COVETOUSNESS PRODUCED BY NATURAL AFFECTION. BY EDWARD IRVING Luke xiv. 26.

If any man conu to me, and hate not his father , and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple, npHE avenue to covetousness which Satan finds through our best and strongest natural affections — ^that is, the temptation to which men are liable of being betrayed, out of duty to their wives and children, into worldly schemes and desires, and a coveting of worldly riches — ^is a subject so delicately entwined with the best affections of the natural man, and so sanctioned by the most approved and venerable maxims of wisdom, that I hardly know in what way to approach it with the liberty of a Christian minister, or to treat it according to its actual demerit when measured by the standard of the word of God ; and therefore I set out by solemnly declaring that the Lord regardeth every man, in the first place, as the guardian under providence of his own life, and while he prays in simplicity, "Give me this day my daily bread," the Lord requireth of him industriously to occupy his talents, and strength, and time, and means to procure that daily sustenance which he besought, the Christian rule being short and strict, " If a man will not work, neither should he eat;" in the second place, as the guardian and supporter of his wife, not from any refinement of sentiment concerning the weaker sex, but from the fearful sanction of the primeval curse, which made this partition of the sorrowful burden — to man that he should labour the earth with the sweat of his brow, to woman that she should cleave unto her husband, and

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COVETOUSNESS FROM AFFECTION. 445 reverently own his authority, and bear the sorrows of conception and child-birth with all their consequent cares. Wherefore we regard it as the calling of man to labour the earth and its productions, and bring forth from them nourishment for his wife not less than for himself; so to exercise his superior strength and his superior understanding, and so also to attemper, by bountiful and liberal gifts, the sovereignty which God hath endued him with withal, as it is written in the 104th Psalm — " Man goeth forth unto his work and to his labour until the evening." And, in the third place, with respect to the children, the immortal souls whom God may give them. He doth regard them as responsible in so solemn a way that it is written, " If any man provide not for his own, especially they of his own household, he hath denied the faith, and is worse than an infidel." And lest words and commandments and statutes, however much repeated, might prove insufficient to express the whole of this vast obligation of the parent to the child, the Lord hath, in the sacrament of baptism, signified that a child is His own special charge, property, and possession, with the care of which He invests a father and mother, holding them sponsors for the supply not only of material but of spiritual aliment, the father being to all intents and purposes as much bound to nurse the mind and will of the child as the mother is to nurse his body. Yea, and without separating the charge of father and mother, both are bound in all spiritual penalties to train up their little ones in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. Wherefore the Lord hath in the fifth commandment enjoined upon children by all penalties that they should not only acknowledge but honour this authority of their parents, whereof Christ gave us the example. And furthermore, we assert that these offices of a man to his wife and' to his children, this well-ordered constitution of the family, hath nowhere been seen in this world in that loveliness and beauty in which the gospel hath produced it, — man being everywhere, except in Christendom, a tyrant, woman a slave, and children at the best regarded

only with an animal affection, and often made an object of traffic, and often exposed to premature death. Nay more, in Christendom itself the purity and love and mutual attach-

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446 MISCELLANEOUS DISCOURSES. ment of families will be found to be in proportion to the diffusion of the light of the gospel. Now, dearly-beloved brethren, it will be found to be a constant rule that, according as any doctrine of the gospel is more prominent than another in the scheme of salvation, and according as any principle is more prominent in the system of Christian duty, Satan doth pervert the one and the other with the more cunning artifice. They are the strongholds of truth of which he seeks to possess himself. They are the disguises which he assumes when he would appear as an angel of light. For example, in doctrine there are no two points against which he rageth so violently as these two, the doctrines of election according to grace, and of justification by faith, — the two pillars of the Church. And I do not believe there is any duty which he converts to his own worldly ends so much as this, the strongest, of providing for ourselves, for our wives, and for our children. I take you to witness this day, who now hear me, if it be not so, that the cares and concerns of this world have either completely involved your souls, or are daily striving to do so by this very consideration of providing for yourselves and those of your own household. It is so natural, it is so honourable, it is so Christian, that Satan propounds it continually in our ear as he did Scripture to our Lord in His several temptations ; and under this covert he introduces covetousness. It is first for daily bread, and to provide things honest in the sight of all men ; but after a while, it becomes in order to keep our rank and appearance in the world ; and after a

