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consciousness that God is our dwelling-place, our | to their covetousness-valued it only so far as it refuge, and that he will order all things for our promoted their worldly views, and abandoned it good; in the exercise within our own souls of all so soon as it became unprofitable. the emotions and faculties to which such a communion and confidence gives rise; in reverence, and wonder, and adoring loving; in gratitude, and faith, and hope, and in all the heaven-born graees there is enough to constitute happiness, and to give it the very impress of perfection. The soul is by this communion raised above the world. Things are seen in their just proportions, and it is felt that the whole world would be nothing without God. Covetousness is therefore destroyed. Its objects are divested of their false tinsel, and they cease to be objects of desire. Thus contentment finds room to grow, and expands into perfect peace. Without God all is dark; in his presence is light and joy; and the glad confidence remains to light up the eye of immortal hope, that whatever be our worldly state and condition, God will not at any time, on any occasion, for any cause, withdraw from us. He will uphold us by the right hand of his righteousness. He will never leave nor forsake us.
'But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out. And having food and raiment, let us be therewith content,' 1 Tim. vi. 6-8.
THE gain of godliness is of such a kind, so incalculable in its amount, and so precious in its gifts, as pre-eminently to deserve the character here given to it of being great gain. It hath a promise of the life that now is, as well as of that which is to come. It opens up new fountains of enjoyment, and gives a new relish to every comfort. It raises the soul to the contemplation and enjoyment of divine things, and earthly comforts are by its influence sweetened, received in gratitude, and awakening new love to God who bountifully bestows them. Without godliness the possession and enjoyments of this world's goods contract and harden the heart, and make it less and less susceptible of pleasure. They withdraw the soul from its sweetest pleasures, and become snares for its destruction.
Men in general have acted as if they judged differently. They have not only pursued gain to the neglect of godliness, but many have assumed an aspect of godliness that they might add to their gains. They have made religion the pander
We scarcely need be told that there is a liability in all men to such a shameful and wicked prostitution of godliness. The corruption of the heart is ever manifesting itself by a preference of the things of sense to the things of faith. Even in the churches which were planted by the hands of apostles, and so plentifully watered by the outpouring of the divine Spirit, this depraved tendency to some extent prevailed. In the context the apostle points out for reprobation some who were destitute of the truth, supposing that gain was godliness. To reprove such a spirit, and show how irrational their conduct was, he adduces the argument of the text, with a view of showing the propriety of contentment when the barest necessaries of life were furnished. The argument is altogether invincible. We brought nothing into the world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out. The gain we make, the wealth we acquire, is not really ours, it is but borrowed for a day, and we must ere long, and however reluctantly, be deprived of it. Nay, it is worse than useless, for it is declared, 'they that will be rich, fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and hurtful lusts, which drown men in the bible to make us afraid of being rich, in destruction and perdition.' There is enough rather than to induce us to court wealth, if we would but believe its declarations. How hardly shall they that are rich enter into the kingdom of heaven.'
But if we will not be persuaded by God's word, surely we might listen to the testimony of our own experience. We know that we cannot carry anything out of the world, and therefore it is not worth our while to strive for the attainment of any of its possessions, or be beyond measure distressed by the want of them. Moreover we know that contentment and covetousness cannot dwell together in the same breast. wish to become rich that we may be more happy. No man courts riches for any thing else. At the same time we banish contentment, which is the larger portion of happiness, by the very circumstance that we desire more. Contentment is more valuable than riches. There is not a blessing we can enjoy on earth to be compared with it; none can be truly enjoyed without it. It blesses every condition of life. It is precious alike to all. It cannot be purchased with gold. Poverty cannot wrench it from us. It makes our desires level to our condition, and we are happy when we have no desire ungratified. It is no less
ask any blessing from him, especially those spiritual blessings which are the gifts of his grace, it is on all hands admitted that we must ask in the name of Christ, and in dependence on his merits, otherwise we presume that God's mercies can be exercised towards us at the expense of the other attributes of his character. We deserve nothing from him but wrath, and we can hope for nothing but through Christ. In the same way, when we have become sensible to gratitude, and are constrained to render thanks for blessings already bestowed, our sacrifice must be offered by Christ, otherwise we presume that God's favour has been bestowed upon us at the expense of his holiness and justice. We thus cast dishonour upon his character, and our offering cannot be received. This is true regarding all the mercies of which we are partakers, both temporal and spiritual. For the former, as well as the latter, thanks must be rendered in the name of Christ, for they are all received through him.
