On Giving

Introduction

God is known to us as a giving God. In giving His Son Jesus Christ, He has given His all. All else could have been given by Him without cost, but this gift cost Him everything. "He that spared not His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also, freely give us all things." (Rom. 8:32.) It is better to give than to receive, and the character of God comes out in this boundless liberality of giving. He is always giving; He giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not. He is kind to the unthankful and the evil.

So with our Lord. He came to earth as a Giver, He gave Himself, His life, His all. He was always giving, never sparing Himself. He loved to give. He said to the woman of Samaria, "If thou knewest the gift of God, and who it is that saith unto thee Give Me to drink; thou wouldest have asked of Him, and He would have given thee living water." He came in the blessed character of God as a giving God. He did not ask anything from man, He gave all to man. He went about doing good, healing all that were oppressed of the devil. He spent His strength and gave His life in proof of the love and goodness of God, shewing out in what an unstinted way God gives.

This being so, seeing that believers are told to be imitators of God, as dear children, and that the Church is here to set forth Christ in His ways on earth, it is manifest that believers must be here in the same character of givers, for unless they are so, the character of God and of Christ is belied, and we are proved false witnesses of Christ. "Freely ye have received, freely give," is what the Lord said to His own. The disciples, who were to go out without money, were yet to shew boundless liberality. The widow, who cast in two mites, her all, is most highly praised: while the Apostle Paul, in speaking of giving, quotes the strong language of the 112th Psalm, "He hath dispersed abroad; He hath given to the poor; His righteousness remaineth for ever." (2 Cor. 9:9.)

These, and many other instances, which will occur to every reader, shew how God gives, how Christ gave, how believers should give; and that while of course the spiritual must ever be of incomparably more importance than the earthly, and the moral than the material, yet the giving necessarily includes material things, and care and thoughtfulness for others in matters pertaining to this life. (See James 2:15, 16; 1 John 3:17; 2 Cor, 9:7, etc.)

Now, if this is understood, we shall be kept from two dangers: —
The first is that we should think everything of the earthly and the material. In this case we shall sink into mere philanthropy (falsely so called; for the love of God to man, spoken of in Titus 3:4, is the real philanthropy) and shall not be here in the character of "sons of your Father who is in [the] heavens" (Matt. 5:45, N.T.) at all.
The second is that we should imagine that we make everything of the spiritual and moral, while we are indulging ourselves, instead of living self-denying lives. This would be to deceive ourselves, for we have to make to ourselves friends of the mammon of unrighteousness, for he that is faithful in that which is least is faithful also in much; if we have not been faithful in the unrighteous mammon, who will commit to our trust the true riches? And if we are not faithful in that which is another's, who will give us that which is our own? (See Luke 16:9-12.)

This little treatise will be mainly occupied with the material side of giving; but this is not because it is considered the more important — far from it — but because our behaviour on this point often affords an indication of our real character, according to the above quoted words from Luke 16.

Will the reader, therefore, kindly bear this in mind, so that it may not be said the spiritual side is neglected or made light of.

The Commandment for Israel

Let no one think that it is legal to enquire into, and to profit by the requirements of the law. Does not the Apostle Paul write, "Say I these things as a man? or saith not the law the same also? For it is written in the law of Moses, etc." (1 Cor. 9:8), and he founds an important truth on it.

In Rom. 8:4, the object of our deliverance is said to be "That the righteousness [or 'righteous claims,' New Trans.] of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh but after the Spirit." Again, love is the fulfilling [or 'fulness'] of the law. (Rom. 13:10; Gal. 5:14.) If, therefore, as Christians we have the spirit of love, we may exceed, but we shall not fall short of, the law.

Now it is commonly thought that because of the mention of tithes, therefore the Israelite had to give a tenth only; but this is a mistake, he had to give far more. Every step of his pathway as a farmer and agriculturist (which is what most Israelites were), had to be marked by giving.

The following may give some idea of what they had to give, though it does not pretend to be a complete list by any means: —
(1) A tithe or tenth, both of grain and fruit, was the Lord's (Lev. 27:30), i.e. it was to be given to the Levites, who again gave to the priests. (Num. 18:21, etc.) The tenth of the herd was also to be similarly given. (Lev. 27:32.)
(2) Another tenth (which must on no account be confounded with the above) had to be reserved to be eaten in the place which the Lord chose to set his name there. (Deut. 12:17-19; see Deut. 14:24-27 for the provision when the distance to the place was great.) It may be asked whether a tenth of the increase was not a great quantity for these occasions, but it should be remembered that the Israelite was three times a year to go to the place the Lord chose, viz, at the passover, the feast of weeks, and that of tabernacles. The stay on each occasion would not be much less than ten days (the passover with the feast of unleavened bread lasted eight days, and so did the feast of tabernacles, but as to the feast of weeks no mention of a period is made), so that from twenty days to a month each year would be thus spent, and not only were they not to appear before the Lord empty, but also it was to be a time of rejoicing and of giving to the stranger, the fatherless, the widow, and above all to the Levite (Deut. 16:11, 14, 17); so that the tenth would not be at all too much for this purpose.
(3) Then besides these, there was a third tithing which took place every third year. (Deut. 14:28, 29.) In this case the amount was to be laid up within the gates for the purpose of supplying the Levite, the stranger (who is never to be forgotten), and the fatherless and the widow, within the gates.

