Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

text. The man who desires Christ to compel his brother to divide with him the inheritance is a lover of money, or he would not have interrupted the words of eternal life proceeding from the lips of the Saviour, to converse about the paltry interests of his fortune. The rich man of the parable is a lover of money, or he would be more desirous to be rich towards God, than to amass wealth for himself. The disciples would have sinned by the love of money, had they given themselves up to anxiety, or sought their treasure here below.

It is scarcely necessary to add, that the lover of money, in the sense of the Bible, is a man who loves money to excess, as a lover of pleasure is a man drawn away by the love of pleasure. Money has a real value, which a wise man cannot despise. As society is constituted, money is the key of all its advantages and enjoyments. Money is a condensed world. A man who possesses money has, in some sense, enclosed in his coffers all that his eyes can desire, -fields, houses, meat and drink, means of amusement as well as instruction, and even the good opinion and favour of his fellow-creatures. This is the order of nature ; and we should be careful not to condemn it, as it has the authority of the word of God. “Wisdom is good with an inheritance ;” (or, as good as an inheritance ;) “ for wisdom is a defence, and money is a defence.” (Eccles. vii. 11, 12.)* “A feast is made for laughter, and wine maketh merry: but money answereth all things.” (x. 19.) It answereth not only our well-being, but our imperative necessities, and our sacred duties. To desire it is as innocent as to live. But the path from lawful to unlawful attachment is short and slippery. Whilst we contemplate the irresistible force with which money attracts every thing to itself, we allow ourselves to be drawn into the temptation of seeking it as the chief good ; and all the love of the world which the heart contains is concentrated and concealed in the love of money. We begin by loving it for the advantages which it procures; and we then learn insensibly to love it for its own sake, or, if you please, for the unforeseen use to which we flatter ourselves we can apply it at a future time, which we may never see.

We know how to avoid certain extremes, and thus do not pass for covetous persons in the estimation of the world ; but we are not the less controlled by this thirst for wealth : it is there the heart fixes. This covetousness spreads like a contagious disease. Men mutually cherish it; and, rather by an exchange of looks than by words, seem to say, “Taste and see how good money is.” Thus is formed and exhibited, by degrees, an inordinate love of money, which subjugates piety to its sway, instead of being governed by it; and converts its possessor, according to the words of Christ, into “a servant of Mammon.”

This love of money assumes different forms and variations among men, without any alteration before that God who searches the heart.

"We read also : “ The crown of the wise is their riches." (Prov. xiv. 24.)

One loves money in order to hoard it: he is the miser, the covetous man according to the world. He knows how, perhaps, to avoid certain appearances, to escape this odious title: but to separate him from his treasure is to tear away from him a part of his existence; and he would willingly say of money what God has said of the blood,

Money, it is the life.” Covetous persons of this class are less rare than we imagine ; but they are skilful at concealment; and the secret of their parsimony is not often disclosed till their death. Another loves

money in order to spend it. He is the prodigally covetous man. For a man may be at the same time prodigal and covetous; not, indeed, in the sense of our idiom, but in the sense of the Bible: the prodigal man must necessarily be the lover of money, because it is more necessary to him than to others. These two dispositions, so far from destroying, afford each other mutual support,--prodigality always keeping the love of money in exercise, and the love of money providing prodigality with its daily bread. An historian,* well acquainted with human nature, describes a notorious criminal as exhibiting these two qualities : “ Covetous of the property of others, lavish of his own." A third loves money simply to acquire it: he is the ambitiously covelous man. It is not the desire of amassing money, nor even that of spending it, which controls him; but the gratification of his eyes, and the pleasure of his heart, is to see torrents of gold flow through his hands. Of these three forms of avarice, parsimonious avarice is more especially the sin of old age; prodigal avarice that of youth ; and ambitious avarice that of mature life. Add to these, covetousness belongs to all conditions. A rich man, whose happiness depends upon his fortune, and who desires continually to increase it, “ less rich in that which he possesses, than poor in that which he has not,” is the lover of money. But the poor man is not less so, if he cannot conform to the condition which Providence has allotted to him, and if his heart runs after money as after the chief good. The principle is the sanie in both ; and it is easy to see, that, if one should succeed to the position of the other, he would adopt his opinions. In a word, avarice is cupidity under all possible forms, and in all situations. It is selfishness applied to money.

