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during the continuance of life that earthly possessions can be enjoyed. “For when you die, you can carry nothing hence, your glory cannot descend after you to the dust.” “But what is your life?" It is only " like a vapour,” which a small breath of wind
blow away. In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, while you are hoarding up treasures, and trusting in the abundance of
your riches or even you are aware—the decree of heaven may go forth, as in the case of the rich man in the parable, “This night thy soul shall be required of thee." Almost every newspaper that comes to our hands, and almost every returning day, bear witness to such sudden transitions from time to eternity. While mortals are reclining on the lap of ease, their hearts overcharged with surfeiting and drunkenness, running the giddy rounds of fashionable dissipation, or working all manner of uncleanness with greediness—while imagining themselves' secure, and foreboding no evil—death interposes, at a day's or even a moment’s warning, cuts down their mortal frames, and summons their spirits to appear before the Judge of all. But although life be continued, the wealth in which you place your confidence may soon be snatched from your possession. The providence of God has many ways by which to change the greatest prosperity of this world into the greatest misery and adversity, and, in a moment, to throw down the fortune of the proudest aspirer after wealth, in order to make him contemplate his sin in his punishment. Such a change in your fortune may be produced, either by the rapine of enemies or the treachery of friends, by your own avarice or folly, or by the malice or revenge of your enemies, by the prodigality of your children or the unfaithfulness of your servants.
The elements of nature, the hurricane, the tempest, the overwhelming deluge may conspire for your ruin. Your ships may be dashed to pieces on rocks or shoals, or a sudden conflagration may lay all your boasting hopes prostrate in the dust. And wilt thou place thy confidence in such uncertain possessions ?
“Wilt thou set thine eyes upon that
which is not ; for riches certainly make themselves wings; they fly away as an eagle toward heaven.”
3. Consider the folly and unreasonableness of covetous affections. This will appear, in the first place, if you consider, that riches considered in themselves without regard to their use, are of no value whatsoever. Suppose a man could lay up a stock of clothes and provisions sufficient to last him for 300 years, what would it avail him, if he is certain that he cannot live above seventy, or, at farthest, above a hundred years ? Suppose he laid up in a storehouse 70,000 pair of shoes, to what end would it serve, if he could make use, during his whole life, of only the one hundredth part of them? He would be in the same condition as a man who had a hundred dishes daily placed before him at dinner, but who could only partake of one, or of a person who had a hundred mansions purchased for his residence, but who could occupy only one.
The same thing may be said of pounds, shillings, and dollars, which are of no use in themselves, but only as they are the representations of articles of necessity and luxury which they may be the means of procuring. How ridiculous would it appear, if all that could be said of a man while he lived, was simply this—that his whole life was occupied in collecting and laying up in a storehouse 60,000 mahogany chairs, which were never intended to be used for the furniture of apartments, or 80,000 pair of trowsers which were never to be worn ? And where is the difference, in point of rationality and utility, between such absurd practices, and hoarding thousands of guineas or bank notes which are never brought forth for the benefit of mankind? There is no conduct, connected with the pursuits of human beings, that appears more mean, contemptible, and absurd, than such practices, however common) if examined by the dictates of reason and the word of God.
The folly of covetousness likewise appears in this, that its objects cannot afford solid satisfaction to the mind. Wealth can neither confer new senses, or open new avenues to pleasure, nor block up the passages
of pain and anguish. It cannot produce inward peace'
equanimity, domestic comfort, or a delightful self-consciousness of virtue, or of the Divine approbation. On the contrary, the passion of covetousness is uniformly attended with mental anxiety, inquietude, restless, and insatiable desires, and keeps its votaries in continual fear of losing what they have acquired, so that they are generally fretful and discontented, and in a kind of hell of their own creating. However much they may have acquired, they are still in the pursuit of more ; and the riches of the whole world, were it possible to obtain them, would be inadequate to satisfy their desires. In their mad career of gain, they will rush forward with the utmost impetuosity, even at the hazard of losing all that they had formerly toiled for and amassed. Marcus Crassus, a celebrated Roman, surnamed the Rich, had above 500 talents left him to begin the world with, and by his excessive covetousness, scraped together vast sums of money. Being desirous to know, at a certain period, what his estate amounted to, it was summed up at seven thousand one hundred talents, or about seven millions nine hundred and eighty-seven thousands of British pounds. But it appears, this immense treasure was not sufficient to satisfy his avaricious passion; for, casting an evil eye upon the treasure. of the Parthians, he marched with a great force against them, and, being defeated, and taken prisoner, the Parthian general gave orders to cut off his head, and pour melted gold down his throat, to upbraid his excessive covetousness, that never thought he had enough. Such are, not unfrequently, the results of excessive avarice, and such the termination of all the desires and passions, the hopes and fears, the anxieties and pursuits, which are engendered by covetousness. Happiness never would have been expected to result from the pursuits and enjoyments of avarice, if man had retained the full exercise of his reason, and hadnever fallen from his original estate.
