« AnteriorContinuar »
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. 4. The Covelous man is almost of course a Liar.
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 cither to enjoy their wealth themselves, or make it useful to others.
The great design of the avaricious man, which fills his heart, spreads through his life, and controls all his conduct, is to get as much as he can; at least, so far as it can be done legally, and safely. This is the utmost point of honesty, ever aimed at by an avaricious man. If this be attained; such a man always re
a gards himself as being really honest. But in this he is wonderfully deceived. His favourite principle conducts him, regularly, to unceasing fraud; and regularly issues in a course of lying. As it is his aim always to sell for more, and buy for less, than justice will permit; he of course represents the value of his own commodities to be greater, and that of his neighbour's to be less, than the truth. As he spends most of his life in buying and selling, or in forming schemes to buy and sell, in this manner; he employs no small part of it either in actual, or intentional, lying. To compass the same object also, he is equally tempted to misrepresent his own circumstances; the state of the markets; the quality and quantity, the soundness, weight, and measure, of the commodities, which he sells; and, so far as may be, of those which he buys. Thus the horse, the house, or the land, which he is about to buy, is, according to his own account, poor, defective, and of little value. But as soon he chooses to sell it, it has, according to his own account, also, wonderfully changed its nature ; and become excellent, free from
defect, and of very superior value. Yet, with this chain of falsehoods always hanging about his neck, the miserable wretch is frequently so blind, as not to mistrust that he is a liar.
5. All these, and all other, sins of the avaricious man speedily become gross and rank Habits.
I know of no disposition, which sooner, or more effectually, makes a man blind to his own character, than Avarice. The Miser rarely, if ever, mistrusts that he is a sinner. He thinks himself only a rich man. He does not dream, that he is an oppressor, a liar, and a cheat; but merely supposes himself to be prosperous, sagacious, and skilled in business. With these views he will naturally entertain no thoughts of repentance; and no suspicion, that it is necessary for him. His conscience, it is to be remembered, has, in the mean time, lost its power to remonVOL. IV.
strate, and to alarm. His heart, also, is so entirely engrossed by schemes of accumulating wealth, or is rather so absolutely possessed by the dæmon of avarice, as to have neither time, nor room, for the admission of a thought concerning reformation. He is left, therefore, to the domination of this wretched appetite; and becomes fixed, and hardened, in all his sins, without a check, and without resistance. There is, probably, no more obdurate heart, than that of avarice; and no more hopeless character. Every passage to it appears to be closed up, except one; and that is opened only to gain.
III. The Mischiefs of Avarice are innumerable. A few of them only can be even mentioned at the present time. These I shall consider as Personal, Private, and Public.
Among the Personal Mischiefs of Avarice, are to be reckoned all the Follies, and all the Sins which have been already specified; so far as their influence terminates in the avaricious man himself. They are not sins and follies only; they are mischiefs also; as indeed is every other sin and folly. As mischiefs, their combined efficacy is very great, malignant, and dreadful ; such as would be deliberately encountered by no man, but a profligate; such as would make a considerate man tremble.
To these let me add the guilt, and misery, of Discontentment and Envy. However fast the wealth of the avaricious man may increase; to whatever size the heaps may swell; his accumulations always lag behind his wishes. Indeed, they never keep pace with what he feels to be his due. In his own view he has a right to be rich: and he regards the Providence of God as un. der a species of obligation to make him rich. To these claims, his wishes furnish the only limit: and, whenever they are not satisfied; as is always the case, unless in the moment of some distinguished success; he becomes fretful, impatient, and angry, at the dispensations of Providence. He may not, indeed, accuse God of injustice, face to face. But he murmurs at His Providence under the names of fortune, chance, luck, the state of things, and the course of events. Against these, and through these, against God, his complaints are loud, vehement, bitter, full of resentment, and full of impiety.
Amid the troubles, derived from this source, he cannot fail,
whenever he looks around him, to find some mon happier, as well as more prosperous, at least in some respects, than himself. This man may be richer. That, though inferior in wealth, may possess a piece of land, a house, a servant, which, although a darling object of his covetous desires, he may be unable to obtain. A third may have more reputation. A fourth may have more influence. A fifth may be better beloved. Towards any, or all, of these, his envy may he directed with as malignant a spirit, as his murmuring against God. It is not easy to conceive of a mind more wretched, or more odious, than that, which makes itself miserable at the sight of happiness, enjoyed by others; and pines at the thought of enjoyments, which are not its own. This spirit is the vulture of Prometheus, preying unceasingly upon his liver; which was for ever renewed, that it might be for ever devoured.
With Envy, Discontentment, its twin-sister, perpetually dwells. The wretch, whose heart is the habitation of both, is taught, and influenced, by them to believe, that God is his enemy, because He does not minister to his covetousness; and that men are his enemies, because they enjoy the good, which God has given them. Even happiness itself, so delightful wherever it is seen, to a benevolent eye, is a source of anguish only to him, unless when locked up in his own coffers.
, The grovelling and gross taste of the miser, is in my view also eminently pernicious. To be under the government of such a taste, is plainly to be cut off from all rich and refined enjoyment. The miser endeavours to satiate bimself upon the dross of happiness. But he neither discerns, nor seeks for the fine gold. The delicious viands proffered to intelligent and immortal minds by the beneficence of God, are lost upon a palate, which can satiate itself upon garbage. The delightful emotions of contentment, gratitude, and complacency towards his Maker ; the sweets of a self-approving mind; the charming fruition of tenderness and sympathy; the refined participation of social good; and the elevated satisfaction, which springs, instinctively, from the beneficent promotion of that good; can never find an entrance into a heart, all the avenues 10 which are barred up by