Imágenes de páginas


the greatest tenderness to human suffering-forted and assisted. But in case any through such tenderness as we look for in vain among hard-heartedness should plead, that many who the heathen who surrounded them, or the most solicit charity are not of the same nation with distinguished nations, whether of ancient or themselves, and so have no claims on their kindmodern times, unless where they have been ness, the Jewish law adds, that though he be blessed with the faith of the gospel in some mea- a stranger, or a sojourner'-a Gentile-and that sure of purity. Nor is this tenderness limited merely passing through the country, and thereto human suffering. It extends to animal suf- fore having of all men the least claims, still he fering the suffering of the inferior creation. is to be relieved. No charity, surely, can be The Jewish law expressly forbids every thing like more comprehensive, and yet it is the charity of cruelty; even a kid is not to be seethed in its the despised Jewish law. It would be well if mother's milk; no wonder then that the poor are all other, and especially all Christian nations, specially care for. But how interesting a pecu- could point to the same benevolence themselves. liarity is this of the law of God, and how worthy Many passages could be quoted from the Old of his character, as the God of goodness and love! Testament scriptures which breathe the same The injunctions to kindness to the poor are the spirit with the great law before us; for instance, more remarkable among the Jews, when it is oppression is strongly and severely forbidden: remembered that every Jewish family (with the He that oppresseth the poor to increase his exception of the tribe of Levi, otherwise provided riches, shall surely come to want. Rob' not for) had a share in the land, which though capa- the poor, neither oppress the afflicted, for the ble of being lost or forfeited for a season, was Lord will plead their cause, and spoil the always restored on the year of jubilee; a singu- soul of those that spoiled them.' Here God is lar institution, which only the belief of super-represented as the Advocate of the oppressed, natural authority could have maintained. Such and as inflicting certain retribution on their an institution rendered poverty the more inexcus- oppressors. In like manner, He is exhibited as able, and might have tended to harden the Jews the friend of the stranger, the widow, and the against the poor. Hence the wisdom, as well as fatherless, all of whom are frequently exposed to the kindness of the injunction: 'And if thy bro- poverty. The Lord doth execute the judgment ther be waxen poor,' &c. The injunction has of the fatherless and widow, and loveth the the force of law. It is not a mere recommen- stranger in giving him food and raiment. A dation. It is a commandment, as binding as any father of the fatherless, and judge of the widow, in the decalogue, and is most comprehensive-no is God in his holy habitation; the Lord preservexception is specified-at the same time the eth the stranger, and relieveth the fatherless and terms in which it is conveyed are very affecting, widow.' What a beautiful, tender, and affecting 'If thy brother be waxen poor, and fallen in character is that of Jehovah, the God of the Jews! decay with thee.' How unlike to the idols of heathenism! yea, how unlike to the hard-heartedness and cruelty of many professed Christians! In gleaning the vintage, and reaping the corn harvest, they were expressly commanded not to make a clean riddance of the corners of the field, but to leave a portion for the poor and the stranger. And in regard to the widow and the fatherless, it was solemnly declared, 'Ye shall not afflict any widow or fatherless child. If thou afflict them in any wise, and they cry at all unto me, I will surely hear their cry, and my wrath shall wax hot, and I will kill you with the sword, and your children shall be fatherless.' The very poverty, and absence of human protectors, which should call forth the deeper sympathy in behalf of the widow and her children, are frequently the very things which provoke the aggression of the cowardly and heartless. To meet this, God represents himself as specially the judge of the widow, and the father of the fatherless, and

Men are unwilling to acknowledge any relationship to the poor-they would account it degradation to have beggars styled their brothers and sisters; but such is the tie which the Jewish law recognises, and it is the recognition of it which softens the heart, and draws forth the exercise of true charity. If men could see in the destitute the relationship of brother and sister, they would be far more tender and liberal than they usually are. The word of God describes the poor as our brethren. We are partakers of the same nature, are susceptible of the same feelings where there is privation, and know not how soon the circumstances of the destitute may be ours, how quickly the most opulent may be involved in all the horrors of want! In such circumstances, surely we must be forward to relieve. The poor are not an inferior and degraded class to be despised. They are brethren, objects of sympathy, to be com

denounces against their oppressors the heaviest of peculiar tenderness to the poor.


