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here then is a perfect scheme of Christian charity, and a rule to direct us in the choice of proper objects.
The Apostles, at the death of our Saviour, succeeded to the government and direction of the church : under them were placed teachers and pastors of different orders, comprehended under the general name of prophets. These offices have been perpetuated in the church by a constant succession of men duly called to them, and who stand in the same relation to Christ that the Apostles and prophets did, who went before them in the same work of the ministry; and we must so account of them, &c. 1 Cor. iv, 1.
The two xt characters belong to the flock of Christ, who are not distinguished from one another by any difference in character or office, but only by their different attainments in faith : the righteous are the strong in faith ; the little ones are the weak, who are indicated by St. Paul, Ephes. iv. 13. 14.
The learned Grotius shown to be wrong, who makes only three degrees, leaving out Apostles, and saying that there are tres discipulorum Christi gradus. His interpretation of the word dikaci, as signifying a middle kind of Christian, and that of prophet, as signifying only a perfect one, disproved. Besides, our Saviour's design here was evidently to lay a foundation for the support of the Christian ministry; he forbids them to provide for themselves, because they were workmen worthy of their hire ; and to encourage men cheerfully to discharge their duty towards them, he adds, he that receiveth you receiveth me : this being his design, could he forget all degrees of teachers except Apostles, and yet be so particular in reckoning up all degrees of Christians ? This point enlarged on.
From this declaration made by our Saviour, we learn what ought to give the preference in Christian charity. The relation which men bear to Christ is the foundation of the love and honor due to them; and the nearer this relation is, the greater love and honor are due to it. It were easy to show the title which
these several degrees of charity have to their respective rewards : it is sufficient to instance the one which is most applicable to the present discourse, that of receiving a prophet in the name of a prophet.
This charity is intitled to a prophet's reward'; and well it may; for it is a charity which does a prophet's duty: by enabling him to do the work of his calling, we share it with him, and preach the gospel by the mouth which we feed.
The work of the ministry is great, and requires our whole attendance; and if to this be added the constant care of supporting ourselves and families against encroaching poverty, who would be sufficient for these things ? Must not the ignorant want instruction, and the afflicted comfort, whilst the prophet is employed in the meaner cares of the world ? And must not such as set the Lord's prophets free from the world, and enable them to dedicate themselves to his service, be properly said to labor with them in the work of the gospel ? And as they thus partake in the work, ought they not also to partake in the reward ?
The properest way, of exercising this charity is by allotting such a maintenance to the ministers of Christ, as may enable them to provide for themselves and those who depend on them. Next to its present wants and necessities, poverty has nothing more terrible in it than the fear of futurity; nor is there a more distressing case than that which arises from the prospect of intailing want and misery on those for whom we are bound by the dearest ties of nature to provide.
After a present maintenance therefore, the next degree of charity is to lighten this heavy burden ; that the ministers of Christ may with cheerfulness, and without interruption, attend to the service of the altar, seeing a way open for the support of their indigent families, when they, their present support, shall be called away. And this leads to the second consideration proposed; viz.
How truly Christian and excellent in its kind that charity is, which is the end and design of this annual solemnity.
Its objects are the widows and orphans of those who have spent their lives in the service of the altar, and were found faithful. Considered in themselves, they are not the meanest of Christ's disciples ; but to their own they add the prophet's claim to charity, who has left them nothing else to maintain them.
Were their poverty the effect of luxury or idleness, we might be ashamed to plead its cause in public : but its reasons are too well known; and it is so far from being a reproach, that in some measure it is a glory: this point enlarged on.
Some who subsist on the charity of this corporation are living witnesses of the faith and constancy of the English clergy to God and to their king: allusion made to the widows of the sequestered clergy.
Never does Christ more truly suffer in his members, than when his members suffer for him ; nor can our acts of mercy ever more nearly approach him, than when we relieve those who endure affliction for his sake and that of the gospel.
The worldly advantages pointed out, which would have accrued to these children, if their parents had been turned to the more profitable employments of the world: hence arguments are deduced for the support of the charity.
Preached before the Sons of the Clergy at St. Paul's Cathe
dral, December 5, 1710.
MATTHEW, CHAP. X.-VERSES 41. 42,
He that receiveth a prophet in the name of a prophet, shall receive
a prophet's reward; and he that receiveth a righteous man in the
TOWARDS the beginning of this chapter we read that our
to demand and receive of those under their instruc-
And this farther appears to be the sense of this precept in Luke xxii. 35. “And he said unto them, When I sent you without purse, and scrip, and shoes, lacked ye any thing? And they said, Nothing.' Had it been his intent to make poverty á necessary qualification for the ministry, he would not have asked this question, or received this answer. But so little did he intend it, that his care supplied the wants of theirs throughout their journey, and enlarged the hearts of the people towards them: so that their poverty was turned into plenty; and they preached the gospel, without the incumbrance of worldly cares, as having nothing, and yet possessing all things.'
As the office of preaching the gospel was to be perpetual in the Christian church, so this right of maintenance was for ever to attend it; for the • Lord ordained,' as St. Paul tell us, that they which preach the gospel should live of the gospel :' 1 Cor. ix. 14. A right on one side infers a duty on the other : if the ministers of the gospel have a right to be provided for, it is the duty of the faithful to provide for them; but the proportion of this maintenance being no where determined, but men left to' give as their circumstances enable them, and as their love and honor for the ministry incline them; what is given on this account comes to be considered as a charity freely offered, rather than as a debt duly discharged: and as such, our Saviour has promised to accept and reward it. And since in this kind of charity the honor of his name, and the promoting his religion, are most immediately consulted, he has distinguished it from all others by a more honorable and glorious reward: "He that receiveth a prophet, in the name of a prophet, shall receive a prophet's reward :' &c. Matt, x. 41.
To receive a prophet' sometimes signifies to receive his doctrine, and to become his follower or disciple; but in this place it cannot signify so, for these two reasons :
First, our Saviour himself distinguishes this reception of a prophet from the other reception, which is obeying and hearkening to his voice, in the 14th verse : • Whosoever shall not receive you, nor hear your words, when you depart out of that house or city, shake off the dust of
feet.' Had the same thing been intended by “receiving' and ' hearing a prophet, the words would have been thus connected : Whosoever shall