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1 Matt. v. 20.
thing like a fourth of his income for religious and charitable purposes, notwithstanding which, Jesus told His disciples that unless their righteousness exceeded the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, they should in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven.'
Jesus Christ did not promulgate afresh for Christians, as from a New Testament Sinai, the law against murder, or adultery, or any other law; but to show the binding and spiritual nature of the Mosaic law, and its far-reaching principles, He taught that these commandments may be broken by an angry word, or even a sinful look. Neither, again, did the Lord re-enact that His followers should pay a patriarchal tithe, a Levitical tithe, a festival tithe, a poor's tithe, a demai tithe, or any other ; but so far was He from repealing the law concerning tithes, or lowering God's claims on property, that He set before those who would be His followers a more complete fulfilment of God's law; and an ideal more lofty by far, leaving enshrined in the memories of His hearers those remarkable words “It is more blessed to give than to receive;". and proclaiming to each of His wouldbe followers, “Whosoever he be of you that forsaketh not all that he hath, he cannot be My disciple.”
% Acts xx, 35.
3 Luke xiv. 33.
EARLY CHRISTIAN GIVING
Community of goods and money among the first disciples, 127.
Wholeheartedness of Barnabas, and fraud of Ananias, 128.-
N previous chapters we have brought under
review various laws relating to tithes and offerings as recorded in the Pentateuch; after which we looked for further light from the working of those laws in the remaining books of the Old Testament. In like manner, having studied in the Gospels the example and teaching of the Founder of Christianity in relation to tithes and religious beneficence, we have now to investigate what further instruction is given upon our subject by the remaining books of the New Testament.
Fifty days after our Lord's resurrection the Holy Spirit was sent down, and St. Peter's sermon on the Day of Pentecost is scarcely ended when, almost immediately, we read of the first Christians
1 Acts ii. 44.5.
that they devoted to the calls of their new religion, not merely one or more tenths of their property, but that each gave his all ; for “all that believed were together, and had all things common; and they sold their possessions and goods, and parted them to all, according as every man had need.” 1
Again, in the following chapter of the same book, we see Peter and John going up together into the temple at the hour of prayer, of whom a lame man solicited alms. Peter apparently recognized at once the propriety (not to say the duty) of helping the poor ; but having neither silver nor gold, he gave such as he had, and that was, in the name of Jesus Christ, to bid the lame man walk.
A commotion ensued, which led to the imprisonment of Peter and John; but so far was this from diminishing the zeal and self-denial of the newly formed body of Christians that
"The multitude of them that believed were of one heart and soul: and not one of them said that aught of the things which he possessed was his own; but they had all things common. ... Neither was there among them any that lacked : for as many as were possessors of lands or houses sold them, and brought the prices of the things that were sold, and laid them at the apostles' feet; and
distribution was made unto each, according as any one 2 Acts iv. 32-5. had need.”,
One of these more than princely givers was Barnabas, a Levite, a man of Cyprus by race, who,
having a field, sold it, and brought the money and 3 Acts iv. 36, 37. laid it at the apostles' feet. This good example
provoked probably the zeal of many, and perhaps
the envy of some; for Ananias also, with his wife Sapphira, sold a possession, but kept back part of the price. They then laid the remainder at the apostles' feet, as if they were giving the whole, 1 Acts v. i. thus enacting one lie before uttering other two to cover the first-with what a sad result we know. The recorded incident, however, is instructive as showing that the wholesale giving up of property by these early believers not compulsory, this land being regarded as their own, whether in their possession or after it was turned into money.
As believers were added to the Lord, there came also "a multitude out of the cities round about unto Jerusalem, bringing sick folks and them which were vexed with unclean spirits.”. Nor did the 2 Acts V. 14-16. sick appeal to the apostles in vain ; for they were healed every one, and in all probability they were, in
many cases, also relieved by alms.
We soon learn, in fact, that there had been a church provision made for the relief of the needy, and this is suggested by the murmuring of the Gentile Christians against the Jewish Christians, because the widows of the former had been in some way neglected at the daily ministration, or distribution, of church money or similar provision.
Upon this, the apostles, calling together the mass of the disciples, pointed out that it was not reasonable that the twelve should leave preaching and ministerial work to serve “tables”—a phrase including, no doubt, the distribution of alms; whereupon seven officers were appointed to attend
1 Acts vi. 1-3
to this department; the church thereby recognizing it as one of her duties to care for and distribute alms to the poor and needy.'
Not that the officers of the church, however, were ready to receive money from all and every source; for when Simon Magus offered money to Peter and John, saying, “Give me also this power, that on whomsoever I lay my hands he
may receive the Holy Ghost,” Peter said unto him, 2 Acts viii. 18-20. “ Thy silver perish with thee.” ?
Then, we are told, the Christians throughout Palestine (that is Judea, Galilee, and Samaria) had peace, being edified ; and our attention is drawn specifically to the case of Tabitha, who was reported to be full of good works and almsdeeds, such as the making
of coats and garments, presumably for the poor 3 Acts ix. 36-9. and needy.'
On the death of Tabitha, Peter was called to Joppa, and Tabitha was raised to life again. After this we have an instance of Gentile giving; for whilst the apostle remained at Joppa, a vision was vouchsafed to a man in Cæsarea, Cornelius by name, a centurion of the band called the Italian cohort, a devout man, and one that feared God with all his house, who gave much alms to the people. “Thy prayers and thine alms,” said the divine messenger who appeared to him, "are gone up for a memorial before God. And now send men to Joppa and fetch . . . Peter.” 4
Precisely at the same time the apostle, whilst praying on the housetop at Joppa, saw in a vision living creatures let down from heaven, and also
4 Acts x. 1-5.