« SebelumnyaLanjutkan »
were entertained and acted upon by those who profess to be follower of the lowly Jesus-views accordant with the instructions of their divine Master, and the admonitions of his holy prophets and apos*tles." P. 171.
On the proportion of their wealth which Christians should devote to the cause of God, his observations are explicit and forciblema circum. stance not always found in works on this subject. Many of our late ethical writers have considered this a matter of great difficulty, as well us extreme delicacy, and have treated it in a manner so general, even when their views were orthodox, that no sensible effect has been produced. Not a few have seen the necessity of more pointed, definite, und Scriptural instruction on the duty of beneficence. The further improvement of the public mind on this subject involves several con. siderations which it may not be amiss to notice. 1. Then, we obe serve, that the present ignorance of the amount which ought to be given, is the result of obscure views of the obligation of the duty. 2. The next step is, to adjust the comparative claims of legal justice and Christian beneficence; and when this is done it will be found that to pay and to give are equally binding; and that it is not in the power of men so to bind themselves by human law as to invalidate the claims of the law of God. Dr. Paley has shown that no man can be morally bound to fight a duel, hecause he is under paramount obligations to his family, to his country, and to God. This reasoning applies with all its force to beneficence. God has declared that people shall give, and the mere fact that they are in debt bas no more connection with their obedience to this cominand than it has with their obedience to any other. The injunction contemplates but one qualification, namely, ability. Were it otherwise, the covetous could release themselves from the performance of this duty by creating legal obligations sufficient to require all their available means. 3. The support of the poor has been considered very precarious and uncertain, because it was a matter of charity-thus intimating that beneficence is a sort of contingency. How it has crept into the minds of some that this most important part of Christian duty can be dispensed with at their pleasure, I know not. Perhaps we shall find some, after a while, inaking pretensions to religion, who can also dispense with “ thou shalt not kill."
Dr. Dick has thrown out a great variety of suggestions to aid the candid in determining their individual duty; and although he gives no specific rule or scale of apportionment adapted to all cases, yes the interested inquirer will receive the fullest satisfaction.
“ This is a point which, in many cases, is difficult to determine; and in some instances it must be left to the consciences of prosessed Christians to decide, as in the sight of God, and as amenable to him, what portion of their riches should be directly appropriated to his service.
But there are certain general principles which may be laid down, by which every one who has expansive views of the importance of salvation, and the nobleness and generosity of the Christian cha*racter, may be directed in this matter ; and by which it may be inade to appear ihat ten times more than has generally been allotted ought to be exclusively consecrated to the honor of God and the regeneration of man.
" In addition to the three propositions noticed above, the fullowing general maxims may be stated :-). Wenlth is of use only according to the manner in which it is employed. 2. It is liy means of riches that the poor are provided for, that the salvation of the gospel is brought into effect, and that the moral world will ultimately be en. lightened and regenerated. 3. That we ought 10 give a portion of our substance, in some measure corresponding to the importance and the magnitude of the object to which it is devoted. 4. That a com. paratively small portion of wealth is adequate to procure every thing that is requisite to the true happiness of man. 5. That all useless luxuries and splendid equipage, intended only for mere pomp and shuw, should be discarded by every Christian. 6. That all, or at least the greater part of the wealth which remains, after providing in a decent and Christian like manner for the comfort of our families, should be devoted to the interests of the Redeemer's kingdom, and the general improvement of the social state, in subordination to this gra:ad object. . 7. That our chiel object in acquiring r'ches should be, that we may have it in our power to consecrate a large portion of it to the furtherance of the grand objects to which I allude." P. 178.
To make the matter still more plain he lays down the three follow. ing rules for our direction, each of which is illustrated in the author's peculiar style :
"1. The proportion of wealth commanded to be dedicated to the service of God, under the Jewish economny, may be considered as in. volving a certain principle, by which we may be directed in similar allotments under the Christian dispensation.
“ 2. The voluntary contributions made at different times under the Jewish economy, may be considered as a guide to direct us in the liberality which should be displayed among Christians.
"3. The proportion of wealth which Christians should appropriate for the service of God and the renovation of the world may be deduced from the predictions of the ancient prophets.” P. 179.
