Front Page Titles (by Subject) Against the enticings and provokings unto avarice.: Chap. xxxiv. - The Manual of a Christian Knight
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Against the enticings and provokings unto avarice.: Chap. xxxiv. - Desiderius Erasmus, The Manual of a Christian Knight 
A Book Called in Latin Enchiridion Militis Christiani and in English The Manual of the Christian Knight, replenished with the most wholesome precepts made by the famous clerk Erasmus of Rotterdam, to which is added a new and marvellous profitable Preface (London: Methuen and Co., 1905).
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Against the enticings and provokings unto avarice.
If thou shalt perceive that thou art either by nature anything inclined to the vice of avarice Avarice., or stirred by the devil: call to remembrance (according to the rules above rehearsed) the dignity of thy condition or state, which for this thing only wast created, for this redeemed, that thou ever shouldest enjoy that infinite good thing God, for God hath forged all the whole building of this world that all things should obey unto thy use and necessity. How filthy then and of how strait and narrow a mind is it, not to use but so greatly to wonder at things dumb and most vile: take away the error of men, what shall gold and silver be but red earth and white? Shalt thou be the disciple of poor Christ and, called to a better possession, wonder at that as a certain great and excellent thing which no philosopher of the gentiles did not set at naught? Not to possess riches To despise riches is a noble thing., but to despise riches, is a noble thing. But the commonalty of christian men by name only cry out against me, and be glad to deceive themselves most craftily: very necessity (say they) compelleth us to gather good together, whereof if there should be none at all, then could we not once live verily: if it should be thin and poor, then should we live in much misery without pleasure. But and if it be somewhat clean and honest, and somewhat plenteous withal, it bringeth many commodities to man. The good liking of body is well seen unto, provision is made for our children, we lend and profit our friends, we are delivered from contempt and be the more set by: in conclusion also a man shall have the better name when he is somewhat wealthy. Of a great many thousands of christian men thou canst scarce find one or two that doth not both say and think the same. Nevertheless to answer these men unto both parts. First of all because they cloak their covetousness with the name of necessity Christ, in the gospel of Matthew, lest his disciples should care for meat drink or clothes, bade them to behold the lilies how they were clothed and the birds how they were fed saying, if your father of heaven make provision for so vile things much more ye cannot lack whom he loveth so singularly., I will lay against them the parable rehearsed in the gospel of the lilies and of the birds living from day to day without farther provision, whose example Christ exhorteth us to counterfeit. I will lay against them that the same Christ would not once suffer so much as a scrip to be carried about of his disciples. I will lay against them, that he commandeth us (all other things laid apart) before all things to seek the kingdom of heaven, and promiseth that all things shall be cast and given to us. When at any time had not they things necessary to maintain life withal sufficiently, which with all their hearts have given themselves to virtue and to the true life of a christian man? And how small a thing is that which nature requireth of us? But thou measurest necessity not by the needs of nature, but by the bounds of covetousness. But unto good men even that is enough that scarcely contenteth nature. Friars. How-be-it verily I do not so greatly set of these which forsake at one chop their whole substance every whit that they might the more shamefully beg of other. It is none offence to possess money, but to love and set store by money that is a vice and cousin to sin. If riches flow unto thee, use the office of a good dispenser: but and if it ebb and go away, be not consumed with thought, as though thou were robbed of a greater thing, but rather rejoice that thou art delivered of a perilous fardel. Notwithstanding he which consumeth the chief study and pastime of his life in heaping up riches together, which gapeth at them as a certain excellent or noble thing, and highly to be desired, and layeth them up in store, that he may have enough to serve him for long time, yea though he should live even to the age of Nestor: Nestor lived three hundred years. this man peradventure may well be called a good merchant, but verily I would not say that he were a very good christian man, that hangeth all together of himself, and hath distrust of the promises of Christ, whose goodness, it is easy to wit, shall not fail a good man putting his trust in him, seeing that he so liberally both feedeth and clotheth the poor sparrows. But let us now cast accounts of the commodities, which riches is believed to bring with him. First of all even by the common consent of the gentile philosophers: among the good things which are