the Lord, that ‘wealth and riches shall be in his house ;’ that is, when God seeth good, for all temporal promises must be understood with an exception. They do not intimate what always shall be, but that whatever is, is by way of a blessing, the fruit of a promise, not of chance, or a looser providence. Yea, riches with a blessing are so far from being a hindrance to grace, that they are an ornament to it; so Prov. xiv. 24, ‘The crown of the wise is their riches, but the foolishness of fools is folly.’ A rich wise man is more conspicuous; an estate may adorn virtue, but it cannot disguise folly. A wise man that is rich hath an advantage to discover himself which others have not; but a fool is a fool still, as an ape is an ape though tied with a golden chain. And to this sense I suppose Solomon speaketh when he saith, Eccles. vii. 11, ‘Wisdom with an inheritance is good;’ that is, more eminent and useful. And thus you see riches are as men use them, blessings promiscuously dispensed—to the good, lest they should be thought altogether evil; to the bad, lest they should be thought only good.
Obs. 2. That a rich man’s humility is his glory. Your excellency doth not lie in the pomp and splendor of your condition, but in the meekness of your hearts. Humility is not only a clothing, ‘Put on humbleness of mind,’ Col. iii. 12, but an ornament, 1 Peter v. 5, ‘Be decked with humility.’ It cometh from a word that signifieth a knot, that maketh decency when things are fitly tied. Men think that humility is a debasement, and meekness a derogation from their honour and repute. Ah! but you see God counteth it an ornament. It is not a disguise, but a decking. None so base as the proud in the eyes of God and men. Before God, you must not value yourself by your estate and outward pomp, but your graces. A high mind and a low condition are all one to the Lord, only poverty hath the advantage, because it is usually gracious. If any may glory, they may glory that have most arguments of God’s love. Now a lowly mind is a far better testimony of it than an high estate. And so before men, as Augustine said, he is a great man that is not lifted up because of his greatness. You are not better than others by your estate, but your meekness. The apostles possessed all things though they had nothing. They have more than you if they have a humble heart.
Obs. 3. That the way to be humble is to count the world’s advantages our abasement. The poor man must glory in that he is exalted, but the rich in that he is made low. Honours and riches do but set us beneath other men, rather than above them, and do rather abate from you than add anything to you ; and it may be you have less of the Spirit because you have more of the world. God doth not use to flow in both ways. Well, then, get this mind in the midst of your abundance. It is nothing what you do at other times. Men dispraise that which they want, as the fox the grapes, and simple men learn¬ing. But when you are rich, can you glory in that you are made low, and say, All this is but low in regard of the saints’ privileges? This would keep the heart in a right frame, so that you could lose wealth or keep it. If you lose it, you do but lose a part of your abasement; if you keep it, you do not keep that which setteth you the higher or the nearer to God. This is to ‘possess all things as if you possessed them not,’ 1 Cor. vii. 30—not to have them in your hearts when you have them in your houses. And the truth is, this is the way to keep them still, to be humble in the possession of them: Mat. xxiii. 12, ‘Whosoever shall exalt himself shall be abased, and he that shall humble himself shall be exalted.’ Riches will be your abasement, if you do not think them so.
