« PreviousContinue »
SERM. one piece of money, the doubt with herfelf
to herself, or lend it to God? But being
How should this great example excite in us
Now since it is the giving freely and willingly is that which fančtifies our alms ; and that we are for that reason warned, 2 Cor. ix.
7. not to give grudgingly, or of neceshty, for S ER M. that God loveth a chearful giver ; I cannot close XVII. this head without observing, that the main occasion of people's failing in this great and even essential qualification of their charities, and the reason why they do not give with a wila ling and free heart, is because they do not come to a fixed resolution with themselves to lay aside fome certain proportion of their clear gain or yearly income for charitable uses; but generally leave this at large and uncertain, to be performed when they happen to be well disposed, and that objects or occasions of charity offer of themselves. This makes men careless and negligent in giving, and they do it with a secret reluctance; and at best with coolness and indifference. Whereas if they would observe the rule laid down by St. Paul, i Cor. xvi. 2. that every one do weekly lay by in flore as God bas prospered bim, i.e. treasure up, as it is in the original, and as it is elsewhere expressed, Treasure up for themselves treasures in beaven, Matth. vi. 19, 20. they would then be able to make a pretty good computation of what their treasure in heaven is; and what foundation they have laid against the time, to come, for the attainment of eternal life. They would then make it their businefs to inquire for the greatest objects of charity, and feek diligently for opportunities of laying out their money in fuch an invaluable purchase. They would not trust their own heart, which is deceitful above all things, with a matter of
Ser m.so great consequence to them ; nor leave it to XVII. meer chance, and present temper, or inclinaVtion only; but determine well upon it from their best reason and most mature deliberation.
If any one should ask what proportion of our worldly substance would be reasonable thus to dedicate to God? I shall make no other answer than what the Holy Ghost has furnished us with in 2 Cor. ix. 7. Let every man do according as he is disposed in his heart. And verfe 6. He that foweth little, Jall reap little, and be that foweth plenteously shall reap plenteously. It does not become us to prescribe bounds to what God has left at large and undetermined for wise and important reasons ; namely that our deeds of charity may be intirely free ; and that there might be full scope left for the largest soul to exert itfelf to the utinoft, in a virtue which can never miss of a fuitable reward in the highest degree that it is practicable ; nay though men come up to this great pattern which Christ has said before us. Which brings me to the
IVth thing observable from this paffage, and that is, how little danger we are in of any blameable excess in the practice of this most excellent virtue. There is great danger of coming short, and multitudes have been undone thereby, and subjected themselves to that final and irreversible sentence, depart ye cursed into everlasting fire, prepared
for the Devil and bis Angels; expressly said to be for their failure in the due discharge of this great-duty : But
since the world began was it never heard that S ER M. ever any person over-acted this part ? If ever XVII. it was any one's case, it must be that of this widow, who cast into the sacred treasury all she had, even all ber living. The word is Bíos in the original, the parted with her very life and sustenance ; which at least must fignify the whole allowance of that day, perhaps her bire or wages; and then she both wrought and fasted for her gift. The rest out of their abundance contributed largely, but they still kept more behind ; but Christ tells us the wanted what she gave : It was no imaginary but a real want; the greatest in nature, the want of bread.
Now though this woman's offering was all that God had allotted her for the supplies of hunger and thirst, yet we find our Saviour did not condemn her, or argue her guilty of any indiscreet profuseness; no nor of tempting God by rafhly and intirely throwing herself
upon his providence : But on the contrary magnifies her gift above all the pompous charities of the rich ; and proposes it by way of example and encouragement to all posterity.
This is not the only instance wherein Christ has expressed himself upon the work of charity even in this exalted degree ; his direction to the young man who had great polésions, Matth. xix. 21. was, go and sell that thou bast, Τα υπάρχοντα, all your substance ;
ou égals, says St. Mark, all you have, and give to the
Ser M.poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven.
uses, has but a very harsh and ungrateful
and that they shall have treasure in
But let not people be deceived ; this faying of our Saviour's was not calculated for that single perfon alone to whom it was spoke ; for then it would not have been on record in the Gospel ; but it is full of instruction to all mankind, and no more than what he recommends to his own little flock, Luke xii. 23. Sell that ye hare, and give alms ; provide your selves bags which wax not old, a treasure in the Heavens which faileth not.
These fayings of Christ are not to be taken in the utmost rigour, as if the advice were to part with all, and reduce ourselves to the extremest want and misery; it is not expected men should act up to this widow, and not leave themselves one farthing. But they import the giving to charitable ufes not only some reasonable proportion of their annuity or gain, but the selling even their posesions