This sin, although it destroys the peace of society, is possitively [sic] forbidden by the word of God, and has been attended with the most signal examples of God's heaviest judgments; yet we fear it is a prevailing sin with many who profess the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, and by its blinding, hardening, deceptive nature, hides its deformity from its possessor. Let us therefore dear brethren, by application, endeavor to examine our motives and actions, while we notice some [blur] of its nature and effects.
And first - Covetousness consists in an ardent desire for more, being dissatisfied with the portion we have, and becomes sinful when the desire is for that [blur] which another is not willing to part, or for which we are not willing to give full value, or for which we have not sufficient means to give full value; and this may extend not only to a man's silver and gold, but to any thing that is his, even to his office privileges or his pleasures. Every attempt therefore to obtain property or to increase wealth by beating down the price, below its common value, or by words or actions to overreach the judgment, deceive the confidence or disappoint the expectations, is to be guilty of this wicked sin - and further to take the advantage of making over our property or to use any other unlawful means to prevent the just payment of debts when we have sufficient property to pay them, must be considered of the same sin. But further, this sin often puts on the appearance and does evidently produce the spirit of envy, rendering its possessor miserable at the prosperity of others, and is manifest in a sly cunning artifice to retard the increase of their wealth, to supplant them in office and to rob them of their pleasures, and at last to rejoice in their downfall.
Moreover the same sin being assisted by pride, desiring to equal the rich and opulent, causes some to launch out into the tempestuous sea of speculation, and that too on false capitals of borrowed money or promissory notes which very often involves securities, disappoints creditors and is the fruitful source of lawsuit, litigations, strifes, hatred, evil speaking, backbitings, whisperings, and sometimes slander, which rends the peace of society, alienates the affection of Christians, opens the mouths of gainsayers and strengthens the bands of infidelity. And further, as this sin takes its seat in the heart, from the abundance of which the mouth speaketh, we often hear it manifest in ardent wishes, with questions, plots and plans, for and about the things of this world in and at the place of public worship, and at times the most unseasonable for such condition: and is probably what Saint Paul means [in] Hebrews 13 & 5 - "Let your conversation be without covetousness." But again, covetousness consists in an excessive love for what we have and manifests itself in a narrow contracted spirit, forsakes the public good tor private interest, finds a thousand excuses for not contributing to public works and public servants, stops its ears, shuts its eyes, its hands, yea even its bowels of compassion to the wants of the poor, the needy and the afflicted - prevents many ministers from a full discharge of their high office (or to perform it for the sake of filthy lucre,) and members of the church from complying with their covenants one to another in filling their places on stated meetings and from a scrupulous attention
to keeping the Sabbath. Yea, from this avaricious spirit our children are sometimes deprived of religious instruction, and servants not only of religious instruction, but of a sufficiency of food and raiment, of rest and refreshment; for says Solomon "he that is greedy of gain troubleth his own house." And again, this wretched principle often creates a restless. discontented, fretful, peevish temper; the person under its influence is never satisfied except every thing he lays his hand to is prosperous. Such characters by a restless temper being brought on by cross providences are frequently thrown into hypocondriacks and hystericks, and some into a wretched state of despair; while others by intemperate labours bring themselves to an untimely end. If all these things be true of covetousness may it not be well said that the love of money is the root of all evil, while some coveted after they have erred from the faith and pierced themselves through with many sorrows? In the foregoing remarks we see some of the demoralizing effects of this sin on society, but let us now see the aggravating nature of this sin in the sight of a holy and sin avenging GOD.
The apostle Paul explains it to be lust, saying "I had not known lust except the law had said thou shalt not covet." And the same apostle says that covetousness is idolatry, which sins, all through the scriptures are spoken of as sins of the biggest magnitude - and has not only been threatened, but God has executed the most awful judgment against those who have been guilty of them without repentance. To be guilty therefore of covetousness, is to be guilty of the crime for which Achan was stoned and he and all his burnt; to be in company with Balam who loved the wages of unrighteousness, and with Esaw [sic] who for one morsel of meat sold his birthright; to be guilty of the crime for which the children of Israel were severely, punished in the wilderness, and which Saint Paul says was written that we should not lust after evil things as they also lusted; it is to be like the rich fool named in the gospel, who having set his heart on his goods said to his soul take thine ease, eat, drink, &c. for thou hast much goods laid up for many years, to whom God says thou fool this night shall thy soul be required of thee, and so is he who layeth up treasure for himself and is not rich toward God; or to be like him who was clothed in purple and fine linen and fared sumptuously every day, but who dying and being buried lifted up his eyes in hell being in torment; for this sin our prayers are not heard, for says St. James "ye ask and receive not because ye ask amiss that ye may consume it on your lusts." and such being friends of the world are enemies to God - like Judas they part with the Lord Jesus and all his blessings for a few pieces of silver. O brethren, let us take heed and be ware of covetousness, for a man's life doth not consist in the abundance of the things which be possesseth, for we brought nothing into this world and it is certain we can take nothing out. Let us therefore be content with such things as we have. But if any are under the habitual influence of this sin, notwithstanding you may retain a seat in the church of Christ, yet we would address you in the language of Peter to Simon Magus - Repent of this thy wickedness and pray God that the thoughts of thy heart may be forgiven thee, for know ye that no unclean person or covetous man who is an idolater hath any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ or of God. But though you may not, think it an habitual sin with you, yet take heed and be ware; it may lie concealed from you, having blinded your eyes. You must believe that it reigns much in our land in the present day - you can see, very likely, that the former description of this sin implicates many of your own church, examine narrowly therefore your own hearts and lives lest it implicates you. Watch against it as a deadly poison, and remember that one of the best cures for this sin is to see it in its true colours and to hate it with perfect hatred.
Question - what is the reason that the discipline of the church is seldom if ever executed in expelling covetous members? Is it because this sin does not exist amongst us, or is it because we have become too much blinded to it? Beloved brethren and sisters, we would exhort you from the exceeding sinfulness of this sin, from its corrupting effects on society, from its hateful nature in the sight of God, from its certain punishment by the wrath of an incensed judge in the world to come (if not repented for,) and from the immense value of your immortal soul which could not be profited (if lost) though you were gainer of all the world; to labour not for the meet [sic] that perisheth but for that meet [sic] which shall endure unto eternal life - try to look on all time things in the light of eternity - consider how little [is] this world compared with him who made it, how short its time, how few its joys, how many its sorrows and finally, how soon we must leave it never more to return. - Amen.
[From the Minutes of The Long Run Association (KY), 1823, pp. 3-4; via SBTS Archives digital documents. The paragraphs breaks and indentions have been added for easier reading. Scanned and formatted by Jim Duvall.]
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