Chap. 11.—The Cosmopolite; or, World's Favourite.

posted 18 May 2014, 06:53 by Stephen Chaffer   [ updated 18 May 2014, 06:53 ]


Chap. 11. - The Cosmopolite; or, World's Favourite. 

But God said to him, ‘Fool! This night your soul will be required of you; 
then whose will those things be which you have provided?’ — Luke 12:20. 

THIS is the covetous man’s scripture; and both (like an unflattering glass) presents his present condition, what he is, and (like an un-flattering book) remonstrates his future state, what he shall be. 

First, we have the rich man prospering in his wealth; secondly, we have him caring what to do. He had so much gain, so much grain, that his rooms could not answer the capacity of his heart. ‘What shall I do, because I have no room where to bestow my fruits?’ Care is the inseparable companion of abundance. They to whom is given most wealth are most given to carking, sharking, and solicitous thoughtfulness. Those hearts whom the world hath done most to satisfy, are least of all satisfied. Thirdly, we have his resolution. 

‘This will I do.’ What? ‘I will pull down my barns, and build greater; and there will I bestow all my fruits and my goods.’ He thinks of no room in the bowels of the poor; which the Lord bath proposed to him a fit receptacle of his superfluity. He minds not to build an hospital, or to repair a church; either to the worship of Christ, or education of orphans, or consolations of distressed souls; but only respects his barn and his barley. The want of room troubles him; his harvest was so great, that he is crop-sick. The stomach of his barn is too little to hold that surfeit of corn he intends it; and therefore in anger he will pull it down, and make it answerable to his own desires. This he takes as granted, and upon the new building of his barn he builds his rest:— Luke 12:19, ‘And I will say to my soul, ‘Soul, you have many goods laid up for many years; take your ease; eat, drink, and be merry.’’ He dreams his belly full, and now his pipes go; he sings requiem, and lullabies his spirit in the cradle of his barn. This sweet news he whispers to his soul. Though he had wearied his body with incessant toils, and made it a galley-slave to his imperious affection; yet his soul had been especially disquieted, and therefore he promiseth his soul some ease. In this indulgent promise, there is a preface and a solace:— 

1. The preface assures his soul much goods,’ and many years.’ He knew that a scant and sparing proffer would not satisfy his boundless desires; there must be show of an abundant impletion. It is not enough to have an ample rock or distaff of wealth, unless a longeval time be afforded to spin it out. Philoxenus’s wish coupled with his pleasant viands a long throat, crane-like, to prolong his delight:— for shortness doth somewhat abate sweetness. Rex hone, a king of one hour, can scarce warm his throne; it keeps a Christmas-lord flat, that he knows his end. If this man had been his own lord, how excellent an estate would he have assured himself His farm should have been so large, and his lease so long, that I doubt whether Adam in paradise had a greater lordship, or Methuselah a longer life. The last of his desires is of the longest size:— give him much goods and much time, abundance of joys and abundance of days, and you hit or fit the length of his foot. 

2. The solace is a dance of four paces:— ‘Take thine ease, eat, drink, and be merry.’ The full belly loves an easy-chair; he must needs join with his laborious surfeits the vacation of sleep. He hath taken great pains to bring death upon him; and now standing at his door, it hears him talk of ease. He promiseth himself that which he travails to destroy, life; and even now ends what he threatens to begin. So worldlings weary and wear out their lives to hoard wealth; and when wealth comes, and health goes, they would give all for life. O fools! in continual quest of riches, to hunt themselves out of breath, and then be glad to restore all at once for recovery. The next pace is, Eat:— his bones must not only be pleased, but his belly. It is somewhat yet that this man resolves at last no more to pinch his guts; therefore what before he was in their debt, he will pay them with the usury of surfeits. He purposeth to make himself of a thin starveling, a fat epicure; and so to translate fiarcum into jorcum. The third pace is, Drink:— where gluttony is bid welcome, there is no shutting out of drunkenness. You shall not take a Nabal, but he plies his goblet as well as his trencher. And this is a ready course to retire himself from his former vexation, to drown his cares in wine. The last pace is a levalto, Be merry:— when he hath got junkets in his belly, and wines in his brain, what should he do but leap, dance, revel, be merry, be mad! After feasting must follow jesting. Here be all the four passages:— he sleeps care away, he eats care away, he drinks care away, and now he sings care away. His pipes be full, and they must needs squeak, though the name of the good, yea, the name of God, be dishonoured. But to such a mad-merry scoffer might well be applied that verse which was sounded in the ear of a great rhymer dying. Leave playing, and fall to praying:— it is but sorry jesting with death. Thus his dance was like Sardanapalus’s:— Ede, bibe, lade, — Eat, drink, and be merry; but there is one thing mars all his sport, the bringing of his soul to judgment. He promiseth a merry life, and a long life; but death says nay to both. He gratifies his soul, and ratifies his state; but cozens himself in all. It may be said of him, as King John of the fat stag dying:— See how easily he hath lived, yet he never heard mass’ This was the sweet, but the sour follows. He rejoiceth with the world, but must not live in glory with Christ. 

