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within the reach of all—and if he prefers shadows to realities, and fleeting objects to eternal enjoyments-it must be folly in the extreme for a rational being to have his affections placed upon them as the ultimate object of his pursuit.
4. Consider in what light the objects of covetousness will be viewed, and what comfort they wiù afford at the approach of death.
When your soul, which has long been immersed in the cares of the world, feels itself hovering on the verge of life, and about to take its flight into the world unknown,
In that dread moment, when the frantic soul
But shrieks in vainin what a very different light will you view the perishing treasures of time from that in which you now behold them? You now trust in uncertain riches, and refuse to place your confidence in the living God, who is the alone source of felicity. But, “ will riches profit you in the day of wrath,” or amidst the agonies of dissolving nature? Will they smooth your dying pillow, or assuage the bitter anguish of your spirit, when heart and flesh begin to faint and fail? Will they then be viewed as a sufficient compensation for the dismal forebodings of future woe which may then assail your conscience, and render you a terror to yourself and to all around you ? Alas! they will only tend to plant thorns on your dying couch, to sharpen every pang, and to augment the horrors of despair. Conscience, now lulled asleep amidst earthly vanities, may then awake, “ like a giant refreshed with wine,” and pierce your hearts through with unutterable sorrows. Many striking instances of this kind have been witnessed by the ministers of religion, when called upon to attend the death-bed of the worldly and profane. “Had I now a thousand worlds," said a certain worldling, who bore a fair character, “Had I a thousand worlds, I would give them all for one year more, that I might present to God one year of such devotion and good works as I never before so much as intended." The noble Altamont,* who had spent his life in all the fashionable dissipations of the world, a little before his death, on hearing the clock strike, exclaimed with vehemence, “ O Time! Time! it is fit thou shouldst thus strike thy murderer to the heart. How art thou now fled forever! A month! O for a single week! I ask not for years—though an age were too little for the much I have to do.” And a little afterwards, “ This body is all weakness and pain, but my soul, as if strung up, by torment, to greater strength and spirit, is full powerful to reason, full mighty to suffer.” Cardinal Wolsey, whose grand aim through life was worldly aggrandizement, a little before he died, declared with anguish, in the midst of his disgrace, “Had I but served God as diligently as I have served the king, he would not have given me over in my grey hairs." In like manner, many a one at the hour of dissolution will have to exclaim, “If I had been as anxious to attend to the eternal interests of my immortal spirit, as to lay up treasures which I can never use, I would not have been left to suffer the pangs
of remorse which I now feel.” Such considerations demand the most serious attention of those who have grown old in the habits of covetousness, and whose grey hairs and infirmities warn them that they are on the confines of the grave. It has been remarked, that, as in winter, the roots of plants retain the sap, when the branches have lost their leaves and verdure, so, in old age, the winter of life, covetousness, “ the root of all evil,” retains its vigour, when other vices have withered, and fallen into decay. It is strange, indeed, but not more strange than true, that the nearer such men approach to the earth, they become more earthly-minded, so that, at the evening of life, they appear as if they were providing for a long and pros.
* Supposed to be Lord Euston.—Young's “ Centaur not fabulous."
perous day. No one is more fearful of want, and more hard and griping, than the old miser, who is just about to step into the grave. While other vicious propensities are weakened by the lapse of time, covetousness derives new life and vigour, as age increases. Like a patient in the dropsy, whose thirst is inflamed by drinking, the desires of the covetous are augmented by increasing riches, and they are never more tainted with earthly affections, than when their bodies are about to be reduced to their original dust.
