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She was

ceeded from none but a mind exercised to an SER M. habitual discharge of holy duties, and wherein XVII. there was a complication of virtues and graces. . She must have been used to fasting and abItinence, and to frequent self-denials, who could deny her self the necessaries of life. She must have been strongly affected with a belief of God's all-Juficiency, as well as with a present sense of his all-feeing eye. She must have had a warm zeal for the house of God and his worship, and have been of a tender and compassionate heart towards the poor, as having a fellow-feeling of their miseries. surely of a devout and excellent spirit, endued with a great contempt of all worldly pleasures and vanities ; intirely void of all discontent, or murmuring at her poverty and the meanness of her condition ; and of all envy at the flourishing condition of the rich who were able to give so plentifully. From whence we may learn, that the poorest person in the lowest condition of life, hath it in his power to exercise the most exalted acts of virtue ; nay and to out-do those of an higher rank in that very particular of almsgiving, in which of all other duties they seem to have the greatest advantage over him.

This was a full tryal of the truth and fincerity of her heart towards God in a signal instance of duty and love, and upon an extraordinary occasion; and a proof that no hardship or difficulty could overcome the resolution of her mind in aspiring to the greatest

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Serm. height of virtue and goodness which was
XVII. practicable, nay though she starved for it. A
nu person's passing such a tryal as this, in the only

point of virtue and goodness expressly to be
recited in the day of judgment, must be ever
after a ground of unspeakable comfort for
the rest of his life; it shows that God can
call him to nothing which he is not disposed
readily and chearfully to obey. But it must
be a reflection full of sinking and despondency
for a man to be conscious to himself that he
has hitherto remarkably failed in what is to
be the main article of his account; whatever
appearance or profefsion of religion he makes
in all other instances, he may conclude the
heart is not right, and that his service is di-
vided between God and Mammon.

It is worth observing, that in all this she
acted upon no higher principle than what the
Old Testament could furnish her with. She
might have heard of Manna rained down
from Heaven for a supply to God's people in
the wilderness; of the Prophet's being fed by
ravens ; and the widow's cruise of oyl which
failed not in the famine. But she had not
been taught that though two sparrows were fo
inconsiderable as to be sold for a farthing, yet
that one of them could not be killed without
God's permiffion; and that his care of us is
such, that the very hairs of our beads are
Humbered. And yet we find how little thought
the took for ber life, · what he should eat or
what the should drink, who gave away all

her

her living ; and how truly she fought firstS er M. the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and XVII. left it to him to add all other things as he saw m fit. Compare this woman with those who make the fear of wanting an excuse for not giving to the poor ; nay fome to that degree that they are not without perpetual boading thoughts of starving in the midst of plenty. Then it is faith when we look upon what we give in charitable uses to be the furest

provision for our felves and families, and think that we lend upon the best security. He that bath pity upon the poor lendeth unto the Lord, and that which be bath borrowed will be pay bim again ; pay him with intereft, and com monly in this life : And if we had the whole history of this widow, I doubt not but we fhould have had an account even of a tem poral reward for such an excellent charity, and of fome providential relief for her who had thus liberally casi ber bread upon the war ters. Whenever charity fails of a return either upon our felves or our posterity even in this world, it is in all likelihood because we give not chearfully or in proportion to our fortune but sparinglyor with distrustful and desponding thoughts. Or because, though we are not wanting in the quantity of our charities, yet we are not all of a piece, but fail in fome other duties ; for though we should visit the fatherlefs and widows in their afli&tion, it is not pure religion unlefs we keep our selves unspotted from the world, James i. 22.

VII

SERM. VII. The seventh thing we may observe XVII. from this remarkable passage, is the great W value and real excellency of a publick charity.

The corban or treasury was a common fund for the repairs and furniture of the temple ; for the support of the publick worship of God; and for the relief of the indigent. One would be apt to think that a farthing was not worth contributing to so great a fund; and that it was vanity in the widow not to lay it out in some private charity, whose low condition must have made her acquainted with miserable objects enough, and with such as wanted it to buy them bread. But we find she thought otherwise, who chose to contribute her two mites to a publick charity; and so did our Sayiour, who from his full approbation of what The had done, and magnifying it above all the

pompous charities of the rich, hath recommended the like practice to all posterity. It is true, private cases of great extremity, or fudden exigence, 'and present misery, require an immediate relief, and are preferable to any publick charity whatsoever ; and this we are taught by Christ in the person of the good Samaritan, who was at expence in taking care of the man he chanced to find stript and wounded by the way; whereas the Priest and the Levite, who passed him by, perhaps would have pleaded for themselves that they reserved their money for the corban. Such another seasonable act of generosity and kindness was that of the woman who consumed the pre

great and

cious oyntment on our Saviour when he sat at SER M. meat, the price of which would have relieved XVII. many of the ordinary poor. The import of his answer upon that occasion was, that bis was a particular and extraordinary case, it being done not merely out of a customary compliment, but upon a great and sudden exigence, no less than by an excellent act of faith, the anointing of him for his burial.

But though such like instances of present exigence or misery claim a preference before all other, yet the contributing to promote a general and publick good is otherwise more preferable, as the good of the community is to be considered before that of any single person. The common poor you have always with you, and

you need never want opportunities of relieving them ; but opportunities of contributing to an united and publick charity you have not always. We find this Widow left the performance of those common and ordinary charities to them who were able to perform both; and wisely chose to throw her farthing into the publick treasury: And small as it was, you see it was not sunk in so great a mass, but came into the account with God, and brought her in for no small share of that universal benefit which from thence accrued to the whole nation of the Jews. This little gift was an argument of a large and generous soul, and Thewed how plentifully she would have given if lhe had been able. As none could equal

her

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