Obs. 4. If we would be made low in the midst of worldly enjoyments, we should consider the uncertainty of them. This is the reason rendered by the apostle, ‘Because as the flower of the grass he shall pass away.’ We are worldly, because we forget the world’s vanity and our own transitoriness : Ps. xlix. 11, ‘Their inward thought is, that their houses shall continue for ever, and their dwelling-places to all generations; they call their lands after their own names.’ Either we think that we shall live for ever, or leave our riches to those that will continue our memory for ever , that is, to our children, which are but the parent multiplied and continued; which is, as one saith, nodosa ceternitas, a knotty eternity. When our thread is spun out, and done, their thread is knit to it; and so we dream of a continued succession in our name and family. But alas! this inward thought is but a vain thought—a sorry refuge, by which man would make amends for the loss of the true eternity. But in vain; for we perish, and our estate too. Both your persons and your condition are transitory. The apostle saith, ‘He shall pass away like the flower of the grass.’ Man himself is like the grass, soon withered; his condition is like the flower of the grass, gone with a puff of wind. So 1 Peter i. 24, ‘All flesh is grass, and the glory of man as the flower of the grass.’ Many times the flower is gone when the stalk remaineth; so man seeth all that he hath been gathering a long time soon dissipated by the breath of providence, and he, like a withered rotten stalk, liveth scorned and neglected. The scriptures make use of both these arguments—sometimes our own transitoriness, as Luke xii. 20, ‘Thou fool, this night shall thy soul be required of thee.’ Here men toil, and beat their brain, and tire their spirits, and rack their consciences; and when they have done all, like silkworms, they die in their work, and God taketh them away ere they can roast what they get in hunting. Sometimes the transitoriness of these outward things; if we do not leave them, they may leave us. As many a man hath survived his happiness, and lived so long as to see himself, when his flower is gone, to be cast out upon the dunghill of scorn and contempt.
And, truly it is a madness to be proud of that which may perish before we perish, as it is the worst of miseries to outlive our own happiness. The apostle saith, 1 Tim. vi. 17, ‘Charge rich men that they be not high-minded, and trust not in uncertain riches.’ Trust should have a sure object, for it is the quiet repose of the soul in the bosom of an immutable good. Therefore that which is uncertain cannot yield a ground of trust. You may entertain it with jealousy, but not with trust; so Prov. xxiii. 5, ‘Wilt thou set thine eyes upon that which is not?’ Outward riches are so far from being the best things, that they rather are not anything at all. Solomon calleth them ‘that which is not;’ and who ever loved nothing, and would be proud of that which is not? 05s. 5. The uncertainty of worldly enjoyments may be well resem¬bled by a flower—beautiful, but fading. The similitude is elsewhere used: I gave you places in the exposition; let me add a few more see PB. ciii. 15, 16, ‘As for man, his days are as grass; as a flower of the field, so he flourisheth: for the wind passeth over it; and it is gone, and the place thereof shall know it no more.’ When the flower is gone, the root, as afraid, shrinketh into the ground, and there remaineth neither remnant nor sign; so many a man that keepeth a bustling, is soon snapped off by providence, and there doth not remain the least sign and memorial of him. So 1 Peter i. 24, ‘For all flesh is as grass, and all the glory of man as the flower of the grass; the grass withereth, and the flower thereof falleth away.’ It is repeated and returned to our consideration—’ all flesh is grass,’ and then, ‘the grass withereth,’ to show that we should often whet it and inculcate it upon our thoughts. In short, from this resemblance you may learn two things: —
1. That though the things of the world are specious, yet they should not allure us, because they are fading. Flowers are sweet, and affect the eye, but their beauty is soon scorched: the soul is for an eternal good, that it may have a happiness suitable to its own dura¬tion. An immortal soul cannot have full contentment in that which is fading; but this is a point that calleth for meditation rather than demonstration. It is easy to declaim upon the vanity of the creature: it is every man’s object and every man’s subject. Oh! but think of it seriously, and desire God to be in your thoughts. When the creatures tempt you, be not enticed by the beauty of them, so as to forget their vanity. Say, Here is a flower, glorious, but fading; glass that is bright, but brittle.
2. The fairest things are most fading. Creatures, when they come to their excellency, then they decay, as herbs, when they come to flower, they begin to wither; or, as the sun when it cometh to the zenith, then it declineth: Ps. xxxix. 5, ‘Man at his best estate is altogether vanity;’ not at his worst only, when the feebleness and inconveniences of old age have surprised him. Many, you know, are blasted and cut off in their flower, and wither as soon as they begin to flourish. Paul had a messenger of Satan presently upon his ecstasy, 2 Cor. xii. 7. So the prophet speaketh of ‘a grasshopper in the beginning of the shooting up of the latter growth,’ Amos vii. 1.
That it is hard to possess riches without sin.
