An Inducement Against Earthlimindedness - by David Clarkson (1622-1686)Articles on Christian Stewardship
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We must give account of all talents, all enjoyments, how improved, time, parts, riches. If of common mercies, much more of special, extraordinary. None like the gospel, no account therefore so exact. Other mercies are but as one talent, the gospel as five in proportion to one. If he that improved not one, received such a heavy sentence, what shall he expect who neglects, hides, improves not five? ‘If every transgression and disobedience,’ in the use of less mercies, ‘ receive a just recompense of reward, how shall we escape if we neglect’ the gospel,’ which at first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed unto us by those that heard him?’ Heb. ii. ‘ Therefore we ought to give the more earnest heed to the things which we hear.’ No wrath so fierce as God’s for the contempt of mercy, and of the greatest mercy in the gospel; no plea, no excuse, no escaping.
I. For the first, the Scripture abounds with evidence for this purpose, asserting the Lord’s title to all things, even such as we count ours, whether ours in common with others, or such as we think to be properly ours.
1. Of the former sort; the world in general is said to be his own, Ps. 1. 12, the fulness, the furniture of it, whatever fills it or adorns it, whatever does replenish or beautify it: ‘ The world, and all that it contains, is mine.’ More particularly the principal and integral parts of this great fabric, with appurtenances. Heaven is his, Ps. Ixxxix. 11, and whatsoever has the name of heaven, Deut. x. 14. The heaven of heavens; i. e., the highest heavens, these are the throne of the Most High; and the heavens, i.e., both the ether, the place of stars and planets, and the air, called heaven, Gen. i. 20, &c., this is called his chamber, Ps. civ. 8, the beams of his upper rooms in the watery clouds; and these clouds are his chariot, and the winds (which are but air in motion) are the wheels of his chariot. All, from the highest to the lowest, are his own.
The sea also is his, Ps. xcv. 5, and so are the rivers; and he resents it as an intolerable arrogance in Pharaoh, king of Egypt, that he would lay claim to the river Nilus as his own, Ezek. xxix. 9. The earth likewise, Ex. xix. 5, not one, or many regions of the earth, but all, and all the parts of it, high and low, even to the centre, Ps. xcv. 4, and all the furniture of the whole, and every part of it, Ps. xxiv. 1, whatsoever in the least takes up any part of the earth, whatsoever is in it, Deut. x. 14. He lays claim to whatever is under the whole heaven as his own, Job xli. 11.
Finally, no more need be, if any more may be added, under this head. Time is his, and every season and moment of it, Ps. Ixxiv. 16, 17. We are ready to say, We have time enough for this or that; but if we presume, that it is ours, and at our disposing, it must be such time as falls neither under night nor day, nor any season of the year; for every moment of this is the Lord’s, and so wholly at his disposal.
2. But there may be more question of things under the other head, such as we count properly ours. Yet here we may be deceived in the title, and mistake the true owner. There is as much evidence that the Lord is the true proprietor and right owner even of these. We may be proprietors in respect of men, so far as none of them may be able to produce any good title, or lay any just claim to what we have, nor can of right deprive us of it; but we are no proprietors in reference to God. He is the owner of us, and all we have, and not ourselves, as will be manifest by an induction of particulars collected from the Scriptures.
(1.) Lands; that which is left one as his inheritance, or that which he purchaseth, or which he is otherwise legally instated in; this he counts unquestionably his own: and so it may be, as to any title that man can set up against it: Ps. xlix. 11, they impose their names upon their lands, signifying thereby that they are the undoubted owners of them; and others agree with them herein, and say, This is such a man’s land, and that is such a man’s. But the Lord puts in another claim, which will carry it: ‘The land,’ says he, ‘ is mine,’ Lev. xxv. 23. This is spoken not of the land as it was then only, but as it would be when the Lord had given it them, as much as he gives anything, when they had conquered it, and the law of nations, when it was divided amongst them, and each one had possession of his share; when it was as much theirs as anything could be among men, yet then says the Lord, ‘ The land is mine.’ You cannot dispose of it as you will, but as the chief landlord, the true proprietor will allow you. And the same may be said of houses as of lands; we are no more the owners of the one than of the other in reference to the Lord of all. The Lord shewed how much they are his own in giving not only the lands, but the houses and cities of the Canaanites to the children of Israel. And when the Israelites built a house, they used to dedicate it, Deut. xx. 5; and the solemnity of the dedication was feasting and thanksgiving, and by this means they acknowledged the Lord’s interest in their habitation. The 80th Psalm is such a thanksgiving at the dedication of David’s house, as the title of it tells us. So when the walls of Jerusalem were built, they were solemnly dedicated, Neh. xii. 27. And because they were wont to be dedicated by other nations, hence the civil law determines, that the gates and walla of cities, nullius in bonis sunt, are no man’s property, adificio* cadit solo.
(2.) The fruits of the land, whatever it yields, is as much the Lord’s as the land itself. Though among us he that does but farm some ground, and pretends to no other title, yet the fruits of it, and what through his industry it produceth, he counts his own; yet whoever let it, or take it, whatever care, or pains, or culture is spent upon it, the Lord is the owner of all that it yields, Hosea ii. 9. She calls all her own, ver. 5; but the Lord shews her who was the true owner, and will make her understand effectually whose it was by disposing of it as he pleases. He that has the present disposal, has the propriety. So it is made an aggravation of the people’s idolatry, that what was the Lord’s of right they offered to idols, Ezek. xvi. 18, 19.
