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whether we will make our nation an excellency upon the earth, a joy of many generations; by taking God at His word, receiving in faith what He has spoken, and giving liberally to Him of our worldly substance; or whether we will cast His words behind us, and trust to our silver and gold for our private and national prosperity.
And is it visionary to expect that men will awake to a sense of such responsibility, of interests so enormous ? Surely although man's corruption be strong, and although the world has mighty power, yet the commands, and the promise, and the grace of God, are mightier, and must prevail. When He gave the word, the barren rock opened and sent forth streams for the thirst of His people; and the power of that word is not diminished, that it should not work marvels now as of old. For moral miracles the time is never past. Neither is it a new or unexampled work of grace for which we ask : we have but to pray with the prophet, “ Awake, awake, put on strength, O arm of the Lord ! awake as in the ancient days, in the generations of old;" for our faith and hope have the encouragement of experience, the experience of ages, to the power of the grace of God. Let us look through our own favoured land, and where does the eye not meet the parish church, and all the blessed associations which float around it? And once these were not. Even if it should be thought that we still need as many churches as already exist; the de
mand is only, that in an age of unexampled wealth and luxury, men should give to God as their fathers did out of their poverty. Let us then take courage by the past, and address ourselves to our own portion of the work; thankful that God has accounted us, as well as them, worthy to be partakers of its blessedness.
But when we find men hesitating, and doubting what ought to be done, it can hardly be questioned that they have estimated their actual duties and responsibilities by a defective rule. We have not, indeed, laid aside the Christian name; nay, we have hundreds and thousands among us to whom that name is dearer than “ father or mother, brother or sister, wife children, houses or lands;" (God forbid that it should be otherwise; or what would save our guilty land from the fate of Sodom ?), and yet can we believe that even they have sufficiently considered their actual position and its duties; that they have devoted to this great work such a measure of their substance, their time, their talents, and their influence; as the exigency of the case requires, and the commands of God, and the love of Christ, and the rewards of heaven, ought to have engrossed ?
The amount of liberality which satisfies the conscience of the mass of worthy and respectable men, may easily be estimated. Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh. We need not inquire how great a man's private and
secret alms may be, when he tells us the standard at which he aims. Men too often fall short of their acknowledged principles, but seldom habitually live above them. And we cannot mingle extensively in the society even of religious men, without perceiving that it is their principle that men should give to God and the poor, as much as they can afford. It is held to be a sufficient reason for withholding our hand, that we have already given according to this measure. In one sense, of course, the rule is both rational and Christian. No man should give that which is not in equity his own—that which belongs to his creditors, or is necessary for the due support of his dependants or family, and if the words were commonly used in this sense, all would be
but the fact is in general far otherwise. Men mean not, they cannot give more without encroaching upon other duties, and disregarding the claims of justice and equity, but that if they did, they would themselves feel the want of that with which they parted. Their pleasures, their appearance and equipage, their amusements, must undergo some diminution; if they devoted more to God. In other words, it is their avowed principle, that the measure of a man's charity ought to be, that which he can give without selfdenial, without any sensible curtailment of his own personal ease and comfort and pleasure. The majority of men accordingly proportion their establishment and expenditure to their in
come; and when any urgent call is made for some contribution either to the bodily or spiritual wants of their brethren, they measure their bounty by the surplus which happens to remain. Or if, with greater forethought, they apportion beforehand a certain sum to meet these calls, yet the proportion is determined on the same principle--it is that which remains when other things have been provided for. It is one of the contingencies which swell their yearly expenditure, rather than an integral and considerable part of the whole.
That this is no unjust account of the standard of duty recognized by the majority of orderly, respectable, and even religious men, is (as has been observed) but too certainly proved by their ordinary conversation; there are however other indications which confirm the judgment. How often, for instance, when some reduction of expenditure appears to be necessary, does that reduction begin in an abridgment of accustomed charities. The saving is in general extremely small, but the principle betrayed is momentous. For in these cases a man's attention is first directed to his least necessary expenses, to those which have hitherto been continued, chiefly because there was no great reason against them, to the mere ornaments and superfluities in which wealth has naturally tempted him to indulge. If then his economy begins with a diminution of his offerings to God and to the poor, it is because he refers them to this head.
It is another unhealthy symptom, that so few considerable works of piety or charity are undertaken among us, except by some numerous society. Innumerable small contributions unite to swell the income of these associations to a mighty tide which seems to carry all before it : and this is well; may their funds increase fourfold, how great soever they be. Yet even here is an indication of the same mistaken principle. It has become a common argument, in behalf of our religious societies, that they ask of each a sum so small that he will never miss it. And accordingly, men whose income is counted by thousands, content both themselves and those who solicit their aid, when they give one or two or five guineas yearly to an association, which contemplates objects no less affecting and important than the momentous interests of eternity. They give professedly that which costs them nothing; and then account themselves charitable. While then we rejoice in the prosperity of these institutions, while we acknowledge with gratitude to God the blessing which has often attended their labours, and while we see their use in calling the poorest to take a part in great and glorious deeds; (for the poor would otherwise be excluded; and to them there is no danger, for their least contribution, if it be “two mites," must be the fruit of