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Let me beseech you, then, my Christian brethren, to cultivate this benignant principle, and show to the world that
you are actuated by higher aims than the sons of avarice, and that you are of one heart and affection with the angels of light. To do good, and to communicate, forget not, for with such sacrifices, God is well pleased. And, if you are thus disposed, you will come forward, with cheerfulness, in every work of universal philanthropy, and will not grudge any of the small sacrifices we have now proposed. You will thus be instrumental in augmenting the sum of happiness on earth, and prepared for engaging in the benevolent employments of the inhabitants of heaven.
4. Consider the fleeting nature of earthly enjoyments, and how soon you may be called to part with every thing you now possess.
You may be disposed, at first view, to think it hard to part with a hundred or two hundred pounds for the good of others, while you do not know how much you may require for yourself and family, at some future period. But you ought to recollect, that we should be directed by what appears to be present duty, without looking forward to mere possibilities, or contingencies which may never happen, and should trust in God, as to all the future arrangements of our lot in this world. While we perplex ourselves with anxieties about futurity, that futurity, in relation to the present scene, may never arrive. In such an hour as we think not, the messenger of death
make his appearance to summon us to the world of spirits. So numerous are instances of this description, and so frequently reported in our daily records of intelligence, that no one can, with any show of reason, flatter himself that he shall certainly live to enjoy a long succession of months or years. And, should the grim messenger arrive at a time when you have been withholding your wealth from benevolent objects, and laying it up for future use, how many painful reflections may arise to embitter your comforts and shake your hopes, on the eve of your departure
-nay, to produce painful feelings, if that be possible, even on your entrance to the world of bliss.* When
have the immediate prospect of bidding a last adieu to all earthly riches and grandeur, they will appear of a very different value from that by which they are now estimated. At that period, you will look upon them in the light in which a great man in a neighbouring country, viewed some extraordinary mark of distinction and honour sent him as he lay on his death-bed.“ Alas! (said he, looking coldly upon it) this is a mighty fine thing here in this country, but I am fast bound for a country where it will be of no service to me.” Reflect then, my Christian friend, on the views you will have of riches, at the hour of death, and let this consideration excite you, while in the vigour of health, “to devise liberal things” in regard to the furtherance of every philanthropic object, so that no bitter regrets may disturb your last moments, and that
an abundant entrance may be ministered to you into the everlasting kingdom of your Lord and Saviour.”
5. Consider the promises and declarations of God in reference to the certainty of temporal support.
There is scarcely any thing that causes so much anxious thought and perplexity to mankind in general, as the consideration-how they are to acquire the means of subsistence ? and, on this account, they have always an argument at hand, against distributing their money for public and religious objects. But there is nothing more clear and express than the promises made to the Christian in reference to his temporal support, so that while he is diligent in his business and conducts his affairs with prudence and discretion, he need never harass his mind with anxious thoughts about future subsistence. The following are a selection of those divine declarations on which his faith and hope may confidently rely, as the words of him who is immutable, and who keepeth covenant and mercy to a thousand generations.
