Obrazy na stronie

riches. He very soon learned that, so far as the present world is concerned, money will answer all things, and he hoped, by accumulating it, to avert that evil which be gradually began to dread as the greatest of all earthly calamities, namely, a state of abject poverty. Avarus became, at length, incessantly haunted by this fear. It impelled him to the most strennous exertions, and induced the closest parsimony. On some occasions it urged him to venture on speculations, which, to men of less penetration and extent of view, would have been deemed highly hazardous. But Avarus knew the state of the exchanges; of the fluctuations, actual and probable, in the provincial markets, he had the earliest intelligence; so that, while his gain prompted him to engage in these ventures, his fear of loss served as a check to every unguarded and imprudent undertaking. Five and thirty years have elapsed since Avarus commenced business for bimself. He has reached his sixtieth year. He is still to be found at his counting-house. His superintendance over his affairs is as vigilant as ever, and his love of money has become a habit so confirmed and so dominant, that it is evidently the master passion of his soul. He can talk only of his wealth, of his bargains, and of his gains, intermingling in his conversation exclamations on the sin of indolence, the wickedness of improvidence, the folly of a want of foresight, and the deplorable misery of poverty. He forms his estimate of men exclusively according to a worldly and base standard. With him the poor are worthless, and the rich estimable. Intelligence, learning, moral and religious excellence, though of the highest character, unless clothed in purple and fine linen, are worthless. But ignorance and a questionable moral character, and the evident absence of all pretensions to piety, if adorned with the trappings of a splendid fortune, are knowledge, virtue, and supreme excellence. He has only one standard of worth-property.

The reader will then be ready to inquire if Avarus has not abandoned his Bible, forsaken the house of God, and entirely given up all concern for his spiritual well-being ? Not altogether so. He has still, either from early association, or habit, some regard for religion. He goes so far as to express this regard. He has two large family Bibles in his house, those of Scott and Henry. He purchased these with the produce of some of his earliest speculations, and they are now safely deposited in his mahogany book-case during six days of the week, but regularly taken thence on the morning of the seventh day, and carefully returned in the evening of that day. He has also a small Bible--the gift of that pious master who bas long since entered into his rest. This Bible, as the print is too minute for the eyes of Avarus, is placed among bis securities in his iron safe. His recollections will not permit him to

part with it.

We must add, that Avarus has not forsaken the house of God. He has not given up his pew. He has not even withdrawn his support. He contributes of his abundance five pounds every half year. The subscription is paid with perfect regularity. It was the sum he determined to give when he realised his first thousand

pounds. It is the sum he continues to give now that he has one hundred thousand pounds; and it is more than probable that he would not add to the amount of this subscription, though he had ten times his hundred thousand. As his riches have increased, his heart has been set upon them, and to part with a few pounds gives him more pain than the acquisition of hundreds gives him pleasure,

But it would not be just to the character of Avarus to omit one feature which is rather prominent. He traces up all his success in business, all his accumulation of wealth, all his exemption from the horrors of poverty, to religion. He frequently refers to the blessing of divine providence on industry and perseverance; on the woes which are insured by indolence and prodigality; on the honour of the former, and the awful disgrace which invariably attends the latter.

Avarus is always found in his place on the Lord's Day. His pew is never vacant. He does not appear interested in the service, unless the minister happen to touch on the advantages of wealth; but should be go on to insist on the opportunity it furnishes to do good to others, and to evince the character of him who possesses it, by the manner in which it is employed, Avarus makes no secret of his disgust; his countenance falls, and some time passes before he relapses into his wonted indifference. Some benevolent individuals have called on Avarus, to induce him to contribute to the institutions for the relief of the necessitous, the instruction of the ignorant, and the spread of the Gospel. Little success, however, has attended their efforts.

There are many who have a respect for the character of Avarus. Not a few of these are to be found among the careful thriving men of the world, who are living without any regard to the authority of God. But there are some professors of religion too, who are numbered among his admirers. ' These have a sympathy with him in his love of gain or passion for gold. They, like Avarus, have formed an incorrect and unscriptural idea of character. They bave chosen a low standard of excellence. Do they imagine that gain is godliness; and that a man's character is to be regarded as good or bad, in exact proportion to the amount of gold in his coffers, or to the value of the securities in his iron chest ? Others say of Avarus, that he is a thrifty, prudent, industrious, long-sighted man, alive to his own interest. * He has done well to himself, and therefore many praise him.” (Ps. xlix.)

