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Tit. iii. 8, 14. b Gal. vi. 9. ¢ Jb. 10.
SERM. tue and goodness) this of exercising bounty and mercy is XXXI. peculiarly called righteousness ; so that righteousness and
mercifulness, (or alms-deeds,) the righteous and bountiful person, are in Scripture expression ordinarily confounded, as it were, or undistinguishably put one for the other; it being often, when commendations are given to righteoufness, and rewards promised to righteous persons, hard to discern, whether the general oblervance of God's law, or the special practice of these duties, are concerned in them. Likewise works of this nature are in way of peculiar ex
cellency termed good works; and to perform them is · Aas ix. usually styled, to do good, and to do well ; (a diya soy épya1 Τim. v. ζεσθαι, και καλόν ποιείν, “αγαθοεργείν, αγαθοποιείν, «ευποιείν, Τεύ10. vi. 18. efyeceiv, are words applied to this purpose ;) which man
ners of expression do argue the eminent dignity of these 2 Cor. ix. 8. performances. 3.
also consequently mark, that in those places 1 Luke vi. of Scripture where the divine law is abridged, and reli• Heb. xiii. gion summed up into a few particulars of main importA&s x. 38. ance, these duties constantly make a part : fo when the
prophet Micah briefly reckons up those things which are best in the law, and chiefly required by God, the whole
catalogue of them consisting but of three particulars, Micah vi. 8. mercy comes in for one; He hath Mewed thee, O man,
faith he, what is good : and what doth the Lord require of thee, but to do jufily, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God? Likewise of those (Bapútepe tő vóue, those) more substantial and weighty things of God's law, the neglect of which our Saviour objecteth as an argument of
impiety, and a cause of woe, to those pretending zealots, Matt. xxiii. this is one: Woe unto you, Scribes and Pharisees, hypo
crites; for ye pay tilhe of mint and cummin, and have omitted the weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy,
and faith. The sum of St. John the Baptist's instruction Luke jii.10, of the people is by St. Luke reduced to this point; The
people asked him, saying, What shall we do? He answering faith unto them, He that hath two coats, let him im
part him that hath none; and he that hath meat, let him Jam. i. 37. do likewise. St. James's system of religion is this : Pure
and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this ; SERM. to vifit the fatherless and widow in their affliction, (that is, XXXI. to comfort and relieve all distressed and helpless persons,) and to keep himself unspotted from the world. St. Paul seems to be yet more compendious and close: Bear ye, Gal. vi. 2. faith he, one another's burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ. Yea, God himself compriseth all the substantial part of religion herein, when, comparing it with the circumstantial part, he faith, I will have mercy, and not sa-Hof. vi. 6. crifice.
4. It is in like manner considerable, that in the general defcriptions of piety and goodness, the practice of these duties is specified as a grand ingredient of them. In this Psalm, where such a description is intended, it is almost the only particular instance; and it is not only merttioned, but reiterated in divers forms of expression. In the 37th Pfalm it is affirmed and repeated, that the righteous shew-P. xxxvii. eth mercy; he sheweth mercy, and giveth; he Sheweth mer-21, 26.
The rightecy, and lendeth. In the Proverbs it is a commendation of ous giveth,
and fpareth the virtuous woman, whose price is far above rubies, that the stretcheth out her hand to the poor, yea, siretcheth forth xxi. 26. both her hands to the needy. And in Ezekiel, (which is 20. especially remarkable,) the 18th chapter, where the principal things constituting a pious man are more than once profeffedly enumerated, this among a very few other particulars is expressed, and taketh up much room in the account; of such a person (who shall surely live, and not die, that is, who certainly fball abide in God's favour, and enjoy the happy consequences thereof) it is supposed, that he neither hath opprefed any, nor hath withholden Ezek. xviii. the pleilge, nor hath Spoiled by violence; but hath given?, 16. his bread to the hungry, and hath covered the naked with a garment, and hath taken off his hand from the poor.
5. Also in the particular histories of good men this fort of practice is specially taken notice of, and expressed in their characters. In the story of our father Abraham, his Heb. xiii. 2. benignity to strangers, and hospitableness, is remarkable among all his deeds of goodness, being propounded to us as a pattern and encouragement to the like practice. In
SERM. this the conscience of Job did solace itself, as in a solid XXXI. assurance of his integrity: I delivered the poor that cried, Job xxix. and the fatherless, and him that had none to help him, 12, 13, 15, The blessing of him that was ready to perish came upon me,
and I caused the widow's heart to fing. I was eyes to the llind, and feet I was to the lame; I was a father to the poor. Did not I weep for him that was in trouble? Wus not my soul grieved for the poor ? Hence also did the good
Publican recommend himself to the favour and approbaLuke xix. tion of our Saviour, saying, Behold, Lord, half of my 8, 9.
goods I give to the poor : hence did salvation come to his house : hence he is proclaimed, a fon of Abraham. Of Dorcas, that good woman, who was so gracious and
cious among the Disciples, this is the commendation and Aas ix. 36. character; She was full of good works and alms-deeds,
which she did ; such practice made her capable of that favour, so great and extraordinary, the being restored to life; at least in St. Chryfoftom’s judgment: The force of her alms, faith he, did conquer the tyranny of death. Cornelius also, that excellent person, who was, though a
Gentile, so acceptable to God, and had so extraordinary Ads s. 2. graces conferred on him, is thus represented; He was a
devout man, and one that feared God, with all his house ;
who gave much alms to the people, and prayed to God 1 Tim. iii. 2. alway. We may add, that to be hospitable (one branch Tit. i. 8.
of these duties, and inferring the rest) is reckoned a qualification of those who are to be the guides and patterns of goodness unto others. And particularly, one fit to be
promoted to a widow's office in the church is thus de1 Tim.v. scribed; Well reported of for good works; if she have
brought up children; if she have lodged strangers ; if she have washed the saints' feet; if she have relieved the afflicted; if she have diligently followed every good work.
