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expressly tells us, in his Epistle to the Colossians (iii. 5), that covetousness, or, as the word may perhaps be more closely rendered, insatiableness and greediness, is idolatry; and again, in the Epistle to the Ephesians (v. 5), the covetous man,—that is, the insatiable and greedy man, the man whom there is no satisfying, -is said to be an idolater. It matters little what the man is greedy of,— whether he is greedy of money, or whether he is greedy of business, or whether he is greedy of land, or whether he is greedy of meat and drink, or whether he is greedy of praise and honour and distinction,-if a man is greedy of any earthly thing, and does not know when he has had enough, and is ever longing and craving after it, and wishing to add more to more, the sentence is express against that man: St Paul has declared him to be an idolater. The reason is plain. The covetous and greedy man has given that place in his heart to earthly things, which ought to be kept for heavenly things. Instead of considering the things of this world as mere necessaries, and setting the prime of his affections on things above, he looks on the former as the real good; whereas our Saviour has told us that there is none really good but one, that is, God. Perhaps however a man may say, What does it signify whether we look on the things of this life as necessaries and conve
niences, or whether we deem them to be really goods? I answer, it signifies very much: for, when we want anything, food, raiment, furniture, house, lands, simply because such things are necessary or convenient to us, it is easy to see there must be a limit to our want somewhere. Take food, for instance. If a man eats simply because it is necessary to eat, in order to support life, if he drinks only to satisfy his thirst, it is clear he will soon be satisfied. He will soon have eaten and drunk enough; and he will know when he has had He will eat enough, and will not wish for more.
and drink to get rid of his hunger and thirst, just as he washes his face and hands to refresh himself and get rid of the dirt. No man, after his hands have been washed quite clean, goes on rubbing and scrubbing them over and over again: yet many a greedy man will go on eating and drinking after he has had his fill. Why so? Because greedy men, the glutton and the drunkard, take delight in eating and drinking, and do not take a like delight in washing. They wash, like rational beings, because it is necessary and wholesome and seemly; and so they wash enough, and no more. They eat and drink, not because it is necessary, but because they think it a good thing: they take a pleasure in it, and love it; and so they eat and drink to excess. For to that which is good, there is no limit in the heart
of man of that we can never have enough. Here then is the great difference between seeking a thing, because it is necessary or useful to us, and desiring it as a real good. In the one case there is a limit to our wishes, in the other none. In the one case we have enough, when our needs are satisfied; in the other case we never have enough. We always wish and crave and pant and hunger after more: and such craving and hungering is idolatrous. It is mistaking the creature for the Creator, and misapplying to a poor, unworthy, mean, and perishable thing, those infinite yearnings of the heart which belong of right to the Maker and Ruler of the universe. He, and he alone, is infinite: therefore he alone is worthy of being loved and sought for with all our boundless longings and desires. To set up any worldly thing as the end and object of those longings, is to throw away on what is bounded and perishable, the worship due to what is infinite and eternal. Therefore it is as plainly and certainly idolatry, as if we bowed the knee to Chemosh or to Ashtaroth. I say, the worship: because longing is worship, desire is worship, the best of all worship, the worship of the heart. He then who gives his heart to any creature, worships it, yea, and sacrifices to it the best member that he has. If this be not arrant idolatry, I know not what is. I have mentioned the greedy desire of
meat and drink, partly because every body must know what that means, and partly because St Paul, in telling us of people whose belly is their god, has brought the instance home to our present purpose. But what is true of greediness of food, is equally true of every other kind of greediness. All insatiable longing after earthly things, all grasping and restless striving, is a part of that covetousness which is idolatry. The covetous man defiles and pollutes his heart, which is the temple of the Holy Ghost, as the Jews defiled and polluted the temple at Jerusalem, by setting up the tables of the moneychangers in it, and filling it with buying and selling. Thus does the covetous man fill the temple of his heart with busy thoughts of money-getting and buying and selling. He sets up the abomination of gain in what ought to be the sanctuary of the Most High. But if the covetous man be an idolater, what does he worship? Our Saviour tells us in the Sermon on the Mount, where, in warning his disciples not to give up their hearts to taking thought about worldly and perishable things, he uses those remarkable words, "Ye cannot serve God and Mammon." The covetous man then serves Mammon. He has taken Mammon for his guide and for his god: and so he directly breaks the first commandment, which forbids us to have any god except the God of heaven.
But Mammon is not the only heathen god whose worship is carried on in the hearts of Englishmen, calling themselves Christians, and Protestants too, at this day. What shall we say of Belial, the fleshliest spirit that ever seduced man to sin? He is the god of lust, of riot, of uncleanness, of unruliness. The impure, fornicators and adulterers, lovers of misrule of every kind, are called in Scripture sons of Belial, and children of Belial; just as the pious and upright are called sons of God, and children of God. Can we say then that there are no children of Belial, no worshipers of Belial now in England? The reports of our courts of law prove that there are thousands and thousands; and I am afraid that those who are brought before a court of law, are not one in a hundred. Yet every such worshiper of Belial is plainly guilty of idolatry, and is living in the open breach of the first and great commandment.
Or look at Moloch, the god of hatred and of every fierce passion: has he no children, no worshipers in the land? men who pay him the service he is best pleased with, the service of an envious, rancorous, malicious, and festered heart. As every lustful thought and impure desire is an act of worship to Belial,—as every greedy thought and covetous desire is an act of worship to Mammon, so every spiteful and revengeful thought,