But while Avarus has the applanse of erring, sinful, and worldlyminded men like himself, what does the God of the whole earth, who has the riches of the globe at his disposal, say of him? He speaks in his word, and its language is, “ Avarus, love not the world.” “ Avarus, you cannot serve God and Mammon.”

“ Avarus, they that will be rich fall into 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 erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows." " Avarus, the life of a man con

sisteth not in the abundance of that which he possesseth. A man may live and die happy, though poor ; he may live and die miserable, though rich. Happiness is not in the chest, but in the heart. It is only from the spring within that the waters of true peace and consolation can flow. The true riches can be enjoyed in the very depth of poverty, while he who has his house full of silver and gold, may be miserable himself, and despicable in the eyes of all good men. And did you never, Avarus, read or hear of those who have been condemned for covetousness ? Was not Achan covetous ? Did not Balaam love the wages of unrighteousness ?

Was not Abab covetous ? Was not Judas made a traitor by his lust of money? Did not Ananias and Sapphira lie unto the Holy Ghost, that they might covetously reserve to themselves a portion of that, the whole of which they professed to yield up to the cause of God?

And has there been no sin connected with the acquisition of the wealth you now possess ? Was not some of it unjustly obtained ! Is not some portion of it held back from those who ought to enjoy it! And has the increase of all of it been quite free from every thing inconsistent with the most perfect rectitude? The desire of wealth is sinful; your love of it is sinful. Wealth, instead of a blessing, is a curse to you; and it would be better for you to be like Lazarus, at the door of the rich man, than possessed, as you are, of your thousands and tens of thousands. Well had it been for you, Avarus, had you discerned the first encroachments of that lust of gain, which now rules you with an unconquerable sway, and resisted it then. Your enemy was then feeble, and you were not so hackneyed in worldly engagements as to be unequal to the conflict. Bat now your sin has every advantage. You have yielded to it; you love it as your chief good, and remonstrance, reproof, expostulation, and warning, appear equally in vain.

The first duty of Avarus is to study once more the sacred Scriptures ; to search for those passages which give the love of riches its true character, and point out its final issue. The covetous man hopes, by bis wealth, to secure himself from future calamity. “Woe,” says the Word of God, “woe to him that coveteth an evil covetousness to his house, that he may set his nest on high, that he may be delivered from the power of evil.” “ This is labouring in the fire, wearying himself for very vanity.” (Hab. ii. 9-13.) And why is it so ? Because life and death, prosperity and adversity, are in the hand of God. “ He gives and he takes away, and who may say to him, what dost thou." Riches are uncertain in their tenure to the man who possesses them. They sometimes pass from the wealthy, and he becomes poor, but more frequently the rich man is called to leave all his possessions behind him, and to appear suddenly and unexpectedly at the bar of God. And how bitter is death to that man who is at rest in his possessions." His life seems to be torn from him. He does not yield it up; for when he is saying peace and safety, then sudden destruction comes upon him, and he cannot escape; and then to whose hands does all his wealth pass ? Solomon has answered this question in such a way as to show the vanity of heaping up treasure. He says, “I hated all my labour which I had taken under the sun, because I should leave it to the man that should be after me; and who knoweth whether he shall be a wise man or a fool? And yet shall he have rule over all my labour wherein I have laboured, and wherein I have showed myself wise under the sun." (Eccles. ii. 18, 19.) Is there any thing, Avarus, that places the passion which governs you in so strong a light as this passage, or as that which follows?

“ Be not thou afraid,” says the Psalmist, “ when one is made rich, when the glory of his house is increased; for when he dieth he shall carry nothing away, his glory (that in which he gloried,) shall not descend after him. Though while he lived he blessed his soul; and men will praise thee when thou doest well to thyself. He shall go to the generation of his fathers; they shall never see light. Man that is in honour, and understandeth not, is like the beasts that perish.” (Ps. xlix. 16–20.) Sensual, oppressive, cruel, the rational part of their nature seems absorbed in the animal; the lust of wealth deprives them of the attribute of reason.

