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to its full influence; " to be pure in heart ;"*" to be holy in all manner of conversation."† Much of the form of godliness is laid aside amongst us: this itself should admonish us to attend more to "the power thereof." We have discarded many burdensome ceremonies: let us be the more careful to cultivate inward religion. We have thrown off a multitude of superstitious practices, which were called good works: let us the more abound in all moral virtues, these being unquestionably such. Thus our lives will justify and recommend the reformation; and we shall adorn the doctrine of God our Saviour in all things."||
* Matt. v. S.
2 Tim. iii. 5.
† 1 Pet. i. 15.
|| Tit. ii. 10.
BEFORE HIS GRACE CHARLES, DUKE OF RICHMOND, PRESIDENT, AND THE GOVERNORS OF THE LONDON INFIRMARY,
For the Relief of Sick and Diseased Persons, especially Manufacturers, and Seamen in Merchant Service, &c.
At the Parish Church of St. Lawrence-Jewry, on Thursday, March 31, 1748.
1 PETER, iv. 8.
And, above all things, have fervent charity among yourselves; for charity shall cover the multitude of sins.
As we owe our being, and all our faculties, and the very opportunities of exerting them, to Almighty God, and are plainly his, and not our own, we are admonished, even though we should "have done all those things which are commanded us, to, say, We are unprofitable servants."* And with much deeper humility must we make this acknowledgment when we consider in how "many things we have all offended."+ But still the behaviour of such creatures as men, highly criminal in some respects, may yet in others be such as to render them the proper objects, of mercy, and, our Saviour does not decline saying, "thought worthy of it." And conformably to our natural sense of things, the Scripture is very express, that mercy,
† James iii. 2.
* Luke xvii. 10.
Luke xx. 35.
forgiveness, and, in general, charity to our fellow creatures, has this efficacy in a very high degree.
Several copious and remote reasons have been alleged, why such pre-eminence is given to this grace or virtue; some of great importance, and none of them perhaps without its weight. But the proper one seems to be very short and obvious, that by fervent charity, with a course of beneficence proceeding from it, a person may make amends for the good he has blameably omitted, and the injuries he has done, so far, as that society would have no demand upon him for such his misbehaviour; nor consequently would justice have any in behalf of society, whatever it might have upon other accounts. Thus, by fervent charity he may even merit forgiveness of men: and this seems to afford a very singular reason, why it may be graciously granted him by God; a very singular reason, the Christian covenant of pardon always supposed, why divine justice should permit, and divine mercy appoint, that such his charity should be allowed to "cover the multitude of sins."
And this reason leads me to observe, what Scripture, and the whole nature of the thing shows, that the charity here meant must be such hearty love to our fellow creatures, as produceth a settled endeavor to promote, according to the best of our judgment, their real lasting good, both present and future: and not that easiness of temper, which, with peculiar propriety, is expressed by the words good humor, and is a sort of benevolent instinct left to itself, without the direction of our judgment. For this kind of good humor is so far from making the amends before mentioned, that, though it be agreeable in conversation, it is often most mischievous in every other intercourse of life; and always puts men out of a capacity of doing the good they might, if they could withstand importunity, and the sight of distress, when the case requires they should be withstood; many instances of which case daily occur, both in public and private. Nor is it to be supposed, that • we can any more promote the lasting good of our fellow
creatures, by acting from mere kind inclinations, without considering what are the proper means of promoting it, than that we can attain our own personal good, by a thoughtless pursuit of every thing which pleases us. For the love of our neighbor, as much as self-love, the social affections, as much as the private ones, from their very nature, require to be under the direction of our judgment. Yet it is to be remembered, that it does in no sort become such a creature as man to harden himself against the distresses of his neighbor, except where it is really necessary; and that even well disposed persons may run into great perplexities, and great mistakes too, by being over solicitous in distinguishing, what are the most proper occasions for their charity, or who the greatest objects of it. And therefore as, on the one side, we are obliged to take some care not to squander that which, one may say, belongs to the poor, as we shall do, unless we competently satisfy ourselves beforehand, that what we put to our account of charity will answer some good purpose; so, on the other side, when we are competently satisfied of this, in any particular instance before us, we ought by no means to neglect such present opportunity of doing good, under the notion of making further inquiries; for of these delays there will be no end.
Having thus briefly laid before you the ground of that singular efficacy, which the text ascribes to charity in general; obviated the objection against its having this efficacy; and distinguished the virtue itself from its counterfeits; let us now proceed to observe the genuineness and excellency of the particular charity, which we are here met together to promote.
Medicine, and every other relief, "under the calamity of bodily diseases and casualties," no less than the daily necessaries of life, are natural provisions, which God has made for our present indigent state, and which he has granted in common to the children of men, whether they be poor or rich; to the rich, by inheritance or acquisition; and by their hands, to the disabled poor.
Nor can there be any doubt, but that public infirmaries are the most effectual means of administering such relief; besides that they are attended with incidental advantages of great importance: both which things have been fully shown, and excellently enforced, in the annual sermons upon this and the like occasions.
But, indeed, public infirmaries are not only the best, they are the only possible means by which the poor, especially in this city, can be provided, in any competent measure, with the several kinds of assistance, which bodily diseases and casualties require. Not to mention poor foreigners; it is obvious no other provision can be made for poor strangers out of the country, when they are overtaken by these calamities, as they often must be, whilst they are occasionally attending their affairs in this centre of business. But even the poor who are settled here, are in a manner strangers to the people amongst whom they live; and, were it not for this provision, must unavoidably be neglected, in the hurry and concourse around them, and be left unobserved to languish in sickness, and suffer extremely, much more than they could in less populous places, where every one is known to every one, and any great distress presently becomes the common talk; and where also poor families are often under the particular protection of some or other of their rich neighbors, in a very different way from what is commonly the case here. Observations of this kind show, that there is a peculiar occasion, and even a necessity, in such a city as this, for public infirmaries, to which easy admittance may be had; and here in ours no security is required, nor any sort of gratification allowed; and that they ought to be multiplied, or enlarged, proportionably to the increase of our inhabitants for to this the increase of the poor will always bear proportion: though less in ages of sobriety and diligence, and greater in ages of profusion and debauchery.
Now, though nothing to be called an objection in the way of argument, can be alleged against thus providing