SERMON XIV.* Of doing Good. Being a Spital Sermon, Preach'd at Christ-Church on Easter-Tuesday,April 14th. 1691.
GALAT. VI.9, 10.
Let us not be weary in well doing, forin due season we shall reap, if we faint not: As we have therefore opportunity, let us do good unto all Men, especially unto them who are of the houshold of faith.
THE Apostle in these Words recommends unto us a great and comprehensive Duty, the doing of good; concerning which the Text offers these five particulars to our Consideration.
- I. The Nature of the Duty it self, which is called well doing, v. 9. and doing good v. 10.
- II. The extent of this Duty, in respect of it's Object, which is all Mankind, Let us do good unto all men, especially unto them, who are of the houshold of faith.
- III. The measure of it, as we have opportunity.
- IV. Our unwearied perseverance in it; let us not be weary in well do∣ing.
- V. The Argument and Encou∣ragement to it, because in due season we shall reap, if we faint not: There∣fore as we have opportunity, let us do good, &c.
I. I will consider the Nature of the Duty it self; of well doing, and doing good. And this I shall explain to you as briefly as I can, by con∣sidering the extent of the Act of Page 403 doing Good, and the Excellency of it. And
1. The extent of the Act. It com∣prehends in it all those ways where∣in we may be beneficial and useful to one another. It reaches not on∣ly to the Bodies of Men, but to their Souls, that Better and more Excellent part of our selves; and is conversant in all those Ways and Kinds, whereby we may serve the temporal, or spiritual Good of our Neighbour, and promote either his present, or his future and eternal Happiness.
To instruct the Ignorant, or re∣duce those that are in Error; to turn the disobedient to the wisdom of the just, and reclaim those that are engaged in any evil Course, by good Counsel, and seasonable Ad∣monition, and by prudent and kind Reproof; to resolve and satisfie the doubting Mind; to confirm the weak; to heal the broken-hearted, and to comfort the melancholy and troubled Spirits. These are the Page 404 noblest Ways of Charity, because they are conversant about the Souls of Men, and tend to procure and promote their eternal Felicity.
And then to feed the hungry, to cloath the naked, release the imprison∣ed; to redeem the Captives, and to vindicate those who are injur'd and oppress'd in their Persons, or Estates, or Reputation; to repair those who are ruin'd in their For∣tunes; and, in a word, to relieve and comfort those who are in any kind of Calamity or Distress.
All these are but the several Branches and Instances of this great Duty here in the Text, of doing good; tho' it hath, in this place, a more particular respect to the Charitable supply of those, who are in Want and Necessity; and therefore with a more particular re∣gard to that, I shall Discourse of it at this time. You see the ex∣tent of the Duty. We will in the
Page 4052. Place, briefly say something of the Ecellency of it, which will appear, if we consider, That it is the imitation of the highest Excel∣lency and Perfection. To do Good, is to be like God, who is Good, and doth good; and it is to be like to him, in that which he esteems his greatest Glory. It is to be like the Son of God, who, when he was pleased to take our Nature upon him, and live here below, and to dwell amongst us, went about doing good. And it is to be like the bles∣sed Angels, the highest Rank and Order of God's Creatures; whose great Employment it is to be mini∣string Spirits, for the good of Men. So that for a Man to be kind, and helpful, and beneficial to others, is to be a good Angel, and a Saviour, and a kind of God too.
It is an Argument of a great, and noble, and generous Mind, to ex∣tend our Thoughts and Cares to the concernments of others, and to em∣ploy our interest, and power, and Page 406 endeavours for their benefit and ad∣vantage: Whereas a low, and mean, and narrow Spirit, is contracted and shrivel'd up within it self, and cares only for its own things, with∣out any regard to the good and happiness of others.
It is the most noble work in the World, because that inclination of Mind, which prompts us to do good, is the very temper and dis∣position of Happiness. Solomon, after all his Experience of worldly great∣ness and pleasure, at last pitched upon this, as the great felicity of humane Life, and the only good Use that is to be made of a pro∣sperous and plentiful Fortune. Ec∣cles. 3.12. I know (says he, speaking of Riches) that there is no good in them, but for a Man to rejoice and do good in his life. And certainly the best way to take joy in an Estate, is to do good with it; and a great¦er and wiser than Solomon has said it, even he who is the Power and Wisdom of God has said it, Page 407 that it is a more blessed thing to give than to receive.
