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If riches increase, fet not thy heart upon them.
Pr. lxii. 10.
We are cautioned here, not so much againA riches, as against the increase of them. When a man possesses only what he has been long accustomed to possess, the danger is less : use has made his possessions, whatever they are, familiar to him; but when the possession increases beyond the ordinary capacity of receiving it, (which is almost always the case of a sudden increase of wealth,) the moral danger becomes great. Am I then, if riches increase by the blessing of God, on a fair and honest profession, to reject the blefling, and stop in the midst of golden opportunities ? --It is a happy thing when a man can set bounds to his acquisitions, and say, I have enough. That, however, is not easy: the word enough is regulated by such a variety of circumstances, that the same definition of it can hardly touch the cases of any two people.
But though it may be difficult to give rules to estimate a sufficiency, yet whatever our poffefsions may be, very good rules may be given to prevent our setting our hearts upon them. If we set our hearts upon them, they become at once what the scripture calls, the manmon of unrighteousness; or, the temptations to every mode of wickedness: for the love of money, we know, is the root of all evil.
In the first place, their fugitive nature should prevent our setting our hearts
them. We are told, they often make themselves wings, and Ay away. And if they do not leave us, we shall certainly, in a little time, leave them. And then the question stares us in the face, Whose hall those good things be which we have provided? or, in other words, why did not you make a proper use of them in
life-time? Secondly, we should reflex, how we came by our riches; and, it may be hoped, we shall acknowledge we received them from God, the author and giver of all good. Whether we obtained them by our own agency, or by any other means, still they are his gift.
This being settled, it follows next to ascertain for what purpose God gave them to us. We
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cannot surely be so absurd as to suppose, God gave us riches as instances of his favour, from any particular regard he had for us. If not, he gave them for other purposes. What these purposes are, we have frequent intimations from scripture. We are ordered to use our talents in proportion to their value; to be liberal to the poor; and to distribute our means, according to the abilities which God hath given us.
Thus then, if riches increase, instead of setting our hearts upon them that is, instead of making them the means of a mere self-indulgence, we should make to ourselves friends of this mammon of unrighteousness; and hope, through the mercies of God in Christ, they may affist in procuring us a joyful fentence in the last great day.
Out of the heart proceed evil thoughts.
Matt. XV. 19.
Evil thoughts sprout up in every heart. If they are indulged, they foon corrupt it; but if checked, and immediately discharged, they produce no bad effect. For the sake, however, of some well-meaning people, who turn every bad thought into a sin, I should wish to offer a fort of criterion.
In the case of malice, for instance, you conceive a malicious thought against an enemy. A wish arises, that he may be ruined--you take a pleasure in hearing of any mischief that may befal him. You ask, is not this malice ?
Let us examine: Do you indulge these thoughts? No.-Do you think them wrong, and immediately reject them? Yes. If you had it in your power, would you wish to ruin your enemy? By no means, certainly.-Would you be glad to do him a service ? I think I should.--Why
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then, notwithstanding your malicious thoughts, you have no malice in your heart. Your bad thoughts mark only your malevolence of nature: your good resolutions are the heavenly work of grace upon your affections.
The fame mode of reasoning may be applied to other bad thoughts. The first rise of them in the mind shews only the natural pravity of human nature : the kind affections are afterwards introduced by the grace of God.