PENNY IÂ‘TÂ’ SHILLIN
The variety of forms in which love manifests itself would be a very interesting study. No doubt we are so constituted that our highest felicity consists in our love travelling back to the Source of all love; then it becomes the purest, the holiest, and the most lasting.
“Yes, love indeed is light from heaven,
A spark of that immortal fire
With angels sharedÂ—to mortals given,
To lift from earth our low desires,
Devotion wafts the mind above,
But heaven itself descends in love.”
Wherever this love exists, it will manifest itself in some form consistent with its nature. In Noah and Abraham, it was active obedience to God; Jacob, in tithing his income to the Lord; David, in songs of praise; Solomon, in building the temple; the Apostles, in preaching the Gospel; and these in all ages have had their numerous successors.
An illustration of this I remember in one of my neighbours, who in the latter part of her life was much impressed with the vow Jacob made on that memorable occasion when, alone and weary, he lay down to rest, with a stone for his pillow. Jacob that night dreamed of angels, and heard the voice of God, promising him protection and temporal blessings; and Jacob replied, “Of all that thou shalt give me, I will surely give a tenth unto thee.”
“And so will I, or somewhere near it,” earnestly observed this neighbour, evidently impressed with the beauty of Jacob’s vow; and it will be seen that she fulfilled her promise.
Amongst other worthy characters that attended our Church meetings was this poor but remarkably clean widow, we called old Mary. She always sat in one place, and was seldom or ever absent;
she was civil, courteous, and modest.
There was one peculiarity about this good old creature that we all noticed, and that did us all good. She seldom appeared at any service, Sunday or week-day, without bringing an “offering to the Lord”, as she called it. Her income from all sources, was about seven shillings per week, and out of this she gave seven pence. Knowing her small income, and her thrift and care to make ends meet, I ventured to say,Â—
“Mary, we know you are anxious to do what you can to help in all good things, and that you willingly bring your contributions, but suppose we take the will for the deed, then you will have a little for home requirements.” She rather sharply answered,Â—
“Did Jesus Christ say that to the poor widow that put her mite into the treasury? No, He did not; He spake well of her, and said she had given more than all the rich folks put together, though they had given much. I know what I am doing, and Jesus Christ knows. It has been my custom ever since I read Jacob’s vow, for every shillin’ God gives me to give Him a penny back; I give a penny i’t’ shillin’. This is one way of proving that I love Him, for if I cannot build churches I can help to keep them going;
and if I cannot go into all the world and preach the Gospel myself, I can help to send others. I have neighbours poorer than I am, and there are some in this Church poorer, and sometimes I can give a little to them. No, no; I shall give my mite, my penny i’t’ shillin’, as long as I live.”
The moment I suggested that Mary should not give out of her penury I found I had done wrong. Was she not giving on a right principleÂ—a principle laid down by the Almighty Himself in the first written code given to mankindÂ—a law to be a constant reminder that all we have belongs to God, and that we ought to acknowledge this by returning to Him a distinct and regular proportion. What a glorious arrangement this is; how it would keep us in daily remembrance of God’s goodness. So long as the nation to whom God first gave this order continued to observe it, so long they were the most prosperous people on the face of the earth; but when they refused to obey the command they became the poorest, and the most miserable; and when they cried to Him about the drought, the mildew and blight of their harvests. He told them what they had done. He said,Â—
“Will a man rob God? yet ye have robbed me in tithes and offerings. Ye are cursed with a curse; for ye have robbed me, even this whole nation. Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be meat in mine house, and prove me now herewith, said the Lord of hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it. And I will rebuke the devourer for your sakes, and he shall not destroy the fruits of your ground; neither shall your vine cast her fruit before the time in the field, saith the Lord of hosts. And all nations shall call you blessed: for ye shall be a delightsome land, saith the Lord of hosts.”
Old Mary brought her tithe to the storehouse; it was not quite a tenth, but it was her willing offering, and no doubt she got the blessing in her own soul.
I have been, and still am, in circumstances that enable me to judge of the operations and blessed effects of proportionate and systematic giving to the Lord, and give the following illustrations.
