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have returned to God who gave them: the head to think, and the hand to act, and the heart to prompt, are cold in the dust. Who hath made you to differ? I could take you into huts and into cellars: I could shew you individuals who were once as wealthy as the wealthiest of you, clothed in splendour, and faring sumptuously every day; who now are clothed with rags, and are reduced to such abject distress, that they have not bread or water with which to satisfy the cravings of nature. Who hath made you to differ? I could point you out many who have been as diligent in business, as skilful in their speculations-who have formed their purposes as ardently, and carried them out into execution with as much energy as ever you have; and yet their energies have been employed in vain; their plans have been frustrated, and disappointment has met them at the end of every path. Who hath made you to differ? I could lead you to others who, from some sudden revolution which no eye could foresee, have been reduced to the greatest despondency and the greatest disappointment. Who hath made you to differ?
Beloved brethren, we are all of us stewards; and it is required in a steward that a man be found faithful: and whether we have two talents, or whether we have ten; whether we are rich men, and have much to.give-or whether we are poor men, and can only give the widow's mite to the treasury of the sanctuary, we are equally dependent upon him. We have received all from Him: "for all things come of thee, and of thine own have we given thee." What beautiful condescension in the Mighty God is it that he should first put the gift in the hands of his creatures, and then invite them to give the gift back to him, receiving it as if it were their own,
If, then, beloved brethren, the ability to give is from the Lord, of whom are all things, I would further shew you that the disposition to give to God of what he has given to us, is more, if possible, from him. Man, when he came from the hand of his Maker, was made in his image, and was therefore full of love for "God is love; and he that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God, and God in him." But man, as a fallen creature, has lost that image, and therefore, instead of being full of God, is full of selfishness. Self has taken the place of God in his breast: all his object and all his aim is to aggrandize, to exalt, to gratify, to pamper self. Could we dissect the actions that appear good and noble in the eyes of men-could we dissect the motives and see the principles from which they spring; we should be ready to lament where they admire, and to weep where they rejoice. Beloved brethren, man is naturally so selfish, that however, from the promptings of natural pity, he may sometimes give, and however he may at other times, by a mere regard to character, or the applause or the censure of his fellow worms, give bountifully and largely; yet of this you may be assured, that no man can give to God, give out of love to God, with a single eye to His honour, with a simple wish of His acceptance of the gift, but God has given him that disposition, renewed him in the spirit of that mind, in which hitherto selfishness has ruled alone, and kindled the fire of heaven where there burnt the fire of hell. Never can man give to God, till God has given him a heart that is filled with the only principle that can make any of his gifts or offerings acceptable to his Father in heaven. He will never forego his requirement" My son, give me thy heart" and give him what we willour talents, our time, our efforts, our comforts, our lives themselves—yet, if
the heart be kept, all is a vain boasting: God looks on the whole with "My son, give me abhorrence, indignation, and contempt; and still he says, thine heart." But if the heart be given, whatever follows, that gift through Jesus Christ shall be accepted with the Father: and the cup of cold water, given from the bidding of a heart that has already been given to God, shall in no wise lose its reward; it has a value stamped on it all its own, because it is given from a disposition that is bestowed by the Spirit of God.
Beloved brethren, let a man only try by his own unaided efforts, will, and affections, to do one disinterested act; and he will find that he might sooner quicken the dead, that he might sooner arrest the waves of the sea, than by any power or resolution of his own do one disinterested act out of love to God. How can he do it?" Make the tree good, and his fruit good; or else make the tree corrupt, and his fruit corrupt." Out of a renewed heart renewed actions will spring; out of an unrenewed heart nothing but a polluted spring of iniquity can flow. Beloved brethren, it is therefore a position alike that commends itself to Scripture and to reason, that the ability and the disposition to give to God must alike come from himself.
I am led, in the next place, from the words of the Psalmist, to shew that
you, WE OUGHT TO BE MORE PROFOUNDLY THANKFUL FOR THE POSSESSION OF THE DISPOSITION, THAN OF THE ABILITY, TO GIVE.
