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them by an unceasing course of injustice and oppression, defrauding them of their rights, and, in the language of Scripture, “grinding the faces of the poor, beating them to pieces, and taking the spoil of the indigent into their houses."*
Again, the avaricious man robs his own family. He frequently denies them the comforts of life, and even its necessaries. Though his coffers are overflowing with wealth, and the means of every sensitive and rational enjoyment are within his power, yet his wife and children are virtually sunk into the depths of poverty. Their food is mean, and measured out with a sparing hand. Their clothes are of the coarsest stuff, and wear the appearance of the garb of poverty ; their education is stinted or altogether neglected, because it would prevent him from adding a few more shillings to replenish his bags and coffers. In short, all their comforts, instead of flowing in copious streams proportionate to his treasures, are measured out to them in the smallest . quantities, like the small drops of medicine from an apothecary's phial.
He likewise robe general society of those improvements and comforts which he is the means of preventing.
Were it not for avarice, we should have our towns and cities divested of every nuisance, our streets broad and spacious, the light of heaven and the refreshing breeze visiting every dwelling, our narrow lanes demolished, our high ways clean and smooth, and adorned with refreshing bowers, asylums for the industrious poor, seminaries for the instruction of all ranks and ages in useful knowledge, and innumerable other improvements for promoting the happiness of the social state. . But covetousness interposes and raises an almost insurmountable barrier to the accomplishment of such designs; and, when they are partially effected, in particular cases, it steps in and says, " hitherto shalt thou come, but no farther, and here shall all improvements be stayed.”
* Isaiah iii. 14, 15.
In short, he, robs every philanthropic society of its treasures, by withholding those gifts which God has put in his power to bestow; and he robs himself, by depriving himself of contentment and serenity of mind, and of those external comforts which God has liberally provided for all his creatures. “Although he wanteth nothing for his soul of all that he desireth, yet he deprives himself of the power to eat thereof." Such are the robberies committed by every one, in whose heart covetousness sits enthroned.
If this species of robbery were viewed, by Christian and civil society, in its proper light, as delineated in the word of God, the covetous extortioner, and the gay worldling would be as much shunned and hissed from society, as the sharper, the thief, or the midnight depredator.
2. Covetousness uniformly leads to falsehood and injustice.
The heart being set upon the acquisition of wealth as its highest-object, the worldling seizes upon every mean by which it may be acquired. Among these means, falsehood and misrepresentation are particular, ly conspicuous. When he is buying an article, he endeavors to depreciate its properties and its value; and when he is to dispose of a similar commodity, he overrạtes its qualities, and attempts to procure a price for it far beyond its worth. If there is a prospect of the price of any commodity rising, he denies that it is in his possession, and if he has a deteriorated article which he wishes to dispose of, he will varnish it over with a fair outside to deceive the unwary. If he is tying up a bundle of quills, he will place four or five in the centre, not half the value of the rest, and thus, he sends forth hundreds of liars, with a fair outside, to proclaim as many falsehoods to the world. If he have money in the stocks, he will sometimes endeavor to propagate false intelligence to produce their rise or fall, according as he finds it his interest to sell out or to purchase. He misrepresents the state of the markets, and the
commodities of his neighbors, in order to enhance his own.
When he covets his neighbor's property, he takes the advantage of either poverty or ignorance, and resorts to falsehood and
deceitful mean, in order to obtain it at half its value ; and when it comes into his possession, its defects are immediately transformed into valuable properties, and it is rated at a price far superior to its intrinsic worth. In this way, his whole life becomes a course of systematic falsehood; and, if he can accomplish his designs by such means, without directly violating the civil laws of his country, he regards himself as a man of uprightness and honesty—although the principle of truth, which is the basis of the moral universe, is violated in almost every transaction. And, as he is a liar and deceiver, so he is, almost as a matter of course, guilty of injustice and oppression. For, instead of relieving the poor and unfortunate, when calamities befal them, he greedily seizes upon such occurrences, in order to acquire the remains of their property at an under value. He drives from their long accustomed dwellings, the industrious cottager, and mechanic, whose ancestors had for generations occupied the same habitation or plot of ground, in order that he may have a chance of adding three or four pounds more to his already overflowing treasures. The bargains he drives, are all hard, and the poor who are indebted to him for loans of money, are sure to be fleeced of a double rate of interest. He is generally a usurer whó lends to the necessitous, at an exorbitant rate, and when payments have been delayed beyond their proper period, he seizes upon
their properties, like a furious wolf, and frequently obtains them at a small fraction of their value. All such acts of oppression, which are direct violations of natural jus
ice, he can commit, and does commit in the open face of day, and hugs himself in the idea that he can do so without directly violating the statute law of his country.