These three sets of tithes would alone amount to between a fourth and a fifth of all the produce, but this is far from all, for we have also the following: —
(4) The fields were not to be fully reaped nor gleaned; nor was all the fruit to be plucked from the trees. These were to be left to the poor and the stranger. (Lev. 19:9, 10.) Also all were at liberty to pluck corn and fruit in the fields or vineyards. (Deut. 23:24, 25.)
(5) The fruit of trees was not to be taken for the owner in anywise till the fifth year. (Lev. 19:23, 25.)
(6) The firstlings of all clean beasts were to be sacrificed to the Lord. (Num. 18:17.)
(7) The firstborn of men and of asses to be redeemed. (Num. 18:16; Ex. 13:13.)
(8) Every seventh year they were not to sow, nor to eat what grew of itself. (Lev. 25:4.)
(9) On the seventh year every debt was to be released, and the Hebrew slave was to be set free and liberally furnished with all good things.
(10) Besides the above there were the offerings for sin, for trespass, and for uncleanness, even when it was involuntary.

It may, of course, be objected that in some of these cases, notably in the second case mentioned, the owner himself partook of the part reserved. This is true, but it is only what happens continually with the Christian to-day.

He has to help in the provision of a suitable place to meet in, and for the proper upkeep thereof, that all may be done decently and in order, and he will help as to this those who have no means, but he himself will benefit, though the expenditure is for the Lord.

So when he attends conferences, and helps to entertain others; when either individually or with his brethren he lays out of his substance to enable other saints to get together for prayer and reading of the word, or to get to the gospel, is it less giving because he shares with them?

The thoughtful reader will be able to see what is analogous to the different cases stated, so that each one has its counterpart in the Christian's life here on earth, and all the detail given is full of meaning.

Those best able to judge in the matter calculate that the godly Israelite would thus give one third or more of his total produce for the year, as a matter of course as his ordinary duty, before he even began to give for voluntary offerings, free-will offerings, thanksgiving offerings, vows, etc. etc. Nevertheless, there were occasions, such as at the building of the tabernacle, and the provision for the temple, when the people offered most abundantly, with a willing heart, free-will offerings to the Lord. (Ex. 36:5; 1 Chron. 29:14, 17.)

It may be asked, How was it possible for them
to give so much?

The explanation is simple. It was because in so doing the Lord would bless them in an extraordinary manner, while if they withheld, they would forfeit the blessing and instead receive a curse. Thus there would be this standing miracle, that those who gave away in great abundance would be far better off than those who refrained from so doing, and it would be proved by practical demonstration that "There is that scattereth and yet increaseth: and there is that withholdeth more than is meet, but it tendeth to poverty." (Prov. 11:24.)

A vast number of passages might be quoted to prove these assertions, but a few must suffice.

"When the land remained unsown the seventh year, in the sixth year it brought forth a supply for three years" (Lev. 25:20, 22). Thus there was positive gain by obedience.

In their liberality the Lord would bless them in all their works. (Deut. 14:29, Deut. 15:18, and Deut. 16:15.) See, too, what happened in Hezekiah's time. It is written, "Since the people began to bring the offerings into the house of the Lord, we have had enough to eat, and have left plenty: for the Lord hath blessed His people; and what is left is this great store. (See 2 Chron. 31:8 and 10.)

See what happened in Haggai's time, Hag. 1:2-11, and Hag. 2:14-19, while no passage can be more to the point in its downrightness than Mal. 3:8-18. Thus it was that God made Israel to be an object-lesson of the blessedness of obedience and of willing offerings to the Lord, and also of the governmental retribution which followed disobedience and selfishness. (See as to this Jer. 34:12-22.)

Have we not
much to learn
by these things? Assuredly.

It will, however, be objected, that firstly we are not under the law but under grace, and secondly we are a heavenly, and not an earthly people, and that our blessings are of another order.

To the first of these objections the answer is exceedingly simple: Let it be fully granted that we are not under the law but under grace, then surely grace, when really understood, will exceed law, even as the Lord not only loved His neighbour as Himself, but far more than Himself, and He is our Model, while our commandment is not the legal one, but the commandment of love, which makes the fulfilment easy instead of difficult.

As to the second the reply is: Assuredly the Christian is heavenly, and has a heavenly calling; therefore, as the heavens are higher than the earth, so the one with a heavenly calling will surpass, by far, the one that has only an earthly calling, in all that is good.

Moreover, while the Christian is heavenly, yet he is still upon the earth, and, therefore, being in the place of God's people on the earth, he is subject to the government of God in this world. This government is a theme which fills the Old Testament, the first three Gospels, the Epistles of Peter, and the Revelation, and is frequently referred to in the rest of Scripture, and it should be fully understood that the Christian comes under God's government. Grace in no way upsets it, but confirms it, though it turns His government into blessing for those who, being chastened, humble themselves before God and are subject to the Lord.

It is the Apostle of grace who writes: "Be not deceived, God is not mocked; whatsoever a man soweth that shall he also reap" (Gal. 6:7), and again: "He which soweth sparingly shall reap also sparingly; and he which soweth bountifully shall reap also bountifully" (2 Cor. 9:6). And even of human government he says: "Rulers are not a terror to good works, but to the evil. Wilt thou then not be afraid of the power, do that which is good and thou shalt have praise of the same: for he is a minister of God to thee for good. But if thou doest evil, be afraid, for he beareth not the sword in vain: for he is a minister of God, a revenger to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil." (Rom. 13:3, 4.) Strange as this sounds in the face of the cruelties of rulers to God's people, there must be profound truth in it. "Behold, the righteous shall be recompensed on the earth: much more the wicked and the sinner." (Prov. 11:31.) "Say ye to the righteous, that it shall be well with him; for they shall eat the fruit of their doings. Woe unto the wicked, it shall be ill with him, for the reward of his hands shall be given him." (Isaiah 3:10, 11.)

The heavenly calling and the government of God on the earth

If, then, we take into account these two things, the heavenly calling of the Christian, and also the fact of his being one of God's people on the earth under the righteous government of God, which rewards the righteous and punishes evil, we see that:

(1) The tendency of all godly, righteous conduct is to bring about a result in blessing even in the present time. "Godliness is profitable unto all things, having promise of the life that now is, and of that which is to come." (1 Tim. 4:8.) "Children obey your parents in the Lord: for this is right. Honour thy father and mother, which is the first commandment with promise; that it may be well with thee, and that thou mayest live long on the earth." (Eph. 6:1-3.) Surely this quotation from the law is not without much meaning.