But now God will be heard:— He said’; he spoke home; a word and a blow. He will be understood, though not stood under. This is such a sermon as shall not pass without consideration. So he preached to Pharaoh by frogs, flies, locusts, murrain, darkness; but when neither by Moses’s vocal, nor by these actual lectures he would be melted, the last sermon is a Red Sea, that drowns him and his army. The tree is bared, manured, watered, spared in expectancy of fruits; but when none comes, the last sermon is the axe:— it must be hewn down and cast into the fire,’ Matt. 3. 

This kind of argument is unanswerable, and cannot be evaded. When ‘God gives the word, innumerable are the preachers’; if the lower voices will not be heard, death shall be feared. God knocks long by his prophets, yea, ‘stands at the door’ himself, Rev. 3:20; we will not open. But when this preacher comes, he opens the door himself, and will not be denied entrance. The rich man must hear this sermon; there is no remedy. ‘But God said — Thou fool.’ 

What! if this had come from a poor tenant’s mouth, it had been held a petty kind of blasphemy. Is the rich man only held the wise man at all parts; and doth God change his title with such a contradiction? Is the world’s gold become dross? the rich idol a fool? It is even a maxim in common acceptation, ‘He is wise that is rich.’ Rich and wise are convertible terms, imagined to signify one thing. When the rich man speaks, all the people give bareheaded silence and attention. 

In the church surely religion should have the strongest force; yet riches thrusts in her head even under religion’s arm, and speaks her mind. 

Money once brought the greatest preacher of the gospel, even the author of the gospel, Christ himself; to be judged before an earthly tribunal. 

In the courts of justice, law should rule; yet often money overrules law and court too. It is a lamentable complaint in the prophecy of Isaiah, ‘Judgment is turned away backward, and justice standeth afar off:— for truth is fallen in the street, and equity cannot enter,’ Isa. 59:14. 

In the wars valour bears a great stroke, yet not so great as money. That Macedonian monarch was wont to say he would never fear to surprise that city whose gates were wide enough for an ass laden with gold to enter. How many forts, castles, cities, kingdoms bath that blown up before ever gunpowder was invented. I need name no more. What quality bears up so brave a head but money gives it the checkmate! It answereth all things, saith Solomon. 

We see the patient, let us come now to the Passion, or suffering. This is the point of war, which my text sounds like a trumpet, against all worldlings:— ‘This night shall thy soul be required of thee.’ 

What? The ‘soul,’ thy soul:— not thy barns, nor thy crop; neither the continent, nor content; not thy goods, which thou boldest dear, nor thy body, which thou prizest dearer, but thy soul, which should be to thee dearest of all. Imagine the whole convex of heaven for thy barn, (and that were one large enough,) and all the riches of the world thy grain, (and that were crop sufficient,) yet put all these into one balance, and thy soul into the other, and thy soul outweighs, out values the world. ‘What is the whole world worth to him that loseth his soul?’ The soul is of a precious nature. 

