« 前へ次へ »
these our best earthly friends, too great, and (pardon a selfishness that flows from gratitude) too interesting, to content itself with a share only of my attention. Whence came those genteel and ornamental dresses, in which you, the wealthy; and those decent and comfortable habits, wherein you the lower ranks of men, appear on this occasion? Who covered your tables with that plenty, whereunto you are going to sit down? Who doubled the value of all your lands, and trebled that of their produce? What is it that gives employment and bread to the poor, formerly abandoned to idleness, to want, and rags? What builds the stately houses, lays out the spacious gardens, and maintains the splendid equipages, of the rich ? Is it not the linen trade, which yearly brings into this nation near a million in well-paid money? And who gave you that trade? Was it not God, who gave you a peace of sixty-four years, and the French refugees? They, they are the men who planted this trade among us, which, in the space of half a century, hath turned our wilderness into a garden, and spread industry where sloth, plenty where poverty, and general culture of minds, as well as other things, where stupidity and barbarism, tyrannised before. Ever sacred to the memory of those princes, and of our wise and worthy fathers, to whose judicious charities, laid out as it were with a prophetic forecast, on these religious strangers, we owe it, that we are not at this day, in such a state-as I tremble even to suppose, and am ashamed to describe. That condition therefore, compared with this, which we now enjoy, I leave to the candid reflections of every sensible hearer.
Was it God then, and his faithful servants, the French Protestants, that poured the present blessings on us? The happy fact is too notorious to need a proof. And now I will speak to the innermost heart of every one who hears me; it is God, our bounteous and gracious God, who sends a new crowd of these very men, from under the heel of a double tyranny, stripped, destitute, and helpless, to the doors of those houses which their countrymen have helped to rear, for relief. Methinks I hear him saying, these are my creatures; feed them. These are your
fellow-Christians, and fellow-Protestants; embrace them with all that love which you profess for truth, for liberty, and for my only-begotten Son. For these men, through whose hands I have sent you so much, I now redemand a part ; and charge you by all the ties of humanity, of religion, and of gratitude, both to me, and them, to supply their necessities; and so to supply them, that your kindness to them, may imitate mine to you, and that I may find no occssion to repent of my bounty, as thrown away on a people, so void of charity and piety, that even a confessor in want of bread, cannot find the way to their hearts. Behold! it is more than a mere imagination, that God thus addresses himself to us, and even represents himself as pining for want in these his suffering servants. *I am an hungered; give me meat. I am thirsty; give me drink. I am naked; clothe me. I am a stranger; take me in. I am an not unrighteous to forget your labour of love, which you have shewed towards my name, in that ye have ministered unto the saints, and do minister. He that hath pity upon the poor, lendeth unto me; and that which he hath given, will I pay
him again.' No other call to charity can be so strong as this, which taught the primitive church not to wait for personal solicitations, but to send their alms into distant countries. In those days, “if one member of Christ's body suffered, all the members suffered with it.' So exquisite was the sensation of this blessed body in its youth, that a Christian could feel infinitely farther than he could see, insomuch, that while he was in Macedonia or Achaia he was in pain, till he had relieved the distresses of another in Judea. O lovely and glorious spirit! Is it possible, that we, on whom the light of the same gospel hath shone, can be insensible to the miseries of our fellow-Christians, when the fury of persecution hath driven them from their own country, and laid them naked and helpless at our very feet? If there is any man, whom the nearness of so great calamity is not able to melt, we may conclude, he hath not that heart of flesh, which was promised to the Christian; no, but a heart of stone, a heart, cut out, and shaped for him, by the enemy of all good, from the nether millstone. It is that cold, that unfeeling heart, which perpetually furnishes him with excuses, as often as his concurrence in any charitable design is applied for. Charity, he says, begins at home, and insists, like one who seriously intended to give something to some
body, that we ought first to relieve our own poor, before we think of helping strangers. But in the mean time, this narrow-hearted wretch helps nobody, and only urges his churlish proverb, to parry the present application, for with him charity really neither begins, nor ends at home. So far is it from doing either, that you see no one near him, whose face does not look pale and bloodless, for want of bread. But you cannot blame him, since he hath no charity for himself, which is all he truly means by, home, but half starves his own miserable carcase.
