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oN THE Evils which FLow FROM covetousNess.
WHILE the rational and pious distribution of wealth might be made the source of innumerable benefits to mankind; the inordinate “love of money,” we are told “is the root of all evil.” There is scarcely a moral evil connected with the present or past condition of the human race, but may be traced, in a greater or less degree, to this unhallowed affection. It has even exerted a powerful influence in o the greater part of those physical evils which are felt in every land, and among every rank of society. Were we, therefore, to attempt a full illustration of this topic, it would be requisite to take a review of the state of the human race in every age, and to write a history of wars and devastations, and of the animosities and contentions, the sorrows and sufferings of mankind,+so that, instead of a few pages, many volumes would be requisite for recording the revolting details. But, as it is not necessary in the present essay to enter into details, I shall advert in a concise manner, only to a few prominent particulars. - *
1. As covetousness naturally leads to dishonesty, so the covetous man is to all intents and purposes, a thief and a robber.
In the first place. he robs his Maker. This might appear a very odd representation, if we had not the authority of God himself to sanction it. The prophet Malachi, in the name of Jehovah, accuses the people of Israel with this crime. “Will a man rob God? Yet ye have robbed me; but ye say, wherein have we robbed thee In tithes and offerings; for ye have robbed me, even this whole nation.” The Jews were commanded to bring certain animals to the altar of burnt offering, to be slain as sacrifices, and a portion of “the first fruits of their increase,” as a testimony of their dependence upon God, and their devotion to his service, that they might honor the Lord with their substance. But, their covetousness, in many instances, induced them to withhold the sacred tribute; and, when they professed to bring their offspring to his altar, instead of bringing the pure and perfect offerings which the law required, they offered polluted bread upon his altar, and brought the blind, the lame, and the sick for sacrifice, which they would have thought unworthy of being presented to their governor. In consequence of such conduct, the curse of God was pronounced on the guilty individuals, and on the priests who winked at such robbery and profanation. “Now, O ye priests, this commandment is for you. If ye will not hear, and if ye will not lay it to heart to give glory to my name, saith the Lord of Hosts, I will even send a curse upon you, and I will curse your blessings; yea, I have cursed them already, because ye do not lay it to heart. For ye have profaned my name in that ye say, the table of the Lord is polluted, and what ye of. fer thereon, contemptible. , Ye brought also the torn, the lame and the sick; thus ye brought an offering; should I receive this at your hand, saith the Lord? But cursed be the deceiver who hath in his flock a male, and voweth and sacrificeth to the Lord a corrupt thing; for I am a Great King, saith the Lord of Hosts, and my name is dreadful among the heathen.”. Such were the sacrilegious practices of multitudes of professed worshippers among the Jews, even after they were restored from the Babylonish captivity; and which brought down upon their heads Divine judgments, and the severest curse of the Most High.
The same crimes are still prevalent under the Christian dispensation, though they assume a different form. Both the avaricious miser, and the splendid worldling, rob God of his offerings, when they withhold that portion of their substance which he demands for his worship and service. It is true, indeed, that the Deity is, and ever must be absolutely independent of all his creatures, either in heaven or on earth. Our giving cannot enrich Him, nor our withholding impoverish him. All the treasures of the universe, were created by him, and are subject to his sovereign disposal. “Every beast in the forest is his, the fowls of the mountains, and the cattle on a thousand hills; for the world,” saith Jehovah, “is mine, and the fullness thereof.” But, he has given the world we inhabit, as a gift to the children of men; with this reservation, that, while one portion of its treasures is exclusively allotted for the enjoyment of man himself, and another for the inferior animals, a third portion is to be applied for the maintainance of the ordinances of religion, for diffusing divine knowledge throughout the world, and for the purposes of universal benevolence. And, this reservation, so far from being a burden, or an oppressive tax, is, in reality, one of the mediums through which happiness is communicated and enjoyed. When man complies with such a requisition, and acts uniformly according to its spirit, he secures to himself the highest honor and happiness of which his nature is susceptible. It assimilates him, in a certain degree, to angels and the higher orders of pure intelligences, who are continually employed in acts of voluntary beneficence. It assimilates him to the Divine. Saviour, “who went about ...; good,” and hath left on record a Divine marim, whic deserves to be emblazoned in letters of gold, and engraven on the hearts of all the inhabitants of the universe—“IT Is MoRE BLEssED To GIVE THAN To REcEive.” This is a maxim which is seldom recognized, even by Christians, in all its practical bearings. But, were it universally acted upon, it would completely change the character of this world, and transform it from a scene of sin and suffering, into a moral paradise. In heaven, where this noble principle expands and governs the hearts of all its ... it is one of the chief sources of that “fulness of joy,” and those “pleasures which are at God's right hand for evermore.”
