« 前へ次へ »
of them delivered to St. Paul, and by him preserved to us in his farewel-speech to the elders of Ephesus. In which after he had given them fome needful advice, and commended them to the grace of God, he appeals to them concerning the integrity of his conversation among them ; that he was so far from seeking his own advantage, and from coveting any thing that was theirs, that he had not only supported himself, but also relieve ed others by the labour of his own hands; giving them herein a great example of charity, which, it seems, he was wont to enforce upon them by an excellent saying of our Lord, It is more blessed to give, than to receive.
And it is really a particular endearment of this saying to us, that being omitted by the Evangelists, and in danger of being lost and forgotten, it was so happily retrieved by St. Paul, and recorded by St. Luke. The common sayings of ordinary persons perish without regard, and are spilt like water upon the ground, which no-body goes about to gather up; but the little and fhort sayings of wise and excellent men are of great value, like the dust of gold, or the least Sparks of diamonds. And such is this laying of our Lord, which is not only valuable out of respect to its author, but for the sake of that admirable sense which is contained in it.
Some interpreters have needlesly troubled themselves to find these words, or something equivalent to them, in the gospel. That the senfe of them may be inferred from several passages in the gospel, none will deny ; but that they are either exprelly to be found there, or that there is any saying that sounds to the same sense, I think no-body can shew. Besides, that St. Paul cites a particular sentence or saying of our Lord, that was entãs, and in those very words spoken by him."
And there is no reason to imagine, that the gospels are a perfect and exact account of all the sayings and actions of our Lord, though St. Luke calls his gospel, A treatise of all things that Jesus did and Spake ; that is, of the principal actions of his life, and the substance of his discourses, at least so much of them as is needful for us to know : for St. Luke leaves out several things related by the other Evangelists. And St. John exprelly
tells tells us, that Jesus did innumerable things not recorded in the history of his life: and there is no doubt but the disciples of our Lord remembered many particular say. ings of his, not fet down in the gospels, which upon occafion they did relate and communicate to others, as they did this to St. Paul.
The words themselves are the proposition I shall fpeak to, It is a more blessed thing to give, than to receive. This, I know, seems a paradox to most men, who know no happiness but in hoarding up what they have, and in receiving and heaping up more; but as strange as this saying may appear, the sense of it is owned and assented to by those great oracles of reason, the wiseft and moft confiderate Heathens; της αρετής μάλλον το ξυ ποιείν ή το ευ πάσχειν, « It is a more virtuous thing “ to do than to receive good,” says Aristotle ; which according to his opinion was to say, it is a greater happiness, because he placed happiness in the practice and exercise of virtue. To the same purpose is that saying of Plutarch, ευ ποιείν ήδιόν εςιν ή πάσχειν, « There is r more pleasure in doing a kindness, than in taking
one.” And that of Seneca, Malim non recipere beneficia, quam non dare ; “ Of the two, I had rather not o receive benefits, than not bestow them.” And that the Heathen have spoken things to the same sense of this saying of our Saviour's, is so far from being any prejudice to this saying of our Saviour, that it is a great commendation of it, as being an angument that our Saviour hath herein said nothing, but what is very
agreeable to the best notions of our minds, and to the , highest reason and wisdom of mankind. In the handling of this proposition, I shall do these two things,
First, Endeavour to convince men of the truth and reasonableness of it. . Secondly, To persuade men to act suitably to it.
Firfi, To convince men of the truth and reasonable. ness of this principle, that it is more blessed to give, than to receive. And this will fully appear by considering these three things.
I. That it is an argument of a more happy spirit and temper.
II. Of a more happy state and condition. And,
III. That it shall have the happiness of a greater reward.
1. To be governed by this principle, is an argument of a more happy spirit and temper. "To do good, to be useful and beneficial to others, to be of a kind and oblig: ing difpofition, of a tender and compassionate spirit, sensible of the straits and miseries of others, so as to be ready to ease and relieve them, (for to this kind of goodness and charity the Apostle applies this saying of our Saviour, as appears by the context,) this certainly is the happiest spirit and temper in the world, and is an argument of a noble, and generous, and large heart, that is not contracted within itself, and confined to little and narrow designs, and takes care of no-body but itself, envying that others should share with it, and partake of it's happiness; but is free and open, ready to do good, and willing to communicate, and thinks its own happiness increased, by making others happy.
