The Christian Professor

John Angell James, 1837



"I know how to abound." Phil. 4:12.

The Apostle claims for himself in these words, one of the most rare and difficult attainments ever made in this world of sin and imperfection; I mean the right use of prosperity. How few are his imitators! PROSPERITY is a comparative term, and signifies an improved or an improving state of our temporal affairs; in its most emphatic sense it imports a considerable improvement, a great elevation in our affairs, or a rapid accumulation of wealth—some employ the term as denoting any advancement, whether it be the humbler or more exalted stations of life. A workman or servant is in prosperity whose wages are doubled; a woman is in prosperity who is raised by marriage, from a lower to a higher grade of society; the small tradesman is in prosperity who is delivered from the difficulties he once experienced, and is enabled to provide, though it be only the bare necessities for his family.

Still prosperity is usually expressive of a somewhat higher state of things than this, and as indicating a thriving trade, or the possession of considerable property or wealth.

A professor is to let his light shine before men. This of course extends to every situation in which he is placed. It is to be an ever shining light; a radiance that is everywhere to attend him. His piety must illumine the gloom of his poverty, and add even to the splendor of his prosperity. Like the sun, his own appropriated emblem, he should shine the brighter the higher he rises. Prosperity is a gift granted him—that he may glorify God. Prosperity is a golden talent—to be carried with deep humility and gratitude to the foot of the cross, and consecrated to Him who bought him with his precious blood. Prosperity widens the sphere of his opportunity to honor God, a sphere which he should be anxious to fill with a hallowed influence to the very circumference.

There are FOUR VIRTUES especially necessary in a state of prosperity. Of these, the first is–


A thankless prosperity is an unnatural and an unholy state. Such a man's heart is hard as the rock, and barren as the sand; continually receiving the rays of the sun, and the riches of the clouds—but returning nothing. A Christian must not only be remote in his own feelings from that atheistic state of mind, which traces up all to 'lucky accidents' and 'fortunate turns'—but he must take care to acknowledge God before men, as the sole author of his success. His whole frame and deportment, must be a devout confession to God. It must be seen that he ascribes all he has, not to his own skill, sagacity, or industry—but to the blessing of the Most High. "By the grace of God I am what I am!" must be his declaration. On every favor he should inscribe the name of God as the 'giver', just as we write the name of our friends on their gifts.

God should not only be acknowledged—but praised for the blessing of prosperity. It is a blessing, unless by our abuse of it we turn it into a curse; and is spoken of as such throughout the word of God. God has not confounded the distinction between plenty and poverty; nor required us to do so. Prosperity is indeed a mercy, and should be received as such—to be released from privation, and care, and necessity. The man who talks of poverty as a good in itself, speaks alike against reason and against Scriptural revelation. Poverty may be over-ruled for good, and often is—but in itself it is an evil. A cause of thankfulness it certainly is, to have the comforts of this life.

Prosperity, both as a means of enjoyment and usefulness, demands our gratitude. Were all our temporal mercies employed as they ought to be—as means of proving to us the enormity of our sins—as fuel to feed the flame of our love—as mirrors in which to see the goodness of Jehovah—as ties to bind our hearts to his service—and as instruments to promote his cause in the world; prosperity would indeed be felt to be a blessing, and would send us to God with the language of the Psalmist, and with his emotions too, "Bless the Lord, O my soul, and all that is within me, bless his holy name! Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits!."

II. WATCHFULNESS is the next duty incumbent upon the prosperous professor, for prosperity is a state of danger. This has been confessed by all, and experienced by multitudes. It is the most trite and hackneyed of all themes, on which moralists as well as divines have equally descanted. In what vivid colors does Asaph portray this subject in the 73d Psalm. How often are we in effect told that the prosperity of fools shall slay them. How affectingly is this expressed in the prayer of Agur. Prov. 30:4-6. In what alarming terms it is thundered forth in the words of Christ—"How hard it is for those who have riches enter into the kingdom of God. Verily, verily, I say unto you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God!" And the fearful sentiment is echoed by the Apostle, "those who will be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and hurtful lusts, which drown men in destruction and perdition; for the love of money is the root of all evil, which, while some have coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows." 1 Tim. 6:9, 10.

