ページの画像
PDF
ePub

the love of ourselves, for we are to love our neighbor as ourselves : this point enlarged on.

Second consideration; how plainly and evidently these principles lead us to works of charity and mercy.

He that oppresseth the poor, reproacheth his Maker ; but he that honoreth him hath 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 mankind 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. Besides, works of mercy redound to the honor of God, through the praises and thanksgivings of those who feel comfort and relief by them. Unexpected relief given to the indigent naturally creates in them a great sense of Providence; it raises them to a thankful acknowlegement of his regard towards them, and disposes them to a religious dependence on him in the midst of all their distress. That the good and welfare of men are directly consulted by the charitable hand, is too plain to admit of a doubt; hence it is to be lamented that so many impostures make good people distrustful, and thus bring difficulties on the deserving poor. We therefore 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 needful and the idle beggar.

But,' thirdly, by works of mercy and charity we make the best provision for our own present and future happiness. This may be concluded from what has been already said ; for since such works have so plain a tendency to promote the honor of God, we cannot doubt but that he will reward such as take pleasure therein : add to this, the express promises of the gospel made to these works especially, 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 the day of judgment, but

this hinders not but that we may justly hope for part of our reward in this life: this point enlarged on.

Last thing proposed, viz. to show how these considerations conspire to recommend to us that good work which is the object of the present meeting.

If to supply the temporal wants of the brethren be a work redounding to the honor of God, behold these numerous objects, 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 of God: nor are their present wants and necessities the only concern of this pious institution; for a foundation is laid for the constant support of themselves and their families.

But the supplying of the temporal wants of the poor is not the only nor the chief end of these institutions : they have another view, which more directly regards the honor and glory of God; the instructing of youth in the principles of virtue and religion, teaching them to know God betimes, and the obedience due to him. To instruct undisciplined youth in the principles of faith and obedience, what is it but to extend the dominion of God over his creatures, and to lay up in store for ourselves more than a conqueror's crown?

The argument has the same advantage with respect to the good of those who are the immediate objects of this charity: it has this in common with other charities, that it supplies the wants of the poor : it has this above many others, that it is a provision against future wants : but its chief glory is, that it is a provision not only for the present comforts of this life, but also for the happiness of that which is eternal. Lastly, as to the encouragers and supporters of this good work, God is their reward; and they need not doubt but that the promises of the gospel shall be justified to them both in this life and in that which is to come.

Conclusion.

DISCOURSE XIII.

Preached at St. Sepulchre's, May 21, 1719, at the anniver

sary meeting of the children educated in the charity school.

II CORINTHIANS, CHAP. IX.-VERSE 12.

For the administration of this service not only supplieth the want

of the saints, but is abundant also by many thanksgivings unto God.

To take in the full sense of the Apostle on this subject, the 14th verse ought to be read together with the text; and then the whole will run thus : For the administration of this service not only supplieth the want of the saints, but is abundant also by many thanksgivings unto God; and by their prayer for you, which long after you for the exceeding grace of God in you.'

The occasion of these words was in short this: the Apostle had been making collections among the Christians of several countries for the relief of the poor distressed brethren in Judea ; and intending shortly to visit Corinth, he sends before him an exhortation to them to be in readiness to answer the hopes and expectations which themselves had raised in him, that he should receive a large supply at their hands. The chapter of the text is intirely spent in this argument; the Apostle introduces it with excusing his writing on this subject, since he knew how forward they were of their own accord, and how much their zeal had provoked and stirred up others to be liberal; but then from this very circumstance he justifies his application to them, and urges them in a very powerful manner to make good their fair promises, lest haply if they should after all be found unprepared

[ocr errors][ocr errors][merged small]
[ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][merged small]
[merged small][ocr errors]

at his coming, both he and they should be ashamed ' in their
• confident boasting.' I should not have taken notice of this
argument made use of by the Apostle to stir up the Corinthians'
charity, which is not indeed founded on the nature of the good
work itself, or in the promises of the gospel, but for the sake of
observing to you that it is not only lawful but laudable to
make the natural passions and inclinations of men subservient to
the cause of virtue and religion; that it is no way unbecoming
a preacher of the gospel to apply to that sense of shame, to that
love of credit and good report, which God has implanted in
men, to be perpetual incitements to actions virtuous and praise-
worthy. These motives however must be kept in their proper
place; we may recommend, but they cannot make a duty ; the
ground of our obedience lies deeper. The honor of God, the
good of our brethren, the care of our own happiness, are the
springs from whence all duties flow; and though we may con-
sider these as distinct heads, yet they always unite in one
stream, and run together without division : for whilst we do
good to others, we do honor to God, and take the best care of
ourselves; and the honor we have for God will as naturally
show forth itself in the love of the brotherhood, as it will cer-
tainly end in our own happiness.

From these principles the Apostle exhorts the Corinthians to
set forward the charity proposed to them with a liberal hand,
assuring them that it would be abundant to the honor and glory
of God, through many thanksgivings; that.it would supply the
wants of the saints; and that it would return to them in bles.
sings, through the prayers that would be offered to God in their
behalf.

We must not imagine that these principles are peculiar to
works of charity and beneficence, for they really extend to all
parts of our duty : all religion is derived from them; and there
is nothing we are bound to, but as it relates either to the honor
of God, or the good of mankind, or our own welfare.

In treating therefore of this subject, I shall consider,
First, how these principles influence religion in general.

Secondly, how plainly and evidently they lead us to works
of charity and mercy,
Thirdly, I will show you how effectually they do conspire to

SHERL,

[merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][ocr errors][merged small][merged small][merged small]

should he test it with rward I had

this urges propared

VOL. III.

U

recommend to us that good work, for the promoting of which we are this day met together in the presence of God:

First then, let us consider how these principles influence religion in general.

Man is a religious creature in consequence of his being a rational one; our obligations to do right arise from the natural powers with which we are endowed, to distinguish between right and wrong; and when in any case in which we are concerned to act, our reason discovers to us what is right, it at the same time unavoidably fixes our duty and obligation.

It is but too plain that to know and feel the obligations we áre under is one thing, and to comply with them in practice is another; all wilful sinners feel the obligations they are under to do right, and yet are carried by other inducements, which have greater force on their minds, to do wrong; and where men comply with their duty, it is not always, nay, it is perhaps but rarely, for the sake of that natural light of reason only, which creates the duty ; but for other reasons, which affect their own interest and convenience. And this shows the dif. ference between the principles, and the mere motives of religion.

A rational mind ought especially to be influenced by the power

of reason; and if we could separate men from the corrupt passions and affections which hang about them, the same light of reason which shows them their duty would sufficiently move and influence their wills to obedience; in which case the principles and the motives of religion would be exactly the same; and the act of obedience would be sincere and pure, and of the same kind with the light of reason from which it flows. Such obedience as this is in the highest degree rational and religious; and though laws, both human and divine, are guarded with hopes and fears, yet the workings of such hopes and fears cannot add to the religion of such obedience; unless you suppose that there is more religion in being moved by our own passions, than in being conducted by the clear light of our reason and understanding.

When once a man has attained to the knowlege of God, and of the relation he bears to him, and feels the natural obligations from thence arising to love, honor, and obey his Maker ;

« 前へ次へ »