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as ye know not what shall be on the morrow; for what is your life? It is even a vapour that soon passeth away. Go to, now, ye rich men, weep and howl for the miseries that shall come upon you.
Your riches are corrupted, your gold and silver is cankered, and the rust of them shall be a witness against you, and shall eat your flesh as it were fire. Behold, the hire of the labourers which have reaped down your fields, which is of you kept back by fraud, crieth, and the cries of them who have reaped, have entered into the ears of the Lord of Sabaoth. They are enemies of the cross of Christ, whose end is destruction, whose God is their belly, whose glory is in their shame, who mind earthly things."*
Such are a few of those divine admonitions, interspersed throughout the Scriptures, both of the Old and New Testaments, which are addressed to us on the subject of covetous affections and worldly grandeur. They are the solemn and explicit declarations of Him who bath all power and authority in heaven and on earth, and by whom the actions of men are weighed; and, therefore, they ought to sink deep into the heart of every professor of religion, and be pondered with the most profound seriousness and attention. If they produce a suspicion that the covetous principle lurks within, every one of them ought to strike the mind, as if it were spoken from the heavens in a peal of thunder, and to alarm the convicted worldling to flee from the wrath to come. For such declarations not only set before us our duty in the plainest terms, but pronounce the present and everlasting doom of every one who allows his affections to be enthralled with the riches of the world, and who passes into the eternal state under their malign influence. In such passages of sacred writ, the intimations of our duty and our danger in regard to wealth, are as clear and perspicuous as words can make them, and set aside every doubt in regard to the inconsistency of covetousness and religion. And, therefore, every man who makes a religious profession, if he will but take a moment's leisure to examine his own heart, and his train of affections, and to compare them with the declarations of our Lord and of his holy prophets and apostles, will at once perceive his true state and character before God. Yet it is amazing, how easily men flatter and deceive themselves on this point. Nothing, perhaps, is more difficult than to make an impression upon the minds of those whose affections have been long riveted to earthly objects. In many cases, you might as soon expect to cut through the Alpine rocks with a quart of vinegar or the stroke of a razor, as to cut a passage through the adamantine hearts of the covetous, by any arguments or denunciations which the reason of man, or the word of God can suggest. We have a most striking example recorded in the Gospel of Luke, of the inefficacy of Divine admonition and instruction on this subject, even when delivered by the highest authority. Our Saviour, in the presence of a multitude of Pharisees, publicans, and sinners, spake a parable, intended to convince his hearers, of the necessity of making a right use of their worldly enjoyments; and he enforced his instructions by the consideration, that if they should employ their wealth in purposes of piety and benevolence, at the hour of death, they would receive their reward, in being introduced “into everlasting habitations.” He concluded his discourse with these emphatic words: “No man can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will hold to the one and despise the other; ye cannot serve God and mammon.” Immediately after which, we are told that, “the Pharisees who were COVEtous, heard of all these things, and they derided him."* Instead of opening their minds to receive the admonitions of heavenly wisdom, which were so appropriate to their characters, the instructions of the divine Saviour rebounded from their hearts, as an arrow from a wall of adamant. Instead of retiring to commune with their own hearts, and to reflect with seriousness on the admonitions they had received, they sneered with contempt at the Great Instructor, as if he had been a visionary who
* 1 John ii. 15. 1 Tim. vi. 9. James iv. 14; v, 1. Philip. üi. 9.
did not understand the nature of human enjoyments, and who despised wealth only because he could not acquire it. They were as fixed in their avaricious principles and resolutions, as a rock in the midst of the tempest, and were determined to pursue their courses at all hazards, whatever might be the consequence, and they are now reaping the rewards of their unrighteousness. We have too much reason to fear that, in the present day, there are in the visible church, multitudes of characters as hardened in their covetousness as the ancient Pharisees. And, therefore, it becomes every one to exercise a holy jealousy over his heart in regard to this deceitful, hardening and soul-ruining propensity. “For many strong men have been wounded and cast down” by it; many who entered on active life, giving high hopes of their Christian attainments, have, through the influence of worldly cares, and worldly grandeur, made shipwreck of faith and of a good conscience, disgraced their profession, conformed themselves to the corrupt maxims and pleasures of the world, and fallen into many snares and temptations which drown men in destruction and perdition. O that every one would ponder aright these emphatic words of our blessed Saviour: “What shall it profit a man if he shall gain the whole world and lose his own soul? or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul ?”
ON THE EVILS WHICH FLOW FROM COVETOUSNESS.
While the rational and pious distribution of wealth might be made the source of innumerable benefits to mankind, the inordinate “ love of money,” we are told, “ is the root of all evil.” There is scarcely a moral evil connected with the present or past condition of the human race, but may be traced, in a greater or less degree, to this unhallowed affection. It has even exerted a powerful influence in producing the greater part of those physical evils which are felt in every land, and among every rank of society. Were we, therefore, to attempt a full illustration of this topic, it would be requisite to take a review of the state of the human race in every age, and to write a history of wars and devastations, and of the animosities and contentions, the sorrows and sufferings of mankind, so that, instead of a few pages, many volumes would be requisite for recording the revolting details. But, as it is not necessary in the present essay to enter into details, I shall advert, in a concise manner, only to a few prominent particulars.
1. As covetousness naturally leads to dishonesty, so the covetous man is, to all intents and purposes, a thief and a robber.
In the first place, he robs his Maker. This might appear a very odd representation, if we had not the authority of God himself to sanction it. The prophet Malachi, in the name of Jehovah, charges the people of Israel with this crime. “Will a man rob God? Yet ye have robbed me; but ye say, wherein have we robbed thee? In tithes and offerings; for ye have robbed me, even this whole nation.” The Jews were commanded to bring certain animals to the altar of burnt offering, to be slain as sacrifices, and a portion of "the first fruits of their increase,” as a testimony of their dependence upon God and their devotion to his service, that they might honour the Lord with their substance. But, their covetousness, in many instances, induced them to withhold the sacred tribute ; and, when they professed to bring their offspring to his altar, instead of bringing the pure and perfect offerings which the law required, they offered polluted bread upon his altar, and brought the blind, the lame, and the sick for sacrifice, which they would have thought unworthy of being presented to their governor. In consequence of such conduct, the curse of God was pronounced on the guilty individuals, and on the priests who winked at such robbery and profanation. “Now, O ye priests, this commandment is for you. If ye will not hear, and if ye will not lay it to heart to give glory to my name, saith the Lord of Hosts, I will even send a curse upon you, and I will curse your blessings; yea, I have cursed them already, because ye do not lay it to heart
. For ye have profaned my name in that ye say, the table of the Lord is polluted, and what ye offer thereon, contemptible. Ye brought also the torn, the lame, and the sick; thus ye brought an offering; should I receive this at your hand, saith the Lord ?' But cursed be the deceiver who hath in his flock a male, and voweth and sacrificeth to the Lord a corrupt thing; for I am a Great King, saith the Lord of Hosts, and my name is dreadful among the heathen.” Such were the sacrilegious practices of multitudes of professed worshippers among the Jews, even after they were restored from the Babylonish captivity; and which brought down upon their heads Divine judgments, and the severest curse of the Most High.
The same crimes are still prevalent under the Christian dispensation, though they assume a different form. Both the avaricious miser and the splendid worldling, rob God of his offerings, when they withhold that portion of their substance which he demands for his worship and service. It is true, indeed, that the Deity is, and ever must be absolutely independent of all his creatures, either in heaven or on earth. Our giving cannot enrich Him, nor our withholding impoverish him. All the treasures of the universe