« PreviousContinue »
SERM. curiously, or speaking zealoully, or looking densurely; XXXI. but in really producing sensible fruits of goodness ; in doTit. iii. 8. ing, as St. Paul fignifies, things good and profitable unto
men, such as those chiefly are, of which we speak. The most gracious wisdom of God hath so modelled our religion, that according to it piety and charity are the same thing ; that we can never express ourselves more dutiful toward him, or better please him, or more truly glorify him, than when we are kind and good to our poor brother. We grossly mistake, if we take giving of alms to be a Jewish or Popish practice, suitable to children and dullards in religion, beneath so refined, so improved, so loftily spiritual gallants as we: no, 'tis a duty most properly and most highly Christian, as none more, a most
goodly fruit of grace, and a most faithful mark thereof : 2 Cor. ix. By the experiment of this ministration, we, as St. Paul saith,
glorify God for our profefled subjection unto the Gospel of Christ, and for our liberal distribution unto our brethren and unto all men : without it our faith is dead and senseless, our high attainments are fond presumptions, our fine notions and delicate fpiritualities are in truth but filly dreams, the issues of a proud and ignorant fancy: he that appears hard-hearted and close-fifted towards his needy brother, let him think or call himself what he pleaseth, he plainly is no Christian, but a blemish, a reproach, and a scandal to that honourable name.
7. To all these confiderations and reasons inducing to, the practice of this kind of charity, I might subjoin examples, and set before you the fairest copies that can be
imagined thereof. We have for it the pattern of God Jam. i. 5. himself, who is infinitely munificent and merciful; from Acts xvii. whom every good and perfect gift defcendeth ; who giveth 2.Cor . viii. life, and breath, and all things unto all ; who giveth libe
rally, and upbraideth not. We have the example of the Son of God, who out of pure charity did freely part with the riches and glories of eternity, voluntarily embracing extreme poverty and want for our fake, that we who
were poor might be enriched, we that were miserable AES 2. 38. might become happy; who went about doing good, spent
all his life in painful dispensation of beneficence, and re- SERM. lieving the needs of men in every kind. We have the XXXI. blessed Patriarchs to follow, who at God's pleasure and call did readily leave their country, their friends, their goods, and all they had. We have the practice of the holy Apostles, who freely let go all to follow their Matt. xix. Lord; who cheerfully sustained all sorts of losses, disgraces, and pains, for promoting the honour of God, and procuring good unto men : we have to move and encourage us hereto the first and best Christians, most full of grace and holy zeal, who so many as were polelors of Aes iv. 34, lands and houses, did sell them, and did impart the price of them to the community, so that there was none poor among them, and that distribution was made to every one as he had need. We have all the saints and eminent fervants of God in all times, who have been high and wonderful in the performance of these duties.
I could tell you of the blessed martyr St. Cyprian, who was liberal by Pontius in wholesale, bestowing all at once a fair estate on God and Greg. Naz. the poor; of the renowned bishop St. Basil, who con
Sulp. Sever. ftantly waited on the fick, and kissed their fores; of the most pious confeffor St. Martin, who having but one coat left, and seeing a poor man that wanted clothes, tore it in two pieces, and gave one to that poor man : and many like instances out of authentic history might be produced, apt to provoke our imitation. I might also, to beget emulation and shame in us, represent exemplary practices of humanity and charity even in Jews, Mahometans, and Pagans, (such as in these cold days might pass for more than ordinary among us ;) but I shall only propound one present and sensible example; that of this noble city, whose public bounty and charity in all kinds (in education of orphans, in curing the diseased both in body and mind, in provision for the poor, in relieving all sorts of necessities and miseries) let me earnestly entreat and exhort us all for God's fake, as we are able, by our private charity to imitate, to encourage, and to assist ; let us do this so much the more willingly and freely, as the fad circumstances of things, by God's judgments brought
SERM. upon us, do plainly require, that the public charity itself XXXI. (lying under so great impediments, discouragements, and
distresses) should be supported, fupplied, and relieved by particular liberality. No words that I can devise will be so apt to affect and move you, as the case itself, if you please to consider it: hear it therefore speaking, and, I pray, with a pious and charitable disposition of mind attend thereto :
A true report, &c. For this excellent pattern of pious bounty and mercy, let us heartily thank Almighty God; let us humbly implore God's bleffing on the future management of it; let us pay due respects to the worthy promoters thereof, and pray for rewards upon them, answerable to their charitable care and induftry employed therein ; let us also according to our ability perform our duty in following and furthering it : for encouragement to which practice, give me leave briefly to reflect upon the latter part of my text; which represents some instances of the felicity proper to a bountiful person, or some rewards peculiar to the exercising the duties of bounty and mercy.
