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254 DANGER or RichEs. [SERMON XCII
endeavours are successful, without actually laying up treasures upon earth? I answer, it is possible. You may gain all you can, without hurting either your soul or body; you may save all you can, by carefully avoiding every needless expense; and yet never lay up treasures on earth, | nor either desire or endeavour so to do. - 6. Permit me to speak as freely of myself, as I would of another man. " - I gain all I can, (namely, by writing,) without hurting either my soul or body. I save all I can, not willingly wasting any thing, not a sheet of paper, not a cup of water. I do not lay out any thing, not a shilling, unless as a sacrifice to God. Yet by giving all I can, I am effectually secured from “laying up treasures upon earth.” Yea, and I am secured from either desiring or endeavouring it, as long as I give all I can. And that I do this, I call all that know me, both friends & and foes to testify. 7. But some may say, “Whether you endeavour it or no, you are • *a undeniably rich. You have more than the necessaries of life.” I have. But the apostle does not fix the charge, barely on possessing 's any quantity of goods, but on possessing more than we employ according to the will of the donor. Two and forty years ago, having a desire to furnish poor people with cheaper, shorter, and plainer books than any I had seen, I wrote many small tracts, generally a penny a-piece; and afterwards several larger. Some of these had such a sale as I never thought of; and by this means, I unawares became rich. But I never desired or endeavoured after it. And now that it is come upon me unawares, I lay up no treasures upon earth: I lay up nothing at all. My desire and endeavour, in this respect is, to “wind my bottom round the year.” I cannot help leaving my books behind me whenever God calls me hence. But in every other respect, my own hands will be my executors. 8. Herein, my brethren, let you that are rich, be even as I am. Do you that possess more than food and raiment, ask, “What shall we do? Shall, we throw into the sea what God hath given us?” God forbid that you should ! It is an excellent talent: it may be employed much to the glory of God. Your way lies plain before your face; if you have courage, walk in it. Having gained, in a right sense, all you can, and saved all you can : in spite of nature, and custom, and worldly prudence, give all you can. I do not say, Be a good Jew; giving a tenth of all you possess. I do not say, Be a good Pharisee; giving a fifth of all your substance. I dare not advise you, to give half of what you have ; no, nor three quarters; but all ! I lift up your hearts, and you will see clearly, in what sense this is to be done. If you desire to be “a faithful and a wise steward,” out of that portion of your Lord's goods, which he has for the present lodged in your hands, but with the right of resumption whenever it pleaseth him, 1. Provide things needful for yourself; food to eat, raiment to put on; whatever nature moderately requires, for preserving you both in health and strength: 2. Provide these for your wife, your children, your servants, or any others who o, to your household. If, when this is done, there is an overplus left, then do good to “them that are of the household of faith.” If there be an overplus still, “as you have opportunity, do good unto all men.” In so doing, you give all you can : nay, in a
sound sense, all you have. For all that is laid out in this manner, is really given to God. You render unto God the things that are God’s, not only by what you give to the poor, but also by that which you expend in providing things needful for yourself and your/househoid.*
o 9. Oh ye Methodists, hear the word of the Lord! I have a message
| from God to all men; but to you above all. For above forty years I - have been a servant to you and to your fathers. And I have not been o as a reed shaken with the wind: I have not varied in my testimony.
I have testified to you the very same thing, from the first day even until now. But “who hath believed our report 7” I fear not many rich, I fear there is need to apply to some of you those terrible words of the
apostle, “Go to now, ye rich man l, weep and howl for the miseries which shall come upon you. Your gold and silver is cankered, and the rust of them shall witness against you, and shall eat your flesh, as
it were fire.”
Certainly it will, unless ye both save all you can, and
heard the will of the Lord concerning it? Who is now determined to
stance: but have you more content
You know that in seeking
happiness from riches, you are only striving to drink out of empty
| has laid for you, that is ready to break your bones in pieces; to crush | your soul to death After fair warning, why should you sink any more . | into foolish and hurtful desires 2 Desires as inconsistent with reason, -as they are with religion itself. Desires that have done you more hurt. already, 12.
