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A PLEA FOR THE LORD'S PORTION OF OUR INCREASE.
Religion is like the sheaf in Joseph's dream to which all the sheaves of his brethren bowed and did obeisance. To it all other interests must bend and be subordinate. As the soul is more valuable than the body, as eternity is longer than time, as the claims of God are higher than all other claims, and as the motives to religion are stronger than all other motives, it is plain that religion must be to every one the first and highest interest of life. o secure this pearl of great price it is wisdom to part with all that we have; and when we are in possession of it, we are required to use the same diligence to extend its blessings to others as we used to obtain it ourselves, for we are to love our neighbors as ourselves. It is the duty, then, of every christian to make the spread of Christ's kingdom his highest care, and to make interest, ease, and all other claims bend to this one great duty. No christian liveth to himself, he lives for others. Not only at his convenience, but to the utmost verge of self-denial and self-sacrifice must he employ his talents, influence, and wealth, to bless others.
There is at this time much religion which lacks the spirit of self-denial and self-sacrifice, and it will evidently be found wanting when it is weighed in the proper balances. Our divine Saviour has left us a pattern in this respect which we are required to imitate. He pleased not himself
, but ihough he was rich yet for our sakes he became poor. He did not only empty himself, but he spent himself. The same mind and spirit must be in us, for if we have not the spirit of Christ we are none of his. His disciples had the same spirit, for they left all and followed him, gaining nothing but bulletings, taunis, persecutions, imprisonment and death! The apostle of the gentiles did not only endure all kinds of privations for Christ's sake, but what was gain to him that he counted loss, and his life he counted not dear to himself. The first converts were not only willing to expose their persons to danger and death, but they were ready also to offer up all their substance for the good of others; accordingly they “sold their possessions and goods, and parted them to men, as every man had need-neither said
of them that aught of the things which he possessed was his own !" The same spirit of self-denial and self-sacrifice is exhibited in the martyrs of all ages. They saw their goods confiscated, they
left their homes and fatherland, and when necessary, as it was in thousands of instances, they counted not their lives dear unto themselves. The same spirit is still required of those who will be Christ's disciples.
If the same spirit now existed would the benevolent operations of the Church be so crippled and feeble; would it be necessary for agents to traverse the land in order to arouse the Church to benevolence with stirring appeals; and would the pulpits and the papers of the different benevolent societies need, as they now do, to occupy the attitude of beggars ? Certainly not. The treasuries of the Lord, like the widow's barrel of meal and cruise of oil, would be filled silently and steadily, as by unseen hands. If a man is bound to offer up his life, if necessary, for the gospel's sake, it is certainly also his duty to offer up his property in the same way if needed. If a christian is bound to employ his influence and resources of mind for the spread of the gospel, he is certainly also required to dispose of his talent of property in the same way if God has prospered him. Taking it as setiled then that the possession of properly entails responsibility upon its possessor to use it for God, I will endeavor, in this article to inquire how that responsibility may be discharged most agreeably to the will of God, and so as to secure the greatest amount of blessings to the individual, the church, and the world.
Let me then, my reader, call your attention to the divine di. rection of Paul : “ As I HAVE GIVEN ORDER TO THE CHURCHES OF GALATIA, EVEN SO DO YE. UPON THE FIRST DAY OF THE WEEK LET EVERY ONE OF YOU LAY BY HIM IN STORE AS GOD HAS PROSPERED HIM, THAT THERE BE NO GATHERINGS WHEN I COME.
Here then we have a divine direction in regard to benevolent contributions, wbich it is our duty to understand and follow. The spirit of this direction is, that at stated times money shall be“ laid by” intended for benevolent purposes. The sum shall be according “as God has prospered” us. If we bave been prospered more, then we shall lay by more, and if less, we shall lay by less, but a certain portion shall be regularly given to the Lörd. We shall not throw all our income into one purse, and when a call is made upon us, give what we may, at the time, feel able to give, but we shall keep a purse for ihe Lord, and according as the Lord has prospered shall the Lord have. This portion of the Lord shall be untouched, for it shall be laid by in store.” This plan shall be pursued, not only by the rich, but by all. “Let every one of you lay by in store, as God hath
prospered him.” That this was a favorite plan of the Apostle is evident from the fact that he
" order to the churches of Galatia” as he did to these christians at Corinth. Let it also be remembered that the Apostle does not only recommend this plan but he gives“ order.” He was authorized, by the Spirit of inspiration by which he wrote, to lay this upon the churches of Galatia and Corinth as a solemn duty. He gives also the reason why this plan ought to be adopted, it would save the trouble of gathering when he came to receive their contributions.
Let us now attend to some considerations which farther ex hibit, illustrate, and enforce this duty.
I. THE ADOPTION OF THIS PLAN IS DUTY.
This can be shown in various ways; and if it can be shown to be duly this ought to be, to a christian, the strongest consideration, and a sufficient one, to induce him immediately to act upon this plan, in his benevolent contributions. Let us see whether it is duty.
1. We have divine order and precedent to enjoin and recommend this as a duty. Paul declares that he “ gave order” to the churches of Galatia “to adopt this plan; and when he laid the same plan before the church at Corinth he said “ so do ye.”
