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THE RICHEST TREASURE.* "More to be desired are they than gold, yea, than much fine gold.”—PSALMS 19:10.
WHEN, half a century ago, the first settlers of Western New York were about leaving their home in New England for what was then a wilderness, the entire village, we are told, assembled with them at the house of God, where together they had so often worshipped. There, by the minister of Christ, they were addressed on the subject of their expedition-were commended to heaven by prayer, and then, amid weeping and sadness, took their mourn. ful farewell—no more, as they supposed, again to meet their friends on earth. They went forth somewhat as the first settlers of New England went when leaving the shores beyond the Atlantie, with no thought of ever returning. And going with these feelings, no wonder they turned their thoughts to the religious themes suggested by the separations of life as of death, and desired to be commended to Him, without whose care no one is ever safe.
A feeling kindred to theirs doubtless originated the interesting and salutary custom which prevails here, and at other whaling ports, of preaching on board the vessel that is soon to go forth with those who follow their calling on the waves-counseling her crew from the oracles of God, and commending them to Him who rules alike on the land and on the deep. And surely the same course is most appropriate in the circumstances that assemble us this morning ; assemble us in the house of God, when, but for the severity of the season, we might be gathered on the departing ship. These circumstances need no explanation. Multitudes, as we all know,
* A discourse preached to a company of California emigrants, and eminently adapted to the signs of the times.--Ed.
are going forth from every port of our land; all eager and joyous with hope; all, desiring-most, expecting wealth; all, now in health ; most, looking forward to the time when they shall return again, with competence, if not with riches; some, intending to settle in their new abode, and planning for business, and dreaming of prosperity and happiness there.
But of all these, numbers—great numbers, will beyond question be disappointed. Though with confidence they may
“Map their future, like some unknown coast,
They will do neither .!" Some, doubtless, will have sunk to their last sleep, and their bodies be committed to the ocean—registered for the voyage to a distant shore, they will have made the voyage to eternity-long before the vessel in which they started will have reached its intended port! Some will be the victims of the sickness, and sorrow, and suffering, which are watching in ambush all along the pathway of the future; and some, instead of gathering riches from the desert, will leave their bones to bleach and whiten its sands! And even of those who are spared and in safety reach the end of their course, multitudes will fall short of their expectations. They will find the gold of the future, like its happiness, a thing that fies as they advance; and while the few, as in the lottery, succeed perhaps abundantly, the great mass will never grasp their anticipated prosperity. The history of extensive emigration has almost ever been the history of benefit to the country in the end, but of hardship, privation, disappointment, suffering to individuals, at the outset and in their progress : and there is no reason why the immense emigration now going forth from every part of our land should be an exception; while there is danger that an emigration for gold, infatuated, anti-social, irregular as in many respects it must be, will be attended with peculiar evils. With all these possibilities, probabilities, then gathering about it, well does it become those who are going forth, to go with thoughtfulness; and as they go, to hear what God, by his truth, may speak unto them. If the Roman soldier, heathen as he was, would not go out to battle without consulting the auspices of the soothsayer, much more should those who are going out to the adventures, it may be to the severest hardships of the battle of life, inquire as they go, for counsel, wisdom, and direction, at the oracles of the living God.
One of the many responses from those oracles is sounded to us in the text. Speaking of the teaching of God's Word-of its instructions, counsels, directions, warnings, and of their fitness and value to guide us in our daily conduct, the Psalmist declares, “More to be desired are they than gold, yea, than much fine gold." Two thoughts, then, are here suggested for our consideration :
1. The implied truth, that gold is valuable; and, 2. The expressed. truth, that the teachings of God's Word and conformity to them, are of infinitely greater value.
I. The text implies that GOLD IS VALUABLE, AND OF COURSE DESIRABLE. But on this point, it may be said it is needless to dwell since all the world by their actions, their constant and eager pur. suit, show they are fully, alas! but too fully, satisfied of this value; and why, it may be asked, why dwell upon even a truth that may be perverted to madden the fever already burning like fire? Because, I reply, the world very often pursues that which is not valu. able, or seeks that which has value for wrong reasons, and from wrong motives; and every object should be seen in its true light. We bave heard, too, one of the most distinguished statesmen of the present age, ignorantly misquoting the Scriptures, and saying in the halls of the nation, that "money was the root of all evil !" And in common life, large and universal as is the pursuit of wealth, we often hear the intimation, that the desire for it implies contractedness, meanness, littleness of thought, and spirit. Prose has exhausted its epithets, and poetry its figures, argument its logic, and rhetoric its tropes, to pour contempt on the pursuit of riches
-a pursuit in which those most prompt to sneer at it, are often most ready to engage.
The Bible, however, places wealth on the same footing with every other temporary good to be regarded in the same manner, esteemed for the same reasons, sought in the same spirit, and used for the same end. Its very first mention of gold is in connection with the garden of Eden, and its last with the New Jerusalemthe heavenly city. It compares the trial and purified Christian to gold from the furnace; it informs us that God gave riches to Solomon as a mark of his favor; it describes the Son of Man, when appearing in his glory, as having on his head a golden crown. Its doctrine is, that property, like health, intellect, knowledge, influence, character, is a talent, entrusted by God, and to be used and accounted for to Him. It is like food, which, properly eaten, contributes to health, but improperly and excessively, brings on surfeiting, fever, death. It is like water, which, kept without the ship, aids her to float on to her desired haven; but allowed to Enter and fill that ship, is her ruin. Held with a right spirit, and tzsed to right ends, it is like the air when moving in tbe healthfal breeze, the minister of comfort, enjoyment, life; held with a wrong spirit, and used to wrong ends, it is like the same air when tainted with the pestilence, or swept by the tornado, the medium of injury and death.
