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us by the poor and by the Church, is not economy, but sacrilege. And those who withhold what they ought to give to such objects, only introduce a canker into their treasures, which will at last eat into the largest gains. If there is any good to be done, and the opportunity is afforded us, it is our business to do it. If we have the means, we are not to calculate whether it is beyond what is expected from our station-whether it is what others would do in our place, but to give liberally. Liberality is a luxury; but it is one which almost all may enjoy. The wealthy may enjoy, in the exercise, the greatest pleasure which they can derive from their silver and gold the poor may give their mites; and if they are warmed by the love of God to give all their living, their contributions, insignificant as they are in the sight of men, will be deemed more than the richest offerings of their richer brethren, by the Saviour.
There are none then who have any thing, who are not called upon to give in good works. With the instruction brought be
fore us in this history, it is clear that we can admit nothing to constitute a valid dispensation from the duty, but actual want. It matters not whether the person be rich or poor: if he has any thing, he ought to give something. If he has little, of course he can give but little but if he has any thing, he will refuse to give at his peril. He is called to exercise the duty. He may, of course, refuse to perform it, as he may refuse to perform any other duty: but he has no excuse for not giving. Let that be thoroughly understood. The smallness of our means, if we have any means, is not a valid excuse for refusing to give in good works. It is an excuse for our not giving much; but it is not an excuse for our giving nothing. It is well for the poorest to exercise themselves in this duty: it is an expression of faith which is most profitable to the soul. Where there are no means, the duty cannot be exercised. But if we have any thing, we ought to render to God of what He has given us, and be willing, in this way, to show our sense of what we owe to the Saviour.
It would seem from the words of our Lord, as they are reported by the evange list, that this noble act of the poor widow implied some positive self-denial. "She
of her want did cast in all that she had, even all her living." Even what she gave had been saved by some exertion and suffering. This teaches us again that we are not to decline the exercise of liberality because we may not be able to do it without some privation. We have nothing to give; but is it not possible for us, by denying ourselves some personal gratification, to obtain the means of giving? While we are incurring any unnecessary expense for show or sensuality, we cannot even plead the excuse that we have nothing. It is in that case our own fault that we have nothing. If there are any here who fancy they may plead this excuse, let them, before they can acquiesce in it, ascertain whether they husband their resources, as a matter of conscience; whether they spend any thing in vain or idle pleasures; whether they exercise all their powers in honest industry. Perhaps, if they observed
a rigid self-denial, (which as Christian men on other grounds they are bound to do,) and were diligent in business, they might be able to share the privilege of giving.
All this, however, is plain enough, though in practice it is so much forgotten. The most embarrassing question is, how persons who have abundance are to act, to share in the praise of the poor widow. It is at once conceded that they are not called upon as a point of duty to reduce themselves by their liberality to actual poverty. It is manifest from the whole tenor of the New Testament, that Christians are not generally called upon to strip themselves of all their property by devoting it in acts of liberality. The widow gave "all her living," because if she had not given it, she would have given nothing. Those who are in circumstances of plenty, may give much, and yet retain much for the supply of their future wants.
The Christian is the Lord's; and all he has is the Lord's. If he is duly impressed with a sense of his obligations, he feels this, and is desirous of acting upon it: he
should look upon his property as given him in trust, for the performance of those duties which he has been called to. It was not given him to consume upon his lusts to gratify his appetites, or apply for purposes of avarice or ambition; but to dispose of in such ways as the providence of God may show him to be most conducive to the Divine glory, and the benefit of mankind. He cannot lawfully enjoy it as his own; he may not apply it to selfish purposes; he has no right to hoard it, nor to seek greatly to increase it; he ought to give of it, to seek occasions of doing good with it; and whenever an object in which he may do good by imparting of his substance, is brought under his notice, he is to act with liberality; not seeking to ascertain how little he can give, but how much. It cannot be disputed that this is a fair statement of the duty which every one who possesses means, is called to with regard to his means. has nothing to do with human fashions and customs; he is not to shape and proportion his bounty according to received