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PREACHED JUNE 25, 1775.
ECCLESIASTES V. 10.
He that loveth silver, shall not be satisfied
a preacher on these words should set himself to declaim against silver, he would probably be but ill-heared, and would certainly go beside the meaning of his text.
SILVER (or gold) is only an instrument of exchange; a sign of the price which things bear in the commerce of life. This instrument is of the most necessary use in society.
Without it, there would be no convenience of living, no supply of our mutual wants, no industry, no civility, I had almost said, no virtue among men.
The author of the text was clearly of this mind; since, on many occasions, he makes wealth the reward of wisdom, and poverty, of folly ; and since he laboured all his life, and with suitable success, to multiply gold and silver in his dominions, beyond the example of all former, and indeed succeeding, kings of the Jewish state.
The precious metals, then, (both for the reason of the thing, and the authority of Solomon) shall preserve their lustre unsullied, and their honours unimpared by me. Poets and satirists have, indeed, execrated those, who tore the entrails of the earth for them; and, provoked by the general abuse of them, have seemed willing that they should be sent back to their beds again. But sober moralists hold no such language ; and are content that they remain above ground, and shine out in the face of the sun.
Still (for I come now to the true meaning of my text) good and useful things may be OVER-RATED, or MISAPPLIED; and, in either way, may become hurtful to us. He, that, in the emphatic language of the preacher, LOVETH silver, certainly offends in one of these ways, and probably in both : and, when he does so, it will be easy to make good the royal denunciation that he shall not be sATISFIED with it.
1. Now, wealth is surely over-rated, when, instead of regarding it only as the means of procuring a reasonable enjoyment of our lives, we dote upon it for its own sake, and make it the end, or chief object of our pursuits : when we sacrifice, not only ease and leisure, (which, though valuable things, are often well recompensed by the pleasures of industry and activity), but health and life to it: when we grieve naturea, to gratify this fantastic passion; and give up the social pleasures, the true pleasures of humanity, for the sordid satisfaction of seeing ourselves possessed of an abundance, which we never mean to enjoy: above all, when we purchase wealth at the expence
of our innocence; when we prefer it to a good name, and a clear conscience; when we suffer it to interfere with our most important con
'Queis humana sibi doleat natura negatis.
Hor. I. S. i. 75.
cerns, those of piety and religion; and when, for the sake of it, we are contented to forego the noblest hopes, the support and glory of our nature, the hopes of happiness in a future state.
When the false glitter of silver (of which the owner, as Solomon says, has, and proposes, to himself, no other good, but that of beholding it with his eyesb) imposes upon us at this rate, how should our reasonable nature find any true or solid satisfaction in it!
“ But the mere act of acquiring and accumulating wealth is, it will be said, the miser's pleasure, of which himself, and no other, is the proper judge; and a certain confused notion of the uses, to which it may serve, though he never actually puts it to any, is enough to justify his pursuit of it.”
Be it so, then: But is there no better pleasure for him to aim at, and which he loses by following this; and although a man's ways, We are told, be right in his own eyes'e ; yet, is there no difference in them, and do not some of them lead through much trouble to
b Eccles. v. 11.
c Prov. xvi. 25.
disappointment and death? And is there not a presumption, a certainty, that the
of the miser is of this sort? when his very name may admonish him of the light in which the common sense of mankind regards his pursuit of untasted opulence; and when he finds, by experience, that his unnatural appetite for it is always encreasing, be the plenty never so great which is set before him. But,
2. Wealth may be MISAPPLIED, as well as over-rated, and generally is so, in the most offensive manner, by those, who think there are no pleasures, which it cannot command. For, although the miser has the worse name in the world, yet the spendthrift (since a certain alliance, which has taken place between luxury and avarice) possibly deserves our indignation more.
But ye shall judge for yourselves. Are not riches, let me ask, sadly misapplied, when, after having been pursued and seized upon, with more than a miser's fury, they are suddenly let go again, on all the wings d of prodigality and folly? which scatter their precious load, not on modest merit, or virtuous in
Prov. xxii. 5.