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conversion of sinners, and the extension of the Redeemer's kingdom! Such persons, evidently belie their Christian profession, and appear to have no Scriptural idea of their obligation to "honor the Lord with their substance," and of the great end for which wealth has been bestowed.
By such conduct, they virtually prevent the conversion of thousands, the reformation of the world; and the approach of that period, when the knowledge of the Lord shall cover the earth, and all flesh see his salvation.” They declare, in point of fact, that the hoarding of thousands of pounds, (of which they do not stand in need,) is a matter of more importance in their eyes, than the universal propagation of religion, and the eternal happiness of thousands of immortal beings. Whatever profession they may make, whatever show of piety they may assume, they place a barrier in the way of the progress of Christianity, and too plainly indicate, that the love of the world occupies a higher place in their hearts, than the love of God.
By such conduct, the general improvement of society is likewise prevented.
Before society arrives to that state of perfection, of which it is susceptible, much exertion and manifold reformations are required. The universal instruction of all ranks requires to be established on a more extensive and permanent basis than it has ever yet been. Seminaries for the education of the young, and likewise for those more advanced in life, require to be multiplied at least tenfold. Colleges and academies, of different descriptions, still remain to be established in such numbers as to afford an adequate supply of intelligent teachers and ministers of the Gospel
, for diffusing both general and scriptural knowledge among all ranks of the community.
The physical condition of mankind, likewise requires to be meliorated and improved. Many of our towns and villages, require to be new-modelled, and rendered clean, airy, and salubrious; and the condition of the mechanic and the laboring poor, rendered more comfortable, and more conducive to moral and mental im
provement. All which objects might, at no distant period, be fully accomplished, were the superfluous wealth of the professing Christian world properly directed, and applied to its legitimate objects. 'But all such designs are prevented from being brought into effect, by the avarice of those who profess to have renounced the world and its vanities, and to be looking forward to a heavenly inheritance. There can scarcely be a more glaring contradiction, than that which such conduct and such professions imply. But as this is a topic of peculiar interest, I shall take occasion to enter into more minute detail on another branch of our subject.
10. The evil of covetousness, will further appear, if we consider what would be the consequences were this impure affection UNIVERSALLY to prevail.
Every principle and every affection in human beings, ought to be tried by the ultimate consequences to which it naturally and necessarily leads. On this ground, it might be shown, that every violation of the Divine law leads to misery, in one shape or another, both to the violater himself, and to all with whom he is connected. And farther—that, if any one commandment of the law of God were reversed, or set aside, or universally violated, not only would the most appalling consequences ensue, but it would lead to the subversion of all order among intelligent agents, and would ultimately produce the extermination of the race of man.
The same, of course, may be affirmed of the covetous principle. Were it to reign supreme in the human heart, and to be universally acted upon, it would soon lead to the utter destruction of society. It would lead, in the first instance, to universal fraud, deceit and falsehood; so that no domestic nor public business, nor commercial arrangements of any description, could be carried on with the least degree of confidence. It would next lead to universal rapacity and plunder, which would produce a scene of turbulence and horror
in which no human being could enjoy for any length of time, either happiness or repose. The strong would seize upon the possessions of the weak and defenceless, without the least remorse, and deprive them of every thing that tends to enjoyment. Every one's covetous eye would be directed to the possessions of his neighbor ; and, by a thousand insidious and malignant schemes, or by open violence, every thing would be seized upon, and appropriated for the purpose of gratifying the covetous appetite. No one's life would be secure for a single week, and murders would be daily committed for the purpose of obtaining the wealth and possessions of the opulent. Of course, peace, and harmony, and kindness, would be unknown among men; every man's covetous heart be filled with malignity, and set against the interests of his neighbor. In the progress of such rapacity and plundering, wars of the most ferocious nature would take place. One nation would invade the territories of another, for the purpose of plunder; and, in the midst of the contests for spoil, cities and town's would be demolished; fruitful fieids transformed into a scene of desolation, and myriads of the human race slaughtered in every land. Amidst such dreadful commotions, the fields would be permitted to lie waste and uncultivated, and human beings would be gradually diminished by slaughter, and universal famine, till, in the course of a generation or two, the whole race would be extirpated from the earth.