“Have you removed to your new house?” I asked a gentleman at one of our railway stations.
“Not yet,” was the reply.
“Will twenty thousand clear the cost?”
“About that. I have this day been thinking if that twenty thousand had remained in business it would have produced a thousand per annum, and the tithe, or tenth, the Lord’s portion, would have been one hundred pounds.”
“Do you tithe all your profits?”
“Yes. When I began business I began on that principle, and have always carried it out.”
“Then your new house will undoubtedly have to pay into the Lord’s treasury the one hundred pounds, and you will be better content to admire and enjoy it; but I rather think that all who live in large houses do not think of this.”
“Perhaps not; but it is their misfortune. What have we that God does not give us? The gold and silver is all His; we are merely stewards; and if the Lord trusts us with a thousand pounds, it is easy, and ought to be pleasant to return Him one hundred. They that honour Him He will honour; and if we honour Him with our substance. He promises to fill our barns with plenty.”
“Have you many objects or recipients for your givings?”
“Yes,” he replied, with a smile, “it comes in in one channel and flows out in about ten: churches, schools, missions, hospitals, orphan-houses, widows, temperance societies, poor neighbours,
“Well, sir, if it be more blessed to give than receive, you are
no doubt a happy man.”
A short time after talking with this gentleman, I witnessed another happy effect of this self-tithing. While attending a meeting of Sunday School teachers, in Exeter Hall, London, I met with Mr. Charlesworth, head master of Mr. Spurgeon’s Orphanage, Stock-well, who requested I would meet Mr. Spurgeon at the Orphanage at four o’clock the following day. Arriving at the Lodge of the beautiful and interesting establishment, I saw several well-dressed boys standing at the gate. One of them very civilly asked,Â—
“Have you got a box, please?”
“Let the gentleman pass, and if he has not a box he will see one before he returns,” said another boy, laughing.
On I went, and found several other visitors, and about one hundred well-dressed, healthy-looking boys at full play; Mr. Spurgeon, cheerful and happy, walking about amongst them, talking and shaking hands with everybody. Amongst the visitors was a tall, ruddy-faced man, who requested a private interview with Mr. Spurgeon; the request was granted, and in about fifteen minutes both emerged from the private room, bowed to each other, and parted, evidently both well pleased. Mr. Spurgeon then rejoined me, his face radiant with joy, holding in his hand three one hundred pound notes, and exclaiming,Â—
“See, Mr. Ashworth, these are works of art, and this strong mark in the corner tells their value. When I came to the Orphanage about three o’clock, I found that our monthly bills due to-day, could not be paid; we had not the money. Three of my deacons were here, and I told them of our poverty, and said unto them, ‘Let us go into the office, and pray over the matter.’ Before we knelt down I observed, ‘that if we all give something to begin with, we should then be more consistent in asking the Lord to induce others to give. Now, what do you say, friends? I myself will give twenty-five pounds to begin with.’ ”
” ‘I will second that’, replied one of the deacons.
” ‘What do you mean? Do you second that I give the twenty-five pounds, or that you give twenty-five?’
” ‘That I give twenty-five.’
” ‘Good; who thirds it the same way?’
” ‘I do,’ says a third; and also a fourth.
“Having ourselves given one hundred to start off with, we knelt down, and the Lord verily heard our prayers; for here comes a man of whom I know nothing, and who will not give his name, and puts these notes into my hand, saying as he does so,Â—
” ‘I give systematically; give at least a tenth of all the Lord gives me; and I have very great pleasure in handing you these three hundred pounds.'”
“The Lord hears prayer, my friend, and the Lord knows where the money is.”
“If the man had not tithed his income, the probability is he would have had nothing for you,” I replied.
“Just so; and very likely naught for anybody else,” rejoined Mr. Spurgeon.
This last observation from one who knows something of mankind, reveals a deplorable fact; for there are thousands of wealthy men who, because they do not give a tithe, or a proportion, give the little they do give very grudgingly: to such it is a positive torture to give. I knew two of these characters. When any person asked one of these for help, he would invariably reply,Â—
“I never give anything to old beggars.”
