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son for two whole years, hoping, as the text informs us, that money should have been given him; and, even at the last, when he left the province, willing to do the Jews a pleasure,-that is-to serve his interest in another shape,-with all the conviction upon his mind that he had done nothing worthy of bonds, he, nevertheless, left the holy man bound, and, consigned over to the hopeless prospect of ending his days in the same state of confinement in which he had ungenerously left him.
One would imagine, as covetousness is a vice not naturally cruel in itself, that there must certainly have been a mixture of other motives in the governor's breast, to account for a proceeding so contrary to humanity and his own conviction; and, could it be of use to raise conjectures upon it, there seems but too probable grounds for such a supposition. It seems that Drusilla, whose curiosity, upon a double account, had led her to hear Paul-(for she was a daughter of Abraham-as well as of Eve),—was a character, which might have figured very well, even in our own times: For, as Josephus tells us, she had left the Jew her husband, and, without any pretence in their law to justify a divorce, had given herself up, without ceremony, to Felix; for which cause, tho' she is here called his wife, she was, in reason and justice, the wife of another man, and consequently lived in an open state of adultery. So that when Paul, in explaining the faith of CHRIST, took occasion to argue upon the morality of the gospel, and urged the eternal laws of justice, the unchangeable obligations to temperance, of which chastity was a branch, it was scarce possible to frame his discourse so, (had he wished to temporize), but that either her interest or her love must have taken offence: And tho' we do not read, like Felix, that she trembled at the account, it is
natural to imagine she was affected with other passions, of which the apostle might feel the effeels; and it was well he suffered no more; if two such violent enemies as Lust and Avarice were combined against him.
But this by the way ;-for, as the text seems only to acknowledge one of these motives, it is not our business to assign the other.
It is observable, that this same apostle, speaking in his epistle to Timothy, of the ill effects of this same ruling passion,affirms,that it is the root of all evil; and I make no doubt but the remem brance of his own sufferings had no small share in the severity of the reflection.-Infinite are the examples, where the love of money is only a subordinate and ministerial passion, exercised for the support of some other vices; and it is generally found,when there is either ambition,prodigality, or lust,to be fed by it, that it then rages with the least mercy and discretion; in which cases, strictly speaking, it is not the root of other evils, but other evils are the root of it.
This forces me to recal what I have said upon covetousness, as a vice not naturally cruel: It is not apt to represent itself to our imaginations, at first sight, under that idea; we consider it only as a mean, worthless turn of mind, incapable of judging or doing what is right: But as it is a vice which does not always set up for itself, to know truly what it is in this respect, we must know what masters it serves ;-they are many, and of various casts and humors,—and each one lends it something of its own complexional tint and character.
This, I suppose, may be the cause that there is a greater and more whimsical mystery in the love of money, than in the darkest and most nonsensical problem that ever was pored on.
Even at the best, and when the passion seems to
seek nothing more than its own amusement, there is little very little, I fear, to be said for its humanity. It may be a sport to the miser,-but consider, it must be death and destruction to others. The moment this sordid humor begins to govern-farewell all honest and natural affections farewell all he owes to parents, to children, to friends -How fast the obligations vanish!See! he is now stripped of all feelings whatever : The shrill cry of justice, and the low lamentation of humble distress, are notes equally beyond his compass. Eternal GoD see!-he passes by one whom thou hast bruised, without one pensive reflection; he enters the cabin of the widow whose husband and child thou has taken to thyself -exacts his bond, without a sigh !-Heaven! if I am to be tempted, let it be by glory, by ambition, by some generous and manly vice :-If I must fall, let it be by some passion which thou hast planted in my nature,-which shall not harden my heart, but leave me room at last to retreat and come back to thee.
It would be easy here to add the common arguments which Reason offers against this vice; but they are so well understood, both in matter and form, it is needless.
I might cite to you what Seneca says upon itbut, the misfortune is, that at the same time he was writing against riches, he was enjoying a great estate, and using every means to inake that estate still greater.
With infinite pleasure might a preacher enrich his discourse in this place, by weaving into it all the smart things, which ancient or modern wits have said upon the love of money :-He might
"That Poverty wants some things-that Covetousness wanteth all."
"That a miser can only be said to have riches,
"as a sick man has a fever, which holds and ty ❝rannizes over the man-not he over it."
"That covetousness is the shirt of the soul,"the last vice it parts with."
"That nature is content with a few things,— "or that Nature is never satisfied at all," &c.
The reflection of our SAVIOUR, That the life of man consiteth not in the abundance of the things which he possesseth,-speaks more to the heart ;-and the single hint of the camel, and what narrow passage he has to go, has more coercion in it, than all the see-saws of philosophy.
I shall endeavor therefore to draw such other reflections from this piece of sacred story, as are applicable to human life, and more likely to be of use.
There is nothing, generally, in which our happiness and honor are more nearly concerned, than in forming true notions both of men and things; for, in proportion as we think rightly of them, we approve ourselves to the world,—and as we govern ourselves by such judgments, so we secure our peace and well-being in passing thro' it. The false steps and miscarriages in life, issuing from a defect in this capital point, are so many and fatal, that there can be nothing more instructive, than an inquiry into the causes of this perversion, which often appears so very gross in us, that, were you to take a view of the world, see what notions it entertains, and by what considerations it is governed,—you would say of the mistakes of human judgment, what the prophet does of human actions," That we were wise to do evil, but to judge rightly, had no understanding.
That in many dark and abstracted questions of mere speculation, we should err,-is not strange: We live amongst mysteries and riddles; and almost every thing which comes in our way, in one light or other, may be said to baffle our under
standings, yet seldom so as to mistake in extremities, and take one contrary for another. It is very rare, for instance, that we take the virtue of a plant to be hot, when it is extremely cold, or, that we try the experiment of opium to keep us waking; yet this we are continually attempting, in the conduct of life, as well as in the great ends and measures of it. That such wrong determinations in us, do arise from any defect of judgment inevitably misleading us,would reflect dishonor upon GOD; as if he had made and sent man into the world, on purpose to play the fool. His all bountiful hand, made his judgment, like his heart, upright: And the instances of his sagacity in other things, abundantly confirm it: We are led therefore, in course, to a supposition, that in all consistent instances, there is a secret bias, some how or other, hung upon the mind, which turns it aside from reason and truth.
What this is, if we do not care to search for it in ourselves, we shall find it registered in this transaction of Felix: And we may depend, that, in all wrong judgments whatever, in such plain cases as this, that the same explanation must be given of it, which is given in the text, namely, that it is some selfish consideration-some secret dirty engagement with some little appetite, which does us so much dishonor.
The judgments of the more disinterested and impartial of us, receive no small tincture from our affections: We generally consult them in all doubtful points,-and it happens well, if the matter in question is not almost settled, before the arbitrator is called into the debate: But, in the more flagrant instances, where the passions govern the whole man, it is melancholy to see the office to which Reason, the great prerogative of his nature, is reduced: Serving the lower appetites in the dishonest drudgery of finding out arguments to justify the present pursuit.