In everything, I showed you that by this kind of hard work we must help the weak, remembering the words of the Lord Jesus Himself: 'It is more blessed to give than to receive.'"
fourfold biography," has been preserved to us. It may be said to be Divine indeed. It gives the heavenly aspect of human life. It is the exact and perfect contravention of that which is low, worldly, evil. It breathes the air of the upper kingdom. It puts into language the very spirit of Jesus Christ. It is the life of the Savior in a sentence. To receive is quite on a low level. Any one and anything can do that; and the further we go down in the scale, the more we find recipiency common and supreme. The selfish man, the spoiled child, the ravenous animal, - these are remarkable for receiving. And although it may be said that there are truths which only the educated and inspired mind can receive, that there are inducements which only noble souls can receive, yet the act of receiving is one which is common to lower natures, and is one which ordinarily requires only the humbler, if not indeed the baser, faculties. To give is on the higher level; for -
I. IT IS ESSENTIALLY DIVINE. God lives to bless his universe. His Name is Love; in other words, that which is his distinguishing characteristic, underlying, interpenetrating, crowning all others, is his disposition to bless, his Divine habit of giving. He then most truly expresses his own nature, reveals his essential spirit, when he is giving light, love, truth, joy, life, unto his children. When we give forth of ourselves to others, we are living the life which is intrinsically Divine.
II. IT IS CHRIST-LIKE. He "went about doing good." He lived to enlighten, to comfort, to bestow, to redeem. It was little indeed that he received; it was simply everything that he gave to mankind.
III. IT IS ANGELIC. "Are they not all ministering spirits?"
IV. IT IS HEROIC. By living to expend ourselves for others, we take our stand with the best and noblest of our race. As the world grows wiser it has a diminishing regard for those "great" men who signalized their career by splendid surroundings, or by brilliant exploits, or by displays of muscular or intellectual strength; it is learning to reserve its admiration and its honor for those who generously spent their faculties and their possessions on behalf of others. These are our heroes and our heroines now; and they will be so more and more. If we would take our place - though it be a humble one - with the best and worthiest of our kind, we must be giving rather than receiving.
V. IT IS HUMAN, in the higher sense of the word. It may be human, as sin has unmade man, to be coveting, grasping, enjoying. But it is human, as God first wade man, and as Jesus Christ is renewing him, to think of others, to care for others, to strive and suffer for others, to give freely and self-denyingly to those who are in need.
VI. IT IS ELEVATING. To be constantly receiving is to be in danger of becoming selfish, of making our own poor self the central object of regard, of depending on continually fresh supplies for satisfaction; in a word, of moral and spiritual degeneracy. But to be giving - to be spending time, thought, sympathy, strength, money, on behalf of others, - is to be sowing in the soil of our souls the seeds of all that is sweetest and noblest; is to be building up in ourselves a character which our Divine Lord will delight to look upon. To receive is to be superficially and momentarily happy; to give is to be inwardly and abidingly blessed. It is far more blessed to give than to receive.
VII. ITS RECOMPENSE IS IN THE ETERNAL FUTURE. (See Matthew 25:31-46.) - C.
Remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how He said, It is more blessed to give than to receive.I. THAT THESE WORDS REPRESENT THE CHARACTER OF OUR LORD. He was devoted to all the offices of humanity and good nature. The two general habits which filled the whole intenseness of His soul were unaffected piety towards God and charity to mankind. He had not any one affection in the blessed frame of His mind but what was Divinely exercised in constant acts of beneficence; for He scarce so much as ever indulged Himself in any one innocent pleasure of human life, but the going about continually to do good. And here observe that our Lord chose not the charity of almsgiving for His province, how blessed a part soever that be, for gold and silver He had none; neither had He the like obligations with us to lay a good foundation against the time to come. This part, therefore, He left for those principally whom He intended to honour with the sacred trust of being the immediate stewards of His providence; to whose commiseration and care He should commit the indigent creatures of His family. This part of liberality, I say, our Lord exercised not; but His Divine compassion was intent upon a charity much more exalted than this — the relieving the souls of men, and providing for their eternal welfare.
II. THAT THEY EXPRESS THE GENIUS OF HIS RELIGION, the natural tendency whereof is to smooth and soften our harsh and unrelenting tempers, that thereby we might be perfectly disposed and furnished unto every good work.
III. THAT THEY DECLARE TO US WHEREIN THE PECULIAR BLESSEDNESS OF THE CHRISTIAN LIFE DOTH CONSIST, which is best promoted by giving and by doing good. For charity is not a solitary virtue, a single blessing, but the happy conspiration of all those tender passions from whence humanity, that is, the most perfect state of human nature, takes its name. Nay, all that we know of God, whereby He is in Himself the blessed for evermore, and to us, the great object of our love and adoration, is, that He is absolutely perfect in all the infinite varieties of goodness, wherein the several infirmities and wants and sins of all His creatures take their sanctuary and their refuge. Reflect, I beseech you, on all the various scenes of life which employ the sons of men. What part can we act upon this great theatre so delightful, so honourable, and so nearly allied to God, as that of a patron and friend of mankind! But how blessed it is to give! how much of the life of God there is in it!
(G. W. Brooke, D. D.)I. I AM TO EXPLAIN THE GROUNDS UPON WHICH WE ARE OBLIGED TO WORKS OF CHARITY.
1. The principles of natural justice; and —
2. The light of revelation.
II. IN WHAT MEASURE OUR CHARITY IS DEMANDED BY GOD.
1. That we are bound to give in proportion to the necessities of the poor. And as their numbers and wants increase, we are to be more liberal; as they lessen, by being set on work, or provided for otherwise, we are under no obligation of scattering unnecessary relief.
2. That every man is obliged to give in proportion to his own affluence and stated income; and between God and his own conscience to allot such a part of it for charity as may answer the general precepts concerning it.
III. LET US NOW CONSIDER UPON WHAT OBJECTS OUR CHARITY IS MOST USEFULLY EMPLOYED.
1. Such as suffer for the truth of the gospel, either against infidelity, or against idolatry and gross corruptions. And in them most properly Christ Himself is relieved.
2. In distinguishing objects of mercy let us regard those especially that are recommended to it by their own worth, or by that of their progenitors.
3. Such objects are well qualified for our compassion as fall into distress or decay by a sudden calamity overtaking them, or by the immediate hand of God; and not by idleness or vice, where the relief of a scourge is generally the fittest.
4. Such objects are very fit for our charity as will improve what is given them, and lay it as the foundation of their future livelihood.
5. From these who are bred up for the service of their country let us proceed to those who by serving it are maimed, and disabled from getting their own bread; and these certainly are worthy objects of public charity.
6. Whenever we are disposed for acts of mercy, they that have the most pressing wants to speak for them are always fittest for our present choice; for charity looks not barely at the man, but at his necessities.And now upon review, I shall briefly annex five rules concerning the management of our alms.
