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Secondly, Who are duly qualified to receive Charity.
Thirdly, What is the Bleffing and Reward that attends upon the faithful Difcharge of this Duty.
The first Thing to be considered is, how far this Duty extends ; I have shewed you all Things, says the Apostle, How that so labouring ye ought to support the Weak. In the Verses preceding the Text, he had fet before them his own Example, and the Method he took to provide for himself, and those who were with him. I have coveted, says he, no Man's Silver or Gold or Apparel. rea, ye yourselves know, that these Hands have ministered unto my Necessities, and to them that were with me. Now the Exhortation of the Text being founded on the Example which the Apostle himself had given, and those Words, That so labouring ye ought to support the Weak, necessarily referring to such Labour as St. Paul had undergone, when his own Hands ministered to his own Neceflities; it is evident, thât the Apostle directed, that Part of what they could earn, even by the Labour of their Hands, should be set aside and dedicated to Works of Charity. The fame Direction is
repeated in his Epistle to the Ephesians, Chap. iv. 28. Let him that stole steal no more; but rather let him labour, working with his Hands the Thing which is good, that he may have to give to him that needetb. Where you find Labour enjoined them, not only that they may have an honest Means of supporting themselves, but that they might have something likewise to spare in Charity to such as were in Distress, and unable to work for their own Living. As the Apostle pleads his own Example to the Elders of the Church of Ephesus ; so does he likewise to the Thessalonians, in his ad Epistle wrote to them; Neither did we, says he, eat any Man's Bread for nought; but wrought with Labour and Travail Night and Day, that we might not be chargeable to any of you. Not because we have not Power, (i.l. a Right to claim a Maintenance as Ministers of the Gospel) but to make ourselves an Ensample for you to follow us. Chap. iii. verse g..
From these Passages laid together, it is manifeít, that the Apostle calls upon all indifferently, the Elders and Pastors of the Church, as well as others, to labour, working with their Hands; and he chargers on
their Labour, not only the Duty of providing for themselves and Families, but also the Care of supporting those among them who were indigent and necefsitous : but the Measures and Proportions of Charity not being Things of a determinate Nature, but such as are relative to the Circumstances and Conditions of Times and Persons, and vary and change together with them ; it must be absurd to apply the Rules relating to Charity, which are to be found in the Holy Scriptures, to ourselves and our own Times, without making a due Allowance for the Difference in our Circumstances and theirs to whom the Rules were first directed. And therefore to give you a just sense of the Meaning of the Text, and of other apostolical Rules concerning the Practice of Charity, it will be necessary to thew you what was the State of the Times and Persons to which those Rules have Reference.
The Church of Christ at the first preaching of the Gospel consisted almost wholly of the Poor and Indigent, such as were hardly able to support and maintain themfelves by their Labour, much less to be liberal towards the Support of others : for this Reason St. Paul chose rather to work
for his Bread with his own Hands, than to make his Ministry burthensomne to the Churches ; though at the same Time he aflerts the Right he had to be supported by them in his Function, notwithstanding the Narrowness of their own Circumstances. The Learning and Education of the first Converts were no better than their Fortunes; and even the Rulers of the Church were oftentimes taken from Trades and mean Employments; the Spirit of God wonder· fully supplying their Defects, and enabling them under all outward Disadvantages to promote the Cause of the Gospel with great Courage and Success. Upon this Account the Gospel is spoken of, as the peculiar Portion and Inheritance of the Poor ; our Saviour gives it as a Characteristick of himself and his Mission, that the Poor had the Gospel preached to them, Matth. xi. 25. And St. Paul addressing to the Corinthians, discovers to us the Condition of that Church; Ye fee your Calling, Brethren, how that not many wife Men after the Flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called ; but God bath chosen the foolish Things of the World, to confound the Wise ; and God hath chosen the weak Things of the World, to confound the
Things Things which are mighty; and base Things of the World, and Things which are despised, bath God chofen, yea, and Things which are not, to bring to nought the Things that are. 1 Cor. i. 26, 27, 28.
These Circumstances of the first Chriftians considered, it is easy to justify the Propriety of the Apostle's Exhortation in the Text. When you reflect how Poverty reigned through the whole Body, you will not think it strange that the Apostle speaks of Labour, even to the Elders of the Church; since their own Labour and Work were the only Riches the Christians of those Days were in Possession of; and it must be either Perverseness or Ignorance that makes some argue from this, and other like Passages of Scripture, against a settled Maintenance for the Christian Clergy; without seeing, that the Consequence, if there be any Thing in it, muft equally affect the whole Body of Christians : for the Reason why the Governors of the Church were poor, was, because the whole Church was fo; and if the Example must be pressed to oblige the present Times, all Men must part either with their Estates, or their Religion ; otherwise we cannot be in the Condition of the pri