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edge than the beasts of the field, and made wiser than the fowls of heaven, yet his superior powers have carried him no nearer to the fountain of happiness, than the instinct of the brutes. In short, his atheism is nearly as complete as theirs—with this difference, that while they fulfil their destination and act up to the constitution of their natures, he degrades the moral and intellectual faculties with which he is invested, by rendering them instrumental for promoting sensuality and alienating his heart from God. What a pitiful picture does this representation present of the great majority of our species, and of many even of those who profess the religion of Jesus, and who display a fiery zeal in defence of the Christian church' Alas ! that man who is made only a little lower than the angels, and is allied by his intellectual nature to the highest orders of created beings, should thus pervert and prostrate his noble powers, in attempting to banish the Creator from his own universe, and to deprive him of that gratitude and adoration which are due from all his rational offspring ! Such, however, is the atheism of covetousness; and that the conclusions we have deduced are not groundless, appears from the following passage of an inspired writer: “If I have made gold my hope, or have said to the fine gold ‘Thou art my confidence; if I rejoiced because my wealth was great, and because mine hand had gotten much—if I beheld the sun when it shined, or the moon walking in brightness; and my heart hath been secretly enticed, or my mouth hath kissed my hand; this were an iniquity to be punished by the Judge; for I should have denied the God that is love.” This subject deserves the serious consideration of every professing Christian. Many who are members of the visible church, and regularly attend the dispensation of its ordinances, because they do not run to the same excess in covetousness as others, or as such characters as we have alluded to above, are apt to imagine that no principles either of idolatry or of atheism lurk in their hearts. They hug themselves in the belief that they love God and man, and desire to deal justly 10% *
towards their neighbors, while their affections are alienated from God, and their hearts going after their covetousness. “Their riches are their strong city, and as an high wall in their imagination,” and their trust in the Most High extends no farther than to the visible means of supply which they think their own means and wisdom and industry have provided. There is no mental propensity, or subject, in regard to which men are more apt to deceive themselves than that under consideration. It is the last thing a professed religionist will be apt to suspect, that he is acting on the principles either of atheism or idolatry; and he would consider it nothing short of an insult, were even a suspicion to this effect insinuated. But, it becomes every one, on this point, “to search and try his ways.” Let me, ask you, O professor of religion, have you never come to the house of God, under the profession of adoring his perfections and giving thanks at the remembrance of his mercy and goodness, while, during almost the whole of the public services, your thoughts and desires have been wandering abroad among your shops, your counting houses, your ledgers, your gains, your losses, your commercial projects, and other objects of covetousness, while “the God in whose hands your breath is, and whose are all your ways, you have not glorified,” although “your hands were lifted up in the sanctuary 7” Have you not repeatedly, yea times without number, neglected to adore God in your families, and “to show forth his loving kindness in the morning,” from your hurry to engage in the bustle of the world, and in the acquisition of gain? Do you seldom or never lift up your hearts to God in the midst of your worldly business, and implore his direction, and his assistance to guard you from worldly mindedness and every temptation? If your conscience bears witness against you, that such dispositions are indulged, and such duties neglected, you have too much reason to suspect, that your heart is not right with God, and that a principle intimately connected with idolatry, holds the ascendency over your affections. In such a case, it becomes every one to exercise a holy jealousy over himself, and
to examine the secret springs of his actions, lest, peradventure, he may be found among those who are “without God in the world.” If he is in doubt or perplexity about this important point, he will apply to Him “who searcheth the hearts and reins of the children of men,” and will say with the Psalmist, “Search me, O God, and know my heart; try me and know my thoughts, and see if there be any wicked way in me.” and discover it to me, “and lead me in the way everlasting.” For if the principles and affections which constitute the essence of idolatry and atheism shall at last be found to have pervaded the heart, and to have been formed into a habit, the doom which awaits the idolater and the atheist will be pronounced by Him who is “a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart,” at that solemn day when “he shall come to judge the world in righteousness.”