1. Charity which prevents men from being oppressed with poverty is better than that which only supports them under it.
2. Charity which aims at the public service is better than that which is only for private relief.
3. Charity which is disposed of into a perpetual fund is better than that which is immediately melted and consumed.
4. Charity applied to the making of men virtuous is better than that which only refresheth the body.
5. Charity expended for correcting the idle, and forcing them to work, is better than that which gives them a present ease.
IV. And what need I say more FOR THE ENCOURAGEMENT OF ALL THESE CHARITIES than to repeat the words of our Lord Jesus, "It is more blessed to give than to receive"?
1. It is the advantage of works of charity that they are usually attended here with temporal and spiritual mercies. "If thou satisfy the afflicted soul the Lord shall guide thee continually, and make fat thy bones: and thou shalt be like a watered garden" (Isaiah 58:10, 11).
2. The blessedness of charity is yet much greater in that it secures an endless inheritance in the next world (1 Timothy 6:18, 19). And is not this abundant conviction that "it is more blessed to give than to receive"?And to confirm us in this persuasion, I shall strengthen what has been said with two considerations.
1. That God will strictly inquire hereafter what the rich have done with all that plenty which He bestowed upon them. And therefore it behoves them to be well prepared for their answer to Him.
2. Let it be considered that the only way to make riches a blessing is to employ and manage them as God hath appointed.
(Z. Isham, D. D.)
1. The unrecorded portions of His words.
2. The unworldly character of His teaching.
3. The unselfish character of His life. The text suggests —
I. THAT RECEIVING AND COMMUNICATING ARE THE TWO GRAND FUNCTIONS OF LIFE.
1. Man has acquisitive tendencies and powers. His desire for getting is ever active and ineradicable.
2. Man has the impartive tendencies and powers. His social and religious instincts urge him to give what he has attained.
II. THAT THE EIGHT DISCHARGE OF BOTH THESE FUNCTIONS IS BLESSEDNESS. This is implied by the word "more." To receive in a right spirit, and for right ends, is a truly blessed thing.
1. Receiving as the reward of effort is blessedness. It is natural to feel happiness when the result laboured for has been reached.
2. Receiving as a consciousness of fresh power is blessedness. A conscious augmentation of our powers and resources is joy.
3. Receiving with religious gratitude is blessedness. Gratitude is joy; it is the inspiration of Heaven's anthems.
III. THAT THE BLESSEDNESS OF THE RIGHT DISCHARGE OF THE COMMUNICATING FUNCTION IS THE GREATER. "It is more blessed," etc., because —
1. It is more spiritualising. Every generous, disinterested act tends to detach the soul from the material and temporary, and to ally it with the spiritual and eternal. The man who is constantly gaining and not giving, becomes more and more the slave of selfishness, materialism, and time.
2. It is more socialising. In giving you awaken in the social sphere sympathy, gratitude, and admiration. The loving man awakens love, and happiness has been defined as loving and being loved.
3. It is more God-assimilating. God gives, but cannot receive. He gives all, and only gives. The nearer we approach to God the more blessed we are. Cicero says that "men resemble the gods in nothing so much as in doing good to their fellow creatures."
(D. Thomas, D. D.)
I. WHAT THESE "WORDS" DO, OR RATHER DO NOT MEAN.
1. They do not mean that it is an unblessed thing to receive. God has made us all dependent upon His own giving, and also dependent mutually upon one another. We must receive before we can give; and whenever we begin to give someone must receive. The relation is blessed on both its sides. Service, therefore, like mercy, is twice blessed; "it blesseth him that gives and him that takes"; but of two blessednesses, saith Jesus, the higher is that of giving. Now, does not the human heart respond to this comparative estimate? Nearly all men will agree that the domestic relations form the happiest part of life. But this family blessedness turns far more on what we give than on what we get. The infant, for example, which receives everything and gives back nothing, has a blessedness infinitely feebler than that of its nursing mother. They do not mean that giving is more pleasant. Very often it is quite otherwise. Perhaps all giving means temporary loss and suffering. It is eminently so, at least, with the noblest sorts of giving, e.g., a mother's devotion to her child; yet her giving is more blessed than its receiving because it expresses nobler affections, trains her to nobler habits. I ask again, does not the world echo this thought of Christ's? In the articulations of society each one has something to give, and he must give it. But we count that man noble who gives to the general good the largest amount of costliest service.
III. THE CONDITIONS ON WHICH GIVING BRINGS BLESSEDNESS. These conditions may be summed up in one brief law — That the act of giving is only blessed when it is moral; and always blessed in proportion to its moral pureness and nobleness.
1. There is an unconscious giving. This mutual ministry of help pervades creation. Earth gives of her strength to feed her inhabitants, and of her hidden treasures to enrich them. The beasts lend to man their skill and muscle, and bequeath to him their very bodies when they die. But it is needless to add that all this unconscious and involuntary exchange of benefits in dead or in brute nature, brings no blessedness. A child knows that there is no real worth, nor blessedness, in any giving which is not the intentional act of a conscious agent, which is not, in short, moral. When the human worker is content to work like an animal in the mere struggle for existence, his work may be ever so precious a gift to society, but he is no longer blessed in his giving, and —
2. There is reluctant giving. We make presents because they are expected; we entertain our friends that they may entertain us; we pay compliments for politeness' sake; we subscribe to charities under the constraint of opinion; we lend to our neighbour wishing he had not asked us. Now, to whatever extent the wish retracts what the hand bestows, to that extent giving brings no blessedness, because it is immoral in motive. It brings rather cursedness, both because it is to that extent false, wearing a show of charity which is not genuine, and because it argues a division of the man against himself.
3. There is a giving which is not simply defective through the weakness of charity, but at bottom utterly base through the want of it. It is a mean thing to oblige a man with a slight accommodation in the hope of extorting or coaxing from him a greater return; to pay court to a great man, not from loyalty, but for the paltry vanity of being noticed, or the ignoble desire to profit by him; to use one's influence for an importunate suitor, only to get rid of his importunity; to give handsome sums to public charity that one's name may appear well in the advertisements. We must be simpler in our giving if we would be blessed in it. Evil is never so cursed as when it walks in the stolen white garb of good, nor selfishness ever so unblest as when it mimics charity.
III. RISING ABOVE HUMAN GIVING, LET US GAZE UPON THE DIVINE — the ideal after which men are to be remade in Christ. God has this solitary preeminence in blessedness, that He gives everything and receives nothing. On this account, as on every other, His is the noblest life, because He is forever imparting of His own to all, and gets in return only what He first has given. It utterly baffles imagination to conceive what streams of reflected gladness must pour back upon the heart of the Infinite Lover from even one small section of the world which He has made so happy. The sunshine and the field s delight us sometimes for a little; they delight God always; and when we, with our love and tenderness, sweeten each other's life, that adds more sweetness to the life of God. The rarest joy granted to man below is the joy of leading a brother into the light and love of our common Father; but He, our Father, has the luxury of leading all of us into light, of teaching every child He has to know at least a little of the truth and to love the good a little. God has tasted a still deeper blessedness. When God made all things good, or when He makes His fair world glad, He gives only as rich men give stray coins away, feeling no loss. But can God feel loss? or touch the mysterious blessedness which underlies the pain of sacrifice? For us sinful men and for our salvation, God has — so to speak — drawn upon the resources of His moral nature, and expended not His thoughts, or strength, or pity only, but Himself. He left nothing ungiven when the Son gave Himself for us. Jesus' life was one of giving. Because He received so little from His fellow men and gave them so much, His life reveals God. Just here there was realised the supreme blessedness of the Divine nature; for here the Divine character realised in act its supreme nobleness. Down through the mysterious anguish of giving Himself away in utter loss, and pain, and death, the Divine heart pierced to a blessedness than which nothing can be more blessed, the blessedness of daring to die for the saving of the lost.