You will perceive, by a reference to the passage, that the emphasis of the Psalmist's gratitude is laid upon the willingness, rather than the ability; for it is said, "the people rejoiced, for that they offered willingly, because with perfect heart they offered willingly to the Lord: and David the king also rejoiced with great joy:" and his language was-" Who am I, and what is my people, that we should be able to offer so willingly after this sort?" You will perceive, brethren, that the whole stress of his gratitude is laid upon the willingness that the Lord had given them to give to him that had given to them all. O brethren, it was not the mighty accumulation of treasure; it was not so much the amount of the gold, the silver, and the precious stones, that filled the heart of the monarch with such ecstacy: it was the readiness and the cheerfulness with which the people gave. They felt it to be a privilege; they considered it their highest honour to give thus to the Lord God of Israel
Beloved brethren, by a very few and simple arguments, it may be made apparent to you, that the gift of the disposition from God, far transcends the ability without the disposition. For the ability to give is granted to multitudes that are enemies to God, and rebels in their minds, and who will perish everlastingly. We know, alas! that God often "filleth the belly of the ungodly with his hidden treasure;" that they leave their substance to their children; that they build their houses, and call them by their names, so that they should endure for ever; and yet they go down to the grave, to the narrow tomb, and the shroud and the coffin are all their wealth can procure them, and beyond this world the wealth of the world would not procure one drop of water to cool their tongue, parched in that flame. O brethren, think little of wealth in itself -honour in itself-human applause in itself-distinction in this world in itself all are but phantoms and shadows, except as they are consecrated to God. Then, indeed, they may subserve his glory, our own happiness, and our own reward
hereafter. But if we make them objects of themselves; if we use them as though they were our own; if we are unfaithful stewards; if we are using in ourselves what God gave us in order that we might set forth his glory, and set forward the salvation of our fellow men; then our gold is cankered, and our garments are moth-eaten; the rust of our treasures will eat up our whole heart as with fire; and we shall wish, amid the torments of the lost, that we had been born with Lazarus on the dunghill, rather than found with the rich man in the mansion. Waste of wealth, of knowledge, and of talent, does but enhance our guilt, and, therefore, deepen our ruin. Well would it have been for many of the rich and the great that they had had to beg their bread from door to door, rather than had the rich gifts of God's bounty to render their future account the more dark and the more tremendous.
Brethren, it is not so with the disposition to give which comes from God. God gives this only to his people. Many of them are poor; like Lazarus, fed with the crumbs that fall from the rich man's table; but they are rich-rich in the love of God-rich in the hope of heaven-rich in the heart that is filled so largely with benevolence that it can grasp the world in its embrace; rich, therefore, for having nothing, they possess all things. The disposition to give is God's precious talent put into the souls of his own children. They are like him, because they are born of him. He puts not off his heritage with the poor perishing wealth of this world: he would make them think little of these things compared with the unsearchable riches of Christ. And, brethren, one grain of genuine love to man, springing from love to God, its only source, is worth all the wealth of Peru and if we had the whole world without that, we are poor in our riches, and desolate in the midst of our glory: for "what shall it profit a man if he gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?" And the soul that hath not love to God, springing forth in love to man, is dead while he lives; and going into eternity thus dead, his death must be eternal.
Further, brethren, the disposition to give to God calls for livelier gratitude, inasmuch as the ability without the disposition can never make a man happy; but the disposition without the ability fills the man's breast with what riches can never purchase. Many of the sons of wealth and grandeur have, amidst their splendour, a wicked heart, a resisting conscience, and a mind which, like the troubled sea when it cannot rest, casts up mire and dirt. O what false estimates do we sometimes make of happiness! The mind is the seat and centre of a man's misery or of a man's enjoyment: such as the heart is, so is the man's belief. The man who has all the wealth of the world, but has not a heart to use it for God, must be feeding on ashes: a lying and deceiving heart hath turned him aside; he is sowing to the wind, and shall reap the whirlwind; he is following a shadow, and grasping a phantom; he is sowing to the fles', and of the flesh shall reap corruption. But a heart that is rich in love to God, and rich in love to man, however poor the circumstances of the individual, has in it a well of water springing up into everlasting life; is filled with a joy with which the stranger intermeddleth not-with a peace which passeth all understanding-a hope that maketh not ashamed. It has in that blessed disposition a source of joy which thousands of rich men, if they but knew its preciousness, would buy with all their substance; and gladly would kings give up their crowns and their sceptres, could they but taste for one hour the joy
that springs from disinterested love. He is the happy man who can realize from his own experience the sublime sentiment of our Lord when in numan form below: "It is more blessed to give than to receive." If we know not that blessed truth, we are strangers to real happiness; if we have never tasted that fountain of living water that maketh glad the city of our God.
