Page images
PDF
EPUB

where a greater than Solomon reigneth, the fruits of the Spirit shall abound more and more.

"This is the image our Lord makes use of, in order to convey to his people an idea of what he has done and is still doing for his Church.

The blessed Jesus invites his Church or faithful people to arise and come unto him without any fears or doubts, for all dangers are removed. Hear this, ye that have tasted of his redeeming love. Arise, and call upon your God. Rouse yourselves, ye highly favoured of the Lord, from all carnal fears. Are ye in a gloomy, disconsolate frame? Come away to Jesus, whose arms are open to shelter you from impending danger. Fear no evil, for it is all removed. The winter is past; this is the first blessing your Redeemer has purchased. You were by nature the children of wrath, even as others.' You were born in sin; you remember what it was to be in the cold winter of spiritual death, and in the dark night of guilt. Happy for you, my brethren, this winter is past. The Sun of Righteousness arose and dispersed the clouds of ignorance and unbelief, and a glorious gospel has broken in upon your heart. The rain is over and gone: the storms of God's wrath rained down vengeance upon Him for your sins and transgressions. Sin excited God's anger and indignation; but, to your unspeakable comfort, the storm is blown over. He sustained the heaviest of his Father's wrath, that you might have none of it to bear. He has wrung out the dregs of that bitter cup, and left the sweet for you. The flowers appear on the earth; even in the rude soil of your earthly minds have the seeds of

grace been sown; which, by the enlivening rays of your Redeemer's righteousness, spring up into fair

and pleasant flowers. The graces of the Holy Spirit evidence your profession, and your good works are the fruits of your faith. And although, till your sun approaches nearer to you, you will be exposed to many a chilling blast which may threaten the destruction of your flowers, yet, being rooted and grounded in your master's love, ye need not fear. Although a cloud may hide his genial heat for a season, although the wind of temptation may shake you for a time, yet

a little while and the cloud shall be dispersed; the storm shall cease when it has purged the air of pestilential vapours, and the glorious Sun of Righteousness shall break through all opposition, shall exhale the mists and damps of fears and doubts, and shine upon you with redoubled splendour. The time of the singing of birds is come. Grateful hymns and spiritual songs are sent up to your Redeemer by the faithful; prepare to join in the same delightful exercise. In your wintry state, indeed, you had no root, were made a prey by your enemy, and fell into the snare of the cruel fowler. But now the snare is broken, and you are delivered.' Now you are returned, with an olive-branch of peace in your mouths plucked from the true olive-tree, which is for the healing of the nations in which you find a peaceful shelter from the storms that blow around you, and may sit and sing among the branches.' The voice of the turtle is heard in your land. The heavenly mystic Dove, the Spirit of God, applies many comfortable promises to your souls. He has assured you of your peace and pardon, and he often breathes upon you, and brings a kind message from him whom your soul loveth. The fig-tree putteth forth her green figs. You are not barren fig-trees; you have not only

the leaves of an outward profession, but are desirous of abounding in the fruit of all good works. Perhaps, indeed, infirmities may retard your growth, but your fruit is put forth, the tree may be known what it is, and in due time ye shall be transplanted into that happy soil where nothing shall interrupt the shining of your heavenly luminary upon you. The vines with the tender grape give a good smell. Wild and uncultivated as you were by nature, being ingrafted into the true vine, you produce grapes, though as yet they are but tender, which nevertheless send up a grateful smell, a pleasing odour to the Almighty, as being the fruits of his Spirit."

The above account will, it is hoped, suffice to show that Mr. Jones" endured afflictions, did the work of an Evangelist, and gave

full proof of his ministry." He now rests from his labours, and his works do follow him. In conclusion, let the consideration of such a character lead us to admire the grace of God which alone made him what he was; to gather encouragement amid the darkest times, that God will never utterly forsake a Church which he has so signally blessed; and to pray that the goodly company of those who, laying aside the sophistries of a vain learning, are now proclaiming the pure doctrines of the Gospel, may go on increasing in number and usefulness, and that we may long have in our midst a brotherhood of holy and devoted preachers filled with love for the souls of men, determined to know nothing among us but Jesus Christ and him crucified, and willing to spend and be spent for his sacred cause. M. N.

ON CHRISTIAN LIBERALITY.

BY THE LATE REV. H. VAUGHAN, OF CRICKHOWEL.