If the applicant said he was not in the habit of begging, and that he had never begged before, the reply was.Â—
“I never take on new ones.”
When the other gentleman was waited upon for any purpose whatever, he always answered,Â—
“My custom is never to give until I have made enquiry.”
If he were furnished with report or reference, he would refuse them, or lay them aside, saying,Â—
“I really have not time to make enquiry.”
A third gentleman, whose name I do not know, ordered a dinner for twelve at one of the London clubs. They had many dainty dishes, finishing with the roe of the herring laid on dry toast, quite a genteel finish. The dessert consisted of strawberries
at six shillings and grapes at fourteen shillings per pound, choice wines, etc. The cost was thirty-six pounds, three pounds per head. The following day a member of the same club asked this same gentleman for a subscription to provide a dinner and tea to the poor children of a ragged school, but the answer he got was,Â—
“I really cannot afford it.”
I believe no man honouring the Lord with the first fruits of his increase would ever have been foolish enough to order a dinner like that.
Mr. Spurgeon’s deliverance reminded me of one of my own mercies. The funds for the Chapel for the Destitute, the School for poor children, the Missionary and Bible Woman, were quite exhausted, and for several weeks nothing came. The Missionary was dejected, and we laid our case before the Lord, asking Him, if we had not been faithful to our trust, to show us, and show us why His face seemed turned away from us. On visiting a Yorkshire town the same week, a gentleman placed a letter in my hand, requesting I would not open it until I got on the train. The moment the train started I broke the seal, and read,Â—
“Dear Sir,Â—May I ask you to pray for me, that I may be faithful to death in giving that portion of my income that I have purposed in my heart before God. My heavenly Father has greatly increased my power of doing good since I resolved to give systematically; may I never fall into the error of consuming it on myself.”
The letter contained what Mr. Spurgeon called a work of art, with a strong mark in the corner that told its value. The following morning, I handed it over to my fellow-labourer who had joined me in prayer. As he took the book to enter it, I watched his countenance; it was first white, then red, then his eyes moistened, and his pen trembled. Evidently there was great thankfulness.
There is one important sentence in that railway letter, “My heavenly Faher has greatly increased my power of doing good since I resolved to give systematically.” Did he give like old Mary, a “penny i’t’ shillin’,” or the exact tenth; or as the Lord had prospered him,Â—the true Bible standard? Probably the latter; and what followed? Why that the Lord according to His promise poured down blessings upon him, and filled his barns with plenty. He, like Mary and the gentleman that tithed his big house, just regarded himself as a mere steward of the Lord, rendering unto God the things that are God’s.
We know the Jews had by command three definite tithes*: one
for the Levites; one for Temple service; and every three years one for the poor; making in all about twenty-three per cent. And we also know that so long as they brought these offerings God opened the windows of heaven, and blessed them with abundance. To give a proportion is a blessing yet, for perhaps nothing will better help a prosperous man to “carry corn,” of a poor man to feel thankful that he can do a little. I know a mechanic, whose wages are thirty shillings per week, who weekly puts three shillings into an old teapot in the cupboard, and his wife often says,Â—
“I am always glad to hear the three shillings drop into the tea pot; I am sure the Lord knows it is for Him, and we can trust Him.”
And this is the way to look at this question, whether the income be more or less,Â—the Lord knows. And the Lord requires an acknowledgement from all, that He only is the proprietor of all, and that to whom much is given much shall be required? This is the way the Lord reckons; for a man with five hundred a year who can well live on two hundred, has a greater proportion to give from, and ought to give a greater proportion, than the man with one hundred who almost requires it all.
Of course persons in this day, as in former days, may tithe themselves, and be defective in other Christian duties. Tithing, though good in itself, is not saving grace. Our Saviour rebuked the Pharisees for attaching less importance to justice, mercy, and faith, than the paying of their tithes; telling them, and so approving of tithes, that they ought to pay their tithes, and also do justice, love mercy, and have faith, or piety, towards God: “These
ought ye to have done, and not left the other undone.”