(J. O. Dykes, D. D.)
Clerical Library.An Irish schoolmaster who, whilst poor himself, had given gratuitous instruction to certain poor children, when increased in worldly goods began to complain of the service, and said to his wife he could not afford to give it any longer for nothing, who replied, "Oh, James, don't say the like o' that — don't; a poor scholar never came into the house that I didn't feel as if he brought fresh air from heaven with him — I never miss the bit I give them — my heart warms to the soft, homely sound of their bare feet on the floor, and the door almost opens of itself to let them in."
(Clerical Library.)Because —
I. IT DELIVERS US FROM OURSELVES; from —
1. The bonds of selfishness.
2. The cares of superfluity.
3. The burden of dependence.
II. IT UNITES US TO THE BRETHREN.
1. By their friendly attachment.
2. Their active gratitude.
3. Their blessed intercession.
III. IT BRINGS US NEARER TO OUR GOD. We are permitted to be —
1. Similar to the image of the All-Good.
2. Sharers in the delight of the All-Loving.
3. Expectants of the reward of an Eternal Rewarder.
(K. Gerok.)1. After this there was nothing more to be said; from such words there is no appeal. But the elders had heard them before, and were asked to "remember" what had become a proverb among them.
2. The saying is unequivocally in the style and manner of our Lord. It is another beatitude. As there were many things that Jesus did which could not be written, so with many things that He said.
3. Meanwhile this saying, like a flower from the early gospel time, floating down the stream of Church life, has been caught by an apostle's hand, and because so caught is as fresh and fragrant as at the first. It comes to us, not increased in value, for it is already priceless, but recommended and enforced by the great apostle. The manner of quoting it is unmistakably St. Paul's. "The Lord Jesus" is a designation he frequently uses, full both of reverence and tenderness.
4. The proverb has many sides, and touches human and Christian life at every point. It is true in reference to —
I. THE PRODUCTION OF HAPPINESS. We are blessed in doing good, even if we gain no reward. I knew a man of immense wealth, but his mind was always uneasy, his face always anxious. He was not without conscientious feelings in regard to his property; but he could not make up his mind to give largely. And then death came when his wealth ceased to be of use: but it might have been of use here, and then there would have been a reaction upon himself. Another I knew, far less wealthy; but his life was laid out in diffusing happiness, and there was a perpetual smile upon his face.
II. THE FORMATION OF CHARACTER. The highest qualities of heart and life can be acquired only through active exercise. A man is not really unselfish unless he acts unselfishly. By giving we obtain the power of giving. No natural object is more full of characters than a river; but it is by reason of its motion that it becomes beautiful and beneficent. The tree by putting forth its leaves in confident profusion this year grows firmer and larger for next year. The harvest suggests deeper analogies. The dying of the seed corn is set before us as the law of self-sacrifice; and how grandly Paul teaches this analogy from Psalm 112. (2 Corinthians 9:8, etc.).
III. THE EXERTION OF INFLUENCE. If we desire to be great and godlike by exercising a power for good, it must be by the diffusive power of our religion. Our Lord says, "Ye are the salt of the earth," etc., immediately after the beatitudes whose spirit is carried into these sayings also.
IV. THE SUSTENTATION OF CHURCH WORK. True Church prosperity is secured by the perpetual habit of giving, and not simply our money, but our service, sympathy, time, etc. For the Church is a cooperative society in and for which each member is appointed to give out that which he has to give, and to find and create happiness in so giving. Many think they can be quite good Christians while they are mere recipients; but it is a great mistake. No one can be holy or happy without giving.
V. THE VIGOUR OF MISSIONARY ENTERPRISE. Christianity is in its very conception an aggressive and converting religion. If not this, it is nothing. Who ever gave so much to the world as Paul, and received so little from it? And who has been more truly blessed?
VI. THE STANDARD AND ENCOURAGEMENT OF THE MINISTERIAL OFFICE. This office consists in perpetual giving, and hence must be preeminently blessed. This is a danger lest it should degenerate into the discharge of certain functions. But let there be a sincere self-consecration for Christ's sake, and with all his anxieties no position is so really happy as that of a Christian minister. It is his very trade to do all the good he can.
(Dean Howson.)1. We might easily imagine occasions on which these words may have dropped from Christ's lips. They may have checked the entreaties of His disciples that He would for once think more of Himself and less of others. They may have answered some kind and friendly remonstrance when He turned aside from an untasted meal to attend to the sorrows and sicknesses which ever thronged the doors within which He rested. They may have explained on any occasion the secret of His perpetual self-sacrifice.
2. Were they not indeed the key to His whole life? Was not this the secret of His humiliation? And when He had thus humbled Himself, did not the same principle originate every act and prompt every motion?
3. How bright a light does this one expression throw upon the whole character of Jesus, Suppose that He had been personally known to later generations but by this one brief sentence? Should we not all have framed to ourselves instinctively some conception of that character which thus expressed itself, of that life which this principle must have moulded? What an intuition must He have possessed, who thus spake, into the real secret of greatness, the true dignity of man, and the essential characteristic of God! More blessed to give than to receive? More blessed, asks the selfish old man, to have an empty coffer than a full one? More blessed, asks the young man of pleasure, to admit another than myself to the desired scene of gaiety? More blessed, asks the man of business, the statesman, or, the student, to stand aside and let others pass me than to reap the fruit of my own skill or perseverance? Nay, let me hear that, however painful, the loss must be submitted to; that it is a condition of the kingdom, and I can understand you: but say not that there is any blessedness in such a life of mortification. Such is ever the true feeling of a fallen and unrenewed nature: there was an inspiration in the words before us; and till He who spake also inspires, we shall hear them still as exaggerated or unmeaning words. And yet if "more blessed" means in other words, more Divine, more Godlike, is not the saying at once proved true? God, who possesses all things, cannot receive: God, who upholds all things, is ever giving. To receive is to be a creature: to give is to be so far a "partaker of the Divine nature." We will illustrate the saying in two particulars.
I. TAKE THE COMMONEST AND MOST OBVIOUS OF ALL APPLICATIONS — MONEY.
1. It has many uses; purchases many pleasures; has many powers. With limitations, it can even buy knowledge, rank, subservience. If it cannot buy love, it can buy some substitutes. The rich man is better off than the poor man. Not happier, necessarily, nor better: but better off; speaking of this life only. Now can we possibly say of money, these being its advantages, that "it is more blessed to give than to receive"? Few men seem to find it so. What an eagerness is there to get money! What a pleasure in finding it multiply! What a desire to die rich! At last it becomes a passion, a business, an appetite, a disease. It is too late, perhaps, then to gain an audience for this Divine saying.
