The Royal Path of Life/Avarice
A judicious writer has well remarked that avarice is the father of more children than Priam, and, like him, survives them all. It is a paradoxical propensity, a species of heterogeneous insanity. The miser starves himself, knowing that those who wish him dead will fatten on his hoarded gains. He submits to more torture to lose heaven than the martyr does to gain it. He serves the worst of tyrannical masters more faithfully than most Christians do the best, whose yoke is easy and burden light. He worships this world, but repudiates all its pleasures. He endures all the miseries of poverty through life, that he may die in the midst of wealth. He is the mere turnkey of his own riches—a poorly-fed and badly clothed slave; a draught-horse without bells or feathers; a man condemned to work in mines, which is the lowest and hardest condition of servitude; and, to increase his misery, a worker there for he knows not whom. "He heapeth up riches and knoweth not who shall enjoy them." It is only sure that he himself neither shall nor can enjoy them. He is an indigent, needy slave; he will hardly allow himself clothes and board wages. He defrauds not only other men, but his own genius; he cheats himself for money. He lives as if the world were made altogether for him, and not he for the world; to take in everything and to part with nothing. Charity is accounted no grace with him, and gratitude no virtue. The cries of the poor never enter his ears, or if they do, he has always one ear readier to let them out than to take them in. In a word, by his rapines and extortions he is always for making as many poor as he can, but for relieving none whom he either finds or makes so. So that it is a question whether his heart be harder than his fist is close. In a word, he is a pest and a monster; greedier than the sea and barrener than the shore. He is the cocoon of the human race—death ends his toils and others reel off the glossy product of his labors. He is the father of more miseries than the prodigal—whilst he lives he heaps them on himself and those around him. He is his own and the poor man's enemy.
The avarice of the miser may be termed the grand sepulchre of all his other passions, as they successively decay. But unlike other tombs, it is enlarged by repletion and strengthened by age. His mind is never expanded beyond the circumference of the almighty dollar. He thinks not of his immortal soul, his accountability to God, or of his final destiny. He covets the wealth of others, revels in extortion, stops at nothing to gratify his ruling passion that will not endanger his dear idol. He is an Ishmael in community—he passes to the grave without tasting the sweets of friendship, the delights of social intercourse, or the comforts of good repast, unless the latter is got by invitation when abroad. The first voluntary expenditure upon his body during his manhood, and the first welcome visit of his neighbors, both passive on his part, are at his funeral.
If we would enjoy the comforts of life rationally, we must avoid the miseries of avarice and the evils of prodigality. Let us use the provisions of our benevolent Benefactor without abusing them, and render to Him that gratitude which is His due. Banish all inordinate desires after wealth—if you gain an abundance, he discreetly liberal, judiciously benevolent, and, if your children have arrived at their majority, die your own executor.