“hunger and thirst after righteousness!”
than all the treasures upon earth can countervail.
ave they not hurt you already, have they not wounded you in the tenderest part, by slackening, if not utterly destroying, your
Have you now the same
longing that you had once, for the whole image of God? Have you
the same vehement desire as you formerly had, of “going on unto
*Works, edit. Lond. vol. iv, p. 56.
perfection t”. Have they not hurt you by weakening your faith? Have you now faith’s “abiding impression, realizing things to come 1” Do you endure, in all temptations, from pleasure or pain, “seeing him that is invisible?” Have you every day, and every hour, an uninterrupted sense of his presence 1 Have they not hurt you with regard to your hope 2 Have you now a hope full of immortality? Are you still big with earnest expectation of all the great and precious promises? Do you now “taste the powers of the world to come!” Do you “sit in heavenly places with Christ Jesus?” 13. Have they not so hurt you, as to stab your religion to the heart? Have they not cooled (if not quenched) your love of God? This is easily determined. Have you the same dolight in God which you once had 1 Can you now say, “I nothing want beneath, above, Happy, happy, in thy love 1° * I fear not. And if your love of God is in any wise decayed, so is also your love of your neighbour. You are then hurt in the very life and, spirit of your religion ' If you lose love, you lose all. 14. Are not you hurt with regard to your humility? If you are increased in goods, it cannot well be otherwise. Many will think you a better, because you are a richer man; and how can you help thinking so yourself? Especially, considering the commendations which some will give you in simplicity, and many with a design to serve themselves of you. * If you are hurt in your humility, it will appear by this token: you are not so teachable as you were, not so advisable: you are not so easy to be convinced; not so easy to be persuaded: you have a much better opinion of your own judgment, and are more attached to your own will. Formerly one might guide you with a thread: now one cannot turn you with a cart rope. You were glad to be admonished or reproved: but that time is past. And you now account a man your enemy because he tells you the truth. Oh let each of you calmly consider this, and see if it be not your own picture! 15. Are you not equally hurt, with regard to your meekness 7 You had once learned an excellent lesson of him that was meek as well as lowly in heart. When you were reviled, you reviled not again. You did not return railing for railing, but contrariwise, blessing. Your . love was not provoked, but enabled you on all occasions to overcome evil with good. Is this your case now 7 I am afraid not. I fear, you cannot “bear all things.” Alas, it may rather be said, you can bear nothing: no injury, nor even affront How quickly are you ruffled! How readily does that occur, “What! to use me so! What insolence is this 1 How did he dare to do it? I am not now what I was once. Let him know, I am now able to defend myself.” You mean, to revenge yourself. And it is much, if you are not willing, as well as able; if you do not take your fellow servant by the throat. 16. And are you not hurt in your patience too? Does your love now “endure all things?” Do you still, “in patience possess your soul,” as when you first believed? Oh what a change is here ! You have again learned to be frequently out of humour. You are often fretful : you feel, nay, and give way to peevishness. You find abundance of things go so cross, that you cannot tell how to bear them.
Many years ago I was sitting with a gentleman in London, who feared God greatly; and generally gave away, year by year, nine tenths of his yearly income. A servant came in and threw some coals on the fire. A puff of smoke came out. The baronet threw himself back in his chair and cried out, “Oh Mr. Wesley, these are the crosses I meet with daily l’” Would he not have been less impatient, if he had had fifty, instead of five thousand pounds a year !
