Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

it does not suffer the superfluity to loiter idly near itself; but generously disperses it among such as are in need, and so enjoys it in all the poor families of the neighbourhood. A man with such a heart feels double the satisfaction from this enjoyment at rebound, that he does in what is expended immediately on himself; for that which he swallows himself, only gratifies his palate; whereas that wherewith he feeds the poor, touches him through a more refined and exalted sense, transports his heart, and gives a rapture to his very soul. He tastes with the palate of the hungry, and feeds through a thousand appetites. His whole life is a feast of love, in which there is hardly a day, wherein he does not feel, by some sweet experiment, that it is more blessed to give than to receive.'

When we express our amazement at the too general unwillingness in people of fortune to relieve the distresses of the poor, what we wonder at, as unnnatural, is vulgarly acacounted for, by saying self-interest is stronger than charity, and prevails on the wealthy to be kind to themselves, rather than others. But this can never lessen the surprise of the good natured, whose bowels of compassion tell him, self can no way be so sweetly gratified, nor so sensibly consulted, as by acts of charity.

The pleasure however of giving, like men, is not the only self-interest we have in supplying the necessities of the poor; we have another, as Christians, of infinately more importance to us, founded on the power annexed to acts of charity in promoting our eternal welfare.

By the laws of men, the wealth we are possessed of is so intirely our own, that we may dispose of it as we please. But we are nevertheless accountable to God, the giver, for the disbursement of all we have. If the Lord giveth us wealth, or, which is the same thing, 'the power to get wealth,' we cannot rationally suppose, a God of infinite wisdom intended so much for one back, or belly, no larger than those of other men. Neither can we suppose, a being so infinitely good, could have designed to gratify the pride or gluttony of any man, by putting a fortune into his hands, so much too large for all his natural and reasonable demands. • As these things cannot be supposed, it follows, that the bulk of a rich man's possessions was intended for the support of

VOL. II.

21

of his poor.

others, not sufficiently provided for by the ordinary dispensations of Providence.

The rich man, being therefore the trustee, the treasurer, and the almoner, of Providence, must give an account of his charge to the great proprietor. It concerns his conscience, as a steward, to be trusty in the disbursement of his master's treasures. If he wraps the talent, committed to him, in a napkin; or, what is worse, if he trades on it, in riot and vice, for the enemy of God; he may expect to hear of it in the sentence pronounced on him by that judge, whose goodness, as well as justice, makes him an austere master in regard to the management of what was intended for the relief

But, in case he shall be found to have dealt faithfully in his trust, aud dispersed judiciously and liberally abroad, he may expect a greater treasure, reserved to honour his fidelity, and reward his services, in a better world; and may expect to hear his sentence in these blessed words, *Well done, thou good and faithful servant; enter thou into the joy of thy Lord.' Considered in this light, the rich man cannot be honest, without being charitable.

However, although in strictness he is only the trustee of Providence, yet his master, not content to honour him with so great a trust, gives him a kind of property in the wealth committed to his charge, bestowing the spiritual produce of all the good he does with it, on himself, and reckoning whatsoever he lays out on the relief of the poor, as lent out of his own proper possessions. And, lest the rich man should doubt the security of the poor, God himself becomes bail for the repayment, by an express bond. He that hath pity upon the poor, lendeth unto the Lord look whatsoever he layeth out, it shall be paid him again.' What an ungrateful infidel is he, who will not venture all he can spare on such a security! If they, who have more than their own reasonable wants require, will not give to man, let them at least lend to God. The security is so certain, and the interest so very high, that they must be miserably wanting to themselves, if they do not advance all they can

d; and

upon it.

But although it is enough for us to be told in general, that God will repay all our charities; yet as this glorious debtor hath, in his word, given us some intimation of the

manner in which he purposes to clear accounts with us, it is worth our while to hear it; because, perhaps we should be less inclinable to lend, if the coin, and time, in which we are to be paid, were not particularly specified to us.

In the first place, almsgiving brings a blessing on every thing we enjoy, and cleanses it for our use. • Give alms of such things as you have, and behold all things are clean unto you. In the next place, it will procure for us divine assistance and comfort, in time of sickness and trouble. • Blessed is the man that considereth the poor; the Lord will deliver him in the time of trouble. The Lord will strengthen him upon the bed of languishing : thou wilt make all his bed in his sickness.' In the third place, it obtains for us the pardon of our sins. By mercy and truth iniquity is purged. Break off thy sins by righteousness,' saith Daniel to Nebuchadnezzar, "and thy iniquities, by shewing mercy to the poor. In the fourth place, it is imputed to us for righteousness. He, saith David, speaking of the charitable man,' hath dispersed abroad, he hath given to the poor; and his righteousness remaineth for ever. In the fifth place, God promises lustre to the character, health to the body, fatness to the bones, direction to the ways, and success to the prayers of him who is compassionate to the poor.

