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has been encouraged and carried on by men who make high pretensions of their improvement in science and civilization; by States that, with the most glaring inconsistency, boast of the liberties they have acquired above all other nations; by Roman Pontiffs who pretend to be Christ's vicegerents on earth; by thousands who profess the greatest zeal for the interests of Religion, and who would consider themselves as scandalized and insulted, were we to refuse them the name of Christians—and all for the purpose of glutting their insatiable lust of Avarice, at the expense of the blood and sufferings of their fellow men. Early in the 15th : century, the Portuguese, under the authority of the Pope, explored the African coast, planted colonies, and reduced the Africans to slavery. The decrees of five successive Roman Pontiffs “granted, conveyed and confirmed to the most faithful king [of Portugal, a right to appropriate the kingdoms, goods and possessions of all infidels, wherever to be found, to reduce these persons to perpetual slavery, or destroy them from the earth,” for the declared purpose “of bringing the Lord's sheep into one Dominican fold under one Universal Pastor.” By whom, then, was this atrocious commerce opened, and by whom has it been so long and ardently pursued By the subjects of their Most Faithful, most Catholie, and most Christian Majesties, o of the Faith; by British subjects, who have only lately been forced to abandon it, and by the citizens of the Most Republican States, with the sanction of his holiness the Pope. It has been calculated that, in this accursed traffic, eight millions of slaves have been shipped in Africa for the West India Islands and the United States, ten millions for South America, and two millions have been taken and held in slavery in Africa; in all, about twenty millions of negroes who have been consigned either to bondage or to death.* Reckoning the value of each slave at £40 Sterling, this horrid trade has accumulated for its unprincipled
* See Gurley’s “Life of Ashmun,” page 101. Printed at Washing. ton in 1835, - -
abettors, the enormous sum of £800,000,000, a sum which would be nearly sufficient for effecting the physical and moral renovation of our world; but the greater part of which, we have too much reason to believe, has been wasted in luxury and debauchery. I have stated these more atrocious acts of avarice, for the purpose of showing to what a pitch of wickedness and barbarity the principle of covetousness will lead its votaries when no human laws or prudential considerations interfere to obstruct its progress. Men are apt to imagine, that the occasional indulgence in covetousness, in respect to little things, can produce no great harm, when actions directly criminal are not resorted.to for its gratification,-that, to take a quarter of an ounce from a pound of sugar, an inch from a yard of print, a “remnant” from a suit of clothes, to ask more than the fair value for an article of merchandize, to withhold a few pence or shillings from a philanthropic institution, or to desire the wealth of others which we cannot by fair means obtain, must be faults of trivial consideration, and can produce little injury to general society. But such persons ought to consider, that the very same principle which operates in such cases, if left to its own native energies, and to operate with: out control from the force of human laws, would lead to all the atrocities and scenes of horror to which we have now alluded, and would, ere long, transform the world into a field of plunder, an immense charnel house, and a habitation of demons. Were its influence universal, it would destroy the happiness of rational beings, subvert the moral order of intelligent agents, both in heaven and on earth, and even sap the foundations of the throne of the Eternal. Hence, it is described in scripture as “THE Root of ALL Evil.”, and designated by the term Idol ATRY ; a crime which, above others, has a tendency to degrade the character of man, and to subvert the relations in which he stands to his fellow creatures, and to his Creator—which includes in it a comprehensive summary of wickedness, pride, falsehood, malignity, rebellion, hatred of moral excellence, and the basest ingratitude towards him “in whom we live and move, and have our being.” Besides the more barbarous acts of plunder to which I have adverted, there are innumerable other acts in the conduct of nations and societies, flowing from the same principle, which are every day committed without a blush at their enormity and injustice. Almost the whole of our colonization system has been commenced and carried on from a principle of avarice; when the rights of independent tribes have been invaded, and their territories wrested from them without an adequate compensation. Whether we go to America or Africa, the West Indies or Hindostan, or wherever colonies have been established by European nations, we shall find numerous exemplifications of the truth of this position. Instead of rendering our geographical discoveries subservient to the happiness and improvement of rude and unenlightened tribes; we have sent out expeditions to deprive them of the property which God and nature had given them, to massacre and to hunt them as wild beasts from the face of the earth, for the purpose of acquiring plunder, and gratifying our avaricious desires. And when we have thus laid the foundation of our colonies in avarice and injustice, we have next oppressed their inhabitants by arbitrary enactments and exorbitant taxes, which have frequently led to protracted and expensive wars, in which our treasures, acquired by injustice and oppression, have
