Imágenes de páginas


THE Pastor's Office is of a very difficult and delicate character. In hardly any particular of his manifold duties is it more necessary to exercise true wisdom, combined with perfect faithfulness, than when a minister has to deal with wealth,-its duties and responsibilities as a gift; its danger as an abused and squaudered possession, or an equally abused and hoarded treasure. It is not for ministers to enter into the private affairs of their people, and to extract either from the living or the dying, unwilling gifts for the service of God in their private dealings with the wealthy of their flocks, the utmost caution and scriptural circumspection must ever be observed, that exhortations to alms-giving and good works, present not the shadow of a resemblance to the fraud and pillage so often practised by priests of the Roman communion.

The pulpit is the place for open attack upon the love of money-the sin of covetousness, which is idolatry. There the preacher is bound to declaim against that "lading with thick clay," which not only is a perversion of the gifts of God, and curses those who do so, but which also prevents a large amount of good from being done to the souls and bodies of men.

Some instances of large and " munificent bequests," which the organs of our religious and charitable institutions have from time to time recorded, have led us to a consideration of the subject. In some cases we have been behind the curtain, and as we read the records of the posthumous gifts of wealth, we have wondered what blessings could rest either upon the givers or the gifts.

The one passage, "God loveth a cheerful giver," applied to the bequests of many who leave their thousands, and sometimes their tens of thousands, to religious or other societies-would for ever brand the gift as a comparatively worthless appropriation of that which they can enjoy themselves no longer, and which they care not to divide amongst those who may have long hoped to share in their wealth.

In far too many instances they leave of what they have never given; and in too many an instance also, they open the flood-gates of a hoarded treasure, penuriously shielded from diminution either by that proper liberality to their fellow-men, or that kind and generous aid to those whose claims were strong and natural, which would have saved some from many a pang, and perhaps have saved some from ruin. We speak not here without the warrant of facts. Entirely unconnected ourselves with such cases in the remotest degree, we yet know of instances where we could hear only with pain of the large amounts left as bequests for the service of God. It is not for us to judge the state of those who have thus, after death, allowed their wealth to circulate, and to be spent in doing that good which they themselves cared but in a small measure to aid in accomplishing while living. Did these circumstances occur in the case of those who were professed worldlings during life, we might perhaps imagine that the compunctions of a newly awakened conscience upon a dying bed might have demanded from the rich man or the rich woman, that they gave to God what they had withheld while living, or perhaps that some vague idea of a heaven to be

bought, might have induced the bestowal by will of a heavy sum as a kind of purchase-money. But in far too many a case, those who thus give, are not only members of our Churches but pass current as real Christians; dropping, it may be, into the coffers of their respective churches the occasional mite of aid, altogether out of proportion to the wealth they nurse during a long life-time. They let life, "the seed-time for eternity," pass away, as far as their span of probation is concerned, without themselves sowing the seed with which they have been entrusted, and for the right use of which they are responsible. What is done with their possessions after they are gone is no act of theirs; and if they have left what they kept as long as they could, God may bless His recovered possession, but the act of the covetous is not recorded in the book of God's remembrance as a deed of faith and love.

In these days of Gospel light and universal profession, it is not without great pain that these vast accumulations and hoardings by such persons are brought to light, when their possessors have been removed by death from their long-loved treasures; and we cannot but imagine that our brethren in the pulpit, and that the agents of our large societies, do not place the subject in its proper and deeply momentous aspect before the congregations and individuals with whom they come in contact. Too much is made of posthumous bequests, a false liberality, when the period for withholding is gone for ever; and by far too little is brought before their people of the deep importance of giving while we live, according to the ability which God has given us.

Like every thing else in Scripture,

alms-giving, both for the service of God and man, is made a matter of to-day and not to-morrow, the duties and advantages of the latter it may never be our lot either to discharge or enjoy, Work while it is called to-day, is a call upon the rich man to put out his money to that best of all investments, the service of Him who gave it him. "While we have time we are to do good unto all men;" and there can be no question that this doing of good consists in the free, liberal, and cheerful distribution of our wealth, while we have it, in those divers ministrations that proceed out of love-love shewed for Christ's name sake, towards the many members of His one body, every where, and in every variety of circumstance.