I seem in reading such language almost to question the truth of what I have just written—and to doubt whether prosperity is really good. At any rate it must be allowed to be a 'dangerous good'—and we have seen numerous and melancholy instances and proofs of the danger. How rarely does it happen that people are not injured by prosperity. How still more rarely that they are the better for prosperity. An individual who passes through the 'trial of prosperity' unhurt, is admired as a striking proof of the riches of divine grace. While he who is really improved by prosperity, is wondered at and talked of as a religious marvel. But, oh! the myriads of the martyrs of an improved condition! What multitudes as they ascended from the humble valley of poverty, and emerged from the thorny and sequestered glens which it contained, into the sunny spots and higher grounds of wealth or easy competence, have lost their religion as they gradually rose, until by the time they had reached the summit, their religion was all gone. They who in the deep valley of poverty looked habitually up to heaven—but as soon as they were upon the flowery mount of prosperity, looked exclusively at the earthly prospect below them. Some have become heretical in opinion, others have sunk into confirmed and unrestrained worldly-mindedness, while not a few have plunged into actual and notorious immorality. In the far greater number of instances, however, it has not gone to this length—but only produced a lukewarmness, which, without impairing the moral character, has destroyed the spiritual one, by leaving nothing of godliness but the mere form.

The DANGER of prosperity arises from two causes.

1. Its tendency to repress some of the godly dispositions in which Christianity consists. There is little room in such a state for submission to the will of God, for faith, and trust, and hope, in reference to providential arrangements and temporal affairs. Not that prosperity excludes all room for these virtues—but still it must be admitted that there is not the same opportunity or call for them as in a state of adversity. And these, be it recollected, are some of the higher elements and more vigorous exercises of true piety. It is true that as regards spiritual things, there is as much opportunity, necessity, and call for faith and hope in the one state as in the other; but as for that daily exercise of patient submission to present privations; that equally constant trust in Providence for future supplies; and that steadfast faith in the promise of ultimate good from apparent evil, which the afflicted and necessitous are called to attempt—the prosperous know little of these things. Their religion is apt to become not only enfeebled—but diseased for lack of these more athletic and healthy exertions—just as the sons of affluence, who feed on luxury, who are clad in purple and fine linen, and sleep on down, are puny and effeminate compared with the weather-beaten mariner, or the hardy mountaineer.

Great caution, much watchfulness, and earnest prayer are necessary, to guard against this danger. It requires much grace indeed to rise upon the wings of faith, and soar above the enchanting scene of temporal things, into the region of eternal things—when the former spread out their many-sided beauties, amidst the glowing sunshine of prosperity; and with all that is gratifying in present possessions, to yield our hearts to the impulses of hope, and travel onward to the unseen and comparatively unknown future.

2. The danger of prosperity also arises from its tendency to generate and foster some of the EVILS to which Christianity is directly opposed. Numerous are the weeds, which, though apparently killed by the frosts, and buried under the snows of winter, obtain a resurrection and a vigorous life by the summer's sun. Numerous the noxious and disgusting reptiles and vermin that come forth from their holes when the season of storm is over, to breed and bask in the warmth of the solar beams. Prosperity is that to the imperfections and corruptions of our hearts, which the sun is to these annoyances of our earth.

To those whose besetting sins lie in that direction, prosperity furnishes resources for the indulgence of appetites and the gratification of tastes by no means friendly to the spirit of vital godliness—when carried beyond the bounds of the strictest moderation. True piety is a self denying thing, requiring the most rigid temperance in all things. Every approach not only to drunkenness or gluttony—but even tippling and epicurianism is inimical to the spirituality and heavenly-mindedness of true religion. Now it has so happened, that some, with the increased means of gratifying their appetites, have fallen into the snare, and acquired habits of self-indulgence, which have utterly destroyed every vestige of piety in their soul.