been wasted, our previous riches and prosperity dimin
ished, and our finances sometimes brought to the verge of ruin. It is thus that the Governor of the world frequently punishes the crime of avarice, by forcing it again to disgorge those riches which were unjustly acquired, and to make nations perceive, if they have any moral perceptions, their sin in their punishment. Hence when the British roused the indignation of their American Colonies, by their despotic enactments and oppressive taxations, a desolating and unnatural war ensued, which cost Britain not only many thousands of valuable lives, (about two hundred thousand in all) but no less than £189,000,000; a sum far greater than had ever been acquired from the possession of these colonies, and which might have sufficed to transform Britain into a terrestrial paradise, and to establish churches and seminaries to the utmost extent, for the diffusion of knowledge and religion among all classes of the inhabitants. There would be no end to the illustrations of the operation of covetousness, as displayed on the general theatre of the world, were we to enter into particulars. The barbarous practices connected with piracy, or the plundering of vessels at sea, and the deeds of violence and atrocity which pirates have committed; the robberies and depredations which have been perpetrated by land, and the horrid murders which have been committed by lawless banditti in pursuit of spoil; the cruelties exercised by Turkish Bashaws and Moorish Emperors, in squeezing from their subjects exorbitant taxes; the plundering of caravans in the desert by wandering Arabs; the savage practices of a set of men denominated wreckers; the perfidy and perjuries of spies and informers, in convicting the innocent of crimes in the hope of reward; the trepanning of soldiers and the impressment of seamen; the secret murders committed on friends and relatives in hopes of obtaining an inheritance; the treachery of executors and lawyers in betraying their trusts, in order to fill their coffers; the frauds of public officers in conducting the affairs of governments, the embezzling of public money by close corporations for the purpose of selfishness and sensuality; the oppressions which, in almost every nation, have been exercised by unprincipled and avaricious men, on the poor and destitute, the widow and the orphan; these, and hundreds of similar modes in which avarice is displayed, would require volumes to describe and
On the effects of covetousness, and the manner in which it has displayed itself among those who acknowledge the authority of Christianity, and profess to submit to its dictates.
When the leading facts and doctrines of Christianity were first publicly proclaimed on the day of Pentecost, those who were converted to the faith imbibed its heavenly spirit, and acted according to its holy requisitions. This was particularly manifested in their noble indifference to earthly possessions, and their anxious desire to consecrate the wealth which God had given them to purposes of Christian beneficence. So great was their admiration of the love of God, and the riches of his grace, and so elevated their hopes of heavenly felicity, that they looked down with a becoming contempt on worldly treasures, except in so far as they were subservient to the purposes of benevolence, and to the promoting of the interests of the Redeemer's kingdom. For, we are told, that “all that believod,” being inspired with mutual love and affection for each other-" had all things common.” Nay, to such an extent did this generous principle prevail that they who had estates or other valuable effects, “sold their possessions and goods, and parted them to all men as every one had need.” This Christian liberality and heroic indifference to the world, continued to distinguish the followers of Jesus, in a greater or less degree, during the two first centuries of the Christian era. For the sake of Him who had “redeemed them with his blood,” and brought them “from darkness to marvellous light,” they cheerfully parted with houses and lands, and brethren and sisters, and subjected themselves to the severest persecutions, that they might obtain “a better resurrection,” and an “incorruptible inheritance.” They were admonished beforehand that they were to be “betrayed by friends and brethren and kinsfolk, accused before rulers and kings, and hated of all men for his name's sake.” And these premonitions