while, it is in order to provide for their comfortable settlement in the world ; and finally, that they may be independent of the cruelties of the world when we are gone. And so under this covert he will make way for luxury and vanity, and emulation and ambition, and every other passion of the natural man, always covering it with the venerable disguise of an honest and honourable regard to our families, and readily quoting texts of Scripture in his favour. Now, brethren, in handling this subject two methods offered themselves to my mind — the former, by exposing the progress of the artifice, and endeavouring to untwist the web of subtlety, which is so various as hardly to be brought under any regular

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COVETOUSNESS FROM AFFECTION. 447 system ; the other, to search for some principle in the gospel, which being ever present to the mind of believers, with whom my discourse is held, might defend them against every various form of this temptation. And I preferred the latter, both because of its greater simplicity, and because I perceive it to have been our Lord's own method, who in His threefold temptation did always offer as His shield a great principle of the word of God : — First, " Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God ;" secondly, " Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve ;" thirdly, " Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God." Being, then, about to treat of that form of covetousness with which Satan stealeth upon the unwary hearts of fathers and mothers under the disguise of affection and duty, saying, '* Thou hast children to provide for, therefore thou shouldest be careful. Thou mayest be suddenly taken from them, and

thou shouldest have something laid up for them in store. Thou shouldest desire also to see them prosperous and thriving in the world ; and rising above rather than falling beneath your station," — ^we have sought for a passage of Scripture which should express the principle which exposeth all these sophisms, and have fixed upon the remarkable text now read in your hearing. The Lord was followed by great multitudes, even as the preaching of His gospel is now, and " He turned and said unto them," as I now say unto you, " If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple." By which words we are not to understand that He imposed it as a duty upon His disciples, or as a condition of discipleship, that we should actually hate our father and mother, and brother and sister, any more than that we should hate our own life ; for He came not to destroy the law and the prophets. And to the young man who came inquiring after eternal life. He laid it down as one of the commandments, to " honour his father and mother ;" and when the young man answered and said, "All these things have I kept from my youth," Jesus said unto him, " One thing thou lackest : go thy way, sell whatsoever thou

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448 MISCELLANEOUS DISCOURSES. hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven : and come, take up the cross, and follow me." Now this gives us to understand the proper meaning of our Lord in the text to be, that there is a love of father and mother, and brother and sister, which may be present in the heart and something still be lacking, before we can come to Him, and therefore that these are not signs of discipleship, but, upon the other hand, may be the very means used ty Satan to prevent us from following the Lord. On which account

those affections must be hated, — ^that is, that form of them which disinclineth us from following Jest^s, If they resist our allegiance unto the Lord, they must be resisted. If they contend against Him, we must contend against them. If they hate Christ, we must hate them and love Choist ; and, in one word, our soul must not know any affection to be compared with its affection unto Christy who created us, who hath provided for us, whose gift to us our parents and our family are, who hath ransomed us by His blood, and quickened us by His Spirit, and made us children of our heavenly Father, and prepared for us mansions in the everlasting house of His glory. But having thus preferred Christ before our chiefest joy, and sacrificed every natural affection which causeth enmity against Him, and said, ** Behold, Thy servant hath forsaken all for Thy sake ; be it therefore unto him according to Thy will. Thou art my Lord, and beside Thee I will have none else. For Thee I have forgotten my kindred and my father's house, that I may be at liberty to serve Thy God and my God, Thy Father and my Father, and to be Thy witness and Thy confessor upon the earth," — the Lord to such an acquiescent soul doth vouchsafe such sweet tokens of love and rich effusions of His gracious Spirit, that instead of nature's stunted and selfish affections, instead of nature's envious and party attachments and love of the few, for indifference and perhaps hatred to the many, there springs that affection of a holy and heavenly kind such as God beareth unto His children and Christ beareth unto His brethren ; such wrestlings of love and bowels of compassion unto all, as the Son, and the Spirit which proceedeth from the Father, manifest to us