One in substance, like the sun, yet of diverse operations. It is confined in the body, not refined by the body, but is often most active when her jailor is most dull. She is a careful housewife, disposing all well at home; conserving all forms, and mustering them to her own serviceable use. The senses discern the outside, the circumstance, the husk of things; she the inside, the virtue, the marrow:— resolving effects into causes; com-pounding, comparing, contemplating things in their highest sublimity. Fire turns coals into fire; the body concocts meat into blood; but the soul converts body into spirits, reducing their purest forms within her dimensive lines. In man’s composition there is a shadow of the Trinity. For to make up one man there is an elementary body, a divine soul, and a firmamental spirit. Here is the difference:— in God there are three persons in one essence, in us three essences in one person. So in the soul there is a trinity of powers, vegetable, sensitive, rational:— the former would only be; the second be, and be well; the third be, be well, and be for ever well. O excellent nature, in whose cabinet ten thousand forms may sit at once; which gives agitation to the body, without whom it would fall down a dead and inanimate lump of clay! This soul shall be required. 

‘Thy soul,’ which understands what delight is, and conceives a tickling pleasure in these covetous desires. But to satisfy thy soul, thou wouldst not be so greedy of abundance; for a little serves the body. If it have food to sustain it, garments to hide it, harbour to shelter it, liberty to refresh it, it is contented. And satiety of these things doth not comfort, but confound it. Too much meat surfeits the body, too much apparel wearies it, too much wine drowns it; only quad convent, conservat. It is, then, the soul that requires this plenitude, and therefore from this plenitude shall the soul be required. 

Thy soul,’ which is not made of a perishing nature, as the body, but of an everlasting substance; and hath by the eternity thereof a capableness of more joy or more sorrow:— it must be ever in heaven or ever in hell. This night must this soul receive her doom; thy soul shall be required.’ 

That soul which shall be the body’s perpetual companion, saving a short divorce by the hand of death in the grave; but afterwards ordained to an everlasting reunion. ‘Whereas all worldly goods, being once broken off by death, can never again be recovered. The soul shall return to the body, but riches to neither; and this soul must be required. 

This is a loss, a cross beyond all that the worldling’s imagination can give being to. How differ the wicked’s thoughts dying from their thoughts living! In the days of their peace they forget to get for the soul any good. Either it must rest itself on these inferior props, or despair of refuge. The eye is not scanted of lustful objects, the ear of melodious sounds, the palate of well-relished viands:— but the soul’s eye is not fastened on heaven, nor her ears on the word of God; her taste savours not the bread of life; she is neither brought to touch nor to smell on Christ’s vesture. Animas habent, quasi inanimatavivunt:— regarding their flesh as that pampered Roman did his, and their souls as he esteemed his horse; who being a spruce, neat, and fat epicure, and riding on a lean, scraggy jade, was asked by the censors the reason. His answer was, I look to myself, but my man to my horse. So these worldlings look to their bodies, let who will take care of their souls. 

But when this night comes, with what a price would they purchase again their souls, so mortgaged to the devil for a little vanity! With what studious and artificial cost is the body adorned, whiles the beggarly soul lies in tattered rags! The flesh is pleased with the purest flour of the wheat, and reddest blood of the grape; the soul is famished. The body is allowed liberty, even to licentiousness; the soul is under Satan’s lock and key, shackled with the fetters of ignorance and impiety. At this night’s terror, to what bondage, hunger, cold, calamity, would they not subject their bodies, to free their souls out of that friendless and endless prison! Why cannot men think of this before it be too late? It will sound harshly in thine ear, O thou riotous or avarous worldling, when this passing-bell rings, Thy soul shall be required!’ If the prince should confiscate thy goods, which thou lovest so dearly, this news would strike cold to thy heart; but here thy soul is confiscate. Thou hast offended, O miserable cosmopolite, against thy great Sovereign’s law, crown, and majesty; now all thou hast is confiscate — thy goods, thy body, thy soul. Thou, whose whole desires were set to scrape all together, shalt now find all scattered asunder; thy close congestion meets with a wide dispersion. This sudden call is fearful:— This night shall thy soul be required.’ Yet before I part from this point, let me give you two notes:—

