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“ Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven; for where your treasure is, there will your heart be also."
As covetousness tramples these commandments under foot, and becomes guilty of rebellion against the Lord of heaven, so it leads to other most atrocious crimes. Balaam's covet. ousness made him desire to curse Israel, whom God blessed. Ahab's covetousness of Naboth's vineyard, caused Naboth's murder, and Ahab's destruction. Judas's covetousness led him to betray the Lord of life; and thus to sell his gracious Master, and damn his own soul, for thirty pieces of silver. The single murders which robbers have committed, the wholesale murders which war has perpetrated, have been frequently the effect of covetousness. Fatal to individuals and nations, it is not less deadly to churches and families. A covetous minister of the gospel is one of the worst of monsters. Good withers before him, as life and verdure before a pestilential blast. Demons might walk beside him, and exult in viewing opening schemes of usefulness neglected, and opportunities of doing immortal good slighted, through the freezing influence of covetousness.
The peculiar vileness of covetousness is further seen, in its being a sin of the heart, and as such diametrically opposed to all good. It is not a transient crime, into which the person falls through strong temptation ; but it is a disposition of his heart, by which in effect he prefers the creature to the Creator. As such it is worse than the grossest crimes: worse than profaneness, worse than perjury, worse than even adultery. The Scriptures record mournful instances of men of piety, that through strong temptation fell into these dreadful sins; but the Scriptures mention no instance of a child of God that was a covetous man. The covetous man belongs to the family of Balaam and of Judas.
Covetousness is described as idolatry; and such is the enormity of this species of idolatry, that all who live in it are the heirs of perdition. Mortify covetousness : no COVETous man, who is an idolater, hath any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God.''w
“ But they that will be rich fall into temptation, and a snare, and into many foolish and (u) Eph. v. 3. Col, iii. 5. (v) Matt, vi, 19-21. (w) Eph, v. 5.
169 hurtful lusts, which drown men in destruction and perdition. For the love of money is the root of all evil.” “ Be not deceived : nor thieves, nor OOVETOUS, shall inherit the kingdom of God."y Awful and decisive declarations ! Let not the covetous indulge so false a hope, as the hope of reaching heaven.
Covetousness is a sin not less dangerous than abominable
. When once it has gained the rule of the heart, the sinner's condition is almost hopeless. Few indeed are the instances of the conversion of a covetous man. A covetous professor of religion is in a state nearly as desperate as that of a soul in hell. This sin so blinds the mind, so hardens the heart, that a Christian minister might almost as well reason with a stone, as with a covetous professor of religion; and might stand on a tomb, and preach to the tenants of the grave, with nearly as much prospect benefiting them, as there is of benefiting him.
As the covetous have no part in the kingdom of heaven, so the Scriptures command, that they should be excluded from the church of Christ on earth.”
Think not, however, that the sin against which these cautions are directed, is merely or chiefly that excessive avarice which has rendered a few noted misers eminently infamous. If this were the case, there would be less probability of being hardened and ruined by this hateful vice. But the Lord Jesus represents conduct much less dark, much less miserly, as ruinous covetousness. He does not describe the covetous man as a thorough miser, hoarding up his useless stores merely to gaze upon them; nor as a hard oppressor, who gains his riches by grinding the faces and keeping back the wages of the poor. He does not describe him as one who starves himself and his family to increase his golden heap. His riches were given him by God's bounty; his fields brought forth plentifully. He showed his covetousness, not by the way of acquiring riches; not by gathering in the bounty of heaven; but by the usé he made of them. A mere selfish use. Instead of promoting God's glory and man's happiness by his abundance, he proposed employing his riches in self-gratification, and God pronounced him a fool.
(g) 1 Tim, vị. 9, 10.
(+) 1 Cor. v. 11, 13.
(y) 1 Cor. vi. 9, 10. (a) Luke xü, 15--21.
CHRIST'S EXAMPLE OF
O learn, that not merely the miser, who hoards up his useless gold, not merely the oppressor, or the extortioner, whose gains are the fruits of cruelty and dishonesty, are in God's sight guilty of covetousness; but the honest tradesman, the moral youth, the amiable girl, who look no further than gratifying themselves with what they possess. According to their Maker's judgment they belong to the same class. Take heed, therefore, and beware of covetousness; of this more common, but not less ruinous, covetousness.
