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In the early part of the last year, we were made acquainted with the proposal of a Christian friend, John Tricker CONQUEST, M.D., F.L.S., to confer a prize of one hundred guineas (which, with the accompanying expenses, amounts to the donation of about one hundred and fifty guineas,) upon any Essay produced in competition, with the usual precautions to preserve the secrecy of the authors, upon the Sin of CoveroUSNESS ; particularly with regard to the duties of piety and beneficence which, at the present time, are so incumbent on all men, but especially on those who would not abdicate the name of Christians.
The request was made that we would be the umpires in determining to whom, in such a friendly competition, that prize would be the most righteously due. To that request we assented with many feelings of difficulty and reluctance; but the opinion of duty induced us to suppress them.
The requisite care was taken, that, till we had given our decision, we should not have the slightest knowledge, or any ground of conjecture whatsoever, concerning the writers of the Essays, which were no fewer than one hundred and forty-three.
After much thought, and humbly seeking, by prayer and supplication, that we might be enabled to form a right judgment, we saw it to be our duty to declare the work now given to the public, to be the one entitled to Dr. Conquests munificent prize. But we did not arrive at this determination, without a high feeling of gratitude and admiration at the mass of sanctified talent which had been brought before our view. Many of the Treatises, some of which are considerable volumes, are so replete with knowledge of the divine word, of the heart and character of man, and are so marked with comprehensive research, deep penetration, and Christian candour, as to have made us feel considerable regret at the thought of their being withheld from the public. We are conscientiously satisfied with the decision which we thus announce ; but it is, at the same time, our earnest desire that some others of the Essays should be published. suaded that the subject is not exhausted ; and if, by the respective authors, our request for the publication should be granted, we trust the great cause of religion will be eminently served, and that the minds of those excellent persons will enjoy the delight which flows from extensive and the most important usefulness.
We are per
J. PYE SMITH.
June 3, 1836.
The history of this Essay is sufficiently explained by the Advertisements prefixed. But concerning its plan, as the reader may possibly expect that the following pages are confined exclusively to the subject of Covetousness, the writer may be permitted to state the reasons which have led him to introduce two other topics—Selfishness, and Christian Liberality.
A glance at the original Advertisement will show, that while the sin of covetousness was the principal object in the eye of the benevolent Proposer, yet it was viewed and spoken of by him only as a part of the great system of selfishThe writer felt himself, therefore, not
, merely permitted, but virtually required, to give this parent evil a primary place in his Essay. He is, however, free to confess, that had he not done so from a sense of obligation, he should most likely have done it from choice, since he deems it an appropriate introduction to the principal subject. On this account, then, Selfishness, as the great antagonist of Christianity, and the source of covetousness, forms the First Part.
Covetousness—the prevailing form of selfishness—is the Second, and principal, Part. Had the writer concluded with this part, he could not have considered the Essay complete unless a closing section had been added on the Cure of the evil under consideration. In that case, it would have been obvious to insist on a variety of familiar prudential maxims. But the love of money can only be remedied by “the expulsive power of a new affection.” If we would not have the ivy to creep on the ground, we must erect an object which it can embrace, and, by embracing, ascend; and if we would detach the heart from embracing the dust, we must give to it another and a nobler object. The utter inefficacy of every thing short of this is evident. Hippocrates advised a consultation of all the physicians in the world for the cure of covetousness. The animadversions and appeals of Socrates not only failed to remedy the evil as it existed at Athens, but, judging from certain expressions in Plato's Apology of Socrates,
they were the means of enraging his enemies, and of procuring his condemnation. And about the time that the apostle Paul was denouncing the sin in his epistle to Timothy, Seneca was decrying the same evil, and composing his ethics; but, as if to show the impotence of his own precepts, “he was accused of having amassed the most ample riches,”-a circumstance which, though not the ostensible, was no doubt the real, cause of his finally falling a victim to the jealousy of Nero. But if such be the inefficacy of the precepts of the heathen philosopher, what is the prescription of the Christian apostle? Aware that the same means which destroy cupidity produce liberality, he does not concern himself so much with the death of covetousness as with the birth of charity.
He says less about the sin when seeking its removal, than about the duty which is to displace it. He commands benevolence. He enjoins the “man of God” not only to flee the evil, but to follow the opposite virtues, and to flee the one by following the other. 66 O man of God, flee these things; and follow after righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, meekness ... Charge them that are rich in this world .... that