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himself for days and weeks with gathering shells, or with the humours of a fair, instead of prosecuting the object of his expedition? It is equally preposterous and inconsistent for a man who professes to be born from above,” and to be travelling to heaven, as the place of his ultimate destination, to have his heart glued to the treasures of this world, and “to boast himself in the multitude of his riches."
Let Christians, then, throw off every earthly encumbrance, and arise and act in a manner befitting their celestial pedigree, and their high destination. For what are the treasures of time to him who is begotten to the lively hope of an incorruptible inheritance? What are the frowns of fortune to him who claims the celestial world as his eternal portion? What are thousands of guineas, or dollars, to an exceeding great and an eternal weight of glory? What are the honours, the titles, and the pageantry of this passing scene, in comparison of the riches and grandeur of the New Jerusalem, and the dignity of being “ kings and priests” to the “Father of glory," in the mansions not made with hands, eternal in the heavens? As heaven in its height far surpasses the circle of this lower world, as the earth is but a point in comparison to the wide extended universe, and as time, with its circling years, is but a moment to the ages of eternity; such ought to be the hopes and affections of Christians, in comparison of earthly possessions, and of every sublunary misfortune. Were such views fully realized, and duly appreciated; were we living under the powerful influence of that faith, which is "the confident expectation of things hoped for, and the conviction of things which are not seen;" were the great realities of the eternal world, as they ought to be, ever present to our view, in all their grandeur and importance, a very different display would be made of riches from what we now behold, and multitudes, who now stand aloof when called upon for contributions to the service of God, would come cheerfully forward, “bringing their gold and incense, and showing forth the praises of the Lord.”
II. I shall next offer a few considerations to the COVETnus, whether professing or rejecting Christianity.
From what has been stated in the preceding pages, and particularly in the preceding article, it will not be difficult for any one to discern whether covetousness or an opposite affection rules in the heart. To those whose consciences declare that they are under the influence of this debasing passion, I would earnestly call their attention to the following considerations.
1. Consider that wealth, however great, cannot secure you from misery and calamity. The rich man is as much exposed to the afflictions and accidents of human life as the poor, and sometimes his very riches, in which he trusts, are the means of exposing him to diseases and dangers. A chimney top, or even a tile falling from a house, will kill a nobleman as well as a beggar. When infectious fevers are raging around, when the cholera is sweeping away hundreds in the course of a day, can wealth prevent its ravages, or secure you from its attacks? 'When the thunders are rolling along the clouds, and the lightnings flashing amidst the dismal gloom, can riches secure you from the lightning's stroke, or prevent your hay or corn from being set on fire? When you are crossing the ocean in pursuit of gain - when you behold the tempest raging, and the waves rolling mountains high, can your treasures still the stormy ocean, or prevent your being engulfed in the devouring deep? In such cases, the king and the peasant are on a level, and equally impotent to control the laws of nature, or to counteract the operations of the Most High. How many instances do we see of persons in the prime of life, possessed of wealth and honours, and in the midst of all their earthly hopes and schemes, cut off in a few days, and sometimes in a moment, by a burning fever, by a fall from a horse, the overturning of a chariot, or by an unexpected conflagration. It was but a little while ago, that a lady of noble rank, of great wealth, adorned with the richest jewels, distinguished for her splendid entertainments, and, while she was preparing for a magnificent fete, on the ensuing day, was involved, while sitting in her apartment, in a sudden and mysterious conflagration, and her body and jewels reduced to an invisible gas, so that no trace of them except a few small burnt fragments of bones has yet been found. But accidents apart-riches cannot ward off those diseases which may prevent all comfortable enjoyment from their possession. The greatest wealth you can accumulate leaves you still liable to the attacks of the gout, the epilepsy, the palsy, the asthma, the burning fever, the gravel, the ague, and to the loss of sight, hearing, tasting, and feeling, and to innumerable other disorders, so that the most splendid spectacles, the most exquisite music, or the most costly viands, may be unable to convey any real enjoyment. Under such diseases, to which all are liable, the most splendid estate can afford little or no alleviation; and the possessor of thousands or millions of pounds may feel far less enjoyment than the poorest peasant;nay, may smart under pains of body and agonies of mind, to which the beggar expiring on a dunghill is an utter stranger. Wealth, with all its gorgeous trappings, cannot prevent the pain of surgical operation, the bitter taste of nauseous medicines, the agonizing throes of suffering nature, the terrors of a guilty conscience, or the fearful forebodings of a future judgment. And, therefore, the man who, in such circumstances, has no better comforter than the idea of the greatness of his riches, is one of the most miserable objects in creation.