Consider farther, That this is one of the great and substantial parts of Religion, and next to the love and honour, which we pay to Almighty God, the most acceptable Service that we can do to him; it is one Table of the Law, and next the First and great Commandment, of loving the Lord our God, and very like to it. And the second is like un∣to it, (says our Saviour) Thou shalt love thy Neighbour as thy self; like to it, in the excellency of it; and equal to it, in the necessary obligation of it. For this Commandment (says St. John, 1 Epist. Chap. 4. v. 21). we have from him, that he who loveth God, love his Brother also. The First Com∣mandment indeed excels in the dig∣nity of the Object, because it en∣joins the Love of God; but the se∣cond seems to have the advantage in the reality of its Effects: for the Love of God consists in our ac∣knowledgment, and honour of him; but our righteousness and goodness ex∣tends Page 408 not to him; we can do him no real Benefit and Advantage: But our love to Men is really Useful and Beneficial to them; for which rea∣son, God is contented in many ca∣ses, that the external Honour and Worship which he requires of us by his positive Commands, should give way to that Natural Duty of Love and Mercy which we owe to one another. I will have mercy (says God in the Prophet Amos) and not sacrifice.
And to shew how great a value God puts upon this Duty, he hath made it the very Testimony of our love to himself; and for want of it, hath declared that he will reject all our other Professions and Testimo∣nies of love to him, as false and insincere. Who so hath this worlds good, (saith St. John, 1 Epist. 3.17.) and seeth his Brother have need, and shutteth up his bowels of compassion from him, how dwelleth the love of God in him? And again, Chap. 4. ver. 20. If any man say, I love God, and ha∣teth his Brother, he is a lyar; for he Page 409 that loveth not his Brother, whom he hath seen, how can he love God, whom he hath not seen?
You see the Duty here recom∣mended, both in the Extent and in the Excellency of it; let us do good. I proceed to consider, in the
II. Place, the Extent of this Du∣ty, in respect of its Object, which is all Mankind, but more especially Christians, those that are of the same Faith and Religion. Let us do good unto all men, especially unto those that are of the houshold of Faith. So that the Object, about which this Duty is conversant, is very large, and takes in all Mankind; let us do good unto all men. The Jews confi∣ned their Love and Kindness to their own Kindred and Nation; and because they were prohibited familiarity with Idolatrous Nations, and were enjoined to maintain a perpetual Enmity with Amalek, and the seven Nations of Canaan, whom God had cast out before them, and devoted to Ruin; they looked up∣on Page 410 themselves as perfectly dis∣charg'd from all Obligation of Kind∣ness to the rest of Mankind: And yet it is certain, that they were expresly enjoin'd by their Law, to be kind to Strangers, because they themselves had been Strangers in the Land of Egypt. But our Savi∣our hath restored this Law of Love and Charity to its Natural and O∣riginal extent; and hath declared every one that is of the same na∣ture with our selves to be our Neigh∣bour, and our Brother; and that he is to be treated by us accordingly, when ever he stands in need of our kindness and help; and to shew that none are out of the com∣pass of our Charity, he hath ex∣presly commanded us to extend it to those, who of all others can least pretend to it, even our Enemies and Persecutors.
So that if the Question be about the extent of our Charity in gene∣ral, these two things are plainly enjoined by the Christian Religi∣on.
Page 4111. Negatively, That we should not hate or bear ill-will to any man, or do him any harm or mis∣chief. Love worketh no Evil to his Neighbour, (saith the Apostle) Rom. 13.10. And this negative Chari∣ty every Man may exercise towards all Men, without Exception, and that equally; because it does not signifie any positive Act, but only that we abstain from Enmity and Hatred, from Injury and Revenge, which it is in every Man's power, by the Grace of God, and the due care and government of himself, to do.