If covetousness, as it is ordinarily understood, is not very common, every one will allow that covetousness as we have defined it, according to God's word, is much more so. But is it, then, sinful ? And whence arises this pointed exhortation ?-“ Take heed, and beware of covetousness."

II. The criminality of covetousness.

Men are in error as to the judgment God entertains of covetousness. A prevailing opinion exists, that men are at liberty to enrich themselves as much as possible, and then to do what they please with their

Sallust, speaking of Catiline : Alieni appetens, sui profusus.

can be

wealth. Under the influence of such a sentiment men abandon themselves to covetousness. They would not thus give themselves up to intemperance or to theft ; but it seems that covetousness is a sin of another order. Sins of this class exhibit a disgraceful notoriety, offensive to the sight, whilst they are associated with miseries which disturb the repose of families and the peace of society: but covetousness is more prudent and orderly ; it repels clamour and scandal ; it assumes, in general, an honest aspect, estimable in the opinion of the world, which willingly adorns it with the names of generous ambition, tuseful industry, or praiseworthy economy. Nay, more, covetousness may invest itself in a religious garb, and exhibit an example of respect for the worship and the word of God. “The love of money," says Andrew Fuller, “is almost the only sin to which a man addicted without renouncing the appearance of piety." But what is the inference which he states? “ We have reason to believe, that, of all sins, it is that which will ruin the largest number of persons who make a profession of religion.” Jesus Christ said to the Pharisees, * That which is highly esteemed among men is abomination in the sight of God.” (Luke xvi. 15.) Ponder this expression. It refers directly to our subject. Christ had just explained, by the parable of the unfaithful steward, the use which a good man should make of riches: he had closed by asserting, that no man who was under the dominion of the love of money could be a servant of God. On hearing this the Pharisees, who were lovers of money, but did not the less pass for models of devotion, derided him. Then the Lord

gave

them that solemn rebuke : “As for you, ye are they which justify yourselves before men; but God knoweth your hearts : for that which is highly esteemed among men is abomination in the sight of God.”

So, whatever may be the opinion of the world, the virtue and piety of the money-lover is, in the estimation of Jesus Christ, abomination before God. And why? “God knoweth the hearts." Beneath these fair appearances, under this religious cloak, he discovers in the heart of the covetous man an abyss of iniquity. What, indeed, is the love of money, but a dethronement of God, and the substitution of MamThon in his place? The covetous man loves Mammon as he ought to love God," with all his heart, and mind, and soul, and strength.” He does more : he trusts in Mammon instead of relying on the Almighty God. While the true disciple of Jesus Christ“ trusts not in uncertain riches, but in the living God, who gives us all things richly to enjoy,” the covetous man“ boasteth of his heart's desire, and blesseth himself: he abhorreth the Lord."* He puts bis trust in gold.

“ He has said

• Psalm x. 3. Literally, “ be blesses,” or “he blesses himself in getting gain ;”. shich is explained by Zech. xi. 5. This is the most natural interpretation of the passage. The other adopted in our version is defensible, and does not in thought differ essentially from this : « The wicked boasteth of his heart's desire, and blesseth the covetous : he abhorreth the Lord.” (See the margin of the English version.)

[ocr errors]

an idol

to fine gold, Thou art my confidence.” (Job xxxi. 24–27.)* It is on this account that the Holy Spirit designates the covetous man ater;" (Eph. v. 5;) and covetousness “ idolatry." (Col. iii. 5.) + The Lord Jesus also pronounces the love of money to be incompatible with the love of God. “No man can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will hold to the one and despise the other ; ye cannot serve God and Mammon.” This incompatibility is so apparent, that it is betrayed in the very excuses of the moneylover: he can only justify his avarice by a denial of his faith. - My property is my own: I am at liberty to do what I please with it." Your property is

your own! What? Have you, then, renounced the Master who bought you ? Does not every thing you possess belong to the Lord Jesus Christ? Do not you belong to him? If neither your body nor your spirit is your own; (1 Cor. vi. 19, 20;) if you are required, for Christ, to give up father and mother, wife and children, and even your own life; (Luke xiv. 20;) is your money so sa

