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exercise command over the opinions and conduct of others. Imagination, also, invests the possession and augmentation of riches with ideal charms, which although but ideal—the delusion created by a perverted faculty, and dissipated at last in mockery and disappointment, yet excite the impetuous chace of multitudes who refuse to be prevented or undeceived. Hence“ wealth is the general centre of inclination, the point to which all minds preserve an invariable tendency, and from which they afterwards diverge in numberless directions."* The wish for it is more active than any which ordinarily stirs within the bosom. The whole history of mankind is a testimony to the immense eagerness it inspires,—an illustration how for the attainment of wealth, sacrifices have been made, trials have been endured, dangers have been encountered, which, except for the influence of this mighty passion, would have caused the heart to quail in distant contemplation; nor can we look on the scenes exhibited around us, without observing, it may indeed be in different modifications, an almost uniform dedication of effort and of time, to the one object of worldly advancement and gain, excited by the cravings of an appetite which no possessions can fill.
There are several interesting inquiries connected with the acquisition of riches ; such as, how far the desire of acquisition may be in
dulged, where is the point at which it becomes criminal, and what are the consequences of its excess and abuse. Respecting these, it is vastly important that just views should be entertained; as confused orimproper notions are the sources of inexpressible evils to the world. It would much assist the regulation of the passion, and direct the appropriate management of what is acquired by its exertions, did such maxims as the following meet with due acknowledgment. First, that riches, with their attendant comforts and influence, are to be regarded as the bestowments of Providence; not to be considered as the recompence of independent human effort, but ever subject to the superintendence and arrangement of Him who is the author of every good and perfect gift. Secondly, that riches, with their attendant comforts and influence, furnish means for extended usefulness, and place in the hands of the possessor a power which he should employ in promoting the temporal and the spiritual welfare of his fellow-men. Thirdly, that riches, with their attendant comforts and influence, involve the pressure of a solemn responsibility. They are granted, on a principle of stewardship, and with an obligation to account. The application of wealth is as much watched by God, and will be as much the subject of his final inquisition and judgment, as are, and will be, the application of talent, and the application of time. All that men possess is imparted by the Sovereign of nature, under the charge—“ Occupy till I come;" and wealth constitutes one of those augmentations of the amount intrusted, which render the liability more extended, and the reckoning more serious. Were these truths more fully recognized, and brought to bear with their merited force upon practical conduct, we might justly calculate on a rapid and an eminent advancement of individual and public happiness; and we cannot think on their neglect, without denouncing it as a dark and dreadful crime, the parent of injustice, oppression, licentiousness, the bane and curse of families, of society, and of the world.
Circumstances of worldly prosperity, it may be remarked, are much more frequently possessed by the ungodly, than by the people of God. “ The ungodly,” generally, are the per
“ who prosper in the world, and who increase in riches;" who “ have their portion in
“ this life, and are filled with hid treasure."* Sometimes indeed the high places of the earth are reached and occupied by the servants of the Most High, by men who feel the duties associated with present elevation, and who are entitled to the nobler portion of future glory. But these instances are comparatively rare.
“ The gold and the silver” have usually been poured into channels far apart from purposes of moral rectitude and value, and have been made through successive ages only to augment and propel the
* Ps. lxxiii. 12. xvii. 14.
current of human guilt and human misery. Wealth has therefore been well represented by one of our greatest national poets,* as situated in regions under the dominion of a foul and malignant being, “ god of the world and worldlings,” whose entrance is kept by Pain, and Strife, and Revenge, and all furious and fearful passions, and whose territories are crowded with the unburied bones and carcasses of the dead, and with the living, devoted to crime, unavailing labour, and despair. Who that judges rightly, can reflect without deep lamentation on the foul desecration of God's own gift,—the perversion which has made it the fosterer of numberless atrocities, and has effected the immolation of countless victims ? Who can avoid yearning for the arrival of better and holier times, when prosperity shall be retrieved and hallowed, and when riches and honours shall be every where devoted to the welfare of man and the glory of Jehovah? The empire of true religion has already mitigated the evils over which we mourn ; and we rejoice in the belief that its triumphs will be extended, till every rank and order shall be rendered tributary to its power, and till every possession shall be consecrated to him who shall be crowned the “ Lord of all !”
The case of the individual presented in the parable, is one of the unsanctified prosperity so prevalent: as will appear by contemplating,
II. THE MEDITATIONS IN WHICH HE INDULGED.
“ And he thought within himself, saying, What shall I do, because I have no room where to bestow my fruits? And he said, This will I do: I will pull down my barns and build greater; and there will I bestow all my fruits and my goods.” It will at once be evident, on hearing these words, that this person was in a state of mind far different from what his situation demanded ; that he was indulging a course of thought, and forming a series of determinations, essentially and entirely criminal; and that he was exposing himself to punishment from Heaven, for a flagrant violation of the great law of his being. Let us observe the different aspects of imperfection and sin which the recorded meditations comprehend.
1. Imperfection and sin existed in the state of his mind as to the Source of his possessions.—There is no allusion to God, as the giver of the good in which he delighted; there is no acknowledgment of dependence, there is no aspiration of gratitude. He looks with complacency on the amount of his possessions; and then, in the inflation of vanity, and in the calculating spirit of worldly wisdom, he proceeds to arrange his plans, as if perfectly independent of all obligations and of all responsibility to a superior Being. Had he cultivated correct dispositions, there would have been, when he“ thought within himself,” an im