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The author beyins, by showing, that as man is a compound being, with a material body and a spiritual soul, he ought to act with a reference to this double relation. He must not, on the one hand, debase bis mind by a subjection to corporeal pleasures and worldly cares; nor, on the other, vainly attempt to reach a sublimated state of spirituality, which affects to disregard the body and to contemn all earthly interests. Men must labor as well as pray. They must endeavor to promote both their temporal and spiritual interests. They must serve God with their bodies and their minds,—with their time, their talents and their wealth.
Mr. Church takes the position, that a portion of every man's income ought to be devoted to the service of God. He admits, that a man must provide for the bodily wants and for the intellectual and moral cultivation of himself and family; he must endeavor to make some provision for future necessities; he may, if his means will permit
, indulge himself and family, to a certain extent, in embellishments; and he may have some regard to the demands of the station in which he is placed. Mr. Church shows a sound judgment, in his remarks on these points. He gives no countenance to the extravagant views of some reformers, who contend for a kind and degree of self-denial, wbich would reduce society to a savage state.
Mr. Church insists, nevertheless, that a man bas no right to expend for these purposes all his income. He owes a portion of it to the cause of benevolence. The relief of the suffering poor, the instruction of the ignorant, and the spread of religion, require large funds; and these must be supplied by the contributions of the benevolent.
The author shows, that the duty of benefiting others by our money is proved by the Scriptures, by the dictates of those humane feelings which God has given us, and by various other motives. It is shown by the fact, that well-directed industry usually produces more than is necessary to supply the reasonable wants of a man and of his family; and the surplus was evidently intended by God to be employed for his service. The immense wealth wbich has been squandered in wars, in the luxury of princes, and in other ways, demonstrates, that there is no lack of means for the supply of all the real wants of mankind.
In connexion with some valuable remarks on the necessity and benefits of employment, Mr. Church makes the following observations respecting a provision for children :
“ I am aware, that the opinion more generally prevails, that it is our duty, to lay by every thing beyond a supply for our immediate wants, as a legacy for our children. To amass wealth for such an object is considered by many as among the first of parental duties. But, why shonld this be necessary, when it will remain true of our children, not less than of ourselves, that so much application to business as their health and advantage require, will give them the samne superabundance, without our help, that many of us have acquired without the help of our parevts? A good education, with business babits, will bring them a competence without our aid; and if they have not these, the most ample legacy would fail of making them permanently rich. All that is left to childreu, beyond perhaps a moderate provision for starting them iu business, serves, probably, in nive cases out of ten, to enervate their powers, or to corrupt their morals. Shall we, therefore, heap up the shining dust, to debase, corrupt and brutalize our descendants ? Shall we toil through life, to supersede that economy of Heaven, which provides, in mercy, that man sball eat his bread with the sweat of his face? In what family or nation have not large accumulations proved, ultimately, a source of deterioration, infamy and ruin? When they reach the zenith of worldly prosperity, so that they feel at liberty to relax the severity of their efforts, at that moment, their decline begins.
“Where is the family, whom wealth bas not ultimately injured ? In this country, where estates are not secured by law to the same line of descendants, they are perpetually changing hands. They rarely remain long in the same families. The sons of the poor oftener, perbaps, rise to extensive wealth than those of the rich. This is, doubtless, owing to their superior enterprise. Children bred up in luxury and abundance, rarely acquire the bravery and hardihood wbich are demanded for poble deeds. Nothing but the spur of' necessity,—nothing but the exciting influence of a powerful cause, can overcome our natural love of inertion, and put the mind upon the track of exalted achievements.
* With these facts in view, can any one suppose, that God has intended the superabundant results of our industry as a legacy for our cbildren? Can be regard it as his duty, to hoard up property for them, when all experience teaches us, that they are better without thau with it? That parent performs the best service for his children, who leaves with them such a knowledge of some useful calling, and such babits of application, as will enable them to bestow a positive benefit upon the world, that shall be equal, or more than equal, to all that they need for their own advantage. There are great and glorious plans of improvenient, in matter, in mind, and in morals, yet to be accomplished. And every child should be qualified, not merely to eat, drink, and enjoy himself, but to contribute his share to the accomplishment of these plans. And if he does this, the reward, of which he will not be likely to fail, will be sufficient to cover all his wants."-pp. 114-116.
The amount which every man ought to employ in benevolent purposes cannot be determined by any specific rule. Mr. Church admits, that the law, among the Jews, which required a tenth of every man's property for the service of God,* is not binding on the Christian church ; but he thinks, that the Saviour meant to draw from the willing hands of his followers, by the constraining power of holy love, a still larger proportion. The author endeavors to prove, that the duty which is assigned to the church, of spreading the gospel over all the earth, implies a demand for more than a tenth of the income of Christians.
