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Bless the Lord in all places of his dominion. Bless the Lord, O my soul!"
Let us be frugal of our time, and not spare one hour in the year for idleness or vice. Let us husband our strength, and not waste it in violent, imprudent, and unnecessary exertions. Let us be economists with our reason and passions. Let us leave others to wrangle about trifles, and let
us save all our strength for the manly subjects of a Briton and a Christian. Let us habituate ourselves to understand and to defend this great truth, the foundation of government and good order, “ Righteousness exalteth a nation ; but sin is a reproach to any people.” Let us know how to reason for religion, " the mighty acts of the Lord.” Let us not waste our passions upon improper objects. Let us reserve fear for God, love for justice, despair for happiness in sin, and hope for a blessed immortality, I do think, I may leave off.
You all know, or may know of one another why you should be frugal. One can say, If you be not frugal, you will be naked, and cold, and poor, and hungry, and without a friend to pity you: another will say, If you be wasteful, you will excite the indignation of all your neighbours for your barbarous treatment of your wife and children. The overseers will justly reproach you, when you ask for relief, and the rest of the poor will think your supply pilfered from their scanty tables. Others will tell you, your wastefulness deprives you of all the joy of doing good, and all the honour of giving the parish an example of virtue. We all say you are not like Jesus Christ, and you are a scandal to his name. But what will the Judge say at the last day ? ... The clock strikes ... Depart
Peace be with you ... The first quarter of an hour you can spare, bid one of your children read to you the sixteenth of Luke; it begins thus, " And he said also unto his disciples, There was a certain rich man, which had a steward; and the same was accused unto him, that he had wasted his goods” ... Let us say the Lord's prayer, and depart.
JOSHUA vii, 21. When I saw among the spoils a goodly Babylonish garment,
and two hundred shekels of silver, and a wedge of gold of fifty shekels weight, then I coveted them, and took them ; and, behold, they are hid in the earth in the midst of my tent, and the-silver under it.
Last month we spoke of frugality; now let us turn our attention to covetousness; for, as we have often said, there is only a thin partition between the last step of virtue and the first of vice. Justice carried too far becomes cruelty; and excessive frugality is parsimony, or covetousness.
The man in the text, in one view, it should seem at first sight, was an object of pity; for gold and silver and fine clothes, to be had for carriage, formed a great temptation. Hence arises a question, Why doth Providence put in our way such agreeable objects, and yet forbid us to touch them? Let us give glory to God by acknowledging, that by such means we are exercised, first as creatures to discover the natural grandeur of our own passions, the incompetence of the world to make us happy, and, if reason be not asleep, the all-sufficiency of God. Next, these exercises try us as servants, and by the emotions of depraved passions we become acquainted with the natural rebellion of an evil heart, that disputes dominion with God. By these we learn to “abhor ourselves, and repent in dust and ashes."
By these we discover the wisdom of him, who taught us to pray, 6 Our Father, lead us not into temptation.” By an habitual deadness to these, because God commands it, we discover the true religion of a renewed mind, and enter
on the enjoyment of conscious rectitude, a preference of virtue, the felicity of heaven.
Why then do we blame Achan ? Because he was noť a boy, for none but men above twenty bore arms, and he was old enough to know that he ought not to have disobeyed his general, or his God. Because he was a Jew, and of the tribe of Judah, and had been brought up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. Because he must have heard what mischief the golden calf, the iniquity of Peor, and the murmuring at Kadesh had brought upon his countrymen. Because he knew God had expressly forbidden plunder. Had he exercised his understanding, some or all these reasons would have cooled his passions for perquisites. In like manner we say of ourselves.
We have temptations and passions ; but we have reason, too, to resist them. We have passions; but we have had a Christian education, and have been apprized of the danger of gratifying them. We have passions ; but we have eyes and ears, and live among people, who daily die for gratiíying the same passions which we feel.
We covet; but God says, to Thou shalt not covet anything that is thy neighbour's."
