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SERMON CXLII.33 Although the present position of the above Sermon seems to interrupt the regular series of those on the Attributes, it appeared nevertheless proper to preserve that arrangement, which had been adopted in former editions of the Author’s works.
.[A Spital Sermon, preached at Christ Church on Easter Tuesday, April 14, 1691.]
OF DOING GOOD.
Let us not be weary in well-doing: for in 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 household of faith.—Galat. vi. 9, 10.
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:
II. The extent of this duty in respect of its object, which is all mankind; “Let us do good unto all men, especially unto them who are of the house hold of faith.”
III. The measure of it, “As we have opportunity.”
IV. Our unwearied perseverance in it: “Let us not be weary in well-doing.”
V. The argument and encouragement to it; because “in due season we shall reap, if we faint 538not: therefore as we have opportunity, let us do good,” &c.
I. I will consider the nature of the duty itself of well-doing, and doing good. And this I shall explain to you as briefly as I can, by considering the extent of the act of doing good, and the excellency of it. And,
1. The extent of the act. It comprehends in it all those ways wherein we may be beneficial and useful to one another. It reaches not only to the bodies of men, but to their souls, that better and more excellent part of ourselves, 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 reduce those that are engaged in any evil course, by good counsel, and seasonable admonition, and by prudent and kind reproof; to resolve and satisfy the doubting mind; to confirm the weak; to heal the broken-hearted, and to comfort the melancholy and troubled spirits: these are the 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 clothe the naked, release the imprisoned; to redeem the captives, and to vindicate those who are injured and oppressed in their persons, or estates, or reputation; to repair those who are ruined in their fortunes; 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 in stances of this great duty here in the text, of doing good; though it hath, in this place, a more particular 539respect to the charitable supply of those who are in want and necessity; and, therefore, with a more particular regard to that, I shall discourse of it at this time. You see the extent of the duty: we will, in the
Second place, Briefly say something of the excellency of it; which will appear, if we consider that it is the imitation of the highest excellency and perfection. To do good, is to be like God, who is good, and doeth 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 belike the blessed angels, the highest rank and order of God’s creatures, whose great employment it is to be “ministering 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 extend our thoughts and cares to the concernments of others, and to employ our interest, and power, and endeavours for their benefit and advantage: whereas a low, and mean, and narrow spirit is contracted and shrivelled up within itself, and cares only for its own things, without 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 disposition of happiness. Solomon, after all his experience of worldly greatness and pleasure, at last pitched upon this, as the great felicity of human life, and the only good use that is to be made of a prosperous and plentiful fortune: (Eccles. iii. 12.) “I know (says he, speaking 540of riches) that there is no good in them, but for a man to rejoice and to do good in his life.” And, certainly, the best way to take joy in an estate, is to do good with it: and a greater and wiser than Solomon has said it, even He, who is the power and wisdom of God, has said it, that “it is a more blessed thing to give than to receive.”
Consider further, 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 to the “first and great commandment” of loving the Lord our God, and very like to it: “And the second is like unto it (says our Saviour), Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself;” like to it, in the excellency of it; and equal to it, in the necessary obligation of it.” And this commandment (says St. John, I Epist. chap. iv. ver. 21.) have we from him, that he who loveth God, love his brother also.” The first commandment, indeed, excels in the dignity of the object, because it enjoins the love of God; but the second seems to have the advantage in the reality of its effects: for the love of God consists in our acknowledgment, and honour of him; but our “righteousness and goodness extend 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 reason God is contented, in many cases, 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 541this 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 testimonies of love to him, as false and insincere. “Whoso hath this world’s good, (saith St. John, 1 Epist. chap. iii. ver. 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. iv. ver. 20.) “If a man say, I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar; for he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen?”
You see the duty here recommended, both in the extent, and in the excellency of it; “Let us do good.” I proceed to consider, in the
II. Second place, The extent of this duty, 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 household 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 confined 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 upon themselves as perfectly discharged from all obligation of kindness to the rest of mankind: and yet it is certain, that they were expressly enjoined by their law to be kind to strangers, because they themselves had been strangers in the land of Egypt. But our Saviour hath restored this law of love and charity 542to its natural and original extent; and hath declared every one that is of the same nature with ourselves to be our neighbour and our brother, and that he is to be treated by us accordingly, whenever he stands in need of our kindness and help; and to shew that none are out of the compass of our charity, he hath expressly 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 general, these two things are plainly enjoined by the Christian religion:
1. Negatively, That we should not hate, nor bear ill-will to any man, nor do him any harm or mischief. “Love worketh no evil to his neighbour,” saith the apostle, (Rom. xiii. 10.) And this negative charity every man may exercise towards all men, without exception, and that equally; because it does not signify 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 charity 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.
