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they, and none but they, were the houshold of faith; a principle, which I know not whether it hath more of Judaism or of Popery in it.
5thly, After these, the merit of the persons who are the objects of our charity, and all the circumstances belonging to them, are to be valued and considered, and we accordingly to proportion our charity, and the degrees of it. I fall instance in some particulars, by which a prudent man may judge of the rest.
Those who labour in an honest calling, but yet are oppressed with their charge, or disabled, for a time, by fickness, or some other casualty; these, many a time, need as much, and certainly deserve much better, than common beggars; for these are useful members of the common-wealth; and we cannot place our charity better, than upon these, who do what they can to support themselves.
Those likewise who are fallen from a rich and plentiful condition, without any fault or prodigality of their own, merely by the providence of God, or some general calamity; these are more especially objects of our charity, and liberal relief.
And those also who have been charitable, and have liberally relieved others, when they were in condition to do it; or the children, or near relations of those who were eminently charitable and beneficial to mankind, do deserve a particular regard in our charity: Mankind being, as I may fay, bound in justice, and for the honour of God's providence, to make good his promise, to preserve such from extreme necessity.
And, lastly, Those whose visible wants, and great age and infirmities, do plead for more than ordinary pity, and do, at first sight, convince every one that sees them, that they do not beg out of laziness, but of necessity, and because they are not able to do any thing towards their own support and subsistence.
There are innumerable circumstances more, which it would be endless to reckon up; but these which I have mentioned are some of the chief; and, by proportion to these, we may direct ourselves in other cases.
6thly, Those whom we certainly know to be true objects of charity are to be considered by us, before those
who are strangers to us, and whose condition we do not know, yea though, in common charity, we do not disbelieve them; because, in reason and prudence, we are obliged to prefer those who are certainly known to us; since we find, by experience, that there are many cheats and counterfeit beggars, who can tell their story, and carry about testimonials of their own making; and likewise, because we run the hazard of misplacing our charity, when there are objects enough besides, where we are sure we shall place it right: and charity misplaced, as it is in truth and reality no charity in itself, so it is hardly any in us, when we squander it so imprudently, as to pass by a certain and real object, and give it to those of whom we are not certain that they are true objects of charity. In this blind way a man may give all his goods to the poor, as he thinks, and yet do no real charity. And therefore, unless we be able to relieve every one that asks, we must, of necessity, make a difference, and use our best prudence in the choice of the most proper objects ofour charity.
And yet we ought not to observe this rule so strictly, as to shut out all whom we do not know, without exception : because their cafe, if it be true, may sometimes be much more pitiable, and of greater extremity, than the case of many whom we do know; and then it would be uncharitable to reject such, and to harden our hearts so far against them as utterly to disbelieve them; because it is no fault of theirs, that we do not know them; no, their wants may be real notwithstanding that; especially when their extremity seems great, we ought not to stand upon too rigorous a proof and evidence of it, but should accept of a fair probability.
7thly, Those who suffer for the cause of religion, and are stripped of all for the sake of it, ought to have a great precedence in our charity to most other cases. And this of late hath been, and still is the case of many among us, who have fled hither for refuge, from the tyranny and cruelty of their persecutors, and have been, by a most extraordinary charity of the whole nation, more than once extended to them, most seasonably relieved; but especially by the bounty of this great city, whose liberality, upon these occasions, hath been beyond
all example, and even all belief. And I have often thought, that this very thing, next to the mercy and. goodness of almighty God, hath had a particular influence upon our preservation and deliverance from those terrible calamities which were just ready to break in upon us; and, were we not so itupidly insensible of this great deliverance which God hath wrought for us, and lo horribly unthankful to him, and to the happy inftruments of it, might still be a means to continue the favour of God to us. And what cause have we to thank God, who haih allotted to us this more blessed, and more merciful part, to give, and not to receive; to be free from perfecution ourselves, that we mnight give refuge and relief to tlose that are persecuted!
III. We inuít consider the measure of our charity, wis nccepòv "éxouse, which our translation renders, as we have opportunity; others, as we have ability: fo that this expression may reser either to the occasions of our charity, or to the season of it, or to the proportion and degree of it.
1. It may refer to the occasions of our charity, as we have opportunity, let us do good, that is, according as the occasions of doing good shall present themselves to us, so often as an opportunity is offered. And this is an argument of a very good and charitable disposition, gladly to lay hold of the occasions of doing good, as it were to meet opportunities when they are coming towards us.
