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'Blessed is he that considereth the
God he would love all who were connected with, and like to God. This is an invariable rule in nature, and also an infallible test of personal safety, so that it is added, "Hereby we know that we are of the truth,' as if by no other means, BLESSED,' says inspiration, is he that con'and shall assure our hearts before him.' Perhaps sidereth the poor.' By the poor, we are prothere is no class more interesting than that of bably to understand those who have become poor the pious poor. They naturally remind us of in the ordinary course of God's providence; not the Lord Jesus Christ. They are his representa- that we are to despise and disregard even those tives upon earth. What, more fitted to cut who have become poor through their vices and a Christian to the heart, than to think that a criminal abuse of the divine gifts; for we are he has been unkind to one who has been loved informed, as characteristic of the conduct of God, by Christ from eternity, who, it may be, will to which our conduct should be conformed, that be in heaven before him, and who will be with he makes his sun to shine on the evil as well as him for ever engaged in worshipping the same the good, and his rain to descend on the just and compassionate Redeemer? What is more opposed the unjust. At the same time an important disto the spirit of heaven, than a cold, selfish distinction must be drawn between different classes regard of the necessities of others-a shutting of poor. To bestow in the form of money upon up of the bowels of compassion? Could we con- many poor, would be but to encourage them in ceive heaven to be a place of true happiness, or sin, and therefore to arm them in more daring rereally desirable, if filled with hard-hearted, cruel bellion against God, while it would render to the men? Surely not. parties themselves no real benefit. This is at war with the spirit of true religion, which condemns idleness, improvidence, and vice, and calls to industry, prudence, and good conduct. The poor for whom God specially cares, and for whom he would have all professing to be his servants, and who are blessed with the means, to care, are those who have been impoverished without any fault of their own, in consequence of His all-wise and righteous visitation. And what does he declare of those who consider the case of such persons; who, not contented with a single act of instinctive charity, called forth by the sight of suffering, deliberately lay themselves out to relieve and permanently benefit them? He says of such persons that they are blessed; Blessed is he that considereth.' Many regard the poor as a burden and injury to society; they are irritated; they would much rather there were no poor to annoy them with calls of charity-but blessed,' says God, happy is he that considereth the poor,' who studies their case, who enters into their wants, in order to relieve them. He shall not merely be happy hereafter, receive an ample recompense in the future world for his present pains and liberality. But he is happy now. He is blessed in the very act of giving, especially where the case is a good one, and he has reason to believe the charity will not be abused to evil. The highest authority-one who knew the truth from ample personal experience has said, 'It is more blessed to give than to receive.' There is a wise and beautiful connection between doing good to others and receiving personal happiness and enjoyment. All who have ever made trial must know from experience the relation between doing
Let Christians, then, listen to the apostolic counsel, My little children, let us not love,' however others may do, let us professed Christians not love in word or in tongue,'-let us not content ourselves with the name and profession of sympathy for others, but let us love in deed and in truth.' Let us show the reality of our professed kindness by suitable action, by corresponding deeds. Good words are easy, they cost us nothing; besides, the feeling and expression of sympathy, without active benevolence, are dangerous. They deceive and harden the soul. And if men are in hazard, in many cases, of being deceived, let them rejoice the more in opportunities of giving to the pious poor; glad to think that these are cases in which they cannot err. It is much for Christ to say, 'Whosoever shall give to drink to one of these little ones a cup of cold water only, in the name of a disciple, shall in no wise lose his reward' that the humblest service to believers, done in faith, and from a Christian motive, shall be acknowledged; but it is a still loftier testimony to the importance of charity, when it is remembered that on the great day of judgment the everlasting awards shall be dispensed according as men have been liberal or penurious in their donations to the Christian poor. 'Come, ye blessed of my Father,' &c., Matt. xxv. 40.
honour Him He will honour. There are various ways of honouring Him spoken of in scripture; he is honoured by acts of worship, by prayer and thanksgiving-he is honoured by due observance of the sabbath, and by holiness of life and conversation. He is also not less truly honoured by kindness to his creatures, and especially by deeds of charity and mercy to the poor.
good and getting good. The selfish and the cove- | perfect assurance that God will repay him for his tous, in withholding, rob themselves of much services. This honours God, and those who greater happiness than all their hoarding can confer. The enjoyment connected with selfish indulgence is not once to be compared with the happiness which results from the exercise of the sympathetic and benevolent affections. The world is of course incredulous on this point, but the testimonies of the word of God and of Christian experience are clear and assured. And besides the happiness inseparable from the exercise of enlightened liberality, which is indeed twice blessed,' there is in addition many direct and precious promises from God of blessing to those who befriend the poor, even in this world.
