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It doth not answer the rules of Christian charity, to relieve those only who are reduced to extremity, as might be abundantly shown. I shall at this time mention but two things as evidences of it.
1. We are commanded to love and treat one another as brethren: 1 Pet. iii. 8. “Have compassion one of another; love as brethren; be pitiful.” Now, is it the part of brethren to refuse to help one another, and to do any thing for each other's comfort, and for the relief of each other's difficulties, only when they are in extremity? Doth it not become brothers and sisters to have a more friendly disposition one towards another, than this comes to ? and to be ready to compassionate one another under difficulties, though they be not extreme?
The rule of the gospel is, that when we see our brother under any difficulty or burden, we should be ready to bear the burden with him : Gal. vi. 2. “Bear ye one another's bur. dens, and so fulfil the law of Christ.” So we are commanded, by love to serve one another, Gal. v. 13. The Christian spirit will make us apt to sympathize with our neighbour, when we see him under any difficulty : Rom. xii. 15. “Rejoice with them that do rejoice, and weep with them that weep.” When our neighbour is in difficulty, he is afflicted; and we ought to have such a spirit of love to him, as to be afflicted with him in his affliction. And if we ought to be afflicted with him, then it will follow, that we ought to be ready to relieve him ; because, if we are afflicted with him, in relieving him we relieve ourselves. His relief is so far our own relief, as his affliction is our affliction
Christianity teaches us to be afflicted in our neighbour's affliction; and nature teaches us to relieve our. selves when afflicted.
We should behave ourselves one towards another as brethren that are fellow-travellers ; for we are pilgrims and strangers here on earth, and are on a journey. Now, if brethren be on a journey together, and one meet with difficulty in the way, doth it not become the rest to help him, not only in the extremity of broken bones, or the like, but as to provision for the journey, if his own fall short? It becomes his fellow-travellers to afford him a supply out of their stores, and not to be over-nice, exact, and fearful lest they give him too much; for it is but provision for a journey; and all are supplied when they get to their journey's end.
2. That we should relieve our neighbour only when in extremity, is not agreeable to the rule of loving our neighbour as ourselves. That rule implies that our love towards our neighbour should work in the same manner, and express itself in the same ways, as our love towards ourselves. We are very sensible of our own difficulties; we should also be readily sensible of theirs. From love to ourselves, when we are under difficulties, and suffer hardships, we are concerned for our relief, are wont to seek relief, and lay ourselves out for it. and as we would love our neighbour as ourselves, we ought in like manner to be concerned when our neighbour is under difficulty, and to seek his relief. We are wont to be much concerned about our own difficulties, though we be not reduced to extremity, and are willing in those cases to lay ourselves out for our own relief. So, as we would love our neighbour as ourselves, we should in like manner lay out ourselves to obtain relief for him, though his difficulties be not extreme.
OBJECT. V. Some may object against charity to a particular object, because he is an ill sort of person ; he deserves not that people should be kind to him ; he is of a very ill temper, of an ungrateful spirit, and particularly, because he hath not deserved well of them, but has treated them ill, has been injurious to them, and even now entertains an ill spirit against them.
But we are obliged to relieve persons in want, notwithstanding these things; both by the general and particular rules of God's word.
1. We are obliged to do so by the general rules of scripture. I shall mention two. (1.) That of loving our neighbour as ourselves. A man
A may be our neighbour, though he be an ill sort of man, and even our enemy, as Christ himself teaches us by his discourse with the lawyer, Luke x. 25, &c. A certain lawyer came to Christ, and asked him, What he should do to inherit eternal life? Christ asked him, How it was written in the law ? He answers, “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind; and thy neighbour as thyself.” Christ tells him that if he shall do thus, he shall live. But then the lawyer asks him, who is bis neighbour? because it was a received doctrine among the Pharisees, that no man was their neighbour, but their friends, and those of the same people and religion.Christ answers him by a parable, or story of a certain man, who went down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among thieves, who stripped him of his raiment, and wounded him, and departed from him, leaving him half dead. Soon after there came a priest that way, who saw the poor man that had been thus cruelly treated by the thieves; but passed by without affording him any relief. The same was done by a Levite. But a certain Samaritan coming that way, as soon as he saw the half-dead man, had compassion on him, took him up, bound up his wounds, set him on his own beast, carried him to the inn, and took care of him, paying the innkeeper money for his past and future expense; and promising him still more, if he should find it necessary to be at more expense on behalf of the man.
Then Christ asks the lawyer, which of these three, the priest, the Levite, or the Samaritan, was neighbour to the man that fell among the thieves. Christ proposed this in such a manner, that the lawyer could not help owning that the Samaritan did well in relieving the Jew, that he did the duty of a neighbour to him. Now, there was an inveterate enmity between the Jews and the Samaritans. They hated one another more than any other nation in the world : and the Samaritans were a people exceedingly troublesome to the Jews ; yet we see that Christ teaches, that the Jews ought to do the part of neighbours to the Samaritans; i. e. to love them as themselves; for it was that of which Christ was speaking.
And the consequence was plain. If the Samaritan was neighbour to the distressed Jew, then the Jews, by a parity of reason, were neighbours to the Samaritans. If the Samaritan did well, in relieving a Jew that was his enemy; then the Jews would do well in relieving the Samaritans, their enemies.What I particularly observe is, that Christ here plainly teaches that our enemies, those that abuse and injure us, are our neighbours, and therefore come under the rule of loving our neighbour as ourselves.
