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glittering particle of earthly dust, is his soul absorbed and bound up. I am not saying, now, that he is willing to lose his soul for that. This he may do. But I only say now, that he sets his soul upon that, and feels it to be an end so dear, that the irretrievable loss of it, the doom of poverty, is death to him; nay, to his sober and deliberate judgment -for I have known such instances-is worse than death itself! And yet he is an immortal being, I repeat, and he is sent into this world on an errand. What errand? What is the great mission on which the Master of life hath sent him here? To get riches? To amass gold coins, and bank notes? To scrape together a little of the dust of this earth, and then to lie down upon it and embrace it, in the indolence of enjoyment, or in the rapture of possession? Is such worldliness possible? Worldliness! Why, it is not worldliness. That should be the quality of being attached to a world-to all that it can give, and not to one thing only that it can give to fame, to power, to moral power, to influence, to the admiration of the world. Worldliness, methinks, should be something greater than men make it should stretch itself out to the breadth of the great globe, and not wind itself up like a worm in the web of selfish possession. If I must be worldly, let me have the worldliness of Alexander, and not of Croesus. And wealth too-I had thought it was a means and not an end-an instrument which a noble human being handles, and not a heap of shining dust in which he buries himself; something that a man could drop from his hand, and still be a man-be all that ever he was-and compass all the noble ends that pertain to a human being. What if you be poor? Are you not still a man-oh! heaven, and mayest be a spirit, and have an universe of spiritual possessions for your treasure. What if you be poor? You may still walk through the world in freedom and in joy; you may still tread the glorious path of virtue; you may still win the bright prize of immortality; you may still achieve purposes on earth that constitute all the glory of earth, and ends in heaven, that constitute all the glory of heaven. Nay, if such must be the effect of wealth, I would say, let me be poor. I would pray God that I might be poor. Rather, and more wisely ought I, perhaps, to say with Agur," Give me neither poverty nor riches; lest I be full and deny thee, and say, who is the Lord? or lest I be poor, and steal, and take the name of my God in vain.'
The many corrupting and soul-destroying vices engendered in the mind by this lamentable oversight of the spiritual aim in business, deserve a separate and solemn consideration.
I believe that you will not accuse me of any disposition to press unreasonable charges against men of business. I cannot possibly let the pulpit throw burthens of responsibility or warnings of danger on this sphere of life, as if others were not in their measure open to similar admonitions. I come not here to make war upon any particular class. I pray you not to regard this pulpit as holding any relation to you but that of a faithful and Christian friend, or as having any interest in the world connected with business, but your own true interest. Above all things do I deprecate that worldly and most pernicious habit of hearing and approving very good things in the pulpit, and going away and calmly doing very bad things in the world, as if the two had no real connexion-that habit of listening to the admonitions and rebukes of
the pulpit with a sort of demure respect, or with significant glances at your neighbours, and then of going away, commending the doctrine with your lips to violate it in your lives-as if you said, "well, the pulpit has acted its part, and now we will go and act ours." I act no part here. God forbid! I endeavour to be reasonable and just in what I say here. I take no liberty to be extravagant in this place, because I cannot be answered. I hold myself solemnly bound to say nothing recklessly and for effect. I occupy here no isolated position. I am continually thinking what my hearers will fairly have to say on their part, and striving fairly to meet it. I speak to you simply as one man may speak to another; as soul may speak to its brother soul; and I solemnly and affectionately say, what I would have you say to me in a change of place-I say that the pursuits of business are perilous to your virtue.
On this subject I cannot indeed speak with the language of experience. But I cannot forget that the voice of all moral instruction, in all ages and in all countries, is a voice of warning. I cannot forget that the voice of Holy Scripture falls in solemn accents upon the perils attending the pursuit of wealth. How solemn, how strong, how pertinent those accents are, I may not know, but I must not, for that reason, withhold them. "Wo unto you who are rich," saith the holy word, "for ye have not received your consolation. Wo unto you that are full, for ye shall hunger." Hunger? What hath wealth to do with hunger! And yet there is a hunger. What is it? What can it be but the hungering of the soul; and that is the point which, in this discourse, I press upon your attention. And again it says, " Your riches are corrupted, your gold and silver is cankered;" and is it not cankered in the very hearts of those whom wealth has made proud, vain, anxious, and jealous, or self-indulgent, sensual, diseased, and miserable? -" And the rust of them," so proceeds the holy text, "shall be a witness against you, and shall eat your flesh as it were fire." Ah! the rust of riches!-not that portion of them which is kept bright in good and holy uses" and the consuming fire" of the passions which wealth engenders! No rich man-I lay it down as an axiom of all experience
-no rich man is safe, who is not a benevolent man. No rich man is safe, but in the imitation of that benevolent God, who is the possessor and dispenser of all the riches of the universe. What else mean the miseries of a selfishly luxurious and fashionable life everywhere? What mean the sighs that come up from the purlieus, and couches, and most secret haunts of all splendid and self-indulgent opulence? Do not tell me that other men are sufferers too. Say not that the poor, and destitute, and forlorn, are miserable also. Ah! just Heaven! thou hast, in thy mysterious wisdom, appointed to them a lot hard, full hard, to bear. Poor houseless wretches! who "eat the bitter bread of penury, and drink the baleful cup of misery;" the winter's wind blows keenly through your "looped and windowed raggedness;" your children wander about unshod, unclothed, and untended. I wonder not that you sigh. But why should those who are surrounded with everything that heart can wish, or imagination conceive the very crumbs that fall from whose table of prosperity might feed hundreds-why should they sigh amidst their profusion and splendour? They have broken the bond that should connect power with usefulness, and opulence with mercy.