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CO VETOUSNESS FROM AFFECTION. 449

the lost and sinful children of men. And let nature say, and let the world say, whether in all their poetry, or sentiment, or romance, they have conceived any such love as is manifested in the gospel of the grace of God. If Jacob's eleven children be a specimen of natural love, then Joseph's love is the specimen of spiritual or divine love ; for the former, in the best minds, is all crossed with envy and selfishness, and is in truth but a higher, purer form of selfishness; whereas the latter is love, truly so called, casting out envy and selfishness, and willing to bestow affection wherever it will be received, and to whatever extent it will be received, so that a true disciple of Jesus is like Jesus himself, blessing and not cursing, continually going about doing good, and seeking whom he may save ; not enriched by withholding, not impoverished by imparting of those streams of holy affection which are fed from that fountain of living waters within him which springeth up unto everlasting life. We, therefore, who are disciples, we who have professed to follow Jesus, ought ever to remember that the same principle of self-renunciation and renunciation of all our natural loves and friendships which was the beginning and condition of our being received by Him, must continue to be the condition of our being retained with Him ; and therefore we must so love our parents and our children, and all that depend upon us, as not to interfere with our love to Christ, but, upon the other hand, to flow from it as from the fountain, and to acknowledge it as its source and origin. This is the true meaning of forsaking all for Him — that we hold all in subordination to Him, and acknowledge Him as the Lord of all. This is the true meaning of being His disciples — that we consent to be taught by Him what is good and what is evil, what is to be loved and what is to be hated. This also is " to walk after the Spirit" — that we be spiritually-minded, and obey the affections of the Spirit, and be not carnally-minded, or obedient to the affections of nature. He that is born of God hath no more to do with nature, but to contend against it ; for *' the carnal mind is enmity against God : for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be." It is not a natural, but a spiritual life that we live in Christ Jesus. How

VOL. IV. 2 F

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450 MISCELLANEOUS DISCOURSES. far it is natural it is unrenewed, and requircth to be redeemed. So far as it is spiritual it is renewed, and hath been redeemed. I know that there be two laws in every renewed man : the law which is after the flesh, and the law which is after the spirit ; and that these two are contrary the one to the other. But I likewise know that the end of the former is death, and that the end of the latter is life and peace. Therefore if any man stand up for nature as a light to walk by, or a law to be ruled by, he hath either not known Christ or he hath rejected Him, and can in neither case be called His disciple. And this indeed is the great apostasy of our literature, and also of much of our affection, that they set up Nature as a good, venerable, and holy mother, instead of looking upon her as fallen and wicked, and captive under the power of darkness. Which, brethren, take not amiss, as if I scorned natural affection, (over the captivity of which I do lament — over its griefs, and sorrows, and delusions, and short-lived existence, and instability, and ungodliness, and death,) while I shew how it may and ought to be redeemed from all those hateful conditions, and brought under the government and patronage and benediction of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost. Now, brethren, these are the principles of the doctrine of Christ, — ^the first principles, — ^being, in other words, nothing more or less than the doctrine of our fallen nature, and the necessity of being born again in order to please God, and inherit the kingdom of heaven. These things to attempt to prove, would be to treat you not as disciples. And indeed what proof could I give but the words of Holy Scripture ? Such as — " As many as received him, to them gave he power

to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name," (John i. 12;) "So they that are in the flesh cannot please God," (Rom. viii. 8 ;) '* No man cometh unto the Father, but by me," (John xiv. 6 ;) and, perhaps, strongest of all, our very text ; for it hath this peculiarity above all other passages of Scripture I know of, that it taketh Nature in her finest moods and pronounceth her hateful. It entereth into the holy of holies of Nature's temple, and saith, *' The worship of God is not in all this place." There can be no question now concerning the words " flesh " and " nature," which the apostle,