2. Positively, The Law of Cha∣rity requires, that we should bear an universal good-will to all Men, and wish every Man's happiness, and pray for it, as sincerely as we wish and pray for our own; and if we be sincere in our Wishes, and Prayers for the good of others, we shall be so in our Endeavours to procure and promote it.
Page 412But the great difficulty is, as to the exercise of our Charity, and the real Expressions and Effects of it, in doing good to others; which is the Duty here meant in the Text, and (as I told you before) does more particularly relate to the Relief of those who are in Want and Ne∣cessity. And the reason of the dif∣ficulty is, because no Man can do good to all in this kind, if he would; it not being possible for any Man to come to the knowledge of every man's Necessity and Distress; and if he could, no man's Ability can possibly reach to the supply and the relief of all men's Wants. And in∣deed this limitation the Text gives to this Duty; as we have opportunity (says the Apostle) let us do good unto all men; which either signifies, as occasion is offered, or as we have Ability of doing, or both; as I shall shew afterwards.
So that it being impossible to ex∣ercise this Charity to all Men that stand in need of it, 'tis necessary Page 413 to make a difference, and to use Prudence and Discretion in the Choice of the most fit and proper Objects. We do not know the Wants of all men, and therefore the bounds of our Knowledge do of necessity li∣mit our Charity within a certain compass; and of those whom we do know, we can relieve but a small part, for want of Ability; from whence it follows, that tho' a man were never so Charitably disposed, yet he must of necessity set some Rules to himself, for the management of his Charity to the best advantage. What those Rules are, cannot mi∣nutely and nicely be determined; when all is done, much must be left to every man's prudence and discretion, upon a full view and consideration of the Case before him, and all the Circumstances of it; but yet such ge∣neral Rules may be given, as may serve for the direction of our Practice in most Cases; and for the rest, e∣very man's prudence, as well as it can, must determine the matter. And the Rules which I shall give, shall be these.
Page 414First, Cases of Extremity ought to take the first place, and do for that time challenge precedence of all other Considerations. If a Per∣son be in great and present Di∣stress, and his Necessity so urgent, that if he be not immediately re∣lieved, he must perish; this is so violent a Case, and calls so loud for present help, that there is no resisting of it, whatever the Per∣son be; though a perfect Stranger to us, though most unworthy, though the greatest Enemy we have in the World, yet the great∣ness of his Distress does so strong∣ly plead for him, as to silence all Considerations to the contrary; for after all, he is a man, and is of the same Nature with our selves, and the consideration of Humanity ought, for that time, to prevail over all Objections against the Man, and to prefer him to our Charity, before the nearest Rela∣tion and Friend, who is not in the like Extremity. In other cases, we not only may, but ought to Page 415 relieve our Friends, and those that have deserved well of us in the first place: but if our Enemy be in Extremity, then that Divine Pre∣cept takes place, if thine Enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give him to drink.
Secondly, In the next place, I think, that the Obligation of Na∣ture, and the nearness of Relation, does challenge a Preference; for there is all the Reason in the World, if other things be equal, that we should consider and sup∣ply the necessity of those, who are of our Blood and Kindred, and Members of our Family, before the Necessities of Strangers, and those who have no relation to us. There is a special Duty in∣cumbent upon us, and another Ob∣ligation beside that of Charity, to have a particular Care and Regard for them. In this case not only Christianity, but Nature tyes this Duty upon us, 1 Tim. 5.8. If any man provide not for his own, e∣specially for his Domesticks, for them Page 416 that are of his Family, he hath deny∣ed the Faith, and is worse than an Infidel; that is, he doth not only offend against the Law of Christia∣nity, but against the very Dictates of Nature, which prevail even a∣mongst the Infidels. And our Sa∣viour hath told us, that when our Parents stand in need of relief, it is more acceptable to God, to employ our Estates that way, than to devote them to him, and his immediate service; and that it is a kind of Sa∣crilege to Consecrate that to God, whereby our Parents may be pro∣fited, and provided for in their Ne∣cessity.
Thirdly, The Obligation of Kindness and Benefits, lays the next claim to our Charity. If they fall into Want, who have obliged us by their former Kindness and Charity, both Justice and Charity do chal∣lenge from us a particular conside∣ration of their Case; and proportio∣nably, if we our selves have been obliged to their Family, or to any that are nearly related to them.
