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I am resolved, by the divine grace, to employ my riches, the outward blessings of Providence, to the same end; and to observe such a due medium in the dispensing of them, as to avoid prodigality on the one hand, and covetousness on the other.
THIS, without doubt, is a necessary resolution, but it is likewise very difficult to put in practice, without a careful observance of the following rules.
First, never to lavish out my substance, like the prodigal, in the revels of sin and vanity, but after a due provision for the necessities and conveniences of life, to lay up the overplus for acts of love and charity towards my indigent brethren. I must consider the uses and ends for which God has entrusted me with such and such possessions; that 207they were not given me for the pampering my body, the feeding my lusts, or puffing me up with pride and ambition; but for advancing his glory, and my own, and the public good. But why do I say given when, as I before observed, I have no property in the riches I possess; they are only lent me for a few years to be dispensed and distributed, as my great Lord and Master sees fit to appoint, viz. for the benefit of the poor and necessitous, which he has made his deputies to call for and receive his money at my hands. And this, indeed, is the best use I can put it to, for my own advantage, as well as theirs: for the money I bestow upon the poor, I give to God to lay up for me, and I have his infallible word and promise for it, that it shall be paid me again with unlimited interest out of his heavenly treasury, which is infinite, eternal, and inexhaustible. Hence it is, that whensoever I see any fit object of charity, methinks I hear the Most High say unto me, Give this poor brother so much of my stock, which thou hast in thy hand, and I will place it to thy account, as given to myself; and ‘look what thou layest out it shall be paid thee again.’
The second rule is, never to spend a penny, where it can be better spared; nor to spare it where it can be better spent. And this will oblige me, whensoever any occasion offers of laying out money, considerately to weigh the circumstances of it, and, according as the matter, upon mature deliberation, requires, I must not grudge to spend it: or, if at any time, I find more reason to spare, I must not dare to spend it; still remembering, that as I am strictly to account for the money God has given me, so I ought neither to be covetous in saving, or 208hoarding it up, nor profuse in throwing it away, without a just occasion. The main thing to be regarded, is the end I propose to myself in my expenses, whether it be really the glory of God, or my own carnal humour and appetite.
For instance, if I lay out my money in clothing my body, the question must be, whether I do this only for warmth and decency, or to gratify my pride and vanity? If the former, my money is better spent; if the latter, it is better spared than spent. Again, do I lay it out in eating and drinking? if this be only to satisfy the necessities of nature, and make my life more easy and comfortable, it is without doubt, very well spent; but if it be to feed my luxury and intemperance, it is much better spared; better for my soul, in keeping it from sin, and better for my body, in preserving it from sickness; and this rule is the more strictly to be observed, because it is as great a fault in a servant not to lay out his master’s money when he should, as to lay it out when he should not.
In order, therefore, to avoid both these extremes, there is a third rule to be observed under this resolution; and that is to keep a particular account of all my receipts and disbursements, to set down in a book every penny I receive at the hands of the Almighty, and every penny I lay out for his honour and service. By this means I shall be, in a manner, forced both to get my money lawfully, and to lay it out carefully: but how can I put that amongst the money I have received from God, which I have got by unlawful means? certainly, such money I may rather account as received from the devil for his use, than from God, for his. And so must I either lay every penny out for God, or 209otherwise I shall not know where to set it down, for I must set down nothing but what I lay out for his use; and if it be not for his use, with what face can I say it was? And, by this means also, when God shall be pleased to call me to an account for what I received from him, I may with comfort appear before him; and having improved the talents he had committed to my charge, I may be received into his heavenly kingdom with ‘well done, good and faithful servant, enter thou into thy master’s joy.’
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