« AnteriorContinuar »
we are not always ready to devote ourselves in every way to promote his glory.
But the duty of Christian liberality is so plain, that it is scarcely necessary to attempt a formal proof of it. There are few who ever think of questioning or denying that we ought to give of our substance for such objects as require our co-operation ; the question is, in what proportion men are called upon to perform the duty. A mean and churlish disposition is so universally regarded with contempt and aversion, that you will scarcely meet with any one wretched enough to avow that he does not consider himself bound to render his aid in proper cases. But then it must be according to his ability ; who would be so unreasonable as to expect that he should give more than he can afford ? He cannot deprive himself of necessaries and comforts; he must provide for those who have any reasonable expectations from him ; when he has done this, he will calculate what he can do in good works; till then, he must leave them to be done by those who are more wealthy, or must leave them undone.
I need not say that this is a very common strain of reasoning, that it is indeed the usual veil under which covetousness seeks to hide itself from the sight of God and man. It is, indeed, in most instances, a very thin disguise; we are generally able to see the sordid passion plainly enough beneath it. But though others may not be deceived, many a person has contrived to deceive himself; and we shall be likely to derive advantage from giving our attention to the case of the poor widow, which is so directly calculated to show the futility of all pretences of this sort.
Our Lord evidently intended to point to her conduct as an example. “He called unto him his disciples, and saith unto them, Verily I say unto you, that this poor widow hath cast more in, than all they which have cast into the treasury: for all they did cast in of their abundance; but she of her want did cast in all that she had, even all her living.” If, however, we assume this instance as our guide, in ascertaining the measure of Christian liberality, we quickly arrive at one point: we see at once that there are none who possess anything, who are not called upon to give in good works.
It is necessary to pause for a moment on the qualifying words of this proposition. In the present state of society, owing to the unfortunate extent to which we commonly carry what is called credit, it is not always very easy for a man to know what belongs to him; the means which he has immediately at his disposal, may not be
Now, it should be distinctly understood, that the first duty is, to pay to all their due. Till we are sure that what we have is our own, we may not dispose of it in benevolence. But neither may we dispose of it in any other way than in liquidating our engagements to those to whom we are indebted. I say not this to stay the current of beneficence, much less to give any countenance to a pitiful quibble; but to meet a necessary exception, before I maintain the universality of the rule. It is every man's business to make a point of ascertaining how far he has the means of meeting his engagements. As soon as he has ascertained that he has, and he ought not for a moment to remain uncertain about it,) it is his duty and his privilege to give in good works.
The words of our Lord would lead us to think, that the poor widow had, in giving the two mites, given all her visible means of living. It was all that remained after the day's expenses : she was then entirely destitute: she had nothing more.
She would return to her labours, and earn another day's pittance, to destine it in the same generous way. The God of the widow had hitherto supported her. He had been her protector, when her earthly protector had been taken away. She had not wanted, though she was poor. She was thankful to such a gracious God. She could trust Him, who had hitherto supported her. She showed her sincerity by her conduct, and threw what she had saved from her pittance into the treasury. Our Lord looked with approbation upon her conduct, and it was registered in heaven.
Such is the extent to which the feelings and principles of the world operate upon Christians, that it is to be feared that many who bear the name of Christ, would pass, on conduct resembling that of this widow, the sentence of unqualified disapprobation. They would denounce it as thoughtless prodigality, as a tempting of Providence, as a wanton throwing of herself into poverty. Instead of calling attention to it, as the Saviour did, as a noble instance of liberality, they would boldly maintain that it was her duty to make a provision for herself against a time of need; and that, having so little, she ought to save all she could for the supply of her own wants.
It is a duty to provide for our future wants when we have the means of doing so; but we are not to do so at the expense of duty. If we can cut off any extravagance, if we can in our expenditure save by our frugality, we may most properly lay by us in store against future need; and we may expect the Divine blessing on our foresight.
But to harden our consciences against the claims which are made upon