Again another quotation from the Old Testament: "For he that will love life and see good days, let him refrain his tongue from evil, and his lips that they speak no guile. . . For the eyes of the Lord are over the righteous, and His ears are open unto their prayers: but the face of the Lord is against them that do evil," etc. (1 Peter 3:9-13.)

So with giving, there is the same tendency to present reward: "Give, and it shall be given unto you; good measure pressed down, and shaken together, and running over, shall men give into your bosom. For with the same measure that ye mete withal it shall be measured to you again." (Luke 6:38.)

(2) While the above is perfectly true, and should never be overlooked, yet there is something higher than receiving the reward in a material way, so the Apostle Peter continues the passage above quoted by saying: "But and if ye suffer for righteousness sake, happy are ye . . . for it is better, if the will of God be so, that ye suffer for well-doing than for evil-doing." (1 Peter 3:14-17.) That is, that while the natural consequence of the well-doing is the present result on the earth, yet, owing to a higher law coming in, there may be a far higher blessing in being allowed to suffer for Christ for well-doing, and, doubtless, if we are spiritual and heavenly minded, this is the result we shall covet: viz. that all reward shall come in a spiritual way. This was true even in Old Testament times, for even those, who had an earthly calling were called upon to suffer, while we read of those who were tortured, not accepting deliverance that they might obtain a better resurrection. (See Heb. 11:32-40.) How much more, then, will this be true of those with a heavenly calling.

Thus it is that while the tendency of a godly walk is always towards prosperity on the earth, and God will assuredly reward His servants abundantly, He cannot be any man's debtor, yet the material may give way to the moral, the natural to the spiritual, and blessings in the kingdom at the present time to blessings in the kingdom in the future, for the righteous may even be called on to die early for the Lord's sake. Let us, therefore, not forget the righteous government of God, while our hearts are at the same time coveting the best things, without desiring that our blessings should take an earthly shape.

It may, however, be asked,
What is our experience?

When we look back, can we not often see that losses in money matters, expensive illnesses in our households, and other similar things have been due to our withholding more than was meet, and God has been speaking to us about it? Few there are, who have had no such experiences. This is not said in order that we may judge others because of their trying circumstances — such conduct is altogether wrong — but that we may judge ourselves.

It might, however, be well sometimes, if we acted as did a Christian merchant, who, having given a certain sum to a work of the Lord, heard directly after of a great loss in his business. He at once sent ten times the sum he had sent before, saying, when asked his reason, that he did not wish to be deprived of his money without the opportunity of doing well with it.

Thus, while it is distinctly evil to sit in judgment on others, and we need to avoid legality in our judgments, even of ourselves, yet we appeal to the reader whether it is not true that he can distinctly trace the government of God with him all through his converted lifetime, and whether in the matter of giving, as in everything else, he cannot clearly see that he who saveth his life loses it, and that he, who loses his life for Christ's sake is the only one, who saves it?

Not, of course, that we are to give for the sake of reward, still less from dread of punishment; love, and love alone, should be the motive, and the coveted reward should be the approval of Christ and increased appreciation of Him. Nevertheless, all these things are written for our instruction. "Whoso is wise, and will observe these things, even they shall understand the loving-kindness of the Lord." (Psalm 107:43.) Who, therefore, will not love to take heed to that which is written for our instruction, and to trace the Lord's hand all through his life, whether in approval or in chastening, while keeping himself in the love of God and praying in the Holy Ghost, so that it may not be the legality of a slave, which characterises him, but the freedom of a son under the commandment of love?

Let us now return to our subject and ask,
What are we to give?

Well, we wholly belong to the Lord; we are bought with a price; we have been redeemed with the precious blood of Christ, and set free, so that it is but natural that the apostle should say, "I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God." (Rom. 12:1, 2.)

We cannot, as it were, ransom ourselves by giving up our property. Ourselves, our lives, our souls, our all is His, and this is not a hardship or bondage, but freedom and an unspeakable privilege, transforming what would otherwise be worthless into that which is extremely precious and valuable in the eyes of the Lord of glory, thus giving invaluable opportunities of being, doing, and suffering that which shall be found to honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ. Let no Christian make the great mistake of thinking that money is the chief thing to give. Far from this, it is the least: we are not our own, nevertheless it is our privilege to yield ourselves to God as those that are alive from the dead and our members as instruments of righteousness unto God. How blessed! God does not want our things, unless we own the Lord's rights over us, but when we have done this He allows us to use our all in His happy service. Even in doing good to men, kindness, sympathy, thoughtful, tender service and, most of all, love, will go much further than money; how much rather, then, does God look for the moral beyond the material. With Him the motive is everything, the material thing nothing, so that one may give all one's goods to feed the poor and yet give nothing, and a poor widow may give two mites and the value thereof be unspeakably great.

We are the Lord's, therefore let it be a privilege to own His blessed rights over us, and count it all honour not to live for ourselves, but to Him who died for us and rose again. Thus it will be our happy service to hold ourselves and our families, our gifts, our talents, our opportunities, our positions, our time and our money at His disposal for Him to do as he will with them, and it will then be a joy to us when we are able to serve Him in any way he pleases. Thus Caleb received Hebron for an inheritance, because he wholly followed Jehovah, God of Israel, and he drove out the giants therefrom (Joshua 14:12-14, Joshua 15:14), yet very soon after this same city is taken from him and given to the priests (Joshua 21:11). What a privilege for Caleb!

