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II. Let us now inquire more particularly what proportions of our worldly substance should be directly consecrated to the service of God. -
This is a point, which, in many cases, is difficult to determine ; and in some instances, it must be left to the consciences of professed Christians to decide, as in the sight of God, and as amenable to him—what portion of their riches should be directly appropriated to his service. But there are certain general principles which may be laid down, by which, every one who has expansive views of the importance of salvation, and the nobleness and generosity of the Christian character, may be directed in this matter; and by which it may be made to appear, that ten times more than has generally been allotted ought to be exclusively consecrated to the honor of God, and the regeneration of man. In addition to the three propositions noticed above, the following general maxims may be stated:— 1. Wealth is of use only according to the manner in which it is employed. 2. It is by means of riches that the poor are provided for, that the salvation of the gospel is brought into effect, and that the moral world will ultimately be enlightened and regenerated. 3. That we ought to give a portion of our substance, in some measure corresponding to the importance and the magnitude of the object to which it is devoted. 4. That a comparatively small portion of wealth is adequate to procure every thing that is requisite to the true happiness of man. , 5. That all useless luxuries, and splendid equipage, intended only for mere pomp and show, should be discarded by every Christian. 6. That all, or at least, the greater part of the wealth which remains, after providing in a decent and Christian like manner for the comfort of our families, should be devoted to the interests of the Redeemer's kingdom, and the general improvement of the social state, in subordination to this grand object. 7. That our chief object in acquiring riches should be, that we may have it in our power to consecrate a large portion of it to the furtherance of the grand objects to which I allude. Taking the above and similar principles for granted, we may now descend to the consideration of a few particulars. . . . - o
1. The proportion of wealth commanded to be dedicated to the service of God, under the Jewish economy, may be considered as involving a certain principle, by which we may be directed in similar allotments under the Christian dispensation. . ...'
It is well known, that the tenth part of the produçe of the Land of Canaan was required from the . for the maintenance of the priests and Levites. “Behold,” saith God, “I have given the children of Levi all the tenth of Israel for their inheritance, for their service which they serye.” This tithe the people paid both from the animal and vegetable produce of their estates, from the seed of the lands and the fruit of their trees, from their goats, sheep, and cattle,f Out of this tithe the Levites paid a tenth part to the priests, for their services connected with the tabernacle or temple. Besides this tithe which the people were ordered to pay to the Levites, they were also to pay a tenth part of the remaining nine parts, of that tithe to make a feast in the court of the sanctuary, or in some apartment belonging to it. At this feast, which was kept as an expression of their gratitude to God for the bounties of his providence, they were to entertain, along with their own families, some of the Levites. The priests were the ministers of Jehovah, who superintended the offerings at his altar, and conducted the worship of the sanctuary. The Levites were dispersed among the other tribes throughout every part of Canaan, and had forty-eight cities allotted them, of which thirteen belonged to the priests. Their principal office was, to instruct the people in the law of God, and to preserve and teach knowledge throughout the whole land. So that the tithe of the produce of the land was appointed not only for the support of the priests, but for the instructors of youth, and of all classes of the people throughout the tribes of Israel. Besides this regular tithe, the Jews were obliged to abstain from all the fruits that grew on trees new planted, for the first three years, which were accounted as uncircumcised, and it was a crime for the owners to appropriate them.