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There are those that will sell articles that are not only useless, but hurtful; inasmuch as they are designed to promote the pride and vanity of men, and to take their hearts from God, and fasten them upon the baubles and gew-gaws of this vain world. To tempt the deceitful hearts of men, and enlist them in the chase of fashion, and gaiety, and worldliness. Now, instead of being pious, they who do this take the devil's place, and tempt mankind to sin.
Business principles, or the principles of commercial justice, are the principles of supreme selfishness. They have been established by selfish men, for selfish purposes, without even the pretence of conformity to the law of love. Upon these principles it is neither demanded, nor expected, that any one should seek another's wealth; but that every one should take care of himself, purchase as low, and sell as high as he can; take advantage of the state of the market, the scarcity of the articles in which he deals; and, in short, to go the whole circle of selfish projects, to promote the interest of self. Can a man love God supremely, and his neighbor as himself, who daily and habitually transacts business upon the principles of commercial justice, founded, as they are, in that which is the direct opposite of the requirement of God? Every day engaged in business transactions, the sum and substance, the aggregate, and the detail of which are designed to promote self-interest that do not even pretend to aim at the promotion of the interest of others; but self is the beginning, the middle, and the end of the whole matter.
10th. All those who engage in business, to the neglect of spiritual exercises, love the world supremely.
Many professors of religion seem just about as much determined to do good with their money, as unrepentant sinners are to repent. They profess to engage in business for the glory of God, but instead of using their money for this purpose, they enlarge their capital, and their business, and transact business upon the principles of worldly men, and practice upon themselves a constant delusion. Instead of laying out their money as they go along for the building up of the kingdom of Jesus Christ, they add their yearly profits to their capital, until nearly their whole time, and thoughts, and affections, are engrossed with money-making. Now, why do yo not see, who practice this, that you are deceiving yourselves?
The only way in which money can be used for the glory of God and the good of men, is to promote the spirituality and holiness of men, and if you pursue business in a way that is inconsistent with your own spirituality, you might as well talk of getting drunk or swearing for the glory of God, as of making money for His glory. For you to neglect communion with God, under the pretence of making money for him, is sheer hypocrisy. If you prefer business to prayer, busy yourselves in you offices, and shops, and business, and neglect your closets, the love of God is not in you. To pretend that you love God is just as absurd as to suppose that your eagerness to make money for the glory of God, leads you to neglect communion with him, or that your great zeal to serve him, and great love for him, leads you to neglect communion with him, and betake yourself to making money.
11th. Those who make their business an excuse for not attending meetings and using means for the conversion of sinners. It is manifest that such persons are not transacting business for God. The only possible use of making money for the glory of God is, to use it for the conversion and sanctification of sinners. This is the great end of doing business for God. But to be so busy in making money, as to neglect to make direct and personal efforts for the conversion of sinners is absurd; it proves to a demonstration, that the object of making money is not to convert, and sanctify, and save sinners. In such cases, it is plain, that money is sought from the love of it, and not for the purpose of building up the kingdom of Jesus Christ.
12th. All those whose business diverts their thoughts and affections from God. If they were transacting business for God, the more busy and engaged they were in his service, in doing his will, and in making money for him, the more would he be present to all their thoughts, and the deeper and more mellow would be their piety.
13th. All rich men love the world supremely. Jesus Christ has said that it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. Yes, you say, this is true, if he sets his heart upon his riches. Now, what I affirm is, that every rich man under the Gospel, does set his heart upon his riches. If he did not he would not be rich. If he loved the kingdom of God supremely, he would give his riches to promote that kingdom. We always do that which we, upon the whole, choose to do. If you have money, and see an article of furniture, or dress, or any thing else that, upon the whole, you prefer to any given amount of money, you are certain to make the exchange, and give your money for the article, if it is in your power. This is just as certain as it is that your choice governs your conduct. Now, if a man loves the Lord Jesus Christ, and the souls of men, more than he does his money; if, upon the whole, he prefers the glory of God, and the salvation of men, to his own selfish interest, it is as certain that he will cease to be rich, and give his money to promote those objects, as it is that his will controls his actions. So that a man being rich under the Gospel, when it is known that his money can be used for the glory of God and the conversion of souls, is demonstration absolute, that he loves the world supremely. To say that he is rich, but does not set his heart upon riches--that he continues to retain his wealth, and yet does not set his heart upon it, is manifestly absurd and false. For, certainly, nothing but a supreme attachment to it could cause him to hold on to the possession of it, when every wind is loaded down with cries and beseechings to send the bread of life to those that are ready to perish.
