This poor Widow hath cast in more than they all.
Our Lord wished to see "how the multitude cast money into the collection-chest" — not only how much
— anybody could have discovered that — but in what manner and spirit it was being done: reverently or irreverently — as unto God or as unto man — so as to display or so as to conceal the offering — with a conscientious aim to give all that was due, or a self-convicted sense that a part thereof was being withheld. The searching eye of the Master struck through the outward demeanour of each passing worshipper, right down to the motive that swayed the hand. He was reading the heart of each giver. He was marking whether the gift was the mere fruit of a devotionless habit — a sheer affectation of religious liberality — or, as it ought to be, a humble and sincere token of gratitude and consecration to God. These were the inquiries that were engaging the mind of our Lord on this memorable occasion. We are not informed how long He had sat or what discoveries He had made before the arrival of the "poor widow," but He noticed that she gave but two "mites"; and knowing that this was all she had, He discerned the unselfishness and love that prompted an offering which would perhaps be her last oblation on the altar of the Lord. This act of unfeigned devotion touched Him at once, insomuch that He immediately called His disciples, and drew their attention to so striking and instructive a case. It was her
gift, rather than any other, that attracted the greatest interest in the courts of heaven. It was her
offering, rather than any other, that was alone worthy of a permanent record in the Gospel History and the "books of eternal remembrance." And why? Not only because she gave "all her living," but because she gave it unto the Lord "with all her heart." Not at all in a spirit of petulance or desperation, as might have been the case; not at all because she saw want staring her in the face, and thought it no longer worth her while to retain the paltry coins she possessed. On the contrary, it was the fineness of the woman's spirit, the richness of her gratitude and love, the wealth of her self-forgetfulness and trust under the severity of her trials, that gave her little gift the exceeding rareness of its value. She was neither despairing
nor repining, but "walking by faith" and in contentment, reflecting that, not. withstanding her indigence, there was none to whom she was so great a debtor as unto the Lord her God, who in His providence had given her all she had, or ever had had, or ever would have, temporal and spiritual. And out of the depths of her adoration and thankfulness she says unto herself, "I will go," in my poverty and sincerity, "and pay my vows unto the Lord in the presence of all His people," cast my slender and only offering into the sacred treasury, and await the goodness of His hand in "the land of the living." The other worshippers were giving variously, but all "of their abundance"; or, as the Revised Version has it, "of their superfluity." They never missed what they gave. They were sacrificing nothing to enable them to give. They could have given more, some of them far more, and never have felt the slightest pressure in consequence. But the "poor widow" had not an iota more to offer. She gave her "uttermost farthing," and she gave it gladly.
It is necessary and scriptural that there be public voluntary contributions for pious and charitable purposes.
2. Both the rich and the poor should contribute to pious and charitable purposes, and that according to their respective ability.
3. It concerns us all to see that our contributions be such, in respect of the principles and motives from which they flow, as will meet with the Divine approbation.
4. Be exhorted to cast liberally into the offerings of God, by the encouraging considerations which are placed before you in His Word.(1) Remember that the eye of the Lord Jesus Christ is upon you.(2) Remember, again, the considerations connected with the amazing kindness of your God and Saviour to you.(3) Be exhorted, once more, to give liberally, by the consideration of the promise of an abundant recompense, both in this world and in the world to come.
It is related of Father Taylor, the sailor missionary of Boston, that on one occasion, when a minister was urging that the names of the subscribers to an institution (it was the missionary cause) should be published, in order to increase the funds, and quoted the account of the poor widow and her two mites, to justify this trumpet-sounding, he settled the question by rising from his seat, and asking in his clear, shrill voice, "Will the speaker please give us the name
of that poor widow?"