The covetous therefore, in refusing to recognize, and to act on this divine principle, both violate the commands of God, rob him of the tithes and offerings he demands, and prevent themselves from enjoying the felicity of superior natures. The miser robs God, when he either contributes nothing to his service, or such a pitiful sum, as amounts to little short of an insult offered to the cause of religion. The rich worldling who lives in splendor, robs God of his due, when he expends fifty guineas on a splendid but useless piece of furniture, a hundred guineas on some trifling amusement, or a thousand pounds to gratify a vain desire af. ter worldly honor or distinction; while he either gives nothing at all, or contents himself with contributing two, five, or ten guineas, for the propagation of knowledge and Christianity through the world. When a man who lives in luxury and elegance, who does not hesitate to subscribe hundreds or thousands of pounds to Conservative clubs or Orange societies, or who wastes similar sums in gratifying his pride or his appetites, contributes only such paltry portions of his wealth to the most noble object that can engage the attention of the human mind, he virtually pours contempt on such an object, by placing it in the very lowest ranks, and thus robs his Maker, from whom he derived his wealth, of the tribute which is due for the promotion of his
g Every professing Christian, likewise, in whatever station he is placed, when he regards the interests of religion as merely a secondary object, and refuses to come cheerfully forward with a fair proportion of his substance, according as God has prospered him, for promoting the advancement of the Redeemer's kingdom—must be considered as a sacrilegious robber, depriving the Most High of the tithes and offerings he demands, and consequently subjects himself to the in
fliction of a curse, similar to that which was denounced upon the covetous Jews in the days of Malachi. In the next place, the covetous man robs the poor, the distressed, the widow and the fatherless. He robs them of their enjoyments, by withholding that assistance which is requisite for enabling them to procure the comforts and necessaries of life. The Creator has displayed his boundless liberality in the abundant treasures of the earth and seas, in the ample space afforded for the habitations of man, and for the production of
food and the materials for clothing, and in giving rain
from heaven and fruitful seasons, that the hearts of men may be filled with food and gladness. The earth, if properly cultivated, and its productions impartially distributed, would be more than sufficient to supply every sensitive comfort to twenty times the present number of the population of our globe.” Even as matters now stand, there is far more produced from the rivers, the ocean, and the dry land, than is sufficient for the abundant sustenance of man, and every species of animated existence, were it distributed by the hand of equity and beneficence. But covetousness interposes between the Creator and his creatures, and attempts to intercept the streams of Divine Goodness, and prevent them from flowing to every order of his sensitive and intelligent offspring. It either hoards up the treasures of Nature that few may enjoy them, or wastes them in vanity and extravagance, regardless of the privations and sufferings of countless multitudes who are pining in affliction and indigence. Instead of acting as the Almoners of the Creator, in distributing the bounties he has put into their hands, the covetous do every thing in their power to counteract the incessant operations of Divine Beneficence—and thus rob the poor, the distressed and the helpless, of those comforts which his care and providence had provided. They likewise rob
* Allowing only one fourth of the area of the globe to be capable of cultivation, and that twelve acres of land are sufficient for the maintainance of a family, it is easily proved by calculation, that the earth would support sixteen thousand millions of inhabitants, which is about twenty times the number of its present population.