2. But let us try it betimes. Is there nothing in human nature which responds to it? I can fancy a man of average virtue saying, My chief pleasure in money is in paying it away. I rejoice to feel that I owe no man anything; to think that that man, who has served me, is the better for me. Yes, I enjoy paying away at least as much as receiving. This is a poor and faint image of the glorious principle of the text: but it is well to show that Christianity is not all transcendental, but that it seizes upon something which is in all of us till we are utterly hardened, and raises it into a region where approval at least and admiration may follow it.
3. But I do not believe that hearts will ever be changed into the love of giving, save by the entrance of the Spirit of Christ. When the world is seen as it is, and heaven as it is; when we perceive that we "are not our own, but bought with a price"; when once the example of Christ, who left heaven for us, and the faith of Christ, who opened heaven to us, are felt by us as real motives; then we shall be "changed into the same image from glory to glory"; we shall value the wealth of this world chiefly for its power of relieving distress and spreading the gospel; we shall find that the Saviour's saying is verified.
II. I PASS FROM THE BASEST TO THE HIGHEST OF POSSESSIONS; FROM MONEY TO LOVE.
1. There are those amongst us whose nature is athirst for love. Life is a wilderness to them without it. If there were but one person who loved them they feel that they should be happy. And it comes not. Or they have love, but it is not the love which they desire.
2. We cannot but think that our Saviour has a word for these, and that the text speaks to them, and says, Little as you may think it, it is more blessed, in this respect, to give than to receive. Christ came unto His own, and His own received Him not. It is more blessed, because it is more Christlike, to love than to be loved. To love, and therefore to do good; to love, and therefore to be willing to "spend and be spent, though the more abundantly I love, the less I be loved." This is what Christ did: and the disciple is not greater than his Lord.
3. One thing you can say even now, if you be His; that you would not exchange the lot of the unloved for the lot of the unloving. You would not part with the power to love; even for the sake of being free from its disappointments, free from its aching voids or its rough repulses.
4. Purify and refine your affection, more and more, by every argument and every motive of the gospel; wash out of it all, earthly stains, burn out of it all human corruptions: and then cherish it, give it, yea, lavish it. Give as your Saviour gave, without a bargain, and without an expectation, and without a repining, and without one backward look, and in the end you shall be able to echo His words.
I. OF A MORE HAPPY SPIRIT AND TEMPER. Because —
1. It is the nearest resemblance of the Divine nature, which is perfectly happy.
2. It is a grateful acknowledgment of our obligations to God, and all that we can render to Him for His benefits.
3. It is an argument of great wisdom and consideration; for the reflection upon any good that we have done is a felicity much beyond that of the greatest fortune of this world; whereas the spirit contrary to this, is always uneasy to itself; but were our nature rectified and brought back to its primitive frame and temper, we should take no such pleasure in anything as in acts of kindness, which are so suitable and agreeable to our nature that they are peculiarly called humanity.
II. OF A MORE HAPPY STATE AND CONDITION.
1. To receive from ethers plainly shows that we are in want. But to be able to benefit others is a condition of freedom and superiority, and the happiness which we confer upon others we in some sort enjoy, in being conscious to ourselves that we are the authors of it. And could we but once come to this excellent temper we need not envy the wealth and splendour of the most prosperous.
2. To depend upon another, and to receive from him, is the necessary imperfection of creatures; but to confer benefits is to resemble God. Aristotle could say, that by narrowness and selfishness, by envy and ill-will, men degenerate into beasts, and become wolves and tigers to one another; but by goodness and kindness, by mutual compassion and helpfulness, men become gods to one another.
3. The angels are, as it were, perfectly transformed into the image of the Divine goodness, and therefore the work which, with so much cheerfulness and vigour, they employ themselves in, is to be ministering spirits, to bring men to goodness, and to encourage, and assist, and comfort them in well-doing. And our blessed Lord, when He was upon earth, did in nothing show Himself more like the Son of God than in going about doing good.
III. OF A GREAT REWARD. There is no grace which hath in Scripture the encouragement of more and greater promises than this.
(Abp. Tillotson.)I. It is blessed to give because GOD HIMSELF IS THE BOUNTIFUL GIVER. He is the Author and Giver of all good things, and it is blessed be permitted in any measure to reflect His image and to be followers of Him. If it be the design of true religion to restore the moral image of God to the soul, it must indeed be blessed to act habitually in a spirit which is so harmonious with the Divine mind and will. If, then, we would prove ourselves to be the children of God, we must cultivate this grace, and give freely as God hath prospered us. We must give liberally of our substance for the service of God, for the advancement of true religion in the world, and for the relief of the poor and needy. Nay, more, we must do so not grudgingly or of necessity, nor because our circumstances or social position render it respectable to do so, but from purer and holier motives, because we would be followers of God as dear children, do as our Father in heaven does, and accomplish His will during the little day that we are on the earth.
II. It is also blessed to give because GOD HAS COMMANDED US TO DO SO, and blessed are they who do His commandments. He who deals so bountifully with us, and loads us with His benefits, has commanded us to acknowledge Him in the mercies which He bestows. In Old Testament times His people were forbidden to appear before Him empty. They were to honour Him by setting apart of their substance for His service and glory (Exodus 22:29; Exodus 23:19). Nor were they to forget the poor and needy (Deuteronomy 15:11). In studying the history of the Jewish Church nothing is more striking than the large proportion of their temporal blessings which they were required to consecrate to the service of God and to the relief of the poor. In the best days of their history their tithes and offerings, their thank offerings and free-will offerings, were on a scale of truly splendid munificence; nor were they losers thereby, for they found in their happy experience that the blessing of the Lord maketh rich, and that He addeth no sorrow with it. The whole spirit of the New Testament confirms and strengthens these commands. Hear what the great Teacher saith, "Freely ye have received, freely give"; "Give, and it shall be given unto you"; "Sell that ye have and give alms: provide yourselves bags which wax not old, a treasure in the heavens that faileth not, where no thief approacheth neither moth corrupteth." Hear some of the many exhortations of His inspired apostles — "Charge them who are rich in this world, that they be ready to give and glad to distribute"; "To do good and to distribute forget not, for with such sacrifices God is well pleased"; "Upon the first day of the week let every one of you lay by him in store as God hath prospered him"; "Whoso hath this world's good, and seeth his brother have need, and shutteth up his compassions from him, how dwelleth the love of God in him?"