These remarks are of course not intended to apply in the slightest degree to those, who, while they live, give openly or secretly, according to the full measure of their yearly income, and then may provide by will, after the proper consideration for relatives, for the appropriation of the source of that income in large amounts to charity. Of such there are noble instances, who, while living, have given first themselves to the Lord, and then have accounted themselves but stewards of the gracious gifts of time, and talents, and wealth, which He has lent them for a time. To such the beautiful language of Job, recapitulating the blessings which fell upon him as he walked forth among those whose burden of suffering it had been his joy and privilege to lighten, has once and again been a kindred source of secret joy. They have given from the overflowing of that cup of mercies which their heavenly Father has put into their hands; and ever as they go forth to minister to the poor,

to the sick, and the dying, or dispatch the secret or open gift to some channel through which their brethren in the flesh may have the body warmed and fed, and the mind enlightened,and, above all, the soul illuminated with tidings of a Saviour and His dying love, they have felt "thrice blessed" in the thought, that while they have ministered to man, He who was the Son of Man, accepts the service as done for Him.

O that we could penetrate into the chambers of those whose heaps of gold are daily accumulating; whose funds, and lands, and houses, are bringing them in a rich revenue for earth, but are weighing down their souls with a weight of riches which vanishes at the magic touch of death, and leaves them poor indeed. These may think, while they in secret hug their bankers' books or their rent-rolls, that they will one day astonish the world, and gratify many a religious society by large bequests: the world may long have regarded them as rich Christians, spending little, and that perhaps grudgingly and penuriously, even in a world which gave them their wealth; the societies and the Churches with which they have been connected may have for a long series of years been crippled in their means, while they have received but scanty aid, or perhaps no aid whatever, from these hoarders of God's gold and silver.

Let, then, "GIVE WHILE YOU LIVE," be the words which drop from the preacher's tongue, as he pleads for the varied sources through which God allows His creatures to act as His almoners in providence, and instruments in His purposes of grace. There ought to be no keeping back of this plain duty for fear of man, but the pastor must ring in the ears of all

who are rich in this world's good, the solemn charge "that they be ready to distribute," and the solemn warning, that they who keep locked up till death their golden stores, are guilty of the sin of covetousness, which is idolatry and separates from God. "GIVE WHILE YOU LIVE" must be the motto for the speeches and addresses of our missionary and other agents; through the length and breadth of the land they should let their voices be heard, plainly telling rich Christians that present help is not only most valuable to their purposes and objects, but is also most acceptable to that God who gives power to get wealth, and who expects His people to give as freely as they have received.

"Riches take to themselves wings and fly away;" a short time, and a very slight combination of circumstances may deprive the possessor of his ability to leave a shilling where he had anticipated to bestow thousands; and if the wealth remains, it has happened, and may happen again, that the will may be wanting to give to God a fraction of what they once intended to set apart for His service. The pulpit, the platform, and the press, must speak loudly and plainly as to the use and abuse of riches. These media must not fear to tell whose is the silver and the gold, and for what purpose God gives to every man what He will.

Again, it is not the will of God that His service should be promoted by money screwed together and hoarded by hands niggardly regarding every outlay in the necessary expences of life. God will have His people liberal to man as well as to Himself; He has given us the history of the transaction between David and Araunah as a lesson that we are to

emulate the large heartedness of David in refusing to give to God that which costs him nothing.

It is a sad detraction from the value of many an offering to God, to hear it said with truth that the givers are, or have been, mean and penurious in their dealings with their fellow-men, and have given or left behind them, what they ought to have been first liberal with in their proper spheres of life. God looks not at the amount only of an offering, but estimates it according to the motive and the circumstances under which it is given; He refuses many a 66 customary guinea" and accepts the humble and hard-earned shilling; He rejects, as


WHAT ought a christian minister's study to be, but a sanctuary for intercourse with the "Father of Lights?" -holy ground, consecrated by prayer, and other pious exercises, to the service of the Redeemer? What, but a dispensary of light, and life, and happiness? What, but the storehouse of an almoner of God's bounty-of "the bread of life which cometh down from heaven?" Should not its sacredness inspire feelings of veneration; saying to the multitude,


(4 leaf from a Portfolio.)