Let not anything be given grudgingly, but cheerfully and willingly. For does not God say, that “He that soweth bountifully shall reap bountifully;” and “With what measure you mete, it shall be measured to you again;” and “He that deviseth liberal things, by liberal things shall he stand;” and that “The liberal soul shall be made fat.’
A gentleman, hearing of Mary’s “penny i’t shillin’,” was so pleased with it that he sent her a sovereign. She looked at the gold for a moment and then said,Â—”Well, I am a miracle of mercies! a miracle of mercies! But will you please to let me have it in silver. If I ask anybody to change me a sovereign, they will wonder where I have got it from; they may think I have been stealing.”
Silver was obtained in exchange; she turned it over and over in her hand, and said,Â—
“One shilling and eightpence of this belongs to the Lord. To be sure it is all His, but He lets me have the far greatest part, and I will give Him back a penny i’t’ shillin’ very gladly, for He gave Himself for me.”
There is another advantage in this systematic and proportionite giving. We know what we do give, and are not tormented with
the idea that we give too much. I remember once going with another visitor of the Rochdale Good Samaritan Society to collect the annual subscriptions. Amongst other places, we called at the counting house of old Mr. Bright. His son John, now the Right Honourable John Bright, was in the office. Looking over our book, he said to his father,Â—
“Father, had thou not better double thy subscription this year? These men have many very poor cases.”
“Double thine, John, and never mind me,” said the old gentleman, smiling.
They both doubled their usual subscription, and as John Bright handed us the money he observed,Â—
“I rather think many of us give much less than we think. When I was married I put a small cash book into my pocket in which I entered all my givings for religious and charitable purposes. At the end of twelve months I took out the book to see how much I had given, making a guess at the same time how much I was certain it would be. When I had reckoned all, I found to my astonishment I had not given one half.”
The mistake made by Mr. Bright is not uncommon, and the consequence is a double loss,Â—a blessing lost to the giver, and lost help where it was required.
Old Mary, like all percentage givers, would not be likely to make this mistage, and it was amusing to hear her say, as she often did,Â—
“I get an extra blessing with every penny I give, for I am a miracle of mercies. I am very sorry I began so late, and I would advise all you young folks, and everybody, to give a penny i’t’ shillin’, and more if you can, and to do it regularly. That is the way; regularly. God will bless you for it, if you give to His cause. Giving to the poor, you lend to the Lord. He says so, and God will never be in debt to anybody.”
Old Mary was right; God is good to us all, and constant gratitude for this goodness is one of the greatest luxuries of this life. When we love God, how easily all other gifts follow. We are not our own, neither body nor soul. All we have we have on trust;
and to show our thankfulness according to our means, pleases God, whether it be by statedly giving out of our abundance, or, like old Mary, giving out of our poverty a “PENNY IT’ SHILLIN’.”
*TWO tithes are certain: (1) “Behold, I have given the CHILDREN OF LEVI
all the tenth in Israel for an inheritance, for their service which they serve” (Num. 18:21.) (The Levites gave a tithe of this tithe to the priests, vv. 25-32). (2) The nine parts remaining were tithed again: “Thou shall EAT BEFORE THE LORD, in the place which He shall choose … the tithe of thy corn . . . wine … oil … the firstlings of thy herds and flocks,” (At this feast of thanksgiving, they entertained their family and friends, and were commanded not to forget the Levites. Deut. 14: 22-27. If any could not conveniently carry this tithe to “the place which the Lord chose”, that is, Jerusalem, he would sell it, and carry the money there. PLUS ONE-FIFTH of the amount, and buy what was required for the feast after his arrival. So, if he sold his tithe for Â£10, he must take Â£12 to the sanctuary. (Lev. 27.31.) (3) Some have read a THIRD TITHE into Deut. 14: 28. 29. It is more probable, however, that in every third year the SECOND TITHE was to be consumed AT HOME, instead of at the sanctuary, so that the poor neighbours and friends. especially the aged and infirm, might partake of it. (See Dr. Eadie; Dr. Gill.)