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if you are entire strangers to all these bad practices, are there none to which you would not have had recourse but for the restraints of law, or the checks of public opinion ? Search, prove yourselves. I pretend not to judge you. I only wish to assist you to judge yourselves, before your consciences and before your
God. But I admit that your means to acquire money may be quite innocent. Honesty does not preclude covetousness. Here is a man who has become rich by the cultivation of his fields : what revenue more honest ? Here is another who desires to become so by receiving his portion of the paternal inheritance: what can be more lawful ? Jesus Christ taxes them both with the sin of covetousness, because they sought money with an eagerness which they did not manifest for the things of God. Do you feel, my dear hearer, this SUPREME ARDOur for the attainment of money? What is the thought which governs your life, and which can alone explain your tastes and distastes; what you do, and what you leave undone ? Is it, if you are poor, to make your fortune ; if rich, to augment it? Do you find time for the exercise of a lucrative profession, when you can find none to read your Bible, or to pray to God? Were you placed in this alternative, either to diminish your income, or to work on the Sabbath-day, how would you decide ? And if you choose the service of God, do you carry into his house a heart which follows after gain, and which says, with the Jews, “When will the Sabbath be past ?” If you had to choose between two courses, the one brilliant, but beset with temptations; the other humble, but more safe for your soul; what would you do? Think, what would you do? With that saying of Christ before you, “ How hardly shall they that have riches enter into the kingdom of God!” have you trembled because you are rich, or blessed God that you are not so ?* Now that I address you, in what temper of mind do you listen ? Are you saying inwardly, “These maxims are very well from the pulpit, but it is impossible to follow them in actual life;" and that, provided you can make your fortune, you will run all risks; and, very probably, he who preaches against the love of money thinks as you do in his heart ? Are your strongest emotions and your liveliest joys excited by the smiles of fortune, and your bitterest regrets occasioned by her frowns ? Does a trifling gain or a paltry loss affect you more sensibly than the satisfaction which follows a good work, or the sorrow which results from the commission of sin ? Do you inwardly sigh after an inherit
• This question is for all, rich or poor ; but the portion of Scripture from which we quote (Mark x. 23—25) contains a lesson addressed immediately to the rich, and should excite their utmost vigilance. It is not the possession but the trusting in riches which ruins the soul. The first, however, leads so easily to the second, that our Lord, who makes this important distinction in verse 24, mentions it not either in verse 23 or in verse 25. Mark the expression in verse 22 : “ He went away grieved, for he bad great possessions.” This is the testimony of the Holy Spirit, Rich men ! rich men ! receive instruction !
ance ? Delicate thought! which one fears to fathom.* In seeking a wife, are you much more scrupulous to ascertain what she has, than what she is? Finally : do you desire more ardently to be a Christian, eminent for piety, or to be a man of wealth ? And were you brought to serve God as you serve Mammon, and Mammon as you serve God, which would gain by the exchange? Prove and examine yourselves. I pretend not to judge you : I only wish to assist you to judge yourselves.
There may not, however, be observable in you this extreme ardour in the pursuit of money; but what use do you make of it? I do not ask whether you expend it; but whether you expend it usefully and charitably. My object is not to lead you to perceive whether you are a miser, but whether you are a money-lover; and we have already proved that you may be an ardent lover of money, while you are spending it in the most prodigal manner for your own advantage. The rich man, who allowed Lazarus to die of hunger at his very
door, “fared sumptuously every day;” and the hand of prodigality, opened for purposes of vanity or selfishness, is as much closed to the calls of charity as that of parsimony.
Do you give ? The principle of the Gospel, as to alms and pecuniary contributions, is admirably explained in that statement of St. Paul, when he exhorts the Corinthian Christians to succour those of Judea :
abundance also be a supply for their want; that thus there may be equality : as it is written, He that had gathered much had nothing over; and he that had gathered little had no lack.”+ He does not here enjoin an equality obligatory and absolute : the Apostles never preached this: the church at Jerusalem never practised it : and it is in systems altogether foreign from Christianity that this beautiful chimæra, falsely attributed to the Gospel, is to be sought. God has designed, by the unequal distribution of the advantages of property, that the superabundance of some shall supply the necessities of others; and by this law of fraternal love he would provide for the supply of the wants of the latter, by bringing into exercise the charity of the former.
