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1. The implied truth, that gold is valuable; and, 2. The expressed truth, that the teachings of God's Word and conformity to them, are of infinitely greater value.
I. The text implies that GOLD IS VALUABLE, AND OF COURSE DESIRABLE. But on this point, it may be said it is needless to dwell, since all the world by their actions, their constant and eager pursuit, show they are fully, alas! but too fully, satisfied of its value; and why, it may be asked, why dwell upon even a truth that may be perverted to madden the fever already burning like fire ? Because, I reply, the world very often pursues that which is not valuable, or seeks that which has value for wrong reasons, and from wrong motives; and every object should be seen in its true light. We have heard, too, one of the most distinguished statesmen of the present age, ignorantly misquoting the Scriptures, and saying in the halls of the nation, that “money was the root of all evil !" And in common life, large and universal as is the pursuit of wealth, we often hear the intimation, that the desire for it implies contractedness, meanness, littleness of thought, and spirit. Prose has exhausted its epithets, and poetry its figures, argument its logic, and rhetoric its tropes, to pour contempt on the pursuit of riches -a pursuit in which those most prompt to sneer at it, are often most ready to engage.
The Bible, however, places wealth on the same footing with every other temporal good--to be regarded in the same manner, esteemed for the same reasons, sought in the same spirit, and used for the same end. Its very first mention of gold is in connection with the garden of Eden, and its last with the New Jerusalemthe heavenly city. It compares the tried and purified Christian to gold from the furnace; it informs us that God gave riches to Solomon as a mark of his favor; it describes the Son of Man, when appearing in his glory, as having on his head a golden crown. Its doctrine is, that property, like health, intellect, knowledge, infuence, character, is a talent, entrusted by God, and to be used and accounted for to Him It is like food, which, properly eaten, contributes to health, but improperly and excessively, brings on surfeiting, fever, death. It is like water, which, kept without the ship, aids her to float on to her desired haven; but allowed to enter and fill that ship, is her ruin. Held with a right spirit, and used to right ends, it is like the air when moving in the healthful breeze, the minister of comfort, enjoyment, life; held with a wrong spirit, and used to wrong ends, it is like the same air when tainted with the pestilence, or swept by the tornado, the medium of injury and death.
It is not gold, but the love, that is, the excessive, supreme love of gold, which the Bible teaches is “the root of all evil”—which it declares is " idolatry.” The patriarch does not say, “ If I have possessed gold,” but , “ If I have made gold my hope, or said to
the fine gold, thou art my confidence, this were an iniquity.” The Saviour does not exclaim, " How hardly shall they that have riches,” but as his own explanation is, “ How hard is it for them that trust in riches, to enter into the kingdom of God !” Sought as a means to an end, like every other means, wealth is valuable for a thousand things; sought merely as an end, it becomes a curse. Properly used, it is a good : abused it is an evil. In the one case, it is the load-stone to draw men nearer to God;" in the other, “ the mill-stone, to sink them to perdition.” To possess gold, other things being equal, is a blessing. To be possessed by it, and by the love of it, is to be possessed by a devil, and one of the basest and worst kind of devils. Gold in the hand is well, if it do not get into the heart; though, alas ! it often gets into the latter, when not in the former. The great distinction which Christ makes is, on the one hand," laying up treasure for self,” that is, in the selfish spirit and for selfish ends, and on the other, “ being rich toward God,” that is, holding our property as his stewards, and ever being ready to use it for Him. Everywhere the Bible inculcates those virtues, honesty, industry, forethought, prudence, &c., which tend to wealth, and it equally and everywhere enjoins, that whatever wealth we possess, we hold at God's disposal, and use as He directs.
Sneer though some may at gold-digging, there are gold-diggers here, all about us, in the shop, and the counting-house, and the office, in the crowded city, or the quiet village, as well as on our distant coasts. And the one class is not necessarily more inclined to mammon-worship than the other. To either, the pursuit is lawful and proper if properly followed. Morally, and in itself considered, gold-hunting on the land is as proper as whale-hunt. ing on the deep, or wealth-hunting in the ways of business. It may not be as wise ; and we may, if we choose, question the judgment of those who engage in it: though it is difficult, if not impossible, for those who are settled in regular and prosperous business, fully to appreciate the position and feelings of the many enterprising young men in our land, who, finding the various avenues of business crowded to overflowing, gladly go forth to a new and unoccupied field of effort and hoped for success.
