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SERMON XVII.

CHRISTIAN CHARITY, &c. &c.

Deut. xv. 7-12.

If there be among you a poor man of one of thy brethren, within

any of thy gates, in thy land which the Lord thy God giveth thee, thou shalt not harden thine heart, nor shut thine hand from thy poor brother: But thou shalt open thine hand wide unto him, and shalt surely lend him sufficient for his need, in that which he wanteth. Beware that there be not a thought in thy wicked heart, saying, The seventh year, the year of release is at hand : and thine eye be evil against thy poor brother, and thou givest him nought, and he cry unto the Lord against thee, and it be sin unto thee. Thou shalt surely give him, and thine heart shall not be grieved when thou givest unto him : because that for this thing the Lord thy God shall bless thee in all thy works, and in all that thou puttest thine hand unto. For the

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shall never out of the land: therefore I command thee, saying, Thou shali open thine hand wide unto thy brother, to thy poor, and to thy needy, in thy land.

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SECT. I.

The Words explained.

The duty here enjoined is giving to the poor ; " If there be among you a poor man of one of thy brethren, thou shalt not harden thine heart, nor shut thine hand from thy poor brother : Thou shalt surely give him." Here by thy poor brother is to be understood the same as in other places is meant by neighbour. It is explained in Levit. xxv. 35, to mean not only those of their own nation, but even strangers and so. journers: “And if thy brother be waxen poor, and fallen in

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decay with thee: then thou shalt relieve him: yea, though he be a stranger, or a sojourner." The Pharisees indeed interpreted it to signify only one of their own nation ; but Christ condemns this interpretation, Luke x. 29, &c. and teaches, in contradiction to their opinion, that the rules of charity, in the law of Moses, are to be extended to the Samaritans, who were not of their nation, and between whom and the Jews there was the most bitter enmity, and who were a people very troublesome to the Jews.

God gives us direction how we are to give in such a case, viz. bountifully and willingly. We should give bountifully, and sufficiently for the supply of the poor's need : verse 7, 8. "Thou shall not shut up thine hand from thy poor brother; but thou shalt open thine hand wide unto him, and lend him sufficient for his need, in that which he wanteth.” And again,

, in verse 11. “ Thou shalt open thine hand wide unto thy brother, to thy poor, and to thy needy, in thy land." Again, we should give willingly, and without grudging : verse 7. “ Thou shalt not harden thine heart from thy poor brother;"? and verse 10. “ And thine heart shall not be grieved when thou givest him.”

We may also observe how peremptorily this duty is here enjoined, and how much it is insisted on. It is repeated over and over again, and enjoined in the strongest terms: verse 7. “ Thou shalt not harden thine heart, nor shut thine hand from thy poor brother;" verse 8. “But thou shalt open thine hand wide unto him ;” verse 10. “ Thou shalt surely give him ;": verse 11. “I command thee, saying, Thou shalt open thine hand wide unto thy brother; to thy poor, and to thy needy."

Moreover, God strictly warns against objections, verse 9. “ Beware that there be not a thought in thy wicked heart, saying, "The seventh year, the year of release, is at hand: and

, thine eye be evil against thy poor brother, and thou givest him nought, and he cry unto the Lord against thee, and it be sin unto thee." The matter concerning the seventh year, or year of release, was thus : God had given Israel a law, that every seventh year should be a year of release ; that if any man had lent any thing to any of his poor neighbours, if the latter had not been able to repay it before that year, the former should release it, and should not exact it of his neighbour, but give it to him. Therefore God warns the children of Israel against making of this an objection to helping their poor neighbours, that the year of release was near at hand ; and it was not likely that they would be able to refund it again before that time, and then they should lose it wholly, because then they would be obliged to release it. God foresaw that the wickedness of their hearts would be ready to make such an objection ; but Vol. VI.

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very strictly warns them against it, that they should not be the more backward to supply the wants of the needy for that, but should be willing to give him : “Thou shalt be willing to Jend, expecting nothing again.”

Men are exceedingly apt to make objections against such duties, which God speaks of here as a manifestation of the wickedness of their hearts : “ Beware that there be not a thought in thy wicked heart,” &c. The warning is very strict. God doth not only say, Beware that thou do not actually refuse to give him : but, Beware that thou have not one objecting thought against it, arising from a backwardness to Jiberality. God warns against the beginnings of uncharitableness in the heart, and against whatever tends to a forbearance to give : “And thou give him nought, and he cry unto the Lord against thee, and it be sin unto thee.” God warns them from the guilt which they would be liable to bring upon themselves hereby.