It is an immense thing to see that all we are and all we have, the natural and the spiritual, are the Lord's, yet we must not think that all is done when this is acknowledged. The whole of the land of Canaan was given to the Israelites, yet it had to be conquered in detail. Though we as a totality have died and are risen with Christ, yet we are still to mortify individually our members which are upon the earth." (Col. 2:20, Col. 3:1-5.) It is one thing to accept a principle in the abstract; it is another thing to work it out in detail bit by bit in daily life, for in so doing we shall often meet with strong resistance, even with regard to matters where we expected none, just as it is incomparably easier to say, in the abstract, "We are altogether sinful," than to confess a single sin in particular.

Hence the necessity of going more into detail.
To whom are we to do good?

We are to love all (1 Thess. 3:12), to pray for all (1 Tim. 2:1), to do good to all (Gal. 6:10), to love and to succour our enemies (Rom. 12:19-21), and to be kind to the unthankful and the evil (Matt. 5:43-48). At the same time we are specially to do good to the household of faith, and to love our brethren as Christ has loved us, which means that we are to be willing to lay down our lives for the brethren. (1 John 3:16.)

How much this means! It does not mean that we are to love a special company of Christians with whom we are personally associated, or those with whose views we are in agreement, but that we are to have this special extraordinary love for all the family of God, even when they care not for us, as one said of old, "I will very gladly spend and be spent for you; though the more abundantly I love you, the less I be loved." (2 Cor. 12:15.) Anything short of this is sectarian.

Thus also we are to love and do good, in a lesser degree, to all, irrespective of social position, worth, nationality, or any such distinction. Only thus can there be the setting forth of the character of God and of Christ.

One thing, however, needs to be borne in mind, that it is the needy who should be helped, not those who can and will recompense us here on earth. If we desire to be recompensed at the resurrection of the just, we must seek out the poor, the maimed, the halt, and the blind, as did the Lord Himself (Luke 14:12-14, 21); the principle is that we cannot have rewards from men as well as from God the Father (Matt. 6:4).

There is a very striking verse in Scripture which says "He that oppresseth the poor to increase his riches, and he that giveth to the rich, shall surely come to want." (Prov. 22:16.) This is startling, for it links oppression of the poor with giving to the rich, yet how common is this latter, even among those who would be horrified at even the suggestion of the former sin. Is it not true that the amount of giving to and the feasting of the rich are one great cause why we can give so little to the poor?

Then, while the poor and the needy, the widow, the orphan, and the stranger, are mentioned over and over again as those to be especially thought of, Scripture is very emphatic in mentioning the Levites in the Old Testament, and those who minister in spiritual things in the New, in a very special manner as those, who are to be thought of and provided for. So much is this the case that it is very much pressed by the Apostle Paul, that as the Gentiles were partakers of the spiritual things of the Jews, therefore it was their duty to minister to them in carnal things. (Rom. 15:27.)

If any one ministers spiritual things to us, it is our bounden duty to see his need is supplied in temporal things. This should be looked at as simple honesty, just as it would be to pay our baker's bill, but, besides this, there are many ministering to those, who are too poor to help them, or, may be, are unwilling to do so, then it is the privilege of those who have, to minister temporal things to such. The Levite takes the first place among those who are to be helped.

It may, however, be asked,
Are we not to discriminate?

Assuredly we are to discriminate. How, otherwise, are we to give to the needy? This often means patient investigation, and requires time and patience. It is much easier to give a trifle to one with a pitiful story than to make careful enquiry and then to give liberally or not at all, according to the real need or the reverse.

It seems, however, a strange thing to some, among whom is the writer, that there is little or nothing said as to discrimination in giving in Scripture, save that we should not give to the rich but to the poor.

Scripture seems to enforce the most lavish giving, and never seems to give a caution, such as, "beware lest you pauperize, or give to unworthy objects, encourage lazy people or those who take up ministry for inadequate reasons," etc. It even goes so far as to say, Give to every one that asketh of thee." (See also Luke 6:38.) Why is this?

The writer has thought about this very often, and the only solution he can offer is this — that we are naturally so selfish, so cautious, so glad of an excuse for not giving, and for spending on ourselves, that it would not have done to have put in any caution. We should probably have fastened on it as a leech, and made this a convenient reason for not giving on all possible occasions. Even 2 Thess. 3:10 seems not to be an injunction to others, but a word to the man, who did not like to work (because, apparently, he believed in the near coming of Christ), that in all consistency he should not eat either.

As a matter of fact, as our resources are of course strictly limited and not unbounded like God's, therefore we have to discriminate in order that as stewards we may do the best we can with that which is our Master's.

Responsibilities, however, are, not to be disregarded.

As to these the Scripture is very emphatic; we must provide things honest in the sight of all men; we are to owe no man anything save to love one another (Rom. 12:17, Rom. 13:8), or, as the saying is, "we must be just before we are generous." This is most important; we cannot give while just claims on us are not settled.

In this connection we should remember Mark 7:9-13, and the strong censure the Lord passes on those, who said that a man might relieve himself of the claims his parents had on him, if he chose to give the money for religious purposes.

A man's family has the first claim on him, and that not only his own house, but other relatives as well. If he do not provide for them he has denied the faith, and is worse than an infidel. (1 Tim. 5:8.) See also verse 16, and the importance of not letting the Church be charged.

All this is most important, for alas! not only the Christian public, but those, who profess to be real Christians as well, think little of letting their parents and near relatives be chargeable to the Church, while they themselves live very comfortably, but make the frivolous excuse that they cannot afford to support them. Maybe, this excuse will not be found valid at the judgment-seat. Nothing will excuse such. If the parents are in want, it is the plainest duty of the children to take in such, and share and share alike. Even more distant relatives in need should not be neglected, as is so often done.