We have also a precedent, the result of divine injunction, in the Jewish church. God required of the Jews not only regular contributions, but a certain fixed portion of their income. It is true that the Jewish law of tythes is not binding on us, but still it stands as a precedent to show that God has a right to require a certain regular portion of our income, and that He has, in the past history of the church, exercised that right. The fact that he claimed it of the Jews shows that it was his due, thus it serves at least as a shadow of duty under the new dispensation. In place of the shadow we ought certainly now to expect substance, and the substance ought certainly not to be less, nor less real than the shadow. Then it was duty, but ought not what was then done as duty, yea, and much more, now be done as privilege.
The regular portion which God required of the Jews was heavy. Few christians now give at the same rate ; but why should not a christian give as regularly, and as much, because the love of Christ constrains him, as a Jew did, because the law made it his duty ? If it was right for God to require so much of the Jews under a dark and imperfect dispensation, has he not a right to expect more from us to whom he has not only “given more," but" better things?” Certainly the attractions and con
straints of bleeding Calvary ought to have as much power as the directions and terrors of smoking Sinai!-- The Jew must give regularly a fixed portion; no hard times could excuse him ; no coldness of feeling could justify neglect; he must not wait for a zealous impulse produced by a warm appeal ; but he must do it regularly, in season and out of season. Now, ought not a christian to give as regularly from principle and privilege, as a Jew did from law and duty ?
2. This is duty because the Bible requires that every talent, as soon as received, shall immediately be made to yield for the Lord. In the parable of the talents the Lord finds fault with the man who, instead of employing his talent, hid it in the earth, because He had part in the increase, of which He was robbed by the “wicked and slothful servani.” God then, has share in our increase, for which He looks. Not only is a part of our gain the Lord's, but part of it is Iis just as fast as we gain it, and it ought so fast to be regularly laid by in store for Him, and appropriated to the promotion of His kingdom.
It is certain tiat every man, to whom God gives wealth, is bound to give according to his wealth. This is granted. Now, if I am worth ten thousand dollars to day, I am accountable for exactly that
but if I am worth five hundred more next en I am accountable for five hundred more next week, and duty to God demands of me immediately a gift, in exact proportion, to the increase of my wealth. How then have I a right to suffer my property to go on increasing for a whole year, or perhaps more, still retaining God's part in my stock, and then if an appeal is made, give only as I may then have, or according as I may, at that time, feel able? Is not this keeping back God's part of the increase, to increase with it my own capital ? May not such a servant be accused, if not of wasting, yet of keeping his Lord's goods !
This point is made still plainer by analogy. In an intellectual and moral point of view, every man is accountable according to his stock of knowledge. Just as fast, therefore, as his knowledge increases does his accountability increase. If he knows more to day than yesterday, then more is required of him to-day than yesterday. So exactly in regard to the talent of wealth. If a man is, at every point of his life, accountable for what be at that time has, it is evident that he cannot suspend or posi pone that accountability any more than he can suspend the duties of one day to crowd them upon the next. If there is want, he is in debt to give without waiting for an appeal to warm his heart. Want is always. The poor are always. The heathen are al
ways! It is then clearly his duty to give as fast as he is prospered of the Lord, with increase beyond his necessary wants. Or shall want continue while he holds the means to relieve it ?
Here the question may arise, Is it not the duty of a parent to lay up for his children? It might be ultra to deny this claim entirely. Granting him the right to lay up for his children is not, however, granting him the right to lay up for them, that which God requires to be laid by in store for Him. If the ques. tion is whether he may lay up all his income for his children, the answer is clearly-no! A certain portion of his increase he is bound to give to the Lord. A reasonable and proper amount beyond doubt, it is right to keep as capital; it might even be proper for him, under ceriain circunstances, if it is perfectly clear that he could thereby more largely promo?e the glory of of God, to apply part of his extra income to increase bis capital. If one of his children is to be educated and started in business, he has no doubt a right to appropriate a portion of his increase to that purpose ; but in all this he must conscientiously remember that he is only steward, that his wealth is the Lord's, and that he can not go beyond the actual wants of himself and children without encroaching upon the Lord's portion. The Lord's portion of his increase must always be the prominent concern with him, for it would not do to make even the welfare of his children of greater importance than the welfare of Christ's kingdom, for he that loves even his child more than Christ cannot be his disciple.
Several solemn and important considerations ought always 10 be before the mind of the man who is anxious to lay up wealth for his children. First of all he ought to consider well, that it is connected with great danger. The very knowledge that children have, while yet with their parents, that they are treasuring up an inheritance for them, and the expectation of enjoying it when once it shall fall into their hands, is often the beginning of their ruin. How often is it seen that the children of ihe rich care neither to acquire the knowledge of some useful business, nor to cultivate their mind in useful knowledge. Professors in the different colleges of the land can testify to the fact, that in nine cases out of ten, the children of the rich are careless studenis. Almost all our wealthiest men, and those most prosperous in business, have arisen out of obscurity and poverty, without entailed capital. The children of the rich stand in an element of fearful iemptation, the power of which, few are found able to withstand ! '"'The most rational, the wisest, the best portion