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giveth alms facrificeth praife; the fweet favor thereof is before the Moft High. The offering of the righteous maketh the altar fat; and the memorial thereof shall never be forgotten. If you need further teftimony, better proof cannot be produced of the worth of all thefe fcriptural declarations, than the lives and actions of these holy patriarchs, of whom we read in facred hiftory. And firft let us confider the character of Abraham, in this point of view. God took fuch delight in this man's ways, on account of his benevolent heart, and hospitable acts, that he condefcended to appear unto him in the form of an angel, and even to vifit him in his tent. His relation Lot was likewife fo well difpofed, in regard to this god-like virtue, which he fhewed by his attention to the meffengers who were fent to him, in the character of ftrangers, by receiving them into his house, left they fhould fuffer from their continuance in the open ftreet, that God fo protected him from the judgment he was about to inflict on the wicked city where he dwelt, that he and his family were faved from its deftruction. The holy Job, the generous Tobit, (lately mentioned) and many others, afford us fingular inftances of God's special love to them, because they took delight in mercy. And as all thefe, by walking in the paths of loving kindnefs towards their unfortunate and afflicted brethren, in this life, did fo fulfil God's law as to obtain his diftinguished favor while on earth, fo do they now enjoy the choice rewards of their heavenly Father, in the bleffed regions of his holy kingdom. And in gracious mercy towards us, who are travelling thither, they are recorded in God's eternal word, as guides and lanthorns to our feet, to direct us in his ways; to provoke us to kind exertions by their example; and to invite us fo to live now, that we may join their bleffed fociety hereafter, and live for ever with them in the participation of heavenly glory. And thus, truly,
truly, did an ancient Father, St. Auguftine, speak, when he affirmed, that charity and benevolence point the ftraiteft road to heaven. The poor man, faith he, is our direction poft upon this journey; for as it is a custom to erect a crofs, where doubtful ways unite, in order to inform the traveller which to take, that he may journey furely to the place whither he is bound; fo hath God's word fet up the needy man, his house or family, as a never failing guide. And he who is defirous to go ftrait forward, muft look for the door of the poor. If we do not deviate from this plain mark, we fhall be certain not to wander greatly out of the nearest path.
Let us now consider the rule before us, by a comparifon with worldly maxims. It is the custom of crafty and defigning men, that if they know another, (how much foever lower than themselves) who is in any favor with the prince or nobleman, by whom they wish to be rewarded or forgiven, they will gladly cultivate an intimacy with him, and thew him any favor; hoping, that when occafion ferves, he may be careful either in procuring kindnefs for them, or delivering them from trouble. Now furely chriftians fhould take fhame, that worldly minded men fhould exhibit fuch skill in managing their temporal concerns, which are fo fhort lived at beft, while they who pretend their treasures are above, do prove fo fcandaloufly negligent for their fecurity; but this makes good our Lord's judgment on the cafe; that the children of this world are wifer in their genenation, than the children of light, that is, that they adapt the proper means to the defired end. Surely great ought to be our enencouragement to practife this virtue, fince our bleffed Mafter teftifieth his compaffion for the poor, in all he faid, or did. He calleth them his little ones: and by the tenderest of all titles, nameth them his brethren. And St. James afferteth, ii. 5.
