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Laws, according to that of Our Saviour, If ye love Me keep my Commandments, so in a particular manner and eminent degree God has made the Obedience to this Command a Sign of our Affection and a Test of our Love to Him. And the highest Pretences without This are in his Sight no better than a Lye and abominable Hypocrisy : Whoso hath this World's good, and seeth his Brother have need, and souttetb up bis Compassion from Him, bow dwelletb the Love of God in Him?
How was it possible for our Saviour to make us more sensible of this than by, telling us, that denying suitable Reliefs to che Hungry and Thirsty, the Naked and the Stranger, the Prisoner and the Sick, are all so many Acts of Cruelty and Unmercyfull
In as much as Ye did it not to one of the least of these, Ye did it not unto Me. As on the other hand he accounts every Ad of Mercy and Bounty to the Poor, as beftow'd upon Himself. Verily I say unto you, In as much as Ye have done it unto one of the least of these my Brethren, Ye have done it unto me. What a Saying is this? Can a Man be Profitable to God? as Job asks the Question: and as Elihu : If thou be Righteous, what giveft thou Him? or what do's He Receive at thy Hands? Alas! my Goodness extendeth not to Thee, is the Confeffion of the Man after God's own Heart. Yet see here the infinite
Condefeenfion of our Saviour, he has found out a way how We may Give Somewhat even to Him who is alieady Lord of all, be Mercyfull to the Fountain of all Mercy, and do Good even to Goodness it self, in that he places to his Own Account and graciously accepts as Dohe to Himself whatever we do to his afflicted Members for his sake. And for this very Reason has order'd that fince we Nould not have Him always with us, as he speaks; yèt We should have the Poor always, that whenever We will we may do them Good, Mark 14. 7.
He has left them here his Representatives that we might never want whereupon to Exercise our Love to Hiin, even to the end of the World. And therefore this Saying of our Saviours and that of Moses in the isth of Deuteronomy to which it refers, The Poor ball never cease ollt of the Land, are not to be look'd upon by ús barély ás True Prædictions, but as Gracious Promises. For their Poverty shall make our Riches truly Blessings by affording us Opportunity of Employing them to their nobleft and best use, the comforting our Brethren, and the continual setting forth the Honour and Love which we always Owe, and ought always to be paying to our Lord.
It is from no defect or failing of the inexhaustible stores of God's Goodness, that
there is such a thing or name as Poverty among the Sons of Men. Had it been as agreeable to his Infinite Wisdom as it was easy to his Almighty Power, He might have made the same Abundance and plenty common to all Mankind, and left no room for the foolih Cavils against Providence, which are made by the Atheistical Murmurers at the present unequal Distribution of the good things of this World. Or, since it did please God to make this World conlist as it do's of Rich and Poor, He who thro' the whole Scripture declares such á Regard and profesles so great a Care for the Poor might supply all their Neceflitys with his Own hand. He that fed the Israelites in a barren Wilderness with Angels food and bread dropt from Heaven, and preservd their Gará ments from wearing out or waxing old, He that féd his Prophet by Ravens, and blessid the Poor Widows handfull of Meal and her Cruise of Oyl fo that neither wafted or faild, could still if he saw it good, without calling in the help of the Rich, relieve all the wants of his Creatures Himself. And This perhaps some would be apt to think more suitable to his wisdom, and more conduting to his Glory, because this would be dayly to Exért and make visible an Almighty Power, and besides make them whom he thus fustain'd have a more near regard
to the hand that fed 'em, and have an abfolute and immediate Dependence upon God alone. But bis Thoughts are not as our Thoughts, nor his Ways as our Ways. He as much surpasses us in Wisdom as in Power, and for wise and just Reasons · has rather chose to send Man to Man for a Relief, both as a Tryal, as has been said, of our Faith and Affection to Him, and also on purpose to endear us to Each other, and diffuse continually throʻthe whole Creation that Divine Principle which mov'd Him firft to Create, Love. By which he exalts our Nature to the highest Pitch of Dignity and Happynefs that it is capable of, for questionless 'tis both the greatest Honour and the perfecteft Felicity to be like God, and it is Certain that Nothing makes Man so like God as Charity. Nay it makes a Man be instead of God (what can be said or imagin d higher) to his wanting Brother. And as the Poor are the Representatives of Christ in his Weak and Suffering Humanity, so the Charitable Rich who feed and sustain them Represent Him in his Powerfull and Allsufficient Divinity. And do's not this way of God's providing for his poor Creatures, by thus powerfully inclining Men's Affe&ions to execute the Good that he Wills, ( for all our Charity to Others proceeds meerly from God's Grace to us) redound
as much to his Honour as if he fed them himself immediately from Heaven? Nay do's it not more? Since to turn the Heart of Man is a more illuftrious Proof of a Di. vine Power, than to itrike a River out of a Rock or to spread a Table in the Wilderness. And since hereby he do's good not only to Those he relieves, but much niore to the Relievers themselves, those that he honours so far as to be the Instruments and Conveyers of his Goodness, This brings in both from the Givers and Receivers a never failing Tribute of Adoration and Praise to the Almighty, and as the Apoftle speaks, The Administration of this Service not only Supplys the Want of the Saints, but is abundant also by Many Thanksgivings unto God. Whilft by the Experiment of this Ministration, they glorify God for your profesid Subje&tion to the Gopel of Christ, and for your liberal Distribution unto them, and unto all Men, 2 Cor. 9. 12,13. When Your Light thus shines before Men, when your Beams do not only Enlighten, but your Influence and Heat Cherish and Warm 'em too, when they do not only See but Feel your Good Works, how can they choose but Glorify your Father which is in Heaven?
There is yet behind One great Instance of the Excellence of Charity, and that is it's lingular Virtue in the purging us from Sin,