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and families’ wants must “casteris paribus' be supplied before strangers; even before some that you must love better; because God hath in point of provision and maintenance, given you a nearer charge of yourselves and families than of others. 5. Nature also obligeth you to prefer your kindred before strangers, if there be a parity as to other reasons. 6. And ‘caeteris paribus' a good man must be preferred before a bad. 7. And yet that charity which is like to tend to the good of the soul as well as of the body is to be preferred; and in that case ofttimes a bad man is to be preferred, when a greater good is like to be the effect. 8. A friend ‘caeteris paribus,” is to be preferred before an enemy; but not when the good is like to be greater which will follow the relieving of an enemy. Many other rules might be given, but they are laid down already, Part i., where I treat of Good Works; whither I refer you. Quest. v. “Should I give in my lifetime, or at my death ?' Answ. According as it is like to do most good; but none should needlessly delay: both are best. Quest, v1. “Should one devote or set by a certain part of daily incomes 2' Quest. v11. ‘What proportion is a man bound to give to the poor?’ Answ. These two questions having answered in a letter to Mr. Thomas Gouge, now printed, and the book being not in many hands, I will here recite that letter as it is published.
Most dear, and very much honoured Brother,
Even the philosopher hath taught me so to esteem you, who said, that “He is likest to God, who needeth fewest things for himself, and doth most good to others.” And Christ telleth us, that universal charity, (extending even to them that hate and persecute us) doth make us, as his children, like our heavenly Father". As hating and hurting their neighbours is the mark of the children of the devil", so loving and doing good, is the mark of the children of God. And it is observable, that no one treateth so copious" ly and pathetically of love (both of Christ's love to us. and
* Matt. v. 44. 46.48. * John viii. 44.
ours to him) as the blessed disciple, whom Jesus is said to have eminently loved (as John xiii. 14–17. and 1 John shew). It hath often pleased me to hear how dearly you were beloved, by that exceeding great and populous parish, where lately you were preacher, for your eminent charity to their souls and bodies; and to see that still you take it for your work and calling, to be a provoker of others to love and to good works", whilst many that are taken for good Christians, do deal in such works as rarities or recreations, only a little now and then upon the bye, and whilst satan's ministers are provoking others to hatred and to hurtfulness. Your labour is so amiable to me, that it would contribute to my comforts, if I were able to contribute any thing to your assistance. You desire me to give you my judgment of the “quota pars;’ ‘What proportion it is meet for most men to devote to charitable uses; whether the tenth part of their increase be not ordinarily a fit proportion?’ The reason why I use not to answer such questions without much distinguishing (when lazy, impatient readers would have them answered in a word) is, because the real difference of particular cases is so great, as maketh it necessary; unless we will deceive men, or leave the matter as dark and unresolved as we found it. I. Before I answer your question, I shall premise, that I much approve of the way which you insist upon, of setting so much constantly apart as is fit for us to give, that it may be taken by us, to be a devoted or consecrated thing. And methinks that there is much of a Divine direction for the time in 1 Cor. xvi. 1, 2., together with the ancient church, “That upon the first day of the week, every one lay by him in store, as God had prospered him.” And it will do much to cure Pharisaical sabbatizing, when the Lord's day is statedly used in this, with holy works; and will teach hypocrites to know what this meaneth, “I will have mercy and not sacrifice".” And that works of charity are an odour, a sweet smell, a sacrifice ". . And that works of charity are an odour, a sweet smell, a sacrifice acceptable and well pleasing to God, who of the riches of his glory in Christ, will supply all the need of such, as bring forth such fruit to abound unto * Heb. x. 24. * Matt. ix. 13. xii. 7. e Matt, ix. 13. xii. 7.