blessed in its results than in itself. It prevents upon the justice and holiness of God. When we most of the evils to which we are exposed. In the noble and great of the earth, it curbs ambition, and destroys envy, while it brings peace. In the rich, it saves care and trouble in keeping wealth, the desire of increasing it, the suspicion and fear of losing it, and quells the thousand painful and injurious passions which spring from these affections. The poor it renders patient, able to endure hardships; it converts disasters into blessings, and frees from the dominion of those fierce passions which spring from envy and resentment against our worldly state,-suspicion, hatred, malice, the consciousness of oppression, and the desire of revenge. If we would learn the holy lesson of contentment, and so be continually in peace-if we would acquire this greatest of all earthly gains-let us look to him who had not where to lay his head, and from whom no murmur was heard amid all the persecution to which he was subjected, and the trials he had to endure; who was throughout content, though he endured miseries which made him pre-eminently a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief; or if this be to look too high, if this be regarded as an attainment beyond the reach of human nature, let us look to the apostle, who gives us this testimony of himself: 'I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content. I know both how to be abased, and I know how to abound; every where and in all things I am instructed both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. I can do all things through Christ, which strengtheneth me.' Let us also so learn of Christ.
THE prayer of the wicked is abomination unto the Lord, and as guilty creatures we have only one way of access to him. Our prayers, perfumed with the much incense of Christ's holy sacrifice, ascend with acceptance before God. Thus the text directs us to offer the sacrifice of praise and thanks continually through Christ. We cannot acceptably offer any sacrifice in any other way, not even the sacrifice of thanksgiving. Nor is it difficult to understand how from the perfect purity of God's character this must be the Even to offer thanks for benefits conferred upon us, except through Christ, is to reflect
In the text we are directed to offer the sacrifice of praise continually. This injunction, in the very terms of it, is fitted to set forth the extent of our obligations to God. We have nothing that we have not received, and for every blessing praise and thanks are due. Every moment we receive favours, and therefore every moment we owe gratitude and thanks. Who shall number God's countless mercies, or set bounds to our obligation of gratitude? To him we are indebted for every good and perfect gifts-from him we receive all good things-whatever is necessary for sustenance convenient for use or pleasant in enjoyment-all that we possess-all that we hope for our very capacities of enjoyment-whatever gratifies the eye with its beauty, or pleases the ear with its melody. To him we owe every delight which the ministry of the senses provides for the mind-every pleasure which the actings of affec tion creates all that joy which is unspeakable and full of glory, resulting from communion with himself, and from the actings of the new heart which he has formed, and endowed with noble and imperishable affection. Surely the contemplations of his unnumbered benefits is enough to awaken perpetual gratitude, which in its fullness shall continually overflow in glad songs of praise and fervent thanksgiving.
But how much more deep will gratitude become, how much more lively in its exercise, how much more fervent in its expression, when we consider our own utter want of desert, nay, our desert of wrath instead of the least mercy! Thus again we find that not only if we desire our
THIRTEENTH DAY.-MORNING. 'And Ahab came into his house heavy and displeased because of the word which Naboth the Jezreelite had spoken to him: for he had said, I will not give thee the inheritance of my fathers: and he laid him down upon his bed, and turned away his face, and would eat no bread,' 1 Kings xxi. 4.
