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Thou shalt not covet any thing that is thy neighbour's.
THE Coveting, here forbidden, may include three degrees,-first, a simple desire; secondly, a violent passion, and thirdly, an evil disposition breaking out in evil designs and attempts, which, though unsuccessful, are yet criminal.
The beginning of coveting is a simple desire. When a man considers and contemplates an object that is useful, pleasant, convenient, and alluring, an object of which he is deprived, and which another person possesses, a wish will perhaps arise that he were the possessor, and he will say to himself-It would be better for me if I had such things; and my neighbour who has them is in a much happier condition than I am.
This simple wish, unpremeditated, and almost involuntary, and carried no farther, may perhaps deserve rather to fall under the name of a weakness than of a crime. And yet there is something mean, and silly, and irregular, in it; and reason and religion teach The better us that we ought to restrain and check it in its rise. and the wiser a man is, the less he will be troubled with frivolous desires of this kind. Equanimity, contentment, reliance upon God, and resignation to his providence, are virtues which directly tend to subdue and to suppress such impertinent thoughts. Such thoughts, though they may not imply any confirmed depravity, show that the mind is not in a safe situation; even as a sluggish heaviness, a degree of heat more than usual, and an unequal pulse, though it be not a fever, yet is not a proper disposition of the body, or a state of health.
But, secondly, such wishes, like bad seed sown in the mind, are apt to take root, and to bring forth evil fruits. When they have been long indulged, and frequently repeated, they produce a fretful uneasiness, and are transformed into a restless passion, and a continual discontent; and then the mind is off its guard, and delivered up to irregular dispositions. The man is dissatisfied with his condition; the blessings and conveniences which he enjoys he slights and overlooks with base ingratitude; the things which he cannot obtain he overrates and admires too much; the persons who possess what he wants are the objects of his envy, and in some degree of his aversion.
Such a temper is very remote from a sober regard to the precepts of reason, to the will of God, and to the social duties; for whoever will be a good man, and a good citizen, should keep not only his hands, but his eyes and his heart, from the possessions and the property of others.
From this distempered state of mind an easy step is made to unwarrantable actions, to the laying base projects and evil schemes, with a view to defraud and injure others, and to obtain the things which are coveted, as far as it can be done with impunity, and without falling under the correction of human laws. And this is properly the crime which stands condemned in this tenth commandment; a commandment which has a respect more or less, to all the foregoing commandments of the second table, securing and enforcing their observance, and condemning those dispositions and actions which directly lead to the violation of them.
THE TEN COMMANDMENTS.
Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and thy neighbour as thyself;-on these two commands hang all the law and the prophets.
THE ten commandments cannot be said to be a complete body of religion and system of morality, nor even to contain the substance of the Mosaic law. They may rather be accounted a rough draught, and the outlines of man's duty; and they were principally intended to condemn those more heinous transgressions which, if tolerated, would destroy all religion, and subvert civil society. Take these commandments according to the letter and strict meaning of the words, and you will not easily find in them all the duties of piety, resignation, prayer, and thanksgiving; those of patience, charity, and humanity, towards men; those of sobriety and modesty, the regulation of the passions, and the improvement of the heart and mind.
The first commandment enjoins the worship of one God; to which the gospel adds, there is one God and Father of all, so there is one Lord and Mediator, one church of Christ, one faith, one rule, and one hope of christians. Hence we are reminded of that unity which ought to be preserved amongst believers; an unity, not of opinion in doubtful, obscure, and controverted points, for that is impossible, but such an unity as love, and charity, and forbearance, and condescension, and meekness, and quietness, will produce in virtuous minds.-Yet how many disobey the first great requirement of religion, by worshipping wealth, power, and pleasure. Heaven defend our age from this growing atheism.
The ten commandments may be divided into two parts-into those of the first, and those of the second table, into our duty to God, and our duty to man. The first is comprised in this one law, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart the second is reducible to this, thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself: and whosoever duly observes these two great commandments, cannot easily be deficient in performing his duty to himself.
We thus learn that God is an all-perfect spirit, whose worship must be pure and spiritual. Our duty to him is faith, gratitude, love, reliance, resignation, prayer, hope, a conformity to his will, and an imitation of his holiness.
