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he bequeathed large sums to the most important objects of Christian benevolence. Such is the man whom you will behold at the bar of Christ. Now what will be your judgment, and what will be the judgment of CHRIST, as to the value of an estate, used in such a manner, compared with the estate of another, who forgot the Saviour, and overlooked his cause, and devoted all that he had to private objects? And what will be the judgment, then, of those two individuals? If you yourself were that same benevolent, useful man, before the tribunal of Christ, or if you were that same worldly, selfish man, what would be your judgment, and the feelings of your heart, as to the true value of the two estates ?
Fourthly. The duty of using property for purposes of benevolence may be inculcated from the consideration of the exalted and permanent pleasure it affords to the giver himself.
Such is the constitution of the mind, and such are the unalterable prineiples of the divine administration, that our pleasure will be according to the nature of the desires which are gratified. If we gratify desires which are low and selfish ; our pleasure will be of the same nature.
The miser, the epicure, and the drunkard, all have pleasure; but it is like their depraved, degraded appetites. The man who gratifies those desires which fix upon fashionable refinement and display, or upon personal greatness, or upon the aggrandizement of a family, enjoys a pleasure, which is indeed above the taste of those who are slaves to appetite. But the best that he enjoys can make no approximation to the pure and elevated pleasure of those, who gratify benevolent affection. To prove the truth of this representation I appeal to the experience of ages. I appeal to facts which are familiar to every man, who has used his substance for the welfare, especially the spiritual welfare of others. Of all the money he has ever expended, that has yielded him the highest pleasure, which has been devoted to benevolent objects. Even a little, spent in this way, has afforded more happiness than much, spent in other ways. On the score of enjoyment, the gratification of all the animal appetites, and of all the selfish desires, and even of the domestic and social affections, falls infinitely below the gratification of Christian benevolence. Let those who have not yet known this pleasure break away from the bondage of selfishness, and try what it is to be benevolent. Their own bosoms will then testify, what thousands and ten thousands have testified, that the pleasure of doing good, is as far above all other pleasures derived from riches, as the heavens are above the earth.
Let me add, that this pleasure, which is so much superior to other pleasures in its nature, is equally superior in permanence. Lów, selfish gratifications afford no pleasure in review. And generally the momentary
sweetness attending such gratifications is succeeded by the bitterness of
Hence it is, that the lovers of worldly pleasure strive to avoid reflection, and in vain seek relief in new scenes of dissipation. But the man of active benevolence loves to recall past pleasures. And as the recollection is attended with a peaceful conscience, and a new excitement of benevolent feeling, he enjoys his pleasures again and again. Thus he has resources for hours of solitude, and for days and years of adversity, to which all others are strangers. Do you wish, then, so to use your estates, as to secure the most substantial pleasure ?-pleasure which you yourselves will pronounce to be the most exalted and permanent ? If so, be benevolent; be rich in good works. But if you will not seek enjoyment in this way, the poor widow, whose love to Christ prompts her to give away her two mites in charity, is far happier than you with all your riches. Yea, I must tell you more. Your wealth is totally worthless. It is smitten with a curse ; and good had it been for you had you never been born.
But those whose hearts are warm with benevolent affection, will find, from experience, that it is more blessed to give than to receive. And besides enjoying these present pleasures, they will be rewarded with endless happiness in the world to come. This gracious reward is presented in the text, as a motive to those who are rich, to use their estates in a benevolent and pious manner. “ Charge them that are rich in this world,
that they do good, that they be rich in good works, ready to distribute, willing to communicate.” Such is their duty. Then follows the gracious reward ;-"laying up in store for themselves a good foundation against the time to come ;' that is, a firm and durable happiness in the future world.
Fifthly. The benevolent use of property is the surest and best way, of doing good to our children.
This may seem a paradox to those, who are unaccustomed to sober reflection, and carried along thoughtlessly with the current of the world. But it is in reality a plain and obvious truth, and capable of being proved to the satisfaction of any one, who will allow himself to think. For what is more important to the welfare of our children, than forming them to a right character ? And what can we do that will have so powerful an inAuence upon them in this respect, as to exhibit a right example before them ? And how can we exhibit a right example, without habitual compliance with the divine command, to do good, to be rich in good works? Let a father, by the proper use of his estate, make an impression upon his children, that he is free from covetousness, and that he aims to please God, and to promote the best interests of his fellow-men ; and the im
pression must have a salutary influence upon their character. They will be powerfully drawn to copy his amiable and useful example ; especially as it will be recommended by all the endearments of parental affection. If he can in this way be successful in forming his children to habitual benevolence and piety, he will promote their happiness in the highest sense. For who that truly loves his children, would not rather see them adorned with piety, and rich towards God, than possessed of earthly riches? If, then, you would exert this salutary influence upon the character of your children most effectually ; let your example be that of distinguished beneficence. Let your benevolence stretch far beyond the common mea
Make unusual sacrifices for the welfare of mankind. Rise to strong, constant, and untiring effort; and so acquire a visible likeness to Him, who went about doing good. With such an example before their eyes, your children, you may hope, will early imbibe the spirit and taste the joys of Christian benevolence. And if they do this, their everlasting interests are secure. For under the government of that God who is Love, those who have the spirit of love, must be happy. Omnipotence is pledged to guard them from evil, and to gratify their largest desires.
