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True it is, that he derives his support from the property of bis employer; but this part of the payments, as truly forms an item in his accounts as any other; and is, in fact, as really made for the purposes and interests of his master. Bearing these things in mind, let us see how the case will stand, if all professed Christians were obliged to render an account in public, at the close of the present month, of the manner in whichi, during the year past, they have disposed of the property, which God has intrusted to them.
It cannot be doubted, that is such an exposition were to be made, and could not be avoided, many persons would experience a sudden change in their minds, as to the lawfulness of various things, which they will not now permit to be questioned. Many a sturdy argument, many a plausible pretence, would vanish like the morning dew. If the rich were called upon, in the first instance, how many of them would instinctively shrink from the investigation, and how gladly would they exchange places with the poorest of mankind.
It must be obvious, that I have in view here those only, who prosess some kind of responsibility for the use, which they make of property. As to others, who spend money at the theatre, the midnight revel, the gaming table, or in any gross dissipation, it is not necessary to dwell un the bitter disappointment, the poignant remorse, which would distress their souls, if compelled, as they will be at last, to a strict account of their squandered treasuries. But let us now confine our attention to those, who feel, perhaps, as though they performed their duty pretty well, and were in a good degree mindful of their obligations. How many of these would the truth compel to say, that they had spent a large sum of their Lord's money for costly entertainmonts;-another large sum for the decorations of their houses; another for equipage, dress, and show;—another, for the thousand vanities which beguile an unthinking world. , How many would confess, that they had hoarded much from an unsatisfied desire of accumulation, or a strong wish to bave their children rich. When inqaired of respecting their rule of duty, their motives, and their scriptural warrant for these expenditures and investments, how generally would they be struck dumb. No backneyed objections against this or that particular clarity;no subtle evasions; no alleged ignorance of duty will avail them. The simple question will be, whether they considered property in their hands as their own, or their Master's; whether they acted as stewards, or as independent owners; whether they consulted their imaginary and transient interests, or the interest of God's vast kingdom; whether they sought present gratification, and were altogether concerned about themselves, or stretched their benevolent regards abroad, and took into their estimate the wants and the miseries of all mankind. This simple, direct question must be answered. Whoever can say, with humble confidence, "Lord, I have constantly kept in view my character as thy steward, and liave regulated all my expenses with a view to this account. In providing food and raiment for myself and family, I have not made fashion, custom, or buman opinion the rule of duty, but have regarded licaltlı, comfort, and usefulness,--real usefulness to my fellow creatures. My example cannot be pleaded for expensive gratifications of any kind; and, in making provisions for future years, I bave guarded against avarice, or reliance upon riches for happiness. I have patronized every charitable object, which I thought thou wouldst approve, so far as the means at my disposal warranied; and have given cieerfully and liberally whenever I thought the interests of thy kingdom required. Here am I, Lord, ready to deliver up, without the least reluctance, the property which thou hast confided to me. I received it as thine; I employed it for thee; and if thou seest fit to commit it to other hands, 1 cordially acquiesce. Shouldst thou continue me in ofiiee, I ask wisdom to know my duty, and fidelity to perform it."
The man who could address this language to the omniscient Judge, need not fear condemnation. Though he should have been mistaken in his estimate of different claims, how much soever his mistake might be regretted, it would never expose him to danger. The unshaken integrity of his heart, and the constant regard to his Master's interest, would uphold him, and obtain the most honorable coinmendation. But how few are there, who could use this language?
If we descend from the rich to those, who live in moderate circumstances, let us consider how they would answer such inquiries as these. In your attempts to acquire and preserve property, have you been actuated by a desire to promote the glory of the great Proprietor of all things? Have your earnings been acknowledged as his gifts, to be employed in his fear and for his use? While the bounties of Providence are applied to your sustenance and comfort, do you even in this application of them, look steadily at his will? In your plans for the increase of property, for the settlement of your family, for the investments of your carnings, for the disposal of your flocks and herds, the products of your fields, &c. do you keep this great truth in view, that you have no property of your own?