But 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 543are in want and necessity. And the reason of the difficulty 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, indeed, 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 exercise this charity to all men that stand in need of it, it is necessary 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 limit 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 though 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 minutely 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 general rules may be given as may serve for the direction of our practice in most cases; and for the rest, every man’s prudence, as well as it can, must determine the matter. And the rules which I shall give, shall be these:
First, Cases of extremity ought to take the first 544place, and do for that time challenge precedence of all other considerations. If a person be in great and present distress, and his necessity so urgent, that if he be not immediately relieved 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 person be; though a perfect stranger to us, though most unworthy, though the greatest enemy we have in the world, yet the greatness of his distress does so strongly 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 ourselves; 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 relation and friend, who is not in the like extremity. In other cases, we not only may, but ought to 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 precept takes place, “If thine enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give him drink.”
Secondly, In the next place, I think that the obligation of nature, 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 supply the necessity of those who are of our blood and kindred, and members of our family, before the necessity of strangers, and those who have no relation to us. There is a special duty incumbent upon us, and another obligation beside that of charity, to have a particular care and regard for them. In this case, not only Christianity, but nature, ties this duty upon us: (1 Tim. v. 8.) “If any man provide not for his own, especially for those of his own house,” for them that are of his family, 545“he hath denied the faith, and is worse than an infidel;” that is, he doth not only offend against the law of Christianity, but against the very dictates of nature, which prevail even amongst infidels. And our Saviour has 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 sacrilege to consecrate that to God, whereby our parents may be profited, and provided for in their necessity.
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 challenge from us a particular consideration of their case; and proportionably, if we ourselves have been obliged to their family, or to any other that are nearly related to them.
Fourthly, Those “who are of the household of faith,” and of the same religion, and members of the same mystical body, and do partake of the same holy mysteries, the body and blood of our blessed Saviour, the strictest 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 household 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 consideration of the first rank, in those times when Christians lived among heathens, and were exposed to continual wants and sufferings; but it signifies much less now that Christianity 546is the general profession of a nation, and is too often made use of to very uncharitable purposes; to confine men’s bounty and benefits to their own sect and party, as if they, and none but they, were “the household of faith;” a principle which I know not whether it has more of Judaism or of popery in it.
Fifthly, After these, the merit of the persons who are the objects of our charity, and all the circumstances belonging to them, are to be valued and considered; and we are accordingly to proportion our charity, and the degrees of it. I shall instance in some particulars, by which a prudent man may judge of the rest.
Those who labour in an honest calling, but yet are oppressed with their charge, or disabled for a time by sickness, or some other casualty: these, many a time, need as much, and certainly deserve much better, than common beggars; for these are useful members of the commonwealth; and we can not place our charity better than upon those, who do what they can to support themselves.
Those, likewise, who are fallen from a rich and plentiful condition, without any fault or prodigality of their own, merely by the providence of God, or some general calamity; these are more especially objects of our charity and liberal relief.
And those also who have been charitable, and have liberally relieved others, when they were in condition to do it; or the children or near relations of those who were eminently charitable and beneficial to mankind, do deserve a particular regard in our charity. 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 extreme necessity.547
And, lastly, Those whose visible wants, and great age and infirmities, do plead for more than ordinary pity, and do, at first sight, convince every one that sees them, that they do not beg out of laziness, but of necessity, and because they are not able to do any thing towards their own support and subsistence.
There are innumerable circumstances 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 ourselves in other cases.
Sixthly, Those whom we certainly know to be true objects of charity, are to be considered by us before those who are strangers to us, and whose condition we do not know, yea though, in common charity, we do not disbelieve them; because, 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 counterfeit beggars who can tell a fair story, and carry about testimonials of their own making; and like wise, because we run the hazard of misplacing our charity, when there are objects enough besides, where we are sure we shall place it right: and charity misplaced, as it is in truth and reality no charity in itself, so it is hardly any in us, when we squander it so imprudently as to pass by a certain and real object, and give it those of whom we are not certain 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 charity. And, therefore, unless we be able to relieve every one that asks, we must of necessity make a difference, and use our best prudence in the choice of the most proper objects of our charity.548
And yet we ought not to observe 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 greater extremity, than the case of many 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 disbelieve them; because it is no fault of theirs that we do not know them; their wants may be real notwithstanding that; especially, when their extremity seems great, we ought not to stand upon too rigorous a proof and evidence of it, but should accept of a fair probability.