III. Giving is, moreover, A DIVINELY APPOINTED WAY OF ACKNOWLEDGING GOD'S MERCIES, and hence it is blessed. When filled with gratitude and love, the Psalmist asked, "What shall I render to the Lord for all His benefits?" Feeling that he had nothing to bestow, he replies, "I will take the cup of salvation and call upon the name of the Lord. I will pay my vows unto the Lord now, in the presence of all His people." We have indeed nothing to render that we have not received, yet is He pleased to accept our offerings as tokens of our gratitude and praise; nay, He has appointed them to be made in this spirit and accepted for this end. We are not as Israel were, waiting for the rising of the Sun of Righteousness, but are rejoicing in the brightness of His rays. We have to thank God not merely for salvation promised, but for salvation fully accomplished and freely offered to us all. What boundless gratitude and what large acknowledgments do these unspeakable mercies call for at our hands! If His ancient people offered so willingly unto Him that it was needful to restrain them from further offerings, shall we come before Him empty?
IV. Finally, it must be blessed to give, because GREAT AND PRECIOUS PROMISES ARE MADE TO THOSE WHO DO SO. We are told that "the Lord loveth the cheerful giver"; and many are the promises which He has given to those who give with a willing heart and a liberal hand — promises of a rich return for all that they have truly lent unto the Lord. Are we exhorted to "honour the Lord with our substance, and with the first-fruits of all our increase"? There is a great and precious promise connected with so doing: "So shall thy barns be filled with plenty, and thy presses shall burst out with new wine." Are we told to cast our bread upon the waters? We are assured that we shall find it after many days. Are we charged to give a portion to seven and also to eight? The reason given for it is that we know not what evil may be upon the earth, and we do know that the faithful Promiser has said, "Blessed is the man that considereth the poor: the Lord will deliver him in time of trouble." Did the Lord reprove the Jewish people because in a time of coldness and declension they had robbed Him in tithes and in offerings? Hear the gracious words of promise by which He sought to recall them to the path of duty (Malachi 3:10). No man ever regretted having been a cheerful giver, and many have been enriched thereby. We have often seen instances of this — of men who have conscientiously honoured God with their substance from their early days, and who have found by experience that godliness hath the promise of the life that now is as well as of that which is to come. There are doubtless exceptional cases. There is much discipline needed in the school of Christ, and hence we see good men overtaken by adversity and placed in the furnace of affliction. These are appointed trials, but the promise standeth sure: "Them that honour Me I will honour"; and he who, from love to Christ, has given to the least of His disciples a cup of cold water only, shall in no wise lose his reward. And what heart can conceive, what tongue can express, the joy of the cheerful givers in that day when the Lord Jesus shall come again in the glory of the Father and all the holy angels with Him, and when He shall say to them, "I was an hungered, and ye gave Me meat," etc.!
(W. Niven, B. D.)ennui, the degraded recipients of misdirected charity, business rivals cutting each other's throats in obedience to an iron law of competition, employers and employed fighting for what they call their rights, and the State estopped from its high destiny by parties intent only on the spoils of office, are not to be called blessed even by poetic license of speech. Only as intelligence and morality prevail over brute instincts do men discern common interests and seek the common well-being. If humanity ascends into the Divine, it must be along this pathway of self-giving. If' God has ever drawn near to man, He has moved along the heavenly portion of the same blessed way. Was not creation itself a first step in "the royal way of the Cross," as a Kempis names it? Has not the whole course of revelation been a continued giving as men could understand and themselves impart what they were themselves receiving? Note three significant incidents in the ministry of Jesus. In the wilderness incarnate self-seeking promised, "I will give Thee the kingdoms of the world and the glory of them if Thou wilt fall down and worship me." Incarnate self-giving replied, "Get thee hence, Satan." And angels ministered to the Victor. By the lake side His own people were ready to bestow on Him a crown; but the strong Son of Man again held Himself only to giving, fortifying Himself in this purpose by a night alone with His Father in the mountain solitude. Soon another mountain saw Him transfigured. The Altar that bore the offering for the sins of the world was glorified to dazzling whiteness by its self-offered burden. After some such fashion it is possible to argue the superiority of the rule of self-giving. But in the practical stir of daily business and pleasure it seems little more than a vision of the beautiful, a dream of the land that is very far off. Paul was a bolder, loftier spirit. Both in theory and in practice he accepted the Master's opinion.
I. PAUL'S THEOLOGY WAS BUILT ABOUT THIS PRINCIPLE OF SELF-GIVING. The gospel as he conceived it was a story "of the grace of God." Every man looks at the mission of Jesus from the standpoint of his own personal experience. The vision on the road to Damascus is the clue to Paul's doctrine. That he, the violent persecutor of the followers of Jesus, should have been made to see in Jesus the perfect revelation of God's love to men, was an unmerited favour for which he could find no parallel. God's treatment of him, the chief of sinners, gave him a universal message. He might apply to the disciples' relation to God through Jesus all the legal formularies of Jewish councils and Roman courts. He might find in the ritual of Israel the type of Jesus' mediatorship. He might speak of the death of Jesus on the Cross after the fashion of the priests who delighted in the details of their bloody sacrifices. But all such special language was intended simply to describe the self-giving of God to His needy and sinful creatures. Symbols and comparisons of every kind were seized upon to convey this idea. He could even rise to the audacity of declaring that the Ephesian Church was part of "the Church of God, purchased with His own blood," yet the boldest imagery was inadequate to describe his vision of "the exceeding riches of God's grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus." To this same "word of His grace" he turns as the last resort after all his care and reminiscence and exhortation. God might sanctify the Church by imparting new knowledge, by providential interference, by spiritual contact. But mainly he must work by the story of grace.
II. Side by side with this self-giving of God to man Paul maintains THAT THIS SAME PRINCIPLE MUST ABSOLUTELY PREVAIL IN THE CHURCH. Great urgency characterises his repetition of this exhortation to the elders. "Take heed to all the flock," he says. "The Holy Spirit hath made you overseers, to feed the Church." "Watch ye." "Help the weak." "Remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how He Himself said, It is more blessed to give than to receive." What but a thorough-going adoption of the principle of self-giving could answer to such a charge? Doubtless those poor elders of the Church felt their hearts sink again within them, if indeed they at all comprehended the meaning of his earnest words. The pressure of self-seeking invades the body of Christ and paralyses many of its best intentions. Shall we not say, then, that the Church exists for the manifestation of the spirit of Jesus, to be the corporate incarnation of the life of God? "This is obviously God's method. When He would bring about an elevation of the world He never effects His purpose by a pull at once at the whole dead level of humanity. He has always set to work by giving special gifts to a few elect souls, and through their means leavening the whole of humanity by degrees." The local Church is to be the constant expression of the mind of God for the world's redemption. It is to be a centre of moral and spiritual health to the changing social organism. It is not a mutual benefit association, a moral insurance company, a religious creche, or even an organisation for the maintenance of public worship. It is all this by being more, a body of servants of Jesus pushing the kingdom of God's grace intensively and extensively.
