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ART. V.-1. Mammon; or, Covetousness the Sin of the Christian Church. By REV. JOHN HARRIS, Author of the "Great Teacher." Boston: 1836. 12mo. pp. 230. 2. An Essay on the Sin and the Evils of Covetousness; and the Happy Effects which would flow from a Spirit of Christian Beneficence. Illustrated by a Variety of Facts, selected from Sacred and Civil History, and other Documents. By THOMAS DICK, LL. D., Author of the "Christian Philosopher," "Philosophy of Religion," "Philosophy of a Future State," "Improvement of Society by the Diffusion of Knowledge," "The Mental Illumination and Moral Improvement of Mankind," &c. &c. New York: 1836. 12mo. pp. 318.
3. The Philosophy of Benevolence. CHURCH, A. M., Rochester, N. Y. 12mo. pp. 355.
By PARACELSUS New York: 1836.
THE three works, the titles of which are above given, though of a different order of merit, belong to one class, and if they may be considered as indicating the direction which thoughtful minds are taking, their appearance augurs well for the cause of benevolence and human improvement. We rejoice that the manifestation of the selfish principle, especially in the form of a passion for wealth and display, is beginning to attract notice, and excite alarm. We rejoice that attention is awake to the subject, and we hope that the inquiries and thoughts of philanthropists and Christians will be brought more and more to bear on it. It is one on which there has hitherto been too much apathy. The tendencies of modern society have need to undergo a searching analysis, and require to be pointed out with a skilful hand; and he who effects this, who shall so hold up the mirror to the age that it shall see its true form and likeness, will render good service to his fellow beings. We are not weak and visionary enough to anticipate, from any efforts of this sort, a great and speedy revolution in men's estimate of worldly pursuits, and particularly in their disposition to do homage to wealth, for we know what deep passions are at work, and what strong holds of selfishness are to be sapped or shaken before the principles of the gospel shall triumph in the lives of Christians. Yet we despair not of the issue, for we have some faith in man, and more in God. We see some
things to encourage us in the history of the past; the progress of society, though not without occasional pauses and relapses, has, we would fain believe, been onward; new light has been gradually breaking forth from God's word, and the cause of humanity has been gaining ground. And the end is not yet.
Of the Treatise on "Mammon, or, Covetousness the Sin of the Christian Church," by the Rev. John Harris, the book first named at the head of the present article, we can speak in terms of the highest commendation. To say that the perusal of it has afforded us peculiar gratification, would but feebly convey our impressions of its merit. It is written with great earnestness and force, and occasionally with a bear approach to eloquence. It traces selfishness, particularly the love of gain, through its various modes and windings, lays open its subterfuges and disguises, points out its inconsistency with the principles of the gospel, and presses the argument home on the conscience with a power which one would think it not easy to resist.
The history of the publication is briefly this. Early in the year 1835, J. T. Conquest, M. D., of London, offered the liberal prize of one hundred guineas with the profits of publication, to be adjudged to the author of the best Essay on the "Love of Money," or " Avaricious Hoarding," and "Unchristian-like Expenditure." "The work wanted," says the original advertisement, "is one that will bear on selfishness, as it leads us to live to ourselves, and not for God, and our fellowmen. Out of one hundred and forty pieces, which were sent in, that of Mr. Harris was selected as the one entitled to the prize. It treats of selfishness as the "antagonist of the gospel;" of "covetousness, the principal form of selfishness;" its "nature, forms, and prevalence, especially in Britain,- disguises, tests, evils, doom, and pleas; " and concludes with some observations illustrating and enforcing "Christian liberality."
There is so much that is good in the book, which we should be glad to transfer to our pages, that we hardly know how to make a selection. We give the following paragraphs, taken almost at random. They relate to the craving, avaricious spirit of the times.
"In the eyes of the world, a man may acquire, and through a long life maintain, a character for liberality and spirit, while his heart all the time goeth after his covetousness. His hand, like a channel, may be ever open; and because his income is perpet
ually flowing through it, the unreflecting world, taken with appearances, hold him up as a pattern of generosity; but the entire current is absorbed by his own selfishness. That others are indirectly benefited by his profusion, does not enter into his calculations; he thinks only of his own gratification. It is true his mode of living may employ others; but he is the idol of the temple, they are only priests in his service; and the prodigality they are empowered to indulge in, is only intended to decorate and do honor to his altar. To maintain an extensive establishment, to carry it high before the world, to settle his children respectably in life, to maintain a system of costly self-indulgence,
these are the objects which swallow up all his gains, and keep him in a constant fever of ill-concealed anxiety; filling his heart with envy and covetousness at the sight of others' prosperity; rendering him loath to part with a fraction of his property to benevolent purposes; making him feel as if every farthing of his money so employed were a diversion of that farthing from the great ends of life; and causing him even to begrudge the hallowed hours of the Sabbath as so much time lost (if, indeed, he allows it to be lost) to the cause of gain." ―pp. 49, 50.