* The fruits of the fourth year were devoted to the Lord : they were either sent to Jerusalem, or, being valued, they were redeemed by a sum equivalent paid to the priest, so that the people did not begin to enjoy the produce of their fruit trees till the fifth year. They were likewise obliged every year to offer to God “ the first of all the fruits of the earth.”f “When the head of a family,” says Saurin, “walked in his garden and perceived which tree first bore fruit, he distinguished it by tying on a thread, that he might know it when the fruits were ripe. At that time, each father of a family put that fruit into a basket. At length, all the heads of families who had gathered such fruit in one town, were assembled, and deputies were chosen by them to carry them to Jerusalem. These offerings were put upon an ox, crowned with flowers, and the commissioners of the convoy went in }. to Jerusalem singing these words of the 122d salm, ‘I was glad when they said unto me, let us go up to the house of the Lord. When arrived at the city they sung these words, “Our feet shall stand within thy gates, O Jerusalem.' . At length, they went into the temple, each carrying his offering on his shoulders, the king himself not excepted, again singing, “Lift up your heads, O ye gates, and be ye lifted up, ye everlasting doors. o up your heads, O ye gates, and be ye lifted up, ye everlasting doors.’” The Jews were also obliged to leave the corn “on the corners of the fields,” for the use of the poor,” and in order to avoid the frauds which might be practised in this case, it was determined to leave the sixtieth part of the land as a just proportion for the poor. The ears of corn which fell from the hands in harvest, were devoted to the same purpose; and the Jews held themselves obliged by this command of God, not only to leave the poor such ears of corn as fell by chance, but to let fall some freely, and of purpose for them, to glean. The produce of the earth, every seventh year belonged to the poor, at least the owner had no more right than those who had no property.t. This command is express, and the Jews have such an idea of this precept, that they pretend the captivity in Babylon was a punishment for the violation of it. All debts contracted among the Jews were released at the end of every seven years; so that a debtor that could not discharge his debts within seven years, was, at the end of that time, released from all obligation to discharge it. To all these offerings and expenses are to be added extraordinary expenses for sacrifices, oblations, journeys to Jerusalem at the solemn feasts, the half-shekels to the sanctuary, and various other items connected with the political state and ceremonial worship of the Jews, so that more than onefourth, and perhaps nearly one-half of their incomes was, in such ways, devoted to public and religious purOSes. * * . ~ . * , ... s. p Now, if the tenth part, at least, of the income of every Israelite was to be devoted to such purposes, it would seem to follow, that nothing less than this proportion should be allotted by every Christian under the i. dispensation, for similar or analogous purposes. ut it does not limit us to this proportion; as there are obvious reasons why it should be much greater under the New Testament economy. If the propagation of Divine knowledge within the narrow limits of Judea required such a proportion of the income of every individual, while no missions were appointed to surrounding nations; much more, it is evident, is required under the present dispensation, when we are commanded to “Go into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature,” and when more than six hundred millions of the earth's population, are still immersed in Pagan and Mahometan darkness, ignorant of “the true God and of Jesus Christ whom he hath sent.” The exertion now required ought to be in some measure prortionate to the magnitude and extent of the work to o: accomplished, and would require an expansion of heart, and the manifestation of a spirit similar to that which was displayed on the day of Pentecost, when “all that believed were together and had all things common, and sold their possessions and goods,” and devoted them to the cause of their Redeemer. If Christians be really in earnest, as they ought to be, why should they hesitate a moment on this subject If they see misery every where around them, and multitudes perishing in their sins, if they behold hundreds of millions of the heathen world, overspread with moral and intellectual darkness, and perishing for lack of knowledge, if even the rude inhabitants of the Navigator's isles, are sending their urgent petitions from afar, saying, “Send over missionaries and help us;” if they are saying, almost in an agony, as they lately did to Mr. Williams, when he promised to come to Britain for a supply—“We shall perhaps die, we shall die, we shall die, before you can return;” if Christians believe that “the redemption of the soul is precious,” and that the eternal happiness of immortal minds so far surpasses in value, the floating honors of the world, as the heavens in height surpass the earth; why should they remain in apathy or halt between two opinions on this point Let wealthy Christians come forward with a noble spirit, and either consecrate a liberal portion of their riches, with cheerfulness, for such objects, or take the only consistent alternative—throw aside altogether the Christian name; for a covetous Christian is a nuisance in the church of God, and a contradiction in terms. . Let us now consider the sums that might be raised, supposing only one-tenth of income to be set apart for
* Numb. xviii. 21. t Levit. xxvii. 30. 2 Chron. xxxi. 5, 6. + Numb. xviii. 25, 28. § Deut. xii. 18, 18; xiv. 22–27. Lev. xxviii. 31.