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and Restrictions: One in particular is men- SERM. tion'd, and another implied, in the Text ;
IX. that we have it in our Power to dif. charge this Debt, and that it is to be paid only to those to whom it is due. For whenever we are enjoined to do Acts of Charity and Beneficence, if it be not exa press'd, there is always implied an Ability of doing them: It being required of every Man in those Cases, according to what he hath, and not according to what he hath not. And therefore, tho' we are not to withhold Good from them to whom it is due, yet this Precept is so far limited, as to suppose it to be in the Power of our hand to do it. But there are very few who act besides the Precept, by doing more than their Abilities will permit; the greatest Part will not do so much as they are able, but with poor Excuses and Objections, which are always ready at hand, when we have not a Mind to do our Duty, refuse to do that Good, which it is in the Power of their hand to do. But God, who knows the Secrets of all Hearts, knows also our Abilities and wants, and Bb
Serm. how far we are able to affist each other; IX.
and however we may with false Excuses impose upon Men, yet I presume we need not be informed, how little they will avail in the Sight of God. Thofe, who have she Talent in their Hands, are certainly accountable for the Mismanagement of it. If we consider this as we ought, and remember likewise how uncertain all things aré, we should let flip no Opportunity of doing Good, when it is in our Power to do it. This is the Advice of the Wise Man in the Words immediately following the Text, Say not unto thy Neigbbour, 80, and come again, and Tomorrow I will give thee, when thou. baft it by thee. And what can be more reasonable; for (not to mention that whatever it is that hinders a Man from doing Good To-day, when he has it in his Power, will likewise do fo To-morrow,) how does he know, what may happen To-morrow? How is he certain what a Dáy may bring forth? But why To-morrow, any more than To-day? To-morrow we may die, and lose all Opportunity of doing Good: But fuppofing
we thould not, yet as every Morning SERM. brings along with it a new Day, so does it IX. allo a Variety of new Circumstances, and Revolutions. But should a Man live never fo long, perhaps he may never meet with an Opportunity of doing fo much Good any more:
The Seasonableness of the Charity much increases the Value of it; for as a Word spoken, so also a Gift given in Seafon, how good is it? We must be care full how we say it is not in our Power to do Good, when we ourselves are the Occafion of it: For thoʻthis Debt is limited and restrained, and can extend only to those who are able to discharge it, yet they will by no means be excused from doing it,
put it out of their Power, and throw away their Abilities in idle and uselefs Diverfions, when they have so many Oppor. tunities of employing them to relieve the Neceflities of the Poor, who are all the while perishing for want of the common Neceflaries of Life: For indeed this is throwing away what is not our own; it is withholding Good from them who are the proper Owners of it, and to indulge B b 2
Serm. and recreate ourselves at the Expence of IX.
others. And indeed this is a Custom too mych observ'd, and which can never be too much lamented. People squander away that very often in unlawful, or at least, in vain and trifling Pleasures, which, by a well-timed Charity, would refresh the Spirits of the Needy, and save a Soul alive. There is another Sost of People, who if a Brother or a Sister be naked, and destitute of daily Food, will say unto them, Depart in Peace, be ye warmed, or filled, notwithstanding they will not give them those things, which are needful to the Body; and that, because they say, they cannot afford it, when perhaps their Income is much greater, and their Outgoings much less, than any
of their Neighbours. I put it thus, because a Man may have a great Income, and yet may not be able to do so much Good as one who has less, because his Outgoings may be greater, upon the account of a numerous Family and
Reļations, which we are preingaged to proyidę for in the first Place, and other Circumstances which demand greater Expens
ces, according to the Station of Life he is SERM. in; but the greater a Man's Income
IX. and the less his Outgoings, the harder will it be for him to prove, that he cannot afford to do Good with it. But there are a Sort of People in the World, who think they were born for their own private Ends, and that a good or bad Life consists in the Quantity of Money they have scraped together ; without considering they were born for the Goodof Community; and that if God had not been more merciful to them, than they are to their Fellow-creatures, notwithstanding all their Endeavours, they would not have so great a Talent'put into their Hands to do Good withal. However, in People of this Temper one thing is very surprizing, that as they withhold Good from others, so they do generally from themselves too, - and out of a strange fort of Frugality, suffer themselves to want even for fear they should want; which is to run into Danger in order to avoid it, and to anticipate future Miseries, which are only poffible, by making them certain and present; which is such an odd Mix