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tures. But can it be necessary to adduce particular arguments, to satisfy
Second argument; namely; God has made it known to be his will, that we should use the property which he intrusts to our care for benevolent perposes.
He indeed permits and requires us to provide for ourselves and our households. But the precepts of his word constantly urge us beyond this, and present it as a prominent duty of all men, especially of the rich, to give of their substance for the welfare of the church and the world. do good and to communicate forget not; for with such sacrifices God is well pleased.” Here
you learn at once, what is the mind of God respecting the use of property. Would you offer a sacrifice which will be pleasing in his sight? then give freely of your substance for the supply of the needy, and the salvation of those who are lost. Again; “ Let us do good unto all men, especially to them who are of the household of faith.” God would have your benevolence expansive and universal ; but he would have its holy ardour exercised, especially, in advancing the interests of his kingdom. Our Lord himself directs us, to make to ourselves friends of the mammon of unrighteousness; that is, to make such a benevolent, pious use of riches, as to secure the friendship of God and his people. Besides this, he requires us, by general precepts, to devote ourselves and all that
we possess, to him, and to do all things to his glory. Thus clearly has God taught us, what his pleasure is respecting our property. That which he would have us ever keep in view, as the great object to be promoted by the use of our substance, is the good of our fellow-men. Whenever he affords us an opportunity to do good, we are gladly to embrace it ; considering that doing good is our great work. When he opens the way to send the holy Scriptures or ministers of the gospel to those who are perishing in ignorance and wickedness; or to promote the establishment of benevolent institutions ; or the formation and success of benevolent societies; it is obviously his will that we should devote to these objects a portion of the substance which he has given us. This is manifestly required of us by those comprehensive precepts; “ Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself,” and, “ Whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them.” Just imagine yourselves in the wretched condition of the heathen world, without the light of the gospel, and enslaved to the basest idolatry; and let your consciences and your hearts say, whether it would not be an act of benevolence highly commendable in Christians, to send you the news of salvation, and to afford you the means of being delivered from the deepest ignorance and wretchedness. And if so, how can you neglect to perform the same act of benevolence towards those, who are in that very state of ignorance and wretchedness, and who have no prospect of deliverance, except through the influence of your charity? I here urge the duty on the ground of that divine precept, which requires us to love our neighbour as ourselves, and to do to others as we would that they should do to us. There is no possibility of evading the force of this obligation. And when we have opportunity to do for others, even the most depraved and miserable, what we soberly think would be the duty of Christians towards us, were we thus depraved and miserable ; if we neglect to do it, we neglect a divine precept; we disobey a mandate of Heaven.
Let it not be forgotten, then, that the duty under consideration, is one which is enjoined upon us, not by human authority, but by the authority of conscience, and of God. Our concern in this respect is altogether with God's spiritual and holy law, and with that inward monitor, which speaks in his name, and with that high tribunal, before which he will summon us to stand.
Suppose the Lord Jesus Christ should now in some special manner come to you, and give you a particular amount of property, and should expressly say to you,—This property I commit to you in sacred trust with this one direction,-use it to promote the cause which is dearest to my heart.' Would you not think yourself happy to be made the steward of his bounty? And could you have a thought of devoting what was thus intrusted to you by your Lord, to any use but to promote his own cause ? And could you have any thing to do but to learn his will, and proceed according to it?Now the silver and the gold are the Lord's; and to every one who has more or less wealth, he has in fact come, and virtually spoken in the very manner supposed. He has intrusted you with a portion of his property, and has made known his will respecting the uses to which it shall be applied. And no duty can be enforced by arguments more convincing to the understanding, or more touching to the heart, than the duty of using the substance which God has given you, exactly according to his will, and for the promotion of his cause.
Perhaps you may say, this property is your own. So far as the institutions and laws of civil society are concerned, it is so indeed. And no man on earth can interfere with the right you have to use it according to your own pleasure. But the God who made us, who has given us our souls and our bodies, our time and our property, comes forward with an authority which no being in the universe can question, and commands us to devote ourselves and all that we possess to him. In these circumstances, the proper inquiry is,-what use of the various gifts which God has bestowed upon us will be most pleasing to him? What would a supreme affection for him dictate, as to the disposal of our property? What use of it should we think best, if we loved him with all our heart and soul and mind and strength ? If that apostle, who was ready to be bound and to die at Jerusalem for the name of Jesus, were here, and possessed this property of ours; what use of it would he think best? And what would be most agreeable to Him, who, though He was rich, for our sakes became poor ? — The fashion of the world is, to overlook these sacred obligations. Though men are only trustees of the property of God, and are accountable to him, for the use they make of it; they proudly call it their own ; and devote it to their own selfish ends. How would such proceeding as this be regarded in civil concerns ? What would
think of a man, who took an estate he had received of another in trust, and used it as his own, neglecting wholly the object to which the real proprietor meant that it should be applied? But is our obligation to God less binding than our obligation to man? And can we suppose that we have liberty to take what he has given us, and, regardless of his will, tɔ devote it to our own private use ? Oh! that men of every degree of wealth might entertain just conceptions and feelings on this momentous subject. Then the rich man would deem it dishonesty and sacrilege, to dispose of his estate, living or dying, without making the cause of Christ first in his thoughts, and first in his arrangements. Covetousness would cease.