Let all those who make a profession of true religion, repress the risings of selfishness, and cultivate a spirit of enlarged benevolence; especially let them tenderly and unweariedly consider the case of the poor. Let them remember that this is required by the spirit of the eighth commandment, and that if they fail in it, they are guilty of a violation of the decalogue. Let them think of the present and certain happiness of giving to those who need, that God shows a peculiar kindness for the poor as his representatives upon earth, sent to test the benevolence of others, and that those who manifest his amiable spirit shall share in his favour. Let them consider that a spirit of care for the poor is essential to true religion, and is one of its most prominent characteristics, Isa. lviii. 6—11.
It is declared in the passage before us, that the Lord Jehovah will deliver him in the time of trouble that he will preserve and keep him alive that he shall be blessed upon the earth -that he shall not be delivered into the hands of his enemies—that Jehovah will strengthen him upon the bed of languishing, and will make all his bed in his sickness. These comprehend all temporal good; preservation, deliverance, restoration, and prosperity, and they seem to correspond with the circumstances and wants of the poor. They are often in trouble-stretched on a bed of languishing-involved in sickness-oppressed by enemies. Now, says Jehovah, those who 'consider' in these respects the necessities of the poor and relieve them, shall in the same respects themselves be blessed of God, according to their wants, in return. It is easy for God in the course of his providence, and in a thousand unknown ways, to preserve and rescue and restore those whom he designs to favour. Scripture speaks of the blessing of such as are ready to perish, coming upon those who do them good, and no one can tell how much the liberal and beneficent are indebted for protection against evil and the possession of good to the prayers of the poor in their behalf. Certainly few evils can be conceived more dreadful than to be exposed to the curses and maledictions of the poor. Nor is it wonderful that God thus promises the best temporal blessings to those who care for the poor. Entertaining a special regard for them himself, he befriends those who cherish and manifest the same sentiment. The man who despiseth the poor in effect despises God, under whose providence they have become poor. He quarrels with God's dispensations, or as much as says that he was not able to make them other--and probably withheld the larger tithes. In wise, whereas he who gives to the poor from right motives, lends to the Lord; he recognizes God's hand in their lot, acknowledges it to be wise and righteous and good, and expresses his
TWENTY-EIGHTH DAY.-EVENING. Take heed that ye do not your alms before men, to be seen of them; otherwise have no ye reward of your Father which is in heaven,' Matt. vi. 1. THE influential Jews of our Lord's day were governed in their charity by the external and the visible. Nor was this a solitary instance. Their prayers and fastings were vitiated by the same false principle. When they went to prayer, instead of betaking themselves to retirement, they betook themselves to the synagogue and the corners of the streets and the market places; and when they observed a fast, they put on a sad countenance and disfigured their faces, that they might appear to men to fast.' So of the payment of tithe-they paid the tithes of insignificant garden herbs, such as mint, anise, and cummin, which were of no consequence to the tribe of Levi, while they omitted the weightier matters of the law-judgment, mercy and faith
short, their religion was ostentatious, fitted and intended to attract the attention of men, and was, moreover, stained with hypocrisy. What our Lord condemned in the Pharisees is, un
day, when men would most wish approbation. In addition to these considerations, we have to remember that ostentation is at utter variance with the spirit of true religion. That spirit is generous and benevolent-it looks out of ourselves to others; whereas ostentation is essentially selfish, and looks to the estimation in which self is held as supreme. This, too, is the spirit of hypocrisy. The language of hypocrites is, 'Come and see our zeal for the Lord!' They proclaim their own goodness-they trust in themselves that they are righteous, and despise others—they justify themselves before menthey receive honour one of another, and seek not the honour which cometh from God only. And what shall be the end of persons breathing such a spirit? Their hope shall perish-the hypocrite shall not come before God-the congregation of hypocrites shall be desolate the Lord of the evil servant shall appoint him his portion with the hypocrites-there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.
happily, not peculiar to them. The tendency the most endearing relationship, who sees in to the external and hypocritical, and that in secret, shall reward openly, it may be here, connection with almsgiving, has been mani- certainly it shall be hereafter on the great fested in every age of the church, and especially in degenerating periods of her history. The caution contained in the words before us, was addressed not only to the multitudes who heard, but also to Christ's own disciples. They needed to be guarded against such temptations. The praise which men bestow upon the liberal, and the flattery which they often receive from those who wish to turn their benevolence to personal advantage, are exceedingly apt to ensnare and mislead even the well-principled and the good, much more the self-righteous. We need scarcely remind you how deeply the corrupt Christian church, in the days of Popery, dealt, and still deals, in the hypocrisies of ostentatious charity. Who can question that the large donations regularly dispensed at the gates of Romish convents and monasteries-donations so abundant, that they have diffused a spirit of mendicancy over continents-if not designed as the purchase money of eternal life, are intended to earn the applause of men, so as to add to the power of the giver? And in countries of purer Christianity, how much ostentation often is there in the donations of charity! what founding of charitable institutions for the sake of a name! what trumpeting of subscriptions! what extravagant laudation of individuals who, it may be, have done no more than their duty!