When it is said that this mite was all this woman's living, it must, of course, mean all her living for that day. She threw herself upon the providence of God to supply her with her evening meal or night's lodging. From what she gave, which the Lord brought to light and commended, the expression "I give my mite" has passed into a proverb, which in the mouths of many who use it is ridiculous, if not profane. What ought to be the mite of one in a good business which yields him several hundreds a year clear profit? What ought to be the mite of a professional man in good practice, after all reasonable family claims are provided for? A man with an income of at least two or three hundred a year once said to me, when I called upon him for assistance in keeping up a national school, "I will think about it, sir, and I will give you my mite." He did think, and his mite was two shillings. Contrast this with the following. Two aged paupers, having only the usual parish pay, became communicants. They determined that they would not neglect the offertory; but how was this to be done, as they were on starvation allowance? Well, during the week before the celebration, they did without light, sat up for two or three hours in the dark, and then went to bed, and gave the few pence which they saved in oil or rushlights to be laid on the altar of God.
A gentleman was walking late one night along a street in London, in which stands the hospital where some of our little friends support a bed ("The May Fair Cot," in Ormond Street Hospital) for a sick child. There were three acrobats passing along there, plodding wearily home to their miserable lodgings after their day's work; two of them were men, and they were carrying the ladders and poles with which they gave their performance in the streets whenever they could collect a crowd to look on. The third was a little boy in a clown's dress. He trotted wearily behind, very tired, and looking pale and sick. Just as they were passing the hospital the little lad's sad face brightened for a moment. He ran up the steps and dropped into the box attached to the door a little bit of paper. It was found next morning there. It contained a sixpence, and on the paper was written, "For a sick child." The one who saw it afterwards ascertained, as he tells us, that the poor little waif, almost destitute, had been sick, and in his weary pilgrimage was a year before brought to the hospital, which had been a " House Beautiful " to him, and he was there cured of his bodily disease. Hands of kindness had ministered to him, words of kindness had been spoken to him, and he had left it cured in body and whole in heart. Some one on that day in a crowd had slipped a sixpence into his hand, and that same night as he passed by, his grateful little heart gave up for other child-sufferers "all the living that he had." It was all done so quietly, so noiselessly; but oh I believe me, the sound of that little coin falling into God's treasury that night rose above the roar and din of this mighty city, and was heard with joy in the very presence of God Himself
"Mamma, I thought a mite was a very little thing. What did the Lord mean when He said the widow's mite was more than all the money the rich men gave?" It was Sunday afternoon, and the question was asked by a little child of eight, who had large, dark, inquiring eyes, that were always trying to look into things. Mamma had just been reading to her the story from the Bible, and now she wanted it explained. Mamma thought for a few minutes, and then said, "Well, Lulu, I will tell you a little story, and then I think you will understand why the widow's mite was more valuable than ordinary mites. There was once a little girl, whose name was Kitty, and this little girl had ever so many dolls, almost more than she could count. Some were made of china, and others were made of wax, with real hair and beautiful eyes that would open and shut; but Kitty was tired of them all, except the newest one, which her auntie had given her at Christmas. One day a poor little girl came to the door begging, and Kitty's mother told her to go and get one of her old dolls and give it away. She did so, and her old doll was like what the rich men put into the treasury. She could give it away just as well as not, and it didn't cost her anything. But the poor little beggar girl was delighted with her doll. She had never had but one before, and that was a rag doll; but this one had such lovely curly hair, and she had never seen any lady with such an elegant pink silk dress on. She was almost afraid to hold it against her dirty shawl, for fear of soiling it; so she hurried home as fast as she could, to hide it away with her few small treasures. Just as she was going upstairs to their poor rooms, she saw through the crack of the door in the basement her little friend Sally, who had been sick in bed all summer, and who was all alone all day, while her mother went out washing, to try and earn money enough to keep them from starving. As our little girl looked through the crack she thought to herself, 'I must show Sally my new dolly.' So she rushed into the room and on to the bed, crying, 'O Sally! see!' Sally tried to reach out her arms to take it, but she was too sick; so her little friend held up the dolly, and as she did so, she thought, 'How sick Sally looks to-day! and she hasn't any dolly.' Then, with one generous impulse, she said, 'Here, Sally, you may have her.' Now, Lulu, do you see? The little girl's dolly was like the widow's mite — she gave her all."