Strange to say, the heathen often put the Christian to shame. In India the writer has seen a man on a very moderate salary take in, besides his own large family, two widows of two brothers, each with a large family, without any ostentation or thought of merit; and cases of lesser magnitude are of the commonest occurrence.

God never meant the family to be superseded in this world, nor to give to the Church the work which rightly belonged to the family. Any weakening of family ties is to be greatly dreaded as a sign of the final apostasy. All other giving must take place after the needs of those, who have the ties of relationship, have been met. This is emphatic, and no work or service for the Lord so-called should set it aside.

It may then be asked, if we are to provide for our needy relatives, and to be such liberal givers,
How is it to be done?
The answer to this is, mainly by simplicity of living and by self-denial.

There are little touches here and there in the history of Israel, which tell of the beautiful simplicity of the lives in those days. We see Boaz, a mighty man of wealth, talking in all simplicity to the reapers, eating bread and parched corn among the reapers, and sleeping on a heap of barley at the time of harvest, and then when we compare this with our complex civilisation and the vast number of our fancied needs we are astounded. Surely it would be an immense thing, if we Christians would be as simple as possible. Simple in our food and in our raiment, in our furniture, and in our comforts, and without luxuries, simple in movements, manner of life, and in all our ways. It is the varied character of modern life, which makes it necessary for people to work so hard, and yet have so little to give away after all. We look at one another, and what one has we crave for, and instead of seeing what we can do without, we think of what we can have. Thus we act and react on one another in making our lives more complex, we increase our cares, our work, our anxieties, and are less and less free to serve the Lord.

Pray do not misunderstand. The Christian is not to be an ascetic or a recluse; godliness (or piety) owns that every creature of God is good, and nothing to be refused, if it be received with thanksgiving, "for it is sanctified by the word of God and freely addressing Him" (1 Tim. 4:4, 5, N.T.), "and that God has given us richly all things to enjoy." (1 Tim. 6:17.) Hospitality is enjoined, marriage is honoured, and family ties maintained. A good report of those that are without is a commendation, and a simple, unaffected life is shown to become the people of God, a life with nothing morose or unnatural about it.

Nevertheless, though this is the case, the same Scripture, which speaks so much of godliness, says "having food and raiment, let us be therewith content." (1 Tim. 6:8.) It is not that there is anything wrong in having this or that, but that the servant of God wishes to be as free as possible to serve his Master to the best advantage. "No man that warreth entangleth himself with the affairs of this life; that he may please him who hath chosen him to be a soldier." (2 Tim. 2:4.) He has resources and joys in the power of the Spirit to which the worldly man is a stranger, and it is a pleasure to him to deny himself, to serve the Lord, to do His will, and to be a giver. It is not therefore a hardship, but pleasing to him to live a simple life, to keep under his body, and to bring it into subjection, to be moderate in all things, to seek that his house and household may be simple and orderly, all for this same end that the Lord may be more efficiently served. It has been well said, "If our business or our possessions, be our object, we make them as large as we can; if they are our burden, which we have to carry, we make them as small as we can."

In this connection it is well to take heed to the words of the apostle, "But this I say, brethren, the time is short (or more correctly 'straitened'), it remaineth therefore that both they who have wives be as though they had none; and they that weep as though they wept not; and they that rejoice as those that rejoiced not; and they that buy as those that possessed not; and they that use this world as not abusing it; for the fashion of this world passeth away." (1 Cor. 7:29-31.)

If, too, Elisha could say to Gehazi in the days of the earthly calling of God's people, but in view of the low condition that prevailed morally all round, "Is it a time to receive money and to receive garments," etc., what would the Spirit of God say to-day on this subject?

See, too, Revelation 18: The sin of that foul thing Babylon merely is that she has glorified herself and lived deliciously; she says in her heart, I sit a queen, and am no widow, and shall see no sorrow. She magnifies and enjoys herself just as if Christ were not rejected.

If the prophet could write in Amos 6:1-6, as he did in that day, what would God say to us now?

God grant we may never forget that Christ is rejected and that all that is in the world, the lust of the eye, the lust of the flesh, and the pride of life, are not of the Father, but are of the world, and the world passes away and the lust thereof, but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever. No wonder it is written, "Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him." (1 John 2:15-17.)

It may now be asked, Is it desirable to
give proportionately?
i.e. to set aside regularly on each occasion of receiving one's income a certain portion to be used in the Lord's service.

If by this it is meant that by giving a proportion we can, as it were, purchase the right to do as we please with the rest, then certainly this is a great mistake. All that we have we only hold in stewardship, so we cannot do this.

This being understood, the matter is certainly worth consideration. It cannot be dismissed contemptuously by the remark that it is legal. Legality is a matter of the spirit and motive of a thing, and not one of outward action. We may refrain from such a course and be full of legality, and we may do it without being legal.

Some have an idea that all order, method, arrangement, in the things of God are illegal, they are said to savour of system, and be evil. This is a great mistake. Is God the author of confusion? Is not the whole creation of God, excepting where sin has marred it, the perfection of method, order, and arrangement? Does not every heavenly body keep its course and time exactly, so that the best timepiece that can be made must often be tested by these bodies, and no one dreams of suggesting that the difference that is found is due to the star being incorrect in its transit.

Perfection of order is of God, and system is God's plan. It is only when man makes a system, which interferes with God's system, and shuts out the action of the Spirit, that it is wrong. It is right to plan, if it be in subjection to the will of God. (See James 4:15.)

We apportion out our income to the various items of expenditure without being legal. Is it legal to give a daughter a dress allowance? Why should it be legal to put aside a proportion at each time of receipt of income for the things of the Lord.

Granted that if our whole heart and soul were aglow with love, zeal, and devotedness to the Lord, we should not need any such thing. Then in order to serve the Lord to the best advantage, we should seek that all that we have, and all that we are, should be kept in the best possible condition for the Lord. Our eating, our drinking, our waking, our sleeping, would all be regulated for this supreme object. We should do like the Apostle Paul (1 Cor. 9:26, 27), and there would not be the slightest fear of any self-indulgence on our part.