A haughty spirit and feeling of independence, are frequently observable in the prosperous; a temper that seems to say, "My own strength has gotten this for myself," an insensible and unintentional—but, at the same time, habitual and sinful leaving God out of their calculations and contemplations; and a reliance upon their own energies and exertions. There is about some people a consciousness of power, a feeling of self-buoyancy, as if they could and must rise unaided, and however opposed. Now this is a most guilty temper, a state of mind of great criminality and odiousness in the sight of God, in whom we live, and move, and have our being, and without whom we could neither lift an arm, move a step, or exercise a volition.

PRIDE is another evil against which the prosperous professor has the most urgent need to be upon his guard. It is not requisite here to dwell upon the sinfulness and loathsomeness of pride. It is irreligious in itself, and it is most inimical to religion in its influence. There are various kinds of pride, or, to speak more correctly, it is exercised in reference to various kinds of objects—there is pride of rank, pride of intellect, pride of person, pride of righteousness—but besides all these, there is pride of money. It is of the latter kind I now speak; that, which to use a common expression, make a man purse-proud. The union of prosperity and pride is one of the commonest association of things that we ever form—so common that we almost naturally and invariably imagine that a rich man must be a proud one; and are filled with admiration and astonishment where the contrary takes place. This association is referred to in many places of the Word of God. The Psalmist, speaking of the rich, says, "With their mouth they speak proudly;" and in another place, "Pride compasses them about as a chain."

In a person whose heart is subdued, humbled, and renewed by grace, we may not expect to see such offensive manifestations of this vice of pride, as in an unconverted individual. But even in him, prosperity often produces too much purse-pride. He values himself on account of his wealth. He feels that he is a man of importance who ought to be looked up to. He gives himself airs of importance. He expects his opinion to be law. He is dogmatic, overbearing, intolerant, and gives his sentiments with an emphatic "I think so!" He exacts attention, deference, respect. He is easily offended—if he imagines himself slighted, and from the high demands he makes, often does imagine that he is slighted. He is jealous of rivals. He is suspicious and censorious. Now all this is pride, purse-pride, and it is too often seen in the prosperous professor. He is not perhaps sufficiently aware of it himself—but his friends are, and lament his infirmity. He feels however that he is not so happy nor so holy as he once was—but scarcely suspects the cause. "It is in fact the rich man fading away in his ways." It is the worm of pride feeding upon the root of piety! Religion cannot flourish in such a state of mind as this, for it will prevent that deep humiliation before God, that self-abhorrence, that self-annihilation, that entire dependence, and sense of ill desert which are essential to the spirit of true piety; and, at the same time, will call into active operation many tempers most inimical to godliness.

Akin to this is AMBITION, or a feeling which disposes a man to be craving after something higher and better than he has, rather than to enjoy and improve what he already possesses. No man is forbidden to improve his condition in this world, nor is he required to stop short in the ascending path, or turn out of it, into which he has been led by Providence. But a restless desire after distinction, and aspiring and dissatisfied temper, which makes the level of ordinary circumstances disagreeable and intolerable; the envying of those who are on higher ground which leads to the determination at all events to be up with them, is quite contrary to the apostolic injunction, "Do you seek great things for yourself? Seek them not!"

Prosperity is very apt to make a professor seek for mirthful, or at any rate rich and fashionable acquaintances. He must have, he thinks, suitable acquaintance for himself and his children, and if he cannot find them in the church, he goes for them into the world; he contracts acquaintance with such people; exchanges visits; relaxes his religious strictness; adopts their customs; and thus, by little and little, gives up his spirituality, and becomes a worldling in heart, though he is still a professor by name.

Sometimes his ambition takes the turn of a longing desire after secular distinctions and civic honors—he wishes to be a member of parliament, or of a corporation, or of a board of directors, or of some commercial or political committee. He courts office, for he fancies himself fairly entitled to it, much more than many who already hold it. His mind is much taken up about the means to accomplish his end. He goes into company; courts notice; pushes himself forward—and at length succeeds. But is he satisfied? No! He has reached one summit—but it is only to rest and breathe preparatory to his climbing another before him. He is not at ease, for as the career of his prosperity continues, so he argues, ought the progression of his elevation. But where is his religion all this while? Alas! alas! behind on the road; or below in the valley. The house of God, the prayer-meeting, the Bible, the family altar, the closet—are all neglected. He is at a political association, or a civic entertainment, or at a party confederacy—when he ought to be hearing a sermon, assisting at a church meeting, or uniting in prayer with his brethren. Ambition of this kind has ruined many professors as such, in these days—and will ruin many more if care be not taken.