The counsel of God upon this subject is, that we “lay not up for ourselves treas:res on the earth,” but that we “lay up for ourselves trea sures in the heavens.” It would not be easy to mistake the plain import of so obvious a declaration. Nor do those who practically violate this instruction appear ignorant of its real character. There is a sort of ability in human nature to admit the truth in theory, and at the same time disregard it in practice; and to this, probably, must be ascribed the general contempt which has been thrown npon beneficence in the modern practice of Christianity. The reader will be pleased with the following pointed observations:
“Now, if the tenth pari at least of the income of every Israclite was to be devoted to such purposes, it would seem to follow that nothing less than this proportion should be allotted by every Christian under the gospel dispensation, for similar or analogous purposes. But it does not limit us to this proportion; as there are obvious reasons why it should be much greater under the New Testament economy. If tho propagation of divine knowledge within the narrow limits of Judea required such a proportion of the income of every individunl, while no missions were appointed to surrounding nations, much more, it is evident, is required under the present dispensation, when we are como manded to “go into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature,' and when more than six hundred millions of the earth's population are still immersed in pagan and Mohammedan darkness, ignorant of the true God and of Jesus Christ whom he has sent. The exertion now required ought to be in some measure pro. portionate to the magnitude and extent of the work to be accomplished, and would require an expansion of heart and the manifestation of a spirit similar to that which was displayed on the day of pentecost, when all that believed were together and had all things common, and sold their possessions and goods,' and devoted them to the cause of their Redeemer. If Christians be really in earnes!, as they ought to be, why should they hesitate a moment on this subject ? If they see misery everywhere around them, and multitudes perishing in their sins; if they behold hundreds of millions of the heathen world overspread with moral and intellectual darkness, and perishing for lack of knowledge; if even the rude inhabitants of the Navigator's isles are sending their urgent petitions from afar, saying, “Send over mis. sionaries and help us ;' if they are saying, almost in an agony, as they lately did to Mr. Williams, when he promised to come to Britain for a supply, • We shall perhaps die, we shall die, we shall die, before you can return;' if Christians believe that the redemption of the soul is precious,' and that the eternal happiness of immortal minds so far surpasses in value the floating honors of the world, as the heavens in height surpass the earth; why should they remain in apathy or halt between two opinions on this point ? Let wealthy Christians come forward with a noble spirit, and either consecrate a liberal portion of their riches with cheerfulness for such objects, or take the only consistent alternative--throw aside altogether the Christian name ; for a covetous Christian is a nuisance in the church of God, and a contradiction in terms." P. 182.
The last great point to which we shall call attention is one peculiar to this work, almost every other writer having entirely overlooked it. While the discipline of piety has been maintained against other and less malignant evils, and the guilty have suffered excision from the church, to the crime of avarice no attention has been paid. When has it been known that a person was excluded from Christian society for covetousness ? Few instances, I believe, can be found where any official notice has been taken of this deplorable vice-a vice more prevalent than any other in the community.
“ Christian churches should strictly investigate the conduct of their members in relation to the portion of wealth they devote to religious objects. Those members of a Christian church whose incomes are generally known, and who are remiss on this point, onght to be calmly reasoned with as to their duty in this respect, on Scriptural grounds, and in accordance with the principles and obligations they admit as Christians. And, if they obstinately resist every argument and ad. monition addressed to them, and refuse to give a fair proportion of their substance to the service of Him from whom they derived it, they ought to be suspended from the peculiar privileges of Christian so. ciety. The church of Christ has undoubtedly a right to take cog. nizance of its members, as to this point, as well as when they are chargeable with a breach of duty in any other respect, or found guilty of a direct violation of the laws of God. We are too apt to imagine (and custom has too long sanctioned the opinion) that the censures of the church are only to be inflicted on those who are found guilty of what the world terms scandals ; and many professors of religion are thus led to consider themselves as acting a dutiful part in Christian society, if no such scandals can be proved against them. But the non. performance of duty is equally sinful, and as regularly denounced in Scripture as the direct commission of vicious actions. It is by the regular performance of duty more than by freedom from vicious practices that the reality of Christian principle is displayed. There is, perliaps, nothing that brings a man's Christian character to a more decisive test, both to his own conscience and in the eyes of others, than the circumstance of his voluntarily and perseveringly devoting a fair proportion of his wealth to the service of God and the benefit
of mankind. A worldly minded man may continue for a considerable time to attend to divine ordinances, and make a fair profession of religion, while no regular demands are made upon his purse ; but, were he called upon to contribute regularly, at least the tenth part of his income, it is more than probable he would display the latent avarice of his heart by mustering up a host of carnal arguments against such a demand, and would soon take his station, where he ought to be, among the men of the world. But if a man of wealth devote onethird, onc-fourth, or even one-tenth of his riches to the cause of God and religion, and act a consistent part in other respects, a Christian church possesses, perhaps, the most tangible evidence they can demand of such a man's religious principle.