But whether the emigration be wise or unwise, and that, each must decide for himself, yet morally, whether here or there, the pursuit is, in its nature, the same—the same to the lawyer in his office, the mechanic in his workshop, the merchant in his counting-house, or the sand-sifter on the banks of the modern Pactolus.
In either case, it is the end proposed, the motive that influences, the inward feeling, by which we are to judge of the outward act. “Why does each seek for wealth ?” This is the all-important question. Is it for God or self? Is it to be used, first, as was intended by Heaven, to supply our own wants, and the wants of those dependent on us, and next, in benevolence to others? Or
is it sought only for self-indulgence, to enable its possessor to live in idleness or luxury, or to gain worldly honor and influence and respect? Is it to do good, as becomes the Christian, or to be able to say, “Soul, take thine ease, eat, drink, and be merry ?" According to the answer, in each case, must be the decision. If wealth be sought with the one class of motives and feelings, whether here or there, the individual is in the way of sin; and if with the other, whether here or there, he is in the way of duty. Place does not create a difference. California is as near to heaven, and alas! as near to hell too, as our own beloved New England ! And there as here, gold, if sought with a right spirit, and to be used for right ends, is of value the means to a thousand important ends—the channel of multiplied blessings—the minister of food, raiment, comfort, intelligence—an agent of power for doing good, spreading happiness, sustaining the cause of benevolence, sending the gospel and the missionary to the ends of the earth. Our subject, then, does not say, as some would do, “ Beware of gold,” or “ Beware of going in search of it,” but it does say, with the Saviour, “ Beware of covetousness;" and the very spirit and essence of covetousness it finds in the supreme and selfish love, and the selfish possession and use of property-in “ laying up treasure for self," and not being “rich toward God !"
But valuable as wealth is, when rightly sought and used, our text points us to what it declares of infinitely greater value, namely,
II. To the PRINCIPLES AND TEACHINGS OF God's word. Of these it expressly proclaims, “ More to be desired are they than gold, yea, than much fine gold.” And they are so,
1. Because, so far as wealth is valuable, the Bible inculcates the principles and virtues that aid to secure it. As it is true of the New Testament, that though it nowhere enjoins any specific form of civil government, yet the tendency of all its great principles is to human freedom, so that tyrants fear and hate it, so it is as to the subject before us. Nowhere does the Bible point out localities of gold, or silver, or precious stones; but it does inculcate the virtues that tend to prosperity, and denounce the vices that lead to poverty. From the very insects beneath our feet, it draws the lessons of diligence and labor. It declares that the sluggard is “as vinegar to the teeth, and as smoke to the eyes.” It warns the idler, who will not plough in the winter, that he shall be left to beggary in the harvest
. It enjoins, and all its great principles lead, to that industry, honesty, enterprise, good judgment, and good faith ; that method, accuracy, promptness; that devotion to busi. ness and not to pleasure; that knowledge of man, and that quick discernment of truth and falsehood; that wise adjustment of plans, and their diligent and energetic prosecution ; that proportioned and discreet good sense, that knows where to stop, as well as where to begin; all of which tend to prosperity and wealth. Even
for this world, it is, as the general rule, found true, that “in keeping God's commandments, there is great reward."
And so, on the other hand, the Bible forbids those vices that prevent the acquisition of wealth, or that waste it when acquired.
