This section is from the "How To Pay Church Debts And How To Keep Churches Out Of Debt" book, by Rev. Sylvanus Stall. Amazon: How To Pay Church Debts And How To Keep Churches Out Of Debt.
"The biography of eminently pious and useful men since the Reformation shows that great numbers of them have recognized the obligation statedly to devote a portion of their income to charitable uses. Lord Chief Justice Hale, Rev. Dr. Hammond, Baxter, Doddridge and others regularly gave a tenth; Dr. Watts, a fifth; Mrs. Rowe, one-half. Rev. John Wesley, when his income was thirty pounds, lived on twenty-eight and gave two, and when his income rose to sixty pounds, and afterwards to one hundred and twenty, he still lived on twenty-eight, and gave all the remainder. Mr. Nathaniel R. Cobb, a merchant connected with the Baptist church in Boston, in 1821, at the age of twenty-three, drew up and subscribed the following covenant, to which he faithfully adhered till on his deathbed he praised God that by acting according to it he had given in charity more than $40,000:"
"By the grace of God, I will never be worth more than $50,000.
"By the grace of God, I will give one-fourth of the net profits of my business to charitable and religions uses.
"If I am ever worth $20,000, I will give one-half of my net profits; and if I am ever worth $30,000, I will give three-fourths, and the whole, after $50,000. So help me God, or give to a more faithful steward, and set me aside. N. R. Cobb."
Knowing that all things come of Thee, O Lord, and acknowledging my obligation to devote at least one-tenth of all my increase to religious purposes, I hereby prayerfully, deliberately and cheerfully covenant, as Jacob of old, that "of all that Thou shalt give me, I will surely give the tenth to Thee."
We appeal to all Christians to adopt some method by which they may accurately ascertain the amount of their income, and then religiously to devote at least one-tenth to sacred uses. "This is the rent which reminds the tenant that he is not owner in fee; this is the interest which reminds the borrower that the principal belongs not to him; this is the tribute-money
Which reminds a subject nation that it is not independent; this is God's share to remind his creatures that all belongs to him." We are simply stewards, and at the last we must render an account of our stewardship.
One thing is certain; we must either do more, or stop pretending to pray for the conversion of the heathen. Our gifts do not prove the sincerity of our prayers. We should come with our hearts near our lips, and lay our wealth at Jesus' feet. Let us not be like the farmer who, with cribs filled with corn, was accustomed to pray that the wants of the needy might be supplied; but when any one in needy circumstances asked for a little of his corn, he said he had none to spare. One day, after hearing his father pray for the poor and needy, his little son said to him: "Father, I wish I had your corn." "Why, my son, what could you do with it?" asked the father. The child replied, "I would answer your prayers." The theology of the child was eminently practical. "One of the most common reasons why prayers are not answered is because the life is not in harmony with the prayer. Prayer is too frequently offered as a substitute for neglected duty. If we pray for the conversion of the heathen and unsaved, and yet send them not the message of life, this prayer is unacceptable and unavailing with God. Yet such prayers are very common. It is one of the greatest evils in the church. It costs less sacrifice to offer earnest prayer than to do self-denying work. It is when the tithes are brought into the storehouse that God promises to pour out a blessing that there shall not be room enough to receive. The reason of prayer being unanswered is always to be found with the suppliant, and never with the Great Giver of all good, who is ever nigh unto all them that call upon him - to all that call upon him in truth."
Christ's last command to the church is, "Go ye into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature." Have we done it? Are we doing it? In the years past the church failed to do her duty in this respect, and He who said, "Behold, I have set before thee an open door, and no man can shut it," came in His might and closed the door. One port after another was closed to missionary effort. All human endeavor was vain. "He that hath the key of David," "He that shutteth and no man openeth," had shut the door. The church was like Israel's doubting hosts. One day God opens Canaan to them - they do not enter; the next day when they would enter the door is shut, the cloud moves not, the ark of the covenant accompanies them not, they go up essaying to enter, only to turn back falling before the foe. So has the church been turned back from the lands which have been promised to her as clearly as Canaan was prom-ised to Israel. But now, after long years, God has again opened the door. Again Christ is saying to the churches, that if he be lifted up he will draw all men unto him. If the church will enter now, no obstacle can impede her progress. No power upon earth is strong enough to close the door. Glorious success awaits the cause of Christ. This is the auspicious "to-day" in the cycles of God's all-wise providence. No longer let the myriad mites which make the mighty millions be lost for want of proper and necessary system. Restore the offertory to its appointed place in the family, the Sunday-school and the church. Never did the precious opportunities which God opens call more imperatively for the adoption of such measures as will secure scriptural beneficence among all classes.