In 1859, a book titled Sketches and Lessons From Daily Life was published under the pen name ‘Felix Friendly.’ It is an interesting little work, devotional in nature, and thought provoking in execution. Here is an excerpt–extremely relevant for today. Notice the presence of John Bunyan, Benjamin Keach and John Angell James!
The Quiet Sin.
There is one sin which is classed with drunkenness and idolatry in God’s word, and which may, above all others, be termed “the quiet sin.” This is the sin of covetousness. (Job xxxi, 24—28; 1 Cor. vi, 6—10; Ephes. v, 5; Eccles. iii, 5, 6.) In what does this great sin consist?” Covetousness” says one, “is the desire of accumulation.” Another writer observes that “the covetousness of the New Testament is simply the love of having or acquiring, without wronging any one, and not the dishonest lust of the property of others, as forbidden in the tenth commandment.” There is reason to fear that covetousness is the sin of Christendom, over which, in its various manifestations, the infidel gloats, and which furnishes the blasphemer with cause for bitter remarks.
How gradually and quietly does this sin steal upon the soul; and therefore is there need of the many cautions in God’s word. What consummate wisdom and tender love our Saviour’s words display: “Take heed, and beware of covetousness.” “The chances are,” says a plain writer on the subject, “that covetousness does not come to you with its name plainly written on its forehead; but like a fox steals in when and where you least expect it; dresses itself up in the garb of prudence, foresight, industry; creeps in under the leaves of profession, and when it has got safely in, you will find to your cost what an enemy you have let come within your walls.” How quietly, but surely and terribly, did this sin work on Balaam, Gehazi, Judas, and Demas, and how many professors have since then fallen its prey. In many instances it has gone on undermining for years, yet disturbing nothing on the surface. The orthodox creed is still believed; the house of prayer is regularly frequented; official duties filled up; a good name among men enjoyed for men will praise those who do well to themselves); while God says of him in whom these things meet, “With his mouth he sheweth much love, but his heart goeth after covetousness.” Such professors have been the bane of the church, and the stumbling blocks of many. Is there not reason to fear that this quiet sin will thin the ranks of professors on the great day, and that there is some truth in what an earnest writer says: “I verily believe that if drunkenness has killed its thousands, covetousness has killed its tens of thousands.” Alas, on “that day,” for the man of hard bargains; for the grinder down of the poor in their wages; for those whose favorite principle is to buy at the cheapest market and sell at the dearest, let who will suffer; for the rich speculator whose enormous property is made up of what has ruined many! Well has the Rev. J. A. James observed, “Trade is the trial of the church in the present day, and fearful are the disclosures which it makes.” Yet all is done quietly. And was not the man whom Bunyan describes as “dragging the muck rake, and neglecting the crown of glory,” a very quiet man —a man who paid his debts honestly, whose credit was good, but whose one great business was “to lay up treasure on earth?”
What a stillness is there in the professing church with regard to this sin; and how do men acquire power and influence in the high places of “the religious world,” with no recommendation beside their wealth! “I wonder,” said Benjamin Keach two hundred years ago, “why church censures are never used for the sin of covetousness.” The cause for wonder still remains. Surely the reason is not the lack of cases, nor want of authority in God’s word. There is no sin which God warns man so much against as this, and no sin for which man puts in so many excuses. So it was of old. The covetous Pharisees derided Christ and his doctrine on this very point, and of them the Saviour said, “Ye Are They Who Justify Yourselves Before Men.” The covetous have, of all other persons, most excuses to make for their own conduct.
Let all, then, consider their danger from this quiet sin. To all our Lord speaks when he says, “Take heed, and beware.” None are exempt from danger, but some are particularly exposed. “The love of money is stronger, and the eager pursuit after it more absorbing, in those who are only rising to its possession, than in those who always have been wealthy, and who scarcely seek or contemplate any addition to their possessions.” Let us, then, exhort and warn one another, “lest any be hardened, through the deceitfulness of sin.” To “speak well of the covetous, whom God abhorreth,” is a great sin; and it is a great folly in parents and others to labour unceasingly to leave those whom they profess to love, rich in “the mammon of unrighteousness.” Latimer says, that “the worst thing a man could leave his greatest enemy would be abundance of this world’s goods.” Yet have many neglected their own souls, and the souls of others, in order to do this. “Take heed and beware!”
There are two counsels given by the apostle and his great Master, which are both found in connection with warnings against this quiet sin. The first is, to cultivate a contented spirit (1 Tim. vi, 6—8; Heb. xiii, 5, 6); and the other, to lay up treasure in heaven. (Matt, vi, 19— 24.) If we would cast covetousness out, we must get contentment in. If we would have our hearts weaned from earth, we must lay up treasure in heaven; for “where our treasure is, there will our hearts be also.” It cannot be otherwise; the heart will go after the treasure whatever or wherever it is. Here is a test by which we may try ourselves, and by which, if we are honest and in earnest, we may ascertain where our treasure is.
In order to have the heart fixed “on things above and not on things on the earth,” we must rise with Christ. (Col. iii, 1, 2.) Union of heart with him can alone bring about separation of heart from the world. If this is really our happy case, we shall be dead to the world and alive to God; but if, after professing this, we manifest, by an ardent pursuit of this world and love of earthly things, that our real paradise is the world’s market-place, our profession is only a delusion, and must end in a sad disappointment. “If any man be in Christ, he is a new creature; old things are passed away; behold, all things have become new.”
Let the solemn and much needed words of the apostle be carefully pondered: “Some men’s sins are open beforehand, going before to judgment; and some they follow after. Likewise also the good works of some are manifest beforehand; and they that are otherwise cannot be hid.” (1 Tim. v, 24, 25.) In that day of disclosure this quiet sin will be exposed in all its hideousness, and many will bitterly condemn what they now so softly justify. Then God’s testimony concerning covetousness will be fully believed, and it will be seen “that a man’s life consisted not in the abundance of the things which he possessed,” but that “in God’s favour is life,” which favour none can enjoy in eternity, whose whole course in time has been marked by covetousness. Then those who have laid up for themselves will be bankrupts; and those who have from right principles laid out for God “will inherit all things.” What we are doing now, will not be hidden then. Let all, then, shut themselves in with conscience and truth, and, in the anticipation of that day, deal honestly with their souls, and seek grace to deal honestly for God. If saved freely by his grace, let us seek to be his servants, and, constrained by redeeming love, “occupy until he come.”