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that receive: they who are the givers have something higher to expect; and the case is stated to us in such a manner as is well worthy of our attention. He that hath pity upon the poor lendeth unto the Lord, and that which he hath given will he pay him again*. To the charitable man the proprietor of heaven and earth is a debtor, and will assuredly pay him in another life, and probably in this also. There are some sins which meet with their punishment even in this world: I look upon the oppression of the podr to be of that number: therefore by parity of reason, the same attention of Providenee which punishes some, will reward others; especially as the Author of all good is more ready to bless than to afflict. He does the one unwillingly \ the other is the natural fruit of that mercy which is over all his works.
So much for this world-: but when the great day of retribution ftiall come, then our blessed Saviour will consider himself as the object of what we have done to his poor brethren. I was an hungered, says he, and ye gave me meat, /was thirsty and ye gave me drink; / was naked and ye clothed me t. When he was manifested in the flesh, he joined the party of the poor, not of the rich nor honourable. We are all ready to ownhim under the majestic part of his character; for human vanity loves to attach itself to what is great and splendid : but this is the trial of our affection ; whether we can condescend to him as the advocate and brother of the poor; whether we can make ourselves poor with him, who was poor with us ; who submitted to the condition of a servant, that he might bring down the pride of man, and prepare hiin for exaltation by selfabasement; the hardest, and therefore the greatest of all the Christian virtues.
* Prov. xix. If. t Matth. xxv. 35.
Upon the whole, in order to fulfil the duty which is due from the rich to the poor, it is good that there should be a natural tenderness of the mind, which makes it susceptible of what is called compassion; which, if it is not a virtue of itself, is nearly allied to it; it is the soil of virtue, and a rich one too, on which many excellent fruits may grow. Did not I weep, says Job, for him that was in trouble? was not my soul grieved for the poor *?
To this disposition we are to add the obligations of gratitude, and justice, with the encouragement arising from the hope of a blessing upon us in this world, and the next. But if all these considerations should be insufficient, there remains one more, which is the fear of punishment, and as it is urged in the book of Job, with all the vehemence and zeal of a godly mind, it seems irresistible: If I have with-held from the poor their desire*-If I have eaten my morsel myself alone—If I have seen any perish for want of clothing—-If I have Uft up my hand against the fatherless; then let mine arm fall from my shoulder-blade, and let mine-arm be broken from the bone : for destruction from God was a terror to me, and by 'reason of his highness I could not endure^. He means, that God will destroy those who ean bear to see others destroyed ; and that this consideration had raised a terror in his mind which he could never resist. The same sentiment is more forcibly expressed in another place; where, on a supposition of any neglect in this matter, he asks, what then shall 1 do when God riseth up ? and when he visiteth what shall I answer him? To some of his servants God hath committed more, to others less: to all will he come at last, and enquire how that which he committed.
* Job xxx, 25. f Job xxxi. 16, &c.
hath been disposed of. Every man is now to consider, what answer he shall then give : and what will become of him if he should have no answer! Better would it be to suffer all the evils of poverty in this life, than to Stand speechless in the great day of our final account. If this one consideration is duly weighed, we shall want no farther instruction in the duty of this day: we shall never see the poor, without being willing to do them good. «
BLESSED IS HE THAT CONSIDERETH THE POOR AND NEEDY; THE LORD SHALL DELIVER HIM IN THS TIME OF TROUBLE. PSALM XLI. 1.
X O consider the poor, in the common acceptation of the phrase, is to give them something for the relief of their wants: but he only can be said to consider the poor in the true sense, who relieves them in consequence of having meditated on their condition, and his own duty. When the nature of the case hath been duly considered, few words will be wanting to enforce the practice of relieving the poor.
Poverty passes for a frightful subject, and the poor (especially in these times) for a troublesome class of people: but great instruction may be derived; and, I hope, some rational entertainment together with it, from a consideration of what I must call the theory of poverty.
When we meditate upon this subject, we discover, that poverty doth not appear in the world by accident, but by the pre-ordination, of God. For, first, inequality of condition amongst mankind is absolutely necessary in a state of civilization. Many tilings must be done for the common good, which will never be done by the proud, the indolent, or the effeminate. They who can live without their own labour, (which, by the way, is no very great privilege) cannot live without the labour of others; as the head and the eyes cannot execute their own designs without tha assistance of the hands and the feet. The same divine wisdom which hath tempered the body together, and made some of the parts subservient and necessary to others, hath appointed the like subordination in the political body of men in society.
But inequality amongst men is farther necessary for moral reasons. By being placed in different stations, men are called to the exercise of different duties: the poor to the duty of submission; the rich to the duty of compassion. The rich are to be served by the poor, and the poor are to be protected and relieved by the rich. Unless there were want in some, God could not be served by the bounty of others. Nothing can be more evident, than that some are entrusted by Providence to take care of others. And hence we infer, that if they assume an exclusive right to what they have, they are contradicting the designs of heaven; and that a want of charity is a breach of trust; an offence which, under certain circumstances^ may be more base and sinful than robbery itself. "Charge them who are rich," saith the apostle. It is not said, admonish and persuade, as if they were at liberty; but give it in charge, as a matter of indispensable duty and justice. We hold it to be a great sin, when a servant defrauds his master, or wasteth his goods: But the very same sin is committed, with many aggravations, when the rich waste upon their own pride or pleasure that superfluity, which was put into their hands, that they might supply what is left wanting to others. God is the common master of all; their goods are his goods; and if these are misapplied or wasted by some of his servants, other servants of the same master