Our Obligations to God and Man - by Rev. Edward Payson (1783-1827)Articles on Christian Stewardship
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What is due to God; or, what are the things, the property, which our Saviour here requires us to render him? The question may be answered very briefly; in one word; that word is, all; for it is very easy to show that all things to the most perfect sense the property of God. No right of property can be more perfect than that which results from creation, and surely no one present will deny that all things were id by him. Agreeably he claims them all. The earth is God’s and the fullness thereof; the world and all that dwell therein, for he founded and established it. The silver, he says, is mine; and the gold is mine; mine is every beast of the forest, the cattle upon a thousand hills. Of course, we, and all that we possess are God’s property, more strictly so than any thing which we call our own is our property, and he claims it all. But general remarks do not affect us. It is therefore necessary to descend to particulars, and mention separately the things that are God’s and which he requires us to render Him.
1. Our souls with all their faculties, are the property of God. He is the Father of our spirits. Glorify God, says the voice of inspiration, in your spirits which are his. If any of you hesitate to acknowledge the justice of his claim to your souls, look in for a moment. Contemplate their immortality, their wonderful faculties, the understanding, the will, the imagination, the memory, and then say, whose image and superscription do they bear? Who gave you these faculties’? Who endowed them with immortality? Must it not be the king immortal, the only wise God, to whom it is owing that there is a spirit in man; who has given us more understanding than the beasts of the field, and made us wiser than the fowls of heaven? Our souls then, with all their faculties, are his, and to him they ought to be given. Is it asked, what is implied in giving our souls to God? I answer, we give them to him when we employ all their faculties in his service; in performing the work which he has assigned us. We give them to him when our understandings are diligently employed in discovering his will; when our memories retain it, our hearts love it, our wills submit to it, and the whole inner man obeys it. This is what is implied in the first and great command, thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy mind, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength.
2. Our bodies are the property of God. As he is the Father of our spirits, so also is he the former of our bodies. Thin eyes, says the psalmist, did see my substance, yet being impf feet; and in thy book all my members were written, when yet there were none of them. Thy hands, says Job, have ma me and fashioned me round about; thou hast clothed me wit skin and flesh and fenced me with bones and sinews. The same work God has performed for each of us. Hence the Apostle exhorts us to glorify God with our bodies which are his, and to present them as living sacrifice to God, holy and acceptable in his sight, which is our reasonable service. Rendering to Christ his own, implies then the giving of our bodies to him. This is done when we employ our members as instruments of righteousness unto holiness. It is neglected when we use them as instruments of unrighteousness unto sin.
3. Our time is God’s property. This is indeed implied in his remarks which have already been made. Our time is that part of duration which is measured by our existence. But dun every moment of our existence, we are the property of God. To his service, therefore, every moment of our time ought to be consecrated. If, at any moment, we are not serving him, during that moment, withhold from him ourselves.
4. All our knowledge and literary acquisitions are God’s property. They were acquired by us in the use of that time, and of those faculties which are his; and, of course, he may justly claim them as his own. And we find, that he does claim them. He compares our faculties and his other gifts to a sum of money, entrusted by a master to his servants, to be employed and increased for his benefit. And by the punishment which hat master inflicted on a slothful, unfaithful servant, who neglected to improve his talents, he shows us what will be the doom f those who do not cultivate their faculties, or who do not consecrate to him, the fruits of that cultivation. Indeed, it is difficult to conceive how we can justify ourselves in acquiring knowledge, unless with a view to serve him more effectually. f it be not sought with this view, it must be sought merely for the purpose of gratifying, enriching, or aggrandizing ourselves; motive to action, of which God does not approve, and which I in direct opposition to the letter and spirit of our text.
5. Our temporal possessions are God’s property. They are all either the gifts of his providence, or, as was remarked respecting our literary acquisitions, were obtained by the use of time and faculties which belong to him. They are his also by his right of creation, a right, as has been observed, of all rights i most perfect. Agreeably, we find that men are frequently presented in the Scriptures, not as the owners of their possessions, but merely as stewards, to whose care the Lord of all kings has entrusted a portion of his property, to be employed agreeably to his directions. These directions allow us to employ eh a portion of the property thus entrusted to us, in supplying his own wants, as is really necessary to our support and happiness, or as is consistent with the rules of temperance and the demands of benevolence. But, if any part of it be spent in gratifying what St. John calls the lust of the flesh, the lust of e eye, or the pride of life, it is devoted to a purpose for which our master never designed it, and he will consider and treat us I unfaithful stewards.
Lastly; our influence is God’s property. This follows as a necessary consequence from the preceding remarks. All our influence over others results either from our natural faculties, our knowledge, or our wealth; all of which have been shown (be the property of God. Of course, the influence which we derive from any of these circumstances, is his also, and ought ever to be exerted in promoting his honor and interest in the world. It appears, then, that rendering to God the things that are God’s, implies consecrating to his service, our souls, out bodies, our time, our knowledge, our possessions and our influence. He who withholds from God any of these things, or any part of them, does not comply with the precept in our text.
Edward Payson, Works, Volume 2 (Page 441ff) Sermon: Our Obligations to God and to Men