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LAYING BY IN STORE THE LORD'S PORTION.
(Addressed to Native Christians in India.)
TO TRACT COMMITTEES AND MISSIONARIES. Though in several Missions very commendable liberality is shown by some Native Christians, the duty is greatly neglected by others. So far as the undersigned is aware, no tract has as yet been published in India on the duty of contributing for religious and benevolent purposes. The following remarks have been prepared to aid, if possible, in supplying such a want. They have been compiled, to some extent, from the publications of the Systematic Benevolence Society, especially the Rev. W. Arthur's "Lecture on Gold and the Gospel." A good Native Christian writer should prepare a Tract, with illustrations suited to the oriental mind. Sermons should also be preached on the subject.
The arguments in favor of devoting one-tenth will be found in the above-mentioned Publications, and in the Prize Essays on "Gold and the Gospel.” They should be considered before an opposite opinion is expressed.
JOHN MURDOCH. More than three thousand years ago, a young man, pamed Jacob, set out from his father's house, on a visit to his mother's relations in a far country. He had neither money nor jewels with him-nothing except the staff in his hand. On his journey he lighted upon a certain place, and tarried there all night, because the sun was set. He lay down, with a stone for his pillow. No earthly friend was near; but One watched over him. In a dream he saw a ladder reaching from earth to heaven, with the angels of God ascending and descending on it. Next morning the young man arose and vowed that the Lord should be his God, adding,
“Of all that thou shalt give me, I will surely give the tenth unto thee.” Genesis, 28. 22.
The Lord greatly prospered Jacob, and after some years he had large herds of cattle and flocks of sheep. But this was not all. On account of his power in prayer, the Lord gave him a new name, calling him by the distinguished title of Israel, a Prince of God.
A great nation, called the Jews, sprang from Jacob. God gave them a beautiful country, flowing with milk and honey. However, a certain proportion of the produce was to be devoted to his service.
“All the tithe of the land is the Lord's; it is holy unto the Lord.” Leviticus 27. 30.
The Jews gave one-tenth for the support of the priesthood. But their liberality was not confined within that limit. All the first fruits were consecrated to God; large offerings were presented for the temple service; ample provision was made for the poor. It is supposed that the Israelites gave away at least one-fourth of their income.
At the time appointed, the Son of God became incarnate. A new dispensation then commenced, whose great law was Love. “ Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart and thy neighbour as thyself.” The following is the rule with regard to benevolence laid down in the New Testament:
- On the first day of the week let every one of by him in store as God hath prospered him.
1 Cor. xvi. 2. The precise proportion is not fixed; but we cannot believe that the law of love has lowered the standard of liberality. Christians are bound to give even more than the Jews.
A few questions about the Lord's portion may now be answered.
1st Question.—How can we give to God?
The great Creator has no need of our gifts. He says,' * Every beast of the forest is mine, and the cattle upon a thousand hills. If I were hungry, I would not tell thee, for the world is mine and the fulness thereof." Our goodness extendeth not to him. Still, there are ways in which we may, as it were, give to the Lord.
It has been mentioned that the tithe of the land of Israel belonged to God. How was it appropriated? To the maintenance of the priesthood. In like manner, under the new dispensation, what is given for the support of ministers of the Gospel and of Christian schoolmasters may be considered as devoted to God. This duty is plainly enjoined
“Let him that is taught in the word, communicate unto him that teacheth in all good things." Gal. 6. 6.
Some years ago the gospel-was almost unknown in India. Christians from England and America sent Missionaries, and many thousands have been baptized. In some districts the Native Christians are beginning to contribute for religious purposes; but at present Native Ministers and Catechists are chiefly supported by foreign funds. Indian Mission Agents eat of the rice of England. Hindus and Mahommedans build the own temples and mosques, as well as pay their own gurus and maulvies. Much more should converts in India give liberally for the support of the one true religion.
Another method of giving to God is to assist the poor when they require help. There are many strong vagabonds in India who seek alms because they dislike to work. It is wrong to give to such persons. But the sick and infirm, especially Christ's people, should be liberally aided. Jesus will say at the last day, “Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.”
Matt. 25. 40. 2d Question, --Who should give ?
