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dreads as being more, or despises as being less, rich than himself, raised above him in the public estimation: while his own mind is left to the ranklings of envy, and the miseries of disappointment. At the same time, he is frequently stung by the severities of well-founded censure, lashed by the hand of scorn, and set up as a mark for the shafts of derision. He is also without friends; without commiseration; without esteem. He, who would gain esteem, must deserve it. He, who would hare friends, must show himself friendly. He, who would find commiseration, must commiserate others. 3. The Good, which the avaricious man actually gains, is Uncertain. Wealth is the only good, which he seeks. If this, then, is lost; he loses his all. Nothing can be more unwise, than to center all our views, wishes, and labours, in uncertain good. But the good of the miser is eminently uncertain. No truth is more attested by the experience of man, than that riches make to themselves wings as an eagle, and fly away towards heaven. The dangers, to which wealth is exposed, are innumerable. The schemes of its possessor, in spite of all human sagacity, will, at times, prove abortive. Flaws will, at times, be found in the written securities, with which he attempts to guard his gains. The formation of them will often be committed to unskilful, because they are cheap, hands. Incompetent, and unfaithful, persons will, at times, be trusted, because they offer peculiarly advantageous terms. Houses, notes, bonds, and deeds will, at times, be consumed by fire. Crops will fail. Cattle will die. Ships will be captured, or providentially lost. The owner and his family will be sick. Debtors will abscond, or become bankrupt; and swindlers will run away with loans, which, in spite of avaricious prudence, they have obtained. In every case of such a nature, the miser’s regrets are throes; his disappointments are agonies. The instinctive language of his heart is, Ye have taken away my gods; and what have I more ? But Avarice often amasses wealth for its heirs. Solomon hated all the labour, which he had undergone, to acquire riches, because he should leave them to the man, who should come after him; and knew not whether he would be a wise man, or a fool.
This uncertainty attends every man, who amasses wealth. His destined heir, or heirs, may be wise, and prudent; inclined to such expenses only, as are useful; and prepared to preserve their inheritance, undiminished, for those, who shall come after them. But they may die before they receive their patrimony; and leave it to the possession of prodigals; to men, who will expend it for purposes, which the original owner most abhorred; and in a manner so rapid and wanton, as would, if he were living, scarcely leave him the possession of his reason. The intention of all men, who lay up property for their children, is unquestionably to do them good. How often is this intention defeated . The property accumulated is designed to make them rich. How often is it the very means of making them poor! It is bequeathed, to make them happy. How often is it the cause of their ruin! How often is a splendid inheritance the source of idleness, profusion, negligence, gambling, rash adventure, and speedy beggary! To harass one's self through life, merely to promote these miserable ends, is certainly, if any thing is, vanity and vexation of spirit. 4. The avaricious man incapacitates himself to enjoy the very good, which he seeks. In order to enjoy any kind of good, it is indispensable, that we should experience some degree of contentment; at least, during the period of enjoyment. But he, that loveth silver, will never be satisfied with silver; nor he, that loveth abundance, with increase. The desire of gain enlarges faster, than the most successful and romantic acquisitions; and, were pounds to be accumulated as rapidly, as the most favoured children of fortune multiply pence; the eager mind would still overleap the limits of its possessions, and demand new additions to its wealth with accelerated avidity. As these desires increase; the fear, the reluctance, to enjoy what is accumulated, are proportionally increased. The miser, instead of furnishing himself with more gratifications, and enjoying them more highly, as his means of indulgence are increased, lessens them in number and degree; and tastes them with a more stinted, parsimonious relish. His habitation, his dress, his food, his equipage, all become more decayed, mean, and miserahle, continually; because he feels
less and less able to afford, first conveniences, then comforts, and then necessaries. Although he wanteth nothing for his soul of all that he desireth; yet God giveth him not power to eat thereof. A rich miser, who lives like a beggar, is only a beggar, dreaming that he is rich. II. The Guilt of Avarice may be illustrated in the following 77tanner. 1. The disposition is in itself grossly sinful. This truth the Scriptures have exhibited with peculiar force. Covetousness, saith St. Paul, is idolatry. Every person, who has read his Bible, knows that idolatry is marked in the Scriptures as pre-eminent sin; as peculiarly the abominable thing, which God says, My soul hates. Its enormity I have illustrated in a former discourse. It will, therefore, be unnecessary to expatiate upon it here. I shall only observe, as we are taught by St. Paul, that no whoremonger, nor unclean person, nor covetous man, who is an idolater, hath any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ, and of God. Common sense has long since pronounced the avaricious man to be an idolater, in the adage, proverbially used to describe his character; that he “makes gold his god.” Plainly, he prefers wealth to every other object; and consecrates his heart, his talents, and his time, to the single purpose of becoming rich. To this object he evidently postpones the real God; and neither renders to him, nor, while avarice predominates, can render, his affections, or his services. With such love of the world, the love of the Father cannot be united. But how sordid, how shameful, how sinful, is it thus to worship and serve a contemptible creature more than the Creator, who is blessed for ever! .olmen. By this disposition he, in whom it dwells, is unfitted for all his duty to God. Our duty to God is performed, if performed at all, from that supreme love to him, which is enjoined in the first, and greatest, command of the Moral Law. But the heart of the avaricious man cannot thus love God, because he renders this love to the world. He cannot worship God, because he worships gold. He cannot serve God, because he serves Mammon. Thus, his heart is alienated from his Maker; and his life employed in a continual and gross impiety.