This forwardness of mind in the work of charity, the Apostle commends in the Corinthians, 2 Cor. ix. 2. I know the forwardness of your minds, for which I boast of you to them of Macedonia : and this he requires of all Christians, Tit. iii. 8. that they should be ready to every good work; and, 1 Tim. vi. 18. that we be ready to distribute, willing to communicate. Some are very ready to decline these opportunities, and to get out of the way of them; and when they thrust themselves upon them, and they cannot avoid them, they do what they do grudgingly, and not with a willing mind.
2. It may refer to the season of this duty, as norspor έχομεν, , ci whilst we have time;" as for śws, “ whilst
this life lafts ;" fo Grotius does understand and interpret this phrase: and then the Apostle does hereby VOL. VII.
intimate to them the uncertainty of their lives, espe·cially in those times of persecution. And this con
fideration holds in all times, in some degree, that our lives are short and uncertain; that it is but a little while that we can serve God in this kind, namely, while we are in this world, in this vale of misery and wants.
In the next world there will be no occasion, no opportunity for it; we shall then have nothing to do, but to reap
the reward of the good we have done in this life, and to receive that blessed sentence from the mouth of the great Judge of the world, Come, ye blessed of my Fa ther, inherit the kingdom prepared for you before the foundation of the world: for I was hungry, and ye gave me meat, &c. And, Euge, bone serve? Well done, good and faithful fervant!_thou hast been faithful in a little, and I will make thee ruler over much. God will then declare his bounty and goodness to us, and open those inexhaustible treasures of glory and happiness, which all good men hall partake of, in proportion to the good which . they have done in this world. Or else,
3. Which I take to be the most probable meaning of this phrase, it may refer to the degree of this duty, in proportion to our ability and estate; as we have ability, let us do good unto all men. And this the phrase will bear, as learned men have observed; and it is very reasonable to take it in this sense, at least as part of the meaning of it, either expressed, or implied: for, without this, we cannot exercise charity, though there were never so many occasions for it; and then this precept will be of the same importance with that of the son of Sirach, Ecclef. xxxv. 10. Give unto the Most High according as he hath enriched thee; and with that counsel, Tob. iv. 7. Give alms, én Tão ÚT HP XÓVTOV, according to thy subftance; and, ver. 8. If thou hast abundance, give alms accordingly
. And this may be reasonably expected from us; for where-ever his providence gives a man an estate, it is but in truft for certain uses and purposes, among which charity and alms is the chief: and we must be accountable to him, whether we have disposed it faithfully to the ends for which it was committed to us. It is an easy thing with him, to level mens estates, and to give every man a competency; but he does on pur
pose suffer things to be distributed fo unequally, to try and exercise the virtues of men in several ways; the faith and patience of the poor, the contentedness of those in a middle condition, the charity and bounty of the rich. And, in truth, wealth and riches, that is, an estate above what fufficeth our real occasions and necesfities, is in no other fense a blessing, than as it is an opportunity put into our hands, by the providence of God, of doing more good; and if we do not faithfully einploy it to this end, it is but a temptation and a snare; and the ruft of our silver and our gold will be a witness against us, and we do but heap up treasures together against the last day.
But what proportion our charity ought to bear to our estates, I shall not undertake to determine: the circumstances of men have too much variety in them to admit of any certain rule; some may do well, and others may do better; every man as God hath put into his heart, and according to his belief of the recompence which Jhall be made at the resurrection of the jus. I thall only say, in general, that if there be first a free and willing mind, that will make a man charitable to his power ; for the liberal man will devise liberal things. And we cannot propose a better pattern to ourselves in this kind, than the King and Queen, who are, as they ought to be, (but as it very seldom happens) the most bright and shining examples of this greatest of all graces and virtues, charity and compassion to the poor and persecuted. I proceed to the
IV. Thing considerable in the text, viz. Our unwearied perseverance in this work of doing good; Let us not be weary in well-doing. After we have done fome few acts of charity, yea, though they should be very considerable, we must not sit down, and say we have done enough : there will still be new objects, new occafions, new opportunities for the exercise of our charity, fpringing up and presenting them felves to us. Let us never think that we can do enough in the way of doing good. The best and the happiest beings are most constant and unwearied in this work of doing good. The holy angels of God are continually employed in ministring for the good of those who shall be heirs of sal