The latter part of their lives, as if the apostle in tills expression did tax that carnal distrust whereby covetous men think they shall never have enough to suffice their needy old age. Such kind of men are always distrustful of future events, and carking for the morrow: what shall become of them and their children, and how they shall live when they are old—a sinful anxiety, however veiled under the appearance of necessity. God gave the Israelites manna but for one day, and our Lord taught us to pray for ‘daily bread.’ Every day’s trouble is ordained by God for our exercise, and is enough to take up our thoughts. We do but anticipate our cares, and create a needless dis¬traction to ourselves, by carking for the last days; and yet usually this disposition increaseth with age, and the older men grow, the more solicitous about worldly provisions.1 Thus some explain the apostle, but with little reason; for it is not a description, but a threatening; and the apostle is not now intimating their disposition, but their judgment and ruin. Others expound the clause of treasuring and storing up wrath against the Day of Judgment, as the apostle Paul useth such another phrase, Rom. ii.
I shall show that the rich are not excluded from the exercise of faith: Ps. xxii. 26, ‘The meek shall eat and be satisfied;’ and ver. 29, ‘All they that be fat upon earth shall eat and worship.’ The rich and the poor have the same ransom: 1 Tim. vi. 17,’ Charge them that are rich in the world that they be not high-minded, nor trust in uncertain riches, but in the living God, who giveth us richly all things to enjoy.’ God will choose men of all conditions; not all poor, lest religion should be trodden underfoot; not all rich, lest it should seem to be supported by a secular arm, and lest there be a disparagement of the blessings of his providence. “They are given to good men, lest they be thought not to be good things, and to wicked men, lest they be esteemed to be the chiefest good.” [a saying]
[2.] There is as much faith seen, yea more, in moderating the affections in a full estate, as in depending upon God for supplies; to learn to abound is a hard lesson, to see the love of God in all, and to keep from settling here : Ps. lxii. 10, ‘If riches increase, set not your heart upon them.’ To be thankful and to be useful. The poor have not such temptations as the rich. Diseases that arise from plenty are most usual, though diseases that arise from want are most dangerous; so that a full estate hath most temptations. Joseph’s brethren had their temptations, yet they had not such temptations as Joseph had. Men that have nothing are as it were driven to it, beaten to dependence upon God; but here there is more of choice, when they are full and well. If Joseph had liked the pomp of Egypt, he might have had enough there.
Use. Well then, it maketh for the comfort and caution of rich men.
1. For their comfort. There are some of your order, though not many: 1 Cor. i. 26, ‘Not many mighty, not many noble, are called.’ Joseph, a courtier in Egypt; and the eunuch in Acts viii. 27, was treasurer of queen Candace. Usually the poor receive the gospel, in the first times of the gospel especially, lest it should seem to be supported by human force and power, but not always. God hath taken in great ones, there is room for your faith.
2. For their caution. Be of Joseph’s temper, let Egypt be nothing to Canaan. This is the true greatness of mind, in counting the high¬est things which you enjoy as nothing in comparison of heaven. There are none bound to look after better things so much as you; for you have tasted more of God’s bounty, you have more occasion to make trial of the world’s vanity and nothingness, you are in a condition wherein many miscarry; as in a dangerous way we are more careful of our steps. Say then, All this is nothing to heaven; let me go there where my home, my country, my estate, my treasure, my inheritance is.
IV, For the remedies against this secret and great mischief of putting our confidence in earthly things.