Cattle also, wherewith the land is stocked, and wherein, in ancient times, their riches did principally consist, Job i. 8, are as much his. Whoever have the possession, the Lord is the owner, Ps. 1. 10, 11. Hence it was ordained under the law, that the children of Israel should offer the firstborn of their cattle, and the first-fruits of their trees and lands, unto God, Exod. xxxiv. 19, 20. This was the tenure by which they held of him all they had; by this part they acknowledged him to be Lord of all, and that he was the proprietor, though they had the use of all. Thus what was not fit to be offered, was to be redeemed; and if they did not redeem it, though it were but an ass, no man had any right in it so much as to use it, Exod. xiii. 18. God’s propriety in such things is evident by one instance, Mat. xxi. 2.
(8.) Money and clothes also are as much his, though they be on our backs, or in our coffers, as that which is most our own; yet the Lord is more the owner thereof than the possessor, Haggai ii. 8. This David acknowledges in this chapter. All the silver, and gold, and precious stones, and other metals which they offered so willingly for the building of the temple, it was all the Lord’s, even before they offered it, ver. 14, 16. And thus the act of the Israelites is best justified, when they spoiled the Egyptians, and restored not the jewels of silver, and gold, and raiment which they had borrowed, Exod. xii. 85, 86. To detain that which is not ours, without the owner’s consent, is theft; but here the Israelites had the consent of the chief Owner; they had his special warrant for it, who was the Lord of all the Egyptians had, and had right to dispose of it to whom he pleased. If the Lord had not been more the owner of the Egyptians’ raiment and jewels, then they themselves, the Israelites could not be excused.
(4.) There is something counted more ours than any of the former, viz., our children; the parents’ relation to them is such as cannot be extinguished, nor transferred to any other; they have such interest in them, and such power to dispose of them, as amongst the Israelites they might, in some cases, sell them, as when they could not otherwise pay their debts, or were not able to sustain them, Exod. xxi. 7. And amongst the Romans they had power of life and death over their children. The ancient laws of the Romans, says Simplicius, allowed parents both to sell their children and to put them to death without being questioned for it. Yet for all this parents are not so much the owners of their children as God is, who is the owner of all, Ezek. xvi. 20, 21. The ground of parents’ interest in their children, and why they are judged so much their owners, is because they give them life and being; but this reason will shew the Lord more the owner of them, for he contributes more to the life and being of children than the parents do, and without him they could do nothing towards it. It is in him that all the children of men live, move, &c., Acts xvii. 25, 28. And we find when he calls them ‘ my sons,’ then the ground of it is added, ‘ the work of my hands,’ Isa. xlv. 11.
(6.) We are thought to have much propriety in our children, but much more in ourselves, and yet the Lord has more propriety in our persons than we ourselves; so much more, that we are said in Scripture not to be our own in comparison, 1 Cor. vi. 19. His title and interest in us is so great, that all which we conceive we have in ourselves is swallowed up by it. We are not our own. Whose are we then? who has more right to us? Why, his we are who made us, Ps. c. 3. He hath made us, and (as it may be as well read) his we are. We are his people, his servants. A bondservant was no way his own, could no way dispose of his own person, it was part of his master’s goods; he might sell it, or do what he would with it. Our persons are no more our own than such servants were. We are more the Lord’s than they were their master’s.
(6.) It need not now seem strange to tell you that the Lord is the owner of our bodies, that he has so much propriety therein as they are more his than ours. The apostle tells us as much: 1 Cor. vi. 20, ‘ Glorify God. in your bodies, which are his.’ Our bodies, and every member thereof, are his;
for if the whole be so, no part is exempted. And therefore they spake proud things, and presumptuously usurped the propriety of God, who said, ‘Our lips are our own,’ Ps. xii. 3, 4; as though their lips had not been his who is Lord and Owner of all, but they had been lords thereof, and might have used them as they list. This provoked God to shew what right he had to dispose of such lips and tongues, by cutting them off.
(7.) But what shall we say of our souls? Our bodies indeed may be so in our power, and at the disposal of others, that we cannot count them, nor use them as our own; they may be imprisoned or enslaved, yea, or sold. That has been ordinary heretofore, to make sale of the bodies of men as well as anything else; but the soul would remain free in such a condition, and is not in danger of any such bondage, confinement, or alienation, nor anything else that can hinder it from being called or used as our own. Is it not so, are not our souls our own? The Lord answers this himself, Ezek. xviii. 4; and the apostle says both the body and the spirit or soul is the Lord’s, and not our own, 1 Cor. vi. 19, 2.0; consequently all the powers of the soul are his, and all the abilities of those faculties, in what degree soever they are found or exercised in the soul of man, for he that is the owner of the principal has right to the accessories.
So you see it is most clear in Scripture that God is the owner of all, and every thing and person.
David Clarkson, Works, Volume 1 (Page 434ff) All Things the Lord’s An Inducement from Earthlimindedness