William Bradford Institute
for Study of the
Early Settlement of America

Of Rules to Find Out Covetousness

by William Gouge

It is in vain for any to search after that which he knows not how to find out.
God himself having exhorted Joshua and the elders of Israel to search out the
accursed thing that was hid in the camp, gave him advice and direction how to do
it, Josh. vii. 13, 14. I hold it meet, therefore, here to add a direction.

1. Observe the inward wishes of thine heart. If they be especially for the
things of this world, they argue a covetous disposition. Covetousness is styled
'the lust of the eye,' 1 John ii. 16; that is, an inward inordinate desire
arising from the sight of such and such a thing, Josh. vii. 21. Many things may
be seen which are not desired, but if desired, and that inordinately, there is

2. In things which differ, mark what is preferred. If earthly things be
preferred before heavenly, temporal before spiritual, that disposition is
covetous. Such was the disposition of those who are invited to the king's
supper, and refused to go, Luke xiv. 18, &c.; and the disposition of the
Gadarenes, Mark v. 17.

3. In the means of getting, consider whether they be just and right, or no; for
all unjust and undue ways of getting, arise from covetousness. A mind free from
it will rest content with that portion which by the divine providence shall be
allotted, Jer. xxii. 17, Micah ii. 12.

4. Compare with the stint which thou first settest to thyself, the issue that
followeth. If. upon the obtaining of the first desire, a man remain unsatisfied,
and his desire be more and more enlarged, he hath a covetous heart. For example,
a poor man thinks if he could get ten shillings a week, it would serve his turn;
he hath it, but then he desireth ten shillings a day; he hath that also, yet is
not satisfied; from shillings his desire ariseth to pounds, and yet is not
satisfied. These are such of whom the prophet thus speaketh, 'Woe unto them that
join house to house, that lay field to field, till there be no place, that they
may be placed alone in the midst of the earth,' Isa. v. 8. Such a one is said to
'enlarge his desire as hell,' Hab. ii. 5.

5. Well weigh the effects of thy desire of riches. If thoughts thereupon break
thy sleep, and care thereabouts consume thy flesh, and labour and toil therein
take up all thy time, and impair health and strength, that desire is
immoderate-it is plain covetousness, Eccles. ii. 23, and v. 12. This argueth a
greediness after 'filthy lucre,' as the apostle terms it, 1 Tim. iii. 3.

6. Take notice of thy disposition in hoarding up and keeping wealth, and sparing
to spend it; for covetousness consisteth as much (if not more) in keeping as in
getting. The rich man in the parable herein especially manifested his
covetousness, Luke xii. 19. The Lord, therefore, for avoiding covetousness,
forbids from laying up treasures on earth, Mat. vi. 19. See Sec. 51
7. Observe thy manner of spending. If it be too sparingly, niggardly, and
basely, if under thy degree and means, if against health and strength in
general, not affording what is needful thereunto; or against special occasions,
not affording physic or other requisites in sickness, or help of surgery in case
of wounds, sores, or other maladies; or against the charge that belongs unto
thee, as wife, children, servants, kindred, and neighbours; or against the duty
and due which thou owest to the poor, state, and church; or in what thou doest
in any of the foresaid kinds, thou doest perforce so as otherwise thou wouldst
not of it, surely this kind of spending savoureth rank of covetousness, Eccles.


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