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religion, we must endeavor, at the same time, to meliorate their external condition, and render it pleasant and comfortable. To tell a poor wretch that he may have spiritual blessings, and eternal treasures, by coming to Christ, while he is destitute of both food and clothing, and we refuse to supply his wants when we have it in our power, is something approaching to a species of insult. By endeavoring to meliorate the condition of the poor, while we offer them Christian instruction, we prepare the way for the reception of Divine truth. For, in so doing, we exhibit a visible proof that Christianity is a beneficent system, and tends to promote our happiness, both in the life which now is, and in the life to come. Now, such societies as suggested above, while they have for their ultimate object, the spiritual and eternal happiness of men, might be instrumental in promoting the external comfort of all ranks, particularly the lower, in furnishing them with employment, in providing them with comfortable habitations, in securing the proper instruction of their families, and directing them in such a course of conduct as will infallibly lead both to present and future enjoyment.
CONSIDERATIONS ADDRESSED TO PROFESSING CHRISTIANS AND OTHERs, As To THEIR AFFECTIONS AND conDUCT IN RELATION To coveTousNEss.
HAVING, in the preceding chapters, embodied a variety of motives and considerations, to direct the views of professing Christians, in reference to this subject, it would be inexpedient to dwell on this topic, and therefore, I shall only offer a few additional arguments and considerations.
I. To professing Christians in general, we would call attention to the following considerations.
1. Consider, what God claims the Supreme affection of the heart.
He is possessed of every attribute calculated to excite the adoration and love of all holy intelligences. He inhabits eternity and immensity, and is near to them who fear him, and hope in his mercy. His power and wisdom gave birth to the innumerable worlds which fill the universe, and all the streams of happiness which gladden the hearts of their inhabitants, flow from Him as the uncreated source of felicity. To the inhabitants of this lower world, he has displayed his love and mercy in a way that “passeth comprehension”—in the mission of his Son for the purpose of procuring our salvation—an event which ought to draw forth our highest affection, and gratitude, and praise. And he is “daily loading us with his benefits, giving us rain from heaven, and fruitful seasons, and filling our hearts with food and gladness.” Hence we find the inspired writers, and other holy men, expressing their emotions in such language as this:—“The Lord is my portion, saith my soul, therefore will I hope in Him;” “Whom have I in heaven, but Thee, and there is none upon earth, I desire in comparison of Thee. Who in the heaven can be compared to Jehovah? who among the sons of the mighty, can be likened unto him?” Now, this supreme affection towards God, is altogether inconsistent and incompatible with the indul#. of a principle of covetousness. For, such an afection ruling supreme in the heart, virtually deposes God from his throne, and robs him of the glory of his perfections. As soon may we expect to make the north and the south points of the firmament to meet together, or the light of the heavenly world to mingle with the darkness of the infernal pit, as to reconcile the service of God and mammon. For, while the true Christian, in all his movements, privations, and afflictions, puts his confidence in God, and looks up to Him as his portion and deliverer, “the rich man's wealth is his strong city,” and “he trusts in the abundance of his riches.” The one joins with the heavenly host, in ascribing “wisdom and power, and glory, and thanksgiving to Him who sits upon the throne;” the other is an idolater, who says to gold, “thou art my hope, and to the fine gold, thou art my confidence,” and thus in ef. fect, “denies the God that is above.” Let Christians meditate deeply on this important point, and consider whether their affections towards the treasures of this world be at all compatible with supreme love to their God and Redeemer. What is it that conscience tells you is uppermost in your hearts? What are among your first thoughts in the morning, and your last in the evening? hat is it that gives you most pain, the loss of a portion of your wealth, or the apprehension of the loss of the Divine favor? Are your desires more ardent after the increase of riches, than after the treasure in heaven that fadeth not, and the incorruptible inheritance that shall last forever? Is your joy greater in the acquisition of riches or of a great estate, than in the consideration, that God is your Father, and your everlasting portion? It was a convincing evidence of Job’s heavenly temper, that “he did not rejoice when his wealth was great, and his hand had gotten him much.” Are you affected with deeper sorrow, when you lose your substance, than when you lose the benefit of Divine instructions, or although you were to lose a sense of the mercy of God? Would you rather be stripped of all your earthly possessions, and go naked into Paradise, than to be laden with gold and jewels, although you should run the risk of falling into the pit of perdition? Do you make it your great and ultimate object to gain riches or an estate—rising early, lying down late, and eating the bread of carefulness? Do you grudge your families the necessary comforts of life, and, when requested to devote an of. fering for promoting the cause of religion, and the benefit of mankind, do you bestow it with a grudge, or with the spirit of a cheerful giver? In all the arrangements you make as to your lot in this world, are you chiefly directed by the prospect of worldly honor and gain, or by the opportunities you may have of glorifying God, and being useful to mankind? If you regard God as your supreme portion, and the rock of your salvation, you will consider all that you have as too little to be consecrated to his service, and will make the advancement of his kingdom, the object of all your arrangements, and will come go; forward at his call to contribute for this end, according as he hath prospered you, saying with the Psalmist, “What shall I render unto the Lord, for all his benefits towards, me 7”
2. Consider the obligations you are under to Him who procured our redemption.
You profess as Christians, to be under infinite obligations to the mercy and love of our Redeemer, “who died and rose again,” that your souls might be rescued from destruction. You profess to believe, that you were “redeemed not with corruptible things, as silver and gold, but with the precious blood of Christ,” and that it was one great end of his death, that “you might be delivered from this present evil world, and its affections and lusts,” and consequently, from the dominion of covetousness, which is the ruling passion of the men of the world, and which is utterly inconsistent with the character of the redeemed. While you, then, virtually acknowledge these truths, can you allow the love of the world to predominate in your hearts? Can you think it a hard demand that God makes upon you, when he requires a portion of the wealth which he himself has bestowed, to be devoted to the extension of the Redeemer's kingdom, and the promotion of his glory ! He might accomplish all his gracious designs without your assistance; for all the treasures of the universe, are at his disposal. But he has condescended to put an honor upon Christians, in selecting them in particular, to be “workers together with Him,” that by their voluntary and liberal oblations, they may exhibit themselves in the face of the world, as “followers of the Lamb,” and contributors to “the prosperity of Zion.” Can you, then, in consistency with your professions, refuse to come forward with munificent and god-like offerings, according to your ability, for every enterprise that has for its object, the promotion of the Divine glory, and the present and everlasting happiness of men? For, it is by such conduct, that your avarice, or your Christian principle will be detected. The latent principle of covetousness, in its workings in the heart, though open to the inspection of Omniscience, cannot be directly traced by human eyes. But, if you be hypocrites in religion, your hypocrisy will be laid open, and your true character determined by your refusing to contribute to the service of God, what is in your power to bestow. And this is a characteristic of the sense we entertain of our obligations