First, There is mercy in God that it is this night; not this hour, not this moment. Hac node was sudden, but hoc momenta had been more sudden; and that this larger exhibition of time is allowed was God’s mere mercy against the worldling’s merit. He that spared Nineveh many forties of years will yet allow her forty days, Jonah 3:4. He that forbore this wretch many days, receiving no fruit worth his expectation, will yet add a few hours. God, in the midst of justice, remembers mercy:— much time he had received and abused, yet he shall have a little more. When the Lord’s hand is lifted up to strike him, yet he gives him some lucida intervalla nzonitionis, — warning before he lets it down. But let not the worldling presume on this; sometimes not an hour, not a minute is granted. Sword, palsy, apoplexy, imposthumes, make quick despatch, and there is no space given to cry for mercy. Conversion at the eleventh hour is a wonder, at the twelfth a miracle. All thieves do not go from the gallows to glory because one did, no more than all asses speak because God opened the mouth of one. Flatter not thyself with hope of time. Man’s life is compared to a day.

This day to some may be distinguished into twelve hours. The first gives us nativity:— even in this hour there is sin; an original pravity, indisposition to good, proneness to evil. Secondly, infancy:— God now protects the cradle. Thirdly, childhood:— and now we learn to speak and to swear together; the sap of iniquity begins to put out. Fourthly, tender age:— wherein toys and gauds fill up our scene. Fifthly, youth:— this is a madding, a gadding time. ‘Remember not the sins’ of this time, prays David, Psa. 25:7; their ‘remembrance is bitter,’ says Job, Job 13:26. Sixthly, our high noon:— God, that could not be heard before for the loud noise of vanity, now looks for audience.

But here is his end, you must read him no further:— ‘He whom you have seen this day, you shall see him again no more for ever,’ Exod. 14:13. ‘Whose shall these things be,’ O worldling? Were thy grounds as Eden, and thy house like the court of Jehoiakim, yet coud’st thou think to reign, because thou closest thyself in cedar?’ Jer. 22:15. No; thy end is come; ‘whose shall these things be?’

It were something yet if thy children might enjoy these riches. But there is a man that ‘hath no child, yet is there no end of his labour; neither is his eye satisfied with wealth; and he saith not, ‘For whom do I travail, and bereave my soul of this good?’ Eccl. 4:8. The prodigal would be his own heir and executor; but this covetous man bequeaths neither legacy to himself, nor to any known inheritor. The other desires to see an end of all his substance; this man to see only the beginning. He hunts the world full cry, yet hath no purpose to overtake it; he lives behind his wealth, as the other lives beyond it. But suppose he bath children, and then though he famish himself to feed them fat; though he be damned, yet if his son be made a gentleman, there is some satisfaction. But this Cujus erunt is a scattering word, and of great uncertainty. Whose shall they be?’ Perhaps not thy children’s. They say, Happy is that son whose father goes to the devil,’ but thou mayest go to the devil, and yet not make thy son happy. For men make heritages, but God makes heirs. He will wash away the unholy seed, and cut off the generation of the wicked. Solomon had a thousand wives and concubines, and consequently many children; yet at last he wants one of his seed to sit upon the throne of David, or to bear rule in Judah.’ It often so falls out, that to a man exceeding wealthy is denied a successor of his own loins. Let him have children, he is not sure those children shall possess his riches. But those riches perish by evil travail; and he begetteth a son, and there is nothing in his hand,’ Eccl. 5:14. A scatterer succeeds a gatherer; the father loved the world too well, and the son cares not for it. The sire was all for the rake, and the son is all for the pitchfork. So, ‘whose shall all these be?’ Even his that will one day pity the poor.

But perhaps if thou hast no children thou hast a brother. Thou bequeathest it to thy brother, but God disposeth it to his children. But thou hast no brother, yet thou hast kindred and friends; and to help thy cousins to wealth, thou wilt cozen thy own soul! Alas! it is a mystery of knowledge to discern friends. ‘Wealth maketh many friends,’ Prov. 19:4; they are friends to the wealth, not to the wealthy.