(2.) Another general rule that obliges us to the same thing, is that wherein we are commanded to love one another, as Christ hath loved us. We have it in Jobn xiii. 34. “A new commandment I give unto you, that ye love one another; as I have loved
also love one another." Christ calls it a new commandment, with respect to that old commandment of loving our neighbour as ourselves. This command of loving our neighbour as Christ hath loved us, opens our duty to us in a new manner, and in a further degree than that did. We must not only love our neighbour as ourselves, but as Christ hath loved us. We have the same again, John xv.
56 This is my commandment, that ye love one another, as I have loved
Now, the meaning of this is, not that we should love one another to the same degree that Christ loved us; though there ought to be a proportion, considering our nature and capacity; but that we should exercise our love one to another in like
As, for instance, Christ hath loved us so as to be willing to deny himself, and to suffer greatly, in order to help us ; so should we be willing to deny ourselves, in order to help one another. Christ loved us, and showed us great kind. ness, though we were far below him : so should we show kindness to those of our fellow-men who are far below us. Christ denied himself to help us, though we are not able to recompense him ; so should we be willing to lay out ourselves to help our neighbour freely, expecting nothing again. Christ loved us, was kind to us, and was willing to relieve us, though we were very evil and hateful, of an evil disposition, not deserving any good, but deserving only to be hated, and treated with indignation ; so we should be willing to be kind to those who are of
; an ill disposition, and are very undeserving. Christ loved us, and laid bimself out to relieve us, though we were his enemies, and had treated him ill; so we, as we would love one another as Christ hath loved us, should relieve those who are our enemies, hate us, have an ill spirit towards us, and have treated us ill.
2. We are obliged to this duty by many particular rules. We are particularly required to be kind to the unthankful and to the evil; and therein to follow the example of our heavenly Father, who causes his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust. We are obliged, not only to be kind to them that are so to us, but to them that hate, and that despitefully use us. I need not mention the particular places which speak to this effect.
Not but that when persons are virtuous and pious, and of a grateful disposition, and are friendly disposed towards us, they are more the objects of our charity for it, and our obligation to kindness to them is the greater. Yet if things be otherwise, that doth not render them not fit objects of our charity, nor set us free from obligation to kindness towards them.
OBJECT. VI. Some may object from their own circumstances, that they have nothing to spare; they have not more than enough for themselves.-1 answer,
i. It must doubtless be allowed, that in some cases persons, by reason of their own circumstances, are not obliged to give to others.--For instance, if there be a contribution for the poor, they are not obliged to join in the contribution, who are in as • much need as those are for whom the contribution is made. It savours of ridiculous vanity in them to contribute with others for such as are not more needy than they. It savours of a proud desire to conceal their own circumstances, and an affectation of having them accounted above what they in truth are.
2. There are scarcely any who may not make this objection, as they interpret it. There is no person who may not say, he has not more than enough for himself, as he may mean by enough. He may intend, that he has not more than he desires, or more than he can dispose of to his own advantage; or not so much, but that, if he had any thing less, he should look upon himself in worse circumstances than he is in now. He will own, that he could live if he had less; but then he will say he could not live so well. Rich men may say, they have not more than enough for themselves, as they may mean by it. They need it all, they may say, to support their honour and dignity, as is proper for the place and degree in which they stand. Those who Vol. VI.
are poor, to be sure, will say, they have not too much for them. selves; those who are of the middle sort will say, they have not too much for themselves; and the rich will say, they have not too much for themselves. Thus there will be none found to give to the poor. 3. In many cases, we may, by the rules of the gospel, be
, • obliged to give to others, when we cannot do it without suffer
ing ourselves; as, if our neighbour's difficulties and necessities be much greater than our own, and we see that he is not like to be otherwise relieved, we should be willing to suffer with him, and to take part of his burden on ourselves ; else how is that rule of bearing one another's burdens fulfilled? If we be never obliged to relieve others' burdens, but when we can do it without burdening ourselves, then how do we bear our neighbour's burdens, when we bear no burden at all? Though we may not have a superfluity, yet we may be obliged to afford relief to others who are in much greater necessity; as appears by that rule, Luke iii. 11. “ He that hath two coats, let him impart to him that hath none; and he that hath meat, let him do likewise.”—Yea, they who are very poor may be obliged to give for the relief of others in much greater distress than they. If there be no other way of relief, those who have the lightest burden are obliged still to take some part of their neighbour's burden, to make it the more supportable. A brother may be obliged to help a brother in extremity, though they are both very much in want. The apostle' commends the Macedonian Christians, that they were liberal to their brethren, though they themselves were in deep poverty : 2 Cor. viii. 1, 2. “Moreover, brethren, we do you to wit of the grace of God bestowed on the churches of Macedonia : how in a great trial of affliction, the abundance of their joy, and their deep poverty, abounded unto the riches of their liberality.
4. Those who have not too much for themselves are will. ing to spare seed to sow, that they may have fruit hereafter. Perhaps they need that which they scatter in the field, and seem to throw away. They may need it for bread for their families; yet they will spare seed to sow, that they may provide for the future, and may have increase. But we have already shown, that giving to the poor is in scripture compared to sowing seed, and is as much the way to increase as the sowing of seed is. It doth not tend to poverty, but the contrary; it is not the way to diminish our substance, but to increase it. All the difficulty in this matter is in trusting God with what we give, in trusting his promises. If men could but trust the faithfulness of God to his own promises, they would give freely.
OBJECT. VII. Some may object concerning a particular person, that they do not certainly know whether he be an ob