That God hath chofen the poor to be heirs of his kingdom: but then they must likewife attend to the conclufion of the verse, which kingdom he hath promised to thofe who love him; this must be the defcription of the poor who will be accepted. Merely being poor will prepare no man for the kingdom of God, for the condition is the mark of their love for him. As they are fet up for a trial to the rich, (or objects to attract their mercy) fo are they also tried by this fituation, for their patience, their refignation, their contentment, their bonefty, and their industry; without which virtues the fafer the ftation God's providence hath allotted them, instead of its profiting it will only help to condemn them. Although God per ́mitteth that there fhall always be poor in the land, for the various ends of his own wife government, yet he can never allow them to be idle, or difhoneft, or murmurers, or high-minded, or infolent to their fuperiors. No, for this would be to deftroy the order and beauty of all government; and to confirm this truth, paft all difpute, attend to the former part of the foregoing verfe of St. James's epiftle, Hearken my beloved brethren, bath not God chofen the poor of this world RICH IN FAITH? and (on that account doubtless) heirs of the kingdom of heaven. Here then we shall do well to mark the true defcription of God's poor: they must be rich in faith, fatisfied that what he has appointed is for the beft; that while he pleases to continue them poor, it is the fafeft course for them to become partakers of his future rewards. They must even be rich in faith; that is, place their whole confidence in his wifdom, power, mercy, and truth; and the belief that they shall obtain the promije, if they run the race that is set before them, if they fight valiantly for the prize in that rank of their warfare, beft fuited to their abilities and attainments. This then is a moft useful leffon for the poor, that they may not deceive themselves, and think they will be fure of heaven, on account of the indigence
of their worldly affairs, for they muft undoubtedly be poor in spirit, as well as in circumftances, or it is to be feared they will never reach the end of their calling; but ftill, they are certainly divinely appointed to try the virtues of the rich, and afford them a bleffed opportunity of fecuring their poft; for we are told in fcripture, that the prayer they make for their benefactors fhall be acceptable, and heard of God. And further, that his creatures may want no motives to refcue them from the danger and deceitful power of riches, he warns them, that the complaints of the poor do likewife come up before him, and that these alfo fhall be heard. Thus we are taught by the author of the book of Ecclefiafticus iv. 6. That if the poor curfe thee in the bitterness of his foul, his prayers fhall be heard of him who made him; that is, if through oppreffion, or WRONG, or want of feeling for his miferies, thou render his fituation ftill more deplorable, fo as to difturb his contentment, and caufe him to complain; but this must always be understood of the bumble and deferving poor, and not of the greedy,. the diffatisfied, or the infolent; for even as the prayers of the wicked are faid never to prevail, much lefs will their curfes do any harm, but to themselves alone.
After all, it is doubtlefs the highest wifdom in the rich, to be loving and courteous to the needy, for we know that he that owneth them to be his (for the rich and the poor meet together, the Lord is the maker of them all): He who is their creator and friend, and refufeth not fuch fervants in his houfhold; he is mighty to reward and punish; and we all ftand hourly in need of his preferving hand. Let us never then be backward in fhewing every diftreffed brother all manner of love and kindness in our power; fince in fo doing we fhall fecure his favor who is both able and willing to confer every benefit upon us, that will really advance our greatest
happiness. A ftronger motive furely cannot be offered to you than that which Chrift himself propofes; who, to convince us how very acceptable every exertion of benevolence is in his fight, declareth that he that giveth but a cup of cold water, (the smallest degree of affiftance that any neceffitous brother may require) if it be given in his name, from a true principle of genuine charity; that is, in obedience to his commands; verily, they fhall in no wife lofe their reward; and what that reward is, we clearly collect from the sense of the whole process of his final judgment, even no lefs than a place in his heavenly kingdom; and furely it must be allowed a fafe conclufion, that God moft highly values what he fo largely rewards, fince he who promifes a princely recompence for a flender act of good will, fhews plainly, that he is more delighted with the giver than the gift; and that he more esteems the action that is done in fincerity and love, than the richeft fruit that could be produced from any other motive.. In the conclufion of this fubject, it may not be differviceable to repeat, that it is our love to God alone that ftamps true value on every liberal gift; and whofoever hath been negligent in acts of mercy, or hath performed them on any other than the evangelical principle, fo fully explained in this discourse, let him, as a chriftian, haften to repair his error; let him learn that God abfolutely requireth fuch conduct of him; and as for all who happily cherish the feeds of mercy in their breafts, let them be affured, that their charitable endeavors are accepted, and high
pleafing in God's fight: and for their further comfort and encouragement, that he will requite them amply in the everlasting realms of love and peace; for as the Wife Man juftly speaks, he who by fuccouring the needy trusteth his treasure to the Lord, he only lendeth it for a time in that heavenly bank which will reftore fuch intereft as in comparison will fink all worldly-gain to nothing;