Page images

He that oppresseth the Poor, says the wise King of Israel, reproachetb bis Maker : but be that honoureth bim, bath Mercy on the Poor.

The Poor are the Creatures of God, not only as they are Men, but also as they are poor Men: the different Orders and Degrees of Men are from the Hand of God; and to despise or oppress a Man for being what God has thought fit to make him, is to reproach God: and if we have a true Honour for God, the common Father of both Rich and Poor, it will dispose us to regard even the meanest of his children. The Rich are the elder Brothers of the World; and as they share the Estate of it among them, so is it incumbent on them to provide for the Necessities of the Rest of the Fainily; which they can hardly neglect without renouncing the common Relation they have to one and the same Parent ; so that to Thew Mercy to the Poor, is a direct Way of paying Honour to God.

Besides, Works of Mercy redound to the Honour of God, through the Praises and Thanksgivings of those, who feel the Comfort and Relief of them. The Charity of the Rich, thrown into the Lap of the Poor, XIII. 307 ascends up in more delightful Steams than the Incense of the Altar, and returns again in Showers of Blessings upon the Head of the Liberal. The unexpected Relief which the Indigent meet with, naturally creates in them a great Sense of Providence, and of the Care of God over his Creatures ; it raises them to a thankful Acknowledgment of his Regard towards them, and disposes them to a religious Dependance on him in the Midst of all their Distress. So that in this Sense also Works of Charity tend to the Honour of God, as they promote a true Sense of Religion in the World.


That the Good and Welfare of Men are directly consulted by the charitable Hand, is too plain a Cafe to admit of any Proof: and great Pity it is, that there is any Room

to doubt whether this End be always at- tained by the Liberality of well-disposed

Persons : but so it is, that too great a Part of what is given in Charity in this rich and populous City, instead of being a Supply to the Want of Saints, is the Nourishment of idle and debauched Vagabonds : a Case the more to be lamented, because the frequent Impostures of this kind make good People distrustful of all who ask for Charity,

X 2


[merged small][ocr errors]

and sometimes bring great Difficulties upon the well-deserving Poor. Under these Circumstances, we can no otherwise answer this End of Charity, the doing good to others, than by taking some Care to place our Charity right; and to distinguish between the truly Needy, and the idle Beggar, who lies in wait to intercept Charity, and to divert the Maintenance of the more deserving. But however we 'may be imposed on in this Respect, yet in that which fol. lows, I trust there is no Fear of being deceived; for though the wicked Receiver of Charity shall answer for his Guile and Hypocrisy, yet the Liberality of the Giver shall not go unrewarded : for,

Tbirdly, By Works of Mercy and Charity, we make the best Provision for our own present and future Happiness. This may be concluded by direct Inference from what has been already faid; for since Works of Mercy have so plain a Tendency to promote the Honour of God, we cannot doubt but that God will reward the Love and Obedience of such as take Pleasure therein. Add to this, the express Promises of the Gospel made to these good Works especially; insomuch that clothing the Naked,


[ocr errors]

feeding the Hungry, giving Drink to the Thirsty, visiting the Sick and the Prisoners in their Distress, are mentioned by our blessed Saviour, as chief Articles of Enquiry at the last great Day; and are put into the short Description which St. James has left us of pure and undefiled Religion in the Sight of God; add to this, I say, and we have all the Security that can be desired or expected. · The final Retribution for this, and every other Work, must be expected from the Justice of God, in that Day in which he hath appointed to judge the World; but this hinders not but that we may justly hope for Part of our Reward in this Life. In the Chapter of the Text, the Apostle encourages the Corinthians to Liberality, by teaching them to expect a Return for it from God, in the Increase of their Stores, and a plentiful Harvest of the good Fruits of the Earth : this Reward he earnestly prays they may have :-He that ministereth Seed to the Sower, both minister Bread for your Food, and multiply your Seed fown. The Apostle wrote to Christians, and doubtless he made use of none but Christian Motives ; and upon his Authority we may venture to

X 3


promise to the charitable Christian a suitable Reward, as well in the Blessings of this Life, as of that which is to come. But it is Time to proceed to the last Thing proposed:

To shew how effectually these Considerations conspire to recommend to us that good Work, for promoting of which, we are this Day met together in the Fear of God.

If to supply the temporal Wants of the Brethren, be a work redounding to the Honour of God; behold these numerous Objects before you, all wearing the Livery of Charity, not as a Badge of Servitude to any earthly Master, but as a Token that they and their Benefactors are equally Servants to God: nor are their present Wants and Necessities the only Concern of this pious Institution ; but a Foundation is laid for the constant Support of them and their Families, by training them up, and disposing of them to such useful Employments as may yield them a comfortable Maintenance for their Lives ; so that this Charity, like the Widow's Crufe, will always recruit itself; and Bread to be earned by these many Hands, in Time to come, shall be placed to

[ocr errors]


« PreviousContinue »