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man, and regarded the miseries of the poor. We have a portrait of his character in the 29th Chapter, where he declares, among other excellent things, / delivered the poor that cried, and the fatherless, and him that had none to help him. The blessing of him that was ready to perish came upon me: and I caused the widow's heart to sing for joy. I put on righteousness, and it clothed me: my judgment was as a robe and a diadem. I was eyes to the blind; and feet was I to the lame. I teas a father to the poor; and the cause which I knew not, I searched out. And I brake the jaws of the wicked, and plucked the spoil out of his teeth. The wise man has well explained the meaning of the last words of Job, where he compares the unfeeling and uncharitable to wild and ravenous beasts, who make a prey of the poor. There is a generation, whose teeth are as swords, and their jaw-teeth as knives, to devour the poor from off the earth, and the needy from among men. Thus it is that Scripture agrees with Scripture, and by its harmony proves the truth of the whole. The wise king who knew human nature well, and what is called the world, has given us one of the most sublime and striking sentences to be found even in the volume of inspiration, where he says, speaking on this very subject, If thou seest the oppression of the poor, and violent perverting of judgment and justice in a province, marvel not at the matter; for he that is higher than the highest regardeth; and there be higher than they. These words of wisdom, which are, no doubt, adapted to all ages and nations of the earth, are adapted in a particular manner to these times, and to the place and country in which we live. They shall be the rule of my conduct, and I wish them to be the rule of yours, in connexion with the law of God, and the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
I proceed, in pursuance of my design, to call your attention to the writings of the prophets. The Prophet Isaiah, who stands first in order, says, The Lord standeth up to plead, and standeth to judge the people. The Lord will enter into judgment with the ancients of his people, and the principles thereof: for ye have eaten up the vineyard; the spoil of the poor is in your houses. What mean ye, that ye beat my people to pieces, and grind the faces of the poor? saith the Lord God of hosts.* Let those who have now the charge of the poor answer this question of the prophet, in the name of the Lord. The Prophet Jeremiah gives us a very true and exact description of religion, and of the blessedness which attends it, when he declared to the Jews the sin and wickedness of oppressing the poor, and departing from God. Didnot thy father eatanddrink, and do judgment and justice, and then it was well with him? He judged the cause of the poor and needy; then it was well with him: was not this to know me? saith the Lord.\ With what point and force does the prophet put the question! There is no evading the answer, nor the conclusion to be drawn from it. If you are not just and kind to the poor, you have no knowledge of God and of true religion.
* Isa. iii. 13—15. f Jer. xxii. 15, 16.
The Prophet Zechariah has pointed out the intimate connexion between the practice of religion and the exercise of charity to the poor, in the most plain and positive manner. And the word of the Lord came unto Zechariah, saying, Thus speaheth the Lord of Hosts, saying, Execute true judgment, and show mercy and compassion, every man to his brother; and oppress not the toidow nor the fatherless, the stranger nor the poor; and let none of you imagine evil against his brother in your heart* Did the people, and the rulers of the people, listen to the voice of God and obey it? No; human nature was the same then as it is now. But they refused to hearken, and pulled away the shoulder, and stopped their ears, that they should not hear. Yea, they made their hearts as an adamant stone, lest they should hear the law, and the words which the Lord of Hosts hath sent in his Spirit by the former prophets: therefore came a great wrath from the Lord of Hosts. Heavy judgments followed their disobedience, and they suffered grievously for this their sin.
I have hitherto given you an explanation of this duty in the ardent words of prophecy, and from the records of sacred history in the Old Testament. I come now to compare the language of the New Testament with that of the Old, and to establish the same truth from the writings of the Evangelists and Apostles. The life
of our blessed Saviour may be considered as one act of charity to mankind; his death was the perfection of
* Zech. vii. 8—10.
loving kindness and tender mercy. The parable of the Good Samaritan was the bright exemplification of his own character. He did not, like the selfish and unfeeling Priest and Levite, look on, and pass by on the other side; but he had compassion on the poor wounded man, who had fallen among thieves, and been left half dead, and went to him, and bound up his wounds, pouring in oil and wine, and set him on his own beast, and brought him to an inn, and took care of him.* Now, do you think there is no meaning in this parable, or that it is of no use? If you think so, then has Christ lived, and died, and taught in vain for you.
The parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus affords an awful warning and admonition to those who live without God in the world, and who live at their ease, caring only for themselves. No direct charges, indeed, of injustice, tyranny, or oppression, are brought against him, but yet we find that, after death, he lifted up his eyes in hell. He had lived a life of practical infidelity, in the total neglect of duty, both to God and man; and he was so ignorant, or so insensible, as not to know, that for all these things God would bring him unto judgment.\
No condition of life could appear more destitute of all comfort and enjoyment, or more full of distress, than that of Lazarus. The victim of poverty and disease, he lay at the rich man's gate, helpless and hopeless in himself, a sad spectacle of human misery and wretchedness. But amidst all these wants and woes he was not deserted
* Luke x. 30—34. f Eccles. xi. 9 ; xii. 14.
nor forsaken. That eye which never slumbers nor sleeps was fixed upon him. An arm, mighty to save, was stretched out over him, and for this friendless outcast among men, a place was prepared among angels and archangels in the kingdom of heaven.
The description of the last judgment which follows the parable of the Talents is strictly applicable to this subject, as it teaches us the necessity of good works, of doing justice, and loving mercy, and walking humbly with our God.* When the Son of Man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then shall lie sit upon the throne of his glory. And before him shall be gathered all nations; and he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats: and he shall set the sheep on his rigid-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 the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungered, and fed thee? or thirsty, and gave thee drink? When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee? Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee? And the King shall answer and
* Micah vi. 8.