From the views to which our attention has been called, let us feel fresh inducements to be kind and tender to the poor. If the law of Moses, under a comparatively dark dispensation, was so clear and strong in its requirements, let not Christians, under their noble dispensation, be cold-hearted and illiberal. There are many other ways of aiding the poor besides the mere gift of alms, which in too many instances is open to abuse. We may do much by advice, by instruction, by finding employment for the poor-by caring for their children, by withdrawing them from evil example, and putting them in a way of being useful. In short, even in the worst cases we may do good. Let us in all act the part of genuine friends.


"Whoso hath this world's goods, and seeth his brother have need, and shutteth up his bowels of compassion from him, how dwelleth the lore of God in him? My little children, let us not love in word, neither in tongue; but in deed, and in truth,' 1 John iii. 17, 18.

In the former exposition we contemplated the kind consideration of God for the poor under the Old Testament dispensation. Comparatively narrow and obscure as that dispensation was, He under it gave to charity the force of a law, and that in terms the most tender. We have now to contemplate the same duty under the more perfected dispensation of the New Testament, and as might have been expected, there is no diminution in the obligation; on the contrary, it is confirmed and enforced by new arguments. True Christianity conduces to the increase of wealth. It stimulates the mind, and makes industry and frugality sacred duties, and saves from many costly vanities and sins. Hence the countries where its influence is most powerful, are most noted for their enterprise, industry, and resources. On the other hand, corrupted Christianity, such as Popery, tends to poverty. It lowers the mind as a whole. Its superstitious observances, such as saints' days, impoverish; and the priesthood have an interest in keeping the people poor in their means, that they may be dependent and enslaved in their judgments. But Christianity is not, on this account, a worshipper of wealth, or a despiser of poverty. It crucifies the inordinate love of wealth, directs money into useful channels, and breathes a spirit

Lord may, indeed, be said to have sanctified poverty by his own example, choosing its state of privation rather than a state of secure, competent wealth. Poor as he was, he manifested the utmost kindness and liberality to the indigent, incessantly labouring for the good of the suffering, however unable to repay him. He commended the poor widow who cast in her mite into the treasury, and called upon the young man, the sincerity of whose professed attachment he wished to ascertain, to sell all, and give to the poor. He enjoins his followers, also, when they would make a feast, to call not those who are able to return the compliment, but the poor, the maimed, the lame, and the blind, assuring them that if they did so they should be blessed, and receive an ample recompense at the resurrec tion of the just.

The spirit of kindness thus shown by the Master in behalf of the poor, he imperatively requires on the part of all his faithful servants. As Chris

tianity naturally leads to the acquisition of wealth;

apart from this outlet there would be no small danger of Christians becoming covetous and to be self-denied, as regards themselves, it requires worldly-minded. Hence while it enjoins men them to be liberal as regards others, especially to the pious poor. It is evidently the pious poor of whom the apostle speaks. He had been setting forth the duty of Christians loving one another, and had declared that this was the test of Christian discipleship: an infallible proof that we had passed from spiritual death to spiritual life. He had also referred, as an illustration of and inducement to Christian love, to the case of Christ, who laid down his life for his people, which he converts into an argument why Christian brethren should be prepared to hazard life itself for each other; and then having pointed to so high a standard of love, he proceeds to rebuke those who would not make even a small sacrifice of money for the relief and comfort of their Christian brethren. Appealing to their consciences, as in the sight of God, the apostle asks, 'But whoso,' whatever professed Christian, 'hath this world's goods, and seeth his brother have need, and shutteth up his bowels of compassion from him;' has ample and satisfactory evidence of his Christian brother's necessity, and yet refuses to relieve him, how dwelleth the love of God in him?' Is it possible that he can know any thing of the love of God in his own soul? No! If he truly loved God, which he professedly does, he would love the Christian who is formed not only after God's natural, but after his moral image. If he loved