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CO VETOUSNESS FROM AFFECTION. 45 1 in his more philosophic style, employs; but it is father, mother, brother, sister, wife, and children, which are pronounced to bear against Christ. And these not unnatural or unkindly kindred, but the kindred of any man, that is, of every man, or, in other words, the universal affection, as it is found, in all lands and in all ages, constituted by nature. Nay, and to deliver the proposition from all cavil, or possibility of cavil, it is added, '* and hate his own life also;" which word embraceth nature's whole empire, for what is life but the presence and possession of all things seen, heard, smelt, tasted, and felt — the presence and possession of all objects, beloved, hoped, and desired ? Yet this orb of natural being, this whole continent of human nature, by whatever lovely objects tenanted, with whatever costly jewels filled, by whatever beautiful scenes varied, — ^this vicissitude of being, and possibility of being, from the cradle to the grave, called lifsy — all that flesh is heir to of good and of ill, we are called upon in the text to hate — that is, to know its hatefulness in the sight of God, to believe its possession of Satan, to crucify ourselves to it, and to have it crucified unto us. All this is the preliminary step, the first condition towards our becoming

children of the Spirit, disciples of Christ, heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ. If the affections of the natural man were thus doubted and distrusted, were thus disallowed and hated, as opposite to the spiritual man, everything in the economy of the house, and in our industry out-of-doors, for the sake of our family, would proceed after a godly sort, and would tend to nourish those spiritual affections and spiritual principles according to which everything went on, and the door would be shut against the artifices of Satan to steal upon parents with his worldly and covetous maxims, disguised under the fair appearance of duty and affection. The souls of those intrusted to our care, with their spiritual wants, would so far transcend their bodies with their natural wants ; the bread of life and the water of salvation would be in so much more request than the meat which perisheth ; and the world to come, with all its obligations and preparations, so much more thought upon than the enjoyments and advantages of the present evil world, that in

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452 MISCELLANEOUS DISCOURSES, such a family there would be little danger of a worldly, vain, and ungodly spirit creeping in with the progress of its increase in honour or wealth. And the industry of husband and of wife, thus moved, would be what it ought to be, a pleasant duty, undertaken by Christ's commandment for the sake of ourselves and others intrusted to us — ^a patient endurance of the curse and bondage under which we now lie, " to eat our bread with the sweat of our brow." Nay, it would be a cheerful diligence to give the creatures a foretaste of this redemption which also abideth them. And to spirits thus regulated and attuned to the harmonies of divine love, there would be a great liberty of ranging up and down, and sport-

ing in innocent joy with all the creatures, every sense taking its proper entertainment from the ministry of its proper handmaidens in the creation of God, and giving them kind benedictions in return. Every affection, of equal friendship and of kindred blood, of honourable deference to the superior officebearers of the family and of the state, and of courteous and kindly condescension to the inferior office-bearers of the family and of the state, — yea, moreover, and every instinct, now purified and refined from the animal to the spiritual superintendency, — ^yea, and every passion, now brought under holy government, would have their rightful scope and pleasant liberty under the generous and bountiful administration of the Holy Spirit, whose fruits are peace, joy, long-suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, virtue, knowledge, temperance, &c. For the law of God is perfect liberty — it is the royal law of liberty — it is the glorious liberty of the sons of God — sweeter than honey is to the mouth, or the light of the morning unto the eyes, or liberty to the captive, or the opening of the prison doors to them that are bound. But, dearly beloved brethren, if you will not suffer the love of God to rule in your hearts, and to bring into obedience and subjection every other affection, you may rest assured that Satan will take you at unawares, and gain access to you upon that side which is open. And wherefore open } Because it hath not been given up to the defence and protection of Almighty God, who alone can prevail against the seducer. For example, if husband loveth wife, or wife loveth husband,