The writer, in 1868, met in Bombay a servant of the Lord, now departed,* who, being unmarried (1 Cor. 7:33), lived with extreme frugality for the Lord's sake. Being very talented, he could easily have been rich if he chose, whereas he lived on a few shillings a month, yet without any ostentation, asceticism, or display of poverty, and with perfect cheerfulness. Those that were helped by his ministry often sent him presents, sometimes very valuable ones; he thanked them and quietly gave them away to others, and he kept nothing. Such an one had no need of such action: but take ordinary people like most of us, especially those who are married and have families, as most of us have. Is it said in vain that he that is married careth for the things of the world that he may please his wife, and the wife for the things of the world that she may please her husband? Unless, therefore, a portion is regularly set aside, and the rest alone is looked upon as the allowance for the ordinary needs, it will generally be found in practice that uncommonly little is left for giving.
{*The late George Bowen.}

It is true that all we have is the Lord's, and that we are only stewards; nevertheless certain matters are left to our discretion. The Apostle Paul, in 1 Cor. 9, discriminates between what he might do and what he did do. He also says that all things are lawful, but all things are not expedient.

If all was rigid and fixed, there could be nothing but of necessity, and therefore there would be no real giving at all. This would be to contradict Scripture, which says, "Not grudgingly, or of necessity: for God loveth a cheerful giver (2 Cor. 9:7), and the Christian would become a machine, and the work of God rendered of no avail.

It may be perfectly legitimate to buy another coat or dress, yet if the old ones are made to last double the time, in order that the extra amount might go to feed the hungry and clothe the naked, is it not well? If self-denial (usually so called) has no place, then why the frequent injunctions to give all through Scripture, and the promises of reward? And it may be laid down as an axiom that unless we set apart a proportion at the moment we receive, with ordinary Christians our powers of giving will be greatly reduced. This or that will come up until, with all the will in the world, little will be left to give.

There is also the consideration of the following Scripture: "Upon the first day of the week let every one of you lay by him in store, as God hath prospered him, that there be no gatherings when I come." (1 Cor. 16:2.)

It may be said that this is special. This is admitted, but it is written for our learning and instruction, and not merely as a matter that concerned the Corinthians only, and we can see a principle here, that of laying in store, week by week, as the Lord prospers. If it is legal to put aside a proportion, then this was legal, but the contention is absurd; it is no more legal to put aside for the Lord's work, than it is for the house rent or your children's education. Both are legal, if done in a legal spirit; neither, if done as to the Lord, in righteousness and love.

It is strongly recommended, therefore, that whenever our income comes in, a proportion be put aside, and that whenever our income rises to let the first part of that increase go for the Lord's service. Those who have tried it can testify how helpful this plan is, how there is no bondage connected with it, and how greatly their powers of giving have been increased thereby.

If it be asked what the proportion should be, the answer is, "Every man as he hath purposed in his heart." (2 Cor. 9:7.) Nothing can be laid down, but it will be found that the pleasure and luxury of giving increases with the giving, and, as again and again we wait on the Lord about the matter, which we are bound to do under these conditions, we long to give more and more; so that we have heard of a case where one who began by giving a tenth ended by giving nine-tenths.

Thank God none are excluded from this. Every Christian is naturally a giver; rich and poor are alike to give, all will covet to give. None will say, "We are told that Christians are to give, why do they not give to me?" but rather the very poorest will not fail to claim his right to deny himself, and to give to the Lord, as was the case with them of Macedonia. How that in a great trial of affliction the abundance of their joy and their deep poverty abounded unto the riches of their liberality . . . this they did, not as we hoped, but first gave their own selves to the Lord, and unto us by the will of God." (2 Cor. 8:2-5.)

Of course, as before pointed out, if after the proportion fixed on for the moment, prayerfully before the Lord, has been set aside, it should please the Lord to ask for any further proportion or the whole, then let us thankfully give, for all is His, and we can trust Him. We acquire no legal rights by laying aside a proportion.

Let us affectionately exhort the reader to be a cheerful, liberal giver, and if he has never given the plan here mentioned a trial, let him try it for a while, and see whether, as so many have found, it does not increase his freedom, his joy, and his power of helping others to a far greater extent than he ever imagined it would, by the grace of God. Those, who have had experience of a thing, are more competent witnesses than those, who have never had any.

Other Questions

As to any other questions that may arise, such, for instance, as to whether one should lay up for one's family, they can only be settled by each one individually waiting on the Lord and receiving special guidance from Him. For his guidance he will find on the one hand such Scriptures as "I have been young and now am old, yet have I not seen the righteous forsaken, nor his seed begging bread. He is ever merciful and lendeth, and his seed is blessed" (Psalm 37:25, 26); and on the other hand, "I will not be burdensome to you: for I seek not yours, but you; for the children ought not to lay up for the parents, but the parents for the children." (2 Cor. 12:14.) Let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind. One thing is, however, clear, that if a man does not make provision for his family, such as a prudent man of the world makes, and in consequence spends more upon himself than he would otherwise be able to do, expecting the saints to care for his family, and thus throwing them as a burden on the Church, then he is neither acting in faith, nor in an upright, godly manner. Such conduct can unhesitatingly be condemned as unrighteous. If he has faith to spend in the Lord's interests, not only what he would naturally do as a Christian, but also over and above what he would save up for his family, well and good, but without faith it is impossible to please God, and counterfeit faith is worthless.

In any case it is well to take heed to the words of our Lord: "Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal; but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal; for where your treasure is there will your heart be also." (Matt. 6:19-21.)

"So is he that layeth up treasure for himself and is not rich toward God." (Luke 12:21.)