Seventhly, Those who suffer for the cause of religion, and are stripped 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 extended to them, most seasonably relieved; but especially by the bounty of this great city, whose 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 particular influence upon our preservation and deliverance from the terrible calamities which were just ready to break in upon us; and, were we not so stupidly insensible 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 continue the favour of God to us. And what cause have we to thank God 549who hath allotted to us this more blessed and more merciful part, to give, and not to receive; to be free from persecution ourselves, that we might give refuge and relief to those that are persecuted!
III. We must consider the measure of our charity, ὁ καιρὸν ἔχομεν, which our translation renders, “as we have opportunity;” others, “as we have ability:” so that this expression may refer either to the occasions of our charity, or to the season of it, or to the proportion and degree of it.
1. It may refer to the occasions of our charity, “as we have opportunity let us do good;” that is, according as the occasions of doing good shall present themselves to us, so often as an opportunity is offered. 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 coming towards us. This forwardness of mind in the work of charity the apostle commends in the Corinthians: (2 Cor. ix. 2.) “I know the forwardness of your mind, for which I boast of you to them of Macedonia:” and this he requires of all Christians, (Tit. iii. 8.) that they should “be ready to do every good work;” and (1 Tim. vi. 18.) that we be “ready to distribute, willing to communicate.” Some are very ready to decline these opportunities, 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, ὡς καιρὸν χομεν, “whilst we have time;” ὡς for ἕως, “whilst this life lasts;” so Grotius does understand and interpret this phrase: and then the apostle does hereby intimate to them the uncertainty of their lives, especially 550in 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; namely, 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 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 meat,” &c. And, Euge bone, serve! “Well done, good and faithful servant! thou hast been faithful in a little, and I will make thee ruler over much.” God will then declare his bounty and goodness to us, and open those inexhaustible 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 learned men have observed; and it is very reasonable to take in this sense, at least as part of the meaning of it, either expressed or implied: for, without this, we cannot exercise charity, though 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. xxxv. 10.) “Give unto the Most High according as he hath enriched thee;” and with that counsel, (Tob. iv. 7.) “Give alms, ἐκ τῶν ὑπαρχόντων, 551according lo thy substance;” and (ver. 8.) “If thou hast abundance, give alms accordingly.” And this may be reasonably expected from us; for where-ever his providence gives a man an estate, it is but in trust for certain uses and purposes, among which charity and alms is the chief: and we must be accountable to him, whether we have disposed it faith fully to the ends for which it was committed to us. It is an easy thing with him to level men’s estates, and to give every man a competency; but he does on purpose suffer things to be distributed so unequally, to try and exercise the virtues of men in several ways; the faith and patience of the poor, the contentedness of those in a middle condition, the charity and bounty of the rich. And, in truth, wealth and riches; that is, an estate above what sufficeth our real occasions and necessities, is in no other sense a blessing, than as it is an opportunity put into our hands, by the providence of God, of doing 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 against us,” and we do but “heap up treasures together against the last day.”
But what proportion our charity ought to bear to our estates, I shall not undertake to determine: 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 put into his heart, and according to his belief of the recompense which shall be made “at the resurrection of the just.” I shall only say, in general, 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 liberal things.” And we 552cannot propose a better pattern to ourselves 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 proceed to the
IV. Fourth thing considerable in the text; viz. Our unwearied perseverance in this work of doing good: “Let us not be weary in well-doing.” After we have done some few acts of charity, yea, though they should be very considerable, we must not sit down and say we have done enough: there will still be new objects, new occasions, 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 unwearied in this work of doing good. The holy angels of God are continually employed in ministering for the good of “those, who shall be heirs of salvation:” and the Son of God, when he appeared in our nature, and dwelt among us, that he might be a perfect and familiar example to us of all holiness and virtue, “he went about doing good” to the bodies and to the souls of men. How diligent and unwearied was he in this work! It was his employment and his pleasure, his meat and drink, the joy and the life of his life. And God himself, though 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 perfection, and the felicity of God himself: and how can we be weary of that work, which is an imitation of the highest excellency and perfection, and the very essence of happiness?553
V. And lastly, Here is the argument and encouragement to the cheerful discharge of this duty; “because in due season we shall reap, if we faint not; therefore, as we have opportunity, 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 explained this duty to you, as plainly and briefly as i could, the hardest part of my task is yet behind—to persuade 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 pleasure and satisfaction of it in our own minds, and all the other mighty advantages of it in this world, and the vast and unspeakable reward of it in the other.