Set a man down-his voyage over-in the midst of the richest gold regions of the earth, and let him yield to certain kinds of temptation, and in the midst of all the wealth around him, he will still be poor. Let him, for example, abandon himself to intoxication-for mournful as is the fact, there are those so lost to every spark of principle and humanity-poisoners of men and panders to devils—as to be sending out intoxicating drinks with the tide of emigration—let him yield to the temptation thus set before him, and he will soon be unfitted for picking up the very gold that may abound at his feet, and most admirably fitted for quickly losing, even if he has found it. His brains being gone from his head, the gold from his pocket will speedily follow; be stolen away when he knows it not, or wheedled away in foolish bargains, by villains more sober, but less principled than himself, or recklessly squandered in guilty, sottish indulgence. Let the individual, again, give way to the excitements of gambling, a vice which the Bible forbids as well as intemperance, and a few short hours may dissipate the wealth that weeks, or months, or years may have gathered. And the same general remark may be made of the observance of the Sabbath : for it is only where the Sabbath is kept, that the morality of the Sabbath is found; and where it is habitually violated, there insults, robberies, drunkenness, gambling, violence, and a lawless and murderous state of life and manners,
will abound ; and on the Pacific coast, as here, there is no safety for the man, either as to property or success, who will trample on God's holy day. Such an one has deliberately “ forsaken the Most High, and entered on the devil's ground, and is tempting the destroyer to tempt and destroy him," and provoking God to curse him for time and eternity. In all these and many other things, it needs but little reflection to satisfy us, that whether directly to the individual, or indirectly to him through the community where he dwells, “ Godliness is profitable unto all things, having promise of the life that now is," as well as “ of that which is to come.” Of the great principles of God's Word, faithfully carried out in practice, even the gold-seeker, if thoughtful and candid, will be constrained to say, that, as tending to permanent prosperity, “More to be desired are they than gold, yea, than much fine gold.”
This is further true of the great principles of the Bible, be
2. They give directly the very blessings that men seek to obtain indirectly by the possession of wealth. No one but the miser (miserable in etymology and fact) seeks gold for its own sake. `He, with insane and consummate folly, may live for wealth as in itself an end, robbing himself that he may save his gold, for it “throw
ing up his interest in both worlds—first starved in this, then damned in that to come!" But every one who has the sanity of common sense, seeks it only as a means to some end ; and that end is happiness, or what the individual thinks will afford it. One foolishly supposes that inactivity and rest are synonymous with happiness; and seeks wealth, that when he obtains it, he may have nothing to do but to vegetate in idleness. Another fancies it will be found in the indulgence of appetite, and another, in splendid living, another in influence over his fellow-men, and still another, in being known and talked of, and perhaps envied as the possessor of large estates; and each desires and toils for wealth as the means of attaining his favorite form of happi
Now, even if in all these cases happiness were to be found in the things supposed, it is still true that two steps are requisite to reach it, and the first a step it may need years or even a life-time to take, while the Bible offers either the same or a higher form of happiness to a single step, and that one which may be taken in a moment. Is wealth desired as affording peace within, or freedom from annoyance and vexation without ? * Great peace have they which love thy law, and nothing shall offend them.” Is it sought as conducive to dignity and exaltation ? “Exalt” wisdom, "and she shall promote thee: she shall bring thee to honor when thou dost embrace her;" and " if any man, says Christ, “serve me, him will my Father honor.” Is it followed as a means of procuring pleasure? Religion's ways “are ways of pleasantness, and all her paths are peace.” Is it wished as a provision for future necessities, or a security against future want? “Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.” Is it longed for as giving freedom from toil, anxiety, and care? “Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest :” “ Rest from the vexations and labors and cares of the world, rest in the arms of infinite love, rest eternal in the paradise of God!" And all these blessings we have but to ask, that we may receive; while the wealth of this world, if ever so eagerly sought, is uncertain of attainment, and if attained, never, never gives the happiness that was expected from it, while the offers of religion are always present and available offers, and in every case the blessedness she gives is satisfying and sure. Tested, then, by the end which men propose to themselves in seeking wealth, the Bible and the faith and salvation it offers, are “More to be desired than gold, yea, than much fine gold."
This will further appear, if we consider,
3. That the principles of the Bible, and only those principles, can make the possession of wealth a blessing. Give a man gold, all that his largest desires could wish, and yet let his principles be wrong, his temper ungoverned, his appetites and passions uncon