“There is a certain false delicacy which some religious communities seem to feel in meddling with the pecuniary affairs or allotments of individuals, and especially of those who are wealthy, or move in the higher spheres of society. They are afraid lest the pride of such per. sons should be hurt by such plain dealing-lest they should fly off at a tangent from their community, and lest the funds of their society should be injured by their withdrawment. But although it is proper to use the greatest prudence and delicacy in such matters, yet, if such persons refuse to listen to calm reasoning, and Scriptural arguments and admonitions, they give evidence of a spirit which is inconsistent with Christian principle; and it is no honor to any church to have such enrolled among the number of its members. Most of our churches require to be purified—to be purified from the communion of those who are actuated by a worldly spirit; and I know of no better ex. ternal test that could be applied than that stated above. A church composed of eighty "right-hearted: Christian men, generous, ardent, harmonious, and persevering in their efforts to promote the extension of Messiah's kingdom, would do far more to advance the interests of true religion, than if they were mixed up with five hundred men of a carnal spirit, who are chiefly guided in their religious professions by the opinions of the world." Pp. 249, 250.
He adds again,
** When a church member has been found guilty of unclea nness, of an act of drunkenness, or of pilfering an article from his neighbor, a bue and cry is instantly raised ; and he is separated from society, or, at least, brought under the discipline of the church. And the purity
of Christian communion requires that censure should be inflicted on all such delinquencies, and the offender, il possible, brought to a sense of his guilt, and to the exercise of repentance. But it is not a little strange and unaccountable, that while strict attention is paid to such insuluted acis of inoral delinquency, which in some instances are only exceptions to the general characier of the individuals, and not habits of vice, men should be permitted to remain in the church, without the least censure or admonition, who are guilly not only of acts which in. dicate the predominance of avarice, but go on in a systematic course of such conduct." P. 251.
The appendix alone is worth more than the price of the volume. It consists of extracts from the official report of commissioners who were sent to inquire into the condition of the lower classes in Ireland. Never, perhaps, was there presented a more affecting scene of wretched. ness resulting entirely froin mismanagement and covetousness than in the case of millions of Irish peasantry.
On the whole, we think this is decidedly the hest treatise we have seen on the subject; and its extensive circulation would gicatly in. crease the debt of gratitude the Christian public already owes to the benevolent author.
For the Methodist Magazine and Quarterly Review.
GERMAN LITERATURE PROFESSOR THOLUCK.
Selections from German Literature. By B. B. EDWARDS and E. A. PARK, Pro.
fessors, Theol. Sem., Andover. Andover: 1839. Gould, Newman, and Saxton, 1 vol. 8vo.
E are delighted with this book. Not that it adds materially to our stock of theological knowledge, nor that we agree with the senti. ments of every treatise contained in it, or indeed with all the opinions of any one of them; but because it will go farther toward producing an enlarged and liberal way of thinking among Arrerican divines of a certain class, than any single publication that we have met with for the last ten years. How powerful is the truth! Look at the periodicals, pamphlets, and voluines that emanate in such teeming abundance from the Calvinistic presses, and you will be surprised to see how much Arminianism they contain ; blended, indeed, with many of the errors of the Genevan reformer, both metaphysical and dogmatical, especially the former; but still exhibiting the struggles of many a strong and honest mind to free itself from the shackles of his soul.crushing doc. trines, and to break forth into the free and pure atmosphere of gospel truth. Formulas are not what they were, at least for these mien. Systems may bind others, but their spirits revolt-they have discovered that this is not the age of spiritual bondage. To use the language of the translators of the present volume, “ The Bible is one of the freest books ever written. Its style is as unlike that of our scholastic systems, as the costume of the oriental is unlike the pinching garh of the Englishman. It never intended that men should abridge its free. ness, and press it forcibly into the mould of any human compend. We prefer to see inen shaping their creeds so as to suit the Bible, rather