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could he forget all degrees of teachers but apostles, and yet be so particular in reckoning up all degrees of Christians? It was necessary to his purpose indeed, and to complete the comparison, to mention the several degrees of Christian charity, that it might appear how highly he valued, above all others, that which was to be the support of his ministry on earth; and therefore having shown the preference that was to be given to his ministers, according to the dignity of their office, he proceeds to show that others were but in a lower degree, and were to be regarded according to their personal attainments in faith and holiness; which was evidently giving the preference to his ministers on account of their office, before all others, how great soever their spiritual attainments might be. This was effectually to recommend them to the care of the faithful, by showing that, by providing for them here, they laid up for themselves hereafter the greatest riches : for. he that receiveth a prophet, in the name of a prophet, shall receive a prophet's reward.'
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 that are due to them; and the nearer the relation is, the greater love and honor are due to it. Of his disciples our Sa. viour said in the gospel, · Behold my
brethren :' no wonder then that he says to them here, · He that receiveth you, receiveth me. By this rule our kindness must descend from the greatest to the meanest of Christ's disciples; and when it rests there, it shall in no wise lose its reward.'
It were easy here to show the title that these several degrees of charity have to their respective rewards; but I should tire your patience, should I run through every kind; give me leave only to instance in one, and because it is most applicable to our present discourse, in 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 that does a prophet's duty: by enabling him to do the work of his calling, we share with him in it, and preach the gospel by the mouth which we feed. It is St. Austin's observation concerning St. Paul, that when he held the garments of those who stoned the Martyr Stephen, he did omnium manibus lapidare ;* the assistance he gave to all intitled him to the guilt of all; and made his hand to be in every blow that was struck: and certain it is that the assistance and encouragement we give men, either in the good or evil they do, will make us sharers with them in their merit or their guilt. The charge which St. Paul gives Timothy, to lay hands suddenly on no man,
he supports with this reason, • Neither be partaker of other men's sins; keep thyself pure. For he would have been chargeable with the unworthiness of such as he should, without due trial, admit into the ministry. By the same rule, to bring men worthy of the office into the ministry, to support and encourage them in the discharge of their duty, is to partake with them in their ministry, and must be attended with the reward that is proper and peculiar to it.
The work of the ministry is great, and requires our whole attendance; it is the prophet's business to instruct the weak, to comfort the afflicted, to visit the sick, to rebuke sinners; and what time can be stolen from these necessary duties is but too little to be employed in searching the oracles of truth, that we may know the perfect will of God in all things; and if to this the trouble of the world must be added, and the constant care of supporting ourselves and families against encroaching poverty and want, who is 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 may not such then, who by their bounty and liberality set the prophets of the Lord free from the world, and in a manner consecrate them anew and intirely to his service, be
properly said to labor with them in the work of the gospel ? and as
-Quando lapidatus est Stephanus primus Martyr pro nomine Christi, evidentius aderat et Saulus; et sic aderat lapidantibus, ut non ei sufficeret si tantum suis manibus lapidaret. Ut enim esset in omnium lapidantium manibus, ipse omnium vestimenta servabat ; magis sæviens omnes adjuvando, quam suis manibus lapidando.“ August. de S. Pauli Conversione.
Inter lapidatores Sancti Stephani Martyris ibi erat iste durus, et forte cæteris durior, omnium lapidantium vestimenta servabat, ut omnium in manibus lapidaret.- Item in Ps. 147.
they partake in the work, ought they not likewise to partake in the reward ?
The properest method of exercising this charity is by allotting such a maintenance for the ministers of Christ, as may enable them to provide for themselves and those who depend on them : and of this kind of charity the piety of our gracious Sovereign has given a noble instance; which will make her memory dear to all ages in the church of God, and will, we doubt not, be an addition to the crown of glory reserved for her in the heavens.
Next to its present wants and necessities, poverty has nothing more terrible in it than the fear of futurity; nor is life acquainted with a more anxious and distracting care than that which arises from the prospect of intailing poverty on those who are to come after us; and whom, by the strictest bonds of nature, we are obliged to provide for. 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 the service of the altar; when they see a way open for the support of their indigent families, when they themselves, their only present support, shall be taken from them. And this carries me to the second thing I proposed to observe to you,
II. How truly Christian, and excellent in its kind, that charity is, which is the end and design of this annual so lemnity.
