A great estate is a great disadvantage to those who do not know how to use it, for nothing is more common than to see wealthy persons live scandalously and miserably; riches do them no service in order to virtue and happiness: therefore tis precept and principle, not an estate, that makes a man good for something.
The improvement of the ground is the most natural obtaining of riches; for it is our great mothers blessing, the earths; but it is slow; and yet where men of great wealth do stoop to husbandry, it multiplieth riches exceedingly.
I cannot call riches better than the baggage of virtue; the Roman word is better, impedimenta; for as the baggage is to an army, so is riches to virtue: it cannot be spared nor left behind, but it hindereth the march; yea, and the care of it sometimes loseth or disturbeth the victory: of great riches there is no real use, except it be in the distribution: the rest is but conceit; so saith Solomon, Where much is there are many to consume it; and what hath the owner but the sight of it with his eyes? The personal fruition in any man cannot reach to feel great riches: there is a custody of them; or a power of dole and donative of them; or a fame of them; but no solid use to the owner.
It was truly observed by one, That himself came very hardly to a little riches, and very easily to great riches; for when a mans stock is come to that, that he can expect the prime of markets, and overcome those bargains which for their greatness are few mens money, and be partner in the industries of younger men, he cannot but increase mainly.
What real good does an addition to a fortune already sufficient procure? Not any. Could the great man by having his fortune increased increase also his appetites, then precedence might be attended with real amusement.
There is a burden of care in getting riches; fear in keeping them; temptation in using them; guilt in abusing them; sorrow in losing them; and a burden of account at last to be given up concerning them.
The riches of the world, and the gratifications they afford, are too apt, when their evil tendency is not opposed by a principle of religion, to beget that friendship for the world which is enmity to God.
If thou art rich, then show the greatness of thy fortune, or, what is better, the greatness of thy soul, in the meekness of thy conversation; condescend to men of low estate, support the distressed, and patronize the neglected. Be great; but let it be in considering riches as they are, as talents committed to an earthen vessel; that thou art but the receiver, and that to be obliged and to be vain too, is but the old solecism of pride and beggary, which, though they often meet, yet ever make but an absurd society.
Let us not repine, or so much as think the gifts of God unequally dealt, if we see another abound with riches; when, as God knows, the cares that are the keys that keep those riches hang often so heavily at the rich mans girdle that they dog him with weary days and restless nights, even when others sleep quietly. We see but the outside of the rich mans happiness: few consider him to be like the silk-worm, that, when she seems to play, is at the very same time spinning her own bowels, and consuming herself. And this many rich men do; loading themselves with corroding cares to keep what they have already got. Let us, therefore, be thankful for health and competence, and above all for a quiet conscience.