Taken from A Serious Call to a Devout and Holy Life by William Law.
Every exhortation in Scripture to be wise and reasonable, satisfying only such wants as God would have satisfied; every exhortation to be spiritual and heavenly, pressing after a glorious change of our nature; every exhortation to love our neighbour as ourselves, to love all mankind as God has loved them, is a command to be strictly religious in the use of our money. For none of these tempers can be complied with, unless we be wise and reasonable, spiritual and heavenly, exercising a brotherly love, a god-like charity, in the use of all our fortune. These tempers, and this use of our worldly goods, is so much the doctrine of all the New Testament, that you cannot read a chapter without being taught something of it. I shall only produce one remarkable passage of Scripture, which is sufficient to justify all that I have said concerning this religious use of all our fortune.
"When the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him,then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory: and before him shall be gathered all nations: and he shall separate them one from another, as as hepherd divideth his sheep from the goats: and he shall set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on the left. Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: for I was an hungered, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in: naked,and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me . . . Then shall he say unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels: for I was an hungered, and ye gave me no meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me no drink: Iwas a stranger, and ye took me not in: naked, and ye clothed me not: sick, and in prison, and ye visited me not. These shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal." [Matt. xxv. 31-64]
I have quoted this passage at length, because if one looks at the way of the world, one would hardly think that Christians had ever read this part of Scripture. For what is there in the lives of Christians, that looks as if their salvation depended upon these good works? And yet the necessity of them is here asserted in the highest manner, and pressed upon us by a lively description of the glory and terrors of the day of judgment.
Some people, even of those who may be reckoned virtuous Christians, look upon this text only as a general recommendation of occasional works of charity; whereas it shows the necessity not only of occasional charities now and then,but the necessity of such an entire charitable life, as is a continual exercise of all such works of charity, as we are able to perform.
You own, that you have no title to salvation, if you have neglected these good works; because such persons as have neglected them are, at the last day, to be placed on the left hand, and banished with a "Depart, ye cursed." There is,therefore, no salvation but in the performance of these good works. Who is it,therefore, that may be said to have performed these good works? Is it he that has some time assisted a prisoner, or relieved the poor or sick? This would beas absurd as to say, that he had performed the duties of devotion, who had sometime said his prayers. Is it, therefore, he that has several times done these works of charity? This can no more be said, than he can be said to be the truly just man, who had done acts of justice several times. What is the rule,therefore, or measure of performing these good works? How shall a man trust that he performs them as he ought?
Now the rule is very plain and easy, and such as is common to every other virtue, or good temper, as well as to charity. Who is the humble, or meek, or devout, or just, or faithful man? Is it he that has several times done acts of humility, meekness, devotion, justice, or fidelity? No; but it is he that lives in the habitual exercise of these virtues. In like manner, he only can be said to have performed these works of charity, who lives in the habitual exercise of them to the utmost of his power. He only has performed the duty of Divine love,who loves God with all his heart, and with all his mind, and with all his strength. And he only has performed the duty of these good works, who has done them with all his heart, and with all his mind, and with all his strength. For there is no other measure of our doing good, than our power of doing it.