The misery and folly of avarice may be illustrated by the following recent occurrence, extracted from the Sunday Times,” of Oct. 4, 1835. "A few days since, an old miser, named Webb, who has, for several
years, resided in an obscure lodging in Barrack court, Woolwich, called upon Mr. White, a broker, residing in Powis street, in the same parish, to inquire whether he would allow him to lodge with him, as he had been uncomfortable for some time past. The request was complied with, and, in the course of the evening, he took possession of his new apartments. He had retired to rest but a very short time before he was taken ill, and at his request, two medical men were sent for. Upon the arrival of Messrs. McDonald and Gaul, they pronounced him to be in a dying state, which was no sooner communicated to the patient, than he ordered an attorney to be sent for, as he wished to make his will. An attorney was speedily in attendance. The old man raising himself upon the bed, bequeathed to his daughter £100, to three nephews £30, £40, and £50 each. Upon being asked if he had a wife, he replied Yes, but he had been parted from her three times; that she had been in a work house near Stroud, in Kent, for a number of years, and that he did not intend to leave her a single penny. He had also two brothers and another daughter, who had all (he said) behaved ill towards him, and he would leave them nothing. Upon being asked to whom he left the residue of his property, he replied, “To Mr. White for his kindness,' at the same time handing the attorney a paper, which, upon being opened, was found to contain securities for upwards of £800 in the Bank of England, so that Mr. White, (who is sole executor) will, after paying the respective legacies, clear upwards of £500 for his lodger, who continued to get worse and died on Sunday. It is a remarkable fact, that the deceased (who was 75 years of age) has been frequently seen to pick up bones and rags in the street, and put them in his pocket; and at the time of his death he was in a most filthy condition,"
Here we have a picture of a poor wretch, who appears to have spent the greater part of a long life in scraping together £800, and, at last, bestowing the greater part of it upon an entire stranger. We behold him neglecting his own family, and his nearest rela
tives; and, almost in the very agonies of death, indulging implacable resentment against his own daughter, and the wife of his bosom, and leaving her to be maintained on public charity, when he had enough and to spare. He displayed himself to be little short of a thief and a robber, as most misers are. He robbed the public in leaving his wife to be maintained in a poorhouse, he robbed his wife and children in depriving them of what they had a natural right to, and giving it to a stranger, he robbed God of his tithes and offerings, in bestowing no portion of his substance in his service, and he robbed himself, in depriving himself of the good opinion of his fellow men, and of those enjoyments which might have rendered him comfortable and happy. It is more than probable, that all his domestic broils and contentions, and the alienation of affection he experienced, were the results of his niggardly and avaricious disposition. Who that enjoyed peace and contentment would envy either the life or the dying hours of such a wretched being? Yet such are the rewards, such the folly and wretchedness of those who surrender themselves to the power and dominion of covetous
If riches could procure true happiness, even in the present life, there might be some apology for pursuing them with eagerness; but even this, they are inadequate to confer; for experience demonstrates, that their votaries are frequently among the most wretched of the human race :-a prey to restless and malignant passions, and despised by their fellow men.
The folly of covetousness will further appear, consider, that the objects which it pursues are not to be compared, in point of grandeur and enjoyment, with those which are within the reach of all. Wealth command stately buildings, splendid apartments, gor. geous apparel, marble statues, curious pictures, gold and silver vessels, spacious gardens, and other objects which the world calls noble and magnificent. But “ what good is there to the owners thereof, saving the beholding of them with their eyes." Every spectator that has a taste for such objects may enjoy the pleas. ure arising from the sight of them as well as the pos