« AnteriorContinuar »
wickedness, to undo the heavy burthens, and to let the oppressed go free; and that ye break every yoke? Is it not to deal thy bread to the hungry, and that thou bring the poor that are cast out to thy house? When thou seest the naked, that thou cover him, and that thou hide not thyself from thy own fleih? Nothing is more agreeable to the nature of God, and renders us more conformable to the excellencies of that most perfect pattern, than the exercise of beneficence and goodness. The divine nature is goodness itself; and his bountiful kindness extends itself perpetually over all his works. This is the attribute which he principally delights to exercise; and in which, of allothers, hemostexpects and requires we should imitate him. Our Saviourin all his discourses proposes this example to us to follow; and frequently repeats it, that hereby only we can truly become the children of our
Father which is in heaven. Some portions at least of wbat - we enjoy are due to God, as an acknowledgment of our de
pendence upon him for the whole; and instead of costly facrifices and burnt-offerings to himself, he requires only that we be willing to relieve the necessities of men like ourselves: and he seems in the wisdom of his providence to have made a very unequal distribution of the blessings of this life, on purpose that we might have continual opportunities of paying this reasonable homage to him, according to our respective abilities. He undoubtedly designed the good things of this world, not for the gratification of a few of his creatures, but for the benefit of all. And he hath divided thein unequally amongstus: not thatone part of the human race should link under misery and want, and the other look down with contempt upon them: but that pity and gratitude should be mutually exercised, and the pleasure of doing and receiving good felt among men: that the poor should be serviceable to the rich; they, in return, kind to the poor; and both united in the bonds of mutual good-will, from a sense of their mutual dependency. It is the return he principally expects from us for all the benefits that he has done unto us. This he declares he will accept as the best expression of our love towards him.
With With respect to our neighbour, the obligations we are una der to practise this excellent duty are likewise 4.;
As it reo : great and many. The inducements we have to spects our relieve the miseries and promote the good of our neighbour.. fellow-creatures are, God be thanked, both many in number and of various kinds. Our hearts naturally incline us to it : our reason approves of it as right. The more benevolent disposition we are of, the truer peace we have within, and the greater capacity of social happiness, the sweetest part of the enjoyment of life. Willingness to do good is always rewarded with theesteein of mankind; and selfishness of temper is the constant object of every one's avertion. We have frequent experience in ourselves, what suffering is; and are therefore inexcusable, if we overlook it in others. We live in a world, where, if it was not for the exercise of mercy and pity, the face of things would look dreadful with miserable objects ; and the multitudes of persons driven to despair make society unsafe. Besides, we know the viciffitudes of human affairs; and are nearly concerned to en. courage by our example that fpirit of goodness and compafsion, which we or ours may, on one occasion or other, easily come to have great need of. We are all partakers of the same common nature, and are therefore under the same ties of common humanity. We are all subject to the same infirmities, all liable to fall under the same misfortunes, all obnoxious to the same wants; and therefore have all of us reason to exercise that compassion wbich no man knows but he may stand in need of himself. God has in the whole an equal regard to all his creatures ; but in the present state has made an unequal distribution of temporal bleffings, that one man's abundance should supply another man's want, that there may be an equality, that the wants and necessities of all may be proportionably supplied.
With respect to ourselves, it is almost as natural for us to feel an agreeable satisfaction and inexpressible Anis
As it repleasure of mind, upon fatisfying an hungry foul Spects outwith bread, or cloathing the naked with a gar- selves. ment; as it is for them to be pleased with the sense of their being relieved from these natural wants. On the contrary,
Whole Duty of Man. (Sund. 12. what pleasure, what benefit is there in the possession of those good things, which after supplying our own necessities, and making reasonable provision for our families, are laid up as useless and unprofitable superfluities, if weintendonly to secure ourselves against future contingencies ? A reasonable provision of this kind is neither contrary to religion, nor inconsistent with charity ; but, beyond this, an unbounded defire of heaping up great riches is by no means so very advantageous in this very respect, as a charitable dispensing them in wile proportions would be. For such is the instability of all temporal things, that no man canever beso happy as to be out of the reach of misfortune. Before God, the best of men are finners; and thereare but few, whose conversations with men have been so inoffensiveas not to deserve fevere returns; and how prosperous soever a man's circumstances may be, the next turn of affairs may tumble him headlong into wretchedness. Since therefore every man may be miserable, what can be more just than to deal with them that are so, as we would be dealt by, if we were in the same circumstances? Consequently it is highly reasonable that every one thould give and ask by the same measures or allowances. Because, as we are equal by nature, whatsoever is fit for one must be fit for another in the like condition. It is either not fit that I should defire relief, when miserable ; or else it is fit, that I should grant relief to others, when' they are so: which if I refuse, I condemn myselfeither for being unreasonablein defiring charity when I need it, or for being unjust in denying when I am asked charity by those whom I am able to relieve. We know not how soon riches may be snatched from us, by numberless unforeseen accidents; or we may as suddenly be taken from them, and our souls be required of us this very night. In this case no other part of them will be really beneficial to us, but that by which works of charity have been before lent to the Lord, who in the life to come will repay it again. And even in respect of our continuance in this prefent world, that which has been well laid out in doing good to mankind, has a greater probability of turning to our advantageeven here (considering the variety of accidents all huinnn affairs are subject to than that which may have been
covetously treasured up. If I should want relief, with what face can I expect it, who am deaf to the wants of the poor? If I will shew no compassion, I must take heed that I never need any: for it will be very unreasonable to expect it; because by my unmerciful treatment of others, I set an example against myself, where it would be impudence in me to plead for mercy either in heaven or on earth.
