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efficacy towards procuring God's favour, and in that respect may be said to save a.soul from death, and to cover a multitude offins.
Moreover, the benefit of this excellent virtue is the most lasting of any, being a continual fountain of living water, springing up unto eternal life-, the bread we thus distribute to the poor and needy shall never perish, and the water of this fountain given to a thirsty soul shall in no wise lose its reward. It is the peculiar excellency of this virtue, that it never faileth 5 whereas .the fashion of this world passeth away, and all the glory and splendor of it; even those exalted gifts and graces of the Spirit are not comparable to that of charity for perfection and duration; some of which being long since vanished, such as the gift of healing, miracles and languages; and others are to vanish at the end of the world, such as Faith and Hope, when there will be no further use or occasion for them: For -whether there shall be prophecies, they shall fail; whether there be tongues, they shall cease; whether there be knowledge, it shall vanish away; and though Faith and Hope are said to abide, that is, to continue with us in this world, yet Charity hath still the preeminence, being never to be out-dated, but to abide for ever; and now abideth Faith, Hope, Charity, these three, but the greatest of these is Charity.
III. I come now in the third and last place to shew you, 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.
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And here I would not have you to expect miracles, or think that the Almighty will support us in our wants with some extraordinary help, after we have contributed something for his service, without any the least endeavour of our own; for this would not be true faith, but presumption: but when we humbly rely upon God's good providence, and conscientiously perform the duties of our vocation, using no ill means to better our fortune, and praying for success; there we are sure God will provide, or some way or other interpose for our relief: for though miracles are ceased, yet Providence is not; God's mercy and compassion is still the same, and will not fail to help the righteous; though not in that miraculous manner as heretofore, yet so, that nothing may be expected without his divine favour and blessing.
The readiest way therefore to arm ourselves against the uncertainty of fortune, and to secure the enjoyment of this present world, is this very method lam speaking of: For you know how that Solomon hath declared; that he that distributeth of his substance, Jhall not lack; nay your posterity shall reap the benefit of these good actions: for the righteous is ever merciful, and lendeth; and therefore it is said, that his feed is blessed, Psal. xxxvii. 26.
Again, it is one of the most infallible proofs of our having a true christian faith in this life, and is by Solomon required to be observed in consideration even of those temporal blessings, that we are assured will proceed from it, abstracted from the prospect of the eternal reward. Honour the Lord with thy substance, saith Solomon, and with the first fruits of all thine increase; so shall thy barns
be be filled with plenty, and thy prejses Jhall burst out with new wine. Whatsoever is thus charitably laid out, will turn to more account than if hoarded up, or employed in the most beneficial trade, interest or respondentia. A penny thus prudently bestowed is of infinite more value to us than all the abundant treasures of the East, or riches of the Indies.
Not that this should be our chief inducement: for this would be to make merchandise of our charity, and gain our godliness; "when we do it not out of a principle of obedience to God, and love to our neighbour, but to enrich ourselves; there we cannot expect a reward. But whatsoever at any time is freely bestowed, upon a sound principle and a right object, shall undoubtedly be replenished with fresh supplies, from that inexhaustible fountain of all goodness, from whence the abundance of riches flows. Give, and it Jhall be given unto you, saith our Saviour, good measure, pressed down, and shaken together, and running over, jhall men give into your bosom: for with the same measure that ye mete withal, it shall be measured to you again; the liberal soul is said to be made fat, and he that watereth shall be watered himself. There is a secret hand of Providence always attending, and a hidden conveyance continually recruiting the most profuse liberality. An instance of which we have in the widow of Sarepta, whose barrel of meal wasted not, neither did her cruise of oil fail, in the midst of scarcity, drought and famine.
The charitable person hath good reason from
scripture not only to hope, but to be assured,
that what he giveth with an honest and good
heart, shall by the unperceivable working of
K 3 Providence Providence be taken from the heap, without lessening or diminishing, but rather increasing the store; 'Trust thou in the Lord, and he doing good; dwell in the land, and verily thou shalt be fed. All things shall work together for our good, and instead of sins, it shall be added to build us up. So certain we may be of not losing our moneylaid out after this manner, that God himself will be our surety, and stand bound for the payment; He that hath -pity on the poor lendeth unto the Lord, and that which he hath given will he repay him again. The royal Psalmist makes it his particular observation; / have been young, and now am old; yet saw I never the righteous forsaken, nor his feed begging their bread. And what greater security, what surer word of promise can there be given to man, than the unquestionable foundation of God's holy word? Let not any distrustful thought therefore, or fear of being reduced, ever tempt us to draw back our hands from doing good: for no one did yet by any true act of charity ever came off a loser, even in this world.
And as to the use and excellency of our charity, we need not doubt of the suitableness of the object here before us; the contributing to a School for the teaching poor children, and instructing them in the principles of the Christian religion. There is little good to be expected from such in these remote parts, as are grown old in sin, and habituated to error; their erroneous principles are already so confirmed, and they themselves accustomed to the ways of their forefathers, that they will not easily be persuaded to forsake them. But if we make trial upon the next succeeding generation, and endeavour •to
form their tender minds to piety and virtue, seasoning them in their youth with the principles of Christianity; we cannot fail, through God's assistance, of considerable effects, we cannot fail of seeing our endeavours crowned with success.
Let me therefore in a few words recommend to you this good work from these following considerations. Let us consider, in the first place, that the conversion of the Heathen and the enlargement of Christ's kingdom here on earth, must be matter of great joy to all such as have any sense of religion, or wish well to the Church; that the best return of gratitude we can make for the privilege which we christians enjoy, is to communicate this fame privilege to others, that these Gentiles also here conversant among us, may partake with us of the fame common benefit, and join with us in the worship of the same God and Father of us all; remembring withal, that we ourselves also were originally in the same condition with them; Aliens from the commonwealth of Israel* and strangers to the covenant of promise; living without hope, and without God in the world.
Again, let us consider, that it is our parts and duties, as much as lieth in us, to wipe off that old reproach, the want of common zeal for propagating the faith, which those of the Church of Rome have been often throwing at us; and to" prevent at the same time these poor deluded Heathens being made a prey to the Romish faith, that unsound part of the christian Church, and which so industriously compasseth sea and land to make a proselyte. Let us secure them betimes, by instruction, to our own communion, that hath nothing corrupt or sinful in it; that may boast itself at this day the purest and best reformed Church in the whole world.
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