Worldly friends are but like hot water, that when cold weather comes, are soonest frozen. Like cuckoos, all summer they will sing a scurvy note to thee, but they are gone in July at furthest:— sure enough before the fall. They flatter a rich man, as we feed beasts, till he be fat, and then feed on him. A true friend reproves thee erring, though perhaps not suddenly. Iron is first heated, then beaten:— first let him be heated with due and deserved praise for his good, then cool and work him with reprehension for his evil; as nurses, when their children are fallen, first take them up, and speak them fair, and chide or correct them afterwards. These friends love not thy soul’s good, but thy body’s goods; let them not carry away thy heart from Christ.

All these particulars surveyed give the covetous cosmopolite three brands. He is branded in his soul, in his riches, in his good name. In his soul:— ‘Thy soul shall be fetched away.’ In his riches:— ‘Whose shall these things be which thou hast provided?’ In his name ‘Thou fool.’ Whereupon we may justly infer this conclusion as the sum of all:— that abundant wealth can bring no good either to soul, body, or name. Man is said to have three lives:— spiritual, corporal, and civil, as the lawyers call it — the life of his good name. Neither to this, nor to the life of his soul or body, can multitude of riches confer any good. This text shall prove it in all the particulars:—

1. To the soul can opulency procure no benefit. All Christians know that good for the soul is the passion and merits of Christ:— faith to apprehend these; repentance to mortify sins; sanctification to give us celestial lives; and salvation to glorify our persons. But can any of these be bought with money? ‘Thou and thy money perish together, that thinkest the gifts of God may be purchased with money,’ Acts 8:20. God will not barter away his graces (as the Indians their gold) for thy gauds and rattles. He will not take the mortgage of a lordship for the debt thou owest him. The smoke of thy sacrifice smells never the sweeter because thou art clothed in silks, or canst sit down to tell thy Michaelmas thousands. Thy adulteries cannot be commuted for in heaven, nor thy usuries be answered by a fine before the tribunal of the Highest. Thou mayest as soon and easily mount up to heaven with wings of lead as by feathers of wealth. Indeed, they can do a man as much good in distress of conscience, as to have his head bound with a wet cloth in a cold morning can cure the headache. If wealth could keep a man from hell, how few rich men would be damned! But he is not sanctior qui ditior; nor is salvation vendible to a full purse. The doctrine of Rome may affirm it; but the decree of God will not afford it. This cosmopolite had barns and bars, but these cannot hedge in his soul; that is ‘required.’

2. To the body perhaps there is some more expectation of good, but no more success. Thou art anguished:— will thy wealth purchase health? Sleep is denied thy senses, and after many changed sides and places, thou canst find no rest:— go now, empty thy coffers, and try what slumber the charms and chimes of gold can ring thee. Thy stomach loathes meat:— all thy riches are not sufficient sauce to get thee an appetite. Couldst thou drink Cleopatra’s draught, it will not ease thy headache. The physician will take thy money, and give thee physic; but what physic will give thee infallible health?

But the rich man hath a fire, when the poor sits cold; the rich a harbour, attendance, and delicate provision, when the poor wants both house and home, meat and money, garments and company. For though riches gather many friends, ‘the poor is separated from his neighbours,’ Prov. 19:4. No part of my sermon hath denied but the competency of these earthly things is a blessing; neither dare I infer that the want of these is a curse; for the best have wanted them, not the Saviour of men himself excepted. But what is this to abundance? Is not he as warm that goes in russet as another that rustles and ruffles in his silks? Hath not the poor labourer as sound asleep on his flock-bed or pad of straw as the epicure on his down-bed, with his rich curtains and coverings? Doth not quiet lie oftener in cottages than in glorious manors? ‘The sleep of a labouring man is sweet, whether he eat little or much; but the abundance of the rich will not suffer him to sleep.’

3. The name perhaps hath some hope of luxurious share in this abundance, and thinks to be swelled into a Colossus, over-straddling the world. There is more hope of a great name than of good content. And now for the name; what is the event? What is credit, or how may we define a good name? Is it to have a pageant of cringes and faces acted to a taffety jacket? To be followed by a world of hang-byes, and hooted at by the reeling multitude, like a bird of paradise, stuck full of pied feathers? To have poor men crouch to him, as little dogs use to a great mastiff? Is this a good name? Is this credit? Indeed these things may give him a great sound, but the bell is hollow. He may think himself the better; but no wise man, no good man doth; and the fame that is derived from fools is infamy.