"Sell that ye have, and give alms; provide yourselves bags which wax not old, a treasure in the heavens that fadeth not, where no thief approacheth neither moth corrupteth." (Luke 12:33.)

What are we told by the prophet Isaiah that fasting means "Is not this the fast that I have chosen? to loose the bands of wickedness, to undo the heavy burdens, and to let the oppressed go free, and that ye break every yoke? Is it not to deal thy bread to the hungry, and that thou bring the poor that are cast out to thy house? when thou seest the naked, that thou cover him; and that thou hide not thyself from thine own flesh." (Isa. 58:6, 7.) Because this is in the Old Testament, is it any the less true to-day?

What does the King say to the righteous when He sits upon the throne of His glory, and all nations are gathered before Him? "Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; for I was an hungred, and ye gave Me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave Me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took Me in: naked, and ye clothed Me: I was sick, and ye visited Me: I was in prison, and ye came unto Me. . . . Verily, I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these My brethren, ye have done it unto Me." (Matt. 25:34-40.)

Is this not written for our learning? Does the fact that dispensationally this applies to the nations after the Church has gone make us think that there is no application to those, who in the present day succour or neglect the witnesses of Christ? If we think this, our dispensational intelligence will only be a curse to us. We do well to remember that whatever the dispensational interpretations may be, yet in every passage there is an application to the saints quite apart from the special dispensational meaning. We have lost much by not understanding this.

It is most remarkable that in the vast number of Old Testament Scriptures quoted in the New (omitting those which personally apply to Christ), all but a very few are quoted for present application, though dispensationally they belong to a future day. We do well, therefore, to remember that all Scripture is written for our learning, so that we may profit by all. (See Rom. 15:4, and 1 Cor. 10:11.)

Caution

Just a word of caution seems needed here. All that is said in this treatise is from the point of view of the giver. Some may, however, read it, who are poor and are given to. Now all such must clearly understand that they cannot say, Why do not the saints give to me? They have to do with God, and God alone, as to their need, and not with their brethren. Are you poor and needy?, now is the time to show your trust in God. You are fasting, you have not that which seems necessary, then anoint your head, and wash your face, that you appear not unto men to fast; thus shall you have a reward of your Father in heaven. (Matt. 6:16-18.)

How much more, then, is this true as to the servant of Christ? The servant of the Lord can never say, Why do you not minister to me? Yea, he will long to be like the Apostle Paul, who, while insisting, "that they who preach the Gospel should live of the Gospel," as to principle, yet adds, "But I have used none of these things," It will be his joy if he can, as far as possible, "to make the Gospel of Christ without charge"; he will be greatly afraid lest he should hinder the Gospel of Christ.

It is not meant that it is wrong for the servant of the Lord to take from others for his support. Not so, even the great Apostle did so at times, but he will see that, generally speaking, it is the happier thing when he can make the Gospel without charge, though he will continually wait upon the Lord, get his directions from the Lord, trust in the Lord, learn how to be abased and how to abound, and be ready to labour at a secular calling, if the Lord desire, or not to do so, if the Lord will. He will not look to his fellow-Christians but to the Lord, and he will be confident that the Lord will supply all his need, and the needs of those dependent upon him, and will not let him lack any good thing.

It is doubtless far more difficult to earn one's living in foreign and poor countries, and to serve the Lord as well, than in England, and, if called to give up the secular calling for this purpose, let it be done in faith without fear. Where the Lord calls, he will sustain. It is He who has said, "The labourer is worthy of his hire," and He, as Master, will see that he gets it, but the labourer will never look to those to whom he goes in order to get. His confidence will be in the Lord alone.

Dear servant of the Lord, suffer a word of exhortation. You are in a prominent position, you will be carefully scanned — your ways, your dress, the way in which you spend your time, the class by which you travel by train or steamer will all be observed. If you have a house, the way in which it is ordered, the style in which you live, will all be taken keen notice of. If married, the behaviour of your wife and children, their dress, their ways, the management of the household, yea, little details will all be noticed. This is pre-eminently the case as to those, who have no means of their own. It is useless to say this should not be. It is certain that such things will be; how carefully, how circumspectly, then, should you walk, lest in any way the gospel of Christ be hindered, or His truth belittled. Men will certainly look to you to be practical exponents of the truths which you proclaim. They will judge of the truth very much more by the life you lead than by the words which you speak.

What heart-searchings, what exercises of soul, will you then pass through, for fear lest in any way you stumble any. If found fault with, you will be patient; if criticized you will weigh the criticism without anger in the sanctuary. You will long to give no offence in anything, that the ministry be not blamed.

But you may say, I thought this was on the subject of giving, and, lo you speak of fasting and suffering. Quite so, this is all part of what God gives to you, and a very rich part it is, for this is the way God takes to make you luminous, a practical exponent of what you teach. He will take care of you and yours, never fear, but He wants you to be occupied with the more important things, and to leave to Him the burden of supplying all your need in this world.

Conclusion

How glorious, then, is our privilege of being here in this world to set forth Christ, to be here for Him in a poor, needy world with our hands full of blessing. He "gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto Himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works." (Titus 2:14.) Again it is written, "This is a faithful saying, and these things I will that thou affirm constantly that they which have believed in God may be careful to maintain good works. These things are good and profitable unto men."

If we have the truth given to us, the only way we can prove that we have it is by a more Christ-like life than those, who have it not, for the Kingdom of God is not in word, but in power, and it is only by well-doing that we can put to silence the ignorance of foolish men.

When the Apostle Paul was confronted by earnest yet false apostles, deceitful workers, he was able to point to his life, and shew how he surpassed them all, and when he speaks of Jannes and Jambres he can say, "But thou has fully known my doctrine, manner of life, purpose, faith, long-suffering, love, patience, persecutions, afflictions."