Such would evidently be the progress and the dreadful effects of the covetous principle, were it to operate universally and unrestrained. Such effects, indeed, it has already, to a certain degree, produced; and the annals of every nation under heaven, bear witness to the melancholy truth. And, were it not, that it is counteracted and restrained in its operations by the overruling Providence of God, by the force of natural conscience, and by the influence of Christian principles and motives, it would soon transform this globe into an immense sepulchre, overspread with desolation and dead men's bones, and fit only for a habitation to the beasts of prey. The very circumstance, that it has never yet
produced such a terrible effect, is an evident proof that a moral Governor superintends the affairs of this world, and by his wise and merciful arrangements, sets straining bounds" to the passions of men, that his benevolent purposes in relation to our race, may be in due time accomplished.
It is evident, then, that an affection which produces such debasement of mind, and which naturally leads to such dismal and appalling consequences, must embody within it the ESSENCE of almost every evil, and of every species of moral turpitude ; and, although it may appear comparatively harmless, when confined to a narrow sphere, and covered with a cloak of hypocrisy, yet it only requires to burst its confinement, to be blown into a flame, and to have free scope for its destructive energies, in order to undermine and overturn the whole fabric of the moral universe. This consideration, deserves the serious attention of every one who feels the least rising of such an unhallowed passion, and should induce him to exercise holy jealousy over himself, and to use every Scriptural mean to repress and counteract its first emotions. His prayer to God should be like that of the Psalmist, “Search me, O God, and know my heart; try me, and know my thoughts. Turn away mine eyes from beholding vanity; incline my heart unto thy testimonies, and not to covetousness, and lead me in thy way everlasting."
I might likewise have enumerated among the evils produced by covetousness, the host of vices, and the anxious fears, and tumultuous passions connected with this affection-its baneful influence on friends and relatives, and on general society ; that it incapacitates the individual in whose heart it reigns for enjoying substantial happiness ; that it was one of the impulsive causes of the death of Christ ; that, when fostered through life, it becomes inveterate in old age, and retains its strength and vigor, when almost every other vice has withered and decayed ; and, that it has, to a certain extent, prevented the union of the Christian church, and the affectionate intercourse of its members. But without dwelling on these and such particulars, I shall only observe,
In the last place,--that covetousness indulged and persisted in through life, infallilly leads to misery in the life to come.
“Be not deceived,” says an'ambassador of heaven, “neither idolaters, nor, theives, nor covetous, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God." What a terrible and appalling denunciation, when contemplated in all its extent, and it's eternal consequen
Such characters shall not inherit the kingdom of God. And we are expressly told, that they who are banished from this kindom, "shall be cast into the lake of fire which burneth forever and ever;" and that they shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power.” A covetous man, is therefore, in as direct a course to eternal misery, as the most licentious profligate, or the most atrocious characters. If men really believed in the realities of an eternal world, and in the certainty of such terrible denunciations being accomplished, how would it make their whole frame tremble at the awful prospect! But no hearts are harder than the hearts of the covetous. They are surrounded as with a wall of adamant, and fortified against every admonition, so that neither the voice from Mount Zion, nor the threatenings from Sinai, can make the least impression; and the longer they live in the world, the more impenetrable do they become, till, in the righteous judgment of God, they are sometimes given up to a hardness which nothing will penetrate but the sharpness of “unquenchable fire." This is a consideration which demands the serious attention of the young, and of those in the prime of life. It shows, with what care and holy caution, they ought to guard against the first emotions of every vicious passion, and particularly against the emotions of covetousness; for, if they be indulged, they will grow with their growth, and strenghten with their strength, till they become inveterate habits, which no human power can eradicate.
I have already shown,* that the covetous must ne
* See pages 96, 97.