Images de page

sires. But alms, without mercy, are like prayers without devotion, or religion without humility. 2. Beneficence, or well-doing, is a promptness and nobleness of mind, making us to do offices of courtesy and humanity to all sorts of persons in their need, or out of their need. 3. Liberality is a disposition of mind, opposite to covetousness; and consists in the despite and neglect of money upon just occasions, and relates to our friends, children, kindred, servants, and other relatives. 4. But alms is a relieving the poor and needy. The first and the last only are duties of Christianity. The second and third, are circumstances and adjuncts of these duties for liberality increases the degree of alms, making our gift greater; and beneficence extends it to more persons and orders of men, spreading it wider. The former makes. us sometimes to give more, than we are able; and the latter gives to more, than need by the necessity of beggars, and serves the needs and conveniences of persons, and supplies circumstances: whereas, properly, alms are doles and largesses to the necessitous and calamitous people, supplying the necessities of nature, and giving remedies to their miseries.


Mercy and alms are the body and soul of that charity, which we must pay to our neighbour's need: and it is a precept, which God therefore enjoined to the world, that the great inequality, which he was pleased to suffer in the possessions and accidents of men, might be reduced to some temper and evenness; and the most miserable person might be reconciled to some sense and participation of felicity.

Works of Mercy, or the several kinds of corporal Alms.

The works of mercy are so many, as the affections of mercy have objects, or as the world hath kinds of misery. Men want meat, or drink, or clothes, or a house, or liberty, or attendance, or a grave. In proportion to these, seven works are usually assigned to mercy, and there are seven kinds of corporal alms reckoned. 1. To feed the hungry. 2. To give drink to the thirsty. 3. Or clothes to the naked. 4. To redeem captives. 5. To visit the sick. 6. To entertain strangers. 7. To bury the dead". But many more may

x Matt. xxv. 35.

y Matt. xxvi. 12. 2 Sam. ii. 5.

be added. Such as are, 8. To give physic to sick persons. 9. To bring cold and starved people to warmth and to the fire; for sometimes clothing will not do it; or this may be done, when we cannot do the other. 10. To lead the blind in right ways. 11. To lend money. 12. To forgive debts. 13. To remit forfeitures. 14. To mend highways and bridges. 15. To reduce or guide wandering travellers. 16. To ease their labours, by accommodating their work with apt instruments; or their journey, with beasts of carriage. 17. To deliver the poor from their oppressors. 18. To die for my brother. 19. To pay maidens' dowries, and to procure for them honest and chaste marriages.

[ocr errors]

Works of spiritual Alms and Mercy are,

1. To teach the ignorant. 2. To counsel doubting persons. 3. To admonish sinners diligently, prudently, seasonably, and charitably to which also may be reduced, provoking and encouraging to good works. 4. To comfort the afflicted. 5. To pardon offenders. 6. To suffer and support the weak. 7. To pray for all estates of men, and for relief to all their necessities. To which may be added, 8. To punish or correct refractoriness. 9. To be gentle and charitable, in censuring the actions of others. 10. To establish the scrupulous, wavering, and inconstant spirits. 11. To confirm the strong. 12. Not to give scandal. 13. To quit a man of his fear. 14. To redeem maidens from prostitution and publication of their bodies.

To both these kinds, a third also may be added of a mixed nature, partly corporal, and partly spiritual: such are, 1. Reconciling enemies. 2. Erecting public schools of learning. 3. Maintaining lectures of divinity. 4. Erecting colleges of religion, and retirement from the noises and more frequent temptations of the world. 5. Finding employment for unbusied persons, and putting children to honest trades. For the particulars of mercy or alms cannot be narrower, than

Nobilis hæc esset pietatis rixa duobus;

Quod pro fratre mori vellet uterque prior.-Mart.

a Heb. x. 24.

b 1 Thess. v. 14.

• Puella prosternit se ad pedes Miserere virginitatis meæ, nè prostituas boc corpus sub tam turpi titulo.-Hist. Apol. Tya.

4 Laudi ductum apud vet. πιψά τε καὶ μέγα νεῖκος ἐπισταμένως κατέπαυσε,

men's needs are: and the old method of alms is too narrow to comprise them all; and yet the kinds are too many to be discoursed of particularly: only our blessed Saviour, in the precept of alms, uses the instances of relieving the poor, and forgiveness of injuries; and by proportion to these, the rest, whose duty is plain, simple, easy, and necessary, may be determined. But alms, in general, are to be disposed of, according to the following rules.

Rules for giving Alms.


1. Let no man do alms of that, which is none of his own"; for of that he is to make restitution; that is due to the owners, not to the poor: for every man hath need of his own, and that is first to be provided for: and then you must think of the needs of the poor. He, that gives the poor, what is not his own, makes himself a thief, and the poor to be the receivers. This is not to be understood, as if it were unlawful for a man, that is not able to pay his debts, to give smaller alms to the poor. He may not give such portions, as can in any sense more disable him to do justice; such, which if they were saved, could not advance the other duty, may retire to this, and do here, what they may, since, in the other duty, they cannot do, what they should. But, generally, cheaters and robbers cannot give alms of what they have cheated and robbed; unless they cannot tell the persons, whom they have injured, or the proportions; and, in such cases, they are to give those unknown portions to the poor by way of restitution, for it is no alms: only God is the supreme Lord, to whom those escheats devolve, and the poor are his receivers.