First, We shall reap the pleasure and satisfaction of it in our own minds; and there is no sensual 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, multorumque benefactorum recordatio jucundissima. The remembrance of a well-spent life, and of many benefits and kindnesses done by us to others, is one of the most pleasant things in the world. Sensual pleasures soon die and vanish: but that is not the worst of them, they leave a sting be hind them; and when the pleasure is gone, nothing remains but guilt, and trouble, and repentance! Whereas 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 lie even and easy in our minds; 554and so often as it comes to our remembrance, it ministers fresh comfort to us.
Secondly, We shall likewise reap other mighty advantages by it in this world. It is the way to derive a lasting blessing on our estates. What we give in alms and charity is consecrated to God, and is one of the chiefest and most acceptable sacrifices in the Christian religion: so the apostle tells us, (Heb. xiii. 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 harvest.
And it procures for us also the blessing 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 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 evil, and that not only from the special promise and providence of God, which is engaged to preserve those from want, who are ready to relieve the necessity of others: (Prov. xi. 25.) “the liberal soul shall be made fat; and he that watereth, shall be watered also himself.” And (Prov. xxviii. 27.) “He that giveth unto the poor shall not lack. He shall not be afraid in the evil time, and in the days of dearth he shall be satisfied,” says the Psalmist. But, be sides the promise and providence of God, our charity and alms are likewise a great security to us, 555from the nature and reason of the thing itself. Whosoever is charitable to others, does wisely bespeak the charity and kindness of others for himself against the day of necessity; for there is nothing that makes a man more and surer friends than our bounty; 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 cheerful and seasonable charity, hath, in time of danger and extremity, done him more kindness than all his estate could do for him: “alms,” saith the wise man, “hath delivered from death/
And in times of public distress, and when we are beset with cruel and powerful enemies, who, “if God were not on our side, would swallow us up quick,” the public charity of a nation does, many times, prove its best safeguard and shield. There is a most remarkable passage to this purpose: (Ecclus. xxix. 11-13.) “Lay up thy treasure according to the commandments of the Most High, and it shall bring thee more profit than gold. Shut up alms in thy store-houses, and it shall deliver thee from all affliction. It shall fight for thee against thine enemies, better than a mighty shield and a strong spear.”
And of this I doubt not but we of this nation, by the great mercy and goodness of Almighty God, have had happy experience 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 556returns have been made, for the unwearied pains he hath undergone, and for the desperate hazards he hath exposed himself to for our sakes, that ever were made to so great and generous a benefactor; so great a benefactor, I say, not only to these nations, but to all Europe, in asserting and vindicating their liberties, against the insolent tyranny and pride of one of the greatest oppressors of mankind; of whom I may say, as Job does of the leviathan, (Job xli. 33, 34.) “Upon earth there is not his like: he beholdeth all high things; he is a king over all the children of pride.”
And, beyond all this, the blessing of God does descend upon the posterity of those who are eminently charitable, and great benefactors 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.”
I 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 designed for the perfect idea of a good prince, represents him, in the last minutes of his life, addressing himself to God to this purpose: “Thou knowest that I have been a lover of mankind; 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 excel lent heathen historian thought fit to come from the mouth of so excellent a, prince as he had described 557him, just as he was leaving the world; by which we may see what the light of nature thought to he the best comfort of a dying man. This brings me to the
Third and last particular which I mentioned, The vast and unspeakable reward which this grace and virtue of charity will meet with in the other world. It will plead for us at the day of judgment, and procure for us a most glorious “recompence at the resurrection of the just,” and that proportionable to the degrees of our charity: (2 Cor. ix. 6.) “He which soweth sparingly, shall reap also sparingly; and he which soweth bountifully, shall reap also bountifully.” And from this consideration, the apostle encourageth our perseverance in well-doing; “Let us not be weary in well-doing; for in due season 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 declared this duty to you, together with the mighty pleasure, and advantages, and rewards of it, I crave leave to present you with some of the best occasions and opportunities of the exercise and practice of it: and, for your encouragement 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 excellent grace and virtue; as there is no time left for it, I having, I am afraid, already tired your patience, so, I hope, there is no need to press this duty any further upon you, since you are so willing and forward of yourselves, and so very ready to every good work, This great city hath a 558double honour due to it, of being both the greatest benefactors in this kind, and the most faithful managers and disposers of it; and I am now in a place most proper for the mention of Christ’s Hospital, a protestant 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-managed a charity this day in the world.
And now, to conclude all: if any of you know any better employment than to do good; any work that will give truer pleasure to our minds; that hath greater and better promises made to it, “the promises of the life that now is, and that which is to come;” that we shall reflect upon with more comfort, when we come to die; and that, through the mercies and merits 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 ourselves 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.”
“Now 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 everlasting 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 forever.” Amen.559
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