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quent that their charity is altogether exhausted, and that were they to give something to every one who asks relief, nothing would be left for the support of their own family. Strange it is that the very circumstance which should excite your liberality, makes you the more uncharitable. The great number of the unfortunate is the reason why your charity is so loudly called for. If few persons were to be relieved your bounty would be the less necessary, at least, necessary in a less degree. But in times of hardship and want, no man who is himself above the fear of want, ought to withhold his mite. Your concern for the interests of
faily is laudable. If you provide not for
your “ own, especially for those of your own “ house, you have denied the faith and are “ worse than an infidel.” Perhaps too industry and economy are the best bestowed charity ; for they may prevent you
descendants from becoming a future burden on the publick. But think how much a small matter saved from your daily expenses, and of no consequence to you, would add to the happiness of the poor, and you will not surely refuse to deny yourself a luxury, when, by
doing so,, you can save a number of your hungry and naked and houseless brethren from misery and death.
The reason why we feel charity so great a burden is, that our charity is extended upon no settled plan, but is merely accidental. In general all our income is applied to the purposes
of our own expenditure, and, of course, every farthing given to the poor is a diminution of our enjoyment. But would men allot yearly a certain portion of what they possess for the relief of the indigent and distressed, and reserve that as a sacred and inviolable deposit put into their hands by the common father of the rich and poor, intended for the benefit of the latter; then they would feel the exercise of charity no hardship, the number of miserable objects would speedily decrease, and plenty, cheerfulness and joy, would be widely diffused throughout society.
III. The third thing which I proposed, was, to suggest some directions for the exercise of this virtue. And, in my opinion, you will not err, if your charity extends to proper objects, proceeds from proper motives, and is performed in a proper manner.
1. In general the most destitute are the
most worthy objects of our charity. Misery, in whatever shape or in whatever character, whether in our friends or in our foes, in the good or in the bad, is the object of our compassion, and calls for our assistance. The generous and wounded soldier who
the cup of water brought to quench his own thirst, to another whose necessities appeared greater, acted according to the true spirit of charity.
It is an opinion both erroneous and dangerous, that hatred of vice should render us uncompassionate to sinners, or that variance and animosity should make us deaf to the cries of our enemy in distress.
There can be no greater act of charity than to reclaim the vicious; there is not a more express precept in the gospel than that we feed our enemy when he is hungry, and give him drink when he is thirsty. It is thus that we are treated by our heavenly father, whose fairest and best-loved attribute it is to pity and forgive, who maketh his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust. This is the example set us by our great Master who performed towards us, even when we were enemies and sinners,
the greatest act of charity and mercy which ever did or ever can happen in the universe,
It is impossible to particularize the different objects which are worthy of your charity. Look around you, and you will will see a sufficient number of them. Among those who request your assistance you will distinguish the industrious, who, after all their efforts, are unable to supply their own and their children's wants ; the aged and infirm whose arm is now unstrung, and who, declining into the winter of life, no longer display the blossoms of spring or the fruit of autumn; the helpless orphan on whose tender years no parent of their own ever smiled, whom no protector defends from the early and infectious blasts of vice, to whom no guardian and instructor points out the path of duty. But above all, you ought to distinguish those who, after being accustomed to affluence and plenty, are by some unforeseen accident, some sudden reverse of fortune, without any
fault of their own, reduced to bear the galling yoke of poverty; who, after being the father of the fatherless, the stay of the orphan, and the shield of the stranger, now need that charity which they were wont so liberally to
dispense. To them poverty must be the more insupportable, because they are prevented by modesty from making kown their wants and disclosing their misery. To their assistance, then, let the charitable and open hand be stretched out. In their case, too, let charity be performed with that secrecy and tenderness which their delicate and susceptible dispositions require,
2. While your charity is extended only to proper objects, it ought also to proceed from proper motives. On the principle from which any action arises, depends its merit or demerit. If we are charitable from motives of pride and ostentation, that we may be seen of men, and may gain the applause of the world, our charity is but as a sounding brass or a tinkling cymbol. The observations of our Lord on this subject are highly pertinent and well deserve our attention. To prevent the mixture of improper motives in the exercise of charity, he requires that it be done in secret. « Take “ heed,” says he, “ that ye do not your alms “ before men, to be seen of them; otherwise
ye have no reward of your father which is in • heaven. Therefore, when thou doest thine is alms, do not sound a trumpet before thee,