• Is not this the fast that I have chosen ? Is it not to deal thy bread to the hungry, and that thou bring the poor that are cast out to thy house? When thou seest the naked, that thou cover him; and that thou hide pot thyself from thine own flesh. Then shall thy light break forth as the morning, and thy health shall spring forth speedily. Then shalt thou call, and the Lord shall answer.-If thou draw out thy soul to the hungry, and satisfy the afflicted soul, then shall thy light rise in obscurity ; the Lord shall guide thee continually, and satisfy thy soul in drought, and make fat thy bones; and thou shalt be like a watered garden, and like a spring of water, whose waters fail not. In the last place, an heavenly treasure is promised to the friend of the poor. 'If thou wilt be perfect,' saith Christ sell that thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven. Let not that man, from whom these glorious promises can extort nothing for the poor, dare to say, he believes, or is a Christian.

God presses the duty of almsgiving on us in a yet closer and tenderer manner. He represents man as formed after his own image, and calls us his children. Nay, Christ hath connected us to himself, and made us members of that mystical body of which he is the head, and for which he was content his natural body should be crucified. Let us remember now, that the poor man is God's image, and a limb of Christ; and then ask ourselves, how we can bear to see this representative of God, this part of our Redeemer's body, through which he feels so sensibly, pining for want of those necessaries, which a small retrenchment from our idle expenses, or a few pieces from that hoard of wealth we even mean not to use, could procure. As if the pity of the poor, and the love of God, were the same thing, he says to us, Whoso hath this world's good, and seeth his brother have need, and shutteth up his compassion from him, how dwelleth the love of God in him ? Let us not say, we love our poor brother, if we shew no compassion for him in his distress. You are to be judged by your actions, not your professions. “If a brother or sister be naked, or destitute of daily food; and one of you say unto them, depart in peace, be ye warmed and filled; notwithstanding ye give them not those things that be needful to the body; what doth it profit?' Or what other purpose doth it serve than to shew your contempt of your fellowcreature, and to insult the majesty of his maker? Neither let us say, we love God, since we will do nothing for his sake. It is an impudent lie, to say, we love God, whom we have not if we shew no love, no pity, to our poor

distressed neighbours, whom we see every day, struggling, some with old age, others with numerous families, others with sickness, others in confinement, others under oppression, and all in want of the common necessaries of life. He gives an ill account of his piety, who is hard-hearted and close-handed to the poor; for Christ makes no difference in this respect between himself and the indigent. 'I,' that is, the distressed and miserable, was hungry, and you fed me not; was thirsty, and you gave me no drink; was naked, and you clothed me not; was sick and in prison, and you neither visited nor comforted me.' It will be in vain to say, “we never saw thee in this condition ;' for Christ hath said al

seen,'

ready, and will say it again, when it must be minded, ‘if you do it not to one of these little ones, you do it not to me.' He, whose heart is shut against the poor, may assure himself, the ears of God are shut against all his applications. How can his prayers solicit for prosperity, who confines all he gets to his own use, and surfeits on that surplus of God's bounty, which ought to be imparted to the poor? How can he thank God for his wealth, who renders that wealth a curse to himself, by an unfaithful management of it, in respect to God the proprietor; and a cruel detention of it from the necessitous, for whose relief it was put into his hands? How can he sue for mercy from God, when calamity, when fear, when death, comes upon him, and drives the sting of guilt through his conscience, into his soul, who is deaf to the distressful cries of his own flesh and blood, of God's image, of Christ's member imploring relief from miseries, too affecting for a feeling heart to bear the very sight of in another? Nothing can be more evident, than that a want of pity for the poor, cuts off all religious communication between God and the hard-heated. He is indeed, too unlike the fountain of all goodness and pity, to leave room for any connexion with him; insomuch that, it is to be feared, the very mercy of God, which opens a door of pardon to other sinners, will shut it against this, in whom the best, the most lovely resemblance of man to God, is totally defaced. How can infinite pity shew itself to a heart that hath no pity, that is so opposite to itself? No: even mercy will plead against him, and give him less indulgence than justice itself.

There is one hindrance to the kind of charity I have been speaking of, which I cannot pass over unnoticed on this occasion. Many persons, otherwise well-affected to the poor, find their hearts cooled, and shut against real objects of compassion, by the gross abuse of their goodness, often shewn to idlers and thieves, who put on the appearance of distress. This unhappy turn of mind proceeds, in a great measure, from want of due circumspection ; for, did the rich, who are disposed to almsgiving, take care to distinguish the pretended from the real object of charity, they would hardly ever make a wrong application of their alms. The distresses of their poor neighbours, which might be easily

« AnteriorContinuar »