2. Of money unjustly taken, and yet voluntarily parted with, we may, and are bound to, give alms: such as is money given and taken for false witness, bribes, simoniacal contracts; because the receiver hath no right to keep it, nor the giver any right to recall it; it is unjust money, and yet payable to none but the supreme Lord (who is the person injured) and to his delegates, that is, the poor. To which I insert these cautions. 1. If the person, injured by the unjust

S. Greg. vii. I. 110. Epist.

Præbeant misericordiâ, ut conservetur justitia.—St. Aug. Prov. iii. 9.

sentence of a bribed judge, or by false witness, be poor, he is the proper object and bosom, to whom the restitution is to be made. 2. In case of simony, the church, to whom the simony was injurious, is the lap, into which the restitution is to be poured; and if it be poor and out of repair, the alms, or restitution (shall I call it?) are to be paid to it.

3. There is some sort of gain, that hath in it no injustice, properly so called; but it is unlawful and filthy lucre: such as is money, taken for work done unlawfully upon the Lord's day; hire taken for disfiguring one's-self, and for being professed jesters: the wages of such as make unjust bargains; and of harlots: of this money there is some preparation to be made, before it be given in alms. The money is infected with the plague, and must pass through the fire or the water, before it be fit for alms: the person must repent and leave the crime, and then minister to the poor.

4. He, that gives alms, must do it in mercy; that is, out of a true sense of the calamity of his brother, first feeling it in himself, in some proportion, and then endeavouring to ease himself and the other of their common calamity". Against this rule they offend, who give alms out of custom; or to upbraid the poverty of the other; or to make him mercenary and obliged; or with any unhandsome circumstances.

5. He, that gives alms, must do it with a single eye and heart; that is, without designs to get the praise of men: and, if he secures that, he may either give them publickly or privately for Christ intended only to provide against pride and hypocrisy, when he bade alms to be given in secret; it being otherwise one of his commandments, "that our light should shine before men:" this is more excellent; that is more safe.

6. To this also appertains, that he, who hath done a good turn, should so forget it, as not to speak of it: but he, that boasts it, or upbraids it, hath paid himself, and lost the nobleness of the charity.

7. Give alms with a cheerful heart and countenance; "not grudgingly or of necessity, for God loveth a cheerful giver;" and therefore give quickly, when the power is in thy

g Decret. ep. tit. de Simonia.

↳ Donum nudum est, nisi consensu vestiatur. l, iii. C. de pactis. Qui dedit beneficium, taceat; narret, qui accepit.-Senec.

k 2 Cor. ix. 7.


hand, and the need is in thy neighbour, and thy neighbour at the door. He gives twice, that relieves speedily.

8. According to thy ability give to all men, that need': and, in equal needs, give first to good men, rather than to bad men; and if the needs be unequal, do so too; provided that the need of the poorest be not violent or extreme: but, if an evil man be in extreme necessity, he is to be relieved, rather than a good man, who can tarry longer, and may subsist without it. And, if he be a good man, he will desire, it should be so because himself is bound to save the life of his brother, with doing some inconvenience to himself: and no difference of virtue or vice can make the ease of one beggar equal with the life of another.

9. Give no alms to vicious persons, if such alms will support their sin as if they will continue in idleness; "if they will not work, neither let them eat";" or if they will spend it in drunkenness", or wantonness: such persons, when they are reduced to very great want, must be relieved in such proportions, as may not relieve their dying lust, but may refresh their faint or dying bodies.

10. The best objects of charity are poor housekeepers, that labour hard, and are burdened with many children; or gentlemen fallen into sad poverty, especially, if, by innocent misfortune (and if their crimes brought them into it, yet they are to be relieved according to the former rule); persecuted persons, widows and fatherless children, putting them to honest trades or schools of learning. And search into the needs of numerous and meaner families: for there are many persons, that have nothing left them but misery and modesty: and towards such we must add two circumstances of charity, 1. To inquire them out; 2. To convey our relief unto them so, as we do not make them ashamed.

11. Give, looking for nothing again; that is, without consideration of future advantages: give to children, to old men, to the unthankful, and the dying, and to those, you

Luke, vi. 30. Gal, vi. 10.

2 Thess. iii. 10. A cavallo, chi non porta sella, biada non si crivella.

■ De mendico malè meretur, qui ei dat quod edat aut quod bibat:
Nam et illud quod dat perdit, et illi producit vitam ad miseriam.—Trin.

• Beatus qui intelligit super egenum et pauperem. Psal. A donare è tenere ingegno bisogna avere.

« PrécédentContinuer »