Dr. Reed, in his late "Narrative of a visit to the American Churches," presents a sketch of a female character he met with in one of his journeys, that bears
a certain resemblance to what we have now describ
“ Crowded and almost suffocated [in our vehicle,] we had an old lady who did not fail to amuse us. She sat opposite me, and would force a conversation ; and as her voice was sharp and shrill, what was meant for me, went to all. As for religion, she thought one as good as another, if we did our duty; and her notion of duty was to mind our own business. For her part, she had always done so; she ridiculed those who had employed others to do it for them; she could always do hers best for herself ; she could make fifteen per cent. of money-had small sums out now at fifteen per cent.' She felt that this was not approved. Oh! she was not hard with the poor creatures; if they were pressed, she waited, and lent them a little more, so that they could pay at last. She had always been unmarried, not for want of offers, but she liked her independency, and would resent the offers of any man who would want to get her property.' I remarked, that she had done well not to marry; as a person, like herself, who could do every thing so well
, could have no need of a husband. Right, right, Sir,' she cried, laughing. Then getting thoughtful, she continued : But I have a great deal of care, and I often think, I should like to retire and be quiet; and then, I feel, as if I could not be quiet, and then I should have no friend. I should want a friend, if I retired, else I could afford it, you know.' Oh, I had no doubt of her having a handsome property.' 'Oh, no, Sir, your joke is very pretty, but I did not mean to say I was rich. I have somewhere or other about 7000 dollars; but I guess that you have more money than all of us put together.' And thus she continued throughout the journey, never embarrassed, always prepared to meet you in reply, and always satisfied with her own shrewdness. She was really a character person, features, dress and all, but a most pitiable one.
A great usurer - on a small scale; the love of money had become in her the root of all evil; it made her indifferent to a future world, and de
stroyed all that was feminine, tender, and benevolent."*
This is truly a graphic picture of an old female miser, whose heart appears to have been long wedded to the Mammon of unrighteousness. Her moral sense appears to have been completely blunted by her love of money; for she appears to have had no impression of the injustice of taking fifteen per cent. from “poor creatures." Yet, it is evident, from her declaring that “she had a great deal of care,” and from her wish and hesitation about retiring from the world, that she was an unhappy mortal, as all such characters must necessarily be. As the Doctor would doubtless intersperse in his conversation, some rational and scriptural arguments against covetousness, it is rather a defect in his narrative, that he does not state what impressions they madé, or how they were received; for the lady, he informs us, " was always prepared to meet you in reply.” Alas! that so many such characters should be found in a Christian land, who think, like this wretched female, that they have done their duty," when they mind their own avaricious business !"
3. Covetousness destroys natural feeling and tenderness of conscience.
There are few vicious dispositions that have a greater tendency to harden the natural feelings of the human heart, and to produce a complete apathy in regard to the wants and sufferings of others, than the inordináte love of money.' The tale of woe, the houseless wanderer shivering in rags amidst the blasts of winter, the wants and distresses of the surrounding poor, and the claims of indigent friends and relatives, make no impression on that heart which is encircled, as by a wall of adamant, with the immoderate love of gain. On such a heart, the tears of the unfortunate, and of the widow and orphan, will drop in vain. Its eyes are
· * Narrative of a visit, &c. by Drs. Reed and Mattheson, vol. i. pp. 103, 104.