The command in the New Testament is, every one of you.” If people have nothing of their own, of course they cannot give. But all who possess any thing should consecrate a portion of it to God's service. Even the
should give. The Lord Jesus Christ knew what poverty was, but he did not think it a pity that the widow gave her two mites. The Christians of Macedonia were praised, because amid deep poverty and great trial of afflictions, they gave to their power, yea and beyond their power. One of the best ways of improving the temporal condition of the poor, is to lead them to give to the cause of God. There is that scattereth and yet increaseth."
3d Question.-HOW MUCH should we give ?
The rule is, as God hath prospered you.” It has been shown that Jacob vowed one-tenth. This is a very good proportion to begin with for the direct support of the gospel. Afterwards we should give more and more according to our ability. Let every one determine, with God's help, to give one pice out of every ten which he receives. If people do not fix any proportion, in many cases they give little or nothing. They put off contributing till a more convenient season, which generally never comes. Resolve at once to do your duty in this matter.
The poor should also be assisted. This may be done by. a very good custom observed by some. Whenever rice or other grain is about to be cooked, the mother of the family sets aside a handful for the poor. This is an easy and very appropriate mode of giving.
4th Question.— WHEN should we give ? The Scripture says, "on the first day of the week.” This, when practicable, is the best time, as giving is connected with the worship of God. In this country, however, some will find it more convenient to set apart God's tenth immediately when they receive their earnings. Those who are paid daily, may lay aside a portion every evening. Others on monthly pay may give when they draw their salaries. Farmers generally obtain the fruits of their labours after harvest. They will best be able to give when their crops are gathered in.
To prevent God's tenth being used for other purposes, it should, according to the precept, be “laid by in store.” In England and in some parts of India, people have small boxes, or earthen pots, with a little hole in each, through which the money set apart is dropped. This is a very good plan. Potters can make small round pots, with a hole in them, at ä сheap rate.
The poor can be provided for in the manner above-mentioned.
5th Question.-Why should we give ? Several reasons may be assigned.
1. God commands it. Every thing in reality belongs to God. “The silver is mine and the gold is mine, saith the Lord of hosts." We brought nothing into the world. We are simply God's stewards, bound to employ his property as he directs. His commands have already been mentioned and explained. Is not obedience our duty
2. Duty to Man requires it. If we were dying of hunger and others had plenty, should we not think that they ought to help us? We should act towards them in like manner. “All things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them.” Millions around us are perishing, not from the want of food for the body, but because they have not the bread of life, of which if a man eat he shall live for ever.
We ought to send the gospel to the heathen. Suppose no money was given for the support of Christian ministers and teachers, ignorance, like a thick black cloud, would cover the earth ; violence and bloodshed would everywhere prevail. On the other hand, where true religion is faithfully taught and people obey its precepts, knowledge and happiness are the result. The message of the gospel is,
· Glory to God in the highest, and on earth, peace, good will towards men.”
3. Giving will promote our own good. Some persons wish to spend all on themselves. Like the rich man in the parable, they say, “Soul, thou hast much goods laid up for many years; take thine ease, eat, drink, and be merry.' But God often says to such, “ Thou fool, this night thy soul shall be required of thee; then whose shall those things be which thou hast provided?”
Others board money that their children may be rich. It frequently happens that the sons of misers are spendthrifts. In a short time they squander in folly and debauchery all that their fathers amassed, and are reduced to great wretchedness.
The persons above described, while they derive no benefit from their property in another world, suffer great torment from their abuse of it. The Apostle James says to them, “ it shall eat your flesh as it were fire."
On the other hand, Christian liberality renders us much happier in this life. A special blessing rests upon those who, with sincere desire to honor God, devote a share of their possessions to his service.
“Honor the Lord with thy substance and with the firstfruits of all thy increase ; so shall thy barns be filled with plenty.” Prov. 3. 9.
“Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be meat in mine house, and prove me now herewith, saith the Lord of hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it.” Malachi 3. 10.
The promise extends to the children of the bountiful. “He is ever merciful, and lendeth, and his seed is blessed." Psalms 37. 26.
When earthly prosperity is not granted, it is because God saw that it would be injurious to the soul.
Christian liberality renders us happier throughout eternity. We cannot purchase admission into heaven by our charities. If we were to present a mass of gold equal in size to the globe itself as the price of entrance, it would be of no