the Lord

God he would love all who were connected with, and like to God. This is an invariable 'Blessed is he that considereth the rule in nature, and also an infallible test of perwill deliver him in time of trouble,' Ps. xli. 1. sonal safety, so that it is added, "Hereby we know that we are of the truth,' as if by no other means, BLESSED,' says inspiration, is he that con'and shall assure our hearts before him.' Perhaps sidereth the poor.' By the poor, we are prothere is no class more interesting than that of bably to understand those who have become poor the pious poor. They naturally remind us of in the ordinary course of God's providence; not the Lord Jesus Christ. They are his representa- that we are to despise and disregard even those tives upon earth. What, more fitted to cut who have become poor through their vices and a Christian to the heart, than to think that a criminal abuse of the divine gifts; for we are he has been unkind to one who has been loved informed, as characteristic of the conduct of God, by Christ from eternity, who, it may be, will to which our conduct should be conformed, that be in heaven before him, and who will be with he makes his sun to shine on the evil as well as him for ever engaged in worshipping the same the good, and his rain to descend on the just and compassionate Redeemer? What is more opposed the unjust. At the same time an important disto the spirit of heaven, than a cold, selfish distinction must be drawn between different classes regard of the necessities of others-a shutting of poor. To bestow in the form of money upon up of the bowels of compassion? Could we con- many poor, would be but to encourage them in ceive heaven to be a place of true happiness, or sin, and therefore to arm them in more daring rereally desirable, if filled with hard-hearted, cruel bellion against God, while it would render to the men? Surely not. parties themselves no real benefit. This is at war with the spirit of true religion, which condemns idleness, improvidence, and vice, and calls to industry, prudence, and good conduct. The poor for whom God specially cares, and for whom he would have all professing to be his servants, and who are blessed with the means, to care, are those who have been impoverished without any fault of their own, in consequence of His all-wise and righteous visitation. And what does he declare of those who consider the case of such persons; who, not contented with a single act of instinctive charity, called forth by the sight of suffering, deliberately lay themselves out to relieve and permanently benefit them? He says of such persons that they are blessed; Blessed is he that considereth.' Many regard the poor as a burden and injury to society; they are irritated; they would much rather there were no poor to annoy them with calls of charity-but blessed,' says God, happy 'is he that considereth the poor,' who studies their case, who enters into their wants, in order to relieve them. He shall not merely be happy hereafter, receive an ample recompense in the future world for his present pains and liberality. But he is happy now. He is blessed in the very act of giving, especially where the case is a good one, and he has reason to believe the charity will not be abused to evil. The highest authority-one who knew the truth from ample personal experience—has said, 'It is more blessed to give than to receive.' There is a wise and beautiful connection between doing good to others and receiving personal happiness and enjoyment. All who have ever made trial must know from experience the relation between doing

Let Christians, then, listen to the apostolic counsel, 'My little children, let us not love,' however others may do, let us professed Christians not love in word or in tongue,'-let us not content ourselves with the name and profession of sympathy for others, but let us love in deed and in truth.' Let us show the reality of our professed kindness by suitable action, by corresponding deeds. Good words are easy, they cost us nothing; besides, the feeling and expression of sympathy, without active benevolence, are dangerous. They deceive and harden the soul. And if men are in hazard, in many cases, of being deceived, let them rejoice the more in opportunities of giving to the pious poor; glad to think that these are cases in which they cannot err. It is much for Christ to say, 'Whosoever shall give to drink to one of these little ones a cup of cold water only, in the name of a disciple, shall in no wise lose his reward' that the humblest service to believers, done in faith, and from a Christian motive, shall be acknowledged; but it is a still loftier testimony to the importance of charity, when it is remembered that on the great day of judgment the everlasting awards shall be dispensed according as men have been liberal or penurious in their donations to the Christian poor. 'Come, ye blessed of my Father,' &c., Matt. xxv. 40.

