Page images



Proverbs xi. 24.

"The liberal soul shall be made fat."

If we have

THESE words have respect primarily, if not exclusively, to worldly possessions, or to the good things of this life. This is evident from the passages preceding and following them. "There is that scattereth, and yet increaseth; and there is that withholdeth more than is meet, but it tendeth to poverty. The liberal soul shall be made fat, and he that watereth shall be watered also himself." not here an invariable rule, we have, to least of it, a general one, according to which God may be expected to dispense the blessings of his providence. He who is truly liberal in temporal things will be increased in temporal things. Or, in other words, the way to become rich, is to be truly and consistently liberal.-In discussing this, which is supposed to be the sentiment of the text, I shall endeavour to shew,

make the

I. What it is to be truly liberal.


II. That this is the way in which to become rich. To be truly liberal is not to be lavish and prodigal in our personal expenses.-Many who possess property appear to hold it for no other purpose than to gratify their pride, or their passions, or to promote in some way their sinful and sensual indulgences. And to accomplish these objects, they lavish it with an un

restrained profusion. Like the prodigal of old, they "waste their substance in riotous living." And as this ancient prodigal performed not, it is likely, one charitable deed, in all his career of profusion and wickedness; so it is true of those who now resemble him, that their great expenditures are not only not liberality—but totally inconsistent with it. Bound up in self, and devoting all they possess to the purposes of selfish and sensual indulgence, such persons have nothing to spare for the benefit of others, and are, I had almost said, the farthest from true, Christian liberality of any in the world.

To be truly liberal is not to feel indifferent in respect to property; and to be willing, on that account, to part with it, without sufficient occasion, or beyond what is reasonable. Some persons who possess estates seem not to know at all the value of them. They ́hold property with so easy a hand, that they are constantly exposed, and directly fall victims, to the arts of fraudulent and designing men. Persons of this description may be easily induced to bestow much in charity, and often much more than their circumstances or their duty require. They may be charitable, even to a fault. They act however in such cases, not so much from a sense of duty, as from the impulse of animal sympathy, or from a kind of heedless indifference as to the value of property, and as to what becomes of it when it passes from their hands. They make no proper estimate usually of the objects presented to them, but are ready to patronize all alike, whether of greater or less importance, and whether good or bad. It may be said of persons such as these, that they are lavish and wasteful in the distribution of their property; but it cannot be said that they are truly liberal. Consequently they

[ocr errors]

have no title to those promises which are made to the truly liberal in the word of God.

True liberality is consistent with, and even implies, a just estimate of the value of property. The truly liberal man is not indeed a miser, nor is he sinfully avaricious or covetous; but he knows and feels the value of wealth, and is diligently and prudently engaged in the acquisition of it. For this purpose, he chooses and habitually pursues some lawful and lucrative employment. He practises industry and economy, and uses all the proper means of procuring wealth. And he is as careful to retain it as he is to procure it. He has too great a sense of its value, to lavish it for purposes of mere carnal gratification; or to suffer it to be wrested from him by the arts of the fraudulent; or to throw it away upon doubtful or unworthy objects. He will stand aloof too from hazardous engagements, and unadvised contracts, and from those numerous follies and vices which involve so many in poverty and distress. He will avoid luxury and extravagance of every kind, and by adapting in the wisest manner his style of living to his particular circumstances and station in society, will endeavour to exhibit an example worthy of one "professing godliness."

Still he does not value wealth, nor does he seek it, or save it, on its own account. He does not value it, or seek it, that he may thereby be enabled to live at ease, or to shine in splendor, or to hoard it for others when he is dead, or from any such mean or mercenary motive. But he values and pursues it, chiefly as an instrument of doing good. He believes it desirable to be rich, because his ability to be useful will thereby be increased. He regards his possessions, when he has gained them, as not in the strictest

sense his own. Divine providence has put them inte his hands; and he is no more than a steward of the Supreme Disposer, to hold and to manage the blessings entrusted to him, according to the sovereign pleasure of his Lord. With these views, when great and important objects are presented, he is ever ready to consider them. He has no question to settle in respect to them, but that of duty. He is prepared at once to patronize them, and with this view to bestow his substance, just so far as he thinks his duty, and the pleasure of his Divine Lord, require. And in endeavouring to learn the pleasure of his Lord, he does not confer with flesh and blood, or consult the maxims of mere worldly prudence, but goes at once to the record of his revealed will. He compares faithfully the circumstances of the case presented to him with the light and precepts of Divine revelation, and like a just steward, wishes to feel and to act precisely as his Master would, were he actually present. With these impressions, whatever he gives, he gives cheerfully. He gives it in compliance with what he considers a rightful demand upon him from his sovereign Lord-a demand too, not issued with the design to depress and injure him, but flowing from his infinite kindness and love. And he gives it, not with the selfish intent of obtaining a recompense, but with the benevolent purpose and hope of benefiting his fellowmen, and advancing the cause and kingdom of that Redeemer whom he desires in all respects to serve and please. At,the same time, he follows his bounty with his earnest prayers, that God would graciously accept his offering, and make it an instrument of good.

[ocr errors]

It is to persons such as this, that the promise in the text appears to me applicable. Such "liberal

souls shall be made fat, and those that water"" after this manner, "shall be watered themselves." In other words, to be thus truly and consistently liberal is the way to become rich.

1. This, I think, is a just inference from what has been already said. In the acquisition of wealth, as in the accomplishment of every important object, appropriate means are to be employed. Wherever these are faithfully employed, the end may be expected to follow. Indeed, without an interruption of the common course of things, it must inevitably follow. But we have seen that the truly liberal man is sensible of the value of property, and diligently uses the various means of procuring and retaining it. He is industrious, is frugal, is temperate, and in the general virtuous. He manages his concerns with wisdom and prudence, and is an example of those several traits, which are necessary to the successful pursuit of wealth. Why then should he not acquire it? Will the single circumstance, that he seeks it, not as the sordid worldling does, but as an instrument of increased usefulness-for the noble purpose of doing goodwill this be likely to blast his endeavours, and prevent his success? Or will not the God of heaven, whose blessing maketh rich, be the more likely on this account to render him successful? Will he not more than make up to him what he calls him in Providence from time to time to bestow, and from the opening "windows of heaven, pour him out" an abundant blessing?

2. That he may be expected to do this, is certain from numerous and express promises of his word. We have most satisfactory promises of this nature, in the text and context. "There is that scattereth, and yet increaseth; and there is that withholdeta

« PreviousContinue »