Images de page

ince the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of the creation. We feel then an inquietude, but an inquietude blended with submission to the will of God. Why, says the believer, art thou cast down, O my soul? why art thou disquieted within me? hope thou in God, for I shall yet praise him, who is the health of my countenance and my God.

5. This expectation necessarily includes a holy prepa ration, and such a preparation as relates to the majesty of him whom we expect, the greatness of the judgment that he will come to execute, and the eternal benefits of which we hope to partake. We must not imitate that wicked servant in the parable, who said, My lord delays his coming, and who, under cover of that delay, beat his fellow-servants. When Esther was to appear before Ahasuerus, she spent many days beforehand in preparing herself, adorning herself with her most costly habits, that she might appear before him in a proper manner. Such is the waiting of a believer; he employs all his lifetime to prepare for that solemn hour when eternity will begin.

You might easily take the characters of vices from this pattern of characterizing virtues: however, I will add an example on avarice, taking for a text Heb. xiii. 5. Let your conversation be without covetousness, and be content with such things as ye have.

1. Avarice is a disposition so gross, that it obscures the understanding and reason of a man, even so far as to make him think of profit where there is nothing but loss, and imagine that to be economy which is nothing but ruin. Is it not in this manner that a covetous man, instead of preventing maladies by an honest and frugal expence, draws them upon himself by a sordid an niggardly way of living; and, by this means, brings himself under an unavoidable necessity of consuming one part of his substance to recover a health which, by an excessive parsimony, he has lost? There are even some who bring mevitable death upon themselves, rather than spend any thing to procure necessary relief; and are impertinent enough to imagine, that riches had better be without a possessor, than a possessor without riches; as if man were made for money, and not money for man.

But, 2dly, this would be but little, if avarice affected only the avaricious themselves; it goes much farther, it renders a man useless to society. It subverts the idea of our living to assist one another; for a covetous man is useless to the whole world. He resembles that earth, of which St. Paul speaks, which drinketh in the rain that comes often upon it, and beareth only thorns and briars. He is an unfruitful tree, a gulf which draws in waters from all parts, but from which no stream runs; or, if you will, an avaricious man is like death, that devours all, and restores nothing: whence it comes to pass, that no man is in general so much despised, while he lives, as a miser; and no man's death is so much desired as his. He never opens his treasures till he is leaving the world; he, therefore, can never receive the fruits of gratitude, because his favours are never conferred till his death.

3d. Farther, this vice not only renders a man useless to society, but it even makes him hurtful and pernicious to it. There is no right so inviolable, no law so holy, which he will not violate greedily to amass riches, and cautiously to preserve them. How many violent encroachments, how many criminal designs, how many dark and treasonable practices, how many infamies and wickednesses, have proceeded from this perverse inclination! If a covetous man is barren in kindnesses, he is fruitful in sins and iniquities. There are no boundaries which he cannot pass, no barriers which he cannot readily go over, to satisfy his base passion for money.

4th. By this we may already perceive how incompatible this vice is with true faith, and with the genius of Christianity. The spirit of Christianity is a spirit of love and charity, always beneficent, always ready to prevent the necessities of our Christian brethren, kind and full of compassion, inquiring into the wants of others, and, without asking, seeking means to prevent them. But avarice, on the contrary, makes a man hard, cruel, pitiless, beyond the reach of complaints and tears, rendering the miser not only jealous of the prosperity of his neighbour, but even making him consider the pittances of the miserable as objects of his covetous desires.

5th. It is not without reason that St. Paul calls avarice

idolatry; for one of the principal characters of this cursed inclination is a making gold and silver one's god. It is money, in effect, which the covetous adores, it is this that he supremely loves, this he prefers above all other things, it is his last end, his life, his confidence, and all his happiness. He who fears God, consecrates to him his first thoughts, and devotes to his glory and service the chief of his cares; to his interests, the whole of his heart; and for the rest, commits himself to the care of his providence. It is the same with a covetous man in regard to his treasures; he thinks only of them, he labours only to increase and preserve them, he feels only for them; he has neither rest nor hope which is not founded on his riches; he would offer incense to them, could he do it without expence.