Perhaps it will be asked, if professors ought to abstain from all such public offices, and refuse all such secular distinctions as those I have alluded to. I reply, certainly not. I am only showing that they ought not to be overly ambitious, eager, or active to obtain them. When they come unsought and unsolicited; when they are put upon us, almost forced upon us; then they may be regarded as coming from God, and as affording us an opportunity of glorifying him, and serving our generation. But even in this case, the Christian should consider that he is set in 'slippery places', and should watch and pray that he enters not into temptation. The higher he rises, the more he is likely to turn giddy, and the more earnestly should he present that prayer, "Hold me up—and I shall be safe!"

WORLDLY-MINDEDNESS is a very common, it may be almost said, a general fruit of prosperity. I do not mean by this term absolute covetousness—but a disposition to seek our happiness rather from earthly sources, than spiritual ones. Our profession certainly implies a contrary temper, and supposes that our chief consolation, our habitual comfort, is derived from the spring of religion, the wells of salvation—the pure river of the water of life, clear as crystal proceeding from the throne of God and the Lamb.

But, O how difficult is it to maintain this pure, spiritual, unearthly, heavenly taste, in the midst of prosperity! How difficult is it to help loving the world—when it puts on all its charms, smiles upon us, and caresses us! When we have built a convenient house in a pleasant setting, elegantly furnished it, surrounded it with a beautiful garden and shrubbery, and made all things ready for our friends; when our family is as agreeable within, as the scene is pleasant without, how difficult is it then to avoid saying, "It is good to be here, let us remain here long, and if it were possible, forever." The worldling says, "give me such a paradise as this, and I want no other or better heaven." Yes, and even the professor sometimes feels this, though he does not say it. His house, and not his God, is the home of his heart. He lives not by faith in God, in Christ, in heaven; but by sense, in the enjoyment of his comforts. He goes not to fashionable amusements; his taste, his habits, and his reputation as a Christian are against this; but he seeks that happiness in his home, which others seek in the ball-room, the theater, and the card party. Many a man and many a woman, who goes regularly to all the Sabbath and many of the week-day ordinances of religion, and passes for a tolerably prosperous Christian, is miserably low in spiritual piety, and has little enjoyment of God, little communion with Christ, and as little lively hope of glory to be revealed. Prosperity by multiplying the sources of earthly gratification tends to take us off from those which are spiritual and divine; tends to carnalize our affections, to vitiate our holy taste, and to wither our devotion.

Such are the evils to which the successful professor is ever exposed and which call for his vigilance, caution, and alarm; not that they are necessarily and always connected with prosperity, for then how could it be a blessing; but they are the abuses of it against which he should watch and pray.

III. HUMILITY is a grace which prosperous people are especially required to cultivate. "Walk humbly with your God," is an injunction which is appropriate with all—but especially to the prosperous. In none can humility shine with such luster as in them. It is then like the gem set in gold; the lovely flower putting forth all its beauties in full sunshine; the action of the lark coming down from his lofty flight to rest in his lowly bed upon the earth. Nothing is more beautiful in our world than the manifest association of humble piety and temporal prosperity; it is the temper of heaven united with the possession of earth. The man who makes this attainment is great in the kingdom of God. His prosperity is maintained without envy in others, and without injury to himself. Let the prosperous Christian then aim at this beautiful combination. His humility will not keep him long behind or below his place. There is a buoyancy in prosperity which is sure to raise him to the surface, and place him where he should be—for there is no individual whose assistance and influence are more generally and urgently sought, or more truly valued, than his whose humility keeps pace with his success.