is the reason
They have taken up their treasures, and wandered away into a forbidden world of their own, far from the sympathies of suffering humanity: and the heavy night-dews are descending upon their splendid revels; and the all-gladdening light of heavenly beneficence is exchanged for the sickly glare of selfish enjoyment; and happiness, the blessed angel that hovers over generous deeds and heroic virtues, has fled away from that world of false gaiety and fashionable exclusion.
I have, perhaps, wandered a moment from the point before me-the peril of business-though as business is usually aiming at wealth, I may be considered rather as having only pressed that point to some of its ultimate bearings.
But the peril of business specifically considered; and I ask, if there is not good ground for the admonitions on this point, of every moral and holy teacher of every age? What means, if there is not, that eternal disingenuity of trade, that is ever putting on fair appearances and false pretences of "the buyer that says, it is naught, it is naught, but when he is gone his way, then boasteth "—of the seller, who is always exhibiting the best samples, not fair but false samples, of what he has to sell; of the seller, I say, who, to use the language of another, "if he is tying up a bundle of quills, will place several in the centre of not half the value of the rest, and thus sends forth a hundred liars, with a fair outside, to proclaim as many falsehoods to the world?" These practices, alas! have fallen into the regular course of the business of many. All men expect them; and therefore you may say, that nobody is deceived. But deception is intended: else why are these things done? What if nobody is deceived? The seller himself is corrupted. He may stand acquitted of dishonesty in the moral code of worldly traffic; no man may charge him with dishonesty; and yet to himself he is a dishonest man. Did I say that nobody is deceived! Nay, but somebody is deceived. This man, the seller, is grossly, wofully deceived. He thinks to make a little profit by his contrivance; and he is selling, by pennyworths, the very integrity of his soul. Yes, the pettiest shop where these things are done, may be, to the spiritual vision, a place of more than tragic interest. It is the stage on which the great action of life is performed. There stands a man who, in the sharp collisions of daily traffic, might have polished his mind to the bright and beautiful image of truth, who might have put on the noble brow of candour, and cherished the very soul of uprightness. I have known such a man. have looked into his humble shop. I have seen the mean and soiled articles with which he is dealing. And yet the process of things going on there was as beautiful, as if it had been done in heaven! But now, what is this man--the man who always turns up to you the better side of everything he sells the man of unceasing contrivances and expedients, his life long, to make things appear better than they are? Be he the greatest merchant or the poorest huckster, he is a mean, a knavish and were I not awed by the thoughts of his immortality, I should say a contemptible creature, whom nobody that knows him can love, whom nobody can trust, whom nobody can reverence. Not one thing in the dusty repository of things, great or small, which he deals with, is so vile as he. What is this thing then, which is done, or may be done in the house of traffic? I tell you, though you may have thought not so of it-I tell you that there, even there, a soul may be
lost! that that very structure, built for the gain of earth, may be the gate of hell! Say not that this fearful appellation should be applied to worse places than that. A man may as certainly corrupt all the integrity and virtue of his soul in a warehouse or a shop, as in a gambling-house or a brothel.
False to himself, then, may a man become, while he is walking through the perilous courses of traffic, false also to his neighbour. I cannot dwell much upon this topic; but I will put one question, not for reproach, but for your sober consideration, Must it not render a man extremely liable to be selfish, that he is engaged in pursuits whose immediate and palpable end is his own interest? I wish to draw your attention to this peculiarity of trade. I do not say, that the motives which originally induce a man to enter into this sphere of life, may not be as benevolent as those of any other man; but this is the point which I wish to have considered-that while the learned professions have knowledge for their immediate object, and the artist and the artisan have the perfection of their work as the thing that directly engages their attention, the merchant and trader have for their immediate object, profit. Does not this circumstance greatly expose a man to be selfish? Full well I know that many are not so; that many resist and overcome this influence; but I think, that it is to be resisted. And a wise man, who more deeply dreads the taint of inward selfishness than of outward dishonour, will take care to set up counter influences. And to this end he should beware how he clenches his hand and closes his heart against the calls of suffering, the dictates of public spirit, and the claims of beneficence. To listen to them is, perhaps, his very salvation!