The difficulty of subduing such a woful propensity, especially in the decline of life, is great, and, in most cases, insurmountable. It is like tearing the skin from the flesh, or the flesh from the bones. There are not, perhaps, twenty out of a thousand, on whom the most cogent or alarming arguments will have the least effect in awakening them to consideration, or turning them from their covetousness. The vicious principle they indulge is so subtle, that you cannot lay hold of it, so as to render it tangible. It is so deeply seated, that you cannot draw it from its hiding place to make it visible in the face of day. You may convince a man who goes on in a regular course of licentiousness and intemperance, of the folly and wickedness of his conduct, by showing him the inevitable miseries to which it leads even in the present life. But we have no such hold on the covetous. In reply to every argument, he will tell you, that what we call covetousness, is only a necessary prudence to augment his estate, and secure it from danger, to provide for the wants of his family, and leave something to his children, when he is gone; and that persons of great repute for probity and wisdom, are found prosecuting a similar course. He is unuilling to be convinced of his sin and danger, and is like a person dying of a mortal disease, who yet perceives not the malignity of the malady which is hurrying him to
But the difficulty of curing such a distemper, though great, is not insurmountable. While there is life, there is hope. Let such as entertain the least suspicions, that all is not right with them as to this matter, seriously examine their hearts on this point, and weigh the considerations which have already been adduced. Above all things, look up to God, who alone can heal your disease, and purify your affections, and say unto him, in the language of the Psalmist, “ Search me, O God, and know my heart; try me, and know my thoughts, and see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.” Remember that your happiness through eternity is at stake; and give not sleep to your eyes, nor slumber to your eye-lids, till you have fled for refuge to the hope set before you in the gospel-till you have renounced your idolatrous affections, and consecrated your heart to God. Your feet are already “stumbling on the dark mountains," and, ere you are aware, you may fall, at the next step, into irretrievable ruin. And if you depart from this world, under the dominion of covetous affections, you are rendered unfit for the mansions of the just, and the happiness which will be their portion forever and ever.
5. Consider, in the last place, that your covetous affections, if obstinately indulged, will necessarily exclude you from the kingdom of heaven, and involve you in elernal perdition.
This has already been illustrated in various points of view, (see pp. 88, 148.)
It is the unalterable decree of the Most High, as recorded in his word, that “the covetous shall not inherit the kingdom of God;" and, that those who are banished from this kingdom and its honours, “ shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power.” In the face of such awful declarations, to continue in the lust of covetousness, grasping incessantly after riches as the highest object of desire, is the greatest folly and madness of which men can be guilty.
For what a poor compensation will men run the risk of such terrible and appalling consequences! Our Saviour tells us, that it would profit a man nothing, “ should he
gain the whole world, and lose his own soul.” But how often does it happen, that men forfeit their eternal happiness for the merest trifle, and set their immortal souls to sale for a thing of nought! One will sell his soul merely to gratify his lust, or his revenge; another will rather go in the broad way to hell, than be out of the fashion of the gay
world. That officer in the army, who lords over his inferiors, in all the pomp of his brief authority, what does he sell his soul for? “For the false glory of swearing expertly, and uniting blasphemy with politeness.” That perjured wretch, who bears false witness against his neighbour, or robs him of his property, by fraud or deceit--what price does he put upon his soul? A few guineas, perhaps, or a house, or a few acres of land. Few men ask a throne, a kingdom, a province, or even a barony, but will hazard the loss of their immortal spirits, for the most paltry compensation that this wretched world can afford. Be astonished 0 ye heavens, at this, and
horribly afraid. O, my deluded brethren, arouse yourselves to consideration; and let not the encumbrance of this world's wealth sink you down to the lowest hell. Listen to the dictates of reason, to the voice of conscience, and to the word of God. Consider the terrible reflections you will make upon yourselves, and the deep and inexpressible anguish and regret you will feel at the madness of your choice, should you fall into perdition. Your loss will then be found not only vast beyond comprehension, but absolutely irreparable. You will curse those false and flattering pleasures, and covetous lusts, which have cheated you out of eternal life, and rendered you vessels of wrath fitted for destruction,--and would be glad to part with a thousand worlds, were it in your power, for the opportunity of making a new, and a better choice; but in that prison of despair, no price will ever be accepted for your redemption.
Could I describe to you the geography of that dismal region, where hope never enters, and over which hangs the blackness of darkness forever; could I paint the gnawings of the worm that never dies," and the sharp