WHAT a picture of wickedness and misery is this! Ahab was a king, the king of a powerful people; and he could command by a word whatever was necessary, not only for comfort, but for luxury. Yet so enslaved was he by covetousness, that all his own abundance failed to satisfy or please, and Naboth's vineyard, on which his heart was fixed, alone possessed value to him. He must have it, otherwise he would be miserable; and because Naboth, from a natural attachment to his paternal inheritance, refused to surrender it, Ahab shut himself up from society; not only 'laid him down upon his bed, but turned away his face, and would eat no bread!'
sacrifice of praise to be accepted, but if we desire that it should be at all adequate, we must offer it through Christ. This is the argument for thanksgiving which prevails over all others, which gives force and urgency to them all, that we deserve nothing but wrath, and that Christ has purchased eternal redemption for us. But for this we must have been cut off in the midst of our transgressions. This is the new song which was put into our mouths when the Word became flesh: " Glory to God in the highest, peace on earth and good will to men.' Let us then offer through Christ continually the sacrifice of praise. Every blessing we receive for which we do not render thanks, will steel our hearts against gratitude, and become to us a curse, the savour of death unto death. By the faithful discharge of this duty, on the other hand, we increase the sense of our obligations—our souls are made more alive to God's mercies, and the most delightful of all communion with him is maintained. We thereby save ourselves also from some of the worst evils to which we are exposed. We become contented with our condition, and covetousness ceases Covetousness is termed in scripture idolatry. to afflict us. We maintain the exercise of one of All sin is essentially idolatrous, since it puts some the most delightful sentiments which the heart can creature or created thing in the place of God; but cherish, and render it almost incapable of becom-covetousness is peculiarly so. It is one of the most ing the prey of those passions which afflict and despotic forms of sin. Its objects are for the most torment us. In all situations we are better than part visible, often familiar, and confer importance we deserve to be-and therefore in all thanks are on their possessor; while the temptations to it are due. Why should we desire more of this world's both frequent and powerful. The covetous man goods, when God, who is all-wise and who orders concentrates the whole ardour of his mind on the every event, judges that we have enough? That object of his desires. He cannot forget it; he situation is best for his children in which he has cannot think of any thing else but in connection placed them. Even for afflictions and persecu- with it; it haunts him wherever he goes, and tions thanks are to be rendered, for they are will not let him rest. The tendency of our nainstruments of purification, and excite many noble ture to this sin, as well as its heinousness, may and godlike graces. Such is the testimony of the be inferred from its prohibition forming one of apostle, We glory in tribulation, knowing that the commandments of the decalogue. Some of tribulation worketh patience, and patience ex- the leading objects of covetousness are specified perience, and experience hope.' What argument in that commandment; and it is evident from then hath covetousness, even in the most desti- these, that while covetousness, as meaning extute conditions of humanity? Here is an invita- cessive desire, is sinful in itself, it is particularly tion, and a resistless one, for sweet contentment to be shunned and hated,— --as leading to numerous to come and dwell with us for ever, and enlighten and most aggravated violations of the divine law. our abode with her care-dispelling smile; to sit Injustice, cruelty, theft, adultery,—all follow in its beside us and dictate the gladsome and ever- train. Achan's account of the manner in which recurring duty of giving thanks always for all he had been led into sin after the fall of Jericho, things unto God and the Father, in the name of strikingly illustrates the operation of covetousour Lord Jesus Christ.' ness. I saw,' says he, 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.' Here we have the eye as the medium of impression; then, the covetous desire springing up in the heart; and last of all, the overt criminal
act necessarily flowing from the indulgence of tentment with our own estate, envying or griev this desire. Covetousness is thus the prolific ing at the good of our neighbour, and all inordinseed of many crimes. Let it once find entrance ate motions and affections towards any thing that into the heart; and though at first nothing but a is his.' desire, which no one sees, and which even he who is conscious of, does not readily suspect, yet it becomes imperceptibly stronger and more intense, till it bursts through all restraints, rushes on to its consummation in the perpetration of atrocious crimes, and involves its victim in disappointment, misery, and shame.