To covet is to desire beyond due bounds. God hath set these due bounds. He hath bounded passion by reason, and reason by religion and the nature of things. If a man of twenty years of age, to whom Providence hath given both reason and passions, should lay aside his reason, and make use of only his passions, he would act as preposterously as if, having both legs and arms, he should resolve to walk with his legs but never to make the least use of his arms. May I say? Yes, let me say, reason is intended to poise the passions, and to prevent a fall. Perhaps all this is too general; let us in à short detail show the unreasonableness of covetous.
Covetousness is unjust. Let the prince enjoy the privilege of his birth; let the man, who hath hazarded his life for wealth, possess it in peace; let the industrious enjoy the fruit of his labour; to transfer their property to myself without their consent, and without puto
ting something as good in the place, would be an act of injustice. Only to covet is to wish to be unjust.
Covetousness is cruel. A man of this disposition is obliged to harden his heart against a thousand plaintive voices: voices of poor, fatherless, sick, aged, and bereaved people in distress; voices that set many an eye a trickling, but which make no impression on tous man.
Covetousness is ungrateful. A covetous old man was once a child; has he no feelings of gratitude for his nurses; or, if they be dead, has he none for other poor woinen now employed in nursing such as he was, and whose tenderness and care will never be half paid for? He was once in business; hath he no feelings of gratitude for the old servants, who assisted bim to get his wealth ; or, if they be dead, are none of their children or grand-children left in want ? Shall the whole world labour for this old miser, one to feed him, another to guard him, and all to make him happy, and sball he resemble the barren earth, that returns nothing to him that dresseth it? This is a black ingratitude.
Covetousness is a foolish vice; it destroys a man's reputation, makes every body suspect him for a thief and watch him; it breaks his rest, fills him with care and anxiety, excites the avarice of a robber, and the indignation of a house-breaker; it endangers his life, and, depart how he will, he dies unblest and unpitied.
Covetousness is unprecedented in all our examples of virtue. The Scripture shows us many sorts of good men, and honestly acknowledges their faults. One spoke unadvisedly with his lips, another cursed and swore, a third was in a passion, and a fourth committed adultery: but which of the saints ever lived in a habit of covetousness! It is Judas, who hanged himself, and not such as Peter, whom covetous men imitate.
Covetousness is idolatry. It is the idolatry of the heart, where, as in a temple a miserable wretch excludes God, sets up gold instead of him, and places that confidence in it, which belongs to the great Supreme alone. The fears and the hopes, the sorrows and the joys of a miser hover about his idol, as the spirits of the
just wait round the throne of God. In effect, the blasphery of such a criminal addresses that to gold, which good men say to God, “ Whom have I in heaven but thee? and there is nothing upon earth that I desire besides thee."
After all this we affect to wonder, that God should choose to give us one example of the punishment of such a sinner. We are not shocked at Providence, when we see a miser starve himself to death : but should the Judge of the world prevent his killing himself, and choose to make him edify the world by his death, after he had scandalized it by his life, why should we be astonished ? This man in the text was doomed to be burnt, but not alive; he was therefore first stoned to death, then consumed by fire along with his accomplices and his plunder, and the place was called, as the place of every miser deserves to be called, " The valley of trouble” to this day.
Achan, and all such as he, cause a great deal of trouble, and, to pass every thing else, let us only observe what covetous men do with their wealth. 6. Behold it is hid in the earth in the midst of my tent.”
Observe a miser with his bag. With what an arch and jealous leer the wily fox creeps stealthily about and about to earth his prey! He hath not a friend in the world, and judging of others by himself, he thinks there is not an honest man upon earth, no, not one that can be trusted. Doth it not vex an ingenuous soul to see such an image of a beast in the shape of a man? Disgustful triumph: “Behold it is hid in the earth in the midst of my tent.”.
Remark his caution. He turns his back on his idol, trudges far away, looks lean, and hangs all about his own skeleton ensigns of poverty, never avoiding people in real distress, but always comforting himself with the hope, that nobody knows of his treasure, and that therefore nobody expects any assistance from him. How vexatious to any upright soul to see a wretch feeding on falsehood, and revolving in his memory by way of pleasure, “ Behold, it is hid in the earth in the midst of my tent."