6th. It is suprising, and sometimes sufficiently diverting, to see in what manner all the other inclinations of a miser, good and bad, virtues and vices, his love and his hatred, his joy and his sorrow, respect and obey his avarice. They move or rest, act or do not act, agreeably to the orders which this criminal passion gives them. If he be naturally civil, mild, and agreeable in his conversation, he will not fail to lay aside all his civilities and good manners when his avarice tells him he may get something by doing so; and, on the contrary, when he has received some injury, when some insult has been offered him, which is a just ground of resentment, you may see, in an instant, his wrath is removed, and all his vehemence abated, in hope of a little money offered to appease him, or in fear of a small expence to gratify his resentment. If an object of public joy or sorrow offer itself to his view, simply considering it in a general view, he will be glad or sorry, according to the nature of the thing in question; but should this occasion of public joy interest him ever so little, or in any manner prejudice his pretensions, all on a sudden you will see all his joy turned into sorrow. In like manner, when a public calamity gives him an opportunity of gaining any thing, all his sorrow is turned into joy. If he ardently loves any one, he will love him no longer if he begin to cost him any thing; avarice will turn all his love into indifference and

coldness. If reason and common honesty oblige him to be of a party who have justice on their side, he will maintain and even exaggerate their rights, and defend the equity of them, while his purse is not engaged: engage his purse, and it is no longer the same thing: what was just is become now unjust to him, he has quickly whys and howevers in his mouth-but, however, we were mistaken in such a point-why should we be obstinate in such or such a thing? &c.

In fine, his avarice gives the colour and tint to every subject, it is the sole rule and measure, it makes things good or bad, just or unjust, reasonable or unreasonable, according to its pleasure: crimes are no longer crimes, if they agree with avarice; virtues are no longer virtues, when they oppose it: she reigns over the ideas of a miser's mind and the emotions of his heart, sole arbitress in the judgments of his mind, sole directress in the consultations of his heart, sole governess of all his passions. Aristotle's definition of nature can be no where better applied,—she is the principle of motion and of rest; for she does all that the centurion in the Gospel did; she says to one, Go, and he goeth; to another, Come, and he cometh, Do this, and he doeth it: yea, she goes farther than the centurion went; for she says, Pause, and all things pause, Cease, and all things cease to be.*




For example, always when in Scripture God is called a Father, the relation of that term to children is evident, and we are obliged not only to remark the paternal inclinations which are in God towards us, and the advantages which we receive from his love, but also the duties to which we are bound as children of such a Father. The same may be said of all these expressions of Scripture, God is our God, we are his people-he is our portion, we are his heritage-he is our master, we are his servants

These seven heads might, as in the foregoing instance, have been reduced to three. Avarice, 1. perverts our judgment; 2. des stroys our happiness; 3. is incompatible with true religion.

he is our king, we are the subjects of his kingdom-he is our prophet or teacher, we are his disciples-with many more of the same kind. When we meet with such single and separate, they must be discussed in relation to one another, and this relation must be particularly considered. Thus, when the kingdom of God, or of Jesus Christ, is spoken of, all things relative to this kingdom must be considered-as, its laws-arms-throne-crown-subjects -extent of dominion-palace where the king resides, &c. So when our mystical marriage with Jesus Christ is spoken of, whether it be where he is called a bridegroom, or his church a bride, you should, after you have explained these expressions, turn your attention to relative thingsas the love of Jesus Christ to us, which made him consent to this mystical marriage—the dowry, that we bring him, our sins and miseries-the communication, which he makes to us, both of his name and benefits-the rest, that he grants us in his house, changing our abode-the banquet at his divine nuptials-the inviolable fidelity which he requires of us-the right and power he acquires over us-the defence and protection which he engages to afford us: but when these relative things are discussed, great care must be taken neither to insist on them too much, nor to descend to mean ideas, nor even to treat of them one after another, in form of a parallel; for nothing is more tiresome than treating these apart, and one after another. They must, then, be associated together; a body composed of many images must be formed; and the whole must be always animated with the sensible and the spiritual. I think a preacher ought to content himself with making one single observation, or, at the most, two, in case the relative things are too numerous to be collected into one point of view. In such a case, you must endeavour to reduce them to two classes, but in two different orders; and always make the difference perceptible, so that it may not be said you have made two observations of what was naturally but one.

« PrécédentContinuer »