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say, the Scriptures are a good guide in Christian countries (at least where they are not corrupted) but what are they to do who never heard of the Scriptures? who remain in total ignorance of revealed truths, and have had no opportunities of improving their natural faculties? The answer is easy. None are so sunk in barbarism as not to have some notions of right and wrong; all are, in some degree, “a law unto themselves;” they have natural conscience for their guide ; and, as before observed, their circumstances will be duly considered. And thus the power which all men have to correct more or less the natural obliquity and devious bent of their dispositions; and the merit they may acquire by the exercise of that power, supplies the want of that happy temperament and desirable proportion which belongs to so very few.
Another ground of Covetousness is false opinion; I mean, the vain persuasion that riches have the power to exempt us from the evils of life, or secure to us its most valuable enjoyments.
It is but a very small part of its evils from which riches can defend us ; those only which are inseparable from indigence and downright penury. It is but a very small part of its enjoyments which they can secure to us, and the chief of these are founded in fancy and imagination.
The evils of life are either natural, such as mortality, pain, and sickness; or moral, such as con
tempt, and all those sorts of uneasiness which arise from the discomposure and ill state of the passions and affections.
With regard to those of the first class, it is plain they are common to men of every denomination ; only, I think, it must be admitted, that they have the greatest reason to fear them who are prompted by their very circumstances to luxury and intemperance, and furnished with the means of gratifying every appetite and inclination. The bad ones being most likely to meet with indulgence, and besides the injuries they bring to the constitution, being also attended with ill consciousness and self dislike, present us with the evils of the second class.
Let us now see what enjoyments riches bring us to compensate such evils. Is it that they enlarge the mind, and expand the soul; inspire us with noble and generous sentiments; or prompt us to acts of liberality and beneficence? Do they free us from the transports of anger, or the torments of fear and disappointment;' or lessen the influence of other turbulent' and uneasy passions ? Just the contrary. It is certain that they minister food to these, and are little likely to make us wiser or better by increasing the number of temptations to sin and folly. Again, if the wealthy have no real wants, what a train of necessities is then of their own creating! and how fruitless are all the endeavours to satisfy the cravings of de
praved appetite! invention is exhausted to produce new refinements, which after all, do but allay for a little time that satiety and disgust which no art can remove.
Now to what purpose is it to have the goods of life at command, when the
power of enjoying them is gone? But there are others, it may be thought, which wealth certainly carries with it, as honour and esteem. Indeed, if mere outward respect and ceremony ; if the forced homage of vile and dependent, or the free homage of vulgar and undiscerning men, be desirable, this shadow of honour, and semblance of esteem, is sure to attend it. If a vain and ostentatious magnificence shuts out true hospitality, and the delights of social intercourse are sacrificed to a sullen and solitary grandeur; if titles and estates must descend to undutiful children ; if confidence is given to false friends; if bounty is lavished on idle or unfaithful servants; to what purpose is it that any one is admired and gazed at for the splendour of his appearance; or talked of for the greatness of his revenues ? To what
purpose is it that others think him happy, if his own feelings confute that opinion, and declare the contrary? It is according to the order of things, which we cannot alter, that true enjoyment should depend principally on the mind and character ; in vain then do we seek for it in externals, where Providence hath not placed it. Nature has few necessities, and desires nothing but in order to use ; her wants are as a cistern which a few drops of water may suffice to fill, but the wants of the imagination are a boundless ocean; yet do the covetous still go on to grasp at all they can get, with a resolution to part with nothing they can possibly retain.
This mean vice, sometimes seated in the natural temper, and sometimes proceeding from false opinion, has also another source, which is, education and manner of life.
The principles instilled into the mind in its tender state, have a great share in fixing the character of it at a more advanced age. Next to nature, early custom bas the greatest influence: sometimes it will overpower her efforts, and alter the original disposition. To alter it for the better is the very triumph of education, which must
in its plan according to the employments or professions to which we are destined. Many of these, of the sort which are least liberal, by demanding a perpetual attention to minute articles of profit, exceedingly favour the growth of the selfish principle, and proportionably weaken the benevolent affections. They who, by the little and slow methods even of an honest industry, have laboured up the steep and craggy ascent that leads to the Temple of Wealth, are extremely apt to fall into that species of idolatry which the Scriptures inform us is implied in covetousness. Such persons estimate their possessions not only from their real and intrinsic value, but from the toils they sustained and the hardships they underwent in order to acquire them. But what shall we say of others, who, by the easier but more dangerous arts of fraud and rapacity, have arrived at an immense wealth? The sacrifices they have made of honour and of conscience; the risks they have run of detection and punishment; the consciousness of their own infamy and baseness; all concur to put them on seeking comfort and satisfaction in the supposed advantages of wealth. These they magnify to themselves with all possible industry, and persuade themselves that, if their store is anyways lessened, that consideration and consequence which it gives them will be lessened in proportion. Should the nation on which they have preyed be so circumstanced that their assistance is become necessary to its safety, and should it appear with ever so much evidence that their fortunes must be involved in the general loss; still the infatuation of the truly covetous is so complete, that they will not part with the smallest portion to secure the whole.
Others, again, who by their birth and fortune are placed above professions, are forced, as it were, into this vice, by their manner of living.
Habits of luxury and extravagance have multiplied their necessities, and made it next to impossible to supply them. At the same time habits of dissipation and negligence have caused their estates to run to decay : or perhaps they have been