called bona utilia, that is to say, good profitable things, riches hath the lowest place. Riches among profitable things obtain the lowest room. And when all other things (after the division of Epictetus) are without man, except only virtue of the mind: yet nothing is so much without us as money is, nothing bringeth so little commodity. For whatsoever there is anywhere of gold Riches helpeth nothing to virtue., whatsoever there is of precious stones, if thou alone hadst it every deal in thy possession, shall thy mind be therefore the better by the value of one hair? Shalt thou be the wiser? Shalt thou be the cunninger? Shalt thou be any whit the more in good health of body? Shall it make thee more strong and lusty? More fair and beauteous? More young? No, truly. But you will say that it purchaseth pleasures, truth it is: but they be deadly pleasures; it getteth a man honour: but what honour I pray you? To false pleasures and vain honours they help somewhat. Verily false honour, which they give, that prayeth nothing, setteth by nothing but only foolish things, and of whom to be praised, is well near to be dispraised. True honour is to be lauded of them which are commendable and praiseworthy themselves. Honour is the reward of virtue, and not of riches. The highest honour that can be is to have pleased Christ. True honour is the reward, not of riches, but of virtue. The foolish people giveth thee room and place, gazeth upon thee, and giveth thee honour and reverence. Oh fool, they wonder at thine apparel, and honoureth it, and not thee: Why dost thou not descend into thine own conscience, and consider the miserable poverty of thy mind? Which if the common people saw, then would they judge thee as miserable and wretched, as they now call thee happy and blessed. But good getteth friends. I grant, but yet feigned and false friends: neither getteth it friends to thee but to itself. And certainly the rich man is in this point of all men most unfortunate and wretched, because he cannot so much as discern or know his true friends and lovers from other. Riches getteth friends but those false and feigned. One hateth him privily and secretly in heart and mind as an hard niggard. Another hath envy at him, because he passeth him in riches. Another looking to his own profit and advantage flattereth him, and holdeth up his yea and his nay, and smileth upon him, to the end that he may scrape and get something from him. He that before his face is most loving and kind wisheth and prayeth for his quick and hasty death. There is none that loveth him so heartily and entirely, but that he had liefer have him dead than alive. No man is so familiar with him, that he will tell him the truth. But be it in case there were one special friend among a thousand that loved a rich man heartily without any manner of feigning, yet cannot the rich man but have in suspicion and mistrust every man. He judgeth all men to be vultures and ravenous birds gaping for carrion: he thinketh all men to be flies flying to him, to suck out some profit of him for themselves. Whatsoever commodity therefore riches seemeth to bring, it for the most part, or else altogether is but coloured and deceitful, it is shadow-like and full of delusion, appearing otherwise than it is in very deed. But they bring very many things which are evil indeed, and taketh away very many of these things which are good in very deed. Therefore if thou wilt lay accounts well and perfectly of that which is won, and that which is lost: doubtless thou shalt find that they never do bring so much of commodities, but that they draw with them too too much more of incommodities and displeasures. With how painful and sore labours are they gotten, and with how great jeopardies? With how great thought and care be they kept? With how great heaviness and sorrow are they lost? Wherefore Christ compareth riches to thorns. For which causes Christ calleth them, yea, thorns, because they rend, tear and pluck in sunder all the tranquillity and quietness of the mind, with a thousand cares, than the which tranquillity of mind, nothing is to man more sweet and pleasant, and they never quench thirst and desire of themselves, but kindleth and increaseth it more and more. They drive a man headlong into all mischief. Neither flatter thyself in vain, saying nothing forbiddeth but that a man at one time may be both rich and good. Remember what verity saith It is hard for a rich man to be a good man., that it is more easy for a camel to creep through the eye of a needle than a rich man to enter into the kingdom of heaven. And plainly without exception true is that saying of Saint Jerome. A rich man to be either unjust himself or the heir of an unjust man: great riches can never be either gotten or else kept without sin. Remember of how much better riches they rob thee Avarice is called idolatry., for he hateth the very taste and smell of virtue, he hateth all honest crafts, whosoever setteth his heart upon gold. Moreover the vice of avarice only is called idolatry of Paul. Mammon is the devil which tempteth and stirreth to covetousness. Neither with any other vice at all Christ hath less acquaintance, neither the selfsame person can please God and mammon also.