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the rich gave out of their abundance; but it Serm. was all she had left in the world ; and there- XVII. fore it was impossible for her to be out-done. It was this that rendered her's such an excellent and exemplary charity; and if the widow's farthing was so well accepted because it was all her stock; nothing is plainer from hence than that the rich man's alms will not be accepted, if it be but a little out of his abundance.
A man who gives but a little to pious and charitable uses out of an easy and plentiful fortune, is the very reverse of this widow; and for the same reason her alms proved an acceptable sacrifice, his will be rejected as an abomination in the sight of God; who has told us that be that foweth little, that is little in respect of his wealth and riches, Mall reap little, i. e. in scripture language, nothing at all ; whereas otherwise we are taught by this pas. fage, that he who soweth little out of a mean fortune, shall reap much.
There are in scripture so many woes pronounced against rich men, and so much said of the danger of acquiring riches, that it is enough to startle the minds of any who have them in poffeffion; and fill them with anxiousfears, and even despondency, with respect to their future state, who are not awakened with a sense of their danger, and perpetually on their guard. Go to now, says St. James, v. 1. Ye rich men, weep and howl for the miseries B 3
Ser M.that shall come upon you. Verse 3. Your gold XVII. and filver is cankered, and the rust of them
skall be a witness against you, i. e. at the day of judgment. And shall eat your flesh as it were fire ; subject both foul and body to everlasting fire. Ye have beaped treasuré together for the last days, a mass of wealth. to inflame your account in the great day of ac
Verse 5. Ye have lived in pleasure upon the earth, indulging your ease and humour in every thing, and therefore it will fall the heavier upon you in another world : And all this is pursuant to our Saviour's own doctrine, that it is eafier for a Camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of beaven.
Would not the confideration of this make
purposes of faving his soul, and escaping the damnation of hell? For surely there must be some reason extraordinary for pronouncing thus positively and in general upon the condition of the rich, without any express exception or reserve ; and this can be no other than the insuperable reluctance they always find in themselves to the performance of this duty of distributing to charitable and pious ures, in such quantities as shall bear a reafonable proportion to their worldly substance. The great difficulty they are under of making a friend in time of the Mammon of unrighteous
ness, which will otherwise prove their greatestS ER M. enemy; that false and treacherous Mammon XVII. which, it is odds, will deceive them to their utter ruin and destruction ; but rightly manåged will at last become their greatest friend, and receive them into everlasting habitations.
As harsh and severe as these sayings of our blessed Saviour and his Apostle seem, yet how remarkably do we see them verified in the generality of the rich men of this world? For how few of them are there who give alms of such things as they have, i.e. a good share of what God has blessed them with; and who forget not to do good; and to difribute according to their Abilities ? Who lay up in ftore for themselves a good foundation against the time to come, that they may attain eternal life. i. è. Lay out so much of their fortune in charities, as shall be a comfortable ground for hope of salvation? How few of them consider they are but stewards, and do not look upon their riches to be all their own? And accordingly either heap them up for their posterity, or else live to the height of what they have, or even beyond it; and so put it out of their power to perform works of charity in such degrees as God will require at their hands? They live as if they were not one day to account with him for every penny, who has allow'd them part of their substance for a falary, and as to the remainder has left them Trustees only and managers for the poor. A lamentable reckoning too many of
ER M. them will have with their great master at that
. time when their fouls shall be required of them.
so much expended in pomp and equipage; so much in gawdy cloathing, and costly daintiés; such and such sums laid out in mode, and fashion, and gallantry: And at the foot of the account perhaps some scattered pence or farthings to the poor ; as if they were to imitate this widow in nothing else but the bulk and size of her offering. But how very different from this will her account be? So much giveni at a happy opportunity to a publick and excellent charity, and nothing left to depend on but God's providence for a meal's meat. Learn from this Woman, who could viant her food rather than be wanting in the discharge of this duty; learn I say from her, at least to part with all your fuperfluities ; to contract your expences, and keep within compass, and cut off many unneceffary forms only of living; that you may not be under a neceffity of robbing God in his offerings, and of coming short of such a quantity to be distributed for that purpose as shall bear a good proportion to your worldly substance. And this leads me to the
IIId. Thing observable from the text; namely, that whatever is the quantity of our alms, whether greater or less
, yet God chiefly regards the heart it is given with. It is true the better a man's heart is, the more it will dispose him to distribute ; but no quantity or
proportion our alms bear to our worldly sub-Ser M. Itance, is a sure indication of their proceeding XVII. from a truly charitable principle. They may proceed from vanity, or ostentation; or from some other selfish or unworthy motive ; accordingly St. Paul supposes that a man may bestow all his goods to feed the poor, and yet it may profit him nothing, for want of that inward disposition of soul, which was so visible in her who was the subject of our Saviour's remark.
She was in no danger of vain glory from a gift so small and inconsiderable, that it seemed not worth the notice of any there present, except our blessed Saviour : And if The had not conveyed it into the corban or chest with privacy, that which was so approved and commended by him, would in all likelihood have met with contempt and ridicule from the Scribes and Pharisees, who gave their alms to be seen of men.
Nor could she have any selfish or worldly motive ; for what worldly motive could be stronger than present food for an hungry stomach ? And the who could deny the cravings and necessities of nature rather than lose the opportunity of doing an excellent charity, could not have done it in prospect of any other worldly good. Besides, the alacrity and chearfulness
, with which it was performed, is not obscurely intimated in the particular mention of her giving two mites, which was still more than if she had given one farthing, though they were of equal value. Had it been