IV. LIBERALITY is a most incumbent duty for prosperous Christians; and yet it is not a duty always, nor to the full extent of the obligation often performed. In some cases prosperity withers the benevolent affections of the heart, and closes the outlets of mercy. Like those flowers that bloom at night, or in the wintry months—but die away before the power of a summer sun; or others, that flourish best in a poor soil, the liberality of some professors seems to become stunted, enfeebled, and contracted, as they increase in riches! The more they have, the less they give! I have read, or heard somewhere, of a person who had been singularly generous while comparatively poor—but who was observed to become stingy and miserly when he was prosperous; and who, upon being asked how it came to pass that he who gave so much in proportion to his income, when he had but little, now gave so little when he had so much, made this shocking reply, "When I had little, it was not worth saving; but when my fortune became large it seemed an object worthy to be kept together and accumulated." If I do not forget, this confession was made upon a death-bed, and amidst the horrors of an awakened and guilty conscience. This is by no means an uncommon, though a very melancholy case.

The love of money very commonly increases with the money itself, and therefore needs to be most tremblingly and prayerfully watched, lest as wealth gradually comes in, it steals over the heart and holds it in slavery to Mammon. It sometimes happens that the heart gets corrupted by a spending of the 'first fruits of prosperity' on worldly show, and an enlarged domestic expenditure. This begets a habit of expense, and produces a scale of living, which goes on increasing, all the while swallowing up prosperity as fast as it comes in, and thus leaving but little for God! On the contrary, a professor should devote the first fruits of his success to God, and satisfy himself with moderate accommodations, thus enlarging by frugality, both his means of serving God and himself also. Many begin where they should leave off, and therefore end worse than they begun.

The subject of this chapter is so important, that I must prolong it for the purpose of most solemnly admonishing at still greater length, not only those who are prosperous—but who are desiring and expecting to be rich. The enemies of religion are continually reproaching its friends with an undue regard to wealth. Their very sarcasms are instructive, though not always just. They assume what is not correct, that religion is intended to inspire us with aversion, or at any rate to produce absolute indifference to wealth—instead of merely moderating our desires after it, making us contented if we do not obtain it, and leading us to consecrate it to God if we do.

It is not the possession of wealth at that we should dread—but the inordinate desire, the dishonest means, the undue love, and the covetous hoarding of it! I am quite aware, that it is difficult to have money and not love it. It is hard indeed to have a golden image in the house, and not worship it! It is also quite evident that covetousness is indeed the sin of the church. In this commercial age and country, where men often rise from the workman to the master, and from nothing to affluence; where the career is open to all; and where, once engaged in the complexity and onward impulses of a large business, it is so difficult to stop or slacken the pace, there is imminent peril of professors forgetting their high vocation, and living only to get riches. We see them toiling and panting along the road of trade, in pursuit of the golden object of ambition, apparently as eager to obtain it, as any who do not profess as they do, to seek first the kingdom of God; enlarging their desires with every addition to their gains; and then extending their means to the limit of their desires.

Professors, you who are in this situation, pause for one short season in your career, and read that solemn admonition, which one who knows both your own hearts, and the secrets of eternity better than you do, has caused to stand out in characters more fearful and intelligible than those which the mystic hand inscribed on the walls of Belshazzar's palace. Jesus then said to his disciples, "I assure you: it will be very hard for rich people to enter the Kingdom of heaven." (Matthew 19:23) There it stands, written in imperishable letters, "that riches render the way to heaven difficult, and smooth the road to hell." There it is, printed, published, placarded shall I say? on the roadside, yes, on the side posts of the narrow gate, that opens into the path of life—that wealth is a snare to the soul, and makes salvation difficult. No prophet's inspiration is necessary to interpret this declaration of Christ, nor expositor's comment to illustrate it; it is so plain that he who runs may read, and he who reads must understand.

