Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

The charitable man will also use as much prudence as circumstances will permit, to bestow his alms where most needed, and in such a manner as may do the "

Prudently. receiver most good, and himself no injury. For if we do not manage our charities with prudence, we shall create necesfities by supplying them, and multiply miseries by an unskilful endeavour to redress them; it is with alms as it is with estates, where half doth consist in the discretion of the owner; and charities distributed by a blind superstition, orafoolifh pity, many times do more hurt than good. Or what harvest can the world reap from this precious feed of our alms. when they are scattered at all adventures, without any diftinction of the cultivated from the fallow ground; so that the birds of prey, vagrants, drones and beggars, eat them up, whilst the modest, impotent, and laborious poor are utterly unprovided for? We must not therefore be tempted, by the importunities of idle persons, to prostitute oțr alms to their intemperance and Noth. What a pity it is, that these good fruits of our charity should be thusabused, to pamper a company of vagrants, that wander from door to door; whilst many poor industrious families, that have more mouths to feed than hands to work, lie drooping under necessities and want! And though the former are not to be altogether neglected, when their needs are really urgent; yet prudence will direct our charity to such persons as have fallen from riches to poverty, and are less able to toil and drudge for bread; or to such as are worn out with labour, or disabled with fickness, or oppressed with a numerous family. But first of all we are obliged to relieve our relations, and in all cases to prefer the · necessities of those who have any dependence on us. The

same prudence will direct us to prefer those alms, which may serve for a constant provision, and put one in a fixed way of living, before those which are transient, which do just hold him up from perishing for an hour, but do not take him out of the deep waters of affliction. And it is doubtless a prudent charity to contribute to the building and maintenance of publick workhouses for the poor, where they and their children may be provided with such work as they are capable of; and accustomed to industry, and inabled to support themselves in some future state of life. Prudent

charity

charity gives its alms in kind rather than in value ; gives cloaths to the naked, food to the hungry, phyfick to the sick, and books to the uninstructed; the benefit of this charity to the souls of men appears at first sight; by this means they are instructed in the great points of the chrisian belief, and acquainted with the several branches of their duty which relate to God, their neighbour and themselves. When a book comes as a gift from their superiors, they are at first pleasedwith it is as a mark of their favour, which engages them to read; and then, by the grace of God, the seriousness of the matter, and the importance of the subject, may seize upon their minds, and make them pious and devout christians. And therefore persons of quality and estates, if they have hearts and dispositions to give good books to their servants and tenants and the poor, particularly where their estates lie, are undoubtedly capable of doing abundance of good; and by this method they become preachers of righteousness, and secure to themselves a share with the authors in the reward of such performances. And,

As to the proportion of our charity, it is certain that almfLiberally.

will giving ought to be performed liberally and bounti

be fully : charity measures its alms, and proportions them to the necessities it supplies, not only to rescue the miserable, but to render them happy. Though I should give ten times less than one who hath ten times more, I should be as liberal as he, according to my ability: so the widow's two mites are pronounced by our Saviour a more liberal alms than the rich man cast into the treasury; because he cast in of his abundance, but she of her penury; wherefore tho' it is iinpossible to deterinine the measure of our alms, because the measure of our abilities is so various, charity exacts that we should be liberal in proportion to our circumstances. Christ hath not indeed fixed the proportions of any kind of charity: For circumstances vary fo infinitely, that general rules concerning such matters are impossible. And this latitude should not give anxiety to any good mind: for we serve a most equitable master. Neither should it give encouragement to bad minds; and make them imagine, that where nothing is ascertained, they may do just as little as they please. For God will expect from every one what may be reasonably ex

pected

pected from them; and hath left this matter at large, not that we may shew our backwardness to serve him, but our zeal. And though we may not be able to give alms to our neceffitous brother: yet if by representing his necessities to others, who are able to relieve him; if by begging relief for him, which perhaps he is ashamed to do for himself, we can any way contribute to his support, we stand strictly obliged to it by charity; and this will be as acceptable to God, as the most liberal alms out of our own substance. Where the deed is impossible, God accepts the will for it, and reckons all good works to our account, which he knows we would do, if it were in our power. So when he furnisheth us with means to relieve the necessitous, he expects the deed, knowing that we cannot sincerely will the deed, if when it is in our power we don't do it; the necessity of which deed, to thew the fincerity of the will, appears from that passage where it is written: Whoso hath this world's goods, and feeth his brother have need, and shutteth up his bowels of compassion from him, how dwelleth the love of God in him? And since God has not determined any thing concerning it, we must leave men, who best understand their own condition, to the guidance of their own conscience and discretion, who In what are to consider what is requisite to the discharge of proportion. their several obligations. For prudence doth not require of . all the same proportion of charity; but of every one according to their different circumstances and abilities: and chrif.. tian prudence will direct us not to be partial to ourselves in stretching our needs and conveniencies beyond their just bounds, to spare what may be decently spared from too many servants, idle meetings, unnecessary feasts, chargeable apparel, and diversions: and if we thus spare in our needless expence, and lay aside the remains for charity, the consequence will be this: the poor will be more plentifully relieved, and we more able to do it; and we shall reap more pleasure and profit from laying out upon the poor, than from wasting it on the pomps and vanities of this wicked world. When any miserable creature would borrow or beg of us, And man. prudence will advise us not to turn him away with ner. scorn, nor yet to remove him at a distance with disdain or