And now, my dear hearer, have you entered into the spirit of this law ? and do you honour it by your example ? or do you think yourself authorized to trample it under foot as the wicked rich man did ? Do you give to the poor? Do you give to your relatives, for whom the Lord has specially enjoined upon you to care ? “ If any man provide not for his own, he hath denied the faith, and is worse than an infidel.” Do you give to those charitable institutions which abound in our churches, and which procure for those whom they relieve the bread which nourishes the soul, as well as that which nourishes the
* It has furnished Labruyère with that awful reflection : “Children would be dearer to their parents, and parents to their children, without the title of heirs."
+ Exod. xvi. 18. He refers to the gathering of the manna.
body? Do you give to those religious associations which characterize our times, and which are spreading through the world the knowledge of the Lord and of his word ?
If you give, in what manner do you give ? Do you give freely, and by a compulsion of heart which impels you to seek occasions? or would you not give unless won over by examples, induced by importunity, or vanquished by shame? Do you give in secret, and thus taste the pleasure peculiar to those good works which have only God for their witness? It is written, “God loveth a cheerful giver.” Do you give cheerfully? Is the visit of the Collector to your house welcome ? Is your house one of those which he enters with pleasure, or one of those the threshold of which he cannot pass without having gained a victory over himself? Do you encourage him by your kind reception; or do you accost him with excuses, telling him that the times are bad, your business is not prosperous, and demands are multiplied ? Poor Collector! His engagements might have excited the envy of the church at Jerusalem ; but would you undertake his task, such as it is rendered by the prevailing covetousness of the times ?
But, especially, how much do you give? Is your bounty made up beforehand, as a matter of bounty, and not as of covetousness ?" Yes, “as of covetousness.” (2 Cor. ix. 5.) This is the very word employed by the Saviour in our text. The bounty is of covetousness when we reduce it as much as can be done consistently with honour, and when the desire to give is much less apparent than the wish to retain. Do you give in such a manner that you may be an ensample, or are you satisfied to give as much as others who give far too little? If every one gave as you give, would the prosperity of the institutions to which you contribute be secured, or would their existence be endangered? Do you give systematically? Are the kingdom of God and the interests of charity provided for by a separate account in your pecuniary arrangements, or do you merely meet them as you would other unforeseen expenses? Do you give more, nay, as much, to charity, as to superfluities ? And would you be able to support the costliness of your furniture, or the luxury of your table, with the sacrifices you present to the Almighty ? In order to possess the means of giving, have you, I do not say, " laboured with your own hands,” according to the exhortation of the Apostle, but vanquished some inclination, abandoned some pleasure, or deprived yourself of some enjoyment? I spare you. I do not wish to push my inquiries as far as I might, perhaps as I ought. For what would you think, were I to add, Would you give your whole fortune were God to demand it in sacrifice ? This sacrifice was required of the young man in the Gospel ; and because he could not resolve to make it, he could not be the disciple of Christ ; and unless, sooner or later, he came to a better mind, he could not save his soul; and he is this day in hell with the wicked rich man. Jesus Christ does not, indeed, impose this obligation upon
all; but he who would not submit to do, were he in the place of this young man, what was enjoined upon him, cannot be a true Christian. What say you to this? Prove, examine yourselves. I pretend not to judge you : I can only assist you to judge yourselves.
But if I have no right to pass judgment on individuals, I cannot close my eyes to the state of society. I look around, and consider what is passing at this day, in this country, in this city, and am constrained to say, “ Yes !” to each of the three orders of questions I have proposed to you.