Good in itself, and capable of doing good; and evil only when it is abused, and yet so often abused that its possession is more frequently injurious than beneficial, wealth should never be intensely longed after by any Christian. Professors, take as it were a bird's eye view of the dangers it throws in the way of travelers to eternity. Does not wealth, as I have shown, produce the pride of life—so opposite to the humility and poverty of spirit, which is essential to the nature of true religion? Does wealth not generate a worldly-mindedness, which makes its possessor contented with seen and temporal things, and disposes him to mind only earthly things? Does wealth not lead to a prevalent feeling of independence, so unlike that habitual trust and reliance on God, which the Scriptures require? Does wealth not originate, and keep up, both the care and perplexity of getting, and the anxiety of disposing; and thus exhaust the vigor as well as time, upon worldly objects, leaving the soul neglected, impoverished, and defrauded? Does it not draw away the Christian from the means of grace? Does it not corrupt the simplicity of the mind, and the gentleness of the character? Does it not bring guilt upon the conscience, and hardness into the heart, by frequent omissions and refusals to do good with it; and thus, besides increasing the account against us in the book of God's remembrance, inflict an injury upon our souls now?

Yes, wealth has a tendency to do all this, in consequence of the depravity of our hearts, and thus to cast stumbling-blocks in the path of salvation—and it may be most truly affirmed, that the far greater danger attends that wealth which flows in upon us as the result of success in business, or in some unexpected manner—than that which descends to us by the channel of patrimonial inheritance, with the contemplation and expectation of which, we have been familiarized from childhood. Will you then earnestly covet and restlessly long for it—what, with all these snares attending it? Do you really believe Christ when he said, "How hard it is for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God! It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God."

Will you then envy the rich—what, with such snares as these which endanger his soul? For what purpose has Christ opened hell, and disclosed to us the scene of Dives tormented in its flames—but to warn us against the dangers of wealth? Has not God branded as a fool, the man who congratulated himself on his wealth, as a source of adequate and permanent enjoyment? Has he not said, "But godliness with contentment is a great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out. But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with these. But those who want to be rich fall into temptation, a trap, and many foolish and harmful desires, which plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, and by craving it, some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pains. Now you, man of God, run from these things; but pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance, and gentleness." (1 Timothy 6:6-11)

If, when standing on the shore after a shipwreck, you saw rolled up by the waves to your very feet, the miserable corpse of a poor deluded creature, that in trying to escape from the sinking vessel, had so loaded himself with gold, that he could not swim to land—but sunk immediately in the deep; would you not exclaim—what shall it profit him now? And, oh! could you see the more miserable spirit of a lost, rich worldling return from the unseen world, and hear him go howling about our earth, "What shall it profit a man if he gains the whole world—and loses his soul? What shall a man give in exchange for his soul?" Would you not be struck with the folly of being so anxious about the scramble for wealth, which is carried on by many, while our world is sinking, and the very weight of which, if they get it, tends to make their escape from eternal ruin the more difficult?

What then would I have you do? Stop in your career of industry? Break up your prosperous business? Turn from your flattering prospects? Quit the pursuit of wealth to avoid its dangers? Refuse riches when they are sent by Providence? Choose poverty with its privations, because it is less dangerous than affluence? No! I advise no such thing.

God is omnipotent and all-sufficient, and can make his grace sufficient for the salvation of a rich man, as well as a poor one. What you are to do, is to moderate your anxiety to be rich, to lower your sense of the importance of wealth—to be content, and feel that you could be content if God were to deny your prosperity, or to diminish your fortune—to avoid a grasping and ever expansive ambition—to let it be seen that your prosperity rather comes upon you, than is anxiously sought by you—to give this impression to those who know and see you, that it has fallen like a shower from heaven, rather than been drawn up as from a well dug with almost consuming labor in the earth by your own hands—and especially to take care that the riches acquired by honest industry, and unambitious, unengrossing diligence, be diffused for the glory of God, and the best interests of man. Wealth justly obtained, and piously spent, instead of a curse is a blessing; instead of diminishing a man's religion, increases it; and instead of hindering him in his way to heaven, helps him. Where Providence has blessed you with the possession of wealth, seek for divine grace, that you may be blessed in the use of it, for, without the latter, the former is no blessing at all.

