« הקודםהמשך »
tnen generally take shelter, is that os inability. "Their circumstances will not permit them to "become benefactors; the public weight of taxes, "the general decay of traffic, and some particu"lar losses they have felt, lie heavy upon them; "their families and their creditors do of right *' lay claim to all they possess; and it would be "an injury to both, should they otherwise dispose "of it. The care of the poor is not committed "to them, but to the rich, and prosperous, and "childless." Now it is true, that from these the most bountiful supplies are expected; These arc - the great springs, that chiesly feed the general current os c harity; for " to whom much is given, "of them shall be much required," Luke xii 48. However, there is still a proportion due even from those, who are not blessed with their affluence; and, before we can excuse ourselves from paying it, it will behove us to consider—Whether there be no unnecessary expences, that we support; 'such as sre unsuitable to our circumstances, and the duties of our rank and station do not require; whether we are too magnisicent and sumptuous in our table and attendance; in our attire and furniture; in our houses and gardens of pleasure: Whether we do not squander away some part of our fortune at play, or indulge some costly vice, which ears up all we have to spare from the reasonable conveniences of life, and the just demands of our family. For, if any of these be the case, we have no right to plead inability, in respect of works of mercy, which our faults and our follies baly hinder us from promoting; but ought immediately to retrench those superfluous expences,
in order to qualify ourselves for the exercise of eharity.
The public burthens, though they may be a good reason for our not expending so much in charity as perhaps we might otherwise do, yet will not justify us in giving nothing; especially if, as those burthens increase, we take care to improve in our frugality and diligence; virtues, which always become us, but more particularly in times of war and public expence; however a dissolute people j whom God (irispightofalltheir vanities and vices) has blessed with success, may at present disregard thertt.
Our private losses and misfortunes may indeed unqualify us for charity: But it were worth our while seriously to reflect, whether they might not originally be, in some measure, owing to the want of it; I mean, whether such losses may not have been infficted by God, as a just punishment of our former avarice and unmercifulnefs, when we had it more in our power than now (and yet had it as little in our will) to be charitable. And if so, can we take a surer or nearer way towards repairing those losses, than by betaking ourselves to the practice of that duty, the omission of which occasioned them? For the lips of truth have faid; "He that giveth unto the poor, shall "not lack. The liberal soul (hall be made fat; "and he that watereth, shall be watered allb *' himself," Prov. xxviii. 27.
Our children and families have, indeed, a right to inherit our fortunes; but nut altogether in exclusion to the poor, who have also a right (even God's sight) to partake of them. As- therefore
Vol. II. T we we ought not to defraud our children, for the fake of the poor; so neither ought we to rob the poor of their share, for the fake of our children: For this is a kind of facrilege, and may prove an eating canker and a consuming moth in the estate that we leave them. Have thy children a due sense of religion? they will be pleased, that thou hast made a pious dispofal of such a part of thy fortunes, as will fanctify and secure the rest to them: Are they ungracious and dissolute? thou hast the less reason in thy charitable distributions to regard them; who, perhaps, when thou art gone, will be the most forward to tax thy neediest parcimony, and will spend in riot what was faved by uncharitableness.
Out of a tender concern, therefore, for the welfare of thy family, that very concern which makes thee shut thy hand to the poor, open it, and scatter among them a proper portion of the good things of life; "and be not faithless, but "believing," that thou, and they M shall be "blessed in thy deed t for there is that scattereth, "and yet increaseth; and there is that withhold"eth more than is meet, but it tendeth to "poverty," Prov. xi. 24.
As to the excuse drawn from the demand of creditors, if it be real, it is unanswerable: Fox no alms can be given, but out of what is properly our own i and nothing is our own, but what remains to us after all our just debts are fatissied. However, there is one fort of debt, which, to whomsoever it is owing, can only be paid to the poor; 1 mean, when, in the course of our dealing, we have either done wrong ignorantly; or have afterwards forgotten the wrong, which we at sirst knowingly did; or have not within our jnemory, or reach, the persons to whom we did it. In such cases, all the reparation we are capable of making, is, to bestow what was thus gotten by injustice, on proper objects of charity. Which is agreeable to the good pattern set by Zaccheus t "Behold, Lord," says he, "the half of my "goods I give to the poor; and if I have taken "any thing from any man—I restore him four"fold," Luke xix. 8. He resolves to make personal restitution, where the wrong can be discovered, and the wronged person reached; and .where they cannot, to make the best amends in his power, by substituting the poor in the room of the injured party. An example, worthy to be imitated by all those who are conscious, or jealous, that some unlawfol gain may (like the " Nail be"twixt the joinings of the stones") have " stuck "fast" to them, * between buying and selling." The best way of satisfying that debt (which deserves to be considered as well as other debts) is, by casting a sin-offering (as it were) into some of these public fonds and receptacles of charity j which are not more usefol to the poor, than to the rich of this great city: For if they afford the .one relief, they give the other also (what they sometimes may, in order to the quiet of their consciences, equally want) an happy opportunity of bestowing it.
Hitherto of the sirst excuse foruncharitableness, drawn from pretended inability; which I have considered the more largely, in its several branches, because it is, of all others, the most general and T 2 prevailing prevailing illusion: I proceed now to reckon up other pleas and pretences, which, not being of equal weight, shall be handled more hi ieiiy. For,
II. There are those that plead unsettled times, and an ill prospect of affairs (whether wrongly or rightly, is not the case; but there are those that plead these things) as impediments to the exercise of charity. For in such an uncertain world, who knows, but that he may want to-morrow what he gives to-day? Who knows, what the fate of tlicie public charities may be, which are now ib fair and flourishing?
But, if this be a good objection, it will at all times equally hinder us from abounding in the offices of charity; since there is no time when, we may not entertain such conjectures as these, and alarm ourselves with such sears and forebodings. "He that observeih the wind, shall "not sow; and he that regardeth the clouds, "shall not reap," Eccl. xi. 4 says the wise man, in this very case, and of these verylpretences: He that too curiously observes the sice of the heavens, and the figns the tws, will be often withheld from do'mg what is absolutely necefljiiy to be done in the present moment; and, by mifsmg his seed-time, will lose the hopes of his harvest. And therefore the counsel there given by the same pen is, "In the morning sow thy seed, "and in the e..cning withhold not thy hand: for *" thou.knowest not whether shall prosper, either "this or that; or whcthei they both shall be a"like good," ver. 6. Neglect no opportunity of doing good, nor check diy desire of doing it,