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ject of charity or not. They are not perfectly acquainted with his circumstances ; neither do they know what sort of man he is. They know not whether he be in want as he pretends. Or, if they know this, they know not how he came to be in want; whether it were not by his own idleness or prodigality. Thus they argue that they cannot be obliged, till they certainly know these things.-I reply,
1. This is Nabal's objection, for which he is greatly condemned in scripture ; see 1 Sam. xxv. David in his cxiled state came and begged relief of Nabal. Nabal objected, ver. 10, 11. “Who is David ? and who is the son of Jesse? There be many servants now-a-days, that break away every man from his master. Shall I then take my bread and my water, and my flesh that I have killed for my shearers, and give it unto men, whom I know not whence they be?” His objection was, that David was a stranger to him ; he did not know who he was, nor what his circumstances were. He did not know but that he was a runaway; and he was not obliged to support and harbour a runaway. He objected, that he knew not ihat he was a proper object of charity ; that he knew not but that he was very much the contrary.
But Abigail no way countenanced his behaviour herein, but greatly condemned it. She calls him a man of Belial, and says
that he was as his name was ; Nabal was his name, and folly was with him. And her behaviour was very contrary to his; and she is greatly commended for it. The Holy Ghost tells us in that chapter, ver. 3, That she was a woman of a good understanding. At the same time God exceedingly frowned on Nabal's behaviour on this occasion, as we are informed that about ten days after God smote Nabal that he died; ver. 38.
This story is doubtless told us partly for this end, to discountenance too great a scrupulosity as to the object on whom we bestow our charity, and the making of this merely an objection against charity to others, that we do not certainly know their circumstances. It is true, when we have opportunity to become certainly acquainted with their circumstances, it is well to embrace it; and to be influenced in a measure by probability in such cases, is not to be condemned. Yet it is better to give to several that are not objects of charity, than to send away empty one that is.
2. We are commanded to be kind to strangers whom we know not, nor their circumstances. This is commanded in many places; but I shall mention only one; Heb. xiii. 2. “ Be not forgetful to entertain strangers ; for thereby some have entertained angels unawares." By strangers here the apostle means one whom we know not, and whose circumstances we know not; as is evident by these words, “ for thereby some
have entertained angels unawares." Those who entertained angels unawares, did not know the persons whom they entertained, nor their circumstances; else how could it be unawares?
OBJECT. VIII. Some may say they are not obliged to give to the poor, till they ask. If any man is in necessity, let him come and make known his straits to me, and then it will be time enough for me to give him. Or if he need a public contribution, let him come and ask. I do not know that the congregation or church is obliged to relieve till they ask relief.
1. It surely is the most charitable, to relieve the needy in that way wherein we shall do them the greatest kindness. Now it is certain that we shall do them a greater kindness by inquiring into their circumstances, and relieving them, without putting them upon begging. There is none of us but who, if it were their case, would look upon it more kind in our neighbours, to inquire into our circumstances, and help us of their own accord. To put our neighbours upon begging in order to relief, is painful. It is more charitable, more brotherly, more becoming Christians and the disciples of Jesus, to do it without. I think this is self evident, and needs no proof.
2. This is not agreeable to the character of the liberal man given in scripture, viz. that devises liberal things. Isa. xxxii. 8. It is not to devise liberal things, if we neglect all liberality till the poor come a begging to us. But to inquire, who stand in need of our charity, and to contrive to relieve them in the way that shall do them the greatest kindness; that is to devise liberal things.
3. We should not commend a man for doing so to his own brother. If a man had an own brother or sister in great straits, and he were well able to supply them, under the pretence, that if he or she want any thing, let them come and ask, and I will give them ; we should hardly think such an one behaved like a brother. Christians are commanded to love as brethren, to look upon onc another as brethren in Christ, and to treat one another as such.
4. We should commend others for taking a method contrary to that which is proposed by the objector. If we should hear or read of a people who were so charitable, who took such care of the poor, and were so concerned that none among them should suffer, who were proper objects of charity; that they were wont diligently to inquire into the circumstances of their neighbours, to find out who were needy, and liberally supplied them of their own accord; I say if we should hear or read of such a people, would it not appear well to us? Should not we have the better thought of that people, on that account?
OBJECT. IX. He has brought himself to want by his own fault.-In reply, it must be considered what you mean by his fault.
1. If you mean a want of a natural faculty to manage affairs to advantage, that is to be considered as his calamity. Such a faculty is a gift that God bestows on some, and not on others; and it is not owing to themselves. You ought to be thankful that God hath given you such a gift, which he hath denied to the person in question. And it will be a very suitable way for you to show your thankfulness, to help those to whom that gift is denied, and let them share the benefit of it with you. This is as reasonable as that he to whom Providence has imparted sight, should be willing to help him to whom sight is denied; and that he should have the benefit of the sight of others, who has none of his own ; or, as that he to whom God hath given wisdom should be willing that the ignorant should have the benefit of his knowledge.