That which I take to be a good name is this:— to be well esteemed of in Christian hearts; to find reverence in good men’s souls. It is a good thing to be praised, but it is a better to be praiseworthy. It is well that good men commend thee in their consciences, but it is better when thy good conscience can commend thee in itself. Happy is he whose ‘own heart doth not condemn him,’ 1 John 3:21. This credit wealth cannot procure, but grace; not goods, but goodness. The poorest man serving God with a faithful heart, finds this approbation in sanctified affections, when golden asses go without it. I confess, many rich men have had this credit, but they will never thank their riches for it. Their greatness never helped them to this name, but their goodness. They have honoured the Lord, and those the Lord hath promised that he will honour.

To conclude:— it may be yet objected, that though much wealth can procure to soul, body or name, no good; yet it may be an antidote to prevent some evil. What evil then can riches either prevent or remove from man?

1. Not from the soul; all evil to this is either of sin or of punishment for sin. What vice is evacuated by riches? Is the wealthy man humbled by his abundance? Wealth is no charm to conjure away the devil; such an amulet and the Pope’s holy-water are both of a force. Inward vexations forbear not their stings in awe of riches. An evil conscience dares perplex a Saul in his throne, and a Judas with his purse full of money. Can a silken sleeve keep a broken arm from aching? Then may full barns keep an evil con-science from vexing.

2. Nor from the body can riches remove any plague. The lightning from heaven may consume us, though we be clad in gold; the vapours of earth choke us, though perfumes are still in our nostrils; and poison burst us, though we have the most virtual antidotes. What judgment is the poor subject to, from which the rich is exempted? Their feet do as soon stumble, and their bones are as quickly broken. Consumptions, fevers, gouts, dropsies, pleurisies, palsies, surfeits, are household guests in rich men’s families, and but mere strangers in cottages. They are the effects of superfluous fare and idleness; and keep their ordinary at rich men’s tables. Anguish lies oftener on a down-bed than on a pallet; diseases wait upon luxury as close as luxury upon wealth. These frogs dare leap into King Pharaoh’s chamber, and forbear not the most sumptuous palace. But money can buy medicines:— yet, what sick man would not wish that he had no money, on condition that he had no malady! Labour and moderate diet are the poor man’s friends, and preserve him from the acquaintance of Master Doctor, or the surfeited bills of his apothecary. Though our worldling here promiseth out of his abundance, meat, drink, and mirth; yet his body grows sick, and his soul sad:— he was before careless, and he is now cureless; all his wealth cannot retain his health, when God will take it away.

3. But what shall we say to the estate? Evils to that are poverty, hunger, thirst, weariness, servility. We hope wealth can stop the invasion of these miseries. Nothing less:— it rather mounts a man, as a wrestler does his combatant, that it may give him the greater fall. Riches are but a shield of wax against a sword of power. The larger state, the fairest mark for misfortune to shoot at. Eagles catch not after flies; nor will the Hercules of ambition lift up his club but against these giants. There is not in poverty that matter for a great man’s covetous fire to work upon, If Naboth had had no vineyard to prejudice the command of Ahab’s lordship, he had saved both his peace and life. Violent winds blow through a hollow willow, or over a poor shrub, and let them stand, whiles they rend a-pieces oaks and great cedars, that oppose their great bodies to the furious blasts. The tempests of oppressing power meddle not with the contemptible quiet of poor labourers, but shake up rich men by the very roots; that their blasted fortunes may be fit timber for their own building. Who stands so like an eyesore in the tyrannous sight of ambition as the wealthy? Imprisonment, restraint, banishment, confiscation, fining, and confining are greatness’s intelligencers; instruments and stairs to climb up by into rich men’s possessions.I end, then, as Paul concludes his counsel to rich men:— ‘Lay up for yourselves a good foundation against the time to come, that you may lay hold on eternal life,’ 1 Tim. 6:19.