1. By way of consideration.
[1.] Consider the uncertainty of riches should check our trust in them: 1 Tim. vi. 17, ‘That they trust not in uncertain riches.’ What depends upon more uncertainty than our outward estates; and will you trust in them? Who would trust another that is sure to fail him at his greatest need? Prov. xxiii. 5, ‘Wilt thou set thine eyes upon that which is not? for riches certainly make themselves wings, and fly away, as an eagle towards heaven.’ A man is not better and more sufficiently provided for his dinner because there is a flock of wildfowl now pitched upon his fields; they may soon fly away. Riches are like winged creatures, compared to eagles which fly away towards heaven. How are they gone? How many ways may the Lord take them away from us? There is the fire, the thief, fraudulent bargains, vexatious lawsuits, public judgments, the displeasure of the times. Many are the wings that riches have, and therefore unless a man hath a mind to be deceived, why should he trust in them? This should be deeply thought of in our greatest prosperity, especially when we have many instances before our eyes. (Especially in our own day and age! (MM)) Alas! how many are there that have laid out all their wit, and labour, nay, and venture conscience, to get an estate, and all is gone in an instant, and they have heirs that they never thought of 1 And yet the world is as greedy upon these things as ever.
[2.] Consider, none ever trusted to the world but they have cause to complain in the issue. We think wealth can do great things for us, and stand us in stead beyond any other thing to make us happy, but we shall find it otherwise. God is jealous of our trust, and the creature that is of itself vain is made more vain by our dependence upon it. God will set himself to disappoint a carnal trust: Prov. xi. 28, ‘He that trusteth in his riches shall fall.’
[3.] Consider, the more wealth, many times the more danger, there¬fore shall we trust in this? In a net, when great fishes are taken, the lesser make their escape. A great tree by the largeness and thickness of its boughs provoketh others to lop it, or it falleth by its own weight. Nebuchadnezzar led the princes and nobles captive when the poor were left in the land. As many times thieves and robbers cut off the finger for the ring’s sake when they cannot otherwise pluck it off, but is a man destroyed and made a prey for his wealth’s sake.
[4.] Consider the unprofitableness of wealth without God; it cannot make you contented, and safe, and happy, and comfortable: Luke xii. 15, ‘A man’s life consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he possesseth.’ A man doth not live upon his wealth: ‘Not by bread alone,’ Mat. iv. 4, but by the providence of God. I do not only say they cannot make you happy and wise; certainly they cannot do that; but they cannot make you more healthful, cheerful, and comfortable; so that whether you will or no, at length you are brought to depend upon God. But especially is their unprofitableness seen in the day of death and in the day of wrath. In the day of death, when a man must shoot the gulf of eternity, and launch out into the deep ocean of the other world: Job xxvii. 8, ‘What is the hope of the hypocrite, though he hath gained, when God taketh away his soul?’ When you must die, and nothing shall remain with you but the bitter remembrance of an estate, either ill got or ill spent (for it is all one), oh! how bitter and grievous will this be to you to call to mind the iniquity of traffic, to remember the cries of the oppressed widow or orphans, or neglected poor, or your pride and luxury, and sowing to the flesh, when God comes to take away the soul 1 Or else in the day of wrath : Prov. xi. 4, ‘Riches profit not in the day of wrath.’ Of internal wrath, when a spark of God’s anger lights upon the conscience, and our thoughts are awakened against us, and fall as a heavy burden upon us, oh 1 what will all riches do 1 To allude to that Prov. vi. 35, ‘He will not regard any ransom, neither will he rest content, though thou givest many gifts.’ Justice will not be bribed, neither will all the money you have buy you a pardon. And in the day of external wrath: Zeph. i. 18, ‘Neither their silver nor their gold shall be able to deliver them in the day of the Lord’s wrath.’ As Absalom’s mule left him hanging by the hair of the head, so will riches leave and forsake you in all your misery. [5.] Think seriously of this, that God is the author of all wealth, and the sovereign disposer of it; and therefore, whether we have it or have it not, we must trust in God. If wealth fails, that we have it not, then it is manifest it is not to be trusted in. If it should increase, yet it should occasion us to trust in God, who gives us what we have; by what means soever it comes to our hands, it is his gift: ‘It is the blessing of the Lord that maketh rich,’ Prov. x. 22. If riches come to you by inheritance from your ancestors, it was by the providence of God that you were born of rich and noble friends, and not of beggars If it come by gift, it is God that made them that gave it you able and willing. If it comes by industry and skill, it is God that gives the faculty, the use, and the success; so that still God is to be trusted in, not the creature, for he hath a mighty hand in the disposal of things in the world.