[ocr errors]

honour Him He will honour. There are various ways of honouring Him spoken of in scripture; he is honoured by acts of worship, by prayer and

good and getting good. The selfish and the cove- | perfect assurance that God will repay him for his tous, in withholding, rob themselves of much services. This honours God, and those who greater happiness than all their hoarding can confer. The enjoyment connected with selfish indulgence is not once to be compared with the happiness which results from the exercise of the sympathetic thanksgiving-he is honoured by due observance and benevolent affections. The world is of course incredulous on this point, but the testimonies of the word of God and of Christian experience are clear and assured. And besides the happiness inseparable from the exercise of enlightened liberality, which is indeed 'twice blessed,' there is in addition many direct and precious promises from God of blessing to those who befriend the poor, even in this world.

of the sabbath, and by holiness of life and conversation. He is also not less truly honoured by kindness to his creatures, and especially by deeds of charity and mercy to the poor.

Let all those who make a profession of true religion, repress the risings of selfishness, and cultivate a spirit of enlarged benevolence; especially let them tenderly and unweariedly consider the case of the poor. Let them remember that this is required by the spirit of the eighth commandment, and that if they fail in it, they are guilty of a violation of the decalogue. Let them think of the present and certain happiness of giving to those who need, that God shows a peculiar kindness for the poor as his representatives upon earth, sent to test the benevolence of others, and that those who manifest his amiable spirit shall share in his favour. Let them consider that a spirit of care for the poor is essential to true religion, and is one of its most prominent characteristics, Isa. lviii. 6—11.


It is declared in the passage before us, that the Lord Jehovah will deliver him in the time of trouble that he will preserve and keep him alive-that he shall be blessed upon the earth -that he shall not be delivered into the hands of his enemies—that Jehovah will strengthen him upon the bed of languishing, and will make all his bed in his sickness. These comprehend all temporal good; preservation, deliverance, restoration, and prosperity, and they seem to correspond with the circumstances and wants of the poor. They are often in trouble-stretched on a bed of languishing-involved in sickness-oppressed by enemies. Now, says Jehovah, those who 'consider' in these respects the necessities of the poor and relieve them, shall in the same respects themselves be blessed of God, according to their wants, in return. It is easy for God in the course of his providence, and in a thousand unknown ways, to preserve and rescue and restore those whom he designs to favour. Scripture speaks of the blessing of such as are ready to perish, coming upon those who do them good, and no one can tell how much the liberal and beneficent are indebted for protection against evil and the possession of good to the prayers of the poor in their behalf. Certainly few evils can be conceived more dreadful than to be exposed to the curses and maledictions of the poor. Nor is it wonderful that God thus promises the best temporal blessings to those who care for the poor. Entertaining a special regard for them himself, he befriends those who cherish and manifest the same sentiment. The man who despiseth the poor in effect despises God, under whose providence they have become poor. He quarrels with God's dispensations, or as much as says that he was not able to make them other--and probably withheld the larger tithes. In wise, whereas he who gives to the poor from right motives, lends to the Lord; he recognizes God's hand in their lot, acknowledges it to be wise and righteous and good, and expresses his

'Take heed that ye do not your alms before men, to be seen of them; otherwise ye have no reward of your Father which is in heaven,' Matt. vi. 1. THE influential Jews of our Lord's day were governed in their charity by the external and the visible. Nor was this a solitary instance. Their prayers and fastings were vitiated by the same false principle. When they went to prayer, instead of betaking themselves to retirement, they betook themselves to the synagogue and the corners of the streets and the market places; and when they observed a fast, they put on a sad countenance and disfigured their faces, that they might appear to men to fast.' So of the payment of tithe-they paid the tithes of insignificant garden herbs, such as mint, anise, and cummin, which were of no consequence to the tribe of Levi, while they omitted the weightier matters of the law-judgment, mercy and faith


short, their religion was ostentatious, fitted and intended to attract the attention of men, and was, moreover, stained with hypocrisy. What our Lord condemned in the Pharisees is, un

