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To come to the point, under what pretexts doth no avarice conceal itself ? How many forms doth it take to disguise itself from the man who is guilty of it, and who will be drenched in the guilt of it till the day he dies! Sometimes it is prudence, which requires him to provide not only for his present wants, but for such as he may have in future. Sometimes it is charity, which requires him not to give society examples of prodigality and parade. Sometimes it is parental love, obliging him to save something for his children. Sometimes it is circumspection, which requires him not so supply people who make an ill use of what they get. Sometimes it is necessity, which obliges him to repel artifice by artifice. Sometimes it is good conscience, which convinces him, good man, that he hath already exceeded in compassion and alms giving, and done too much. Sometimes it is equity, for justice requires that every one should enjoy the fruit of his own labors, and those of his ancestors. Sometimes it is incompetence, perhaps indeed a little part of my wealth may be subject to some scruples, for who can assure himself that every farthing of his fortune hath been acquired with the most strict regard to evangelical rectitude; but then I cannot tell to whom this restitution should be made, and till that be made, justice is not satisfied, there is no room for generosity. Sometimes ..., what am I about, who can make a complete list of all the pretences, with which a miser disguises himself in his own eyes, and imagines he can disguise himself in the eyes of others!
5. Finally, let us consider the confession, which the truth forced from Judas, in spite of his reigning passion, and in the same article let us observe the remorse inspired by his passion, and the reparation his remorse compelled him to make. Presently I see the unhappy Judas recover himself from his infatuation. Presently he sees through the pretexts which for a while disguised his passion, and concealed the horror of the crime he was going to commit. Presently I hear him say, I have sinned in that I have betrayed innocent blood, Matt. xxvii. 4. See, he hates the abominable thirty pieces of silver, the charm of which allured him to commit the blackest crime, and to plunge himself into the deepest woe; see, he casts down the pieces of silver at the feet of those of whom he received them.
Christians blush! Here the comparison of Judas with some christians, is greatly to the disadvantage of the latter. I am aware, that the confession of Judas was not sanctified by faith, and that the restitution proceeded more from despair than true repentance; however he did repent: he did say,
1 have sinned, and he did restore the thirty pieces of silver, which he had so basely acquired.
But where are the christians, who repent of the extortions, of which their avarice hath caused them to be guilty? Where are christians saying, I have sinned? Particularly, where are those christians who have made restitution? It is said, there are some, I believe so, because credible people affirim it. But I declare solemnly, I have never seen one, and yet I have seen many people, whose hands were defiled with the accursed thing, whose magnificence and pomp were the fruit of the cursed thing. Extortioners of this kind I have never seen, I have never seen one of them repenting, and saying, indeed I have sinned, and thus and thus have I done. I have never seen one, who hath not invented as many pretexts to keep his ill-gotten wealth as he had invented to get it. In one word, I never saw one, who understood, or was willing to learn, the elements of christian morality on the doctrine of restitution. How rare soever the conversion of sinners of other kinds may be, thanks to divine mercy, we have sometimes seen edifying examples of such conversions. We have seen voluptuous people groan at the recollection of their former debaucheries, efface the dissipations of their youth, by the penitential grief and pious actions of their mature age, and affix that body in a mortal illness to the cross of Christ, which during health and strength they had devoted to luxury. We have seen assassins ready if it were possible to replace the blood they had shed with their own. We have seen vindictive people embrace inveterate enemies, and cover them with affectionate tears. But among that great number of dying people, who, we know with the utmost certainty, had become rich by oblique means; among the great number of soldiers and officers, who had robbed, plundered, and sacked; among the great number of merchants and tradesmen, who had been guilty of falsehood, deceit, cheating, and perjury, and who by such means had acquired a splendid fortune; among all this great number, we have never seen one, who had the resolution to assemble his family round his dying bed, and take his leave of them in this manner :-"My dear children, I have been a scandal to you through life, I will not edify you by my death. I am determined in these last moments of my life to give glory to God, by acknowledging my past transgressions. The greatest part of my fortune was acquired by artful and wicked means. These elegant apartments are furnished with my oaths and perjuries. This strong and well finished house is founded on my treachery. My sumptuous and fashionable equipage is the produce of my extortions. But I repent now of my sins. I make restitution to church and state, to the
public and individuals. I choose rather to bequeath poverty to you, than to leave you a patrimony under a curse. You will gain more by the example I give you of repentance, than you would by all my unjust acquisitions.” An age, a whole century, doth it furnish one such example?
Such is the face of mankind ! Such the condition of the church! And what dreadful discoveries should we now make, could we look into futurity as easily as we can imagine the present and the past ! When Jesus Christ, that good master, uttered this painful prophesy to his family sitting round him, verily I say unto you, one of you shall betray me, all his disciples were exceeding sorrowful, and every one said unto him, Lord, is it I? How many subjects for grief would rise to view, should God draw aside the veil that hides the destiny of all this assembly, and shew us the bottomless abyss, into which the love of inoney will plunge many who are present !
Let us prevent this great evil. Let us purify the spring from whence our actions and their consequences flow. Let us examine this idol, to which we sacrifice our all. Judge of the value of riches, in pursuit of which we are so eager, by the brevity of life. The best course of moral instruction against the passions, is death. The grave is a discoverer of the absurdity of sin of every kind. There the ambitious may learn the folly of ambition. There the vain may learn the vanity of all human things. There the voluptuous may read a mortifying lesson on the absurdity of sensual plea
But this school, fruitful in instructions that concern all the passions, is profusely eloquent against avarice. I recollect an anecdote of Con. stantine the Great. In order to reclaim a miser, he took a lance, and marked out a space of ground of the size of a human body, and told him," add . heap to heap, accumulate riches upon riches, extend the bounds of your possessions, conquer
the whole world, in a few days such a spot as this will be all you will have." I take this spear, my brethren, I mark out this space, among you, in a few days, you will be worth no more than this. Go to the tomb of the avaricious man, go down and see his coffin and his shroud, in four days these will be all you will have.
I conclude, and I only add one word of Jesus Christ. Our divine Saviour describes a man revolving in his mind great projects, thinking of nothing but pulling down and rebuilding, dying the same night, void, destitute, miserable, and terrified at seeing all his fancied projects of felicity vanish; on which our Lord makes this reflection, so is every one, who layeth up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God, Luke xii. 21. My God! how poor is he, though among piles of gold and silver, amidst all riches and plenty, who is not rich toward God! On the contrary, how enviable is the condition of a man hungry, indigent, and wrapped in rags, if he be rich toward God! Rich men! this is the only way to sanctify your riches. Be rich toward God. Ye poor people ! this is all you want to support you under poverty, and to enable you to triumph even in your indigence. May we all be rich toward God ! Let us all accumulate a trea. sure of good works, it is the most substantial wealth, and that only which will yield a bountiful harvest at last. There be many that say, who will shew us any good ? Lord, lift thou up the light of thy countenance upon us. Thou hast put gladness in my heart, more than in the time that their corn and their roine increased, Psal. iv. 6, 7. Amen.