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we show that in every case where a Christian or a Christian society is to be found, such virtues are uniformly displayed ; the progress of Christianity over the globe would soon be accelerated, and “ righteousness and praise would,” ere long, “ spring forth before all the nations.” And, I verily believe, that, till we can exhibit our religion in all its amiable and beneficent effects, its progress will be comparatively feeble, and its enemies numerous and powerful. We have been long engaged in controversies about theological opinions; and, in such contentions, have too frequently overlooked the grand practical objects which it is the design of Christianity to accomplish. The government of the temper, the regulation of the affections, and the mortification of the principle of sin and corruption, have been, in a great measure, lost sight of, amidst the fiery zeal which has sometimes been displayed in the propagation of dogmas and opinions, which do not enter into the essence of our holy religion. While we have endeavoured to display our bravery as champions in the cause of orthodoxy, we have too frequently given vent to unhallowed passions, and aspired after worldly emolument and applause, instead of " the honour which cometh from God alone."
Of all the practical requisitions of Christianity, there is none which seems to be so much overlooked as the duty of contributing, with liberality, for the extension of the Gospel, the diffusion of knowledge, and the general improvement of mankind. This has been owing to the prevalence of that most vile and unchristian propensity, designated in Scripture by “ CovETOUSNESS, which is IdolATRY". propensity which has affected all ranks of men, from the highest to the lowest, and which is characteristic of multitudes who make a glaring profession of evangelical religion. Were this single affection either undermined or extirpated, a deluge of miseries would soon be swept away from our suffering world — philanthropy would distribute its thousand blessings among all ranks; universal education would be established in every land; Zion would be built up even in troublous times; “God would appear in his glory" to men; the benighted heathen
VOL. VI.- 2
would, ere long, be enlightened with the “day-spring from on high,” and the way prepared for the ushering in of that glorious period when the knowledge of Jehovah shall cover the earth, and the kingdoms of this world become the kingdoms of our Lord, and of his Messiah.”
In the illustration of this subject the following plan may be adopted :
I. I shall describe the disposition or propensity designated by “Covetousness," as it has operated, and still operates, in Christian and civil society.
II. Demonstrate its absurdity and irrationality.
III. Show its inconsistency with Christian principle, and the general tenor of the Word of God.
IV. Illustrate some of the Evils which flow from the indulgence of Covetousness.
V. Investigate the Principles by which Christians should be directed in the application of their wealth.
VI. Illustrate some of the Benefits which would result to Christians and general society, were Covetousness undermined, and an opposite principle universally cultivated.
VII. State some of the means to be used, in order to counteract the influence of Covetousness, and to promote a spirit of Scriptural liberality among Christians.
VIII. Offer a few solemn considerations to different classes of individuals in relation to this subject.
ON THE DISPOSITION, OR PROPENSITY DESIGNATED BY COVETOUSNESS, AND THE VARIOUS MODES IN WHICH IT HAS OPE. RATED IN THE WORLD, AND IN CHRISTIAN SOCIETY.
COVETOUSNESS consists in an inordinate desire of any worldly enjoyment, particularly riches, for the purpose of gratifying ambition, avarice, or sensual desires. It is the opposite of generosity, or that liberality and contentment which the word of God inculcates.
The Creator has furnished the material world with an immense variety of objects, and has endowed us with sensitive organs, through the medium of which these objects may be perceived and enjoyed. He has also implanted in us desires and affections which, in subordination to higher aims, were intended to be directed to the objects of the visible world, and the enjoyment of the good things of this life. We may lawfully desire water to quench our thirst, food to nourish our bodies, clothes to cover us, and comfortable shelter and accommodation --if such desires be regulated by scripture and reason, and confined within their proper bounds. We may even desire the possessions of others when they are willing to relinquish them, and when we are able and willing to offer them a fair and equitable compensation. We may lawfully labour by the exertion either of our bodily or mental powers, to acquire a more comfortable house or garden than we now possess, and to enjoy a little more of the external bounties of Providence, when proper motives regulate our exertions and our aims. For, the Creator has exhibited, in his creation around us, an immense variety of beauties and sublimities, to gratify the eye and the imagination, and has furnished the world in which we live with a multiplicity of delicious fruits, flowers, herbs and roots, to gratify every taste, as well as to afford nourishment to our animal system. It is, therefore, evident that he intends his creatures should participate the sweets of sensitive enjoyment. “For every creation of God is good, and nothing to be refused, if it be received with thanksgiving." "I know," says Solomon, " that it is good for a man to rejoice and to do good in his life, and also that every man should eat and drink, and enjoy the good of all his labour, for it is the gift of God.” Every thing in the system of nature is so arranged as to produce pleasure and sensitive enjoyment, when used with moderation, and according to the design intended by the Creator. To condemn the moderate use of sensitive enjoyments, or to inculcate the austerities of an ascetic lise, is, therefore, repugnant to the dictates both of reason and revelation, and tends to frustrate the beneficent designs of Him whose goodness and “tender mercies are over all his works.”
It is not, therefore, in the simple desire of worldly good that covetousness consists, but in an inordinate desire of sensitive objects and enjoyments—a desire which is inconsistent with the rational nature of man, and with our duty to our Creator and our fellow-men. Covetousness assumes a variety of forms, and manifests itself in many different modes. 1. It appears in its most degrading form in hoarding money, and acquiring houses and lands, for the mere purpose of accumulation, when there is no intention of enjoying such wealth, or bringing it forth for the good of society.
This is the characteristic of the man who is denominated a miser—a word which originally signifies wretched, or miserable, as all such persons necessarily are. 2. It appears under the pretence of making provision for children -a pretence which is generally nothing more than a cloak to cover the principle of avarice which is fixed in the mind. 3. It operates most frequently for the purpose of gratifying sensual propensities_displaying elegance in dress and furniture, and giving scope to a spirit of pride and ambition. In these, and many other ways,
this vile affection manifests itself, robbing man of the true glory of his nature, degrading him in some respects below the level of the brutes, undermining every principle of religion, counteracting human happiness, preventing the renovation of the world, and reducing the soul to the level of a grovelling idolator who “worships and serves the creature more than the Creator, who is blessed forever."
This inordinate desire of wealth has been productive of more mischief and misery in the world than almost any other unhallowed affection of the human heart. It has been the malignant source of almost all the evils which have been introduced into the social state, and of all the sorrows and sufferings to which the inhabitants of the earth in every age have been subjected. In order that we may clearly perceive the malignity of this affection, it may not be improper to take a cursory view of the effects it has produced, and of the manner in which it has operated, both in the world at large and in Chris
On the operations and effects of Covetousness as displayed
in the world at large.
This vile affection may be considered as the first display which was made in our world of sin or rebellion against God. Our first parents commenced their apostasy from their maker by coveting the fruit of "the tree of knowledge,” which he had expressly interdicted under the highest penalty. Though they were surrounded by the munificence of the Deity, though they were permitted to eat of every other tree in the garden of Eden, and possessed every thing that was pleasant to the eye and delicious to the taste-yet they dared to put forth their hands to the forbidden fruit, from the covetous propensity of enjoying what was not their own, and the ambitious desire of being “like the gods, and knowing good and evil.” This covetous and ambitious act“ brought death into the world and all our woe,” and was the prelude and forerunner of all those devastations and miseries which avarice and ambition have entailed on the inhabitants of the world. We have reason to believe, that this woful propensity, in conjunction with ambition, with which it