We see from this passage how wretched the victims of sinful passions are. There is no peace to the wicked, even on earth. Sin is essentially misery. The sinner, in indulging a corrupt desire, cherishes a serpent in his breast, which, if not destroyed, will sting him to death. The apostle might well ask the members of the church at Rome, what fruit had ye in those things whereof ye are now ashamed? for the end of those things is death.' The sinner seems to be prosperous, and to spread like a green bay tree; and at times so powerful is the influence of delusion, that he even imagines himself to be a wise and happy man. But sooner or later misery overtakes him; his enjoyments prove to be the apples of Sodom. Some passions are particularly prolific of misery to those who indulge them; and covetousness is one of these. There is a peculiar meanness in it, which degrades its victim, and embitters all his possessions. Ahab turned away his face, and would eat no bread. Miserable man! his own covetous desires darkened the whole world to him, and turned his heart into a fountain of bitterness and anguish.
As covetousness begins with the desire of the heart, our Lord repeatedly called the attention of his hearers to the necessity of checking it in its beginnings there. Men often deceive themselves with respect to this sin, and imagine that it is nothing merely to desire what others possess, provided they abstain from acts of theft, injustice, and oppression. But the pure and comprehensive morality of the gospel forbids even the desire; and requires the strict and conscientious government of the heart, as indispensable to the obedience of the Christian life. If men were careful to check covetous desires when they first arise, they would find it comparatively easy to abstain from covetous acts; but when the desire is secretly and long cherished, it acquires an extent of influence, and facility of operation, which render it dangerous in the extreme. What we ourselves possess should be considered as the allotment of Providence concerning us, to be enjoyed with gratitude, and faithfully applied to the uses for which it has been given. What others possess should be surrounded with an idea of sacredness, which should at once check all desire to disturb their possession, or to deprive them of it. The covetous man makes the objects of his desire his supreme good; and WEALTH is one of the principal idols of fallen hence our Lord in warning his hearers against corrupt men. It gives them importance in society, covetousness, emphatically added, 'a man's life and enables them to procure whatever enjoyments consisteth not in the abundance of the things are most agreeable to the depraved and ungodly which he possesseth.' The covetous man there- heart. Hence in that vast scene of idolatry fore seeks in these things a happiness which they which society incessantly exhibits, multitudes are cannot afford; and his life is one of bitter dis- seen crowding around the shrine of wealth, underappointment. He overlooks the sovereignty of going severe penances, and submitting to the most Providence in allotting the conditions of men, and irksome and degrading labours, that they may is habitually discontented with what he has, from win the smiles of their idol. As long as men a desire to acquire what he has not. Covetous- confine themselves to lawful occupations, which ness, however, is to be distinguished from the are necessary and useful, while they involve no mere love of worldly gain or substance in this, injury to the rights and property of others, their that its desire is fixed on what others possess. idolatry of wealth, though often extreme, does We covet their property, and would deprive them not present its darkest and most revolting aspects. of it. We are not only discontented with our But when, to gratify their desire, they are seen own lot, but we envy the lot of others. Hence disregarding the claims, and trampling on the the answer to the question in the Shorter Cate- rights of others,-when fraud, and duplicity, and chism, 'what is forbidden in the tenth command- artifice are resorted to,-when they put forth ment,' is thus expressed; it forbids all discon-violent hands on their neighbour's substance, and
Trust not in oppression, and become not rain in robbery; if riches increase, set not your heart upon them,' Psal. lxii. 10.
extort by oppression what they cannot obtain by | in righteousness, and only by his permission and justice, their idolatry of wealth stands out in a hideousness of aggravation from which we turn away in disgust.