But the vitiating process of business may not stop with selfishness; it is to be contemplated in still another and higher light. For how possible is it, that a man, while engaged in exchanging and diffusing the bounties of heaven, while all countries and climes are pouring their blessings at his feet, while he lawfully deals with not one instrument, in mind or matter, but it was formed and fitted to his use by a beneficent hand-how possible it is that he may forget and forsake the Being who has given him all things! How possible is it, that under very accumulation of his blessings may be buried all his gratitude and piety-that he may be too busy to pray, too full to be thankful, too much engrossed with the gifts to think of the Giver! The humblest giver expects some thanks; he would think it a lack of ordinary human feeling in any one, to snatch at his bounties, without casting a look on the bestower; he would gaze in astonishment at such heedless ingratitude and rapacity, and almost doubt whether the creatures he helped could be human. Are they any more human-do they any more deserve the name of men, when the object of such perverse and senseless ingratitude is the Infinite Benefactor? Would we know what aspect it bears before his eye? Once, and more than once, hath that Infinite Benefactor spoken. I listen, and tremble as I listen, to that lofty adjuration with which the sublime prophet hath set forth His contemplation of the ingratitude of his creatures. "Hear, O heavens, and give ear, O earth! for the Lord hath spoken; I have nourished and brought up children, and they have rebelled against me. The ox knoweth his owner, and the ass his master's crib; but Israel doth not
know; my people doth not consider." Sad and grievous error even in the eye of reason! Great default even to nature's religion! But art thou a Christian man-what law shall acquit thee, if that heavy charge lies at thy door-at the door of thy warehouse-at the door of thy dwelling? Beware, lest thou forget God in his mercies! the Giver in his gifts! lest the light be gone from thy prosperity, and prayer from thy heart, and the love of thy neighbour from the labours of thy calling, and the hope of heaven from the abundance of thine earthly estate!
But not with words of warning-ever painful to use, and not always profitable-would I now dismiss you from the house of God. I would not close this discourse, in which I may seem to have pressed heavily on the evils to which business exposes those who are engaged in it, without holding up distinctly to view, the great moral aim on which it is my main purpose to insist, and attempting to show its excellence.
There is such a nobleness of character in the right course, that it is to that point I would last direct your attention. The aspirings of youth, the ambition of manhood, could receive no loftier moral direction than may be found in the sphere of business. The school of trade, with all its dangers, may be made one of the noblest schools of virtue in the world; and it is of some importance to say it:-because those who regard it as a sphere only of selfish interests and sordid calculations, are certain to win no lofty moral prizes in that school. There can be nothing more fatal to elevation of character in any sphere, whether it be of business or society, than to speak habitually of that sphere as given over to low aims and pursuits. If business is constantly spoken of as contracting the mind and corrupting the heart; if the pursuit of property is universally satirized as selfish and grasping; too many who engage in it will think of nothing but of adopting the character and the course so pointed out. Many causes have contributed, without doubt, to establish that disparaging estimate of business-the spirit of feudal aristocracies, the pride of learning, the tone of literature, and the faults of business itself.
I say, therefore, that there is no being in the world for whom I feel a higher moral respect and admiration, than for the upright man of business; no, not for the philanthropist, the missionary, or the martyr. I feel that I could more easily be a martyr, than a man of that lofty moral uprightness. And let me say yet more distinctly, that it is not for the generous man that I feel this kind of respect that seems to me a lower quality, a mere impulse, compared with the lofty virtue I speak of. It is not for the man who distributes extensive charities, who bestows magnificent donations. That may be all very well-I speak not to disparage it-I wish there were more of it; and yet it may all consist with a want of the true, lofty, unbending uprightness. That is not the man, then, of whom I speak; but it is he who stands amidst all the swaying interests and perilous exigencies of trade, firm, calm, disinterested, and upright. It is the man, who can see another man's interests, just as clearly as his own. It is the man, whose mind his own advantage does not blind nor cloud for an instant; who could sit a judge upon a question between himself and his neighbour, just as safely as the purest magistrate upon the bench of justice. Ah! how much richer than ermine, how far nobler than the train of magisterial authority, how more awful than the guarded bench of majesty, is that