It is not gold, but the love, that is, the eccessive, supreme love of gold, which the Bible teaches is "the root of all evil-which it declares is - idolatry.” The patriarch does not say, "If I have possessed gold," but, "If I have imade gold my hope, or said to the fine gold, thou art my confidence, this were an iniquity." The Saviour does not exclaim, “How hardly shall they that have riches," but as his own explanation is, “How hard is it for them that trust in riches, to enter into the kingdom of God!" Sought as a means to an end, like every other means, wealth is valuable for a thousand things; sought merely as an end, it becomes a curse. Properly used, it is a good : abused, it is an evil. In the one case, it is "the load-stone to draw men pearer to God;" in the other, “the mill-stone, to sink them to perdition.” To possess gold, other things being equal, is a blessing. To be possessed by it, and by the love of it, is to be possessed by a devil, and one of the basest and worst kind of devils. Gold in the hand is well, if it do not get into the heart; though, alas! it often gets into the latter, when not in the former. The great distinction which Christ makes is, on the one hand, "laying up treasure for self,” that is, in the selfish spirit and for selfish ends, and on the other, “being rich toward God," that is, holding our property as his stewards, and ever being ready to use it for Him. Everywhere the Bible inculcates those virtues, honesty, industry, forethought, prudence, &c., which tend to wealth, and it equally and everywhere enjoins, that whatever wealth we possess, we hold at God's disposal, and use as He directs.
Sneer though some may at gold-digging, there are gold-diggers here, all about us, in the shop, and the counting-house, and the office, in the crowded city, or the quiet village, as well as on our distant coasts. And the one class is not necessarily more inclined to mammon-worship than the other. To either, the pursuit is lawful and proper if properly followed. Morally, and in itself considered, gold-hunting on the land is as proper as whale-hunting on the deep, or wealth-hunting in the ways of business. It may not be as wise ; and we may, if we choose, question the judgment of those who engage in it: though it is difficult, if not impossible, for those who are settled in regular and prosperous business, fully to appreciate the position and feelings of the many enterprising young men in our land, who, finding the various avenues of business crowded to overflowing, gladly go forth to a new and unoccupied field of effort and hoped-for success. But whether the emigration be wise or unwise, and that, each must decide for himself, yet morally, whether here or there, the pursuit is, in its nature, the same—the same to the lawyer in his office, the mechanic in his work-shop, the merchant in his counting-house, or the sand-sifter on the banks of the modern Pactolus.
In either case, it is the end proposed, the motive that influences, the inward feeling, by which we are to judge of the outward act. “Why does each seek for wealth ?” This is the all-important question. Is it for God or self? Is it to be used, first, as it was intended by Heaven, to supply our own wants, and the wants of those dependent on us, and next, in benevolence to others? Or
or the quietot necessarily the pursui
is it sought only for self-indulgence, to enable its possessor to live in idleness or luxury, or to gain worldly honor and influence and respect? Is it to do good, as becomes the Christian, or to be able to say, “Soul, take thine ease, eat, drink, and be merry ?" According to the answer, in each case, must be the decision. If wealth be sought with the one class of motives and feelings, wheth. er here or there, the individual is in the way of sin; and if with the other, whether here or there, he is in the way of duty. Place does not create a difference. California is as near to heaven, and alas! as near to hell too, as our own beloved New England ! And there as here, gold, if sought with a right spirit, and to be used for right ends, if of value-the means to a thousand important ends—the channel of multiplied blessings——the minister of food, raiment, comfort, intelligence—an agent of power for doing good, spreading happiness, sustaining the cause of benevolence, sending the gospel and the missionary to the ends of the earth. Our subject, then, does not say, as some would do, “Beware of gold," or "Beware of going in search of it,” but it does say, with the Saviour, "Beware of covetousness ;" and the very spirit and essence of covetousness it finds in the supreme and selfish love, and the selfish possession and use of property-in “laying up treasure for self," and not being "rich toward God !"
But valuable as wealth is, when rightly sought and used, our text points us to what it declares of infinitely greater value, namely,
II. To the PRINCIPLES AND TEACHINGS OF GOD'S WORD. Of these it expressly proclaims, “More to be desired are they than gold, yea, than much fine gold.” And they are so
1. Because, so far as wealth is valuable, the Bible inculcates the principles and virtues that aid to secure it. As it is true of the New Testament, that though it nowhere enjoins any specific form of civil government, yet the tendency of all its great principles is to human freedom, so that tyrants fear and hate it, so it is as to the subject before us. Nowhere does the Bible point out localities of gold, or silver, or precious stones; but it does inculcate the virtues that tend to prosperity, and denounce the vices that lead to poverty. From the very insects beneath our feet, it draws the lessons of diligence and labor. It declares that the sluggard is "as vinegar to the teeth, and as smoke to the eyes.” It warns the idler, who will not plough in the winter, that he shall be left to beggary in the harvest. It enjoins, and all its great principles lead, to that industry, honesty, enterprise, good judgment, and good faith; that method, accuracy, promptness; that devotion to business and not to pleasure; that knowledge of man, and that quick discernment of truth and falsehood; that wise adjustment of plans, and their diligent and energetic prosecution; that proportioned and discreet good sense, that knows where to stop, as well as where to begin; all of which tend to prosperity and wealth. Even