6. So near to the heart of piety doth the holy ScripGal. v. 14. ture lay the practice of these duties: and no wonder; Rom. xiii.
for it often expressly declares charity to be the fulfilling
f “Η της ελεημοσύνης δύναμις ενίκησε θανάτου την τυραννίδα. Chry. in Gen. Oral, 55,
Matt. v. 7.
Rom. xv. 28.
of God's law, as the best expression of all our duty toward SERM. God, of faith in him, love and reverence of him, and as
XXXI. either formally containing, or naturally producing all our 1 "Tim. i. s. duty toward our neighbour. And of charity, works of Matt
. vii. bounty and mercy are both the chief instances, and the plainest signs: for whereas all charity doth consist either in mental desire, or in verbal signification, or in effectual performance of good to our neighbour; this last is the end, the completion, and the affurance of the rest. Goodwill is indeed the root of charity ; but that lies under’Ezitatis ground, and out of fight; nor can we conclude its being ta. " Greg. or life without visible fruits of beneficence. Good words Nyll in are at best but fair leaves thereof, such as may, and too often do, proceed from a weak and barren disposition of mind. But these good works are real fruits, (so St. Paul Tit. iii. 14. calls them; Let ours also, faith he, learn to maintain good works for necessary uses, that they be not unfruitful,) Phil. iv. 17. which declare a true life, and a good strength of charity in the bearer of them: by them tò yvosov tils áráns, the 2 Cor. viii. fincerity (or genuineness) of our charity is proved. no man ever doth impress a false stamp on the finest metal; so costly charity is seldom counterfeit. It is to decline spending their goods or their pains, that men forge and feign; pretending to make up in wishing well, the defect of doing so, and paying words instead of things: but he that freely imparts what he hath, or can do for his neighbour's good, needs no other argument to evince that he loves in good earnest, nor can indeed well use any other: for words, if actions are wanting, seem abufive; and if actions are present, they are superfluous. Wherefore St. John thus advises; My little children, let us not 1 John iii. love in word, or in tongue, (axx'épyw,) but in work and in truth. To love in work, and to love in truth, he signifies to be the same thing; and to pretend love in speech, without practising it in deed, he implies not allowable. And St. James in way of comparison says, that as faith without works is dead, so love without beneficence is useless. For, If a brother or sister be naked, and destitute James ii. of daily food, and one of you say unto him, Depart in peace,
15, 16, 17.
SERM. be you warmed and filled, notwithstanding ye give them not XXXI. those things which are needful to the body, what doth it
profit? Even so faith without works is dead. Cold wishes of good, working no real benefit to our neighbour, and a faint affent unto truth, producing no constant obedience to God, are things near of kin, and of like value; both of little worth or use. Charity then being the main point of religion, mercy and bounty being the chief parts of charity, well may these duties be placed in so high a rank, according to the divine heraldry of Scripture.
7. To enforce which observations, and that we may be farther certified about the weight and worth of these duties, we may confider, that to the observance of them molt ample and excellent rewards are alligned; that, in return for what we bestow on our poor brethren, God
hath promised all sorts of the best mercies and blessings Pr. lxiii. 3. to us. The best of all good things, (that which in Da
vid's opinion was better than life itself, the fountain of
all blesings, (God's love and favour, or mercy,) is pro2 Cor. ix. 7. cured thereby, or is annexed to it. For, God loveth a Matt.v.7. cheerful giver, faith St. Paul; and, The merciful shall obJames ii.13. tain mercy, faith our Saviour: and, Mercy rejoiceth against
judgment, (or boasteth, and triumpheth over it ; fasos xalaXauxara xplorews that is, it appeaseth God's wrath, and prevents our condemnation and punishment,) faith St. James; God will not continue displeased with him, nor will withhold his mercy from him, who is kind and merciful to his neighbour. It is true, if rightly understood, what the Hebrew Wise Man faith, Water will quench
a flaming fire, and alms maketh an atonement for fins. For ipfum in- this practice hath the nature and name of a facrifice, and eiam Ambr. is declared as such both in excellency and efficacy to surOffic. i. 11. pass all other facrifices; to be most acceptable to God, Pfalm. most available for expiation of guilt, most effe&ual in obcxxxiii. Chrys. tom. taining mercy and favour. Other facrifices performed in v. Orat. 55. obedience to God's appointment (on virtue of our Lord's
perfect obedience, and with regard to his pure facrifice of himself) did in their way propitiate God, and atone fin: but this hath an intrinsic worth, and a natural aptitude to
Matt. vi. 14. Ecclus. iii. 30. Si nudum veftias, te