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It has been beautifully said, that “the anchorite, who, to render himself more acceptable to God, retires from the society and service of man, who sleeps upon the earth, who wraps his feeble limbs in the coarsest garments, who lives on roots and water, and sees his meagre frame waste every day without a wish to restore its vigour by a diet of richer nourishment, is one whose superstitious weakness we may lament, while we respect the very error from which it flows. But what should we think of him, if, while he slept upon the earth, and covered himself with sackcloth, and scarcely tasted even his scanty food, he were desirous of amassing the means of acquiring the softest couches, the most splendid robes, the richest fare, the most magnificent palaces ?” Inconsistent as we might deem such conduct in such a man, there is a greater inconsistency still. There are thousands, who, with wealth and all the means of luxurious enjoyment in their possession, deny themselves
every comfort of life; and the only property which they seem to have in their wealth is to keep others from possessing it. They have no heart to use it, because, in using it, they are haunted with the idea of coming poverty and destitution. Others there are, who spend what has been entrusted to them by a kind and gracious Providence with such prodigality and extravagance as to betray the very extreme of imprudence and of folly. Both cases are bad. It is wrong so to hoard up
wealth as to be afraid to make a right and proper use of it; and surely it is anything but wise and considerate to squander away in profligacy and extravagance that which God has given you as a means of comfort to yourselves and of good to others. You are not at liberty either to waste or to hoard. The miser is not more to be despised than the spendthrift is to be condemned.
Money is a defence. It arms its possessor against a thousand ills to which flesh is heir, and gives him the power to command a thousand comforts of which the poor know nothing but the name. Poverty reduces to straits, and difficulties, and struggles, of which the rich are comparatively ignorant; while in her long, dark train may be seen disease, and suffering, and almost every earthly woe. Not that wealth is essential to happiness. The peasant, in his mud-walled cottage, eating his scanty meal, may be a better man and a happier, than he whose mansion lies embosomed in beauty, whose only labour is to contrive to fill up the hours of the day, who has only to say to his servant-"Do this”-and he doeth it, whose table groans beneath the luxuries of life, and whose resources place within his reach all the recreations and enjoyments of this present earthly state. Still, in numberless ways and in numberless things has he the advantage of the poor man.
He stands like one clothed in mail; while the other is exposed to every arrow that flieth by day, and to every terror that reigneth by night.
In proportion to the power and the advantages which wealth insures or commands, is the responsibility connected with its possession. Why is one man rich and another man poor? Is not the difference to be resolved into the arrangements and the distributions of Infinite Wisdom? While the hand of the diligent maketh rich, whence come the health and energy which qualify the man for such close and persevering application to the claims of business, and without which he might in vain wait for the tide of prosperity ? In tracing effects to their cause, we can never rest till we ascend to God himself as the Fountain of life and the Source of every blessing. It is from Him, as the Father of lights, that there comes down every good and every perfect gift; and, since you have nothing which you have not received, you are only the stewards of the manifold bounty of God, and it is required of a steward that he be found faithful. On your fidelity there may hang consequences of unutterable moment.
În this day of benevolent and widely-ramified activity, you can be at no loss to find an appropriate channel in which to let your bounty flow forth, or to select an object worthy of your confidence and support. Never were the claims of humanity and of Christian enterprise more numerous or more pressing than in this our age. Nor can you turn away from these claims without increasing your responsibility and your guilt. Let your profession of religion be what it may, and let your attachment to its outward observances be ever so strong, this will avail you nothing if there be not the filling up of all practical duty. You are linked to your race by an indissoluble bond, and, as partakers of our common humanity, you are called to sympathize with them in all their wants and woes, and, so far as your means will admit of it, to succour and relieve them. So
says the voice of Inspiration ;-" If a brother or sister be naked, and destitute of daily food, and one of you say unto them, Depart in peace, be ye warmed and filled ; notwithstanding ye give them not those things which are needful to the body; what doth it profit ?"* The sufferer is in no better condition ; and your professed sympathy, being confined to words, and not reaching unto deeds, has melted away into thin air, but not without leaving a heavier burden of sin upon your heart. Your conduct is a practical denial of Christianity. The religion of Christ is a religion of love. Did not God so love the world as to give his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him might not perish, but have everlasting life? Did not his Son love man even unto death, and pour ont his soul an offering for sin ? Does not the Holy Spirit
* James ij. 15, 16.
, in renewing and transforming the man, shed abroad the love of God in the heart ? Is it not true that he who dwells in love dwells in God, and God in him ? Is not this principle the very essence of all true piety ? “ He that loveth not, knoweth not God; for God is love." And in whomsoever this love exists it will have its outward expression. So reasons the beloved disciple,—“Whoso hath this world's good, and seeth his brother have need, and shutteth up his bowels of compassion from him, how dwelleth the love of God in him ?”* To prove that religion is with you a reality, you must love, not in word, neither in tongue, but in deed and in truth.