2. Avarice speedily destroys the tenderness, both of the Heart, and of the Conscience.
To be without natural affection is, in the estimation of the Scriptures, as well as that of common sense, to be eminently and hopelessly sinful. But nothing sooner hardens the native feelings of the heart, than the love of riches. Open to them, the soul is sealed up to every thing else; and loves nothing in comparison with them. Soon, and easily, it becomes callous to all the objects of tenderness, and endearment; forgets the neighbour, the poor, and the distressed; and neglects even its nearest friends, and relations. To such a heart, poverty petitions, distress pleads, and nature cries, in vain. Its ears are deaf; its eyes blind; and its hands closed. In vain the unhappy petitioner approaches with the hope of finding relief. Instead of meeting with the tear of sympathy, and the gentle voice of compassion, he is driven from the gate by the insults of a slave, and the growl of a mastiff.
With tenderness of feeling, vanishes, also, tenderness of conscience : that inestimable blessing to man : the indispensable means of piety, and salvation. The continual increase of the appetite for wealth, continually overcomes its remonstrances, and gradually diminishes its power. Conscience, often vanquished, is vanquished with ease. Avarice accomplishes this defeat every day, and every hour. Soon, therefore, its voice, always disregarded, ceases to be heard. Then Religion and duty plead with as little success, as friendship and suffering pleaded before. All the motives to repentance, faith, and obedience, lose their power; and might with equal efficacy be addressed to blocks and Stones.
To the miser, nothing is of any value but wealth. But wealth, Conscience cannot proffer; the Scriptures do not insure; God does not promise. Therefore Conscience, the Scriptures, and God, are of no value to him. To riches, to bargains, to loans, to amassing, to preserving, he is alive. To reformation, to piety, to salvation, he is dead.
3. The life of the avaricious man is an unceasing course of Injustice.
It is an unceasing course of Fraud. Few such men fail of being guilty of open dishonesty: the natural and almost necessary consequence of a covetous disposition. Should we suppose him to escape this iniquity, and, fixing his standard of morality as high, as any avaricious man knows how to fix it, to make the law of the land his rule of righteousness; he will still live a life of fraud. His only scheme of action is, uniformly, to get as much, as that law will permit: and it will permit, because it cannot prevent, frauds innumerable. Every hard bargain, as I have formerly observed, is a fraud: and the bargains of this man, unless his weakness forbids, or Providence prevents, are all hard. But his life is spent in making such bargains; and is therefore spent in fraud. It is, also, an unceasing course of oppression. The bargains, which I have already specified, are not fraudulent only: they are cruel. They are made, in innumerable instances, with the poor and suffering; and fill his coffers out of the pittance of want, and the gleanings of the widow and the fatherless. With an iron hand, he grasps the earnings of the necessitous ; and snatches, and devours, on the right hand, and on the left. In this oppression, his own family take their full share. His coffers, indeed, are rich. But himself and his family are poor. Often are they denied even the comforts of life; and, always. that education, and those enjoyments, which wealth is destined to supply. Their food is mean and stinted. Their clothes are the garb of poverty. The education, which they receive, is such, as forms a menial character; and fits them only for a menial condition. Their comforts are measured out to them, not in streams, but in solitary drops. When they are settled in life; the means of business and enjoyment are supplied to them with so parsimonious a hand, as to cut them off from every useful plan, and every comfortable expectation. If hope at any time shines upon them; it shines, only to be overcast. By their parent, they are continually mocked with the cup of Tantalus ; which they are permitted, indeed, to touch, but not to taste. When he leaves the world, and is compelled to impart his possessions to them; they find themselves by a stinted education, and shrivelled habits, rendered wholly unable either to enjoy their wealth themselves, or make it useful to others.