2. If they have been reduced to want by some oversight, and are to be blamed that they did not consider for them. selves better: yet that doth not free us from all obligation to charity towards them. If we should for ever refuse to help men because of that, it would be for us to make their incon. siderateness and imprudent act, an unpardonable crime, quite contrary to the rules of the gospel, which insist so much upon forgiveness.-We should not be disposed so highly to resent such an oversight in any for whom we have a dear affection, as our children, or our friends. We should not refuse to help them in that necessity and distress, which they brought upon themselves by their own inconsiderateness. But we ought to have a dear affection and concern for the welfare of all our fellow Christians, whom we should love as brethren, and as Christ hath loved us.
3. If they are come to want by a vicious idleness and prodigality ; yet we are not thereby excused from all obligation to relieve them, unless they continue in those vices. If they continue not in those vices, the rules of the gospel direct us to forgive them; and if their fault be forgiven, then it will not remain to be a bar in the way of our charitably relieving them. If we do otherwise, we shall act in a manner very contrary to the rule of loving one another as Christ huth loved us. Now Christ hath loved us, pitied us, and greatly laid out himself to relieve us from that want and misery which we brought on ourselves by our own folly and wickedness. We foolishly and perversely threw away those riches with which we were provided, upon which we might have lived and been happy to all eternity.
4. If they continue in the same courses still, yet thai doth not excuse us from charity to their families that are innocent.
If we cannot relieve those of their families without their having something of it; yet that ought not to be a bar in the way of our charity; and ihat because it is supposed that those of their families are proper objects of charity; and those that are so, we are bound to relieve : the command is positive and absolute. If we look upon that which the heads of the families have of what we give, to be entirely lost; yet we had better lose şomething of our estate, than suffer those who are really proper objects of charity to remain without relief.
OBJECT. X. Some may object and say, Others do not their duty. If others did their duty, the poor would be sufficiently supplied. If others did as much as we in proportion to their ability and obligation, the poor would have enough to belp them out of their straits. Or some may say, it belongs to others more than it does to us. They have relations that ought to help them ; or there are others to whom it more properly belongs than to us.
Ans. We ought to relieve those who are in want, though brought to it through others' fault. If our neighbour be poor, though others be to blame that it is so, yet that excuses us not from helping him. If it belong to others more than to us, yet if those others will neglect their duty, and our neighbour therefore remains in want, we may be obliged to relieve him. If a man be brought into straits through the injustice of others, suppose by thieves or robbers, as the poor Jew whom the Samaritan relieved; yet we may be obliged to relieve him, though it be not through our fault that he is in want, but through that of other men.
And whether that fault be a commission or a neglect alters not the case.
As to the poor Jew that fell among thieves between Jerusalem and Jericho, it more properly belonged to those thieves who brought him into that distress, to relieve him, than to any other person. Yet seeing they would not do it, others were not excused ; and the Samaritan did do more than his duty, relieving him as he did, though it properly belonged to others.—Thus if a man have children or other relations, to whom it most properly belongs to relieve him; yet if they will not do it, the obligation to relieve him falls upon others. So for the same reason we should do the more for the relief of the poor, because others neglect to do their proportion, or what belongs to them; and that because by the neglect of others to do their proportion they need the more, their necessity is the greater.
OBJECT. XI. The law makes provision for the poor. and obliges the respective towns in which they live to provide for
particular persons to exercise any charity this way. They say, the case is not the same with us now, as it was in the primitive church; for then Christians were under an Heathen government: and however the charity of Cliristians in those times be much to be commended; yet now, by reason of our different circumstances, there is no occasion for private charity ; because, in the state in which Christians now are, provision is made for the poor otherwise. --This objection is built upon these two suppositions, both which I suppose are false.
1. That the towns are obliged by law to relieve every one who otherwise would be an object of charity. This I suppose to be false, unless it be supposed that none are proper objeots of charity, but those that have no estate left to live upon, which is very unreasonable, and what I have already shown to be false, in answer to the fourth objection, in showing that it doth not answer the rules of Christian charity, to relieve only those who are reduced to extremity.
Nor do I suppose it was ever the design of the law, requiring the various towns to support their own poor, to cut off all occasion for Christian charity : nor is it fit there should be such a law. It is fit that the law should make provision for those that have no estates of their own; it is not fit that persons who are reduced to that extremity should be left to so precarious a source of supply as a voluntary charity. They are in extreme necessity of relief, and therefore it is fit that there should be something sure for them to depend on. voluntary charity in this corrupt world is an uncertain thing. Therefore the wisdom of the legislature did not think fit to leave those who are so reduced, upon such a precarious foundation for subsistence. But I suppose not that it was ever the design of the law to make such provision for all that are in want, as to leave no room for Christian charity.
2. This objection is built upon another supposition, which is equally false, viz. That there are in fact none who are proper objects of charity, but those that are relieved by the town. Let the design of the law be what it will, yet if there are in fact persons who are so in want, as to stand in need of our charity, then that law doth not free us from obligation to relieve them by our charity. For as we have just now shown, in answer to the last objection, if it more properly belong to others to relieve them than us; yet if they do it not, we are not free. So that if it be true, that it belongs to the town to relieve all who are proper objects of charity; yet if the town in fact do it not, we are not excused.
If one of our neighbours suffers through the fault of a particular person, of a thief or robber, or of a town, it