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COVETOUSNESS FROM AFFECTION. 453 as God only should be loved, even though all other affections be submitted, by that alone will Satan find access to ruin you, as heretofore he did Adam when Eve had fallen. If you

place yourself instead of Providence to your children, — ^that is, * if you look upon those as yours, and not God's, whom God hath promised to sustain by means of your industry, and to bless you in blessing them, then it will come to pass assuredly that all your endeavours for your families' support will lead you away from God, and fight hard against the Holy Spirit, and in the end pervert your souls wholly. It is a great truth of ethics or morals, that men are generally ruined on the side of their virtues ; which, being rendered into spiritual language, is, that Satan steals in upon us where we think we are best protected against him. Now, what is that side in a Christian but there where he hath seen least of his own heart's sinfulness, where he hath suspected the world least — yielded to nature a greater credit,and permitted to her a larger license.^ And surely, if there be one thing more than another in which we are so overcome, it is in this affection of which I treat To guard you against which I have set forth the regulating principle of the Lord. Love your children in the Lord. Let your children be so many calls upon you to love the Lord more. If you love them, you will desire their salvation ; and how are they to be saved but by the Lord .^ Come to Him, then, for the sake of your children. Go not to the world for their sake. The world cannot but deceive and ruin them, as it would deceive and ruin you. You are not the providence of your children, nor is your arm the almighty power which createth food for their craving wants. God worketh by your means, it is true ; but remember that God is the Worker, and you only the instrument, and go not to yield unto the instrument the honour which is due unto Him that worketh therewith. I say not. Relax in your industry. God forbid ! But I say. Labour in the Lord and with the Lord. The bread is not blessed which is not expected and received from the Lord. It is unblessed, I had almost said it is accursed. And I might well say so when I look upon the cursed appetites and tastes and dispositions to which such worldly bread doth minister ; for there is upon, it the curse of God. Or I should rather say, the

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454 MISCELLANEOUS DISCOURSES, curse which is presently upon all visible creation hath not been taken out of it by the redeeming virtue of divine grace. Every creature of God is good, being received with thanksgiving and sanctified by prayer. And no creature is otherwise good. Know then, Christians, the great charge which God taketh of your children, whereof baptism is the holy assurance. Hath He not claimed them as His by the veryname of Father ? and hath He not combined with that holy pledge the Son and the Holy Ghost, whom He hath sent forth to beget in the children a new life and a meetness for an everlasting kingdom i And will He grudge the bread and water which He bestoweth upon all, yea, upon the lion's cubs which roar out of their den, and upon the raven's brood which cry to Him from their nest } O brethren, there is in that sacrament of baptism such a consolation to every Christian parent as the world knoweth not of. I would you would often regard it with the eye of faith. The promises are to you and to your children. And that this is not to be interpreted of the Jews only, was well shewn in God's first act of grace to the Gentiles, when Cornelius and his whole household were made partakers of the gift, — ^to that wicked gaoler of Philippi, who having been just rescued from the fearful crime of suicide, cried out, "What must I do to be saved?" and was answered, " Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house;" and he and all his house were straightway baptized. What fear you for your children, then } Trust the providence of God for them also. Was Christ, who is now King of providence, unmindful of or harsh to little children } or did He not honour them and bless them when He rebuked apostolical men i Therefore I say unto you, and entreat you to believe for your children as for yourself, to pray for them as for yourself, to hope for them as for yourself, and to be diligent for them as for yourself, — that is, diligent in the Lord.