§ 17. Closely connected with covetousness is love of this world. The sacred Scriptures represent the Saviour's disciples as persons who have little concern with this world ; whose chief business here should be to glorify God, and press forward to heaven. Jesus said, “They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world.”b 66
“Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth.” “Set your affections on things above, not on things on the earth; for ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God."d
How full, how impressive, are those words of the blessed Jesus, “ They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world.” This world was no objection of his affection. He slighted its wealth, scorned its treasures, disregarding all its fading pursuits, and all its deceitful maxims. It had no charms for him ; its terrors could not alarm, nor its allurements entice him. He acted on it as a stranger come to perform an important commission, and then to leave it for ever
. Are you one of his disciples ? This world is no more to be the object of your affections, than it was of his. He does not leave it with his disciples as a matter of choice, whether to love the world or not. His words are as positive as they are plain : They are not of the world. Nor does he allow them to love it in a smaller degree ; for he asserts, that their deadness to the world resembles his. They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. It is true, in the world he did not refuse the few comforts it offered him; but, he partook of them like a traveller, who at an inn may be pleased with the accommodations he receives, but who still feels and acts as but a traveller there. If a Christian, such are you on earth.
This holy deadness to the present world, is described impressively by the apostle Paul; “ God forbid that I should
(c) Matt, vi. 19, 20.
(6) John xvii, 16.
(d) Col, iii. 2.
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DEADNESS TO THE WORLD.
171 hones glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which
the world is crucified to me, and I unto the world." Such was the influence of the cross of Christ upon his heart, that the world was crucified to him. It was as unlovely as a crucified malefactor in his view. All its charms were dead, all its attractions gone, and darkness, deformity, and death lower
ed over its face. He was crucified to the world—he looked s of the upon it with feelings similar to those of a person dying on a
cross. How little interest would such a one take in the most is lored interesting and affecting scenes of earth! All that is most en
gaging in nature might be spread around his cross, and busy multitudes be seen eagerly pursuing the concerns of life; but, the crucified man would scarcely cast one glance from his dying eyes, on all the charms of nature or the bustle of life. All that is most charming would not tempt him; all that is most dreadful would not alarm him.
If you are a follower of Jesus, you too must be crucified to the world, and the world to you. If a Christian indeed, your treasure and your home lie beyond the grave; and your heart and hopes are fixed on unfading blessings there. The amiable and excellent poet Cowper, referring to the place in which he became acquainted with the gospel of Jesus, wrote :—“The recollection of what passed there, and the consequences that followed it, fill my mind continually; and make the circumstances of a poor, transient, half-spent life so insipid and unaffecting, that I have no heart to think or write much about them. Whether the nation are worshipping Mr. Wilkes or any other idol, is of little moment to one who hopes and believes, that he shall shortly stand in the presence of the great and blessed God. I thank him, that he has given me such a deep-impressed persuasion of this awful truth, as a thousand worlds would not purchase from me. It gives a relish to every blessing, and makes every trouble light.”
In passing through the world, listen to your Redeemer's voice, bidding you ever look above its delusive scenes. Think you hear him speaking as he once did to Peter, “ What is that to thee ; follow thou me.” “ If I will that others abound in riches, while thy earthly portion is small, are those thy treasures ? is that thy world ?-What are those to thee?-I was poor—follow thou me." Perhaps persecution is thy lot, but is the servant greater
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LOVE TO THE WORLD A RUINOUS SIN.
172 than his Lord ? shouldst thou be exalted where I was de pressed ? shouldst thou be loved in a world that hated me? If I will that the ungodly flourish through their short day, and the righteous mourn, what is that to thee? follow thou
I was persecuted. I was afflicted.” Perhaps you inquire, Is it essential to the Christian character to die to the world ? Indeed it is. “ To be carnally minded is death.”e
“ If ye live after the flesh ye shall die."f " He that soweth to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption." “ Love not the world, neither the things of the world ; if any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him." “Whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world."i “ The friendship of the world is enmity with God: whosoever will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God."" “ Be not conformed to this world, but be ye transformed in the renewing of your mind."! What can be more explicit than these solemn passages ! They assure us, that where the world is loved, little as man may suspect the latent enmity, God is actually hated. And this is the case, whatever profession be assumed, or however fair a character be borne. is Whosoever will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God.” Pursuing the same awful subject, the Scriptures further represent the minding of earthly things, as the last and darkest mark that some false professors of religion bear, that they are enemies to the cross of Christ.m As you would
escape eternal death, as you desire eternal life, watch against love to the world. It has been the ruin of millions. Beware of this rock. On it crowds, that once seemed setting out for heaven, have made shipwreck of faith and eternal hopes. The world is Satan's grand temptation. If that bait fail, he has none more alluring to present. The world was the last temptation by which he tried the Son of God : “ All these things,” said he, “ will I give thee, if thou wilt fall down and worship me.” When that was rejected, he fled; he had no higher bribe to offer. Love to the world is the most fatal of sins. The Scriptures tell of some eminently pious men that fell deeply, but as bitterly repented; but not one child of God is described who was a lover of the world. For this is not merely a single sin, a casual fall, but a state of
e) Rom. viii. 6.
hn v. 4.
(S) Rom. viii. 13. (9) Gal, vi, 8. (h) 1 John ü. 15. (A) James iii, 4. (1) Rom. xii. 2. (m) Phil. üi. 18, 19.