Page 417Fourthly, Those who are of the houshold of faith, and of the same Religion; and Members of the same Mystical Bo∣dy, and do partake of the same Holy Mysteries, the Body and Blood of our Blessed Saviour, the strict∣est Bond of Love and Charity, These fall under a very particular Consideration in the exercise of our Charity. And of this the Apostle puts us in Mind, in the last words of my Text; let us do good unto all Men, especially unto those that are of the houshold of faith. God hath a special Love and Regard for such; and those whom God Loves, ought to be very dear to us.
And this, perhaps, was a consi∣deration of the first rank in those times, when Christians liv'd among Heathens, and were exposed to con∣tinual Wants and Sufferings; but it signifies much less now, that Christianity is the general Profession of a Nation, and is too often made use of to very uncharitable pur∣poses; Page 418 to confine Men's Bounty and Benefits to their own Sect and Party, as if they, and none but they, were the houshold of Faith; A Principle, which I know not whether it hath more of Judaisme or of Popery in it.
Fifthly, After these, the Merit of the Persons, who are the Objects of our Charity, and all the Cir∣cumstances belonging to them, are to be valu'd and consider'd, and we are accordingly to proportion our Charity, and the degrees of it. I shall instance in some parti∣culars, by which a prudent Man may judge of the rest.
Those who labour in an honest calling, but yet are opprest with their charge, or disabled for a time by Sickness, or some other casual∣ty; these many a time need as much, and certainly deserve much better than common Beggars; for these are useful members of the Common-Wealth; and we cannot Page 419 place our Charity better, than up∣on those, who do what they can to support themselves.
Those likewise who are fallen from a rich and plentiful Condi∣dion, without any fault or Prodi∣gality of their own, meerly by the Providence of God, or some gene∣ral Calamity; these are more es∣pecially Objects of our Charity, and liberal Relief.
And those also, who have been Charitable, and have liberally re∣lieved others, when they were in Condition to do it; or the Child∣ren, or near Relations of those, who were eminently Charitable and beneficial to Mankind, do deserve a particular regard in our Chari∣ty. Mankind being (as I may say) bound in Justice, and for the honour of God's Providence, to make good his Promise, to preserve such from extream necessity.
And lastly, those, whose visible Wants, and great Age and Infir∣mities Page 420 do plead for more than or∣dinary Pity, and do, at first sight, convince every one that sees them, that they do not Beg out of Lazi∣ness, but of necessity, and because they are not able to do any thing towards their own support and sub∣sistence.
There are innumerable Circum∣stances more, which it would be endless to reckon up; but these which I have mentioned are some of the chief, and by proportion to these, we may direct our selves in other Cases.
Sixthly, Those whom we certain∣ly know to be true Objects of Cha∣rity, are to be consider'd by us, be∣fore those who are strangers to us, and whose Condition we do not know, yea, tho' in common Cha∣rity we do not dis-believe them; be∣cause in Reason and Prudence we are obliged to prefer those, who are certainly known to us, since we find by experience, that there are many Cheats and counterfit Beggars, who can tell a fair Story, and carry Page 421 about Testimonials of their own making; and likewise because we run the Hazard of misplacing our Charity, when there are Objects e∣nough besides, where we are sure we shall place it right; and Charity misplaced, as it is in Truth and Rea∣lity no Charity in it's self, so it is hardly any in us, when we squan∣der it so imprudently as to pass by a certain and real Object, and give it to those of whom we are not cer∣tain, that they are true Objects of Charity. In this blind way a Man may give all his Goods to the Poor, as he thinks, and yet do no real Cha∣rity. And therefore, unless we be a∣ble to relieve every one that asks, we must of necessity make a diffe∣rence, and use our best Prudence in the choice of the most proper Objects of our Charity.