their account". So it be done without any ensnaring vows, or rash engagements to unnecessary things; this constant setting apart a certain proportion for pious and charitable uses, will have these advantages. 1. Our distribution will be made deliberately and prudently, when beforehand we study a due proportion, and determine accordingly; whereas they that give only occasionally as some object suddenly inviteth them, will do it at random, without due respect to their own accounts, whether the proportion given be answerable to their own estate and duty. 2. This stated way will make men's charity much more extensive: when objects of charity are not in their sight, they will inquire after them, and they will seek for the needy, if the needy seek not unto them; because they have so much by them to dispose of, which is devoted to God. But those who give but as occasional objects draw it from them, will give to none but those that crave, or will pass by many as needy, whom they see not, while they relieve only these few that they happen to see. 3. And it will make men's charity also to be more constant, and done obediently as a Christian's daily work and duty; when occasional charity will be more rarely and inconstantly exercised. In a word, as the observation of the Lord's day, which is a stated proportion of time, secureth the holy improvement of our time, much better than if God be served but occasionally, without a stated time; and as a constant, stated course of preaching excelleth mere occasional exhortations; even so a constant course of giving, wisely stated, will find out objects, and overcome temptations, and discharge our duty with much more integrity and success. And if we can easily perceive that occasional praying will not so well discharge the duty of prayer, as a constant, stated course will do ; why should we not think the same of occasional giving, if men did but perceive that giving according to our ability, is as sure and great a duty as praying. Now to your question of the proportion of our gifts. II. We must distinguish, 1. Between them that have no more than will supply f Phil. iv. 17–19.
their own, and their families’ true necessities, and those that have more 2. Between them that have a stock of money which yieldeth them no increase, and those that have more increase by their labour, but little stock. 3. Between them whose increase is like to be constant, and theirs that is uncertain, sometimes more, and sometimes less. 4. Between them that have many children, or near kindred, that nature casteth upon them for relief; and those that have few or no children, or have a competent provision for them, and have few needy kindred that they are especially obliged to relieve. 5. Between those that live in times and places where the necessities of the poor are very great, or some great works of piety are in hand; and those that live where the poor are in no great necessity, and no considerable opportunity for any great work of piety or charity doth appear. These distinctions premised, I answer as followeth. 1. It is certain that every true sanctified Christian hath devoted himself and all that he hath to God, to be used in obedience to his will, and for his glory 4. The question therefore is not, Whether the tenth part of our estate should be devoted to, and employed in the service of God, one way or other, as he directeth us; for it is out of question that all is his, and we are but his stewards; and must give account of our stewardship, and of all our receivings". But the question is only what proportion is best pleasing to God to our giving to others. -> 2. A Christian being unfeignedly thus resolved in the general, to lay out that he hath or shall have, as God would have him, and to his glory (as near as he can); his next inquiry must be (for finding out the will of God) to know in the ordinary course of his distribution, where God hath gone before him by any particular prescript, and tied him to one certain way of giving, and where God hath only given him some general direction, and left him to discern his duty in particulars, by that general rule, and the further direction of objects and providence. And in this inquiry he will find, 1. That God hath first prescribed to him in nature, the necessary sustenance of his own life. And, 2. The necessary maintenance of his children and family. 3. The necessary maintenance of the preachers of the Gospel, for the worship of God, and the salvation of men". 4. The necessary maintenance of the commonwealth, and paying tribute to the higher powers, who are the ministers of God to us for good ; attending continually upon this very thing". 5. The saving of the lives of those that are in apparent danger of famine or perishing, within our sight or reach'. Thus far God hath prescribed to us, how he would have us use our estates in an ordinary way. In many other things he hath left us to more general directions. 3. To know among good works, which is to be preferred, it principally concerneth us next to know, what works do most contribute to our chiefest ends; which God is most honoured by ; which tend to the greatest good; and here we shall find that, “caeteris paribus,’ 1. The souls of men are to be preferred before their bodies, in estimation and intention; but in time, the body is oft to be preferred before the soul, because if the body be suffered to perish, the helping of the soul will be past our power. 2. And so the church is finally and estimatively to be preferred before the commonwealth; but the commonwealth must be first served in time, when it is necessary to the church's support and welfare; for the church will else perish with the commonwealth. 3. The good of many is to be preferred before the good of a few, and public good to be valued above private ". 4. A continued good is greater than a short and transitory good. And so necessary is it to have chief respect in all our works to our chiefest end (the greatest good), that even when God seemeth to have prescribed to us the way
* 1 Cor. vi. 19, 20. 1 Cor. x. 31. Luke xviii. 33 * Matt. xxv.