The first is, His righteousness endureth for ever. These words are capable of various senses, or of divers respects; they may import, that the fame and remembrance of his bounty is very durable, or that the effects thereof do lastingly continue, or that eternal rewards are designed thereto; they may refpect the bountiful man himself, or his posterity here; they may simply relate to an endurance in God's regard and care; or they may with that also comprehend a continuance in the good memory and honourable mention of men. Now in truth, according to all these interpretations, the bountiful man's righteousness doth endure for ever, that is, very lastingly, (or so long as the special nature of the case doth bear,) in any sense; or for an absolute perpetuity in some sense: the words in their plenitudę do naturally and without straining involve so many truths; none of which therefore we think fit to exclude, but shall briefly touch them all.
1. As for future reputation and fame, (which that it in part is intended here, that which precedes, The righteous SERM. shall be had in everlasting remembrance, doth argue,) it is XXXI. evident, that it peculiarly attends upon this practice : the bountiful person is especially that just man, whose me- Prov. x. 7. mory is blessed, (is uer' éyxwlw, as the Greek renders it; that is, is prosecuted with commendations and praises.) No fpices can so embalm a man, no monument can so preserve his name and memory, as works of beneficence; no other fame is comparably so precious, or truly glorious, as that which grows from thence: the renown of power and prowess, of wit or learning, of any wisdom or skill, may dwell in the fancies of men with some adıiration : but the remembrance of bounty reigns in their hearts with cordial esteem and affection; there erecting immoveable trophies over death and oblivion, and thence spreading itself through the tongues of men with sincere and fprightly commendations. The bountiful man's very duft is fragrant, and his grave venerable ; his name is never mentioned without respect; his actions have always these best echoes, with innumerable iterations resounding after them: His goods Mall be established, and the congregation Mall declare his alms, Ecclus. xxxii. 11. This was a true friend to mankind; this was a real benefactor to the world; this was a man good in earnest, and pious to good purpose.
2. The effects of his righteousness are likewise very durable : when he is departed hence, and in person is no more seen, he remains visible and sensible in the footsteps and fruits of his goodness; the poor ftill beholds him present in the subsistence of himself, and his family; the fick man feels him in the refreshment, which he yet enjoys by his provision; he supervives in the heart of the afflicted, which still resents the comfort, and rejoices in the ease, which he procured him; all the world derives benefit from him by the edification it receiveth from his example; religion obtaineth profit and ornament, God himself enjoyeth glory and praise from his righteousness.
3. His righteousness also endureth in refpe&t to his por terity. It is an usual plea for tenacity and parsimony,
SERM. that care must be had of posterity, that enough must be · XXXI. provided and laid up for the family: but in truth this is a
very absurd excuse; and doing according thereto, is a very preposterous method of proceeding toward that end; it is really the greatest improvidence in that respect, and the truest neglect that can be of our children: for so doing, together with a seeming estate, we entail a real curse upon them: we divest them of God's protedion and benedi&tion, (the only sure preservatives of an estate;) we leave them heirs of nothing so much as of punishments due to our ingratitude, our infidelity, our impiety and injustice both toward God and man: whereas by liberally beftowing on the poor, we demise unto them God's blessing, which is the best inheritance; we recommend them to God's special care, which is the best tuition; we leave them God's protection and providence, which are a wealth indefe&ible and inexhaustible; we constitute God their guardian, who will niost faithfully manage, and most wisely improve their substance, both that which we leave to them, and that which we gave for them to the poor ; we thereby in good part entitle them to the rewards appropriate to our pious charity, our faith, our gratitude, our self-denial, our justice, to whatever of good is virtually contained in our acts of bounty; to omit the honour and good-will of men, which constantly adhere to the bountiful man's house and family. Prov. xii. 22. A good man leaveth an inheritance to his children's children. It is therefore expressly mentioned in Scripture as a recompence peculiar to this virtue, that security from want and
all happiness do attend the posterity of the bountiful perPf. xxxvii, fon: He is ever merciful and lendeth, and his feed is
bleed, saith David of him generally : and David also par
ticularly observed, that in all the course of his long life Pl. xxxvii. he could find no exception to the rule: I have been young,
and now am old; yet have I not seen the righteous forsaken, nor his seed begging their bread.
4. His righteousness also endureth for ever in the perpetual favour of God, and in the eternal rewards which God will confer upon him, who, out of conscience and re