And if we proceed to the poor, (for the poor are also stewards) shall we find them sedulously employed in arranging all their affairs with reference to their future account? How many of this class think themselves exempt from any responsibility, as to charitable claims, merely because they are not rich. They forget that it was to just such persons as themselves, that the apostle gave command, to set apart for their needy and suffering brethren a portion of their weekly earnings, as God has prospered them. Let the industrious poor man inquire, whether his industry is kept alive by a regard to bis own necessities and gratifications only; whether bis economy and frugality are exerted from a parsimonious spirit merely; whether he does not, in fact, spend a great part of his carnings for that which is not bread, and of his savings for that which satisfieth not. Let him consider, that a multitude of bands, bringing their punctual and cheerful offerings, might sustain any charitable cause, though each single offering were but of moderate amount. Let him ask, whether it is necessary, that the numbers, who are ranked with the poor, should exclude themselves from all participation in the grandest work, which Infinite Wisdom ever designel? Let him rejoice in the privilege of being a steward of God; knowing, that if found faithful in the disposition of the humble mans committed to him, he will receive an approbation as decided, as any that could be bestowed on the wealthiest nobleman, that cver distributed in charity the revenues of lois sast domains.
It will be evident, I think, to all considerate Christians, that the duty of stewards of God is very imperfectly discharged, even by that comparatively small number, who seriously attempt to discharge it at all. Among the means, which should be resorted to, in order to quicken diligence in this respect, the following, unless I am mistaken, may be of especial service.
Let every man, and every woman, who aspire to the dignity and the advantage of being faithful stewards, set apart stated seasons to bring their conduct under review, so far as this relation is concerned. Let them fix for themselves certain rules of action; or rather let them carefully adopt such rules of action, as God has made known to them; let these rules be rigidly adhered to; and, from time to time, let them retire to their closets and make out a regular statement of their conduct as stewards. In other words, let them make a regular settlement with their own consciences; not by taking up the matter in the gross, but proceeding from one article to another, till they have a thorough and particular understanding of what they have done, and of their reasons for doing it. Let them remember, that time is rapidly passing away, in reference to those, who are, or ought to be, the recipients of their bounty; that the poor in their neighborhoods, the ignorant and viscious in their towns, the destitute in their country, the millions of uninstructed pagans, 'will soon appear before God; and that they themselves must also then be present to render an account of their stewardship.
Extract from Dr. Dwight's Theology. Vol. iv, p. 444. ** Ambition is fatul to the Happiness of the ambitious man. "It is proverbially acknowledged, that Envy and Discontent are only other names for misery. Yet these wretched attributes are always attendant on ambition. No mind can be contented, whose desires are ingratified. When these desires are eager, it will be still more discontented; and when he, who cherishes those desires, sees the good which he covets, in the possession of others, he cannot fail to be envious. But the desires of an ambitious man are always ungratified. That they are eager, needs no proof; and eager desires invariably overrun the measure of expected enjoyment. Wben it is attained, therefore, it falls regularly short of the expectations, and wishes; and thus the mind regularly fails of being satisfied, even when its wislies are crowned with success. The happiness of Heaven we are taught will be commensurate to the utmost desires of its inhabitants. In this world, ardent wishes were never satisfied; nor high hopes ever indulged, without disappointment.
*The man, who enters the career of Political advancement, never acquires any thing, like satisfaction, until he sees with absolute conviction, that he can gain nothing more. Then, indeed, he may sometimes sit down quietly; because there is nothing within the horizon of his views to rouse his energy to new hopes, and new exertions. But his quiet is only the stagnant dulness, left by disappointment; the paralytic torpor of despair. At first, he aims at a humble office. He attains it; and with new eagerness raises his views tv one still higher. He attains this also: and, more eager still, bends his efforts to the acquisition of a third. The acquisition of this, only renders more intense his thirst for another. Thus he heats himself, like a chariot wheel, merely by his own career; and will never cease to pant more and more ardently for promotion, until he finds his progress stopped by obstacles, which neither art, nor influence, can remove.
“In the same manner, the candidate for literary eminence, commences the chase of fame, with wishes, usually moderate. His first success, however,enlarges his views; and gives new vigor to his desires. Originally, he would have been satisfied with the distinction of being celebrated through a village. Thence he wishes to spread bis name through a city; and thence through a country: thence through the world; and thence through succeeding generations. Were sufficient means of communication furnished, he would be still more ardently desirous to extend his fame throughout the planetary regions; and from them to the utmost extent of the stellary system. Were all the parts of this immeasurable career possible, his mind at the end of it would be less contented than at the commencement; and would find, with a mixture of astonishment and agony, that the moment, when the strife was terminated, the enjoyment which it promised was gone.