It is the property of narrow and envious spirits to think their own happiness the greater, because they have it alone to themselves; but the noblest and most heavenly dispositions desire that others should share with them in it. Of all beings, God is the farthest removed from envy and ill-will, and the nearer any creature approacheth to him, the farther it is from this hellish disposition. For it is the temper of the devil to grudge liappiness to others; he envied that man should be in paradise, and was restless till he had got him out.
Some perfections are of a niore solitary nature and disposition, and shine brightest when they are attained to but by few, as knowledge and power : but the nature of goodness is to diffuse and communicate itself, and the more it is communicated, the more glorious it is. And therefore knowledge and power may be in a nature most contrary to God's'; the devil hath these perfections in a high degree.
To receive good from others, is no certain argument of virtue or merit, for the unworthy and unthankful often receive benefits : but to be good and do good, is the excellency of virtue, because it is to resemble God in that which is the most amiable and glorious of all his VOL. IX.
of the blessedness of giving, Ser. 213. other perfections. And therefore when Mofes desires to see God's glory, Exod. xxxiii. 19. he tells him, that he will cause all his goodness to pass before him. Without goodness the power and wisdom of God would be terrible, and raise great dread and superstition in the minds of men. "Without goodness, power would be tyranny and oppression, and wisdom would degenerate into craft and mischievous contrivance. So that a being endowed with all power and wisdom, ard yet want ing goodness, would be a dreadful and omnipotent mirchief. We are apt to dread power, and to admire knowledge, and to suspect great wisdom and prudence; but we can heartily love and reverence nothing but true goodness. It is not the infinite power and knowledge of God, considered abstractedly, and in themselves, but these in conjunction with his great goodness, that make him at once the most awful and amiable being in the world, which is the reason why our Saviour, Matth. v. 48. speaks of the mercy, and goodness, and patience of God, as the top and sum of the divine perfections ; Be ye therefore perfect, as your Father which is in heaven is perfect. How is that? in being good to the evil and unthankful, as God is, who makes his fun to rise, and his rain to fall, not only on the just but unjust. And therefore St. Luke renders it, Be ye therefore mer. ciful, as your Father which is in heaven is merciful. To be good and merciful as God is, is to be perfect as he is; because it is to imitate him in that which is his chief perfection.
Gratitude is one of the noblelt virtues, and our goodness to men is gratitude in us to God. It is an acknowledgment of the blessings we have received from God; the best use we can make of them, and the best requital we can make to him for all his benefits. For we can give him nothing again, because he stands in need of nothing. But a truly grateful person, who hath a kindness done to him by one that is out of all capacity and reach of requital, will enquire whether there be any of his family and relations, to whom he may shew a kindness for his fake. Yea, benefits have often been required by thankful persons, upon those who did but resemble their benefactors, though they were no ways related to them. Though we can do nothing to
God, God, yet we may do it to men, who are made after the image of God. We may shew kindness to his relations, and to those of his houshold and family, to his creatures, to his servants, to his friends, and to his children here in the earth.
Besides that our goodness to others like ourselves, is an argument of great consideration and prudence ; it is a sign that we know ourselves, and consider what we are and what we may be ; it shews, that we have a due sense of the indigence and infirmity of human nature, and of the change and vicissitude of human affairs, it is a just sense and acknowledgment of our state, that we are insufficient for our own happinefs, and must depend upon the kindness, and good-will, and friendship of other men; that we all either do or may stand in need of others one time or other : for he who is now in the greatest plenty and abundance of all things, and thinks his mountain so prong, that he cari never be moved, may, by a sudden revolurion of fortune, by a thousand accidents, be thrown down from his height of prosperity, into the depth of misery and necesity.
And as it is an argument of consideration, so of great prudence. He that is good to others, apt to commiserate their fad case, and to relieve them in their straits, takes the wiseft and surelt way that can be, to incline and engage others to be good to him, when it shall fall to his Jot to stand in need of their kindness and pity. Upon this account our Saviour commends the prudence of the unjust steward, who laid in for the kindness of others, against himself should have occasion for it.
And though it should happen otherwise, and that we should have an uninterrupted tenour of prosperity, which few or none have, or that coming to stand in need of others, our kindness should meet with no equal returns, yet it would not be quite loft ; for as Seneca truly says, delectat etiam ferilis beneficii confcientia, though our charity should fall upon itony and barren ground, and we should find no fruit of it from those whom we have obliged, yet there is a pleasure in being. conscious to ourselves, that we have done well, what was worthy and generous, and what became wise and considerate men to do, whatever the event and success.