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to confider how strictly they are bound by God's word, to practise this important duty. All true chriftians fhould earnestly confult their master's will in this matter, that having corrected their former deficiency therein, by a better knowledge of their duty, they may in future use more diligence to obey his precepts; and when by conviction of the neceffity of their obedience, the mind is open to perceive the good effects of it, the well-difpofed will then be encouraged to proceed in acts of mercy and benevolence. And they who, through former ignorance, have neglected, or thought lightly of this virtue, they alfo, when told how effentially it is related to their best interests, may happily be brought to confider it seriously, and apply themfelves to the reformation of an unfeeling temper.

To the end, therefore, that all who hear and perufe this difcourfe, may more clearly understand what is about to be faid upon this chriftian virtue, that they may more eafily remember it, and thereby be better prepared to bring forth the fruit of fuch inftruction, it may be advantageous to make the following divifion of the fubject.

Firft; to fhew, how earneftly we are exhorted, in God's holy word, to be rich in mercy and good works, and how well pleafing all our endeavors of this kind are to our heavenly Father.

Secondly; to prove, how very advantageous the exercife of fuch virtues are to ourselves, and what valuable fruit they are calculated to produce: And,

Thirdly; to confirm, from the authority of scripture, that all who are inclined to be generous and charitable to their diftreffed neighbors, need never be in fear of wanting themselves, in confequence of their chriftian liberality, for that they thereby lay the ftrongest foundation for profperity; they provide the very beft fecurity against all temporal mis



First then, we are affured in feveral parts of God's word, that nothing is more pleafing and acceptable to the great Author of our being, than our imitation of Him, in this choice perfection of his nature, by displaying acts of charity and mercy to the utmost of our power; for however thort our best endeavours must fall, through the imperfection of mortality, yet the fincerity of them will be graciously accepted, and is of high price in the fight of God. Of this there can be no manner of doubt, because we read, that He esteemeth that to be offered to himself which is bestowed on the needy; whofe giveth unto the poor lendeth unto the Lord. And befides, as every genuine caution of this kind can proceed only from the influence of his grace upon the heart, He cannot fail approving the virtue that He infpireth his creatures to perform.. The above affertion is the language of the Holy Spirit, by the mouth of the Wife Man, in Proverbs xix. 17. and that we may pay ftill more regard to this precept, our bleffed Lord affureth us in his gofpel, and confirmeth it with an oath, that the alms we give unto the poor, are in a manner prefented unto Him, and as fuch, fhall be reckoned at the last day; these are his own words, in the character of our judge, when every action shall be punished or rewarded as it deferves, Matthew xxv. Verily I fay unto you, inasmuch as ye have done any good and merciful action unto one of the least of thefe my brethren, (that is, to the poorest and most infignificant, in point of station, of thofe I come to die for, as well as for yourselves) ye have done, it unto me. In relieving their hunger, I confider it as if he had relieved mine; in quenching their thirst, as if ye had given drink to me; in clothing them, as though ye had contributed to my bodily comfort; when ye took them in from perifhing with cold, I valued the action as though ye had lodged myself; when ye relieved them in their fickness, or comVOL. II. F forted

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forted them under confinement, I accepted your mercy as fhewn to me. And why are all these applications of our bounden pity towards each other, mentioned as done unto our Lord? why, to instil into us the principle upon which all virtue should proceed, to render it acceptable to God; in that, all true chriftians are constrained thereto, by the love of Chrift; this must excite, this only can qualify the deed; render it precious in his fight, or profitable to ourselves: and thus in truth it must be, that all may have a general rule, and motive to direct them, or to condemn them for neglecting it. This is neceffary, in order to make the due diftinction between acts of oftentation, or mere conftitutional tenderness of difpofition, and pure charity, fo as to ftamp a religious value on our good works; that the pooreft, as well as the richest ; the hardest, no less than the tender-hearted, may be without excufe. It is the will, the principle, that is all in all; for the poor widow's mite was equally, if not more, acceptable than the richest gifts that were caft into the treafury, and our duty to God is as neceffary to qualify the plenteous mercies of the compaffionate, as to foften the lefs flexible nature of the obdurate. To illuftrate this 'further, by a plain and appofite comparifon, as he who receiveth a prince's ambaffadors, and entertaineth them well, fhews refpet to the prince from whom they came; fo he that receiveth the miferable and needy, and refcueth them from their diftrefs and trouble, doth thereby clearly receive and honor their mafter Chrift; whofe providence appoints thefe objects to prove our love and obedience to his precepts; for He is Lord of all; with Him is no refpect of perfons; and, as He was poor and afflicted himfelf, while he lived upon earth, while working the mystery of our falvation; fo, at his departure hence, he ordained that the poor we should have always with us, to remind us of the condition he bim

