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the Father of lights shall never be disappointed. It contains in it the virtues of the treasuries of heaven. Out of these there shall be ministered an abundant store, when the money-bags of the rich shall be unawares found empty. This, then, is an evident temptation. It is an unbelieving mistrust of God, and an over-confident trust in ourselves.
Another particular form of the same temptation is, to withhold our alms from the poor and destitute, under a plea that we must be provident for ourselves. There is something shocking in the very statement. And yet it is to be feared that there are persons who refuse all applications for alms of all kinds, both for the bodies and for the souls of men, on the plea that they cannot afford it; that "charity begins at home," and the like. They do so in the belief that what they save in this manner is laid up in store for their own future security, forgetting that they thereby rob God of His due; that they tempt Him in a high degree to strip them of the wealth they use so unworthily; that they provoke Him to send the moth, and the canker, and the rust, to eat away their stored treasures, and to leave them naked and poor. There are, I say, some people who systematically refuse all alms, especially those that are asked of them for spiritual mercy, for the spreading of Christ's king
dom by missions among the heathen, and for the ministry of repentance among our outcast and fallen people.
But we must not limit what has been said to those that absolutely refuse to give alms at all. There are others, making up indeed the greater part of society, who do give, but upon no rule of proportion to their wealth. They give in all forms of charity sums incalculably small compared with the outlay made upon themselves, their dwellings, families, tables, pursuits, refinements. They stint themselves in nothing so much as in almsgiving. When they make retrenchments, it is with their alms that they begin. It is here they first feel the pinch of poverty. Their charities are cut down first. What would they not give to the poor, or to the work of the Church, if only they had the means; if only their ability were as large as their compassion! And yet, perhaps, they never give an entertainment to their rich friends and neighbours at less cost than their whole year's charity. They live up to their income in every thing else. It is in the fifth or tenth which they might give back to God, that they begin their provident economy, and lay up for themselves hereafter that which is due to Christ's poor now. What ought to be the bread of the hungry, they turn into a stone: and so in the day of their own necessity they will find it.
And to take one more instance: What is the anxious carefulness by which the majority of men are beset, but the same temptation? God has passed His word that they shall not lack; but they cannot wait His time, nor leave in His hands the way. They charge themselves with the twofold work both of their own labour and of His providence. And they leave nothing undone or untried to lift themselves above the danger of being poor. Early and late, by day and by night, waking and sleeping, their whole powers are centred in the one thought, dream, desire, and toil, to secure themselves from being poor.
Now there is
Rather it is
no fault to be found with industry. to be commended; but it is the carefulness, the anxiety, the furrows on the brow, the foreboding in the heart, the undue magnitude, in their esteem, of the things of this world, the faint faith in God, and the habitual reliance on their own management -this is the thing to be lamented and reproved.
It seems as if the Divine providence had a peculiar chastisement for those that will not trust simply in Him. Wealth ill gotten soon perishes: goods heaped up by unrighteousness waste away: storehouses filled in forgetfulness of God are soon emptied riches not sanctified by alms eat themselves through:-worldly carefulness is a spendthrift after all. "Thus saith the Lord of hosts,
Consider your ways. Ye have sown much, and bring in little; ye eat, but ye have not enough; ye drink, but ye are not filled with drink; ye clothe you, but there is none warm; and he that earneth wages earneth wages to put it into a bag with holes. . . . Ye looked for much, and lo, it came to little; and when ye brought it home, I did blow upon it. . . . One came to an heap of twenty measures, there were but ten; to the pressfat for to draw out fifty vessels out of the press, there were but twenty." So certain it is, that they who attempt by worldly prudence and selfish forethought to secure to themselves the bread of this life, withdraw their faith from God, and forfeit His favour and benediction; and in this loss lose all.
Now this suggests to us what may be called two great laws of God's providential kingdom.
(1.) The first is, that all sustenance of life is as absolutely in His gift as life itself. Whatsoever He has created He still sustains "by the word of His power." "In Him all things consist." The power which conserves the state of the world and the teeming life which is in it is His. All creatures, animate and inanimate, are sustained by Him. All this we know; but, like all other great laws, it is too broad for us. We cannot, through weak1 Haggai i. 5, 6, 9; and ii. 16.
ness of faith, bring it into the particulars of our daily life; especially as in our case it admits of being interwoven with the moral action and probation of mankind. There is hardly any thing that men so much affirm in theory, and so much contradict in practice. It is in the mouth of every miser, hoarder, and worldling; yet their whole life is a direct denial of it. When our Lord said, "Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on. Is not the life more than meat, and the body than raiment? Behold the fowls of the air: for they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feedeth them. Are ye not much better than they ?" and again: "Take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, what shall we drink? or, wherewithal shall we be clothed? (for after all these things do the Gentiles seek :) for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things. But seek ye first the kingdom of God and His righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you;" if our Lord, when He said this, had intended any conditions, restrictions, qualifications, to be put upon His meaning, He would, doubtless, have put them Himself. What He intends us, therefore, to understand is, first, that we ought not to busy ourselves 1 St. Matthew vi. 25, 26, 31-33.