And yet we ought not to ob∣serve this Rule so strictly, as to shut out all whom we do not know, without exception; because their Case, if it be true, may sometimes be much more pitiable, and of great∣er extremity, than the case of many Page 422 whom we do know; and then it would be uncharitable to reject such, and to harden our Hearts so far against them, as utterly to dis∣believe them; because it is no fault of theirs, that we do not know them; no, their Wants may be real, notwithstanding that; es∣pecially when their Extremity seems great, we ought not to stand up∣on too rigorous a Proof and Evi∣dence of it, but should accept of a fair probability.
Seventhly, Those who suffer for the Cause of Religion, and are stript of all for the sake of it, ought to have a great Precedence in our Charity to most other cases. And this of late hath been, and still is, the case of many among us, who have fled hither for Refuge, from the Tyranny and Cruelty of their Persecutors, and have been by a most extraordinary Charity of the whole Nation, more than once ex∣tended to them, most seasonably reliev'd; but especially by the Bounty of this great City, whose Page 423 Liberality, upon these Occasions, hath been beyond all Example, and even all belief. And I have often thought, that this very thing, next to the Mercy and Goodness of Almighty God, hath had a par∣ticular Influence upon our Preser∣vation and Deliverance from those terrible Calamities, which were just ready to break in upon us; and were we not so stupidly in∣sensible of this great Deliverance which God hath wrought for us, and so horribly unthankful to him, and to the happy Instruments of it, might still be a means to con∣tinue the Favour of God to us. And what cause have we to thank God, who hath allotted to us this more blessed, and more merciful part, to give, and not to receive; to be free from Persecution our selves, that we might give Refuge and Relief to those that are perse∣cuted!
III. We must consider the Mea∣sure of our Charity, 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, which our Translation ren∣ders, Page 424as we have Opportunity; others, as we have Ability: So that this Ex∣pression may refer, either to the Occasions of our Charity, or to the Season of it, or to the Pro∣portion and Degree of it.
1. It may refer to the Occasi∣ons of our Charity, as we have Op∣portunity let us do good, that is, ac∣cording as the Occasions of doing good shall present themselves to us, so often as an Opportunity is offer'd. And this is an Argument of a very good and charitable Disposition, gladly to lay hold of the occasions of doing good; as it were to meet Opportunities when they are a coming towards us. This forwardness of Mind, in the work of Charity, the Apostle com∣mends in the Corinthians, 2 Cor. 9.2. I know the forwardness of your minds, for which I boast of you to them of Macedonia: And this he requires of all Christians, Tit. 3.10. That they should be ready to every good work; And 1 Tim. 6.18. That we be ready to distribute, wil∣ling Page 425 to communicate. Some are ve∣ry ready to decline these Oppor∣tunities, and to get out of the way of them; and when they thrust themselves upon them, and they cannot avoid them, they do what they do grudgingly, and not with a willing mind.
2. It may refer to the Season of this Duty, 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, while we have time, 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉 for 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, whilst this Life lasts; so Grotius does understand, and interpret this Phrase; and then the Apostle does hereby intimate to them, the un∣certainty of their Lives, especial∣ly in those times of Persecution. And this Consideration holds in all times in some degree, that our Lives are short and uncertain, that it is but a little while that we can serve God in this kind, name∣ly, while we are in this World, in this Vale of Misery and Wants. In the next World there will be no occasion, no Opportunity for it; we shall then have nothing to do, but to reap the Reward of Page 426 the good we have done in this Life, and to receive that blessed Sentence from the Mouth of the great Judge of the World, Come ye blessed of my Father, inherit the Kingdom prepared for you, before the foundation of the world. For I was hungry, and ye gave me to eat, &c. And Euge bone serve! Well done good and faithfull Servant! thou hast been faithfull in a little, and I will make thee Ruler over much. God wil then declare his Bounty and Good¦ness to us, and open those inex∣haustible Treasures of Glory and Happiness, which all good Men shall partake of, in proportion to the good which they have done in this World. Or else,