WELL does the apostle call goodness or munificence " a fruit of the Spirit." It is the liberality of a soul filled by the Spirit with the fulness of Christ. It is an effect of that unstraitened devotion which the Spirit produces, as he sheds abroad in the heir of glory, the peace which passeth understanding, the hope full of immortality and glory. In a word, it is the overflowing of a soul unable to contain the exhaustless bounty of Christ.

And now the hearts of some burn within them to ask, how is this principle to evince its noble origin! What are we, under its influence, to do more than others?

[blocks in formation]

self-devotion, only required in the missionary field? Far from us be the thought. In every new-born soul, in every redeemed sinner, the principle of unlimited devotion lives and glows. Anything short of the unreserved surrender of ourselves to God in Christ, makes cold work of religion indeed. God's munificence has kept nothing back from us; miserable parsimony is that which offers him less than all. Our all! what is it? Shall we be continually occupied in endeavouring to give Christ less than nothing? O Christians! saved by grace; elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through sanctification of the Spirit unto obedience, and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ," lay yourselves out for the Lord; spend and be spent in his service; keep nothing back from him. Let your time, strength, influence, all your talents, be husbanded for the Lord. Give him freely all your soul; let all you have and are be his.

And now, dear brethren, there is one point especially connected with the subject of this grace, in the view I have taken of it, to which I am anxious to call your most deliberate attention. It is the extent to which Christian bountifulness in giving ought to be carried. It is very generally acknowledged that the Church of Christ is not yet fully alive to the responsibility of possessing the silver and the gold. It is expected by those who have faith, that the great Head of the body will, ere long, consecrate to objects more immediately connected with the promotion of his kingdom and glory, a far larger proportion of the gains of the earth. It is impossible, on the most cursory reflection, not to be struck with amazement at the vast disproportion between the income of our mighty empire, and the portion of

it devoted to religious purposes. The amount of new property erected annually within the United Kingdom, and its colonies and dependencies, in other words, its annual income was, in the year 1812, estimated at six hundred and ninety-three millions. Stupendous sum! A tithe of it would have poured near seventy millions into the treasury of God.

Is

But is the Church in fault? not the deficiency rather to be looked for amongst those, the first article of whose creed is, 66 'to eat, drink, and be merry ?"

I cannot but persuade myself, that a very large deficiency must after every allowance, be charged to the account of those from whom Christ looks for the income of his poor-to the account of the sons of God, and heirs of glory. Is it unreasonable to suppose, that out of six hundred and ninety-three millions, fifty might possibly belong to the family of heaven? A tenth of that sum would be five millions. The whole income of religious societies, (those, I mean, of the greatest prominence and importance in the church,) in the year 1820, was under five hundred thousand pounds. Now, is it not worthy of the deepest consideration, whether each of us may not, unconsciously be contributing towards this deficiency, from want of some proper standard in these matters, or from want of due consideration of the responsibility of our stewardship? Let us come to facts. Allow me plainly to inquire of you individually what proportion of your annual income you are in the habit of devoting to exclusively religious uses? I am fully aware that nothing can be arbitrarily determined by one Christian for another, in a matter which lies between God and each man's own conscience; but I would humbly suggest that, in all

:

ordinary cases, a large-hearted child of divine grace will look upon a tenth as the very lowest proportion that can be seriously thought of. And yet I am inclined to believe, that an accurate investigation will convince us that a much lower standard prevails. Does the Christian of two thousand pounds a-year give regularly two hundred ? of one thousand, one hundred? of eight hundred, eighty? of five hundred, fifty of four hundred, forty? If this proportion were observed, about five thousand believers, of two thousand a-year each, would more than support all the public charities of the United Kingdom. We might be bold to say that if this proportion were strictly attended to, even by those possessed of but four hundred pounds a-year, enough would be received from them, exclusive of all others, to give an impulse to charity hitherto unknown. But let me not be misunderstood. In mentioning a tenth of the income, I take the very lowest standard. The Scriptures and the Lord Jesus Christ will bear us out in adopting a much larger measure of liberality. I never heard that the Lord Jesus repressed the zeal of Zaccheus, who, under the first impressions of devoted love, stood and cried, the "half of my goods I give to the poor." (Luke xix. 8,)

