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Take notice of the just contempt, in which mankind hold this hoary mass of meanness. He thinks his wealth is hid: but it is not hid; his own anxious side looks be. tray the secret. People reckon for him, talk over all his profits, omit his expenses and losses, declare his wealth to be double what it is, and judge of his duty according to their own notions of his fortune. One lays .out this good work for him, another rates him at so much towards such a charity, and all
execrate him for not doing what is not in his power. Prudent men cannot justify him, and even they are obliged to allow that half the popular contempt is just. How painful to a benevolent man to see a hoary head despised! How much is his. pain increased by knowing that the scorn is just, for - Behold,” be his wealth little or much, it is not used, “it is hid in the earth in the midst of his tent !"
Mark his hypocrisy. He weeps over the profligacy of the poor, and says, it is a sad thing, that they are brought up without being educated in the fear of God. He laments, every time the bell tolls, the miserable condition of widows and orphans. He celebrates the praise of learning, and wishes public speakers had all the powers of a learned criticism, and all the graces of elocu. tion. He prays for the down-pouring of the Spirit, and the out-goings of God in his sanctuary, and then, how his soul would be refreshed ! What a comfortable Christian would he be then! Tell this son of the morning, that there are schoolmasters waiting to educate the poor, tutors longing to instruct youth, and young men burning with a vehement passion for learning and ora. tory; tell him that the gratitude of widows, the hymns of orphans, and the blessings of numbers ready to perish, are the presence of God in his church. Tell him all these wait to pour, themselves like a tide into his congregation, and wait only for a little of his money to pay for cutting a canal. See, how thunder-struck he is ! His solemn face becomes lank and black, he suspects he has been too liberal already, his generosity has been often abused, why should he be taxed and others spared, the Lord will save his own elect, God is never at a loss for means, no exertions will do without the Divine presence and blessing, and beside, his property is all locked up, “Behold, it is hid in the earth in the midst of my tent!"
Let us respect truth even in the mouth of a miser. This ignoble soul teils you, that he would not give a wedge of gold to save you all from eternal ruin : but he says, God is not like him, God loves you, and will save you freely. This is strictly and literally true. There have been thousands of poor people besides you, who have been instructed and animated, converted and saved, without having paid one penny for the whole : but this, instead of freezing, should melt the hearts of all who are able, and set them a running into acts of generosity. I conciude with the words of an ancient teacher in Italy, one Ambrose, more remarkable for his wit than for the accuracy of his judgment. “ Joshua," said he, “ could stop the course of the sun : but all his power could not stop the course of avarice. The sun stood still, but avarice went on. Joshua obtained a victory when the sun stood still : but when avarice was at work, Joshua was defeated." Grace be with you all. Amen.
JOB ii, 4.
Skin for skin, yea all that a man hath will he give
for his life. BEFORE the invention of money, trade used to be carried on by barter, that is, by exchanging one commodity for another. The man, who had been hunting in the woods for wild beasts, would carry their skins to market, and exchange them with the armourer for so many bows and arrows. As these traffickers were liable to be robbed, they sometimes agreed to give a party of men a share for defending them, and skins were a very ancient tribute. With them they redeemed their own shares of property, and their lives.
It is to one, or both of these customs that the text alludes as a proverb.
Imagine one of these primitive fairs. A multitude of people, from all parts of different tribes and languages, in a broad field, all overspread with various commodities to be exchanged. Imagine this fair to be held after a good hunting-season, and a bad harvest. The skinners are numerous, and clothing cheap. Wheat, the staff of life, is scarce, and the whole fair dread á famine. How many skins this year will a man give for this necessary article, without which he and his family must inevitably die? Why, each would add to the heap, and put “ skin upon skin,” for 6 all the skins that a man hath will he give for his life.” Imagine the wheat-growers, of which Job was one, carrying home the skins, which they had taken for wheat. Imagine the party engaged to protect them raising the tribute, and threatening if it were not paid to put them to death. What proportion of skins would these merchants give, in this case of necessity ? 66 Skin upon skin, all the skins that they have will they give for their lives.” The proverb then means, that we should save our lives at any price. Let us apply it to ourselves.