violence;

X

4

violence; but if we see reafon to grant him his request, to do it with an open hand, that so the freedom of our charity may raise the comfort of it, and leave no sting in the mind of the necessitous person. We ought not to oppress the modesty of the humble, of those who have been wont to give and not to receive, nor to relieve them with lofty looks, or angry words, or a severe behaviour; nor to expose their poverty by publishing our charity, or conveying it to them in the view of the world ; but to hand our relief in such a secret and obliging manner, that they may receive it with chearfulness, without confusion and shame.

In fine, as giving of alms is a real expression of our love The reward and gratitude to God, and our Saviour Christ, God of alms is not unrighteous to forget your work and labour giving. of love which ye have shewed towards his name, in that ye have ministered to the saints, and yet do administer, says the apostle. Hemay defer, but he never forgets: you may safely reckon that so much as ye have bestowed in works of charity, so much with increase ye have secured in the hands of God; who will either return it in temporal blessings, or repay it with interest: think then what is incumbent on you in relation to these things. There are but two reasons, and they are both very bad ones, that hinder men from being charitable according to their power; either covetousness makes them unwilling, or expensiveness makes them imagine they are unable. If the former influences you, consider well that your happiness for ever depends on doing your duty; but your happiness even here doth not depend on enlarging your fortunes. You may, if you will form yourselves to it, enjoy great satisfaction in doing good. But what felicity can you possibly find, either in the consciousness of having, or the vanity of being known to have, ever so much wealth more than you have any occasion for; And besides, if the enjoyment of man's life doth consist in the abundance of the things which he possesses, charity may often be so contrived by prudence, as not to diminish wealth; and is often so blessed by heaven, as greatly to increase it. And if it be expensiveness that withholds you from charity, in this cafe alto think with yourfelves, for what purpose is it your maker hath intrusted you?

for

for vices and follies, or for pity and mercy? You may indeed plead, that luxury, by the numbers itemploys, is perhaps the moft extensive beneficence. But this is a poor pretence, evidently calculated to make yourselves easy in acting wrong. Undoubtedly the wisdom of providence hath contrived, that many, who will do no good in any other way, fall, however, do some in this. But then it is usually done to those who need it least. A number of persons, well able to take care of themselves otherwise, are maintained part in idleness, and part in professions of no manner of use; whilst the true objects of compassion, the infirm and helpless, are left unregarded to suffer and perish. Luxury therefore contributes nothing to answer theintentof Christian charities. And even those it is pretended to provide for, it teaches at the same time to ruin themselves by the imitation of it. And in proportion as it prevails, it destroys every where both virtue and happiness, public and private. Let therefore both the frugaland the expensive man seriously consider; one, what proportion his charity bears to his increase; theother to his profufions: and each' think of justifying themselves, not to the world, but to God. Possibly it may seem a good reason to some, for their own neglect of the poor, that the law makes provision for them : and it is certainly an honour to the law that it doth; but no honour to us, that it needs do it. Belides there are very many cales of great diltreis, to which legal provision is neither easily nor properly extended; nor can it give by any means fo plentiful relief, as should be given, to the greater part of those to whom it may extend. But suppose the law capable of doing every thing that need be done; what would be the consequence of leaving everything to it? Then we should lose intirely the means we have now, of proving to the world, and to ourselves, the goodness of our own hearts; and of making an undoubted free-will offering to God, outof what he hath given us. Persons of bad minds may indeed take occasion to neglect the poor, from our willingness to relieve them: and thus by their fault, the burthen may fall heavier upon us than it ought. But then God, who hath intrusted us, not only in conjunction with others to do our share, but separately by ourselves to do what we can, is

not

« AnteriorContinuar »