But, perhaps some will say that much depends upon the instructions that rich people have received--that they may be conscientious in the belief that they may lawfully retain and enjoy their wealth. I answer that this does not relieve the difficulty, for the question is not, what they may lawfully do, but what they are disposedto do. Suppose an affectionate wife to have a husband in slavery, whom she tenderly loves; the price of his ransom is fixed, and she, by her earnings and savings, is determined to pay the price. See how she will behave herself. Of what use is it to tell her that she may lawfully purchase such articles of dress and convenience, and that it is lawful for her to have the comforts of life--will she so lay out her money? No: she will scarcely allow herself a pair of shoes. She will practice the most rigid economy, and take a satisfaction in denying herself every thing but the absolutely indispensibles of life, until she has made out the sum demanded for her husband's ransom. It is of no use to preach to her of the lawfulnessof appropriating her money to other purposes. She has one all-absorbing object in view. She values money only as it will contribute to the promotion of this object. No false instruction, nor right instruction, in regard to the lawfulness of using her money for other purposes will alter her practice. Every penny that she can spare is laid out for the promotion of this object of her heart's desire. So if a man love God supremely, if he long for the coming and prosperity of his kingdom more than for any thing else, the question with him will not be whether he may lawfully enjoy an estate. The truth is, that could he do it never so lawfully, it is not his choice to do it. He prefers to build up the kingdom of Christ with his money, and accounts his money as of no value, only as it can contribute to this object. Therefore, I hold it to be a certain truth, that if a man is rich and continues to be rich under the Gospel, there can be no other reason than that he prefers wealth to the promotion of the kingdom of Jesus Christ. Do any of you object and say, that Abraham, and Job, and David, and Solomon were rich? I answer: the command had never been given in their day to preach the Gospel to every creature, and there is no reason for believing that they so much as dreamed that the world could be converted in the way in which we now know that it can and must be converted. They could not, therefore, have had the same motives for using their wealth for the conversion of the world that we have. We have not the least reason to believe that their property could have been used for the conversion of the world, in the sense in which we can use ours. It was no certain sign, therefore, if they kept their wealth, that they prefered it to the kingdom and glory of God.
14. All those who lay up their surplus income, have not the love of God in them.
By surplus income, I mean that which is not necessary for the support of themselves and families; if they lay it up, it must be because they love it. If they prefered the kingdom of Jesus Christ, they would immediately use what they could spare, after providing for the necessities of their families, to the building up of his kingdom. Suppose an individual was on the coast of Africa, and longed exceedingly to return to his home, but had no means of paying his passage, if some one should present him with a purse of gold, would he lay it up, or would he immediately lay it out to gratify the all-absorbing desire of his heart and pay his passage to his native country. This would be the very reason why he would prize the gift. It would be valuable to him on that account, that by it he might accomplish the object of his heart's desire. Can it be that a man loves supremely the kingdom of Christ, and longs exceedingly for its coming and extension, and yet hoards up his money instead of spending it for this supremely desirable object?
15th. Although a man may give his surplus income, yet if he practice no self-denial, he gives to God that which costs him nothing, and gives no substantial evidence that he loves God. If he gratify all his wants and the wants of his family, and provide for them all the comforts and conveniences of life, and simply appropriate what remains of his income over and above his expenditures, he really practices no self-denial; he enjoys all that can be enjoyed of wealth, and is really ridding himself of the trouble of taking care of it by appropriating the balance of his yearly income to the cause of Christ. This is like a safety-valve to let off the surplus steam that would otherwise burst the boiler.
Objection. But do any of you object and ask, should every man give up all his capital and means at once of promoting the cause of Christ? I answer, that this might not be Christian economy. A man's capital, if it be not larger than is necessary for the wisest transaction of business, is to be considered in light of tools with which he serves God and his generation. In such cases, if he give his income, after deducting the necessary expenses of his family, I cannot see that such a use of it is inconsistent with the love of God. But for a man to live and die rich, to hoard up his income, to enjoy his wealth, and leave his substance to his babes, is the Psalmist's definition of a wicked man who has his portion in this world.
16th. All those who are more interested in secular news, that relates to money transaction, than in the accounts of revivals of religion, and in those things that pertain more particularly to the kingdom of Christ, love the world supremely.
Show me a man that is looking over the secular news, after the price of stocks, and excited about bank questions and monied speculations, but who does not read or take an interest in reports of revivals, and the onward movements of the church, and if he profess to love God, his profession is base hypocrisy.
17th. All those who are more depressed, and feel more keenly commercial and monied embarrassments, than they do the low state of religion, and the state of dying sinners, love the world supremely. This is too plain to need either proof or illustration.
18th. All those who would sooner engage in monied speculations than they would in revivals of religion, love the world supremely.
Some professors of religion are all excitement when great speculations are to be made. When stocks are high, or real estate is on the rise, or any opportunity of making money. But if an effort is to be made to promote a revival of religion, they are too much engrossed in their speculations to give their time and hearts to it. They may pretend that they are making money for God, but the promotion of revivals of religion is the only object of appropriating money to the cause of Christ. If this be the great object of embarking in these speculations, to promote revivals of religion, and build up Christ's kingdom, it were passing strange if in the use of means they should have no heart to engage in directly promoting the end at which they aim. The naked matter of fact is, that if they prefer monied speculations to revivals of religion, they love money, and love the world supremely.
A man who would travel on the Sabbath to secure a debt, or to avoid the expence of spending a Sabbath at a public house, when on a journey, certainly loves money supremely. Could he think, if he considered the property in his possession as belonging to God, that God would rather he would violate the holy Sabbath, than to lose a debt or spend a few shillings or dollars by stopping on the Sabbath?