Billeder på siden


mind, through Christ Jesus.” With this heavenly principle, soothing our sorrows; moderating our desires, and elevating our hopes, we are happy in ourselves, and are the means of giving happiness to others: we are not only freed from a fertile source of temptation, but have ever present with us the motives and the frame of mind favourable to the exercise of righteousness, kindness, and truth. So close is the connexion between the possession of christian contentment and the practice of morality.




This is another of the evils which are opposed to contentment. It is closely allied to worldly anxiety; so much so, indeed, that it seems impossible to indulge the one, without giving way, in some measure, to the other.

It is not unlawful to desire worldly good, when the desire is indulged within the bounds of christian moderation. Even when that good is in the possession of others, we may, without sin, desire it, provided it be lawful in the owners to part with it, and provided also, that we are willing to give an equivalent. It is the inordinate desire of this,—that is, such a desire as is unreasonable, as is unsuited to the principles and prospects of a christian, as surpasses the real value of the object wished for, and is accompanied with


[ocr errors]

anxiety and disquietude,- it is this which is sinful. It is, therefore, prohibited in its earliest spring in the heart: “ Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour's house, thou shalt not covet thy neighbour's wife, nor his manservant, nor his maid-servant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor any thing that is thy neighbour's *.”—“But they that will be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and hurtful lusts, which drown men in destruction and perdition.” “For the love of money is the root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows. But thou, O man of God, flee these things ; and follow after righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, meekness of."

In all ranks and circumstances of society, man is exposed to temptations to indulge this evil desire. Property secures to its possessor, influence, splendid accommodation and equipage, luxury, and the objects of his wishes generally, in so far as these are limited to earthly good. Hence, its acquisition is sought after, by men of all professions, and from the highest to the lowest of the community. Is it not natural for those who have, at any time, experienced embarrassment from a deficiency of this commodity, anxiously to provide against a recurrence of similar difficulties? It procures to the young indulgences to which youth attaches so much value; to those engaged in the busy scenes of life, weight and authority among their associates; and to the aged the attention and respect which age of itself, unaccompanied with the possession of property, sometimes fails in securing. Can we * Exod. xx. 17.

+1 Tim. vi. 9-11.

wonder that an instrument by which we can work so many changes,—which so effectually alters our condition in regard to others, and the condition of others in regard to us,—and which all may lawfully exert themselves to obtain,-can we wonder that all should be in danger of pursuing it eagerly, inordinately, and sinfully?

The guilt of covetousness is affirmed by the Apostle Paul, when he declares that it is idolatry, an alienation of heart and of affection from God, which excludes from the kingdom of Christ and of God. He also declares it to be the root of all evil, the parent of almost every sin, the spring of private and public mischief and misery. When the love of money has acquired possession of the heart, it hardens and shuts it against the admission of every softening and generous feeling,

-it steals it away from every pure and spiritual object,—and leaves no room for the holy presence of that God who condescends to dwell with men. Religion apart, it often produces the most extraordinary and almost incredible transformations on human character; converting the warm and affectionate friend of our youth, who wept when we wept, and who rejoiced when we rejoiced, into the cold and unfeeling misanthropist, who is alike indifferent to all that can create light or make darkness, and who wraps himself up in the narrow covering of his own selfishness.

Covetousness is a vice more general than any other, and is, perhaps, more frequently the occasion of secret and open apostacy from the purity of religion. Under the mask of frugality, a laudable economy, and the desire of making a competent provision for a family, it



may be strengthening its position in the citadel of the heart, and producing a wide separation between God and the soul. While there remains a semblance of devotion and the wonted regularity in observing its ordinances, this enemy may have acquired a firm possession ; and so complete, at length, may its mastery become, that the man under its influence shall lose every susceptibility of either spiritual or generous emotion.

The poor are as liable to indulge this vice as the rich. It does not consist, either in the act of acquiring, or of possessing wealth, but in placing the heart upon it; and that all are too apt to yield to it, is amply attested by the consciences of all, and by the declarations of the sacred oracles.

Covetousness leads to the commission of almost every crime: it is, as the Apostle declares, the root of all evil. The Scriptures hold up to our view its debasing influence on Balaam, who loved the wages of unrighteousness :-on Judas, who, for thirty pieces of silver, sold his Divine Master :-on Demas, who deserted the ministry of the gospel, having loved this present world:-on Demetrius and his associates, who, for the sake of gain, zealously supported a system of idolatrous superstition. What instigates the murderer, in defiance of the authority of God and of his own conscience, to take away the life of a fellowcreature ? It is the inordinate desire of property. To the same cause we may trace all the crimes of the persons who render gaols and bridewells necessary ;theft, swindling, robbery, forgery, smuggling, perjury. How perniciously is the influence of this vice felt in every situation of life! The poor, in particular, are often painfully made to feel it, by the medium of wicked balances, and deceitful weights : the rich, in the avaricious and unprincipled conduct of dependants, and those to whom they intrust their business: the young, in the worldly views and feelings of their parents, who

pay far greater regard to the wealth of the persons with whom they lead them to form per- . manent connexions, than to their moral and religious worth ; and the aged, in the interested conduct of those around them, whose eyes are continually fixed on the advantages they are to derive from their death. It is covetousness that hardens the heart of the oppressor, and makes it insensible to the cries and the tears of the hapless victims of his inhumanity and cruelty. What calamity can happen, either in private or public life, which this vice does not aggravate, if it does not originate?

But in yielding to this passion, do not mankind give way to an illusion ?

How unsatisfactory and fleeting is all the good which gold can purchase? He who possessed it in rich abundance, and who procured by it all the gratifications which it can afford, has confessed, that all is vanity and vexation of spirit. Even when attained almost to the limit of our wishes, how uncertain is the possession ! “ Riches make themselves wings, and fly away.” Though the possession should be retained till death, how awful is the future and eternal condition of the person who has given his heart to mammon!

After having spent a

« ForrigeFortsæt »