These principles are probably correct, in their general application. No man, surely, can feel that love to God and man, which the gospel inspires, and can acknowledge the obligation to regard himself as not his own, without employing a liberal proportion of his property in promoting the glory of God and the happiness of men. But the exact amount must be decided by his own judgment, acting under the influence of an enlightened and fervent piety. We believe, that the Saviour meant to leave this whole subject to the consciences of his people. On this point, as on most others, the gospel teaches principles, which, in their free and proper operation, would guide all men, who obeyed them, to the exact discharge of every duty. The New Testament does not prescribe how often we shall pray, or fast, or read the Scriptures. It presupposes, that every Christian will perform these duties, but he must judge for himself, respecting the time and manner. So, too, in regard to alms and contributions for the service of religion, there is no regulation in the New Testament. The general duty is taught, but each Christian is supposed to act freely. Peter acknowledged, that Ananias and Sapphira might, if they had chosen, have kept their land, or have retained the price in their own hands. (Acts 5:4.) Paul, while soliciting donations for charitable purposes, commonly employs the language of entreaty, and not of command; and he appeals to believers, as acting on their own responsibility, as measuring their contributions by their own judyment: “Every man, according as he purposeth in his heart, so let him give, not grudgingly, nor of necessity; for God loveth a cheerful giver.” (2 Cor. 9: 6.)* Even on one occasion, when he gives an authoritative direction, he still admits the right of each individual to exercise bis own judgment respecting the amount of his contribution : “ Now concerning the collection for the saints, 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 hath prospered him, that there be no gatherings when I come.” (1 Cor. 16: 1, 2.) These are specimens of the manner in which the duty of contributing money for charitable and religious purposes, is taught in the New Testament. It is every where taken for granted, that a Christian will hold himself and all his property and influence as consecrated to the service of bis Redeemer. But there is no law, prescribing exactly what amount of his income he shall appropriate to the cause of God. And there is admirable wisdom in this arrangement. It corresponds with the whole character of the system, as designed for the family of man, in all countries and ages. Among the Jews, a small nation, peculiarly situated, there might well be a definite rule on the subject. The amount needed for the service of religion was ascertained; and as the government was a theocracy, the contributions for religious objects partook of the nature of a tax for civil purposes. The Jews, moreover, were placed under a system of positive enactments, and obedience was enforced by temporal rewards and punishments.
* Besides the regular tithes, to be paid to the priests and Levites, various other contributions for religious purposes were required of the Jews; “so that,” says Mr. Dick, “more than one fourth, and perhaps nearly one half, of their incomes was, in such ways, devoted to public and religious purposes.' Dick on Covetousness, p. 181.
The gospel is a spiritual economy, which governs the heart by moral influences. It creates affections and inspires motives, which are adequate impulses to every duty ; and nothing is necessary, but the legitimate sway of the gospel over every heart, to produce a perfect obedience. The circumstances of men are infinitely various, and no rule, respecting pecuniary contributions, prescribing an exact amount or proportion, would operate equally in all the varieties of human condition. The claims of religion and of charity are, in like manner, constantly varying. It is not possible, in a single church, to determine how much money will be needed annually for the support of religion within itself for several years to come; and much less
* The matter was thus understood by the early Christians. Justin Martyr, in his Apology, A. D. 150, after giving an account of the customary services on the Sabbath, says: “ Those who are prosperous and willing, give what they choose, each according to his own pleasure.”—Murdock’s Mosheim, vol. I.,
would it be practicable to decide, how much would be necessary for all purposes, throughout all ages, and in all lands. An adequate provision is made for any exigency, by leaving every Christian and every church to decide, in view of all the circumstances in each case, what are the claims of duty, and, appealing to the all-powerful motive, the love of Christ, as an incentive to obedience. The responsibility is thus thrown upon each generation, each church, and each individual believer. The duties of one age or country are not those of another. There are peculiar obligations, extraordinary trials, special exigences. But Christian principles are adequate to every pressure. The grace of God is sufficient. Piety is best nurtured by this constant dependence. If the Christian watches the providence of God, while he studies his word, he is in the best posture to learn bis duty, and to draw from the inexhaustible fountain the strength and the wisdom which he needs to perform it.
We deem it improper, therefore, to bring the pecuniary concerns of Christians under the scrutiny of the church. The duty of liberality ought, undoubtedly, to be urged on every member, and it may be made a part of the church covenant. The sin of covetousness ought to be rebuked, and if it could be satisfactorily proved, would, like any other sin, be a proper object of church discipline. But the difficulty lies in ascertaining the fact. No man can judge conclusively, in this case, respecting the duty of another. Two men, with the same income, may have very different claims on their property,– claims, too, which are not always obvious, nor capable of being explained. A thousand circumstances, many of which are of a delicate and confidential kind, make the duty of one man very different from that of another. How, then, could a church take an inventory of the property of each member, and decide how large a proportion he must pay for benevolent purposes, on pain of being censured or excluded for covetousness ? Admitting, that after an odious inquisition into the pecuniary affairs of each member, the amount of his property could be exactly ascertained, how would it be possible to decide what proportion he ought to contribute ? Who, but himself, can know what claims, of a private nature, exist, to modify his duty? A man's property is not a measure of his pecuniary ability. His expenses must be taken into the account. A man with a small income may be richer than another, who has a much