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ECCLESIASTES XI. 1. Cast thy Bread upon the Waters, for Thou shalt find it after many days.
N these Words we have an Exhortation from the Royal Preacher to a generous, a diffusive, and di Ginterested Cha
rity. And for an Encouragement to the performance of so noble, and withall so indispensable a Duty, there is a Promise annex'd to it of a Certain, tho' not always a Speedy Reward ; an Assurance that That Bread, which in the wretched Worldling's Eye seem'd to be lavishly squander'd away, and quite loft,and which the frank bestower himself
gave without the least prospect or hopes of Return, yer shall certainly, tho' after many days be found again, shall sure. ly at last come back into his own bosom with Interest and Encrease, either in this World or a better.
In the Text therefore there are plainly these two things to be consider’d,
ist, The Duty Enjoyn'd.
1. The Duty, in These Words, Caft thy Bread upon the Waters, which Expression being Figurative and very Comprehensive, has afforded room to the several Commentators upon the place, to give several Expositions of it, yet all of 'em very agreeable to the Truth, and very confiftent with each Other. Which I shall therefore briefly offer, because from them we may form a righệ Vaderstanding of the Nature and Qualifications of this Duty, and the manner in which it ought to be perform’d.
And their several Interpretations put to. gether amount to this, that these Words import a Command that our Charity should be,
ift, Plentifull and Liberal.
1, Plentifull. The Word in the Text, Caft thy Bread, implying a Liberality even to Profufeness, a scatrering our Benefits freely without measure or reserve, as it is express'd by the Psalmist, He has dispers'd abroad, he has given to the Poor, bis Righteousnefsendureth for ever, or as God himself by his Servant Moses, Deuter. 15.11.I command Thee, Thou shalt Open thy Hand wide unto thy Brother, to tby Poor, and to thy Needy in the Lande It is indeed impossible to determia. precisely the Proportion of our Charity , nor can any general Rule be laid down, how much we ought to allot to this Use; Men's Circumstances being so different, that That may be a very noble Gift from One, that would be scandalously mean from Another, aš the Widows cwa Mites were, by the Judgment of Our Saviour himself, esteem'd a greater Offering than all the Rich Men had caftinto the Treasury, tho' they Caft in Much. Every Man therefore is left to his Own Discretion, and the Direction of his Own Conscience, as to the Measure of his Alms, cho'when he comes to deliberate upon this point, it will be ever more advise. able and more safe to Err on the Liberal and Bountifull side, if there can be an Er. sor is that, chan on the Other; left by a Judgment like that which fell on Ananias and Sapphira, by being partially Charitable
and doing his good Deeds by halves, he gain nothing by all that he niggardly gives, and perish for that which he unjustly detains.
2dly, Our Chariry ought to be willing and Chearfull. We should be Ready to Give and Glad to Distribute, as Sc. Paul speaks to Timothy, and as elsewhere he exhorts the Corinthians, that Every Man give not grudgingly and of Necessity, for God loveth a cheara full Giver. He would not of old accept an Offering towards hisTabernacle, Exod. 25.2. but of every Man that gave it wilingly with his Heart; and again, Exod. 35.5. But whefoever is of a Willing Heart, let Him bring it,an Offering of the Lord. And the same temper of Mind He requires in all that for his fake we bestow upon bis Living Temples, his poor Servants. It was commanded to the ifraelites, Deut. 15. 10. Thou sbalt surely give Him, thy Poor Brother, and the Heart all not be griev'd when Thou givest Him: The Ready Compliance of the Will, and the Promptness and Alacrity of the Affections, are so Necessary and Effential to the Right Exercising of every Religious Duty, that it is no wonder that they should be the Ve. ry Life and Soul of This, the most Excellent of all Other Duties of a Christian. Nay, it is impossible to be truly Charitable,without being Pleas’d with being so, for tho' it might be Enough for a Jew, that His Heart should not be Griev'd, the utmost that Moses commanded; yet it comes not up to the Dignity of the Christian, if his Heart is not Delighted too when He gives.
3dly, Our Charity ought to be Universal and without Exception. 'Tis St. Paul's advice, As We have opportunity Let us do good to Al Men. He adds indeed Especially to the Housbold of Faith. Which is highly Reasonable, and if a Christian and an Heathen, a Member of our Own and One of another Communion, or a Good and Less Good or Vicious Man stand at the same time in Equal Need of our Charity, and our Abilities will not reach to the Relief of both, there is no place for doubt to which the preference ought to be given. But This still does not take off our Obligation of extending our Bounty as far as our Power, and if That could stretch it self out to all Mankind, our Beneficence ought to do so too. There is None so Bad, but if he is in Realand Pres sing Necelity, is a true and fit Object of our Compassion. Let the Person be what he will, his Wants give him a Title to part of our Abundance, and tho' here, as was before said, we may and ought to make Use of our Christian Prudence and Discretion yet it will be a good and safe Rule to avoid being over Prudent and over Discreet in
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