3. Our lesson contains illustration by practice as well as by theory and exhortation. Paul could declare with full sense of his responsibility that he was "pure from the blood of all men." No person in Ephesus could rise up and say that Paul had not cared for his soul. With lowliness of mind, with tears, with trials, coveting no man's silver or gold or apparel, but caring for himself and his companions by daily labour at his trade, he gave himself to teaching publicly and from house to house, going about preaching the kingdom. He shrank from nothing that was profitable to either Jew or Greek, declaring the whole counsel of God and admonishing everyone night and day with tears. How intense, too, the flame of his devotion still was that had burned so brightly in Ephesus for three years! He was going to Jerusalem under constraint of the Spirit. They should see his face no more. Just what was to befall him he did not know. Only as he went on clear warning came in every city that bonds and afflictions of some sort waited for him, and yet the course marked out for him in God's grace allured him more than it frightened him. He would accomplish it at any cost. The spirit of self-giving utterly triumphed in him as in his Master. He gloried in his tribulations. He rejoiced in his sufferings in behalf of the disciples. One cannot but feel after this review of the apostle's conception of the Christian faith and practice that the principle here commended is fundamental to Christianity. More than any other it voices the essential truth of the religion of Jesus. Herein the religions of the nations fail to stand the test. Strip them of their superstitions and falsehoods, and they are powerless to control the mighty passions of mankind. Christianity alone seizes upon the hearts of men and makes appeal to grateful love, because it is neither a philosophy nor an ethical code nor a scheme of life, but a simple story how God gives Himself to men, in intimate and loving ways, for the removal of their weakness and misery and rebellion.
(J. R. Gow.)1. This word, like the great apostle who has reported it, was born out of due time. It lay silent in loving hearts, or was whispered by loving lips, until spoken by Paul. In another sense it was like him — "not a whit behind the chiefest" of the Master's sayings in preciousness and power.
2. Luke reports Paul's speech, and Paul's speech holds a priceless fragment. It is as when a seaman in a shipwreck has seized a servant, who, when she is raised, discovers in her arms an infant of the family she serves. We have here a word of Christ rescued from sinking into oblivion, with a word of Paul's wrapped round it; the jewel and its setting.
3. These words were employed to stimulate the Ephesian Christians to charity; but if you limit them to that application you will miss their deepest meaning. A child sees in the stars only twinkling lights, but you know they are central suns. As the difference between the intrinsic greatness of the fixed stars, and their incidental usefulness at night, is the difference between these words in their origin and their application to Christian contributions.
4. The Redeemer here expressed His own experience. He who loves a cheerful giver is a cheerful giver. A penitent may encourage his soul with the fact that the cure of his disease will impart greater joy to the Physician than to himself. Forms of beauty may be thrown off by common workmen; but the one type grew in the secret of a greater soul. So off the experience of Jesus in His work of redemption from the beginning in the eternal purpose, till its finishing in the fulness of time, was this maxim taken. The love wherewith Christ loved us is the mould in which this practical rule was cast. And so all who have left a beneficent mark on the world have first practised what they preached. Nor has Christ's giving ceased now that He is exalted (Ephesians 4:8).
5. This glimpse into the heart of the Redeemer is a salve for the greatest of all sores. Jesus, for the joy of giving us salvation, endured the Cross. Let us bear these words, then, on our hearts when we pray. He Himself counts it blessedness to give.
6. These words do not mean that it is unblessed to receive. When the receiver is needy, the gift good, and the giver generous, it is blessed to receive. Evidence that Christ delighted in the self-consecration of His disciples crops up everywhere — e.g., in the narratives of the woman with the alabaster box, and the one leper out of ten. It was kind of Him to let us know that He values our gifts, although we render to Him only what we have received. And now that He has gone beyond our reach, it is His express wish that we should consider the poor as receivers for Him.
(W. Arnot, D. D.)1. When St. Paul visited Miletus, several of his most potent letters had been already penned. These were saturated with thoughts the origination of which we cannot fairly attribute to him, and for which we can find no adequate explanation in existing literature. Where can we find any explanation of this more rational than that Paul had been himself revolutionised by the "words of the Lord Jesus"?
2. Strange to say, from our modern standpoint, not one of the four Gospels had then been written. Nevertheless, the teaching of Jesus had gone forth into all lands. And neither Matthew, Mark, Luke, nor John gathered up a tithe of these Divine words, which spread like prairie fire round the whole seaboard of the Mediterranean.
3. We could more willingly part with many an ancient classic, whole sutras of Buddha, and the entire Vedic literature, than with this Divine utterance, which goes down to the very depths of human life, and stretches out to embrace the essential blessedness of God Himself. Small and bright as a dew drop, yet, as we watch, it swells into a veritable ocean of love, on whose placid surface are reflected all the glories of heaven and earth.
I. IT IS BLESSED TO RECEIVE. There is no antithesis here between the blessedness of giving and the non-blessedness of receiving. Oriental mysticism, Buddhist legends, the hyperbole of self-sacrifice for its own sake, have stumbled into this pit of pessimism. Christ illumined the profoundest problems of ethic and the true secret of religious life, when He said, "It is more blessed to give than to receive."
1. It is blessed simply to receive nature's gifts.(1) All the progress of man is measured by the degree to which he has received and appreciated these. When man first understood what nature had done for him in offering him the flower and fruit and seed of corn, then began the harvest of the world. When human intelligence apprehended what was involved in the chalk, coal, and mineral wealth at his feet; when he grasped the meaning of fire and lightning, and the contents of water and air; when he began to "receive" and utilise the energies which had been moulding the world for untold centuries — then science took its birth. If we refuse to receive the light of heaven, we stumble into pitfalls. If we refuse to receive our daily bread, we perish.(2) Furthermore, nature lavishes upon us appeals to our higher and more subtle desires, and gives us the sense of beauty, truth, and goodness. The surpassing loveliness of much of nature's work must be received by those who have the eyes and ears of the spirit opened to receive it. The great artists and poets, musicians and sculptors, have so embodied their strong emotions in abiding form and material, that others may learn from them the blessed secret of receiving the mystery of beauty, and accepting some of the truth and goodness of its eternal source.
2. All human love is a ministration of Divine love. Human tenderness is but a channel cut by Holy Providence through which the rivers of God's pleasure flow. Now, it is blessed to receive human love and the gifts of love. See the child with its hands full of birthday gifts, intense joy lighting its eye, almost bursting the tiny heart. Only on this principle can the inequalities of human power and capacity be compensated, can the strong help the weak, the physician heal the sick, the wise instruct the foolish, the ignorant walk in the light of knowledge. Because it is "blessed to receive," we can drink into the spirit of the mighty dead, and apply to our own case their hoarded wisdom. All beneficence would be dried at its source, if there were no blessedness in receiving the streams of living water which are always pouring forth from human hearts.
3. The most impressive illustration of the principle is the blessedness of receiving the grace of God. The secret of receiving from the living God what is neither earned nor merited, but which we have gracelessly forfeited, is a secret which some are slow to learn. It is blessed to receive what Jesus Christ gives to man, even though it smite down our pride and explode our self-sufficiency. It is blessed to receive the greatest gift, to receive into our very nature a new and endless life, to sit in the sunshine of the Divine Presence, to be satisfied with the grace of the Lord Jesus, to be filled with all the fulness of God, to be forever with the Lord.