Having dwelt with some particularity on the above topic, I shall take only a cursory view of a few more particulars connected with this department of the subJect. o
2. Covetousness is declared to form an impassable barrier to the kingdom of heaven.
“Be not deceived,” says the apostle of the Gentiles, “for neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God.”. This is the law of the God of heaven—a law which is eternal and immutable—a law more steadfast and unalterable than that of the Medes and Persians. The laws of earthly sovereigns may be changed, or their designs frustrated, but the moral laws of the Most High are absolutely immutable, and no created being can attempt to violate them, and prosper. As soon may we expect to unhinge the fabric of the universe, to toss from their foundations the everlasting mountains, to pull the sun from his place in the firmament, or to quench the stars of heaven in eternal night, as to expect admission into the kingdom of the just, while covetousness holds the ascendency over the heart. For the declaration is express, and is repeated in another epistle, and similar declarations are interspersed throughout the volume of inspiration, that “no covetous man who is an idolater hath any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ or of God.” Now the laws of God are not to be considered as the dictates of an arbitrary sovereign, but as founded on the nature of things, and the general constitution of the moral world. Although in some instances, we are unable to perceive the precise reason of certain laws or injunctions, contained in Revelation, yet we may rest assured, that, in every instance, God has the highest reason for what he declares, and for what he does; since His wisdom is infinite, and since his eyes comprehend, at one glance, all the objects and relations which exist throughout the universe. In the present case, there are obvious reasons why the covetous must be excluded from the kingdom of heaven. For, in the first place, they are unqualified for its enjoyments. The pleasures of heaven are pure and spiritual, but the pleasures of the covetous are “earthly, sensual, and devilish.” The pleasures of heaven flow from a principle of universal benevolence, which pervades the minds of all its inhabitants, and without which it would be a place of misery; but the pleasures of the covetous, if they may be so called, are derived from principles connected with envy, deceit, falsehood, injustice, apathy in regard to the wants and happiness of others, and with almost every species of malignity. It is therefore, impossible that covetous characters should either contribute to the happiness of fellow-associates in the realms of bliss, or find any enjoyment for themselves in the perpetual exercise of eavenly virtues. In the next place, they are unqualified for engaging in its employments. Heaven being a social state, and consequently, a scene of moral action, its inhabitants are, of course, perpetually employed in beneficent services corresponding to the nature and circumstances of that happy world. As to the nature of some of these services, and the manner in which they are performed, we must necessarily remain in ignorance in our present state. Although, in that world, there are no poor to be relieved, no sinners to be reclaimed, nor distressed to be consoled—there are, doubtless, innumerable ways in which benevolence exerts its noblest energies, in communicating happiness and augmenting the joys of surrounding associates. Angels are “ministering spirits” to the saints on earth, and have, in numerous instances, contributed to their preservation and comfort; and, in the celestial state, “just men made perfect,” may, in a thousand ways incomprehensible to us, be ministering spirits to one another. They may deliver lectures to each other on the works and the ways of God—direct the attention of those scenes and objects in which the glory of their Almighty Creator is most conspicuously displayed—relate the history of Divine dispensations towards them in the present state—seize upon every circumstance by which extatic joy may be diffused throughout the hearts of each other; and as knowledge is necessarily progressive, even in that world, and in every region of happy existence, the benevolent principle may be exercised in various ways in communicating and diffusing it among the numerous hosts of heavenly intelligences. But in whatever benevolent services “the saints in light” may engage, it is evident that the covetous are altogether unqualified for entering on such employments. They are uncongenial to the train of thought they pursue, and to their leading dispositions. For either selfishness, apathy, pride, sensual gratification, or other malignant propensities constitute the prominent features of their character; and as these are directly opposed to the benevolence of heaven, such predominating principles must render them entirely unfit for minghng in “the general assembly of the first born whose names are written in heaven,” or for taking a part in those labors of love for which they are distinguished. . . . . . . . . . . Some of the other employments of heaven consist in the celebration of the divine perfections. “They worship him who liveth forever and ever,” saying, “Thou art