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However prosperous he may be, he will always be disbursing and contriving to dispose of his accumulations. The large outlays, demanded by the support and education of a family, will naturally seek other channels when these ends are accomplished, and children are doing business for themselves. But where a father determines to make not only his own fortune, but the fortunes of his children also, there is nothing to withstand the sway of avarice. Were he planning only for his own wants, his present experience might furnish him with some definite limits to his accumulations. But where he is toiling to provide for others, he has no such standard. His ambition for his children's future display naturally grows with his accumulations. If he has the means of supporting them all in his own style of living, he covets for them something a little better. Marriage is among the contingencies that may introduce them into different, perhaps higher circles, where social standing can only be maintained by greater display, and increased expense. Avarice finds a congenial soil in a heart filled with such aspirations and plans for another generation. It steals upon its victim, under circumstances so plausible, as to prevent all alarm. It has the sanction of social usage-for where is the man that does not leave his estate to his children? It comes, too, under the guise of our strongest instincts, and confidently claims piety for its counsellor. He flatters himself, that it is but parental affection "providing for its own." Thus the deluded father hoards his accumulating treasures, blind to everything, but the pecuniary fortunes of his children. The practice we are considering, not unfrequently mars the peace and happiness of the old age of affluence. In their eagerness for wealth, parents are prone to overlook other and more important provisions for their declining years; for large estates and ample means of enjoyment do not satisfy the cravings of the soul. Wealth will disappoint its votaries, just as they rely upon it. Passions inflamed by the long indulgence of a life of ease, are not the most comfortable companions to soothe the weariness and peevishness of age. But if wealth has not corrupted their own hearts, it may have practiced its deceptions upon the minds of their offspring. The prospects of fortune, for which they have educated their children, have not necessarily imbued their hearts with filial tenderness and respect. The selfishness that has been so carefully nursed in youth, is not likely, at maturity, to prove a ministering angel to the decrepitude and helplessness of age. Gratitude for estates in anticipation is not among the most common virtues of mankind. But if the rich escape personal perils, and so far make investments in the characters of their children, that they prove kind and affectionate, still they have no safeguard against unworthy alliances in life. Society has always been infested with fortune hunters, and always will be, so long as pecuniary fortunes are to be won by marriage; and of all the curses that track the pathway of the rich, these unquestionably are among the greatest. The true fortune-hunter has the keen scent of the blood-hound, and gold is the life blood he pants for. He has the subtilty of the serpent as well as his venom. is well versed in the study of human nature, and can assume any character he pleases, to worm his way into the sympathies and homes of the rich. Without character himself, he can put on that of another man as easily as his garment. He can flatter delicately or grossly, according to the taste of his victim. He can suit his every whim and humor with the utmost exactness, until his purpose is accomplished. And the heart most
interested in his addresses has no alchemy by which she can detect his hypocrisy, no standard by which she can measure the baseness and villany for which she has given her affections. Little does the fond father know for what accomplished scoundrel he is laying up his treasures. The destiny of the possessions of the rich is one of the most instructive pages of history. Would it were often read and pondered by those most interested in its lessons. How often is the princely marriage portion of a daughter squandered in the lifetime of her father, by a dissipated and spendthrift husband! How often does the grave kindly hide him from alliances more bitter than death! The rich cannot shape the destiny of the treasures they leave to their loved ones. They are more likely to prove a curse than a blessing to their heirs, and to spread for their own old age a couch of thorns.
V. Society suffers from this evil, as in consequence of it, it is deprived, in a great measure, of the active services of the children of the rich. These have as good capacities as others, and generally much better opportunities for their improvement. They might fill stations of usefulness as well as others; and with the capital they have for business and benevolent enterprize, they might accomplish far more good. But what has the heir of fortune to do with business? He loathes it. His fortune is made. And what cares he for usefulness? The world was made for his use, and he acknowledges no reciprocity of service. If the anticipated estate work its legitimate result upon his mind, his services are lost to society, and he comes nearer "creation's blank," than any thing in the universe beside.
And not only are they lost to society, but they usually corrupt a large class of their associates. Youth who have no expectations of wealth by inheritance, easily imbibe the hearty contempt of labor, the pride, the swaggering air, and the vices of the sons of the rich. Their fortunes are not indeed made, but they expect to make them by other devices than industry. Some turn flatterers and parasites. Others set up as specimens of genius, and maintain a precarious existence by their wits. Whilst others still turn fortune-hunters, and with successful hypocrisy, revel in the wealth designed for another's support. Thus is a large amount of talent and usefulness destroyed by this evil.
VI. This evil prevents united effort among the rich for the industrial welfare of the community in which they live. The man who makes family aggrandizement the object of his highest ambition, has no thought to bestow on matters of public interest. He does not wish to be encumbered with any of those enterprises which helps his neighbor as well as himself. Possibly he might miss the main chance, and his sympathies be drawn. from the ruling purpose of life. It is a matter of indifference to him, whether his capital be invested at the poles or the tropics, if it only yield him the largest profits. But the man who suspects the wisdom of making the fortune of the generation that comes after him, will at least have the time and the opportunity to do something for the fortunes of his own gencration. He will make sure of the happiness, which comes from the encouragement of home industry. As he is to be the executor of his own estate, he will see to it that his capital makes the community in which he lives more wise and happy, more thriving and prosperous.