God be praised, if our hearts are as good as our circumstances, we shall find the way to relieve these strangers, without neglecting the wants of our own countrymen. But which of them ought to be first supplied, let common civility, which bids us help the stranger, before ourselves, determine. If, however, civility is not to have its vote on this occasion, necessity surely must be heard. What can the poor unknown, who is destitute, disconsolate, and filled with melancholy apprehensions, do in a country, where he knows not which way to turn him, nor even how to tell his distress, as much through a want of beggarly impudence, as English? Must he not presently perish, if there is no one to take him by the hand, as soon as he comes on shore? But to waive both the foregoing arguments for this preference, we will bring the doubt, if there can be any, to be decided by the widely different merits of the parties in distress. Our poor are, generally speaking, reduced to want by nothing, but their own laziness, extravagance, and dishonesty. Whereas they whom I am pleading for, are reduced solely by their adherence to that holy religion, which we ourselves profess, and wish we could, with the help of every encouragement, as steadily reduce to practice, as they do, under a load of oppression and persecution. What we give to our own poor, is thrown into a vessel without bottom, and turns to no other account, at least in this world, than to protract a life, for which the community cannot reasonably hope to be the better. But if, after supplying the necessities of the refugees, we give them never so small a beginning to trade on, these poor men will soon make us rich, and convince us, that our money was not bestowed, but lent at a prodigious interest, on no less security than that of God himself, who hath blessed,
and no doubt will continue to bless, those men, and all that assist them.
It is not only from a motive of Christian compassion, but on account also of the great advantages which a people, so skilful and industrious, bring with them, wherever they settle, that all the Protestant nations in Europe are just now contending for them, and outbidding one another in the encouragements they offer them. I need not say, that we who have gained so much by them, have more reason, than any other nation, to invite and cherish them. This we all know so well, that we cannot help looking on whatsoever they re'ceive at our hands, rather as the payment of a debt, or a fund wisely appropriated to the public profit, than as a bounty. It is not indeed easy to determine, whether they, or we, have been the benefactors. We relieved their poverty, and they have given us wealth. The sums they had from us, were not carried out of the country, but so employed among us, as to yield us more than the remainder did, which we kept to ourselves.
Besides, have they not greatly increased the number of our inhabitants ? Have they not brought us a treasure of men? And is there any species of wealth equal to that of people ? Of people, industrious in time of peace, and brave in war? No wise nation ever thought any purchase too great for such an accession of strength. But what was the amount, think you, of all we expended on them? I will not pretend to say exactly what it was. This however is most certain, that it bears no proportion to the sums they brought with them. They know little of the matter, who imagine, all the refugees came empty-handed. This is so far from being the case, that I will be bold to say, we have not yet paid their poor the interest of that wealth, which the richer sort among them originally added to the national stock.
But away with these self-interested and worldly considerations, excusable from the pulpit only on a principle of gratitude, in regard to what is past; but unworthy the attention of such an audience, when urged with views of future gain. We have, it is hoped, too much humanity, too much piety, and too much greatness of soul, to suffer so many worthy men to perish, had they brought us, or were they to bring us, nothing but their principles and their
poverty. Let no man despise them for the one who knows, it was voluntarily embraced by them, for the sake of the other. Whosoever does, we may take it for granted, would not sacrifice a shilling for God, and every thing that is sacred. O glorious poverty! which merits more honour in receiving, than the most generous benefactors can possibly acquire by giving.
I should but wrong your goodness, did I press this matter any farther. It was a high opinion of your charity, that imboldened me thus to remind it of such objects as it seeks for and wishes to relieve. An undistinguished charity is but an amiable weakness, which by lavishing, without regard to merit or necessity, reduces itself to an incapacity of helping the good man in réal distress. The poor strangers, who at present offer themselves to your consideration, do not desire to touch your hearts, but through your understandings, so that you can never have reason, as in many other cases, to regret the utmost compassion you shall be pleased to shew them. They are not distressed by their vices but for their virtues. They are willing to earn a support for themselves. Till they can be put in a way to do this, stretch out a friendly hand to sustain them.
So may that hand that poured so many good things on you, be ever ready to sustain you in all your trials, to deliver you in the time of trouble, to make all your bed in your sickness, and to ensure your present peace and plenty to you, and your latest posterity. Now to the ever holy and glorious source of love, be all love and duty, all praise and honour, from henceforward for ever. Amen.