But we may take another view of this point. Has not the experience of ages shown, that inheriting large estates is a most dangerous temptation to children? Is it not found, that the wealth which the fond affection of a father bequeathed to his offspring, often proves the occasion of their disgrace and ruin? And is it not often the case, that if a father could only rise from his grave, and witness the folly and dissipation of his children, and the pernicious purposes to which they devote the property they received from him, he would mourn over his fatal mistake, and over the miseries he had contributed to bring upon those whom he so fondly loved. Let then every affectionate father, possessed of wealth, cherish a wise and faithful regard to the happiness of his own children, and save them from the dangerous temptation to which they would be exposed by inheriting large estates ;--a temptation which has not unfrequently proved the destruction of children, who previously gave promise of eminent respectability and usefulness.
But there is still another consideration, which weighs more than all the rest. There is a God who judges in the earth; and this God has abundantly taught us, in his word, and by his providence, that our good works will bring down blessings upon our children. This is a general principle in the government of God, by which he clearly shows his approbation of benevolence and piety. Now why are we not willing to commit our children to the care and mercy of God? It is indeed our duty to give them a Christian education; to aid them in their entrance into life, and to provide, as far as we are able, for their comfortable subsistence. But is not the blessing of God better than riches? Suppose,
by devoting a portion of our estate to Christ and the church, we diminish their inheritance. Do we not secure to them that prospect of the divine favour, which is infinitely more precious than any earthly inheritance ? I cannot but consider the condition of that child pitiable, rather than enviable, to whom an opulent father has bequeathed his whole estate. Better, far better would it be for the child, if the greater part of the estate had been given to the Lord, and the residue, with the divine blessing, to him. And I cannot but regard it as the invariable duty of parents to devote a considerable portion of their estate to pious uses, even if their estate is but moderate; and thus to secure the blessing of God upon what remains for their children. Oh! give my children to inherit the divine blessing, and I will regard them as rich and happy, however small a portion of this world's goods I may be able to put into their hands.
I now come to my last reason for a benevolent and pious use of property ; namely, that it will have a salutary influence upon our own minds.
Performing works of benevolence is one of the most effectual means of cherishing all the kind and amiable affections. When, from good motives, we give our property for the promotion of benevolent objects, we are likely to have an uncommonly vivid impression of the value of those objects, and to feel an uncommon degree of ardour in our attachment to them. And by the very act of giving, we do something to render that ardour permanent. At the same time, this strong excitement of benevolent affection, and the pleasure attending the gratification of it, will go far towards divorcing the heart from its natural selfishness, and freeing it from every thing which can hinder the complete dominion of love. Observation and experience confirm these remarks. For did you ever know a man, who was always ready to use his property in acts of benevolence, and was fruitful in good works, who did not exhibit a pleasing growth of all the virtuous and holy dispositions of the heart? Nor is it difficult to account for it, that the benevolent use of property should produce this effect. The acquisition and the selfish appropriation of wealth has a tendency to strengthen all our earthly passions, and so to exclude God and eternity from our minds. Now if Christians will take a part of that, which has been the nutriment of their selfish passions, and has withdrawn their hearts from God, and will devote it to his honour and the good of his church ; they will directly counteract the spirit of covetousness. At the same time they will bring themselves into contact with higher and nobler objects, kindle purer affections, and taste purer joys. Christians, who hold large estates, seldom attain to eminent piety; and, for the most part, they are destitute of those elevated enjoyments in religion, which are so often granted to others. They are
frequently sensible of this, and are frequently heard to complain, that they have no fervour of piety, and no spiritual comfort ; that their souls cleave to the dust ; that they cannot enjoy holy communion with God, and cannot find any satisfactory evidence of their title to heaven. Let such Christians inquire, whether there is not a cause for this low and comfortless state? Have you not too much of this world's riches; and do you not hold it with too strong a grasp ? Does not the burden of your estate bear too heavily upon you ? Your march to the heavenly world is all the way ascending. In this upward motion, are you not overloaded ? Lay aside this oppressive weight; relieve yourselves from this grievous load, and you will make better progress. Diminish your earthly treasures, and increase your heavenly. Give freely for the spread of the gospel and the salvation of the world ; and continue this good work of giving, till your property is so reduced, that you will no longer feel it to be a burden to your souls.
The principle I have now advanced is no invention of mine. It is what we find in the word of God. We are there pointed to a young man, who could not enter into the kingdom of heaven, because he was rich. And the means which Christ directed him to use to avoid destruction, was, that he should give away his estate for benevolent and pious
The same is implied in the words of my text. Charge them that are rich in this world—that they be rich in good works, ready to distribute, willing to communicate, laying up in store for themselves a good foundation against the time to come.” In this way the poison is extracted from riches; the curse is removed; and that which is so generally the occasion of mischief, is turned into a blessing. If
you would have a farther illustration of the views which have been exhibited on this subject; turn your attention to what meets you in the Christian world at the present day. For notwithstanding the lamentations which are frequently poured forth over the low and languishing piety of the churches, and the want of zeal in individual Christians, lamentations which have indeed too just a cause ; I must still think, that a prominent characteristic of the community, to a great extent, is, a more correct judgment of the real value of property, and a greater readiness to part with it for benevolent purposes. And just in the proportion in which this is the case, there is manifestly a deeper feeling on religious subjects,-stronger affection, and stronger consolation. If you would find Christians who are alive to God, fervent in prayer, and cheerful and constant and happy in their obedience; go to those who are ready to contribute to every benevolent object, and who are never weary of doing good. Go to those--and they may easily be found at the present day, --whose living motive to diligence, economy, and self-denial, manifestly