Jelf fubmitted to; and to furnish us with a trial during his abfence, how we fhould conduct ourselves in this refpect; and therefore that it becomes pofitively incumbent on us, to do to them even as we fhould be glad, and ready to do to him, if prefent. The like caufe, we may conclude, produced these words of God to Mofes, Deut. xv. 11. For the poor. Shall never ceafe out of the land: therefore I command thee faying, thou shalt open thy hand wide unto thy brother, to thy poor, and to thy needy, in thy land. Doubtless, this was faid to declare that God would supply a continual trial of his people, whether they loved him or not: whether they were willing to be grateful for the fuperior benefits they received, in point of worldly preference, by diftributing of them to those that wanted: whether, in fhort, they would be obedient to his will, in order that they might fecure to themfelves his future care and favor; and give proof of their faith in his promises, by a duti ful compliance with his commands, in this effential article of tender feeling for their brethren.


The fcriptures do further furnish us with the example of the Apoftles, and immediate followers of Chrift, in this refpect; for they could not fail, from the daily converfation of their Mafter, and the nature of his doctrine, to be well affured of his regard and wishes for the poor. And all the holy fathers, who lived before, and fince the coming of our Savior, who doubtlefs partook of the Spirit of grace, and were no lefs acquainted with God's holy will, abound, in all their writings, with continual exhortations, to be merciful as God is merciful; not to forget the poor, but to be bountiful in the relief of their neceffities.

In the ft Epiftle to the Theffalonians, v. 14. St. Paul exhorteth us, To comfort the feeble minded, to Support the weak: and to be patient or charitable toward all men. And in Hebrews xiii. 16. he advifeth them, not to forget to do good, and to communiF 2 cate,

cate, for with fuch facrifices God is well pleafed. The prophet Ifaiah teacheth us wifely, in the lviiith chap. and 7th verfe, To deal our bread to the hungry, and to bring the poor, that are caft out, to our house; when we fee the naked to cover him, and not to hide our felves from our own flesh: that is, whether ftranger or near relation, to make no difference on the pure and fublime principle of charity; for we are all alike; made of the fame materials, and do bear God's image, in proportion as we obey his laws.

Further, we read in the ivth chap. of the book of Tobit, and 16th verfe, what godly council that good man gave to his fon, Give of thy bread to the hungry, and of thy garments to them that are naked, and, according to thine abundance give alms: and let not thine eye be envious, when thou giveft alms. And the advice of the holy Father St. Chryfoftom, is truly valuable upon this fame fubject. Let mercy ever cleave unto us, as a garment; that is, let us be no lefs mindful to adorn ourselves with this rare virtue, than we are to render our perfons pleafing with our outward clothing; and as this is our daily work, fo let us be continually mindful to distribute our alms, and to fhew ourselves merciful in all things. But to what end are all these frequent admonitions, and earneft counfels by the prophets, apoftles, and holy fathers? Surely to afford us profitable examples of becoming conduct; that as they trufted in God themfelves, and therefore truly difcharged their duty to him, fo they judged it a part of their office to declare his good pleasure herein to us, who fhould come after them; and that, from the pureft love, in order that we might be benefitted by their endeavors, both to inform and perfuade us, that our brotherly attention to all who ftand in need of our protection and relief, was a facrifice of moft pleafing favor to the Lord, and would certainly promote our final happinefs. Their leffons are confirmed by this faying of the fon of Sirach, Ecclus. xxxv. 2, 6, 7. He that

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