We are not told that she

was blamed for imprudence or indiscretion, who cast into the treasury two mites, even all her substance, all the living that she had. (Mark xii. 44. Luke xxi. 4.) The apostle Paul, so far from condemning, commends those who who gave more than their all (more than the all they had to spare) to their needy brethren; he holds their example forth as one most worthy of imitation: "Moreover, brethren, we do you to wit of the grace of God bestowed upon the

churches of Macedonia; how that in a great trial of affliction, abundance of their joy and their deep poverty, abounded unto the riches of their liberality. For to their power I bear record, yea, and beyond their power, they were willing of themselves; praying us with much entreaty that we would receive the gift, and take upon us the fellowship of the ministering to the saints. (2 Cor. viii. 1, 4.) These are the examples which we should propose to ourselves. The highest standard alone is worthy of the God of the heavens, and of the earth, and of the seas, and of the glorious gospel. However short we may fall of reaching it, by circumstances over which we may have no control, the cross of Jesus and his crown demand that the attainment of it be not hindered by want of a willing mind. Thanks be to God, the annals of the church in more modern times, are not altogether barren in examples of those who have taken this proper estimate. Into the poor man's drawer the good Bishop Wilson deposited, at first a tenth, then a fifth, afterwards a third, and at last, (growing wiser and more prudent as he grew older) half of his income. Brainerd, at a time when, like his heavenly master, Jesus, he had hardly where to lay his head, bestowed, in fifteen months, one hundred and eighty pounds in charity, and was giving a liberal education to a friend who was portionless. The venerable Swartz, in all things eminent amongst saints, was in nothing more remarkable than in his unbounded generosity and disinterestedness. All the various grants made him by government, in grateful acknowledgment of his services, (in one instance amounting to nine hundred pagodas,) he freely consecrated to the glory of God, the benefit of the missionary

cause, and the relief of the poor and needy. It is well known that Bishop Berkeley offered to resign his deanery of Derry, of the value of one thousand one hundred pounds per annum, and to devote the remainder of his life to the instruction of the Indians, on the moderate allowance of one hundred pounds a-year. It may be added, that the effect of his example was such, as to induce three senior fellows of Trinity College, Dublin, to concur with him in his design, and to express their readiness to abandon all their glittering prospects at home, for a settlement in the Atlantic Ocean, at forty pounds a year.

It is related of the Rev. John Wesley, that he gave away, not merely a certain part of his income, but all that he had; his own wants being provided for, he devoted all the rest to the necessities of others. We are told that when he had thirty pounds a year, he lived on twenty-eight, and gave away forty shillings. The next year, receiving sixty pounds, he still lived on twenty-eight, and gave away thirtytwo pounds. The third year he received ninety pounds, and gave away sixty-two. The fourth year he received one hundred and twenty pounds, still lived on twenty-eight, and gave away ninety-two pounds. During the rest of his life he lived economically, and in the course of fifty years, it has been supposed that he gave away more than thirty thousand pounds. A scrutiny of the accounts of the late Henry Thornton brought to light the fact of his having, in one year, distributed to the poor the sum of seven thousand pounds. But time would fail to tell of a Fletcher, a Buchanan, a Morrison, a Carey, a Wilberforce, a Van Mildert, a Simeon, and many more, who in these our days have exhibited a glorious proof, that the

love of Christ, which in primitive times made a Barnabas sell all that he had, and lay it at the apostles' feet, still constrains to similar devotedness.

But why are such instances to be rare? How is it that they do not form the rule rather than the exception? Do we owe less to the grace of God than a Wesley, a Wilson, or a Swartz? Is some Christian worthy to be thought the wonder of an age, because he approves himself faithful in the least of the talents which God has committed to his servants? Or shall the Christian Church leave to missionaries all the glory of exhibiting to the world that the love of Christ is dearer than thousands of silver and gold? They, noble men, give themselves, their fortunes, their all, to the Lord, who hath redeemed them by his blood, and count their gift as dross, as dung. And shall we dole out a guinea or two from among three or four hundred, or as many thousands, and call it a sacrifice? If so, our gold and our silver are cankered, and the rust of them shall be a witness against us. But no! the long dormant spirit of devotion is awaking. Our beloved Church is breaking from her slumbers. She who has sent forth ere now a whole band of dying martyrs from her bosom, is now rearing living ones. Many of her sons and daughters are pledged to die to self and gain, and never to be rich while the cause of Christ is poor. They have begun to act out their generous design. I rejoice in reiterating the well-established fact, that there is expended, of property belonging to the members of our beloved Church, in benevolent objects, a proportion far beyond twenty-fold more than of any other property in the nation.

But a beginning only has been made. We see good signs, but

« PreviousContinue »