"Stand off, ye vulgar, nor profane With bold, unhallow'd sounds, this holy


not done for Him, or under proper circumstances, many a "munificent bequest," and accepts and treasures up the little mite, accompanied by the uplifted prayer that a blessing may rest upon efforts to rescue man from distress and suffering, or souls from eternal ruin.

Ought not its walls to reflect the images of virtue within, and echo the voices of truth without?

During the coming year let this be the motto of Christians who may in various degrees be rich,—We will give while living, cheerfully, what we can, and leave after death what we ought; and all our giving shall be from love to Him who gave Himself for us, and hath with Himself freely given us all things richly to enjoy.

Thoughts like these, and reflections, the writer was led to entertain, by reading a sentence or two in a funral sermon, preached sometime ago by the Rev. Hugh Stowell, of Salford, on occasion of the death of his most excellent father, formerly rector


of Ballaugh, in the Isle of Man. At page 19 of that sermon, Mr. Stowell says, "There was no passage of Scripture which more frequently dwelt upon his mind and glowed upon his tongue, than 'GOD IS LOVE!” This most touching sentence, printed in large characters, and surrounded with rays of light, was hung up in his private study, that retreat which had so often proved to him the House of God and the gate of Heaven,'— whilst you could not enter, but it visible in the life of him who so demet your eye; scarcely was it less lighted in the sentiment; it lightened his every load, endeared his every duty, made self-denial pleasant, and infused a sweetness into the bitterest cup allotted him to drink,-constraining him, even amid gushing tears and thrilling agony, to say, Father, 'Thy will be done!"

The same emphatic words, if constantly imprinted on the memory of "the man of God," or blazoned on his study wall, so as continually to

meet his stedfast look, would help to keep alive a spirit of piety in his heart, and furnish words that burn. There is true inspiration in such an apothegm, and motive which alone is sufficiently powerful to carry him successfully through all his duties, and support him under every trial. It will render him equal to surmount all the difficulties which lie in his way, and constrain him to attempt and accomplish great things, as it is indispensable to the formation of the truly great man. There is light in it to illuminate every book of Holy Scripture; and light strong enough to reach every path along which the missionary and the minister have to toil. The eye which rests upon that will kindle into brightness, and beholding it, will receive fresh accessions of spiritual fervour, to convey warmth and stimulus to "the inner man." Let this then be the motto, and the all-absorbing maxim of the New Year, to guide and direct all our

efforts for the public weal,-" GOD IS LOVE!" Let it be

The principal theme of our meditations:

The chief subject of our ministrations:

The foundation of our scheme of doctrine :

The font of our ethics in respect to God and man:

The pattern and rule of our conduct to one another :

The great fact to be realized in

our personal experience: The pervading spirit of all our endeavours to reform disorders in Church and State, and of our aims to reconcile differences, and attain that perfection, which we may humbly and prayerfully hope to arrive at, even amidst the jarring elements of human minds, and the prejudices of education and of system.


Advent, Dec. 8th, 1851.



OUR valued friend and beloved brother in Christ, the Rev. J. Haldane Stewart, has lately renewed his "Invitation for United Prayer for the Outpouring of the Holy Spirit," on the first day of the new year. This Invitation he has now repeated every year, for fifteen years. It must be nearly twice as long since he first began to call the special attention of Christians of all denominations, both at home and abroad, to the necessity of such prayer. And there can be no doubt that, about the time when these remarks will reach them, many will be either engaged in, or preparing for, those special exercises of devotion to which our dear brother has invited


It may not, therefore, be an unsuitable time to direct attention to the enquiry, How far these long continued and repeated prayers have been answered in a manifest and abundant outpouring of the blessing which we have been seeking?

There is, doubtless, an important sense in which the outpouring of the Spirit has been already vouchsafed. The Spirit was poured out, from the full and blessed Fountain of Divine and Sovereign grace and mercy, on the Day of Pentecost, as the commencement of a new Dispensation,the Dispensation of the Spirit,which continues till this day. The Spirit has never been withdrawn altogether; but, in different measure at different times, has manifested His power and grace in quickening, sanctifying and comforting the members of the Mystical Body of Christ. Sometimes (as at the blessed period of the Reformation) this outpouring has been more evident and abundant: at others, it has been, in a measure, restrained. So that, properly speaking, what we should ask and seek is, a more evident and abundant outpouring of the Spirit-something that partakes of the character of a pente

« AnteriorContinuar »