2. By way of practice.
[1.] Pray more to be kept from this sin than from poverty, namely, to have riches, and not to trust in them. It is an extraordinary gift of God, and to be sought with greater care, diligence, and frequency of prayers and fastings, than either health, preferment, life, or any other thing: ver. 27, ‘With men it is impossible, but not with God, for with God all things are possible.’ God only can do it thoroughly. This should be the constant request of rich men, Lord, let me not trust in what I have; this is a greater blessing than the greatest abundance in the world.
[2.] Be more ready to watch opportunities of charity, to distribute and dispense your estate than to increase it; for there is nothing will free us from this sin so much as the continual exercise of charity, or the giving of alms. Therefore your great care and delight should be to hearken after charitable occasions for the relief of the poor and for the church of God, and be glad when occasions of doing good are offered. They that hunt after opportunities of gain trust in riches, but they that seek opportunities of doing good show they are clear from this sin: Luke xii. 33, ‘Sell that you have, and give alms; provide yourselves bags which wax not old, a treasure in the heavens, that faileth not;’ then you trust in the promises. Your office is not that of a treasurer, but of a steward, to have them in your hands, not in your hearts ; otherwise not you but your chest is rich.
[3.] Labour by faith to make God your trust and confidence : 1 Tim. vi. 17, ‘That they trust not in uncertain riches, but in the living God. To rely upon his power, mercy, and goodness for all that you have and stand in need of: ‘Give us this day our daily bread;’ for protection and provision. When God giveth you riches, suspect what your heart may do with them. It is good to fear always, especially when we have what we wish for or desire. Therefore, still be looking to God, taking your maintenance out of his hands, and praying to him, and blessing him daily for your supply, and this will make your estate sweet and comfortable to you, and free from those snares wherewith otherwise it will be encumbered.
[4.] Be sure you get grace together with an estate, for otherwise singly it will be a snare to you: Prov. xiv. 24,’ The crown of the wise is their riches, but the foolishness of fools is folly.’ Kiches are as they are used; if they fall to the share of a man that is godly and wise, they are a crown and ornament, otherwise a snare; for the one employeth them to the honour of God, and the good of the church and state, and is more publicly useful, but the other groweth more haughty aa4 fierce, and scornful of holy things, and sensual and vain, and eateth and drinketh, and swaggereth away the good gifts of God, which might have a more noble use. So Eccles. vii. 11, ‘Wisdom is good with an inheritance;’ it is good without it, but more conspicuously good with it. It is not said an inheritance is good without wisdom or grace. No; it is reserved to the owners for their hurt. So Prov. xvii. 16,’ Wherefore is there a price in the hand of a fool to get wisdom, seeing he hath no heart to it.’ Many a man hath a price, but he hath not a heart; an estate is but as a sword in the hand of a madman.
[5.] Be sure your esteem of riches come below your esteem of religion and good conscience. As Nazianzen [a church father] said of his eloquence, he had something of value to esteem as nothing for Christ. By all my wealth and glory, this alone I have gained, that” I have something to which I might prefer my Saviour. This is like ‘the woman clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet,’ Rev. xii. 1, contemning all worldly and sublunary things for Christ. [6.] Think of changes in the midst of your fulness: ‘Surely every man at his best estate is altogether vanity,’ Ps. xxxix. 5; not only at his worst estate, when God rebuketh him for sin. We should make suppositions, and see how we can bear the loss of all things, when they are represented but in conceit and imagination: Hab. iii. 17, 18, ‘Although the fig-tree shall not blossom, neither shall fruit be in the vine, &c., yet I will rejoice in the Lord, and joy in the God of my salvation.’ The fool durst not suppose the accidents of that night: Luke xii. 20, ‘Thou fool! this night thy soul shall be required of thee.’ Security is a coward; acquaint the soul with a supposition of loss and danger.
Thomas Manton, Works, Volume 1 (Pages 152-4), Volume 4 (Pages 67-72; 399; 407; ), Volume 17 (Pages 37ff)