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Being, they are ready to tremble with the holy David, and to fay, If thou, O Lord, shouldst be extreme to mark what is done amifs, who, O Lord, Shall be able to abide it? Thus by abafing themselves, they are exalted in the fight of God: they account themfelves moft vile, and by their gracious Maker are received as pure and clean. They condemn themfelves, and are juftified by their Lord and Savior. They judge themselves unworthy to live on earth; and through God's mercy (the mercy which they ftrive to imitate) they are esteemed prepared for heaven. It is thus God's word doth truly teach us to think correctly of all good works, and that it is through his tender love alone that we are made partakers of the fruits his word hath promifed. Let us then never flacken in our imitation of fuch great and good examples, but chearfully perform fuch acts of mercy as we are commanded. Let us preferve that juft opinion of them that we are taught, and then, like thofe that are gone before us, we fhall experience the rewards that follow all good works, and know by proof of endless happinefs, what profit is derived from exercifing charity, upon a chriftian principle. That we may all find grace to poffefs and cultivate this heavenly virtue, God of his infinite mercy grant, through the merits and mediation of Jefus Chrift. To whom, &c.
The Third Part of the Homily on Charity.
PSALM XXXVii. 25.
I have been young, and now am old: yet have I not feen the righteous forfaken, nor his feed begging bread.
THE HE two firft heads propofed to be explained. to you, in this Homily of Charity, or Alms-giving, have been very fully difcuffed. In the firft, you were fhewn that all acts of mercy are truly acceptable to God; for how can it be otherwife, but that a God of mercy fhould be pleafed with the imitation of his own perfection. The second divifion of the subject, declared to you no lefs exprefsly, how * much it concerns us to practise this virtue; and how very advantageous it is to our best interests to be uniform and earnest, in our difcharge of it. The miftakes that have been made, refpecting the genuine character of charity, were likewife pointed out, and all objections anfwered, that feemed to leflen its effential value, by fetting forth the principle by which alone it can be qualified and made a christian virtue. The third, and last particular, promised to be established, was the removal of all difcouragements to this duty, from worldly and felfifh confiderations,
derations, which might interfere to flacken generous exertions, and deaden the ear to the voice of neceffitude, by fhewing, from Holy Scripture, that the charitable perfon need never be in fear of want himself, in confequence of employing religious liberality.
Many perfons, when they hear how pleasing a merciful difpofition is declared to be in the fight of God; and how profitable, at the fame time, the practice of it is likely to prove to themselves, in that it is capable of conciliating the favor of the Almighty; when, I fay, people confider the great advantages flowing from this attainment, it is but natural that they fhould earnestly defire to be made partakers of fuch benefits; but ftill, in too many, who would gladly partake of the end, there wants a heart and refolution to employ the means of rendering them the objects of God's favor. For numbers, through the depravity of human nature, acting upon the particular complexion or conftitution of their frame and habit of mind, difcover fuch a fordid and greedy turn, and are fo controuted by covetous affections, that they grudge the present penny, for the profpect of a pound in future. They have no idea but of an immediate return for any thing they lay out. They have no faith to truft the gospel declaration, that he who giveth to the poor, lendeth unto the Lord; or that a morfel of bread and cup of drink, to them who want it, is capable of increafing to a heavenly treasure. In short, they cannot relish this method of procuring the divine favor. Characters like these, have ever a favorite faying that upholds them in hard hearted conduct, that charity begins at home; and they are continually afraid, and anxious, left by being often bountiful, however small the gift, they may fo diminish their own stock, that perhaps at laft, they may ftand in need of public charity themselves. Is it not evident, that hereby they declare themfelves void of
faith and gratitude, that they have no dependance on God's goodness, and are, befides, deluded by the greatest folly, and felf-sufficiency? For who can prevent them from misfortune, if God refufes to blefs their induftry? To what are they indebted for the very property they now enjoy, but to God's kind permiffion that it fhould be fo? How unreasonable then is it (fhould such persons do otherwife than well) for them to expect relief or pity, who, to a proverb, have been unmerciful? In fhort, if they would but weigh the encouraging declaration in the text, they would be foon inclined (even on their own principles) to ftrive at a reform of habits, which fupply excuses to continue graceless, and rather to yield to the dictates of an avaritious fpirit, which does the devil's work upon their minds, than by cultivating the rich grace of mercy, to imitate the pattern Chrift hath fet them, and thereby effect the purifying of their nature. There is no diforder of the foul, that more requires prayer to cure it, than this of covetousness. Happy they who apply, and find the benefit of this remedy for fo infectious and ftubborn a disease. It is not like to bodily complaints,, the very want of which, muft end with our mortality; but this evil temper fo corrupts the mind, as to endanger both foul and body with eternal punishment. But, bleffed be God, we have a Friend who is able to remove this inveterate malady alfo. All, therefore, who feel a tendency to fuch a difpofition, let them betake themselves, in time, to the Great Phyfician of fouls, who is willing to relieve all who come unto him for help, without money and without price. Let them diligently feek Him, and earneftly beg that, of his mercy, he would inftruct them how to fubdue fo powerful an enemy to their everlasting peace.
Further, as for fuch who falfely fuppofe that by being merciful to the needy, they will endanger G 4
their own comforts, let them only attend to the admonitions of Holy Writ upon this fubicct. Depend upon it, that whatever is fpared from your own fubftance to promote the service of univerfal charity; whatever is employed in obedience to Chrift's precepts, can never be wanted, or turn to bad account. All who poffefs a particle of chriftian faith, must be affured, that what is delivered by the fpirit of God, and hath the authority of his holy word, may be relied upon as the safet rule to walk by. Solomon informs us, that whofo giveth to the poor (provided it be done freely, and upon true religious principles); fhall never want. Men often please themfelves with the fancy, that by all manner of care and mifery, and continually hoarding up, they fhall grow rich at laft; and what doth fuch a practice profit them, when this fentence goeth forth against them: Thou fool, this night shall thy foul be required of thee, and then whofe fhall all thefe things be? Many may idly think, that God will pardon all the covetous, pinching, and uñfeeling actions of their lives, becaufe when they cannot keep their wretched gain any longer, they are willing to leave it to the poor; but the latter part of the other admonition intimates, that this may not be in their power; THEN whose shall these things be? that is, when cut off fuddenly, and confequently without a change of difpofition. The commandment is, to do good while we live, and confequently, to take fpecial care, if we do leave any thing behind us, that it be well fecured to the appointed and godly purposes we intended. But this is what few covetous-minded perfons have grace to do; the love of the pelf itself engroffes their whole affection; it becomes the chief of their cares, their idol, their God. In short, avarice is the most hateful of all vices in the fight of God, and the moft unprofitable and injurious to man, in that it deprives the poffeffor of doing good, and the world