« PreviousContinue »
anxiety and disquietude, -it is this which is sinful. It is, therefore, prohibited in its earliest spring in the heart: " Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour's house, thou shalt not covet thy neighbour's wife, nor his man, servant, nor his maid-servant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor any thing that is thy neighbour's *.”—“But they that will be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and hurtful lusts, which drown men in destruction and perdition.” “For the love of money is the root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows. But thou, O man of God, flee these things; and follow after righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, meekness t."
In all ranks and circumstances of society, man is exposed to temptations to indulge this evil desire. Property secures to its possessor, influence, splendid accommodation and equipage, luxury, and the objects of his wishes generally, in so far as these are limited to earthly good. Hence, its acquisition is sought after, by men of all professions, and from the highest to the lowest of the community. Is it not natural for those who have, at any time, experienced embarrassment from a deficiency of this commodity, anxiously to provide against a recurrence of similar difficulties ! It procures to the young indulgences to which youth attaches so much value; to those engaged in the busy scenes of life, weight and authority among their associates; and to the aged the attention and respect which
age of itself, unaccompanied with the possession of property, sometimes fails in securing. Can we * Exod. xx. 17.
11 Tim, vị. 9-11.
wonder that an instrument by which we can work so many changes,—which so effectually alters our condition in regard to others, and the condition of others in regard to us,--and which all may lawfully exert themselves to obtain,-can we wonder that all should be in danger of pursuing it eagerly, inordinately, and sinfully?
The guilt of covetousness is affirmed by the Apostle Paul, when he declares that it is idolatry, an alienation of heart and of affection from God, which excludes from the kingdom of Christ and of God. He also declares it to be the root of all evil, the parent of almost every sin, the spring of private and public mischief and misery. When the love of money has acquired possession of the heart, it hardens and shuts it against the admission of every softening and generous feeling,-it steals it away from every pure and spiritual object,-and leaves no room for the holy presence of that God who condescends to dwell with men. Religion apart, it often produces the most extraordinary and almost incredible transformations on human character; converting the warm and affectionate friend of our youth, who wept when we wept, and who rejoiced when we rejoiced, into the cold and unfeeling misanthropist, who is alike indifferent to all that can create light or make darkness, and who wraps himself up in the narrow covering of his own selfishness.
Covetousness is a vice more general than any other, and is, perhaps, more frequently the occasion of secret and open apostacy from the purity of religion. Under the mask of frugality, a laudable economy, and the desire of making a competent provision for a family, it may be strengthening its position in the citadel of the heart, and producing a wide separation between God and the soul. While there remains a semblance of devotion and the wonted regularity in observing its ordinances, this enemy may have acquired a firm possession; and so complete, at length, may its mastery become, that the man under its influence shall lose every susceptibility of either spiritual or generous emotion.
The poor are as liable to indulge this vice as the rich. It does not consist, either in the act of acquiring, or of possessing wealth, but in placing the heart upon it; and that all are too apt to yield to it, is amply attested by the consciences of all, and by the declarations of the sacred oracles.
Covetousness leads to the commission of almost every crime: it is, as the Apostle declares, the root of all evil. The Scriptures hold up to our view its debasing influence on Balaam, who loved the wages of unrighteousness :-on Judas, who, for thirty pieces of silver, sold his Divine Master :-on Demas, who deserted the ministry of the gospel, having loved this present world:-on Demetrius and his associates, who, for the sake of gain, zealously supported a system of idolatrous superstition. What instigates the murderer, in defiance of the authority of God and of his own conscience, to take away the life of a fellowcreature? It is the inordinate desire of property. To the same cause we may trace all the crimes of the persons who render gaols and bridewells necessary ;theft, swindling, robbery, forgery, smuggling, perjury,
How perniciously is the influence of this vice felt in every situation of life! The poor, in particular, are often painfully made to feel it, by the medium of wicked balances, and deceitful weights : the rich, in the avaricious and unprincipled conduct of dependants, and those to whom they intrust their business: the young, in the worldly views and feelings of their parents, who pay far greater regard to the wealth of the persons with whom they lead them to form permanent connexions, than to their moral and religious worth; and the aged, in the interested conduct of those around them, whose eyes are continually fixed on the advantages they are to derive from their death. It is covetousness that hardens the heart of the oppressor, and makes it insensible to the cries and the tears of the hapless victims of his inhumanity and cruelty. What calamity can happen, either in private or public life, which this vice does not aggravate, if it does not originate?
But in yielding to this passion, do not mankind give way to an illusion ? How unsatisfactory and fleeting is all the good which gold can purchase? He who possessed it in rich abundance, and who procured by it all the gratifications which it can afford, has confessed, that all is vanity and vexation of spirit. Even when attained almost to the limit of our wishes, how uncertain is the possession ! « Riches make themselves wings, and fly away." Though the possession should be retained till death, how awful is the future and eternal condition of the person who has given his beart to mammon! After having spent a feverish, anxious, earthly life, in the neglect of all the great purposes for which life is bestowed, what is bis reward? He may have accumulated riches; and in this he gained the end of his pursuit: but he “shall not inherit the kingdom of God.” Gold is thus purchased at a price of incalculable magnitude. Though the whole world were gained, it is at the expense of the soul: “and what shall a man give in exchange for his soul ?”
The effectual way of shutting out from our þearts the love of the world, is habitually to cherish the love of God. Were we ever endeavouring to enlarge our conceptions of his power, love, and all-sufficiency ;of the comparative worthlessness of whatever would alienate our affections from him ;-and of the true and eternal happiness to which he has called us to aspire, we should feel ourselves more at liberty to run in the way of the commandments. “ Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lụst of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world. And the world
passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever *. To this apostolic exhortation I will add that of a distinguished prophet; “ Beware, lest when thy herds and thy flocks multiply, and thy silver and thy gold is multiplied, and all that thou hast is multiplied, then thine heart be lifted up, and thou forget the Lord thy God; and thou say in thine heart, My power, and the might of mine
* 1 John ii. 16-20.