תמונות בעמוד

agreeable to nature and to the will of God, the Author of them. It is reasonable for a man to be concerned for his own happi. ness, and consonant to the divine will; and considering the strict union which God has made between our happiness and our duty, this principle will always be a powerful one in matters of religion : this point enlarged on.

To judge rightly therefore of the motives on which men act in their religious concerns, we must judge of the nature of the happiness which they propose to themselves; and as long as men seek after that which is natural and proper, and intended for them by God, so long they act on motives agreeable to his will.

The happiness in which men are capable of having any share, or for which they have any desires, is either that which belongs to this world, or that which belongs to the world to come. That future rewards are proper incitements to virtue and religion, is plain from Scripture ; but these do not alter the nature of religion, or give to God a better title to our obedience than he had before: this point enlarged on.

As to the happiness of this present life, we can as little question whether God intended men to be happy here, as whether he intends them to be so hereafter : the natural desires of men after this happiness, the necessary connexion between it and virtue, and the goodness of God towards his creatures, will not permit us to doubt it. Under the old law we find the promises of this life expressly made to religious obedience by God himself : even under the gospel we are assured that godliness has the promises of the life that now is, and of that which is to come.

To encourage ourselves therefore in our duty with the hopes that God will reward us here with life, health, and prosperity, is no blemish to our religion, but rather an act of faith in God as Governor of the world. Our Saviour reckons but two heads of religion, the love of God, and the love of our neighbor; but the second of these plainly infers' another,

mercy on the

poor are the

the love of ourselves, for we are to love our neighbor as ourselves : this point enlarged on.

Second consideration ; how plainly and evidently these principles lead us to works of charity and mercy.

He that oppresseth the poor, reproacheth his Maker ; but he that honoreth him hath


The creatures of God, not only as they are men, but also as they are poor men : the different orders and degrees of mankind are from the hand of God; and to despise or oppress a man for being what God has thought fit to make him, is to reproach God. Besides, works of mercy redound to the honor of God, through the praises and thanksgivings of those who feel comfort and relief by them. Unexpected relief given to the indigent naturally creates in them a great sense of Providence; it raises them to a thankful acknowlegement of his regard towards them, and disposes them to a religious dependence on him in the midst of all their distress. That the good and welfare of men are directly consulted by the charitable hand, is too plain to admit of a doubt; hence it is to be lamented that so many impostures' make good people distrustful, and thus bring difficulties on the deserving poor. We therefore can no otherwise answer this end of charity, the doing good to others, than by taking some care to place our charity right, and to distinguish between the truly needful and the idle beggar.

But, thirdly, by works of mercy and charity we make the best provision for our own present and future happiness. This may be concluded from what has been already said ; for since such works have so plain a tendency to promote the honor of God, we cannot doubt but that he will reward such as take pleasure therein : add to this, the express promises of the gospel made to these works especially, and we have all the security that can be desired or expected.

The final retribution for this and every other work must be expected from the justice of God in the day of judgment, but

this hinders not but that we may justly hope for part of our reward in this life: this point enlarged on.

Last thing proposed, viz. to show how these considerations conspire to recommend to us that good work which is the object of the present meeting.

If to supply the temporal wants of the brethren be a work redounding to the honor of God, behold these numerous objects, all wearing the livery of charity, not as a badge of servitude to any earthly master, but as a token that they and their benefactors are equally servants of God: nor are their present wants and necessities the only concern of this pious institution; for a foundation is laid for the constant support of themselves and their families.

But the supplying of the temporal wants of the poor is not the only nor the chief end of these institutions : they have another view, which more directly regards the honor and glory of God; the instructing of youth in the principles of virtue and religion, teaching them to know God betimes, and the obedience due to him. To instruct undisciplined youth in the principles of faith and obedience, what is it but to extend the dominion of God over his creatures, and to lay up in store for ourselves more than a conqueror's crown?

The argument has the same advantage with respect to the good of those who are the immediate objects of this charity: it has this in common with other charities, that it supplies the wants of the poor : it has this above many others, that it is a provision against future wants : but its chief glory is, that it is a provision not only for the present comforts of this life, but also for the happiness of that which is eternal. Lastly, as to the encouragers and supporters of this good work, God is their reward; and they need not doubt but that the promises of the gospel shall be justified to them both in this life and in that which is to come.



Preached at St. Sepulchre's, May 21, 1719, at the anniver

sary meeting of the children educated in the charity school.


For the administration of this service not only supplieth the want

of the saints, but is abundant also by many thanksgivings unto God.

To take in the full sense of the Apostle on this subject, the 14th verse ought to be read together with the text; and then the whole will run thus : 6 For the administration of this service not only supplieth the want of the saints, but is abundant also by many thanksgivings unto God'; and by their prayer for you, which long after you for the exceeding grace of God in you.' '

The occasion of these words was in short this : the Apostle had been making collections among the Christians of several countries for the relief of the poor distressed brethren in Judea ; and intending shortly to visit Corinth, he sends before him an exhortation to them to be in readiness to answer the hopes and expectations which themselves had raised in him, that he should receive a large supply at their hands. The chapter of the text is intirely spent in this argument; the Apostle introduces it with excusing his writing on this subject, since he knew how forward they were of their own accord, and how much their zeal had provoked and stirred up others to be liberal; but then from this very circumstance he justifies his application to them, and urges them in a very powerful manner to make good their fair promises, lest haply if they should after all be found unprepared

[ocr errors]

at his coming, both he and they should be ashamed'in their

confident boasting.' I should not have taken notice of this argument made use of by the Apostle to stir up the Corinthians' charity, which is not indeed founded on the nature of the good work itself, or in the promises of the gospel, but for the sake of observing to you that it is not only lawful but laudable to make the natural passions and inclinations of men subservient to the cause of virtue and religion ; that it is no way unbecoming a preacher of the gospel to apply to that sense of shame, to that love of credit and good report, which God has implanted in men, to be perpetual incitements to actions virtuous and praiseworthy. These motives however must be kept in their proper place; we may recommend, but they cannot make a duty ; the ground of our obedience lies deeper. The honor of God, the good of our brethren, the care of our own happiness, are the springs from whence all duties flow; and though we may consider these as distinct heads, yet they always unite in one stream, and run together without division : for whilst we do good to others, we do honor to God, and take the best care of ourselves; and the honor we have for God will as naturally show forth itself in the love of the brotherhood, as it will certainly end in our own happiness.

From these principles the Apostle exhorts the Corinthians to set forward the charity proposed to them with a liberal hand, assuring them that it would be abundant to the honor and glory of God, through many thanksgivings; that it would supply the wants of the saints; and that it would return to them in bles, sings, through the prayers that would be offered to God in their behalf.

We must not imagine that these principles are peculiar to works of charity and beneficence, for they really extend to all parts of our duty: all religion is derived from them; and there is nothing we are bound to, but as it relates either to the honor of God, or the good of mankind, or our own welfare.

In treating therefore of this subject, I shall consider,
First, how these principles influence religion in general.

Secondly, how plainly and evidently they lead us to works
of charity and mercy.
Thirdly, I will show you how effectually they do conspire to



« הקודםהמשך »