3. (Which I take to be the most probable meaning of this Phrase) It may refer to the Degree of this Duty in proportion to our Ability and Estate; as we have Ability, let us do good unto all Men. And this the Phrase will bear, as Lear∣ned Men have observ'd; and it is very reasonable to take in this Page 427 Sense, at least, as part of the mea∣ning of it, either exprest or im∣ply'd. For without this we can∣not exercise Charity, tho' there were never so many Occasions for it; and then this Precept will be of the same Importance with that of the Son of Sirach, Ecclus. 35.10. Give unto the most high accord∣ing as he hath enriched thee; and with that Counsel, Tob. 4.7. Give Alms, 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, according to thy Substance, and 8. v. If thou hast abundance, give Alms according∣ly. And this may be reasonably expected from us; for where-ever his Providence gives a Man an E∣state, it is but in Trust for cer∣tain Uses and Purposes, among which Charity and Alms is the chief: And we must be accountable to him, whether we have dispo∣sed it faithfully to the Ends, for which it was committed to us. It is an easie thing with him to le∣vel Mens Estates, and to give e∣very Man a Competency; but he does on purpose suffer things to be distributed so unequally, to try and Page 428 exercise the Virtues of Men in se∣veral ways; the Faith and Pati∣ence of the Poor, the Contented∣ness of those in a middle Conditi∣on, the Charity and Bounty of the Rich. And in truth, Wealth and Riches, that is, an Estate a∣bove what sufficeth our real Oc∣casions and Necessities, is in no o∣ther sense a Blessing, than as it is an Opportunity put into our Hands, by the Providence of God, of do∣ing more good; and if we do not faithfully employ it to this end, it is but a Temptation and a Snare; and the rust of our Silver and our Gold will be a witness a∣gainst us; and we do but heap up Treasures together against the last Day.
But what Proportion our Chari∣ty ought to bear to our Estates, I shall not undertake to deter∣mine. The Circumstances of Men have too much variety in them to admit of any certain Rule; some may do well, and others may do better; every Man, as God hath Page 429 put into his Heart, and according to his Belief of the recompence which shall be made at the resurrection of the just. I shall only say in gene∣ral, that if there be first a free and willing Mind, that will make a Man charitable to his Power; For the liberal Man will devise libe∣ral things. And we cannot propose a better Pattern to our selves in this kind, than the King and Queen, who are, as they ought to be (but as it very seldom happens) the most bright and shining Examples of this greatest of all Graces and Virtues, Charity and Compassion to the poor and persecuted. I pro∣ceed to the
IV. Thing considerable in the Text, viz. Our unwearied Perse∣verance in this work of doing good, let us not be weary in well-do∣ing. After we have done some few Acts of Charity, yea tho' they should be very considerable, we must not sit down and say we have done enough. There will still be new Objects, new Occasions, Page 430 new Opportunities for the exercise of our Charity, springing up and presenting themselves to us. Let us never think, that we can do enough in the way of doing good. The best and the happiest Beings are most constant and unweary'd in this work of doing good. The holy Angels of God are conti∣nually employed in ministring for the good of those, who shall be Heirs of Salvation: And the Son of God, when he appear'd in our Nature, and dwelt among us, that he might be a perfect and fa∣miliar Example to us of all Ho∣liness and Virtue, he went about do∣ing good to the Bodies and to the Souls of Men. How diligent and unweary'd was he in this work! It was his Employment and his Plea∣sure, his Meat and Drink, the Joy and the Life of his Life. And God himself, tho' he is infinitely and perfectly good in himself, yet he still continues to do good, and is never weary of this blessed work. It is the Nature, and the Perfecti∣on, and the Felicity of God him∣self; Page 431 and how can we be weary of that work, which is an Imita∣tion of the highest Excellency and Perfection, and the very Essence of Happiness.
V. And lastly, Here is the Ar∣gument and Encouragement to the chearful discharge of this Duty, be∣cause in due season we shall reap, if we faint not; therefore as we have oppor∣tunity, let us do good unto all Men. In due season we shall reap, that is, sooner or later, in this World, or in the other, we shall receive the full reward of our well-doing.
And now I have explain'd this Duty to you, as plainly and briefly as I could, the hardest part of my Task is yet behind, to perswade Men to the practice of it; and to this purpose I shall only insist upon the promise in the Text, be not weary in well-doing; for in due season ye shall reap, if ye faint not. We shall reap the plea∣sure and satisfaction of it in our own Minds, and all the other mighty Ad∣vantages of it in this World, and Page 432 the vast and unspeakable Reward of it in the other.