The late Bishop Selwyn was a man of ready wit as well as of devout Christian feeling. In his New Zealand diocese it was proposed to allot the seats of a new church, when the Bishop asked on what principle the allotment was to be made, to which it was replied that the largest donors should have the best seats, and so on in proportion. To this arrangement, to the surprise of every one, the Bishop assented, and presently the question arose who had given the most. This, it was answered, should be decided by the subscription list. "And now," said the Bishop, "who has given the most? The poor widow in the temple, in casting into the treasury her two mites, had cast in more than they all; for they of their abundance had cast into the treasury, but she had cast in all the living that she had."
It is related of a little Welsh boy who attended a missionary meeting that when he had given in his collecting card and what he had obtained from his friends, he was greatly distressed because he had not a halfpenny of his own to put in the plate at the meeting. His heart was so thrilled with interest in the work that he ran home and told his mother that he wanted to be a missionary, and asked her to give him something for the collection, but she was too poor to give him any money. He was disappointed and cried; but a thought struck him. He collected all his marbles, went out, and sold them for a penny, and then went to the meeting again and put it on the plate, feeling glad that he was able to do something to promote the cause of missions.
A son of one of the chiefs of Burdwan was converted by a single tract. He could not read, but he went to Rangoon, a distance of two hundred and fifty miles; a missionary's wife taught him to read, and in forty-eight hours he could read the tract through. He then took a basket full of tracts; with much difficulty preached the gospel at his own home, and was the means of converting hundreds to God. He was a man of influence; the people flocked to hear him; and in one year one thousand five hundred natives were baptized in Arracan as members of the Church. And all this through one little tract I That tract cost one halfpenny! Oh! whose halfpenny was it? God only knows. Perhaps it was the mite of some little girl; perhaps the well-earned offering of some little boy. But what a blessing it was!
Sarah Hosmer, while a factory girl, gave fifty guineas to support native pastors. When more than sixty years old she longed so to furnish Nestoria with one more preacher that, living in an attic, she took in sewing until she had accomplished her cherished purpose. Dr. Gordon has well said, "In the hands of this consecrated woman, money transformed the factory girl and the seamstress into a missionary of the Cross and then multiplied her sixfold." But might we not give a thousand times as much money as Sarah Hosmer gave, and yet not earn her reward?
After all, objects take their colour from the eyes that look at them. And let us be assured that there is an infinite difference in the sight of an eye which is the window of a sordid soul and an eye from which looks a soul that has been ennobled by the royal touch of Christ. There are some eyes that read upon a piece of gold nothing but the figures that tell its denomination. There are others, thank God, that see upon it truths that thrill and gladden and uplift. If the lust of gold has blinded your eyes to all else but its conventional value, go to the feet of Christ, and to His question, "What wilt thou that I should do unto thee?" answer, "Lord, that mine eyes might be opened." And when you have learned to look through money into that infinite reach that lies beyond it, you will have learned the lesson of the gospel. You may then be a "rich Christian," making earth brighter and better, and building for yourself in heaven "everlasting habitations."
In a sequestered glen in Burmah lived a woman, who was known as Naughapo (Daughter of Goodness). Sire was the Dorcas of the glen — clothing the naked, feeding the hungry, soothing the afflicted, and often making her little dwelling the home of the poor, that they might enjoy the privilege of the neighbouring school. Mrs. Mason, the missionary, visiting her, was struck with the beauty of her peaceful home — evidently a spot which the Lord had blessed... The day before she left, a pedlar had called with his tempting fabrics for sale; but though this poor woman was in poor garments, she had but one rupee for purchases, while on the following morning she and her family put thirteen rupees into Mrs. Mason's hand, to be deposited in the mission treasury.
General Gordon had a great number of medals, for which he cared nothing. There was a gold one, however, given to him by the Empress of China, with a special inscription engraved upon it, for which he had a great liking. But it suddenly disappeared, no one knew when or how. Years afterwards it was found out by a curious accident that he had erased the inscription, sold the medal for ten pounds, and sent the sum anonymously to Canon Millar, for the relief of the sufferers from the cotton famine at Manchester.
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