If we give alms out of mercy and compassion, we must do it chearfully: for God loveth a chearful giver. By Manner of compassion we make others miseries our own, and almsgiving. byrelieving them we relieve ourselves, and are partakers with them in the comfort. Is it not a matter of great pleasure and delight to see the joy which a season
Chearfully. able benefaction brings to one in distress? And when I see a man groaning under necessity, if I relieve him, I refresh my own bowels, and nature within me melts into compassion. Therefore when we bestow our alms with an unwilling mind, it is not charity but shameor importunity that moves us; and there is no virtue in them, nor can we expect any reward. To contribute towards another’s relief, because I am ashamed to do otherwise, is rather paying a tax than giving alms: and when nothing can be wrung out of me, but what is distrain
anity, I gave not for the poor's relief, but for my own quiet, as he did who neither feared God nor man.
'Such a one will be so far from being discouraged in his works of mercy by the vain and impious fear of the air impoverishing himself thereby, that he will still a- and impious bound more and more in charity, upon a due con- fear of im
poverishing fideration that altho' this hazard were never so ap- curjelves by parent, yet it is the command of God. Do not it. men rest very well satisfied in their condition, and look upon themselves to be safe enough from want, if they have security given them by some wealthy friend, that he will always supply their need and support them? And has not the charitable man this security given him by God himself, who bids men to trust in hiin, and to do good, with this afflurance, that such shall dwell in the land and be fed?
We must give seasonably: not but that all times Givefeafon. may be thought seasonable to relieve the poor ; ably.
ed by import
yet there are particular seasons when their wants call louder; as times offickness, scarceness of work, dearness of provisions, or on arrests, before the prison hath devoured them, or after a great loss, when their fortunes are dwindling away. When children are young, and capable of work or instruction, and parents not able to dispose of them ; when the placing them out to some honest calling may prevent their turning thieves or beggars, and render them useful to the world; or when they are setting up their trades with an insufficient stock, and a little help may encourage their diligence, and advance them to a comfortable livelihood: these are the more proper seasons of almsgiving, in which, by our helping hand, we may rescue many a poor wretch out of deplorable misery, and render their future condition prosperous and happy.
Whenever it is in our power to practise this duty of almfHow to be giving, it ought to be performed with a merciful practised. intention; not to court the applauses of men, or to serve any secular designs; but to expressour gratitudeand duty to God, who has filled us with an overflowing plenty for that very reason, to do good therewith. If we give our alms to serve a worldly interest, they proceed from self-love; and such pharifaical alms are fordid traffick for applause and interest: and our Saviour cautions us to take heed that we do not our alms before men, to be seen of them; otherwise we have no reward of our Father which is in heaven. Neither Not by un- are we to give that in alms which is none of our jufl gain. own, supposing it hath a rightful owner, to whom we can makea restitution; but where there is no visible owner, the property reverts to the hands of the supreme Lord of the world, who hath settled it as a pension on our poor brethren. To leek after and exact unlawful gains, which we are obliged in justice to restore to the rightful owners, is to make ourselves the thieves, and the poor the receivers; ifsuch practices are done with a view to gather riches for such purposes : there for to give away any man's right to supply another's ditor's jub- neceflity, is not so much an alms as a robbery, in Jtance. the fight of God. And debtors are obliged in conscience not to disable themselves from being just to their creditors, by being merciful to such as are in need.