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to the covetous, those votaries of Mammon, whatever dislike they may have to their associates, they stand ranked in the book of God with no other company than extortioners and thieves, drunkards and adulterers. Yea, they are branded with the most detestable character, for they are called idolaters.
The sin of covetousness is, I fear, greatly misunderstood, and much overlooked by many professors. Were it not, the remark would not be so often made, 'Such a person is a good Christian, but a covetous man.' Whereas it might with as much propriety be said, 'Such a woman is a virtuous lady, but an infamous prostitute.' For the latter is not more contrary to sound sense, than the former is to the positive declarations of God recorded in the Scripture. When we hear people in common talk about covetousness, we are tempted to look upon it as a merely trifling fault. But when we turn over the volume of heaven, we find it pronounced idolatry, and deemed a capital crime; while Jehovah denounces damnation against the wretch that is guilty of it.*
In what, then, does this aggravated sin consist? I answer, Covetousness, in the language of inspiration, 'is the desire of having more;' the desire of obtaining or increasing in wealth.+ Whoever, therefore, is habitually desirous of riches, is, in the estimate of heaven, a covetous man; whatever his station in life, or profession of religion, may be. The language of the covetous heart is that of the horse-leech's daughters, 'Give, give.' The covetous man is always desirous of more, whether he has little or much; and if a professor, he will always find some pretext to hide the iniquity of his idolatrous heart. But however such a professor may cover his crime under plausible pretences of any kind, or however safe he may imagine himself as being member of a visible church, and free from her censure, the time is coming when the mask shall be stripped off, and
* 1 Cor. vi. 9, 10. Eph. v. 5. Col. iii. 5. Psalm x. 3. +"Pleonexia."
e then it shall be fully known where his affections have been, and what God he has served. Then it shall plainly appear whether JEHOVAH or Mammon swayed his affections, and ruled his heart. Perhaps there are few sins for the practice of which so many excuses are made, and plausible pretences urged, as that of covetousness, or a love of the world; consequently, there are few sins against which professors have greater occasion to watch. It was not, therefore, without the greatest reason that our Lord gave that solemn caution to all his followers- Take heed, and beware of covetousness.*'
* Luke xii. 15. None will suppose, from what I have just asserted, that I mean to encourage idleness or extravagance. No; far be it! Those who through indolence, pride, or prodigality, waste their substance, and fail in the world, can hardly be too severely censured. They not only impoverish themselves, but injure their neighbours; and are no other than the pests of society, and public robbers.
The reader, I presume, will not be displeased if I present him with a quotation on this subject from my worthy and honoured friend Mr. Henry Venn. It is remarkable (says he) that the covetousness against which we are so earnestly warned in God's word, is not of the scandalous kind; but such as may govern the heart of a man who is esteemed very virtuous and excellent by the world. In the tenth Psalm, the covetous, whom the Lord is there said to abhor, are the very persons of whom the wicked speak well; which could never be the case, did their love of money make them either villanous in their practice, or miserably penurious in their temper: for men of this stamp none commend. The same thing is observable in that solemn caution given by our Redeemer: "Take heed and beware of covetousness." By which it is evident, he meant no more than a rooted persuasion that the comfort of life consists in abundance, and desiring, from such a persuasion, to be rich. This was the covetousness our Lord condemns; and that his admonition might sink the deeper, he represents the workings of that avarice which he condemns, in a case which passes every day before our eyes. It is this: A man grows rich in his business, not through fraud or extortion, but by the blessing of God upon his labour and skill. As is usual, he is highly delighted with his success; be exults in the prospect of being master, in a few years, of an independent fortune! In the meantime he is determined to be frugal and diligent till he takes his final leave of business, to enjoy all the sweets of ease and splendour, Luke xii. 19. Now, where are the people, governed by the common maxims and principles of human nature, who see anything the least to blame in this man's sentiment or conduct? Who do not applaud and imitate it themselves? Yet this very man our Lord sets before our eyes as the picture of one engrossed by a covetous desire of the things off this world. This very man he represents as summoned, in the midst o
We may therefore conclude, that though the absolute freeness of Christ, as exhibited in the gospel to the worst of sinners, must be maintained with confidence, yet we are bound to affirm, with equal assurance, that he who pretends to faith in Jesus, and does Not habitually live under the benign influence of the love of God, and the love of his brother, for the truth's sake,-that he who does not manifest this heavenly affection by a suitable conduct, has no right to call himself a Christian, nor ought to be acknowledged
all his golden hopes, to appear a most guilty criminal at the bar of his despised Maker. Lo! this is the man whom our Lord exposes as a miserable wretch, for all others to take warning by, and resist covetousness. So," such a fool and such a sinner as this, "is he that layeth up treasure for himself," that is, every earthly minded man who seeks after wealth as if it was the foundation of happiness; " and is not rich towards God;" rich in faith, hope, and holiness, Luke xii. 21.