Much of the robbery and oppression which have disturbed and desolated society, has proceeded from this idolatry of wealth. Scarcely any sinful passion has led to more injustice and cruelty. Under its influence, men in authority have perpetrated the most heinous crimes against nations, plunging into bloody and exterminating wars, and overrunning fertile and cultivated provinces with rapacious troops. A yoke of bitter bondage has often been imposed, to fill the treasury of a prince. In the humbler conditions of life, the same passion has prompted to endlessly varied schemes of cunning and oppression. The pharisee, under the guise of devotion, has robbed the widow. The pretended guardian, beneath a mask of counsel and prudence, has appropriated the inheritance of the fatherless. Every virtue has been feigned to gratify it. Human ingenuity has been exhausted in the contrivance of devices to rob others. How much of the wealth, accumulated in society, may be ascribed to this passion? Well has the apostle said, 'The love of money is the root of all evil.' In itself, money has no moral character, but is like dust, mindless and powerless, But the covetous dispositions of men invest it with interest and attraction. It is the instrument of power. It is the price of pleasure. To possess it is to possess influence, reputation, luxury, and outward splendour; and therefore the whole force both of mind and body is bent upon its acquisition.
forbearance, had the oppressor the means and the opportunity of success. From his throne, the infinite Ruler beheld all his criminal devices and cruel acts. The eternal enemy of all sin and injustice, he was the witness of every circumstance of secret fraud. Not a coin put into his coffer, but he knew whose lawful property it was. Not a morsel of bread snatched from the fatherless and the poor, but he saw in the oppressor's hand. How vain, as well as criminal, injustice is! If the earth was a scene of atheistic anarchy and confusion, oppression and robbery would be foolish enough; but as it is a province under the sceptre of an infinitely righteous and powerful Sovereign, they darken into acts of absolute insanity. For not only does that Sovereign know all their devices, but, though silent and forbearing, there is a time at hand when he will punish the unrighteous for their injustice and cruelty. He will no more keep silence, but speak out. He will disclose the secret courses of the ungodly. He will set forth the unhallowed sources of their gains, and vindicate the injured rights of the helpless and the poor. 'Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?' He who would not answer the widow, will be compelled to answer God. He who seized upon his neighbour's vineyard under false pretexts, will be shown to be no better than the thief on the highway, or the outlaw in his den. Instead of honour, he will reap shame— instead of prosperity, wretchedness, wailing, and woe! Having sown the wind, he will reap the whirlwind. For all his unrighteous gains, a reckoning will now be made; and in that reckoning, not a tear which he ever caused to stain the orphan's cheek, not a sigh which he ever drew from the widow in her solitude, not a wrong, however artfully inflicted, nor an unjust scheme however skillfully framed, will be lost sight of. 'Give an account of thy stewardship, for thou mayest be no longer steward.'
Oppression and robbery, like all sin, are vanity. There is no profit in them. When we see the oppressor, indeed, rushing on in his course, heaping up stores, and gratifying his wishes as they arise, we may be disposed to conclude that his lot is prosperous and happy; but there is a disquietude lurking within which forbids peace, a war of feeling, inseparable from his flagrant violation of righteousness and truth; and when the curtain is drawn aside, there is often much to awaken pity,-nothing to excite desire. There is a taint in all his gains. The curse of injustice is upon them; and though that curse may not always be felt, yet does it imply a state of moral disorder, incompatible with true joy. There are times, too, when that curse utterly blights all the pride and THIS is the language of Haman, the favourite and triumph of the oppressor; and he trembles amidst prime minister of Ahasuerus, king of Persia. He his abundance. The doctrine of the divine sove- had been advanced by his sovereign to the highreignty is a burden which he cannot bear. While est dignity of a subject, so that all the other he has been gratifying his corrupt heart, and princes of the court were required to do homage injuring his neighbours, God continued to reign to him. Mordecai, the cousin of queen Esther,
Yet all this availeth me nothing, so long as I see Mordecai the Jew sitting at the king's gate,' Esth. v. 13.