“In the pursuit of Power, this truth is still more forcibly illustrated. He, who with distinguished political talents devotes himself to this acquisition, hurries with increasing vehemence from petty domination through all the grades of superior sway; until he becomes a Cromwell, or a King. He, who aims at the same object through a military progress, starts from a school in the character of a cadet, and pushes through the subordinate offices to the command of a Regiment; a Brigade; a Division; and an Army. With an ambition, changing from desire into violence, from violence into rage, and from rage into pbrenzy, he then becomes a Consul; a King; an Emperor; a Monarch of many crowng, and many realms: and burns with more intense ardor to go on, subduing and ruling, until the earth furnishes nothing more to be ruled or subdued. Thus the ambition, which at first was a spark, is soon blown into a flame, and terminates in a conflagration. Alexander subdued and ruled the known world. When he had fins ished his course, be sat down and wept; because there was no other world for him to conquer.
Thus it is plain, that the desires of Ambition must ever be ungrat. ified, because they increase faster than any possible gratification; and because they increase with progressive celerity; expanding faster at every future than at any preceding, period of enjoyment. Though all rivers run into this ocean, still it is not full. Although millions continually crowd into this grave, still it says not, “It is enough.” As Avarice would never cease to crave, until it had gorged the riches of the Universe; so Ambition would never rest, until it had ascended the throne of the Creator."
"But, after all its accumulations, there will be wealth, which avarice cannot grasp. After all its achievements, there will be heights, which ambition cannot climb. Discontent, therefore, and murmuring, towards the God who will not give the coveted enjoyments, and envy towards the created beings, who possess them, will rankle in the insatiable bosoin; and annihilate the comfort which might otherwise spring from the mass of good, already acquired. Ahab, on the throne of Israel, made himself miserable, because he could not lay bis hand on the humble vineyard of Naboth. Haman, an obscure captive, was elevated to the second place of power, and distinction, in the empire of Persia; comprehending, at that time, almost all the wealth and people, of the known world. Yet, at this freight of power and splendor, in an assembly of his fainily and friends, wbile he was reciting to them the glory of his riches, the multitude of his children, and all the things wherein the King had promoted liim, and how he had advanced him above the princes and servants of the king;" when "he said, moreover, Esther, the queen did let no man come in with the king unto the banquet, ilat she had prepared, but myself: and to-' morrow I am invited unto her also, with the king:" this haughty aspiring wretch could add, " Yet all this availeth me nothing, so long as I see Mordecai, the Jew, sitting at the king's gate.”
Our first parents became discontented with their very nature, and under the influence of ambition wished to become as gods. In this monstrous wish, they have been often followed by their descendants. Several of the Persian Emperors, Alexander the Great, and several of the Roman Emperors, claimed divine honors; and demanded sac. rifices and libations. The bishops of Rome, also, have arrogated to theinselves the peculiar titles of Jehovalı;* and have accordingly granted absolutions of sin, and passports to heaven. Nay, they have abrogated the commands of God; substituted for them contrary precepts; ascended the throne of the Redeemer; assumed the absolute gore ernment of his church; permitted, and interdicted, its worship at their pleasure; claimed the world as their property; and declared all maukind to be their vassals. Beyond all this, they have given, openly and publicly, indulgences, or permissions, to sin. Thus has this man of sin, this son of perdition, exalted himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped. Thus has be, as God, sat in the temple of God, shewing himself to be God.”
A Serxox, delivered at Ashburnham, April 4th, 1819, at the interment of Miss Rebecca Merriam, æt. 22. By John Cushing, A. M. minister of the congregational church in said town. Published by request. Worcester: William Manning. 1819. pr. 14.
A Poem, on the pleasures and advantages of True Religion: delivered before the United Brother's Society, in Brown University, on their anniversary, Aug. 31, 1819. By the Rev. Daniel Huntington, A. M. Published by request. Providence: Ai the Rhode Island Amer. ic an Office, 1819. pp. 23.
Memoir of the late John Nurray, jun. Read before the Governors of the New York Hospital, ninth month, fourteenth, 1819. By Thomas Eddy Published by order of the Governors. New York: E. Conrad. 1819. pp. 17. With an Appendix.
The nature and evidence of the inspiration of the Sacred Scriptures. A sermon, delivered at the celebration of the nativity of St. John the Baptist before Adoniram R. A. Chapter, Montgomery, Constellation, Rising Star, and St. Albans lodges. At Walpole, June 24, A. L. 5819. By William Cogswell
, A. M. pastor of the south church in Dedham. Dedham: 'H. and W. II. Mann. pp. 51.
* Dominus, Deus noster, Papa.