The disposition to give, unaccompanied with the ability, is received of God according to what a man hath, and not according to what he hath not. Though we give all our goods to feed the poor, and have not charity, it profiteth us nothing: if our hearts be inspired with heavenly charity, then, though we give but a crust of bread, or the widow's mite, God accepts it; and it is more in proportion to a poor individual than the gifts of the greatest sovereign on earth. God is a just God; he does not reap where he has not sown, nor gather where he has not strawed; but accounts him that is faithful in little as faithful also in much. He will not condemn a man because he has not two talents: if he is condemned, it will be because the one talent was hidden in a napkin instead of being laid out for the glory of God. The poor man's crown will be as bright as the rich man's; for it is according to the faithfulness, and not according to the ability, that we shall be judged at the last day. Are there not many of the poor, rich in faith, rich in liberality, rich in love? And if they are ever tempted to envy their richer neighbours, it is on such occasions as these, when their hands can so ill obey the promptings of their hearts, and when they would give largely into the treasury of the house of God. If there is one object more than another that calls for profoundest pity, it is not the poor man who has the heart, but not the hand, to give; but it is the rich man, who has the hand to give, but not the heart. He is the poor man-poor in the eyes of angels, poor in the eyes of God, poor for eternity.
Further: The disposition to give calls for profounder gratitude than the ability to give, inasmuch as the disposition to give brings us likest to that blessed Redeemer, who was not, when on earth, a man of wealth and grandeur; who came not in the splendour of the monarch, with thousands of attending legions; but was himself " a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief," not having where to lay his head, and being dependent on the charity of others; so that from the hand of charity, the Lord of the universe received the pittance of his daily support. Does not this tell us that it is not the ability to give that marks a man as the favourite of heaven, but rather the disposition to give. For what was he giving? Giving the glories of heaven-giving the homage of angels-giving his own heart's blood, to save sinners. "Ye know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for our sakes he became poor, that we through his poverty might be made rich." And when was this mind in us that was in Christ Jesus? When have we counted all things but dung and dross, that we might glorify our Father, and render to him what he has lent to us?
I am, in the last place, to show you, that THE ABILity and the disposition
TO GIVE ARE NEVER MORE NOBLY EMPLOYED THAN IN ERECTING TEMPLES FOR THE WORSHIP OF GOD.
Charity, to be fully efficient, must be wisely regulated; and the charity that does not proportion its gifts to the urgency of the claims upon it, is wanting in
that wisdom which is from above. Let prudence ever guide the hands of your charity, to give to objects in proportion to their momentousness and their magnitude. There are objects of a temporal nature momentous and deeply affecting. To build alms-houses for the aged and the destitute; to rear asylums for the insane; to support dispensaries for affording medicine for the sick; to erect infirmaries for the reception of the wounded and the maimed; to deal out our bread to the hungry, our water to the thirsty, our garments to the naked; these are exercises of the charity that delights in doing good. But if man be not the creature of time, but a candidate for eternity; if his nature involves not merely the tent of clay, but a spirit deathless as Deity; if eternity is his lifetime, his interests and his destinies all centering there; if, as man is found in this world, he is found in that world; then the charity that has to do with the soul and its eternal interests, as far transcends the charity which has to do with the body alone, as eternity transcends time, and the deathless spirit outweighs the tenement that it inhabits.
Therefore, if charity is to be guided by discretion, and discretion is to be informed by Scripture, the charity that has to do with men as immortal beings, is the charity nearest to the charity of God incarnate; who came from heaven to earth, not to heal the body, or provide for the exigences of time, but to heal the immortal spirit, and furnish it for the ages of eternity. Therefore, the charities that are designed to instruct the ignorant, to illuminate the dark mind, to convey the truth of the Divine Word home to the conscience—those charities that are adapted to promote the ordinances of religion, the sustentation of the sanctuary, for the publication of the Gospel, whereby it pleases God to save them that believe-these should take the first place in our estimation, and have the largest share of our benevolence. The worldly man will give to the necessities of the body; it is only the Christian man who will give, from conviction, to the exigences of the soul: because the exigences of the one are obvious and palpable to the senses of the unconverted man; but the exigences of the soul can only be known to him who is conscious of the exigences of his own soul.
Further though God uses sometimes the written word, and sometimes employs education, for the conveyance of the light of heaven to the heart, yet, after all, it is by the ministration of his word that he most glorifies his Name. If, indeed, the Gospel shall be proclaimed to every creature before the last coming of our Lord, then to provide for the preaching of that Gospel in its simplicity and purity, is the sublimest charity.
Further if, in order that the solemnization of the ordinances of religion be decently conducted, accompanied with the prayers and the praises that are fitting, that God may be glorified by it, there should be decent and fit houses of prayer, (and though in early times, the rock and the wilderness might form the place of ministration, or a highway, that seed might be sown, yet, at least, it were a reflection on our Christian country, a reflection upon the preaching of the Gospel, a reflection on our gratitude to God, if it were necessary thus to drive the Gospel abroad, as it were, and not to furnish a place for the tabernacle for the ark of our God)-then, assuredly, to furnish houses of prayer, decent, suitable, and prepared for the ministration of the Gospel, and the worship of the public assembly, is, of all charities, perhaps, that a Christian man can pro