Images de page
PDF
ePub

a true patriot, and does more good to mankind, than all the heroes and man-deftroyers, who fill the annals of hiftory. The fame of the one is founded upon the numbers that he has flain; the glory of the other arises from the numbers that he preferves and makes happy.

155

Another act of charity, of equal importance, is to supply the wants of the really indigent and neceffitous. If the industrious, with all their efforts, are not able to earn a competent livelihood; if the produce of their labour be not proportionable to the demands of a numerous family; then they are proper objects of your charity. Nor can there be conceived a more pitiable cafe, than that of those whose daily labour, after the utmost they can do, will not procure daily bread for themselves and their houfehold. To confider a parent who has toiled the livelong day in hardship, who yet at night, inftead of finding reft, fhall find a pain more infupportable than all his fatigues abroad; the cravings of a numerous and helpless family, which he cannot fatisfy : this is fufficient to give the most lively touches of compaffion to every heart that is not paft feeling. Nor can there be an exercise of charity better judged, than adminiftering to the wants of thofe who are at the fame time industrious and indigent.

Another class of men that demand our charity, is the aged and feeble, who, after a life of hard labour, after being worn out with the cares and bufinefs of life, are grown unfit for further bufinefs, and who add poverty to the other miseries of old age. be more worthy of us, than thus to contribute to their happiness, who have been once ufeful, and are stil!

What can

willing to be fo; to allow them not to feel the want of those enjoyments, which they are not now able to procure; to be a staff to their declining days; to fmooth the furrows in the faded cheek, and to make the winter of old age wear the afpect of fpring?

Children alfo bereft of their parents, orphans caft upon the care of Providence, are fignal objects of compaffion. To act the part of a father to those upon whofe helplefs years no parent of their own ever smiled; to rear up the plant that was left alone to perish in the ftorm; to fence the tender bloom against the early blafts of vice; to watch and fuperintend its growth, till it flourishes and brings forth fruit this is a noble and beneficial employment, well adapted to a generous mind. What can be more delightful than thus to train up the young to happiness and virtue; to conduct them with a fafe but gentle hand, through the dangerous ftages of infancy and youth; to give them, at an age when their minds are most fufceptible of good impreffions, early notices of religion, and render them ufeful members of fociety, who, if turned adrift, and left defenceless, would, without the extraordinary grace of God, become a burden and a nuifance to the `world?

But there is a clafs of the unfortunate not yet mentioned, who are the greatest objects of all; those who, after having been accustomed to eafe and plenty, are, by fome unavoidable reverse of fortue, by no fault or folly of theirs, condemned to bear, what they are least able to bear, the galling load of poverty; who, after having been perhaps fathers to the fatherlefs, in the day of their profperity, are now be

come the objects of that charity which they were wont fo liberally to difpenfe. These perfons plead the more strongly for our relief, because they are the least able to reveal their misery, and make their wants known. Let thefe therefore in a peculiar manner partake the bounty of the liberal and open hand. Let your goodness descend to them in fecret, and, like the providence of Heaven, conceal the hand which fends them relief, that their blushes may be spared while their wants are supplied.

Concerning one clafs of the indigent, vagrants and common beggars, I have hitherto faid nothing.

About these your own obfervation and experience will enable you to judge. Some of them are real and deferving objects of your compaffion. Of others, the greatest want is the want of industry and virtue.

The second thing propofed, was, To give exhortations to the practice of this duty. This duty is fo agreeable to the common notions of mankind, that every one condemns the mean and fordid spirit of that wretch whom God has bleffed with abundance, and confequently with the power of bleffing others, and who is yet relentless to the cries of the poor and miferable. We look with contempt and abhorrence upon a man who is ever amaffing riches, and never bestowing them; as greedy as the fea, and yet as barren as the shore. Numbers, it is true, think they have done enough in declaiming against the practice of fuch perfons; for upon the great and the opulent they think the whole burden of this duty ought to reft; but for themselves, being fomewhat of a lower clafs, they defire to be excufed. Their circumftances, they say, are but just easy, to answer the de

mands of their family, and therefore they plead inability, and expect to be exempted from the performance of this duty. Before this excufe will be of any avail, it behoves them to confider whether they do not indulge themselves in expenses unsuitable to their rank and condition. Imaginary wants are boundlefs, and charity will never begin, if it be poftponed till these have an end. Every man, whether rich or poor, is concerned in this duty, in proportion to his circumstances and he that has little is as ftrictly bound to give fomething out of that little, as he that hath more is obliged to give more. What advantage was it to the poor widow, that fhe, by giving her one mite into the treasury, could exercile a nobler charity than all the rich had done! The fmalleft gift may be the greatest bounty.

The practice of this duty, therefore, is incumbent upon all. To the performance of it you are drawn by that pity and compaffion which are implanted in the heart. Compaffion is the call of our Father in heaven to us his children, to put us upon relieving our brethren in diftrefs. This is an affection wifely interwoven in our frame by the Author of our nature, that whereas abftracted reafon is too fedentary and remiss a counsellor, we might have a more inftant and vigorous pleader in our own breasts to excite us to acts of charity. As far, indeed, as it is ingrafted in us, it is mere inftinct; but when we cultivate and cherish it, till we love mercy; when we dwell upon every tender fentiment that opens our mind and enlarges our heart, then it becomes a virtue. Whofoever thou art whofe heart is hardened and waxed grofs, put thyself in the room of fome poor unfriend.

ed wretch, befet perhaps with a large family, broken with misfortunes, and pining with poverty, whilft filent grief preys upon his vitals; in fuch a cafe, what wouldst thou think it reasonable thy rich neighbours fhould do? That, like the Priest and the Levite, they fhould look with an eye of indifference, and pafs by on the other fide; or like the good Samaritan, pour balm into thy wounded mind? Be thyfelf the judge! and whatever thou thinkeft reafonable thy neighbours fhould do to thee, go thou and do likewife unto them.

Confider next the pleasure derived from benevolence. Mean and illiberal is the man whofe foul the good of himself can entirely engrofs. True benevolence, extensive as the light of the fun, takes in all mankind. It is not indeed in your power to fupport all the indigent, incurable and aged; it is not in your power to train up in the paths of virtue many friendless and fatherless children: but if, as far as the compass of your power reaches, nothing is deprived of the influence of your bounty, and where your power falls fhort, you are cordially affected to fee good works done by others, thofe charities which you could not do, will be placed to your account. To grafp thus the whole fyftem of reafonable beings, with an overflowing love, is to poffefs the greatest of all earthly enjoyments, is to make approaches to the happiness of higher natures, and anticipate the joy of the world to come. For it is impoffible, that the man who, actuated by a principle of obedience to his Creator, has cherished each generous and liberal movement of the foul, with a head ever ftudious to contrive, a heart ever willing to pro

« PrécédentContinuer »