II. BUT IT IS MORE BLESSED TO GIVE THAN TO RECEIVE.
1. Can any reason be assigned for such a sweeping and comprehensive inversion of all ordinary maxims? Should we not tremble to put it to such a test here in this Christian England of ours? Let the race course and the stock exchange, the insurance office, Parliament, and the law courts answer! Let diplomacy, with its duties, let trade and speculation, let professional etiquette and social distinctions and cliques be submitted to the fire of this principle. The honest advocate of such a law of life would be branded with scorn, and hustled off any stage of human activity.
2. Is this the regal principle in what calls itself the very body of Christ? Individuals may occur to us whose whole being is one unceasing process of giving, and on whose brow there sits the dome of peace, and in whose eyes, which are full of tears of boundless sympathy, there gleams the light of heaven's own joy. But is their experience a final proof? Can we take the Son of Man at His word?
3. The judgment of the Lord Jesus was authoritative for St. Paul. The saying of the text must be true, because He who is the truth uttered it. He put the principle to the most complete expression. He tested it, as no other could possibly do, by, on the one hand, a receptivity open to all the amplitude of the Holy Father's love lavished upon Him from eternity; and, on the other, a sacrifice and gift of Himself. which was practically and to our most vivid imagination infinite and absolute.
4. The eternal relation of the Father and the Son is the eternal interchange of giving and receiving love. In the text we see the very order of the Trinity. The Father's giving greater than the Son's receiving. Jesus says, "I and the Father are one"; but "the Father is greater than I." From this principle we see some hint for the motive of the creation. The Lord called forth an object for the superfluity of His infinite love. Great is the joy of the Lord in the praises of His children, but greater still in bestowing upon them ever-abounding reasons for their praise.
5. The noblest and the most wonderful gift of the Lord God is the incarnation of the Son of God, and that great act of the Father is the blessedest of all. He gave His only-begotten, His well-beloved.
6. But we must adapt this great principle of blessedness to the smaller range of our own experience.(1) Ye ought to remember and act upon the words of the Lord Jesus, because it is a truth you are, in the corruption and weakness of nature, in continual danger of forgetting. I grant you all the blessedness of receiving the gifts of nature and of the love of man: you must aim at the higher and greater blessedness of diffusing to others what you know to be worthy. The first believers stripped themselves utterly that they might yield themselves to this sublime impulse, and know something of the blessedness of Christ and of God.(2) Ye ought to remember these words of the Lord Jesus when you are tempted to say, "Soul, thou hast much goods laid up for many years." There is a question between the blessedness of buying a ring, or a picture, or a house, or a book, or a co, at for yourself, and the blessedness of giving to the sick, the helpless, the naked, and the fatherless.(3) Most earnestly St. Paul counsels you to receive the grace of God. But art thou going to sit and sing thyself away to everlasting bliss? Nay, "Remember the words of the Lord Jesus." There is a greater blessedness: you are to give yourself back to God in holy consecration. You are not your own, but His who has given Himself for you and to you. Conclusion: We shall find the truth of our Lord's undying words when we enter into His joy. Not until we chant the endless hallelujah, not until we yield ourselves absolutely to our Lord God for eternity, having no will but His, shall we fully know how much more blessed it is to give than to receive.
I. FAR HIGHER PRIVILEGE. To receive may be an advantage, but the very act implies dependence and want, and therefore is so far an irksome feeling. But to be so graciously advantaged by the Giver of all good that we can assume the attitude of bestowers, must at once be admitted to be far the most distinguished privilege.
II. MORE SAFE. To be a receiver of good is dangerous, because it is fitted to nourish that selfish yearning so innate in our souls. How many there are who, when they were poor and little exalted in this life, had a heart open to pity's call, and a hand stretched out at pity's claim; but just in proportion as they got more, they gave less, and, as "riches increased," they "set their hearts upon them." But giving has not this peril. It has, indeed, its attendant danger. Our giving, if it minister to self-complacency — if it lead us to put it in the stead of the free "gift of God," which "is eternal life by Christ Jesus" — it will do us sad harm, and our very acts of charity maybe converted into splendid sins. Nevertheless, there is in Christian giving far less danger than in receiving; there is something in the very exercise that is fitted to keep humble, because he is reminded, "Who maketh me to differ from another? and what have I, that I have not received?" And then how few comparatively injure their souls by giving, while many and mournful are the examples of those who injure their souls by getting!
III. HAPPIER. There is a pain too often in reception from man, and it requires a very lowly and submissive mind in a rightly constituted poor man to be a dependent upon the kindness of others. And whatever pleasure there may be in gratitude, there is far more pleasure in benevolence. God hath so made us, that our duty is our happiness; and those dispositions which are most pleasing in His sight are most pleasurable in themselves. There is a pleasure that the mother feels in feeding, etc., her child; and in the patriot, whose heart is most passionately attached to his country. And does not this show us that if even the natural exercises of the communicating spirit be its pleasures and its relish, how much more when it is baptized by the Spirit of God, and when it assumes its proper purpose — to glorify God and benefit His creatures! Then, indeed, in giving we get.
IV. MORE GODLIKE. "God is love." And what does His love delight in? Communicating its own beneficence to all. And that goodness hath shown itself infinitely more than all, in that God "spared not His own Son," etc., and "how shall He not with Him also freely give all things" to them that are Christ's? And shall we not contemplate the Godlike character of the spirit of benevolence, as it is manifested in God incarnate? Oh! then, would we be "imitators of God as dear children"? would we "put on the Lord Jesus Christ"? would we be like "our Father in heaven"? would we be "partakers of the Divine nature," and transformed into the Divine likeness? We must know and feel that "it is more blessed to give than to receive."
V. We argue the same blessed truth FROM THE APPROVAL AND COMPLACENCY WITH WHICH GOD REGARDS THE GIVER. The promises to the receiver are few and not so direct; but the promises to the giver are rich and manifold and animating. Conclusion:
1. What a fatal mistake are most making in the way they set about to be happy! To get more wealth, admiration, power, influence, indulgence. What a mistake! Take a selfish heart to heaven, if it were possible, and it would be miserable; take a generous heart to hell, if that were possible, and it would be happy there.
2. Then what a stupendous change must pass upon our fallen nature I No marvel that it should be called a new birth, a resurrection from the dead.
I. IT IS MORE LIKE GOD. God is "the giver of every good and perfect gift." Who gave us our hands to work with? our feet to walk with? our ears to hear, and our tongues to talk with? our minds to think, and our hearts to love with? these lungs to breathe with? God. Yes, God gives us our health, our strength, our clothes, our friends, our teachers, our parents, our homes, our churches, our ministers, our Bibles.
II. IT IS MORE USEFUL. If God should stop giving for just one day, everything would perish.
1. It is more useful to ourselves. Suppose I want to have my arm become very strong. If I carry it in a sling, and do not use it all, after a while it will grow weak and thin. But if I use it all I can, the stronger it will grow. Look at the blacksmith! And what is true of the arm is true of the heart. Our hearts will grow larger, and stronger, and better, by proper exercise. And the proper exercise for the heart is giving. A good many people carry their hearts in a sling. And the consequence is that their hearts grow narrow and little, and good for nothing. If they would begin to exercise their hearts by giving, they would find that what Jesus said is true, "It is more blessed to give than to receive."