. Paul, in perfect harmony with his Lord, forbids the desire of wealth as a criminal effect of avarice. Let your conversation be without covetousness, and be content with such things as ye have; for He hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee, Heb. xiii. 5. And where, instead of this self-denied temper, a desire of increasing in wealth is cherished, there snares, defilement, and ruin, are declared to be the certain consequences. For they that will (the original signifies the simple desire) 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 have coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows, 1 Tim. vi. 9, 10. If it should be said, Do you mean, then, to affirm that it is wrong for any man to rise to a state of great wealth? The scripture, I answer, condemns only the desire of riches, and the passion for them, as defiling and sinful. Therefore, if, whilst your whole heart is given to God, he is pleased to prosper whatever you take in hand, and to give you an abundant increase, then your wealth is evidently as much the gift of God as if it came to you by legacy or inheritance. It is God's own act and deed to call you up, who was content to sit down in a low place, to an higher point of view, and to intrust you with more talents to improve them for his glory. Now, the difference between possessing wealth thus put into your hands, and desiring to grow rich, is as great as that between a worthless, ambitious intruder into a place of honour, seeking nothing but his own base interest; and a man sought out for his worth, and invested with the same office for the public good. And those who can see no material, no necessary distinction in the two cases, are already blinded by the love of money.' New Whole Duty of Man, which may be had of the publisher of this book.
Of Grace, as it reigns in the PERSEVERANCE of the Saints to eternal Glory.
FROM the preceding chapter it appears that the state of believers, whether considered as relative or real, in their justification, adoption, and sanctification, is highly exalted, and that the privileges attending_it are of incomparable excellence and infinite worth. In each of these particulars it has also been proved that grace reigns-that the exceeding riches of grace are manifested.
The believer, notwithstanding, who knows himself, will be ready to inquire, with the greatest solicitude, 'How shall I persevere in this happy state? by what means shall I attain the desired end? What provision has the Lord made, that I may not, after all, come short of the expected bliss? Grace, I thankfully acknowledge, has done great things for me; to reigning grace I own myself unspeakably obliged. But if grace, as a sovereign, does not still exert her power, I not only possibly may, but certainly shall, finally miscarry.' Thus will every Christian conclude when he considers the number and power, the malice and subtlety, of his spiritual enemies, compared with his own inherentstrength to resist them. For the world, the flesh, and the devil, are combined against him. These, in their several ways, assault his peace, and seek his ruin. These attempt, in various forms, to cause him to wallow in the mire of sensuality, as the filthiest brute; or to puff him up with pride, as Lucifer. By insinuating wiles or open attacks, with the craft of a serpent or the rage of a lion, they endeavour to compass his ruin; and alas, how small his strength, as considered in himself, to resist and overcome! The corruption of nature, even in the regenerate, renders the believer's desires
after that which is good too often exceeding languid, and enervates all his moral powers. His frames are fickle and uncertain to the last degree, nor can he with safety place the least confidence in them.
*This humbling truth is exemplified in a very remarkable manner in the case of Peter. He said with confidence, 'Though all men be offended because of thee, yet I will never be offended-though I should die with thee, yet will not I deny thee.' But, alas! in a very little while his frame of mind is altered. His courage fails, his pious resolutions and steadiest purposes hang their enfeebled heads; so that, notwithstanding his boasted fidelity, he cannot watch with Christ so much as one hour, though there be the greatest necessity for it. He is brought to the trial, and, like Samson, his locks areshorn; his presumed strength is gone; -he trembles at the voice of a silly maid, and, shocking to think! denies his Lord with dreadful oaths and horrid imprecations. Such are the inherent abilities of those who are to fight against the world, the flesh, and the devil. Such are the best of saints, considered in themselves.
And can these unstable and impotent creatures ever expect to persevere and attain eternal life? Can they, who know not how to trust their own hearts for a moment; whose strength, in a comparative view, is mere weakness; who are surronnded continually with the most crafty, powerful, and unwearied adversaries, rationally expect a complete victory, and an everlasting crown? Yes, these very persons can do all things through Christ strengthening them. God can enable even a worm to thrash the mountains. They shall not only come off victorious, but be more than conquerors over all their enemies. Nor can this appear strange, or in the least incredible, when it is considered that Grace, omnipotent Grace, reigns-that the love, the power, the wisdom, the promises, the covenant, and faithfulness of God-that all the divine Persons in the eternal Trinity, and every perfection in the Godhead,
* Prov. xxviii. 26. Jer. xvii. 9.