The objects of this charity are the widows and orphans of those who spent their lives in the service of the altar, and were found faithful in the sight of God. Considered in themselves, they are not, I trust, the meanest of Christ's disciples : the example of their husbands and fathers; the pious instruction under which they have lived ; the regular devotions to which they have been always accustomed ; and their constant communion witla the church; are sure pledges to us of their faith and holiness. But to their own they add the prophet's claim to your charity, who has left them nothing else to maintain them. - The
and infirmities of the one, the youth and inexperience of the other; and the near relation they bear to Christ, by his servant now at rest with him ; contain all the
motives and arguments that can be used to excite the charity of a Christian.
Were this poverty the effect of luxury or idleness, we might well be ashamed to plead its cause in public; but the reasons : of it are too well known; and it is so far from being our reproach, that in some measure it is our glory: for notwithstanding the meanest of our parochial cures, and the discouragements of want and poverty, yet the service of God has not been neglected, nor his altar forsaken: and the numerous objects of charity that are to be found among the descendants of the English clergy, are an evidence on their behalf, that they fed the flock of God which was among them, taking the oversight thereof, not by constraint, but willingly; not for filthy lucre sake, but of a ready mind.' And let no man grudge us this our boasting ; that we can in this church show more laborers worthy of their hire, who, without gold or silver in their purses, or scrip for their journey, preach the gospel of Christ, than any other church in the Christian world can do.
Some who subsist on the charity of this corporation are living testimonies of the faith and constancy of the English clergy to God and to their king. I shall easily be understood to mean the widows of the sequestered clergy; who still labor under that poverty which their husbands willingly chose to submit to, rather than to sacrifice their faith and their allegiance to the wickedness of the age they lived in. And is this a disgraceful poverty to the ministers of the gospel, which so evidently • bears the marks of the Lord Jesus.
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 afflictions for his and the gospel's sake.. Here then, my brethren, is Christ Jesus evidently set forth before your eyes,' suffering among you ;' suffering in these members, who inherit the poverty of his prophets; which they,' for his and the gospel's sake, embraced.
Had the parents of these children been turned to the more advantageous employments of the world; had they, with the substance which was spent in their education, and in fitting them for the ministry, bought any knowlege but the knowlege
of the gospel ; it would have made an answerable return to them and their families ; for every workman receives his hire, and a due recompense for his labor, except the poor ministers of Christ, who have this only for their comfort, that they are worthy of it.
It is this poverty of the prophet, which was the undeserved lot of his holy office, that now claims our charity : and have not the children a right to ask in the prophet's name, since it is the prophet's poverty that afflicts them? Is it not just that they should plead their father's relation to Christ, for a support under their present wants; since their father's relation to Christ has intailed these wants on them?
If therefore there be any arguments for pity in age and infirmities, oppressed with poverty; or if youth and innocence, exposed to want, have any charms to move compassion ; if the poverty of the gospel has any right to a Christian's charity; or if the Christian priesthood has for its work's sake, and its near relation to Christ, any title to love or honor ; behold, how all these motives unite to plead the cause that is now be
fore you !
If the least charity bestowed on one of Christ's little ones shall draw down the blessings of heaven on us; if to receive a righteous man shall intitle us to a righteous man's reward; and if, by showing mercy to a prophet, we shall receive a prophet's reward ; what rewards may we not expect to reap from this charity; where the little ones and the righteous are united into one object, by suffering under the saine common calamity; and where both have the prophet's name and the prophet's poverty to plead?
To these motives what farther can we add, but only our prayers; that God would regard this poor family of his prophets, and raise them up friends for their comfort; that he would open the hearts of the people towards them for his servants the prophets' sake.
And may the charity bestowed on these poor orphans be ever had in remembrance before the Lord! May be whom their fathers served in the gospel, and with whom they now rest from their labors, be ever mindful of the kindness shown to his household of faith!