In opposition to all that savours of ostentation and hypocrisy, our Lord enters a solemn warning. He cautions his followers against doing almsdeeds to be seen of men, forbids them to sound a trumpet in the streets and synagogues to attract public attention to their charity; and, on the contrary, exhorts them to dispense their alms in secret, in a manner so quiet and unostentatious, that the right hand shall not know what the left is doing. And what are the reasons for pursuing such a course? They are many. He tells them that if they do their alms to be seen of men, they shall only have the reward of human praise. And how poor and worthless a recompense! It perishes with the breath of man, and while it lasts, is often associated with suspicions and distrusts. The hypocrite is conscious of his own baseness, and lives in the perpetual dread of exposure. On the other hand, they who give alms from correct motives, without regard to what men think or say because charity is right in itself, and God has enjoined it—shall receive an ample recompense. God, our heavenly Father, Jehovah, under
Let Christians then be on their guard against the temptations to ostentatious charity. These may not be so strong among us as they were among the Jews of our Lord's day, who had not only a much more external and ritual religion than Christianity, but the influence of strong prepossessions in behalf of Pharisaian virtues with which to contend; still the bias is powerful now. Let them consider that though men can only see the outside, God sees the heart—that the secret is as open to him as the public—and that one of the remarkable names of Jehovah is, "Thou, God, seest me.' Let them think, too, how idle and foolish it is to attempt to have a reputation for piety and liberality, when the hypocrisy will so soon be broken up and exposed to their everlasting shame and contempt. It may not be possible literally to forbid the right hand to know, in the dispensations of charity, what the left is doing. There are some sorts of charity which, for the satisfaction of the public, must be more or less proclaimed; but certainly the counsel of the Saviour calls upon Christians to look narrowly to the motives of all their actions, and particularly of their charity; to be jealous of themselves; to be on their guard against all that savours of egotism and display and vanity and ostentation in almsgiving; in short, to be like the Master whom they profess to serve, who loved not the fame of men, but the approbation of the unseen Jehovah.
WELL may we, like Israel of old, when such a question is put, Will a man rob God?' ask, Who would have the daring to do so, or who, though sufficiently audacious, would have the power? How is it possible to rob the Universal Proprietor and Lord-the All-seeing and Omnipotent One? It may be easy to deceive and defraud the most penetrating of men, but to rob God, how vain the effort! how monstrous the idea!' We are assured, however, that ancient Israel, in a corrupt and degenerate period of her history, did rob Jehovah; and though not precisely in the same way, yet substantially is he robbed by all men, and even his professed church, now and in every age. In one sense indeed, God cannot be robbed-he cannot be deceived, nor can any thing which he would retain be taken from him. Still by their sins do men deprive him of his rights, and thus constitute themselves the greatest and most serious of robbers. They are guilty of sacrilege. When God gave to man the earth for his use, he seems to have reserved a tenth part of the produce for himself; at once as a test of man's obedience, an acknowledgment of God's universal proprietorship, and also as a mean of providing religious instruction for all classes, particularly the poor and destitute. This institution of tithe was recognized under the patriarchal dispensation, and was expressly embodied among the laws of the Jews. Whether or not it was intended to apply in every country and generation may admit of question; though more can be urged on the affirmative side, than men in general who have not studied the subject can well imagine. But however that may be, there can be no doubt that it is an eminently wise institution, and that it possesses this singular advantage of rising with the progress of improvement, and so with the moral and religious necessities of the nation. It supplies also the people with the means of grace and salvation, without provoking, as public grants of money are apt to do, the hostility of some part of the community, and so in a considerable degree of defeating the very end of a public provision for the maintenance of religion. But whatever divine wisdom there may be in the tithe arrangement, it requires more faith in the word of God, than the covetousness of man generally allows, to permit of its smooth opera
tion. And hence Jehovah, under the Jewish dispensation, had frequent occasion to complain of being robbed of tithes and offerings. His altars did not receive the allotted and appropriate oblations, and his priests and ministers,
the temple and the synagogues did not obtain from the produce of the soil the support to which they were entitled. The unbelief and covetousness of men robbed God of his rightful property.
The form under which men rob Him in Christian countries now, may not be precisely the same, though in many cases He is robbed in regard to tithes, where publicly sanctioned as a means of supporting Christianity; but there are still a multitude of ways in which professed Christians apply to their own use what is due to God. Is there not a too general withholding from His cause both at home and abroad; a meagre and niggardly way of giving to religious objects, which strangely contrasts with the profusion which men expend upon themselves, and families, and houses? When it is thought necessary to retrench, are not religious objects the first to suffer, as those which are so unimportant that they may well be spared on? Are not contributions to the church of God often postponed to subscriptions for other interDo not religious men frequently die more wealthy than is creditable to their Christianity? Is it not to be feared that in these, and many other ways, God may say, 'ye have robbed me, even this whole nation?'