17. But to return. Are not you, who have been successful in your endeavours to increase in substance, insensibly sunk into softness of mind, if not of body too? You no longer rejoice to “endure hardship, as good soldiers of Jesus Christ l” You no longer “rush into the kingdom of heaven, and take it as by storm.” You do not cheerfully and gladly “deny yourselves, and take up your cross daily.” You cannot deny yourself the poor pleasure of a little sleep, or of a soft bed, in order to hear the word that is able to save your souls' Indeed, you “cannot go out so early in the morning: besides it is dark: nay, cold; perhaps rainy too. Cold, darkness, rain : all these together, I can never think of it.” You did not say so when you were a poor man. You then regarded none of these things. It is the change of circumstances which has occasioned this melancholy change in your body and mind: you are but the shadow of what you were ! What have riches done for you ?
“But it cannot be expected I should do as I have done. For I am now grown old.” Am not I grown old as well as you? Am not I in my seventy-eighth year ! Yet, by the grace of God, I do not slack my pace vet. Neither would you, if you were a poor man still.
18. You are so deeply hurt, that you have nigh lost your zeal for works of mercy, as well as of piety. You once pushed on, through cold or rain, or whatever cross lay in your way, to see the poor, the sick, the distressed. You went about doing good, and found out those who were not able to find you. You cheerfully crept down into their cellars, and climbed up into their garrets,
“To supply all their wants,
You found out every scene of human misery, and assisted, according to
19. In time past how mindful were you of that word, “Thou shalt not hate thy brother in thy heart; thou shalt in any wise reprove thy brother, and not suffer sin upon him l’”. You did reprove, directly or indirectly, all those that sinned in your sight. And happy consequences quickly followed. How good was a wgod spoken in season It was often as an arrow from the hand of a giant.” Many a heart was pierced. Many of the stout hearted, who scorned to hear a sermon,
Wol. II. 17
“ Fell down before his cross subdued,
But which of you now has that compassion for the ignorant, and for them that are out of the way? They may wander on for you, and plunge into the lake of fire, without let or hinderance. Gold hath steeled your hearts. You have something else to do. “Unhelped, unpitied let the wretches fall.” -
20. Thus have I given you, oh ye gainers, lovers, possessors of riches, one more (it may be the last) warning. Oh, that it may not be in vain May God write it upon all your hearts! Though “it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of heaven,” yet the things impossible with men, are possible with God. Lord, speak And even the rich men, that hear these words, shall enter thy kingdom; shall “take the kingdom of heaven by violence;” shall “sell all for the pearl of great price;” shall be “crucified to the world, and count all things dung, that they may win Christ !”
SERMON XCIII.-On Dress.
“Whose adorning let it not be that outward adorning of-wearing of gold, or of putting on of apparel.
“Butlet it be the hidden man of the heart, in that which is not corruptible, even the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit, which is in the sight of God of great price,” 1 Pet. iii, 3, 4.
1. St. PAUL exhorts all those who desire to “be transformed by the renewal of their minds,” and to “prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect will of God,” “not to be conformed to this world.” Indeed this exhortation relates more directly to the wisdom of the world, which is totally opposite to his “good, and acceptable, and perfect will.” But it likewise has a reference, even to the manners and customs of the world, which naturally flow from its wisdom and spirit, and are exactly suitable thereto. And it was not beneath the wisdom of God, to give us punctual directions in this respect also.
2. Some of these, particularly that in the text, descend even to the apparel of Christians. And both this text, and the parallel one of St. Paul, are as express as possible. St. Paul's words are, 1 Tim. ii, 9, 13, “I will that women adorn themselves in modest apparel : not . . . . . with gold, or pearls, or costly array; but (which becometh women professing godliness) with good works.”
3. But is it not strange, say some, that the all-wise Spirit of God should condescend to take notice of such trifles as these? To take notice of such insignificant trifles? Things of so little moment; or rather of none at all ? For what does it signify, provided we take care of the soul, what the body is covered with ? Whether with silk or sackcloth 7 What harm can there be in the wearing of gold, or silver, or precious stones; or any other of those beautiful things, with which God has so amply provided us 1 May we not apply to this what St. Paul has observed on another occasion, That “every creature of God is good, and nothing to be rejected 1"