sacred, that it is to be the only exception in this sacrifice? Your property is your own! You are at liberty to do what you please with it! And why should not a second say, “ My spirit is my own : I am at liberty to turn it to those thoughts which may pervert it, or to those cares which may corrupt it ?" A third may say, “My body is my own: I am at liberty to yield my members to the pollution of iniquity.” “No,” says the Apostle ; for “your bodies are the members of Christ.” (1 Cor. vi. 15.) And I say after him, “ No!” Your property is the treasure of Christ: he is the true owner of it: you are only the steward ; and you are intrusted with it only to use it in his service. He who acts otherwise is, in the estimation of Christ, (Luke xvi. 12,) quite as unfaithful as the steward in the parable, who wastes the property intrusted to his loyalty. Your fortune is your own!

You are at liberty to do what you please with it! Take heed: you can only substantiate these pretensions by a complete rupture with Christ. It is not for you to form the conditions of your alliance with Christ. He

..

Compare this with the words of Agur: “Lest I be full, and deny thee, and say, Who is the Lord ?” Compare it also with the conduct of the Pharisees who heard the Lord speak on the love of money, and “ derided him.”

• It is remarkable that Job mentions, in this place, idolatry immediately after covetousness, as if he intended it to be understood that the one easily conducts to the other, and that both have one common principle. This thought has furnished Dr. Chalmers with the exordium of his sermon “On the Lore of Money.” (“ Commercial Discourses.”) I knew a man who, when pressed to contribute towards the establishment of religious worship in a discant city, said, “Money is my god !” This is the radical thought of the covetous, though there are few who will avow it so honestly.

+ Others translate, “intemperance,” instead of “covetousness." Also in Eph. v. 5, “ the intemperate," instead of “the covetous.” The reasons alleged do not seem sufficient to justify a deviation from the received versions, and the ordinary meanings of the word employed in the original,

has formed them already, and you will find them written in Luke xiv. 33 : “If any man forsake not all that he hath, he cannot be my disciple.” In no circumstances can you serve God and Mammon. The love of money is a separation of the heart from Christ: it is idolatry: it is an abomination in the sight of God.

“ The tree is known by its fruit." You have seen the love of money in the heart, now consider the effects which it produces. " The love of money is the root of all evil.” (1 Tim. vi. 10.) To treat this subject in all its extent, would furnish materials for a book rather than a sermon. Let us confine ourselves to speak of what covetousness has done, in all ages, against the advancement of the reign of God in the world.

I open the Old Testament; and, among the number of crimes by which men have defeated, as much as possible, the plans of God for the salvation of the world, I find the most heinous to be altogether attributed to the love of money. What impelled Balaam to barden himself against the warnings of the Lord, against the voice of conscience, against the naked sword of the angel, against the miraculous voice of a stupid animal ; and to try his impious enchantments, or his infamous seductions, to close against an elected people the way to the promised land ? The love of money. What impelled Achan to transgress the command of Heaven, to brave its threatenings, and to bring down its wrath on the victorious army of Israel ? The love of money. What impelled Gehazi to offend the new-born faith of Naaman, to render abortive the disinterestedness of a holy Prophet, and to expose him to the suspicion of hypocrisy? The love of money. What produced in Israel those prevaricating Magistrates, those unjust Judges, those lying Prophets, who only conducted the people of Israel to lead them astray, and “to destroy the way of their paths ?" The love of money.

Let us proceed to the New Testament. We there see the evil increase, and assume a still more odious character. Scarcely has Jesus Christ commenced his work, before covetousness rises up against him, It is everywhere found in his path. It disputes with him every step that be takes. It disowns and abandons him in the person of the rich young man ; it awakens his holy indignation in the person of the buyers of the temple; it hates him, rails at him, persecutes him, in the person of the Pharisees ; and, in that of Judas, it tithes his charity to the poor, covets the honour destined for his burial, it betrays him, delivers him up, and sells him. Prophetic crime, which casts a sorrowful shade over the future history of the church of Christ! The very sin which sold for thirty pieces of silver the blood of the Son of God, is that which will show itself most active in depriving men of the ineffable benefits of that shed blood; for it is opposed equally to the salvation of the individual, to the fidelity of the church, and to the conversion of the world. VOL. XXIII. Third Series. JANUARY, 1844.

с

« AnteriorContinuar »