Life may be destroyed by violence. wretched people have fled for refuge to a river, a rope, or a razor? Thy are always objects of pity, for a man must suffer a deal before he can work himself up to this cruel attack upon himself. We generally hope such a person was insane.
This is a charitable error: but really in some cases we are forced to hope against hope. What would it have cost some of these unhappy creatures to have saved their lives. Nothing but a little courage to have told their trouble to a friend, and to have taken advice. Nothing but a little patience to have borne the calamities of poverty, disappointment, or fear. In such sad moments let us exert ourselves. All that a man can do, he should do to preserye his precious life.
The intemperance of the senses destroys life. Meat and drink of improper kinds, or in improper quantities, are slow poisons, which effectually kill people of inordinate appetites. Intemperance heaps disease upon disease, and persecutes life through every pore, tili life is a burden, and death the only relief. Study your feelings, they are your best physicians, and, remember, it is health that gives life its glee. To be weil, what a luxury! To be in health, and alive in every fibre, what a cheap acquisition, when only moderation is the price!
Life is destroyed by excessive passions. The body is a nice machine, wisely adjusted for the purpose of even and constant use When passion, like a mad-man in a mill, sets all the powers a going without their proper balance, the machine takes fire, and the fool himself is consumed. Anger fires, envy gnaws, discontent frets, pride strains, avarice dries up, every passion racks the body somewhere, and all together rend it into shivers, and toss it by in the grave.
Whence comes this whirlwind of destruction ?
we angry about? Whom do we envy? Whạt advantage are we proud of? What is it that we are hoarding up? What! Will I not agree to live in my cottage because the squire occupies the great house! Wiil I not taste my cabbage because my neighbour has a larger! What! Am I so proud of my three skeps of bees, that I must spend three times the worth of them at the ale house to talk over the courage, and the prudence, and the amazing accomplishments of a bee-master! Wretched people that we are! Is it thus we squander life away?
Life is destroyed by carelessness. Aged people and children should not be left alone : they are not equal to the task of taking care of themselves. Pious old people pay for being waited on by their edifying conversation, and the little folks will reward us by and by, if we use them properly. Let us not neglect their lives. Let us, too, take care of our own. We have often observed labouring men, early in the morning at mowing time, strip to work, and throw their clothes on the grass full of dew. At breakfast time, heated with mowing, we
have seen them take up and put on their clothes, not considering that rheumatic pains, and agues, and consumptions, and a thousand diseases enter that way. A little cold is a little death, a little more chills us to clay, and fits us for the grave. It is not only life in general that should be the object of our care, the life of every part is inestimable. What would some people give for one eye, or one ear, or one of the healthful pains of hunger? If we have these blessings, and if care will preserve them, we shall be inexcusable not to exercise it.
False religion will destroy life. When a man takes it in his head that the knowledge of some subtle points of the schools, or that the practice of some austere mortifications, is necessary to salvation, he hath embraced an error; and when love to his fellow-creatures makes him undertake our conversion, his error is mixed with religion. Religion and falsehood thus united drive a man mad, and impel him to harbour base passions, to spend himself in unnatural and unnecessary exertions, and to plot and persecute all for the glory of God and for the good of mankind. We have in history a multitude of martyrs. Perhaps some few have died martyrs to their own folly. What is necessary to preserve life from this specious attack? A little common sense and good temper. Recollect, I am not censuring any good man, be his errors what they may, except he holds them in a spirit of bitterness and persecution. No man shall ever persuade me that such a spirit is friendly to health and life.
Whatever such a religion may be to its owners, it holds the lives of others cheap; and it seems to me to be a remnant of that murderous part of religion, persecution. God forbid, we should preserve ourselves by destroying others. Is it not possible for us all to live and be happy? Give me leave to read you a bit of a letter, which a great and good man in the north of Europe, more than two hundred years ago, wrote to that pious Protestant persecutor, Theodore Beza, minister at Geneva.
b6 You contend, that Scripture is a perfect rule of