Nor must your solicitude be confined to the mere outward conditions of humanity. There are millions on millions walking on the same green earth with yourselves, and under the same bright sky, who are living and dying without God and without hope; and if it be a duty to provide for their temporal relief and comfort, the obligation is surely not less binding to provide for their spiritual life and their everlasting interests. If the life be more than meat, and the body more than raiment, is not the soul and her final destiny greater and grander than anything else? “ What shall it profit a man, if he should gain the whole world, and lose his own soul ? Or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul ?” If in itself it be so precious, then what shall we say of its redemption ? It could be redeemed with nothing less than the blood of Christ. Its salvation implies the highest reach of almighty power and grace; and hence no labour and no sacrifice would be too great in the effort to insure its final and eternal happiness. But who is to care for this soul? You may answer—"the church.” Granted. But is not the church made up of individuals ? And is not that which is binding on the church as a collective body equally binding on every individual member? We ask not to what communion you belong; it is enough that you profess to be a member of the one holy catholic church of Christ ; for as such you are solemnly pledged to the work of subjugating this world to Him, of sending the gospel to the heathen, of evangelizing the nations, and thus of bringing all things on * 1 John iii. 17; compare chapter iv. 8, 16.
earth into glorious harmony with all things in heaven. The world is the field of the church's sacred enterprise; and until all at home and all abroad are introduced into the light and liberty and joy of the Saviour's spiritual kingdom, her work will not be done, nor her mission fulfilled. This is saying, in other words, that no power can release you from the duty of caring for the souls of others, or of doing to the utmost of your means for their present and everlasting happiness.
What proportion of your property you are to devote to these sublime and sacred objects must be settled between God and your own conscience. What does God require ? And does conscience ever dictate more or less than He claims ? Liberality does not consist in the largeness of the gift, but in its relative value to what is possessed. The poor widow, who threw her two mites into the treasury of the temple, was more generous by far than many of those who laid down the most costly offerings. They only gave of their abundance, but she gave her all. Neither humanity nor Christianity makes any such demand as this. It would be neither wise nor prudent to expend all that you have on the most benevolent or the most sacred enterprise. There are the claims of family, of kindred, of coming old age, and others of a like character; but having made even liberal provision for these, may there not be left a margin sufficiently wide to enable you to aid the church of God in her humane, philanthropic, and Christian efforts ? Remember, God looks not so much at what you give, as at what you retain. Your gifts may bear no true proportion to your treasures.
The whole of them may not amount to more than a fraction out of the total. And is this honestly to employ the talent which God has committed to you? Is this to act the part of a faithful servant? You are accountable for what you keep, as well as for what you give.
Of this law of proportion we may speak to you more at length on some future occasion. But now, to set forth your duty in its clearest light, and, if possible, to induce you to make a wise and liberal distribution of your property, let me ask you seriously to ponder the following simple truths :
That God claims an absolute property in all that you are, and in all that you have. Ye are not your own, and whatever you possess has been bestowed upon you in the exercise of infinite goodness. Just as certainly as you live, and move, and have your being in God, so in Him are all your springs of comfort and enjoyment; and He it is who gives you all things richly to enjoy. That wealth is a positive good only so far as it is devoted
THE ENGLISH MONTHLY TRACT SOCIETY. 27, RED LION SQUARE, LONDON.
to proper and worthy ends. If it be used merely to pamper the flesh, or to fulfil the cravings of self-indulgence, or to nourish the pride of a family, or to enrich those who might well provide for themselves, or to insure no higher objects than those of time and earth, then it comes short of the end for which it was given, and yields not the happiness which it promised.
That a man's own happiness is very much affected by the extent to which he employs his property in promoting the good of others. Who loves a parsimonious and penurious spirit in the midst of abundance ? Does not the word NIGGARD express at once the character of him to whom it is applied, and our detestation of that mean, sordid, selfish character ? Nor is it often that fortune favours such an one. Do not these words of the wise man contain a deep truth,—“ There is that scattereth, and yet increaseth; and there is that withholdeth more than is meet, but it tendeth to poverty”? Might not examples without number be brought forward to prove that those who keep back what is due to the cause of humanity and of God, yet grow poor in spite of their parsimony? And how effectually do they rob themselves of all higher enjoyments! They have nothing on which their thoughts may fall back with satisfaction and delight. Their life is barren of good. Though in possession of the means, they do little, if anything, to benefit the world or their race. They overlook the simple fact that he only who sows bountifully can reap bountifully. The more abundant the seed which he scatters broadcast over the field of humanity, the richer and the larger must be the harvest; and in the harvest will he find his reward and his joy. But, unwilling to part with the seeds of wealth, sowing them with a sparing and less than half-filled hand, he reaps sparingly. The fruit is scanty and poor, and proclaims yet more emphatically the poverty and the littleness of the man's own soul. Generous deeds—acts corresponding to your
facilities and your means—are indispensable to all higher joy. How can you be happy if conscience is ever accusing you of disobedience to her judgment and decision ? It is in keeping the divine commands that there is great reward. Nothing must be kept back which you feel it your duty to give.
That wealth never has given happiness :--for “a man's life consisteth not in the abundance of the things that he hath.” Happiness is the inward satisfaction of the soul. Now, it is not possible to fill up the longings of your
immortal nature with anything inferior to itself; and if you except the everblessed God, what is there that is superior to the human soul ? Is it not the greatest of all created things ? And do you