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must be a voluntary and disinterested offering. What is wrung from us through importunity, or bestowed grudgingly, or from interested motives, is not charity.
Every man, according as he purposeth in his heart, so let him give; not grudgingly, or of necessity; for God loveth a cheerful giver.” If we give with true benevolence, we shall give willingly and cheerfully, in obedience to the will of God, and from the pleasure of doing good, and communicating. On a christian mind, the motive suggested in Scripture to the practice of this duty is most powerful :-“ Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we ought also to love one another.” • To exercise charity efficiently, we must exercise it appropriately and with discrimination. We must endeavour to distinguish who are fit objects of christian bounty, and adapt the relief we administer to the nature of their wants and circumstances. While we cherish our instinctive compassion, as implanted in our nature for the best ends, we must accustom ourselves to act, not under the humane impulse of the moment, but under the influence of judgment, and fixed principle ; and shew, by the manner in which we give away, that it is not from carelessness as to the possession of property, nor from good nature merely, but from the desire of doing good.
In administering our charity appropriately, it may be necessary for us often to give, not money, but food, clothing, education, moral and religious instruction, consolation, advice, patronage. The kind of
relief which we offer must vary with the exigences of the case. If our brethren are in want, our charity must be of a nature to furnish a supply; if they are in ignorance, we must give them the means of knowledge; if they are in sickness, the most acceptable aid which we can afford them may be medicine, or medical skill. « If a brother or sister be naked, and destitute of daily food, and one of you say unto them, Depart in peace, be warmed and filled; notwithstanding ye give them not those things which are needful to the body; what doth it profit ?”
Our charity, too, in order to be pure, must be free from ostentation. It is this vitiating principle, and not the publicity of the act, which our Lord condemns in the rule which he has laid down for the regulation of our conduct in the distribution of our bounty. “ Take heed that ye do not your alms before men, to be seen of them; otherwise ye have no reward of your Father which is in heaven; therefore, when thou doest thine alms, do not sound a trumpet before thee, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may have glory of men. Verily, I say unto you, they have their reward.” But that it is quite possible to give from pure motives, and yet to give publicly, is clear, from another direction of our Lord; “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.” It has been suggested, I think, with considerable propriety, as a rule of conduct in reference to private and public charity, that when our bounty is beyond our fortune and station, that is, when it is more than could be expected from
us, our charity should be private, if privacy be practic cable: when it is not more than might be expected, it may be public. To this general rule there may, for good reasons, be many exceptions. And it should be remembered that our bounty, whether bestowed in private or in public, in order to be conformable to the laws of christian morality, must be given from a sense, of duty, and in obedience to the will of God.
This is being charitable upon system, and according to a formed plan. It is to consider ourselves as stewards of what the Great Proprietor of all things has intrusted to our charge; and bound regularly to distribute among the poor and necessitous a portion of his bounty. What have we that has not been given us from above? It is the will of the divine Donor that a portion of what he has bestowed upon us we should be in the habit of freely giving away. Hence, in reference to systematic charity, the excellency of the apostolic rule ;-a rule which has been observed from time immemorial in the Church of Scotland: “Upon the first day of the week let every one of you lay by in store, as God hath prospered him." To collect for the poor at the church-doors on every first day of the week, is to afford to all the opportunity of being charitable upon plan, and to enjoy the greater blessedness of giving to that of receiving.
Finally, charity to the poor, in order to be pure and acceptable, must proceed from love to God and man. This, as we have already seen, is the animating principle of all virtuous conduct. It is the more necessary to scrutinize our motives in alms-giving, because this is often, it is to be apprehended, extended under the
influence of views and feelings which, however amiable some of them may be, do not come up to the standard of virtue. Multitudes, doubtless, give of their property to the poor, from natural compassion, and constitutional generosity; from a desire to acquire the esteem of others, and perhaps from the belief that actions of this nature merit for them a happy immortality. It is unnecessary to repeat that no action is truly virtuous which is not performed from a sense of duty, from love to God, and in obedience to his authority.
There is indeed no conduct that secures more generally the esteem of others than a generous attention to suffering humanity. Its excellency and usefulness are admired by all. And as reputation gives us an influence over our fellow-men, and thereby enables us to do greater good in our day and generation, it is desirable to possess it. But we are to seek it as a means, and not as an ultimate end: we are to do our duty to the extent of our opportunity, from pure and disinterested benevolence, and leave the consequence to Him whose wisdom and goodness will amply provide for our happiness.
If we are charitable from this motive, our alms and our prayers shall come up for a memorial before God. -“Remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he said, It is more blessed to give than to receive.” “ Blessed is he that considereth the poor : the Lord will deliver him in time of trouble. The Lord will preserve him and keep him alive, and he shall be blessed upon the earth: Thou wilt not deliver him into the will of his enemies. The Lord will strengthen him
upon his bed of languishing. Thou wilt make all his bed in his sickness.”
Thus, it appears, that the obligation of giving to the
poor is enforced by express and repeated exhortations to liberality in the sacred Scriptures,—by the revered sayings of Him who has pronounced it to be more blessed to give than to receive,--and by the motives suggested to our instinctive compassion by the numerous wants and sufferings of human nature.
Obvious, however, as this duty is, it must be discharged, in order to answer the end in view, with discretion, and under those restrictions which reason and revelation suggest. Though all the possessions of the rich were lavished on the poor for the supply of their immediate necessities, indigence, and its attendant evils, might not only continue, but would probably be increased by the donation.
Alms must be given in such a way, that neither the giver nor receiver may be injured. We must be satisfied that we give to the extent of our ability, and that we do not go beyond that extent; and that we have wherewith to discharge all the claims of justice, while we exercise liberality to the needy. Our alms must be given in such a manner, and in such cases only, as that distress may not be relieved at the expense of virtue and industry; and that we may not by a thoughtless and mistaken bounty be accumulating the evils which we had hoped to remove, and frustrating the designs of his Providence who has connected laborious exertion with the present lot of human nature. The injunctions, “give to him that asketh of thee,”-and, “ if any man will not work,