The first of these commandments, or the love of God, is the law of piety; the second, or the love of man, is the law of charity. He therefore who in any point deliberately and habitually offends against his duty to God, breaks the whole law of piety; and he who in the same manner offends in any instance against his neighbour, breaks the whole law of charity. And in this sense St. James may be understood, when speaking of the duty of man to man, he says; Whosoever breaks one of these commandments, though he should observe the rest, violates the whole law; namely, the law of benevolence and charity.
This love of God and our neighbour is neither an impetuous and blind passion, nor a mere speculation, but a good disposition produced and cultivated by reason, strengthened by faith, and verified by our actions. To love God is to keep his commandments; and to love men is to do them all the service and all the good that we Let us entreat the Giver of every good gift, that he would have mercy upon us, and incline our hearts to keep these laws.
I command thee; thou shalt open thy hand wide unto thy brother-thy poor.
OUR heavenly Father has constituted the various stations of society for this reason doubtless, among many others, that different individuals might have the opportunity, and exhibit the disposition of fulfilling those duties to which by this arrangement they are respectively called.-The poor are always with you; and this circumstance you must regard as an injunction from your God, to communicate of your abundance for the supply of their wants. If you are rich, you must be proportionably liberal; but do not think that the duty of assisting the poor and wretched, belongs only to the rich; though your own circumstances may be comparatively humble; though you have not the luxuries which to the affluent, have by habitual use become in their estimation necessaries; if you have the common comforts of life, you have always with you or near you, some fellow being to whom even the little which you can spare from your slender store, will be a comfort; impart then with cheerfulness that little to your poorer neighbour, and since you cannot bestow much alms to the body, strive to render a service still more important, by increasing, if it be in your power, his spiritual treasures, his moral and mental happiness. By friendly offices, by cheerful kindness and tender sympathy, you may oblige and gratify him; by a christian example and prudent counsel, you may improve and benefit him. Think not then yourself exempted from the duties enjoined by the Prophet and the Saviour, because you are not rich; but "labour, working with your hands the thing that is good, that you may be able to give to him who needeth." If you are rich, and possess the ability of administering to the wants of many poor and suffering fellow beings, you cannot without great sin neglect this duty. If you expend on the vain and frivolous objects of time and sense, the wealth of which you are only the steward; if by indulging to excess the desire of external pomp and parade, or the calls of selfishness and sensuality, you render yourself unable to assist the poor, and destitute; or unwilling to listen to their claims, you will expose yourself to a fearful retribution. If you have merely sufficient for what is considered a respectable appearance, by the world, and appropriate all that you can gain to maintain that appearance, without sometimes submitting to a voluntary sacrifice, a willing self-denial for the sake of charity,-you are far from the kingdom of heaven. Especially, if you prefer the gratification of your vanity, by showy dress, and glittering ornaments, to the duty of relieving the afflicted and the indigent, do you prove yourself unmindful of your Lord's command, and destitute of love to his religion. Be admonished then; seriously resolve to examine your own heart, and your own conduct. Consider how soon beauty must fade; how soon all the distinctions of life must cease; all its joys, amusements, and indulgences grow tasteless or tiresome. But the pleasures of beneficence will never lose their relish, the joy of communicating happiness will never grow wearisome. The satisfaction of relieving, improving, and gratifying fellow beings, will not cause subsequent remorse and shame, but though purchased by present sacrifices and self-denial, will yield future peace and joy.
The words of our Redeemer we believe,
TEMPERANCE IN EATING AND DRINKING.
Every man that striveth for the mastery, is temperate in all things; now they do it to obtain a corruptible crown, but we an incorruptible.
THE Competitors at the Corinthian games were resolutely temperate and regular in their diet, in order best to prepare themselves for the eventful conflict. Much more should christians submit to selfdenial and temperance, in order to attain, not a perishable oaken garland, but an immortal crown of heavenly glory. To be temperate in all things is a forgotten rule of great value. 1 shall confine my remarks to eating and drinking.
