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neither should he eat,” rest on precisely the same authority; and we are not at liberty to encourage a violation of the one, by what we may reckon an obedience to the other.
Secondly, who are the persons to whom we ought to administer charity? All who suffer, or who are liable to suffer, from ignorance, disease, want, or any other cause, and whose sufferings we have it in our power to alleviate or remove. Nor do I think, that we are at liberty, in every case, to reject even common beggars. In this class there may be some who are unable to labour, and who are, at the same time, destitute of friends and of a home. By what rule of christian morals is it allowable to leave such persons to perish? When it is quite clear that only the idle, the healthy, and the vicious solicit our alms in this way, we may be excused from contributing to their support, since the effect of our charity will be, to perpetuate idleness and vice. It must always be our duty to relieve hunger and nakedness, by imparting, as we are able, food and clothing; and to provide lodging, medicine, and medical skill for the sick poor.
Hence, the manifest obligation of contributing liberally to hospitals, infirmaries, and houses of recovery and of refuge. And as religious education, irrespective of its influence on the spiritual interests of man, is a preventive of indigence, as it leads to an honest and persevering industry, we are efficiently exercising charity when we apply a share of our property in its promotion.
We should be led to a selection of the objects of
our beneficence by such circumstances as these; their having become unable to work, or aged, in our service; their connexion with the christian congregation, parish, and neighbourhood to which we belong; their general industry and fidelity in labouring to supply their own necessities, though, from affliction, or want of employment, they are reduced to poverty; and their piety, uprightness, and modesty. Their being of the household of faith gives them the strongest claims to our christian love and liberality. Whatever is done for their comfort, our blessed Lord regards as done to himself. A cup of cold water given to them, because they are his disciples, shall in no wise lose its reward *.
It is no uncommon thing for persons to excuse themselves from giving to the poor, on the ground,
I. That their liberality does not procure them a return of gratitude. Though this were true, which, as it respects the great majority of cases, I do not admit, it only shews that those who urge it as an objection have erroneous views of duty and of charity. We must give, if we give aright, not with a view to gratitude, but from a sense of duty. The characteristic of true charity is, that it is disinterested, proceeding from pure benevolence. “ If ye love them which love
what reward have ye? Do not even the publicans the same? And if ye salute your brethren only, what do ye more than others ? Do not even the publicans so? Be
therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect ;for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the
Matt. X. 42.
good, and sendeth rain on the just, and on the unjust *.” II. They are liable to be imposed on.
The answer to this objection was stated, when I pointed out the duty of exercising charity with judgment and discrimination. Let us not disobey the will of God, impair our own benevolent feelings, and withhold relief from those who really require it, because there is a possibility of our occasionally being deceived.
CHARITY; OR, PROFESSIONAL ASSISTANCE,
The most valuable charity to the poor, because it is often the most appropriate and permanently available, is professional assistance. There are maladies of the mind which no contribution of property can alleviate; and how can benevolence be exercised to greater advantage than in the bestowment of medical skill and medicine, for the purpose of restoring health to the person on whose labour and life the family depend for bread!
I. The ministers of religion, in the benevolent exercise of their sacred profession, have it in their power to bestow the noblest charity. In removing ignorance, in rectifying error, in declaring the disease, in pointing out the remedy, in leading to repose with humble confidence on the sure foundation of trust, and
* Matt. v. 45–48.
in directing the hopes to that immortal happiness which will not deceive our expectations,—they may do the greatest good to their fellow-creatures. The sanctity of their office and character, and the disinterestedness of their conduct, give them great influence over the poor, and make them welcome visitants to their dwelling-places. In communicating spiritual instruction and consolation to the mourner, the bereaved, the destitute, and the dying, they are exercising true charity, and in a way appropriate to the wants of the persons to whom they minister.
When to this they add, the oversight of the schools, especially of the poorer classes in their neighbourhood; and, as in Scotland, take the principal charge of the distribution of the funds destined to the support of the poor, they discharge a work of benevolence of a nature the most important to their fellow-creatures and to their country.
II. Medical men have it also in their power to bestow charity very extensively on the poor, by affording them medicine and the benefit of their professional skill when necessary. To the honour of this profession, its members very generally are, in this way, instruments of incalculable good, by the time and attention which they gratuitously bestow. In the discharge of their duty they have numerous opportunities of witnessing families whose laborious industry had hitherto kept them from indigence, but who, in consequence of the continued illness with which they are visited, are fast falling from that place in society which they have most laudably struggled to maintain. To hasten to their relief, by humanely prescribing to them, and cheering
them with the hope of recovery, is one of the noblest works of charity, and one which medical gentlemen are frequently accustomed to perform.
III. Lawyers, and country gentlemen, by seasonable counsel, may prevent litigation among the poor ; and thus preserve them from probable ruin. This is, in regard to them, a duty of humanity and benevolence. Its discharge, indeed, requires time and patience; but the peace and reconciliation which may be produced by it, and the saving of property, and perhaps of morals, are objects of great importance in the estimation of every man who thinks aright. The interposition of advice and friendly suggestion on the part of those who possess the confidence of the poor, may be the means of saving them from the necessity of directly contributing, at a future period, to supply their wants.
ON THE DUTIES OF PARENTS AND CHILDREN.
Let us now proceed to consider the duties of justice. These are far too numerous to be noticed in detail. Some of those which will fall to be treated under a subsequent head, ought to be slightly noticed heresuch as the relative duties. Parents, for example, are not only stimulated by the parental feelings to provide for their children, but they are required to do so by the demands of justice. They are the natural guardians of their offspring ; and reason and revela