« السابقةمتابعة »
I. ON COVETOUSNESS.
CoveTOUSNESS, like most other vices, admits of various degrees, and it arises from various causes : it grows out of some characters, as it were spontaneously : it seems engrafted into others against the bias of nature : and in others, perhaps it shoots up by accident, like seeds that are borne away by the wind to a soil not formed for their reception.
An eargerness in acquiring wealth, and an unwillingness to part with it, not authorized by reason or real necessity, is, I think, the exact notion conveyed by the term Covetousness, which extends from an over-anxious frugality or thriftiness on the one side, quite to extreme avarice on the other.
The causes of it, are
Besides the general corruption of human nature, into which we resolve their proneness to all kinds of vice, the natural temper and complexion of men expose them to peculiar temptations, and render them more obnoxious to some vices than others. Difficult as it may be to account for these facts, they are evident and unquestionable. Some, for instance, are naturally sanguine and presumptuous; others diffident and desponding. These, are of a hot temper, easily exasperated, and soon inflamed. Those, are so cold, so calm and phlegmatic, scarce any provocations can move them at all. Some are profuse and prodigal; others, greedy and covetous: and these propensities, when fostered by indulgence, and confirmed by habit, cannot be conquered without uncommon application and stubborn resolution. For this reason our Saviour represents the endeavour to master them by “plucking out a right eye, and cutting off a right hand:” and the Prophet says of persons under the dominion of such propensities, “ Can the Ethiopian change his skin, or the Leopard his spots?”
But though the natural temper cannot be wholly altered, it is capable of being corrected in some considerable degree, and every one is bound to correct it to the utmost of his power. That wrong propensities, however powerful, may and ought to be resisted, is evident from our Saviour's directions concerning them. For if the temper was not capable of correction, and if Covetousness was seated in the temper, vain would be all the exhortations to “ to take heed and beware of it.” But the possibility of surmounting the greatest disadvantages of this sort cannot be contested with any colour of reason. Not only no one is vicious from the necessity of his nature, but some have become virtuous even against the bent and bias of it. This, indeed, is the very triumph of religion and philosophy; and among the instances that might be produced to confirm their triumphs, there is none more worthy our attention than that of Socrates. No person, it is thought, had ever fewer obligations to nature, or greater disadvantages of constitution to contend with, than that illustrious heathen : a circumstance which he happily converted to the equal benefit of himself and of the world. For he showed, by his own personal experience that what some have but fancied of other things, was practicable in the moral qualities; that the
very essence of these might be changed by the chemical hand of Philosophy and Art. Alas! you will
say, what is this to the bulk of mankind, who are born with as strong propensities to ill, and have neither art nor philosophy to perform these wonderful transmutations expected of them? I answer, if they have not the aids of human learning, they have the light of Divine Revelation for their direction; the life of Jesus for their example; his Gospel for their guide. They have opportunities of reading the Scriptures, at least of hearing them read; those books which declare the infinite rewards of resolution and industry exerted on the mind and heart, and displayed in all the difficult parts of self-government. Again, you will