The first immediate end of eating and drinking is the preservation of life. Yet we must remember that it is life which we are to provide for, and not luxury. Eating too much or drinking to any excess, impairs life. Another end in eating and drinking is, to refresh and strengthen the spirits, when wasted by thought or business.Our easily-wearied bodies are provided with meats and drinks as remedies to revive and renew the drooping energies. Yet we must remember, that any excess defeats this salutary object and wastes rather than increases our vigour. Where there is a perpetual craving of our artificial appetite, this is passion's prayer for its own destruction. How important then is it, that in eating and drinking we should take what will support nature, and not what nature must support.-Another end in eating and drinking is, to fit us for the duties of our station. We have much to do, and all in an uncertain space, -we should therefore make the hours devoted to eating and drinking merely seasons of short retreats from business, and not the business of life itself. How disgusting to see any person preparing, recommending, and feasting upon the richest viands as though there was something meritorious in his folly. The intemperance, to which such tastes lead, is just as meritorious. The waste of time is great enough, without being aggravated by brutal stupidity and thoughtless ingratitude.
The evils of intemperance are numerous and fatal. Drunkenness betrays most constitutions either to extravagant anger, or sins of lewdness. It disqualifies men for the duties of their stations, both by the temporary disorder of their faculties, and at length by a constant incapacity and stupefaction. It is attended with expenses, which can often be ill spared.-It is sure to occasion uneasiness in the family of the drunkard. It shortens life, and presents a pestilential example.-Is the drunkard guilty? Yes-the guilt of any action in a drunken man, bears the same proportion to the guilt of the like action in a sober man, that the probability of its being the consequence of drunkenness bears to absolute certainty.
How completely this vice reverses all the purposes of God in his bounties to man. What was a means of sustenance and help, is transformed to a means of stupefaction and weakness.-How this vice prostrates reputation and destroys all confidence. Some sins. hurt the mind only, but this destroys both soul and body. Intemperate drinking leads a man to forget God, himself and his neighbour. By those very stimulants which man was to use as a rational being, he degrades himself below the temperate brutes. The scriptures declare of such persons, "they shall not see the kingdom of God."
Offer unto God thanksgiving.
AGREEABLY to established usage, a day is set apart in New England, at the end of the harvest, for rendering thanks to God for his smiles on the labours of man, for seeking his blessing on our useful institutions, and for imploring his continued protection and favour. All repair to the house of God, and if ever the sacrifice of thanksgiving ascends, from warm, devout, and overflowing hearts, it is on this day. There seems one spontaneous burst of gratitude; and the effect is most salutary. We all need extraordinary mementos, and heart stirring appeals. The subjects fitted for this day are those common bounties, which we are apt to overlook because they We should thank God for the gift of water, of bread, of vegetables, fruits and medicines-for light, air, cold and heat-for the power of motion, for sleep and labour-for knowledge, liberty, truth, christian institutions and gospel privileges.
are so common.
Thanksgiving day belongs equally to all, as a delightful jubileea time hallowed, by their earliest recollections, connected with their juvenile sports and consecrated by each social sympathy.-By a beautifu! arrangement of society, a general invitation is given for all families, however scattered, to repair to the paternal fire-side, and keep this day in temperate feasting and religious gladness; to call to mind particular blessings which God has vouchsafed to family connexions, and as a social circle, to lift a common voice in praise to the great Giver.
To this day, the school boy looks with enthusiasm, as he recounts in imagination the paradisiacal hours of vacation.-Parents, too, rejoice in this day of happy wishes, as they once more gather about their table the children of their affections.-To the fatigued labourer, too, this is a welcome festival; for when it comes round, the usual call of duty is hushed, there is a sudden and profound pause to all the clamour of worldly business; tired hands throw down their tools, and a joyous festivity promises a vacation to all trouble, despondency and want. On this day the rich give to the poor, and thus the revived feeling of joy is made to cheer the depressed spirits even of weary and broken hearted poverty.
Who, then, is not happy on this day, which brings together the dispersed members of each affectionate family, stirring up their spirits in one generous glow of enthusiasm; which brings the neverto-be-forgotten sweets of home to a new and improved relish; which opens all the fountains of domestic joy, and sends the tide of gladness even to the withered heart; which invites labour to break off its toil, assuring man that his employer requires nothing at his hand; which asks the rich to multiply around them the motives of rejoicing, and allows the deserted to be of good cheer, and makes the forgotten to be remembered. Who will not rejoice in this day, which sees the exhausting labours and anxieties of the season ended; which finds the products of industry safely laid up or profitably sold, and which seems almost to defy the rigours of the approaching winter.
Think, then, of the blessings which embrace you the civil institutions by which you are protected, the social relations in which you are blessed, the powers with which you are distinguished, and the hopes with which you are endowed--think on these things, and be grateful.