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the original source of all riches,” would introduce a most important change in the views of men with regard to wealth, and to the purposes to which it ought to be applied; and would produce a benign influence on all the movements of the Christian, and the moral world.
2. Riches are given as a trust to be employed in the service of God, and for the good of men.
It is evident, from the very nature of the Divine Being, that wealth when bestowed, was intended to be used in accordance with his will, and in subserviency to the accomplishments of his designs, in the moral government of the world. In conducting the affairs of the moral system, human beings are the agents he most frequently employs; and the wealth he has put into their hands, has a powerful influence, in accomplishing purposes either good or bad, according to the disposition of the agents. If he has intended, as his word declares, that the revelations of his will, should be made known throughout the world, and that the gospel should be preached to every creature;” money is one of the grand means by which this important object is to be accomplished; and, in the present state and constitution of the world, or, according to the fixed principles of the Divine Government, it is impossible that, without this mean, such a design can be brought into effect. * If he has distributed wealth in different proportions, to different individuals, and, if it is his intention to communicate happiness to his creatures, and that a certain proportion of his bounty should be enjoyed by all; then, it must evidently be his will, that those who abound in riches, should be ready to.communicate," and to impart a certain portion of them to those who are in need. Hence it is commanded,
From what we know of the plan of the Divine government, we have no reason to believe, that any miraculous interposition will take place to effectuate the objects to which I'allude. · See Chapter VI.
“if thy brother be waxen poor, and fallen into decay, then thou shalt relieve him. Thou shalt open thy hand wide, and shalt surely lend him sufficient for his need in that which he wanteth.” “He that hath pity upon the poor, lendeth unto the Lord; and that which he hath given, will he repay him again.” “Blessed is he that considereth the poor, the Lord will deliver him in the time of trouble." Charge them that are rich in this world, that they do good, that they bè rich in good works, ready to distribute, and willing to communicate.”. Such injunctions are laid upon the wealthy, not as a tax or a burden, but for the purpose of calling forth into exercise the principle of benevolence; of promoting a reciprocal interchange of kindly affections and good offices between man and man; and for demonstrating the truth and efficacy of our Saviour's Divine maxim, “it is more blessed to give, than to receive."
Now, if riches, instead of being applied, in part, to such purposes as now stated, are devoted solely to base and selfish ends, to sensual gratification, to foster a passion for worldly splendor and aggrandizement, or to subserve the purposes of bribery, political rancor, or party spirit--they are consecrated to objects directly opposite to those which God has commanded, and determined to accomplish ;; and, consequently, have a tendency to frustrate, if it were possible, the plan of Divine Benevolence, and the regeneration of the world.
Since riches, then, are cornmitted to us, as a trust from God, to be employed in his service and according to his will, every one who dares to devote them solely to such sinister purposes, must be considered as trampling on the authority of his Maker, and setting at defiance the laws of Him, whose sovereign will all the elements of nature, and all the hosts of heaven obey; and, consequently, subjects himself to the infliction of the threatenings denounced against such in the Divine word.
Our Saviour illustrates these positions in the parable of the nobleman, who delivered to his servants tenpounds, with the charge, “occupy till I come," and in
the parable of the “talents," which were given “ to eva ery one according to his ability." These pounds and talents evidently denote, the powers, genius, wealth, or authority, with which men are entrusted by their Creator, and which ought to be consecrated to the promotion of his glory and the benefit of mankind. That we are accountable for the use we make of sueh gifts, appears from the high rewards conferred on the faithful servants, and from the condign punishment inflicted on those who abused or misapplied the talents committed to their trust: “Cast ye the unprofitable servants into outer darkness, there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth. These mine enemics, who would not that I should reign over them, bring hither and slay them before me.” These are words of the most awful import; and the sufferings inflicted on them will be felt in all their appalling and eternal consequences, by those to whom they refer; and therefore, they deserve the most serious consideration of all those, who, in the spirit of pride and independence, imagine, that “they can do with their own as they please." And, if riches be a trust committed to us by God, to be employed in his service, we are as much bound to apply them to their legitimate use, as a servant to whom money is entrusted by his master, is bound to apply it to the purpose for which it was intended, and for which he must render an account. And, at that important day when the Son of man shall appear in his glory, to call his professed servants to give an account of their stewardship -the manner in which the wealth committed to our care was expended, will then undergo a solemn and impartial scrutiny in the presence of an assembled world. And happy only will they be, who shall be enabled to “give in their account with joy, and not with grief,” and receive the approbation of the Great Master, "well done, good and faithful servants, enter ye into the joy of your Lord.”. In the description which our Saviour gives of the solemnities of the final judgment, the eternal destiny of the human race is represented as depending upon the manner in which they employed the wealth and influence, with which they
were entrusted, "depart from me, ye cursed; for I was an hungered; and ye gave me no meat; I was thirsty, and ye gave me no drink; I was a stranger, and ye took me not in; naked, and ye clothed me not; sick and in prison, and ye visited me not: verily, I say unto you, in as much as ye did it not to the least of these, my brethren, ye did it not to me. And these shall go away into everlasting punishment, but the righteous into life eternal."
3. Christians are bound to dedicate their substance to the Lord, from a consideration of the love of Christ in laying down his life for their redemption.
The apostles, in all their writings, delight to expatiate on the love of-Christ, as comprising within its range a height and a depth, a length and a breadth, “which surpasses the grasp of human comprehension, and as being the most glorious display of Divine mercy and benevolence, ever made to our world.” Enraptured with this sublime idea, the apostle John exclaims, “ Behold! what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God! In this was manifested the love of God toward us, because he sent his only begotten Son into the world that we might live through him. Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.". This love demands the noblest sacrifices we can make for the honor of God, and for testifying our gratitude for the unspeakable favors conferred upon us through the death of his Son. · Hence, the apostle Paul, in his own name and in the name of all true Christians, declares, " The love of Christ constraineth us, because we thus judge, that if, one died for all, then were all dead, and that he died for all, that they who live, should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto him who died for them and rose again.” In this passage, the phrase « constraineth us" imports, being carried along, oc borne away as with a strong and resistless impulse, like that of a torrent which sweeps away every thing before it. The first
Christians were so carried aloft as it were on the wings of love and holy desire, that all selfish aims and worldly considerations were completely overpowered and subdued. They considered their wealth and influence as wholly consecrated to the service of their Redeemer; they forsook all their earthly possessions from love to his name, and that they might promote the interests of his kingdom. They took joyfully the spoiling of their goods, knowing, that in heaven they had a better and more enduring substance; they accounted "all things as loss in comparison of the excellency of Christ Jesus," and reckoned the sufferings of the present life as unworthy to be compared with the glory which is to be revealed. Every Christian ought to be animated with such noble principles and such elevated views and affections, if he claims a right to be distinguished by that sacred name. And, if he is inspired with such hallowed emotions, he will not “ henceforth live unto himself, for the mere gratification of his own appetites and passions, or for his own ease, aggrandizement, or secular interests, as if these were the chief objects of their pursuit. But “ he will live unto Him who died for him and rose again.” He will, consecrate his moral and mental powers, his wealth and influence, and all. the talents he possesses, to the furtherance of the kingdom of Messiah, and the extension of his glory through the world ; and, whatever has a bearing, however remote, on this grand object, will meet with his cordial approbation and pecuniary support. In promoting such objects, he will not be guided by the narrow and selfish principles of commercial policy, but by the ardor of his love to the unseen Redeemer, and by the consideration, that all he possesses was derived from the Divine bounty; and will say with David, when he distributed his treasures for rearing the temple of the Lord; “ All things come of Thee, and of thine own have we given thee."