It is true that men generally employ UnRIGHTEOUS MEANS to enrich themselves. If I do not draw proofs from your own experience, I should name slavery, that curse of pagan nations, that disgrace of Christian people; slavery, which has tasked its ingenuity to exhibit, on one single point, all the crimes and miseries which spring from the love of inoney; slavery, that national sin, against which public opinion begins to be raised in all directions,—but which has been practised for ages, and which is held fast, in spite of generous examples, nay, which finds its apologists in our legislative assemblies. But we need not to go to a distance to find arguments; we have them at hand. Usury, which ought not to be named among Christians, is practised both among rich and poor, in our cities and villages; and they who are guilty of it know full well its criminality, since they take care to destroy the written evidences of their secret transactions. Fraud and lies, great and small, (I know nothing of this distinction, having never learned it from my Master,)—fraud and lies abound in business. This is openly avowed, and even justified ; and commerce has its code of morals in no respect in accordance with the morality of Jesus Christ. There are, undoubtedly, faithful men, who wish, at all risks, to maintain a good conscience; but the smallness of their number, the embarrassment they experience, and the temptations to which they are exposed, either to withdraw from a competition to which their sensibility renders them unequal, or to follow the stream in matters not very notorious, only attest more loudly the greatness of the evil. It is a very easy matter to count those right-hearted and honest tradesmen who, compelled by conscience, though not by law, will not think, in adverse times, of advancing their own fortune till they have refunded the losses of others. They are not rare who, having hazarded the fortunes of others in rash speculations, in case of loss are sure to announce a false bankruptcy, and commence again as though nothing had occurred. Distrust prevails everywhere. We must calculate upon injustice ; we must weigh after the seller ; we must bargain with everybody; and this fatal practice, which, in spite of themselves, inveigles honest people, furnishes the measure of the morality of trade. Even the health of the public is threatened, and poisonous substances are infused into the bread which feeds us, and into the liquors which quench our thirst. Under the influence of jealousy, masters and
workmen, whom the same labour associates, seem only united to inflict mutual injuries. We have lately seen the latter form illegal combinations to compel their masters to advance their wages ; but we have also seen masters take advantage of the necessities of the poor, to force upon them an excessive labour, destructive to both body and soul. We have seen young children, (O that our Representatives, who have disclosed the depth of the evil, would apply the remedy !)—we have seen young children toiling in our factories from six in the morning till ten in the evening, scarcely allowed time to eat and sleep, remote from schools, deprived of education, and given up, through stupifying fatigue, to means of excitement yet more stupifying. We have seen them (shall we dare to say it ?) occasionally more degraded and Deglected than the slaves of our colonies, for this simple, but frightful, reason, that we take greater care of what we buy than of what we borrow. We are told, that the manufacturer must conform to general usage, unless he would close his shop. It may be so. I pretend not to judge. But what, then, is our condition, if we can only acquit the individual at the expense of the community ? Ah! there are few fortunes, great or small, in the acquisition of which sin has not had some share; and the manner in which money is generally obtained justifies the sad appellation which the Saviour has given to it,—"the Mammon of unrighteousness."
Further, money is pursued with an INSATIABLE ARDOUR. This ardour may be observed at all times; but, in our day, it has a character peculiarly its own,—the desire to become suddenly rich. Men will risk every thing to gain wealth; they will expose themselves to the chance of the deepest poverty to make their fortune. That honest mediocrity for which Agur prayed,—“Give me neither poverty nor riches, but feed me with food convenient for me,"—is avoided with the greatest solicitude. Look around you! Every thing is covetous ; every thing is athirst for wealth, and to obtain it in a day. Commerce is covetous : competition unbounded; settlements rapid ; success unheard of; bankriptcies sudden ; speculations endless ; hazards, lotteries, the bubbles of the day, gaming under all forms; such is the new supply for the old thirst for gold. Industry is covetous: those admirable inventions which ever and anon succeed, are designed much less to promote proficiency in the arts, than to bring about a lucrative result: gain was the motive to invention, gain is the result. In their headlong career imprudence is inevitable, and accidents are multiplied. No matter : cupidity drives its impatient wheels over the wreck and over the dead. The earth soon drinks a little blood; but money remains. Ambition is coretous: that solicitation for place which besets the avenues of authority, has now-a-days much less regard to honour, and much more to money; and the venality of office is revealed even in the commendable but humiliating precautions everywhere adopted to prevent it. The struggle of parties is covetous. If the levelling spirit of some