2. Consider the uncertainty of riches. It is only during the continuance of life that earthly possessions can be enjoyed. “For when you die, you can carry nothing hence, your glory cannot descend after you to the dust." But what is your life?" It is only “ like a vapour,” which a small breath of wind may soon blow away. In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, while you are hoarding up treasures, and trusting in the abundance of your riches—or even you are aware—the decree of heaven may go forth, as in the case of the rich man in the parable, " This night thy soul shall be required
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of thee.” Almost every newspaper that comes to our hands, and almost every returning day, bear witness to such sudden transitions from time to eternity. While mortals are reclining on the lap of ease, their hearts overcharged with surfeiting and drunkenness, running the giddy rounds of fashionable dissipation, or working all manner of uncleanness with greediness—while imagining themselves secure, and foreboding no evil-death interposes, at a day's or even a moment's warning, cuts down their mortal frames, and summons their spirits to appear before the Judge of all
. But although life be continued, the wealth in which you place your confidence may soon be snatched from your possession. The providence of God has many ways by which to change the greatest prosperity of this world into the greatest misery and adversity, and, in a moment, to throw down the fortune of the proudest aspirer after wealth, in order to make him contemplate his sin in his punishment. Such a change in your fortune may be produced, either by the rapine of enemies or the treachery of friends, by your own avarice or folly, or by the malice or revenge of your enemies, by the prodigality of your children or the unfaithfulness of your servants. The elements of nature, the hurricane, the tempest, the overwhelming deluge may conspire for your ruin. Your ships may be dashed to pieces on rocks or shoals, or a sudden conflagration may lay all your boasting hopes prostrate in the dust. And wilt thou place thy confidence in such uncertain possessions? “Wilt thou set thine eyes upon that which is not; for riches certainly make themselves wings; they fly as an eagle towards heaven."
3. Consider the folly and unreasonableness of covetous affections. This will appear, in the first place, if you consider, that riches considered in themselves without regard to their use are of no value whatsoever. Suppose a man could lay up a stock of clothes and provisions sufficient to last him for 300 years, what would it avail him, if he is certain that he cannot live above seventy, or, at farthest, above a hundred years? Suppose he laid up in a
storehouse 70,000 pair of shoes, to what end would it serve, if he could make use, during his whole life, of only the one-hundredth part of them? He would be in the same condition as a man who had a hundred dishes placed before him at dinner, but who could only partake of one, or of a person who had a hundred mansions
purchased for his residence, but who could occupy only one. The same thing may be said of pounds, shillings, and dollars, which are of no use in themselves, but only as they are the representations of articles of necessity and luxury which they may be the means of procuring. How ridiculous would it appear, if all that could be said of a man while he lived, was simply this—that his whole life was occupied in collecting and laying up in a storehouse 60,000 mahogany chairs, which were never intended to be used for the furniture of apartments, or 80,000 pair of trowsers which were never to be worn ? And where is the difference in point of rationality and utility, between such absurd practices, and hoarding thousands of guineas or bank-notes which are never brought forth for the benefit of mankind ? There is no conduct, connected with the pursuits of human beings, that appears more mean, contemptible, and absurd, than such practices (however common) if examined by the dictates of reason and the word of God.
The folly of covetousness likewise appears in this, that its objects cannot afford solid satisfaction to the mind. Wealth can neither convey new senses, or open new avenues to pleasure, nor block up the passages of pain and anguish. It cannot produce inward peace, equanimity, domestic comfort, or a delightful self-consciousness of virtue, or of the Divine approbation. On the contrary, the passion of covetousness is uniformly attended with mental anxiety, inquietude, restless and insatiable desires, and keeps its votaries in continual fear of losing what they have acquired, so that they are generally fretful and discontented, and in a kind of hell of their own creating. However much they may have acquired, they are still in the pursuit of more; and the riches of the whole world, were it possible to obtain them, would be inadequate to