First, We shall reap the Plea∣sure and Satisfaction of it in our own Minds; and there is no sen∣sual Pleasure that is comparable to the delight of Doing good. This Cato makes his boast of, as the great Comfort and Joy of his old Age, Conscientia bene actae vitae, mul∣torumque benefactorum recordatio ju∣cundissima. The remembrance of a well spent Life, and of many Be∣nefits and Kindnesses done by us to others, is one of the most plea∣sant things in the World. Sensu∣al Pleasures soon die and vanish; but that is not the worst of them, they leave a Sting behind them, and when the Pleasure is gone, nothing remains but Guilt, and Trouble, and Repentance: where∣as the Reflection upon any good we have done, is a perpetual Spring of Peace and Pleasure to us, and no Trouble and Bitterness ensues upon it; the Thoughts of it lye even and easy in our Minds, and Page 433 so often as it comes to our Re∣membrance, it ministers fresh Com∣fort to us.
Secondly, We shall likewise reap other mighty Advantages by it in this World. It is the way to de∣rive a lasting Blessing upon our E∣states. What we give in Alms and Charity is consecrated to God, and is one of the chiefest and most acceptable Sacrifices in the Chri∣stian Religion; so the Apostle tells us, Heb. 13.16. To do good, and to communicate, forget not; for with such Sacrifices God is well pleased. It is like the first-Fruits under the Law, which being dedicated and offered up to God, did derive a Blessing upon their whole Har∣vest.
And it procures for us also the Blessings and Prayers of those, to whom we extend our Charity; their Blessing, I say, upon us and ours, and all that we have; and is it a small thing in our eye, to Page 434 have (as Job speaks) the Blessing of them, who are ready to perish, to come upon us? The fervent Prayer of the poor for us availeth much, for God hath a special regard to the Prayers of the destitute, and his Ear is open to their cry.
Few Men have Faith to believe it, but certainly Charity is a great security to us in the times of E∣vil, and that not only from the special Promise and Providence of God, which is engaged to pre∣serve those from want, who are ready to relieve the Necessity of others, Prov. 11.25. The liberal Soul shall be made fat; and he that watereth shall be watered also him∣self, and Prov. 28.27. He that giveth to the poor shall not lack; he shall not be afraid in the evil time, and in the days of Dearth he shall be satisfiyed, says the Psalmist: But besides the Promise and Provi∣dence of God, our Charity and Alms are likewise a great security to us, from the Nature and Reason of Page 435 the thing it self. Whosoever is charitable to others, does wisely bespeak the Charity and Kindness of others for himself, against the day of necessity; for there is no∣thing that makes a Man more, and surer Friends, than our Boun∣ty; this will plead for us, and stand our Friend in our greatest Troubles and Dangers; For a good Man, saith the Apostle, that is, for one that is ready to oblige others by great Kindnesses and Benefits, one would even dare to die. It has sometimes happened, that the Obligation which a man hath laid upon others by a chearful and seasonable Charity, hath in time of Danger and Extremity done him more kindness, than all his E∣state could do for him. Alms, saith the Wise Man, hath delivered from Death.
And in times of publick Distress, and when we are beset with cruel and powerful Enemies, who, if God were not on our side, would swallow as Page 436 up quick, the publick Charity o• a Nation does many times prove its best Safeguard and Shield. There is a most remarkable Passage to this purpose, Ecclus. 29.11, 12, 13. Lay up thy Treasure according to the commandment of the most high, and it shall bring thee more profit, than Gold; shut up thine alms in thy Store-house, and it shall deliver thee from all affliction, it shall fight for thee against thy enemies, more than a migh∣ty Shield and a strong Spear.