And observe what will follow. If thus giving your labour to God, and calling upon His name continually for daily bread. He should see it good to send you more than you besought, — ^yea, to bless your basket and your store exceedingly, — it is His gift, and it hath come with a blessing ; it

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COVETOUSNESS FROM AFFECTION, 455 hath been sanctified with prayer and thanksgiving, and therefore it may be called good. And you may well conceive that the Lord hath a mind to favour you and your children in the sight of His enemies, as He did Abraham, and Joseph, and Esther, and Ruth, and almost all His servants after they had been well proved for a while. And so He may for a while prove you with scanty poverty ; but it is the trial of your faith, repine not He may prove you by keeping you bare, as He did Job ; but if you have been walking with God, it is the trial of your faith, repine not It may please Him to enlarge you twofold, and you may have portions to divide unto your sons and your daughters, as the patriarchs had ; and, as I have said, if they have come to you in the exercise of trust in God's providence, and a desire to fulfil His will, you may transmit them to your children without any of that fearful apprehension which must ever go with wealth that has been accumulated in the service of Satan, — that is, without any devout acknowledgment of God, — not without much instruction of the righteous way in which they came, and much diligent instruction as to the righteous way in which they should be occupied, and not without the striking example of both to your own peace. And then I think you may expect they will be blessed. O brethren, for one saint who is tried with adversity beyond what he can bear, there are hundreds and thousands

spoiled by the plentifulness of the Lord's bounty. Not that the Lord would ruin any of His saints, but that He is very bountiful. He giveth liberally, and upbraideth not And we are not enough aware of the lurking enemy, that cannot be thoroughly cleared out of any visible gift till Christ shall come and cast him out, and bind him in the bottomless pit Therefore rather fear the full than the scanty hand of the Lord. But fear neither ; rather love both, saying, '* The Lord is wisest, and knoweth what is best for me and mine. His will be done on earth as it is done in heaven." But go not to forget Him because He is bountiful. Because He hath increased your store and filled your home with children, and with other wealth, go not to forsake Him and cleave unto the world, and unto the sense, and unto the great and vain ones

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456 MISCELLANEOUS DISCOURSES, of the earth. Ah, that is ingratitude indeed ! A worldling who has been paying his court to the harlot world may well dally in the Delilah's lap ; but you who have sought for God, and been by God enriched, to forsake His people^ and abide with the Philistines, and dally in the Delilah's lap, is fearful apostasy, and will cost you first the shearing of the locks of your strength, the darkening of your eyes to heavenly light, shameful labour in the mill of bondage, and basest mockery of the God whom you worshipped; and they will end by making of you a toy to sport in honour of their gods of silver and gold. But time permitteth me not to take all the advantage which I might take of the great principle which I laid down ; and I have but to exhort you once more, as you value your children, not to be tempted away from God to the world. For what fatherless and orphan children were they then,

when you had become worldly ! What fathers, what mothers, of Christian, of baptized children were you then ! Say you reaped the harvest of a thousand fields, and counted your gold by thousands, what were that to the starving and starved souls of your children ? Can you purchase prayers t can you buy grace and mercy, bribe justice, and by great moneys take enfeoffment for them or for yourself of an estate in the kingdom and world to come ? O brethren, these are conceits and follies which I would not insult you with, had they not been sanctified by false priests and erroneous doctrine. But ye hold none of those things. And why, then, if ye hold them not, act as if ye held them, and labour for the bread that perisheth to yourselves and to your immortal children, as if it could feed and clothe and convert their souls ! Now, be ye not any longer so, dear brethren, but remember that God is to be loved above all objects of love, and Christ to be followed despite of all lets and hindrances, however tender and strong ; and that if God be loved and Christ be followed after, they will assuredly look unto your children, whom they regard as a part of yourselves, and will bless your store, and not suffer you to be in straits or under affliction but for your chastisement and greater good, for the advancement of the Church of Christ, and of

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COVETOUSNESS FROM AFFECTION. 457 God's eternal glory. My dearly beloved brethren in the Lord ! take what hath now been said into your most serious consideration, and meditate on it in the spirit of wisdom and understanding, and the Lord may be pleased, nay, assuredly is pleased at the time, to deliver you if you have gone astray into worldliness, and bring you back to the way of His commandments, which is perfect peace and liberty, faith and

security, contentment and blessedness, to you and to your children. Therefore, shall we not all conclude, in the words of Joshua the son qf Nun, the chief in the host of Israel, "But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord ? "
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