And what are the consequences? Is it a small matter to rob God, either of his day or his property? No. He pronounces upon all such the most direful doom, Ye are cursed with a curse.' This sin is a national sin, as well as an individual one, and though it may be little thought of, the result is appalling. The candlestick is taken away from the church—the candlestick of sound doctrine and pure ordinances, and in regard to the country it is said, the 'nation and kingdom that will not serve God shall perish.' Men deceive themselves in imagining that in withholding or alienating from Him what is due, they shall still prosper. It was remarked at the period of the Reformation, that the families which robbed the Church-fallen and corrupt as she was—so as to alienate the tithes and lands from supporting the preaching of the gospel to which the Reformers were anxious to apply them, did not prosper even for this world, but speedily come to poverty. It is a true, yea, an inspired saying, of the wise man, there is that scattereth, and yet encreaseth; and there is that withholdeth more than is meet, and it tendeth to poverty.' It was not without reason, then, that good John Brown,
in his Catechism for children, places almsgiving | important, and is most apt to be misunderstood, among the direct means of getting on in the and in some aspects is frequently and seriously world. The countries which rob God most seri- infringed, we shall confine our attention to it. ously of his day, are not the most prosperous. The general rule is submission, even to the most Britain and the United States of America, which tyrannical governments, and that not merely for keep the sabbath, are far ahead of any nation wrath's sake the fear of punishment in the which profane it. Let no professing Christians event of disobedience, but for conscience' sake, T then presume to rob God. None would dare because commanded of God who has appointed to do so directly were He visibly present; let civil government as one of his ordinances for His none do so in spirit and reality. Let them con- own glory, and the good of the world, as truly as sider that it is not for his own sake, for his own he has appointed the Christian church for the happiness or glory, that He requires offerings on same ends. his altar and a day for his worship; that these are demanded solely for their good. Let them consider how much they are indebted to Christianity, how much it has done for them, from how many expensive vices it has kept them, and how much worldly wealth it has been the means of pouring into their lap, and let them be liberal in their donations to the cause of God in return. Let them beware of covetousness and unbelief, and remember that the circumstance, that the laws of society care little for the robbery of God, if the temporal interests of men be assailed, is just a reason why God guards the sanctity of his own institutions the more carefully, and why his people should fall in with his views the more unreservedly.
THE apostle Paul had been describing a very important class of duties, those which Christians owe to men placed over them in civil authority. This is at all times a matter of delicacy, and was peculiarly so in the day in which he lived, when the world was groaning under despotism, and men in power were watchful and jealous of Christianity as a new religion, interfering with their supposed rights. But he faithfully taught the Christian's duty for all times, it may be to the displeasure of not a few professed Christians, who would have wished for greater latitude in their submission. Passing from duty to the civil magistrates, he proceeds to duty to men in general where invested with authority. Under the general language of the passage we may comprehend the duties which children owe to parents, servants to masters, pupils to teachers, people to ministers; in short, duties to superiors: but as the duty which Christians owe to civil authority is very
Christians are required to render 'tribute to whom tribute is due, and custom to whom custom;' in other words, they are to pay their public taxes, however many and oppresssive they may be. They may use all constitutional means to have them mitigated or abolished, but so long as they have the force of law, they are bound, as Christian men, to render a cheerful payment. They are not entitled to start objections, and say that the proceeds of the tax are applied in ways of which they conscientiously disapprove, and that therefore they are released from the obligation of paying. This is a false principle, which would speedily prevent the payment of any tax whatever. A Christian's conscience has no responsibility in connection with the application of a tax. The moment the money is paid it ceases to be his. The responsibility belongs to the government or nation. It would be hard, indeed, if Christians were made responsible for the application of mind. Their divine Master, in great condescension public taxes. They could never enjoy rest of and kindness, has released them from all such perplexities, by requiring them to pay the tax where the civil authority is competent, and where they at the same time may use all legitimate means for its abrogation. No man should feel his conscience invaded, unless the ruling power requires him to do what it is impossible for him to do without sin. This never can be the case in paying a public tax, with the application of which those who pay have nothing to do. Our blessed Lord, though legally exempted, yet cheerfully paid a public tax, lest any should be offended' or stumbled by his refusal, nay, wrought a miracle to obtain the means, though of some parts of its application he doubtless could not approve.
There is another and a far more frequent error, or rather sin, connected with the public taxes, and that is, the notion that men may lawfully, or at least with little guilt, defraud the revenue. Many it is well-known, of ordinary integrity in their transactions with private individuals, think themselves entitled, if able, to appropriate what belongs