How full, Avarus, is your mind of the thought and your heart of the love of wealth; what schemes have you not devised; what plans have you not formed; how secure have you considered yourself in the strong tower of your riches. But what saith the word of the Most High? “ There are many devices in a man's heart; nevertheless the counsel of the Lord shall stand. He raiseth the poor out of the dust, and lifteth the needy from the duoghill, that he may set him with princes, even with the princes of the people. The Lord maketh poor and maketh rich. He bringeth low and lifteth up; for the pillars of the earth are the Lord's, and he hath set the world upon them.” (1 Sam. ii. 7, 8.) How vain then are the thoughts of some of the men of wealth, “ that their houses shall continue for ever, and their dwelling places to all generations." There is no wisdom, nor counsel, nor understanding against the Lord.

It is in vain then, Avarus, to attempt to rear a superstructure of happiness on the foundation of wealth. It never has conferred it; it never will. It is an office to which it is altogether incompetent. It may afford the means of sensual gratification, but even this can be enjoyed without it. It may promise safety, but it cannot ensure it; it may hold out the prospect of permanent peace and joy on earth, but a moment may dissipate the illusion, and leave the rich man to mourning, lamentation, and woe. “ Trust not, then, Avarus, in uncertain riches, but in the living God, who giveth us all things richly to enjoy ;" to enjoy when we trust in him, but to be as a blight and a curse when we lose sight of the giver in the gifts he bestows.

But there is one topic more, Avarus, to which we must call your attention. Covetousness is a heinous sin. Men may praise, but God abhors the covetous; men may estimate your worth according to the amount of property you possess ; but God condemns you because you love that property better than holiness_better than Christ-better than all the promised joys of heaven. He speaks by his servant, and says, “ Let your conversation be without covetousness, and be content with such things as you have; for he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee.". Your conduct, Avarus, is the reverse of these precepts, and you have no perception of the force of the reason on which they are grounded. Your life is a life of covetousness-you live to accumulate. You are not content with such things as you have; you are every day desiring an addition to that which you possess; and as to the promise of God that he will never leave his people, your hope is, that gold, your god, will never forsake you.

Covetousness, Avarns, is idolatry; gold is enthroned in your heart. The love of property reigns there supreme, and God, the only, the living, the true God, is thrust out from the place he ought to occupy. “ If any man love the world, the love of the Fatber is not in him.” You cannot, Avarus, serve God and Mammon. Each demands the whole heart : you have given yours to the latter, and the former cannot possess it. You have chosen your god. It is not the living, true, all-sufficient God; and you are, according to the strong language of Scripture, “an idolater.” One word more, Avarus, and I have done. Your present character shuts you out from the kingdom of heaven; it even excludes you, as a professor of religion, from the society of all consistent Christians. Listen to the admonitory language of the apostle :-“ I wrote unto you an epistle, not to company with fornicators; yet not altogether with the fornicators of this world, or with the covetous, or extortioners, or with idolaters : for then must ye needs go out of the world. But now I have written unto you not to keep company, if any man that is called a brother be a fornicator, or covetous, with such an one not to eat." (1 Cor. v. 9-11.) And mark, Avarus, in the passages of holy writ, which exclude you from the kingdom of heaven, the disgraceful characters with whom your sin classes you. “ This ye know, that no whoremonger, nor unclean person, nor covetous man, who is an idolater, hath any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God. Let no man deceive you with vain words, for because of these things cometh the wrath of God upon the children of disobedience. Be ye not, therefore, partakers with them." love of money, Avarns, unless it be abandoned, will prove your destruction; your heart must be enlarged, your soul rendered liberal, and you must devise liberal things; like Zaccheus, you must pass through a change, and receive the impression of a new character. The sympathy, the compassion, the character of the gospel are unknown to you; not even the faintest shade of these christian graces appears in your disposition or conduct. You never give meat to the hungry, nor drink to him that is athirst; you never clothe the naked, visit the sick, relieve the prisoner. These are occupations foreign to your habits; you neither perform the duties yourself, nor aid those who are engaged in fulfilling them; you are averse to give one shilling for any such objects. How then can

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