day, when men would most wish approbation. In addition to these considerations, we have to remember that ostentation is at utter variance with the spirit of true religion. That spirit is generous and benevolent-it looks out of ourselves to others; whereas ostentation is essentially selfish, and looks to the estimation in which self is held as supreme. This, too, is the spirit of hypocrisy. The language of hypocrites is, Come and see our zeal for the Lord!' They

happily, not peculiar to them. The tendency the most endearing relationship, who sees in to the external and hypocritical, and that in secret, shall reward openly, it may be here, connection with almsgiving, has been mani- certainly it shall be hereafter on the great fested in every age of the church, and especially in degenerating periods of her history. The caution contained in the words before us, was addressed not only to the multitudes who heard, but also to Christ's own disciples. They needed to be guarded against such temptations. The praise which men bestow upon the liberal, and the flattery which they often receive from those who wish to turn their benevolence to personal advantage, are exceedingly apt to ensnare and mislead even the well-principled proclaim their own goodness-they trust in and the good, much more the self-righteous. We need scarcely remind you how deeply the corrupt Christian church, in the days of Popery, dealt, and still deals, in the hypocrisies of ostentatious charity. Who can question that the large donations regularly dispensed at the gates of Romish convents and monasteries-donations so abundant, that they have diffused a spirit of mendicancy over continents-if not designed as the purchase money of eternal life, are intended to earn the applause of men, so as to add to the power of the giver? And in countries of purer Christianity, how much ostentation often is there in the donations of charity! what founding of charitable institutions for the sake of a name! what trumpeting of subscriptions! what extravagant laudation of individuals who, it may be, have done no more than their duty!

In opposition to all that savours of ostentation and hypocrisy, our Lord enters a solemn warning. He cautions his followers against doing almsdeeds to be seen of men, forbids them to sound a trumpet in the streets and synagogues to attract public attention to their charity; and, on the contrary, exhorts them to dispense their alms in secret, in a manner so quiet and unostentatious, that the right hand shall not know what the left is doing. And what are the reasons for pursuing such a course? They are many. He tells them that if they do their alms to be seen of men, they shall only have the reward of human praise. And how poor and worthless a recompense! It perishes with the breath of man, and while it lasts, is often associated with suspicions and distrusts. The hypocrite is conscious of his own baseness, and lives in the perpetual dread of exposure. On the other hand, they who give alms from correct motives, without regard to what men think or say because charity is right in itself, and God has enjoined it—shall receive an ample recompense. God, our heavenly Father, Jehovah, under

themselves that they are righteous, and despise others—they justify themselves before menthey receive honour one of another, and seek not the honour which cometh from God only. And what shall be the end of persons breathing such a spirit? Their hope shall perish-the hypocrite shall not come before God-the congregation of hypocrites shall be desolate the Lord of the evil servant shall appoint him his portion with the hypocrites-there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

Let Christians then be on their guard against the temptations to ostentatious charity. These may not be so strong among us as they were among the Jews of our Lord's day, who had not only a much more external and ritual religion than Christianity, but the influence of strong prepossessions in behalf of Pharisaian virtues with which to contend; still the bias is powerful now. Let them consider that though men can only see the outside, God sees the heart-that the secret is as open to him as the public—and that one of the remarkable names of Jehovah is, "Thou, God, seest me.' Let them think, too, how idle and foolish it is to attempt to have a reputation for piety and liberality, when the hypocrisy will so soon be broken up and exposed to their everlasting shame and contempt. It may not be possible literally to forbid the right hand to know, in the dispensations of charity, what the left is doing. There are some sorts of charity which, for the satisfaction of the public, must be more or less proclaimed; but certainly the counsel of the Saviour calls upon Christians to look narrowly to the motives of all their actions, and particularly of their charity; to be jealous of themselves; to be on their guard against all that savours of egotism and display and vanity and ostentation in almsgiving; in short, to be like the Master whom they profess to serve, who loved not the fame of men, but the approbation of the unseen Jehovah.

« AnteriorContinuar »