1. Perhaps it may be asked, shall we then disinherit our children? By no means. But be it our aim to leave them an inheritance better than silver and gold. There are treasures of heart and intellect which the moth cannot corrupt nor the thief steal. Be it ours to give them a character more priceless than jewels-a character that shall command any object worthy of human effort. If we desire for them riches, it were a more intelligent way of realizing our wishes to give them characters which will enable them to make their own fortunes than to bequeath them large estates. Does not the history of such bequests prove their folly? Has not disaster accompanied them from Solomon's day, down? Does not every community furnish its examples of men, who have made shipwreck of fortune and character mainly because of their inheritance? What miracle shall God work to save our children from like ruin, if we repeat their folly? Why should they not be left to the pressure of those necessities which are common to the race, and have the privilege, which we have enjoyed, of making their own estates? Are not their capacities as good as ours, and is not the same kind Providence over them, which has smiled upon us? Why attempt then to forestal Providence, and do a work for our children which God designs they should do for themselves? 2. The subject is an interpreter of God's providence sometimes shown to good men. It seems a strange thing with our worldly views of property, that good men should be stripped of their earthly possessions, just at the time when they seemed to be most needed for the education of their children. Is not this ordered, because the struggles of poverty are what their children most need, to give them habits of self-reliance, and to make them most useful in the world? God is more merciful to their children than they would have had courage to be. He has taken away earthly pleasures, that they might have an inheritance in character, infinitely more valuable to themselves and to the world.
3. The subject lays bare the great difficulty in the way of prosecuting the benevolent enterprizes of the church. The Christians of this age are not so much making money for Jesus Christ, as for their children. And instead of using their property as a talent for the good of their own generation, they are handing it over to be improved or abused by that which is to succeed them. Does not God hold every man responsible for the use of his own talents? Men seem greatly to fear that God's providence will die with themselves, and no one care for their children. Their highest anxiety for them after their own departure appears to be, "what shall they eat, what shall they drink, and wherewithal shall they be clothed ?" Were it not better to leave these questions touching children, for children to solve; not doubting that he who has supplied our wants by the ministration of our own hands will, in like manner, supply theirs.
Very able treatises have been written showing the need of systematic contribution in our charities, and hinting that this is the great want of the churches. We apprehend that the difficulty lies deeper, and that so long as Christians are making money for posterity, they will have comparatively little to give to Christ, whether they give by system or impulse. The great prize tract of the age should be one that shall thoroughly make manifest the folly of this usage, and cause the accumulations of Christians to flow in other channels. The corner-stone in the temple of avarice,
being thus torn from its base, the superstructure will inevitably fall, and the thousands and the millions that are now hoarded for the future ruin of the children of the church, will then go to bless a dying world—and the children will go with them. In consecrating property to God, our children will receive a new consecration, and the church, and the world will be blessed.
Fellow-disciple, have you made this consecration ? For what ends are you accumulating property? Is it for family aggradizement, or for the glory of Christ's kingdom? Take heed how you make the former your object in life, lest to you shall apply, with peculiar force, the language of Christ, "He that findeth his life, shall lose it, and he that loseth his life for my sake, shall find it."
Self-denial is not, as many seem practically to regard it, an obsolete virtue; important in its day, but the day for it is gone by. It is the great error of the times, to abate from the wholesome strictness of the gospel. The tendency is to an easy style of religion; to smooth and widen the road to heaven-to consign over all the conflicts and endurances of piety, to men of a former period-of a rude and bloody day. This tendency cannot be too decisively checked, so seductive and fatal its working; so utterly false the grounds of it. Within, are hearts of treachery and sin; without, a world where God is not acknowledged, full of hostile agents and ensnaring temptations, prowled all over by the great enemy, the arch-deceiver, the devourer of souls by millions-almost by whole generations: in such a region, with such hearts, let the Christian expect the conflict, and be ready when it comes, and never shun the cross, but admit the necessity, and enter heaven by the true door-the authentic way.
The disciple will find it necessary to resort often to very prompt action, in the use of the potent phrase-Get behind me, Satan. That quaint and racy old divine, Thomas Fuller, tells us, that "finding a bad thought in his heart, he disputed in himself the cause thereof, whether it proceeded from the devil or his own corruption-examining it by those signs, divines in this case recommended-such as, whether the thought was at full age, at the first instant-or infant-like grew greater by degrees. But he soon concluded that this inquiry had more of curiosity than religion; resolving that afterward he would not derive the pedigree, but make the mitimus of such malefactors." We defraud ourselves by not acting in these great matters decisively, as well as rigorously. We put in jeopardy the soul, by ever putting off the vigilance and the discipline, and the crucifying of the flesh to which our Lord is summoning us. We save the soul, by denying ourselves, and taking up our cross, and following the Divine Master. -Rev. George Shepard, D. D.
"He taught them as one having authority, and not as the Scribes."-MATT. vii. 29.
FATHERS AND BRETHREN :-To men like ourselves, engaged in the awful work of religious instruction-publishing and enforcing the lessons of Christianity-it cannot be uninteresting to consider the character of the Great Master by whom they were first expounded. He was himself a teacher, and the guide and model of all Christian teachers.
In a presence so venerable for learning, wisdom, and piety, it is with unaffected diffidence that I approach a subject of so much difficulty and importance. I do not, however, aspire to teach this reverend body. My humble ambition will be content to utter a few obvious thoughts; but though of easy discovery, it is not the less necessary that we give to them frequent and earnest consideration.
As we are the ministers of one who was himself a public instructor, we are bound to consider, what he taught and how he taught. "For they (says Jeremy Taylor) who be doctors and teachers of others, must, in their accesses and degrees of discipline, learn of him, who is over us in the mysteries of religion."
* Preached before the Synod of New-York, Oct. 18th, 1852, in the Scotch Presbyterian Church (Dr. McElroy's).