Again, when he bids farewell to the elders of Ephesus, he ends by saying "I have coveted no man's silver or gold, or apparel. Yea, ye yourselves know that these hands have ministered unto my necessities, and to them that were with me. I have shewed you all things, how that so labouring ye ought to support the weak, and to remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how He said, "It is more blessed to give than to receive."

God grant that we may take heed to all these things, and that none of us may forfeit the birthright of every Christian to be ever receiving from Christ, and setting forth the grace of Christ in our pathway through the world where He was and still is, rejected.

We close with an account of an American child, related by the late Dr. Boardman, of America.

Our Lord took a child and placed him in a seat of honour at His side, as the true type of greatness. He has set before me a child as a marvellous example, so marvellous that I cannot refrain from letting you share with me the lessons He teaches by her.

This girl is now thirteen and a half years of age, and has given, in the eighteen months since she was twelve, eighty-two dollars in money to send the gospel to those who have it not.

"She must be rich," do you say?

Not so. Look at her! The clothes she has on are her own handiwork. She spun the yarn, wove the cloth, and made them up with her own hands. She is not worth a penny in the whole world.

"Somebody else must have given her the money, then"; is that your thought?

No; she earned every cent of it by her own hard work.

"Surely, then, she must live where everything favours her, where employment is plenty and wages are high."

Nothing of the kind; all the other way. She lives in a little back-country neighbourhood, where employment is scarce and wages very low.

"The child certainly, then, must have given her whole time to earning the money. She could not have had anything else to do."

Mistaken again. Her mother is a poor widow, almost blind, and quite lame from rheumatic affection. There is in the family an aged grandmother, entirely helpless, bowed double with toil and years, whom they support; the three — grandmother, mother, and daughter — comprise the household, and the child is the mainstay.

A GIRL FARMER

They have a little rough, hill-country farm of twenty acres, which has to be cultivated and kept up, and a cow to be milked and fed. The little girl has therefore on her shoulders the work of a woman in the house, and of a man out of doors.

She helped, while her mother was able to do more than she can do now, to spin and weave coverlets, carpets, and cloth, to purchase their little farm, build their house, maintain the family, and keep out of debt. They owe no man anything but love. With all this she has gone to school in a little district schoolhouse what time she could.

Are you filled with wonder as to how she could earn so large a sum of money in so short a time, with so much besides to do? I am sure I was, and do not yet cease my amazement. The way in which it was done was indeed more surprising than all the rest. She snatched what time she could after school, to pick berries in their season, and before school in the morning she carried them four miles on foot to a village and sold them. By this alone she gathered thirty dollars in a single season. She worked for wages in the hayfield, and earned something by that.

Another employment by which she earned money, I hate to mention, because you will think it so hard. Nevertheless it must not be kept back. Moreover, I remember working in the days of my childhood at the same kind of toil, and it really was not half so hard as you might think. It was gathering stones out of the field and laying them up into a wall as a fence.

Of all her devices, however, that which shows the child-woman most was this. On their little farm stands one lone little sugar-maple tree. As the spring season drew on, and sugar-making time came, she took a gimlet and bored into the tree, and inserted a cut goose quill as a tube or "spile," so called, for the sap to run through and drop into a dish which is placed underneath, that she might take it and boil it down in syrup and sugar to sell and get money. The neighbours seeing this, kindly gave her the use of six other trees on their lands, and tapped them properly for her with augur and spile. Out of the seven sugar maples she drew quite a quantity of golden syrup, and turned it into money for the darling object of her heart.

IS SHE TO BE PITIED?

"Well, she must be large and stout for her age," do you say? No; she is slight in form and bent already with toil. "Poor child!" do you exclaim, "how hard! Oh, how I pity her!"

Yes, indeed, she works hard, but your pity you may keep for those who know not her delights. The Lord has filled her with gladness in Himself such as it never entered the heart of those who do not know Him in His fulness to conceive; and He has taught her His own grand secret, that "it is more blessed to give than to receive."

One who knows and loves her well says, "I am sure the world does not contain a happier child than this same hardworking little girl. Look upon her and she smiles brightly; give her a word and she laughs out. She is full of happiness."

One day in the spring she jotted this down in her journal:

". . . It is warm. We may have a run of sap. I would turn the sweet into the sweeter. Verily, there is nothing so sweet to me as to give for the gospel."
"The words of the Lord are spirit and life,
  Oh, how I want to send them forth!"

Some rhymes written by her, homespun like her garments though they are, yet tell the story. It seems she had been chided for what she was doing as carrying the thing too far, and so justifies herself in reasoning rhyme. First comes a glance at what is doing in the nations to make the Lord known, and at the bondage of the multitudes who know Him not. Then she ejaculates her deep desire that the work may be carried on, and then asks herself:
"Shall I pray only with my tongue?
 My hands, my feet, must also pray:
 Each power of mind must work this way."

Then, after accepting the Apostle's injunction to remember those in bondage as bound with them, as rightfully applying to herself, she speaks of the Saviour's example in giving Himself for sinners, and then asks:
"Should I account it much to do,
To earn the dimes and give them, too?
We spend our pence for vainest things,
Which not one drop of comfort brings:
True joy attends the smallest gift
Bestowed from love to Christ.
Some say I make a great ado
It should be great: Christ thought so, too;
He commanded us to send
His word to earth's remotest end,
If Him we love, we'll Him obey,
And work and give while it is day;
Nor loiter till the time is past,
And then regret our wrong at last.
Oh, let us wisely fill each hour,
By doing all that's in our power
To show our Saviour's dying love!
Then rest with Him in realms above."

Behold this child! The Lord sets her in the place of honour that we may see how like Him she is. With her there is no seeking after what she shall eat, drink, or wear, but an earnest desire to save those who are lost.