All private affections would be made subordinate to Christian benevolence. And it would be as uncommon for a man of any considerable property to make no large contributions or bequests to the cause of the Redeemer, as it is now for a man to make none to his own children. Then the records
of benevolence would exhibit frequent donations and legacies of a thousand, of ten thousand, of a hundred thousand, and, in some instances, most surely, of a million of dollars, for the various purposes of religious charity; and from men of smaller estates, their contributions of ten, of fifty, and of a hundred dollars-- no less acceptable to God than the larger offerings of the rich. Then no good institutions would languish, no great and pious undertakings would fail of success, no agents of public benevolence would be disheartened or embarrassed, and no portion of the human family would be left in servitude to idolatry, or error, or any species of vice, for want of pecuniary means. O ye, who are rich, and whose hearts the grace of God has inclined to do good; with what language can I describe the magnitude and glory of that work which you seem destined by divine providence to effect, or the happiness you may enjoy in rising above the grovelling conceptions of worldly men, and presenting yourselves and your possessions as a free-will offering to God. The obligations of men in respect to their worldly substance begin to be better understood and more deeply felt than formerly. But they will unquestionably be understood and felt far more perfectly before that happy day when the knowledge of the Lord shall fill the earth. For we have the best reasons to believe, that the property of the rich is to be one of the grand means of bringing forward the universal reign of IMMANUEL.
My third argument is, that the value of property, when devoted to benevolent objects, is greatly superior to what it can be, when used for any other purposes.
On this point I appeal directly to your own judgment and feelings. Look, then, at that man, who is favoured with a large estate, but has no ear to hear the cry of distress, and no heart to feel for the miseries of his fellow-men. He loves his money; and would rather see a world perish, than diminish his hoarded treasures. Behold another, who expends his riches to gratify a taste for fashion and splendour. Behold a third, who employs his property to gain the object of an aspiring ambition; a fourth, who values his wealth as a means of satisfying his animal appetites ; and another still, who confines the use of his riches to the gratification of his children. What now is your honest judgment of the real value of riches in the hands of such men as these, compared with the value it acquires in the hands of the Christian philanthropist, who, without neglecting any private or domestic obligation, devotes his wealth chiefly to works of benevolence,-to feed the hungry, to encourage the industry of the poor, to instruct the ignorant, and to save those who are perishing in sin? What is the value of property which belongs to the miser, or the
man of fashion, compared with that which belongs to a THORNTON, a BOUDINOT, or an ABBOT? The actual value of property arises altogether from the value of those ends which it is made to promote. Judge then, what is the gratification of that basest of all passions, the passion for • hoarding up money; and what is the gratification of animal appetite, or of the love of display, or of promotion; and what is the enriching and aggrandizing of children,—what are any or all of these ends of human pursuit, in point of real importance, compared with those objects which the benevolent man proinotes ? Let every one who wishes to employ his property so as to give it the highest value, carefully ponder this question. Nothing, I am sure, can prevent forming a correct judgment, but the interference of some unworthy motive. Take pains then to bring your mind into such a state as will best secure you against that interference. For this purpose consider the question as relating not to yourselves, but to others, and to others at a distance.
Suppose a historian should describe a man, who lived a thousand years ago, and in a distant part of the world. He was blessed with large possessions, and a large heart ; and he said within himself; “God has intrusted me with this property ; and I am bound to use it according to his pleasure. In the exercise of his infinite goodness, he desires the relief of the distressed, and the salvation of those who are lost. I will therefore take this worldly substance and devote it to the cause of human happiness, which is the cause of God.' And so he actually did. Without disregarding any of his relative obligations, he gave hundreds of thousands to works of pious charity. A train of blessed consequences flowed from his wealth ---consequences affecting the temporal and eternal interests of millions ; and reaching to the present day. Weigh now the true value of that estate, against another of equal amount, which was devoted to mere private, worldly ends.
Take one more view. Look forward to a dying bed ;-or rather to the final judgment, when all men shall give account to God of the use they made of their substance. Then all worldly interests, and the delusion of worldly passions, will be ended, and things, before seen through a mist, will appear in noon-day splendour.--Two individuals, who were prospered in their business in this world, and acquired riches, will then come before the judgment seat. One of them remembered and loved the cause of Christ, and through life made it his great object so to use his estate as to glorify his Redeemer, and promote the good of his kingdom. And when he undertook finally to dispose of his property, he remembered his sacred obligations, and aimed seriously, and with simplicity of heart, to make such a Will, as would be pleasing to his SAVIOUR, and would most effectually subserve the same precious causo, to which he had so often contributed. And accordingly, after providing for his own family,