* It is not altogether improbable, that certain painful feelings or reflections, may occasionally arise in the mind, even in heaven itself. We have no reason to believe, that it is such a state of absolute perfection, at least on our first entrance to it, as entirely to prevent some transient uneasy reflections. The saints will carry with them into that state all their recollections in reference to their dispositions and conduct in the present world, and, therefore, it is not unlikely, that the sins they committed in this life, and particuJarly, the little zeal they displayed in promoting the interests of the Redeemer's kingdom, after they were brought to the knowledge of the truth-may occasionally produce an unpleasant feeling in the midst of all their joys. This idea seems to be included in the representation given in the parable respecting the degrees of honour to which persons will be advanced in proportion to their zeal and activity in the cause of God, while upon earth. But all such uneasy reflections, should they arise, will only tend to lead the soul to higher admiration of the boundless and unmerited love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
« The earth is the Lord's and the fulness thereof. Every beast of the forest is mine, and the cattle on a thousand hills. Honour the Lord with thy substance, and with the first fruits of all thine increase; so shall thy barns be filled with plenty, and thy presses shall burst out with new wine. Better is a little with the fear of the Lord than great riches and trouble therewith. A little that a righteous man hath is better than the riches of many wicked. I have been young, (says the Psalmist) and now am old, yet have I not seen the righteous forsaken, nor his seed begging bread. The liberal soul shall be made fat, and he that watereth shall be watered also himself. Thy bread shall be given thee, and thy water shall be sure. Take no anxious thought (says our Saviour) for your life, what ye shall eat or what ye shall drink, nor yet for your body what ye shall put on. Behold the fowls of the air, for they sow not, - neither do they reap, nor gather into barns, yet your heavenly father feedeth them. Are ye not much better than they? And why take ye thought for raiment ? Consider the lilies of the field how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin. And yet I say unto you that even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. Wherefore, if God so clothe the grass of the field, which to-day is, and tomorrow is cast into the oven, shall he not much more clothe you, O ye of little faith? The time is short-it remaineth that they who weep be as though they wept not; and they that rejoice as though they rejoiced not ; and they that buy as though they possessed not; and they that use this world as not abusing it; for the fashion of this world passeth away. He who soueth sparingly shall reap also sparingly; and he who soweth bountifully shall reap also bountifully; for God loveth a cheerful giver. And God is able to make all grace abound toward you, that ye always, having all sufficiency in all things, may abound to every good work. Be careful for nothing, but in every thing, by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God. I have learned (says Paul) in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content. I know both how to be abased, and I know how to abound; every where, and in all things I am instructed both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. But I have all and abound, and my God shall supply all your need, according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus. Godliness with contentment is great gain; for we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out; and having food and raiment, let us therewith be content. Charge them that are rich in this world that they be not high-minded, nor trust in uncertain riches; but in the living God who giveth us all things richly to enjoy—that they do good, that they be rich in good works, ready to distribute, willing to communicate, laying up in store for themselves a good foundation against the time to come.” The ancient worthies “ took joyfully the spoiling of their goods, knowing in themselves that they had in heaven a better and more enduring substance.” Moses “ esteemed the reproach of Christ greater riches than all the treasures of Egypt." “Let your conversation be without covetousness, and be content with such things as ye have; for he hath said, I will never leave thee nor forsake thee. Humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, casting all your care upon him, for he careth for you. A good man showeth favour and lendeth; he wil! guide his affairs with discretion. He hath dispersed, he hath given to the poor; his righteousness endureth for. ever. Surely he shall not be moved forever. The righteous shall be in everlasting remembrance."
Such Divine declarations as the above, should have a powerful influence on the mind of every Christian, in reconciling him to his situation in life, and to the measure of wealth which Providence has allotted him; and, inspiring him with a noble liberality in the distribution of his riches, without fear of consequences. For God has pledged himself in these promises and declarations, that they who trust in Him, and conduct their affairs with discretion, shall want for nothing that is truly desirable in their pilgrimage through this world. “The young lions may lack and suffer hunger; but they that seek the Lord shall not want any good thing." All the saints, in every age, have in some measure experienced the truth of these declarations, and, in many remarkable instances, they have been strikingly fulfilled, in cases where all prospects of subsistence had disappeared, and all hopes of deliverance had nearly failed; as might have been illustrated by many interesting facts recorded in the history of the church, and of individual Christians, had our limits permitted.
I shall conclude with the following sentiments,-and an anecdote stated by Dr. Witherspoon.
There are those who are rich in their poverty, because they are content, and use generously what they have; there are those, who, in the midst of their riches, are really poor, from their insatiable covetousness, or profusion. -Calmet.
The prayer which Socrates taught his pupil Alcibiades, is remarkable, and deserves the consideration even of a Christian :-“ That he should beseech the Supreme God, to give him what was good for him, though he should not ask it; and to withhold from him whatever would be hurtful, though he should be so foolish as to pray for it."