Rich professors, I entreat you to consider the right uses and solemn responsibility of wealth. The age of miracles is past; and indeed while it lasted, the employment of wealth in the spread of the Gospel, was not dispensed with. Read the admonition again, which is addressed to you. "Instruct those who are rich in the present age not to be arrogant or to set their hope on the uncertainty of wealth, but on God, who richly provides us with all things to enjoy. Instruct them to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous, willing to share, storing up for themselves a good foundation for the age to come, so that they may take hold of life that is real." (1 Timothy 6:17-19)

Enter into the spirit as well as comply with the letter of this apostolic admonition. By how many motives may the liberal use of your wealth be urged upon you, each of which ought to be of itself sufficient—and all united, irresistible. You cannot be ignorant that God has made known his will that your wealth should be so employed. He has commanded it, and thus has not left it to your inclination or option. Your wealth is the gift of God, given not for your own use only—but for the glory of his name and the good of his creatures. You must give account, in the day of judgment, for every penny entrusted to your care; and in that account will be included all that you have spent upon yourselves—all the opportunities you have had of doing anything for Christ—as well those you have neglected, as those you have embraced.

You have the most powerful and moving of all possible examples set before you in "the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, who, though he was rich, yet for your sakes became poor, that you through his poverty might become rich." "You are redeemed that others may be delivered. You are renewed that others may be converted. You are blessed yourselves that you may be a blessing to others. You are so consecrated to God as to be obliged to make it apparent, not from professions but from actions, that the objects to which you are supremely devoted are the extension of the Redeemer's kingdom, in the conversion and salvation of men, the honor of religion, and the glory of God—in one word, that true religion is the great business of life."

You should remember the incalculably superior value of wealth when employed for glorifying God and saving souls—than when you devoted it to selfish gratification and family aggrandizement. You should consider the influence which benevolence will have upon your own character in strengthening the virtues of Christianity and ripening for you a world of unmingled love. You should dwell much upon the present condition of the world and the claims which its moral miseries urge upon the heart of every Christian; that it is a world lying in wickedness from which nearly a hundred thousand immortal souls pass away each day—and the far greater number of them, it is to be feared, have gone to the pit of eternal destruction! You should ponder upon the solemn consideration, that the work of soul destruction, the perdition of immortal beings, is thus frightfully going on for lack of money to arrest its progress—that hell is filling up with the lost spirits of men, because professing Christians will not supply the means of sending them the opportunity of salvation. You should recollect that you live in an age distinguished above all that preceded it—by its growing facilities for doing good—by its clear exposition of the sin of covetousness—by its frequent appeals to the liberality of Christians—and its encouragement to proceed in the career of benevolence. You should weigh well your responsibility for the influence you exert upon others by your liberality—or selfish stinginess. But when and where shall we end in stating the obligations of the rich professor of the Gospel?

I will put to you the following case. Suppose the Lord Jesus Christ were to appear to you in a visible form of glory somewhat similar to that in which he appeared to his apostle in the Isle of Patmos, and should deposit in your hands, twenty, fifty, or a hundred thousand dollars, and were to address you thus—"I entrust this wealth to your care, with a permission to use a part of it for yourselves, in promoting your own temporal comfort—but the rest and indeed the bulk I require you to lay out in promoting the cause for which I bled upon the cross, and which you know lies nearest my heart—even the salvation of immortal souls. To guard you against any breach of trust, I forewarn you that I shall require an account of every penny at some future period. And at the same time to encourage your zeal in my interests, I promise you a gracious reward for your fidelity, when I call you to account for your stewardship. Be faithful unto death, and I will give you a crown of life that fades not away."

Would you not feel both honored in being the bestower of his bounty, and tremblingly anxious to lay out his money to the best advantage for his cause, that when you gave in your account it might be with joy and not with grief? Would you not be afraid almost to spend anything upon yourselves, lest in comparison with his interests it should be considered too much? When about to enlarge or beautify your house, or to modernize your furniture, or to go on a vacation of pleasure at his expense, would you not hear a voice from within asking, "Is this the purpose for which the money was entrusted to your care? Does this please Christ now? And will it be a good item in the account at the last day?" Methinks you would grudge anything for yourselves, beyond absolute necessaries, that you might be able to say at last, "Lord it was all spent for you!"