And of this I doubt not, but we of this Nation, by the great Mercy and Goodness of Al∣mighty God, have had happy ex∣perience in our late wonderful Deliverance, under the Conduct and Valour, of one of the best and bravest of Princes, and to whom by too many among us, the most unworthy and unthankful Returns have been made, for the unwea∣ried pains he hath undergone, and for the desperate hazards he hath expos'd himself to for our sakes, Page 437 that ever were made to so Great and Generous a Benefactour; so great a Benefactour I say, not on∣ly to these Nations, but to all Eu∣rope, in asserting and vindicating their Liberties against the insolent Tyranny and Pride of one of the greatest oppressours of Mankind, of whom I may say, as Job does of the Leviathan, Job 41.33, 34. Ʋpon the earth is not his like, he behold∣eth all high things, and is the King of all the Children of Pride.
And beyond all this, the Blessing of God does descend upon the po∣sterity of those, who are eminently Charitable, and great Benefactours to Mankind. This David observes in his time; I have been young (says he) and now am old; yet have I not seen the righteous forsaken, nor his seed begging Bread; and what he means by the righteous Man, he explains in the next Words, he is ever merciful and lendeth.
Page 438I shall only add upon this Head, that the practice of this Virtue will be one of our best comforts at the hour of Death, and that we shall then look back upon all the good we have done in our life, with the greatest contentment and joy imaginable. Xenophon in his Cyrus, which he design'd for the perfect Idea of a good Prince, re¦presents him in the last minutes of his life, addressing himself to God to this purpose, Thou knowest that I have been a lover of Man∣kind; and now that I am leaving this World, I hope to find that mercy from thee, which I have shewed to others. These Words that excellent heathen Historian thought fit to come from the mouth of so excellent a Prince, as he had describ'd him, just as he was leaving the World; by which we may see, what the Light of Nature thought to be the best comfort of a dying Man. This brings me to the
Page 439Third, and last particular which I mentioned, the vast and unspeak∣able Reward, which this grace and virtue of Charity will meet with in the other World. It will plead for us at the Day of Judg∣ment, and procure for us a most glorious recompence at the resurrection of the Just, and that proportiona∣ble to the degrees of our Charity; 2 Cor. 9.6. He which soweth sparing∣ly, shall reap sparingly: and he which soweth bountifully, shall reap bountiful∣ly; and from this Consideration, the Apostle encourageth our Perse∣verance in Well-doing, let us not be weary in well-doing, for in due sea∣son we shall reap, if we faint not; that is, we shall certainly meet with the reward of it, if not in this World, yet in the other.
And now that I have declar'd this Duty to you, together with the mighty pleasure, and advan∣tages, and rewards of it, I crave leave to present you with some Page 440 of the best Occasions, and Oppor∣tunities of the exercise and pra∣ctice of it. And for your encou∣ragement hereto, I shall read to you, the present State of the chief Hospitals belonging to this great City, and of the disposal of their Charity for the last Year.
And now I have laid before you these great Objects of your Charity, and the best Arguments I could think of to incline and stir up your Minds to the exercise of this ex∣cellent Grace and Virtue; as there is no time left for it, I having, I am afraid already tir'd your Pati∣ence, so I hope there is no need to press this Duty any farther up∣on you, since you are so willing and forward of your selves, and so very ready to every good Work. This great City hath a double Hon∣our due to it, of being both the greatest Benefactours in this kind, and the most faithful Managers, and Disposers of it; and I am now in a place most proper for the Page 441 mention of Christ's Hospital, a Pro∣testant Foundation of that most Pious and Excellent Prince Edward, VI. Which I believe is one of the best instances of so large and so well manag'd Charity, this Day in the World.
And now to Conclude all, if any of you know any better em∣ployment, than to do good; any work that will give truer Pleasure to our Minds; that hath greater and bet∣ter promises made to it, the Pro∣mises of the life that now is, and that which is to come; that we shall reflect upon with more com∣fort, when we come to dye; and that through the mercies and me∣rits of our Blessed Saviour, will stand us in more stead at the Day of Judgment; let us mind that work: but if we do not; let us apply our selves to this business of Charity, with all our might, and let us not be weary in well-doing, because in due season we shall reap, if we faint not.
Page 442Now the God of Peace, who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus Christ, the great Shepherd of the Sheep, through the blood of the ever∣lasting Covenant, make you perfect in every good work, to do his will through Jesus Christ, to whom with thee, O Father, and the Holy Ghost, be all honour and glory, thanksgiving and praise, both now and for ever, Amen.