2. It is more useful to others. If we keep our money without using it, what good will it do? There was once a Scottish nobleman — Lord Brace. He was very rich, but very miserly. He was so close and stingy, that one day when a farmer came to pay his rent, the money he brought was just one farthing short, and the man had to go all the way back to his home, a distance of several miles, and get that farthing before he would give him a receipt. Well, when it was all settled, the farmer said, "Now, Brace, I'll give you a shilling if you'll let me see all the silver and gold you've got." "Agreed," said the miserly lord. Then he took him into his vault, and opened the great iron chests full of gold and silver, so that he could see it all. Then the farmer gave him the promised shilling, and said, "Now, Brace, I'm as rich as you are." "Ay, men," said his lordship, "and how can that be?" "Because I've looked at your gold and silver, and that is all you will ever do with it." Now let us take an example of a different kind. Some years ago a certain Sunday school was making up a box of things to send to a missionary station. One poor little girl was very anxious to send something. But all she had in the world to give was a single penny. So she bought a tract with that penny, and gave the tract to her teacher to put in the box. It was opened at Burdwan, in India. That tract fell into the hands of the son of one of the chiefs and led him to become a Christian. Then he was very anxious that others should become Christians too. In one year fifteen hundred of the natives of that part of the country gave up their idolatry and became Christians, through the labours of that young prince. And all this good resulted from the one tract bought by that poor little girl's single penny. Now think of all this good being done by one penny, and then think of all Lord Brace's gold and silver lying useless, and you must admit that it is more blessed to give than to receive or keep.
III. THERE IS MORE HAPPINESS IN IT. Little Robert Manly thought a great deal about pleasing himself, and this is not at all the best way to be happy. One day a poor woman came to Robert's mother to beg a little new milk for her sick baby. Mrs. Manly had none to spare, except what she had saved for her Robert's supper; and at supper time his mother told him how she had given away his milk for the poor sick baby. Robert didn't like this at all, and kept muttering about the milk being his, and nobody else having any right to it. The next day Robert was taken to see this poor family, and it made him shiver to look round on that cheerless home. The poor woman thanked Mrs. Manly over and over again for the new milk. "It kept the baby still all night," she said. As they walked home, Robert did not say a word, though he was generally very talkative. At supper time his bowl of milk was set by his plate, but in a few minutes he went to his mother's side and said in a whisper, "Mother, may I take my milk to the poor sick baby?" "Yes, my son," said his mother. By and by he came bounding into the room covered over with snowflakes, and shouting cheerfully, "Mother, the baby's got the milk. Her mother said, 'God bless you, my child!' and, mother, my milk tastes very good tonight (smacking his lips); I mean my no milk." Yes, little Robert was proving the truth of our Saviour's words.
(Richard Newton, D. D.)
(George Peabody.)A gentleman called upon Mr. H. to solicit his aid towards the erection of a Sunday school in a poor and populous district. Mr. H. contributed, and the gentleman began to thank him, when he said,I beg you will give me no thanks; I thank you for giving me an opportunity of doing what is good for myself. I am thankful to God for the experience I have had that it is more blessed to give," etc.I. THERE IS MORE REAL PLEASURE IN GIVING THAN IN RECEIVING.
1. There is always a pleasure in receiving, and this pleasure is sometimes greatly heightened by the circumstances of the receiver, or the disposition of the giver.(1) A seasonable gift is acceptable, because it is immediately beneficial.(2) A necessary gift is still more acceptable, because it comes in a time of want.(3) A great gift excites greater joy, because it not only gratifies the natural desire of property, but throws the mind into a state of pleasing surprise and admiration.(4) Any gift never fails to afford a sensible pleasure to the receiver, when it comes as a mark of affection and esteem from the giver. But in these and all other cases the giver is more blessed than the receiver.
2. There is a higher and purer happiness in rejoicing in the good of others than in rejoicing in our own good.(1) The receiver rejoices in his own happiness; and let his joy rise ever so high, it still terminates in himself. But the giver, instead of rejoicing in his own good, rejoices in the good of others.(2) In receiving gratefully, there is a mixture of submission to our state of dependence; but in giving freely, there is a mixture of joy in being able to give. The receiver is laid under obligation to the giver; but the giver is laid under no obligation to the receiver. And who can doubt whether it be not more blessed to give than to receive an obligation?
II. MORE VIRTUE; and therefore the giver is more happy than the receiver.
1. The receiver may, indeed, exercise virtue by evincing gratitude. But the virtue of the receiver principally consists in a suitable regard to himself; the virtue of the giver, however, altogether consists in a proper regard to others.
2. There are many circumstances which augment the virtue of giving that do not enhance the virtue of receiving.(1) The poverty, the distress, and even the unworthiness of the receiver, augment the virtue of the giver. It is truly Godlike to bestow favours upon the evil and unthankful.(2) The virtue of the giver is always equal to his design in giving. A man may give a Bible to a poor and vicious person, with a sincere design to promote his spiritual and eternal benefit; but he may have a mean or wicked design in receiving it.(3) And it is generally true that the giver has much more noble and extensive views than the receiver. This our Saviour intimated in His observation upon the conduct of the poor widow.(4) There is self-denial in giving, which is wholly absent from receiving.
III. GOD PROMISES TO REWARD THE GIVER, BUT NOT THE RECEIVER. This distinction plainly intimates that it is more blessed to give than to receive.
1. There are but few things which God has promised to reward men for in this life; but He promises to reward acts of munificence with special tokens of His favour now. "Blessed is he that considereth the poor; the Lord will deliver him in time of trouble." "The liberal soul shall be made fat, and he that watereth shall be watered." The alms as well as the prayers of Cornelius were had in Divine remembrance, and he was rewarded in his lifetime with peculiar tokens of the Divine favour.
2. But this is not all; He means to reward them more openly and fully at the great day of retribution. Hence our Saviour told the almsgiver to give secretly, "and thy Father, who seeth in secret, Himself shall reward thee openly." He declared that the smallest act of charity to one of His followers should meet with a future recompense (Matthew 25) Conclusion: If it be more blessed to give than to receive, then —
1. We ought to entertain the most exalted ideas of the blessedness of the Supreme Being.
2. We may see why charity or beneficence holds the highest rank among all the moral and Christian virtues.
3. It is a great and peculiar favour to be made rich. Poverty is a real calamity in itself, and draws after it a long train of natural evils. It not only deprives men of the power and pleasure of giving, but subjects them to the disagreeable necessity of receiving alms.
4. We may learn what ought to be the supreme and governing motive of men, in pursuing their secular concerns, and seeking to increase their worldly interest.
5. None have any reason to think that they are real Christians who have never experienced this peculiar blessedness.
6. The covetous and parsimonious defeat their own design, and take the direct method to diminish rather than to increase their temporal interest.
7. Those who are able to give should esteem it a favour when Providence presents them with opportunities of giving.
(N. Emmons, D. D.)
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