Is this entirely fiction? True it is that Christ has not appeared personally to you, for we walk by faith; but he has entrusted money to your care to be employed for him. Yes, that wealth which you call your own, is not your own, "for you are Christ's," and all that you have, is his. And he will require an account of it at the last day!

By such motives as these, professors, I admonish you to liberality. I lay down no proportions of tenths, thirds, or halves; for Christ has not done so. Under the Levitical law everything was demanded by weight, number, and measure; but it is not so under the more free, and generous, and spiritual dispensation of the gospel. Christ has trusted his cause to our love, our honor, our sense of gratitude. Under the legal dispensation, all things taken into account, a Jew's religion could have cost him little less than half his income; and yet some Christians talk of giving only a tenth of their income. I do not say how much is enough for poorer Christians—but I am sure that for rich ones this is a paltry sum to carry to him who gave his all for them.

You rich Christians, read the book "Mammon." I say it, read it, and not only buy it. It is become a fashion to purchase it. I wish it may be a fashion to practice its principles. You are the people for whom it is especially designed, and therefore lay your souls open to its searching inquiries, and let it expel the sin of covetousness from your hearts. Remember the rule of giving in proportion as you are blessed; and that, therefore, he whose prosperity flows in upon him by copious streams—but whose liberality is only like drops oozing from a rock, is robbing God, defrauding the world, and rendering it doubtful whether he is a Christian indeed, and in truth. "If any man loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him!"

And now, dear brethren, take the alarm. Prosperity is a dangerous blessing. It is said of Mr. Cecil, that on being informed one of his congregation had become rich, he called upon him one day and addressed him thus—"Sir, I hear you are in great danger." "In danger of what?" said his friend; "I am not conscious of any danger to which I am exposed." "You are growing rich," continued the faithful minister, "and is not that a dangerous condition?" So sensible was another good minister of this danger, that, on his having a fortune left him, he devoted three days to humiliation and prayer, to be kept from the new perils into which he had been brought.

Admit the danger, then. Do not put aside the subject with a light and careless air—this increases the peril ten-fold. The man who is walking on the edge of a precipice—but cannot be prevailed upon to take heed to his steps, is almost sure to fall over. A constant sense of your peril will arouse you to caution. Do, do consider in how many instances prosperity has been injurious to the souls of men—of men that once stood high in the church as well as in the world. Wealth is the green and flowery mount from which we may have slid down into the bottomless pit; for it has proved to many the occasion of apostasy.

And even should wealth not lead to this, still, without great watchfulness and prayer, without incessant struggling—you will be sure to lose your spirituality, and gain much injury to your soul. In that case, the more you have of earth, the less you will have of heaven; your gain here will be a loss to you there. There are, as I have already said, degrees of glory; higher and lower seats in heaven; gradations of honor, and of capacity for bliss in paradise; and though your worldly-mindedness may not be such as to unchristianize you, yet it may be enough to make you Christians of a low standard, and therefore fit for only one of the lowest stations of the kingdom of God; while, on the other hand, sanctified prosperity may fit you for one of the highest. Thus your prosperity will extend to both worlds; it will be immortal, and you will be made ruler of ten cities.

Give yourselves, then, to prayer. Call upon God. His grace can be made sufficient for you—and nothing else can. He gives more grace—and you need more. "Ask and you shall receive; seek and you shall find; knock and it shall be opened to you."

"Remember Lot's wife!" Remember that prosperous man, whose goods increased in abundance; but who was cut off in one night from his prospects, his possessions, and his folly.

Remember the rich man who was clad in purple and fine linen, and fared sumptuously every day—but who died, and in hell he lifted up his eyes being in torments; and to whose request for only a drop of cold water, no other answer was given than, "remember that you in your lifetime received your good things, and Lazarus in like manner bad things; but now he is comforted here, and you are in anguish!"

May you not pluck the fruits of 'unsanctified prosperity' for ever and ever in hell—but gather the harvest of a well employed abundance into the kingdom of heaven throughout eternity!