But, though a man may not merit to be denominated avaricious, he may yet be parsimonious. He may not be a Dead Sea, ever receiving, and never imparting; but yet he may be as unlike the Nile when, overflowing its banks, it leaves a rich deposit on the neighboring lands. His domestic economy is a system of penuriousness, hateful to servants, visiters, and friends; from which every thing generous has fled; and in which even every thing necessary comes with the air of being begrudged, of existing only by sufferance. In his dealing with others, he seems to act under the impression that mankind have conspired to defraud him, and the consequence is, that his conduct often amounts to a constructive fraud on mankind. He is delighted at the idea of saving; and exults at the acquisition of a little pelf with a joy strikingly disproportionate to its worth. He looks on every thing given to charity, as so much lost, thrown away, and for which there will never be any return. If a benevolent appeal surprise him into an act of unusual liberality, he takes ample revenge by keen self-reproaches, and a determination to steel himself against all such assaults in future. Or else, in his relenting moments, and happier moods, he plumes himself, and looks as complacently on himself for having bestowed a benevolent mite, as if he had performed an act of piety for which nothing less than heaven would be an adequate reward. His soul not only never expands to the warmth of benevolence, but contracts at the bare proposal,
the most distant prospect, of sacrifice. His presence in any society met for a charitable purpose would be felt like the vicinity of an iceberg, freezing the atmosphere, and repressing the warm and flowing current of benevolence. The eloquent think it a triumph to have pleaded the cause of mercy before him unabashed; and the benevolent are satisfied if they can only bring away their sacred fire undamped from his presence. He scowls at every benevolent project as romantic, as suited to the meridian of Utopia, to a very different state of things from what is known in this world. He hears of the time when the church will make, and will be necessitated to make, far greater sacrifices than at present, with conscious uneasiness, or resolved incredulity. His life is an economy of petty avarice, constructed on the principle of parting with as little as possible, and getting as much, -a constant warfare against benevolence.
"But a person may be free from the charge of parsimony, and yet open to the accusation of worldliness. His covetousness may not be so determined as to distinguish him from the multitude, but yet sufficiently marked to show that his treasure is not in heaven. He was born with the world in his heart, and nothing has yet expelled it. He may regularly receive the seed of the gospel, but the soil is pre-occupied; the cares of this world, and the deceitfulness of riches, choke the word, and render it unfruitful.' He will listen to an ordinary exposition of the vanity of wealth as a matter of course, and will appear to give it his entire assent; and yet, immediately after, he resumes his pursuit of that vanity with an avidity which seems increased by the temporary interruption. But let the exposition be more than usually vivid, let it aim at awakening his conviction of the dangers attending wealth, let it set forth the general preferableness of competence to affluence, and it will be found to be disturbing the settled order of his sentiments. A representation of the snares of wealth is regarded by him as the empty declamation of a man who has been made splenetic by disappointments, or who has been soured by losses; who has never known the sweets of wealth, or, having known, has lost them, and would gladly recover them again if he could. He never listens to such representations as that unsanctified riches are only the means of purchasing disappointment; that the possessor suffers rather than enjoys them; that his wants multiply faster than his means, without an inward smile of skepticism, a conscious feeling of incredulity; a feeling which, if put into words, would express itself thus, O, if I might be but made rich, I would make myself happy. Tell me not of dangers; cheerfully would I risk them all, only bless me with wealth.' And his life is arranged, and spent, in strict accordance with this confession. In his vocabulary, wealth means
happiness, the chief good. And in his reading of the holy Scriptures, the declaration of our Lord is reversed, as if he had said, - A man's life consisteth in the abundance of the things which he possesseth."- pp. 52-54.
"A spirit of extravagance and display naturally seeks for resources in daring pecuniary speculations. Industry is too slow and plodding for it. Accordingly, this is the age of reckless adventure. The spirit of the lottery is still upon us. 'Sink or swim' is the motto of numbers who are ready to stake their fortunes on a speculation; and evil indeed must be that project, and perilous in the extreme must be that scheme, which they would hesitate to adopt, if it held out the remotest prospect of gain."- p. 68.
Again; as to the relative amount of benevolence at the present day;
"The truth appears to be, that, much as the benevolence of the age has increased, the spirit of trade has increased still more; that it has far outstript the spirit of benevolence; so that, while the spirit of benevolence has increased absolutely, yet relatively, may be said to have declined, to have lost ground to the spirit of trade, and to be tainted and oppressed by its influence. How large a proportion of what is cast into the Christian treasury must be regarded merely as a kind of quit-rent paid to the cause of benevolence by the spirit of trade, that it might be left free to devote itself to the absorbing claims of the world. How small a proportion of it is subtracted from the vanities and indulgences of life; how very little of it results from a settled plan of benevolence, or from that self-denial, without which, on Christian principles, there is no benevolence. Never, perhaps, was self-denial a rarer virtue than in the present age."-p. 69.
"Could we ascertain the entire amount of national excitement and emotion experienced in the course of a year, and could we then distribute it into classes, assigning each respectively to its own exciting cause, who can for a moment doubt that the amount of excitement arising from the influence and operation of money, direct and indirect, would not only exceed that of either of the others, separately considered, but would go near to surpass them altogether? And when it is remembered that this cause is always in operation; that it has acquired a character of permanence; that our life is spent under the reign of wealth; how can it be otherwise than that we should become its subjects, if not even its slaves?" p. 72.