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I. How earnestly God Almighty in holy scripture requireth the performance of this duty, and how very acceptable it is to him.

II. How profitable the exercise of it is to us, and what advantages we may hope to receive from it.

III. And lastly, I shall endeavour to make good, that whosoever is thus liberal, and contributeth heartily towards this charitable good work, shall notwithstanding have sufficient for himself, and need not be afraid of want or scarcity. And,

I. I am to shew you, how earnestly God Almighty in holy scripture doth require the performance of this duty, and how very acceptable it is to him.

The truth of which cannot be doubted of, if we consider how great a stress the scripture constantly lays upon this duty, this work of charity, which comprehends not only the outward acts of it, the relieving the wants of the poor and needy, but the more exalted parts and branches of it in my text, the shewing mercy and pity to the souls of others, which is our spiritual alms, and most excellent benefaction; the truth of which I say, cannot be doubted of, when we reflect upon the express words of holy scripture requiring this duty, and the more than ordinary promises that are made to encourage it: For after several admonitions to piety and virtue, the author to the Hebrews recommends this more especially, and beyond the sacrifices of praise and thanksgiving; But to do good, and to communicate, forget not: for with such sacrifices God is well pleased. St Peter also exhorts us very earnestly, That above all things we



ought to have fervent charity among ourselves \ for that charity shall cover the multitude of fins. It is recorded in Daniel* that this is one sure way of breaking off our fins, purging our iniquity, and a lengthening of our peace and tranquillity here on earth. That without this the love of God cannot dwell in us; we cannot be his children, and true disciples of our blessed Saviour. That this is a sacrifice with which God is well pleased; an odour of a sweet smell, a sacrifice acceptable, well pleasing to God; and that without this nothing will prosit us; but that this will be a sure foundation for ever, a memorial never to be forgotten before God.

And what can we desire more to inflame our zeal, and excite our devotion; what greater encouragement to so truly pious and charitable an undertaking, than to have the good pleasure of God obtained, and the love of Christ secured to us; the favour of that God that inhabiteth eternity; to purchase which nothing should be thought too much? For as God in holy scripture esteems that which is laid out in charitable uses as given to himself; so doth Christ in his holy gospel assure us, that as we have employed our talents here, so will it be reckoned to us hereafter.

The various conditions of men in the world serve to carry on God's great design, and the infinite variety of objects we fee, are but so many instruments in his hand of bringing us to himself; to the effecting of which, every one has the necessary means in his own power, every one hath his part of making himself happy. By various methods in like manner we fee God works upon the different tempers of men, who by moving suitably in their respective stations, do

ac at once both benefis themselves and others? This admirable mixture of human affairs, and proportioning the several estates of men to their several capacities, tempers and inclinations, this causing every man's happiness to depend upon, and to be in some measure directed by each other, shews that we lie under an indispensible obligation to consider not only ourselves, but our neighbour's good; not only the benefit of a few particular persons, but the benefit of all that are round about us; that we are bound to employ our utmost talents chiefly to promote the public good, and to lay out our parts and faculties as may most conduce to the welfare of the whole.

Thus in the beginning and first settlement of the gospel, the multitude of them that believed, were all of one heart we read, and of one foul; neither said any of them that ought of the things which he possessed was his own, but they had all things common; neither was there any that lacked: for as many as were possessors of lands or houses, fold themt and brought the prices of the things that were fold, and laid them down at the apostles feet; and distribution was made unto every man according as he had need, Acts iv. 33, &c. They were so far from seeking their own advantage, or appropriating what they had to themselves, that they not only supported others with what they had, but gave it out of their own power for the good of the community; leaving us an instance of primitive charity, and a pious emulation.

Now though the having all things in common is not so expedient and necessary now a days, as it was at the first preaching of the gospel j yet still we are obliged to christian love and charity: for that never faileth, but will always remain as the distinguishing mark and characteristic of a

christian: christian: For by this Jhall all men know, says our Saviour Christ, that ye are my disciples, if you have love one to another. And this mutual love and friendship amongst christians was not to consist in a bare outward shew of behaviour, or in a few smooth complimental words, as depart in peace, be ye warmed or filled; but in more substantial favours, in real acts of charity and mercy; For whosoever hath this world's good, and feeth his bro* ther have need, and shutteth up his bowels of mercy and compassion from him, how dwelleth the love of God in him? Let us not therefore love in word or in form, but in deed and in truth; always remembering the words of the Lord Jesus, how he said, It was more blessed to give than to receive, Acts xx. 35.

II. I am to shew you how profitable the exercise of it is to us, and what advantages we may hope to receive from it.

Now amongst the several graces and virtues recommended to us in holy scripture, there is none among them all comes better attended with greater promises or more exalted encouragements of rewards and happiness than this of charity, ic is the peculiar and distinguishing grace of a christian, as hath been said, and is preferable either to Faith or Hope. It is called the great commandment of all, the end of the commandments, and the fulfilling of the whole law; charity is the Queen of virtues, the most excellent of all excellencies, and therefore ought the oftenest to be insisted upon, as having the most excellent rewards attending it.

Our Saviour in the Gospel teacheth us, that it will be to no purpose to possess all the riches of the world, and lose our own souls; hereby in

K structing {trusting us how much the soul's welfare is to be preferred before any worldly advantages: and since charity hath such a peculiar influence and power over the soul, as is available to the procuring forgiveness of fins, and a remission of the punishment due unto them; for that is meant in holy scripture by hiding or covering of sins; what great reason have we then to esteem that as a most: valuable treasure and sovereign remedy, that thus carries its own reward along with it? for to be merciful and charitable is the means, we are taught, to keep the soul pure and clean in the sight of God; such confidence may they have, that shew mercy and compassion before God in judgment; that alms, we are told, deliver from death, and shall purge away all fin; that they suffer not to come into darkness; and that as water will quench a flaming sire, so charity will make an atonement for sin.

Now though acts of charity, even in the most exalted sense, cannot give us a rightful claim to the promises of God, and to the pardon of our sins, exclusive of other duties, as the Papists say; yet certain it is, that such liberal promises are no where in the gospel made to any other single duty, as are to charity; and that though our sins mall not be remitted to us for our charity, without repentance, yet acts of charity, when joined to repentance, are of great use to render it effectual for the procuring forgiveness. And though Christ our Saviour is our only proper and 'propitiatory sacrifice, for whose sake alone our sins will be pardoned, yet acts of charity laid out for Christ's fake, and employed to good and proper objects, have, through the merits and satisfaction of our Saviour, a subordinate

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