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in attending balls, masquerades and plays; who never devotes a single sovereign to beneficent purposes, or to the propagation of religion; whose life is one continued round of frivolity and dissipation; would such a character meet with any similar entertainments in the society of the angelic hosts, and of the spirits of just men made perfect? In short, can it be supposed in consistency with reason, that such dispositions and pursuits have a tendency to produce a relish for the enJoyments of the celestial world, and to prepare the soul for joining, with delight, in the exercises of its inhabitants? If not, then such characters would find no enjoyment, although they were admitted within the gates of paradise; but, like the gloomy owl, which shuns the light of day, and the society of the feathered tribes, they would flee from the society and the abodes of the blessed, to other retreats, and to more congenial compan10IlS. Thus it appears, that covetousness, whatever form it may assume, is utterly inconsistent with any rational or scriptural ideas we can entertain in relation to man's eternal destiny. He is a poor, pitiable fool who makes the slightest pretences to religion, while his heart is the seat of avaricious desires, or who makes riches, gay apparel, foolish amusements, and the gratification of pride and vanity, the chief object of his pursuit. He subjects himself to unnecessary distress by the compunctions of conscience, which the denunciations of religion must occasionally produce; and, if he has any measure of common sense, he must plainly perceive, that any hopes of happiness he may indulge in relation to a future state, are founded on “the baseless fabric of a vision.” The only consistent plan, therefore, which he can adopt—if he is determined to prosecute his avaricious courses—is, to endeavor to prove religion a fable, to abandon himself to downright scepticism, to scout the idea of a Supreme Governor of the universe, and to try, if he can, to live “without God, and without hope in the world.”
ON THE INCONSISTENCY OF COVETOUSNESS WITH THE WORD OF GOD,
THERE is no vicious propensity of the human heart more frequently alluded to, and more severely denounced in the Scriptures of truth, than the sin of covetousness. For it strikes at the root of all true religion, saps. the foundations of piety and benevolence, and is accompanied with innumerable vices and evil propensities, which rob God of his honor and glory, and “drown men in destruction and perdition.” It would be too tedious to enter into all the views which the word of God exhibits of the nature and tendencies of this sin, of the threatenings which are denounced against it, and of its utter inconsistency with the benevolent spirit of the religion of Jesus; and therefore, I shall select ; illustration, only two or three prominent particuarS. . .
In the first place, this propensity is branded in Scripture with the name of Idol ATRY. “Let not covetousness,” says Paul to the Ephesians, “be once named among you, as becometh saints. For this ye know, that no covetous man who is an idolater, hath any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God.” And, in his Epistle to the Colossians, he enumerates, among the vices which bring down the wrath of God upon the children of disobedience, “covetousness which is Idolato: .”: * -
Idolatry is one of the greatest crimes of which a rational being can be guilty; for it is that which is the source of all the ignorance, superstition, cruelties, immoralities and obscene abominations of the heathen world. It is to idolatry we are to ascribe the burning of widows in Hindostan, the cruel rites of Juggernaut, the exposing of the sick and dying on the banks of the Ganges, the murder of infants, the infernal sacrifices of the Mexicans, the making of children pass through the fire to Moloch, the human butcheries which are perpetrated in almost every Pagan land to appease imaginary deities, the abominations of the ancient Canaanites, the murders and obscenities of the South Sea Islanders, the degradation of intellect which is found in every heathen country, and the innumerable vices and moral pollutions of all descriptions which abound among the tribes and nations that are ignorant of the living and true God. So that idolatry may be considered as a comprehensive summary of every species of malignity, impiety, and wickedness. . . It was for this reason that the children of Israel were separated from the nations around, and so strictly interdicted from the least intercourse or communion with idolaters. So “jealous” was the God of Israel in reference to idolatry, that the least approach to such worship, either in word or action, or even in imagination, was pointedly forbidden:-"In all things that I have said unto you be circumspect; make no mention of the NAME of other gods, neither let it be heard out of thy mouth. Thou shalt not bow down to their gods nor serve them, nor do after their works, but thou shalt utterly overthrow them and quite break down their images; ye shall destroy their altars and cut down their groves. Neither shalt thou make marriages with them; for they will turn away thy son from following me, and the anger of the Lord will be kindled and destroy thee suddenly.” - * If idolatry had not been strictly forbidden and undermined, the knowledge and the worship of the true God would never have been established in the earth. In
* Ephes. v. 3, 5. Colos. iii. 5.
accordance with these injunctions, the first and fundamental precept of the moral law was given, which has a reference not only to the Jews, but to all the inhabitants of the world, “thou shalt have no other gods bejore me;” and the second, which forbids any visible representations of Deity, has this strong and impressive sanction; “for I, the Lord thy God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me.” - For this reason likewise, the nations of Canaan were devoted to utter destruction. For they not only worshipped a multitude of strange gods, but offered human victims on their altars, and sacrificed even their sons and daughters to devils, and such practices led to adultery, incest, sodomy, bestiality, and other kindred crimes, by which these nations were distinguished; so that, by these abominations, they rendered themselves unworthy of a place within the precincts of terrestrial existence, they were blotted out as a stain upon the creation of God; and their doom was intended as an awful warning to the Israelites of the evil and danger of turning aside from the true God to idolatry. Hence the curses and denunciations that were threatened against the least tendency of the heart to idol-worship. “Cursed be the man that maketh any graven or molten image, an abomination to the Lord, the work of the hands, of the craftsman, and putteth it in a secret place.” “Every one of the house of Israel or of the stranger that sojourneth in Israel, who separateth himself from me, and setteth up his idols in his heart, and cometh to a prophet to enquire of him concerning me, I the Lord, will answer him by myself, and I will set my face against that man, and will make him a sign and a proverb, and I will cut him off from the midst of my people, and ye shall know that I am Jehovah.” Hence the punishment of death which was uniformly denounced and inflicted upon the idolater. “If ther
be found among you man or woman that hath gone o; served other gods and worshipped them, either the *
* Deut. xxvii, 15. Ezek. xiv. 7, 8.
or moon, or any of the host of heaven; then shalt thou bring forth that man or that woman, who have committed that wicked thing, unto thy gates, and shalt stone them with stones till they die.” Such denunciations may be seen running through the whole of the prophetical writings in reference to Israel; and almost every judgment of God, either threatened or inflicted, is ascribed to the abounding of idolatry, and the sins connected with it, as its procuring cause. These circumstances, therefore, may be considered as stamping upon idolatry a higher degree of opprobrium and malignity than upon any other crime; and consequently, as representing the idolater, as the most depraved and degraded of human beings. We are, therefore, apt to recoil from such a character, as one who labors under a peculiar mental and moral derangement, in virtually denying the first principle of human reason, and “the God that is above”—as one whom we would almost shudder to receive into our company, and would think unworthy to enjoy the common sympathies of human creatures. But, wherein lies the reat difference between “the covetous man who is an idolater,” and him who falls down to Moloch or Jug#." or worships the sun, and moon, and the host of heaven? There is the same mental derangement, the same malignity of affection, and the same dethronement of God from the heart, in the former case as in the latter, though they are manifested by different modes of operation. Let us consider, for a little, the resemblance between these two modes of idolatry. Covetousness may be considered in two points of view, as consisting either in the inordinate love of money on its own account, or in the love of those sensitive gratifications which it procures; and in both these respects, it may be shown to partake directly of the nature of idolatry. In what does the essence of idolatry consist, but in the estrangement of the heart from *od, and setting up, in competition with him, any oth* Ohiect, as the supreme object of our affections and
* Deut. xvii. 2, 5.