We may observe here several enforcements of this duty. There is a reason of this duty implied in God's calling him that is needy, our brother: “ Thou shalt not shut thine hand from thy poor brother;" and verse 9. “Beware that thine eye be not evil against thy poor brother ;'' and verse 11. Thou shalt open thine hand wide to thy brother.” We are to look upon ourselves as related to all mankind, but especially to those who are of the visible people of God. We are to look upon them as brethren, and to treat them accordingly. We shall be base indeed, if we be not willing to help a brother in want.--Another enforcement of this duty is the promise of God, that for this thing he will bless us in all our works, and in all that we put our hands unto; a promise that we shall not lose, but gain by it, (verse 10.)- Another is, that we shall never want proper objects of our charity and bounty : verse 11. "For the

poor shall never cease out of thy land.” This God saith to the Jewish church ; and the like Christ saith to the Christian church, Matt. xxvi. 11. “The poor ye have always with you." This is to cut off an excuse that uncbaritable persons would be ready to make for not giving, that they could find no body to give to, that they saw none who needed. God cuts off such an excuse, by telling us, that he would so order it in bis providence, that his people every where, and in all ages, shall have occasion for the exercise of that virtue.

From this account the doctrine is obvious, that it is the absolute and indispensable duty of the people of God, to give bountifully and willingly for supplying the wants of the needy. But more particularly,

1. It is the duty of the people of God, to give bountifully for the aforesaid purpose. It is commanded once and again in the text, “ Thou shalt open thine hand wide unto thy poor brother." Merely to give something is not suflicient; it

; answers not the rule, nor comes up to the holy coinmand of God; but we must open our hand wide. What we give, considering our neighbour's wants, and our ability, should be such as may be called a liberal gift. What is meant in the text by opening the hand wide, with respect to those that are able, is explained in ver. 8. “Thou shalt open thine hand wide unto him, and shall surely lend him sufficient for his want in that which he needeth.”. By lending here, as is evident by the two following verses, anı as we have just now shown, is not only meant lending to receive again; the word lend in scripture is sometimes used for giving; as in Luke vi. 3o. “Do good and Jend, hoping for nothing again."

We are commanded, therefore, to give our poor neighbour what is suficient for his need. There ought to be none suffered to live in pinching want, among a visible people of God, who are able ; unless in case of idleness, or prodigality, or some such case which the word of God excepts.-- It is said that the children of Israel should lend to the poor, and in the year of release should release what they had lent save when there should be no poor among them. It is rendered in the margin, to the end there be no poor among you ; i. e. you should so supply the wants of the needy, that there may be none among you in pinching want. This translation seems the more likely to be the true one, because God says, ver. 11. that there shall be no such time when there shall be no poor, who shall be proper objects of charity:—When persons give very sparingly, it is no manifestation of charity, but of a contrary spirit : 2 Cor. ix. 5. “Therefore I thought it necessary to exhort the brethren, that they would go before unto you, and make up beforehand your bounty, whereof ye had notice before, that the same might be ready, as a matter of bounty, and not as of covetousness." The apostle here calls a very sparing contribution, matter of covetousness.

2. It is the duty of the visible people of God, to give for the supply of the needy, freely, and without grudging. It doth not at all answer the rule in the sight of God, if it be done with an inward grudging, or if the heart be grieved, and it inwardly hurt the man to give what he gives: Thou shalt surely give," says God, “and thine heart shall not be grieved." God looks at the heart, and the hand is not accepted without it: 2 Cor. ix. 7. “Every man according as he hath purposed in his heart, so let him give, not grudgingly, or of necessity; for God loveth a cheerful giver."

3. This is a duty to which God's people are under very strict obligations. It is not merely a commendable thing for a man to be kind and bountiful to the poor, but our bounden duty, as much a duty as it is to pray, or to attend public worship, or any thing else whatever; and the neglect of it brings great guilt upon any person.

SECT. II.

Of the Obligation of Christians to perform the Duty of Charity

to the poor.

This duty is absolutely commanded, and much insisted on in the word of God. Where have we any command in the Bible laid down in stronger terms, and in a more peremptory urgent manner, than the command of giving to the poor? We have the same law in a positive manner laid down in Levit. xxv. 35, &c. “And if thy brother be waxen poor, and fallen in decay with thee, then thou shalt relieve him; yea, though he be a stranger or a sojourner, that he may live with thee.' And at the conclusion of ver. 38, God enforces it with saying, I am the Lord thy God.

It is mentioned in scripture, not only as a duty, but a great duty. Indeed it is generally acknowledged to be a duty to be kind to the needy; but by many it seems not to be looked upon as a duty of great importance. However, it is mentioned in scripture as one of the greater and more essential duties of religion ; Micah vi. 8. “He that showeth thee, O man, what is good ; and what doth the Lord thy God require of thee, but to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God ?”' Here io love mercy is mentioned as one of the three great things that are the sum of all religion. So it is mentioned by the apostle James, as one of the three things wherein pure and undefiled religion consists : James i. 27." Pure religion, and undefiled, before God and the Father, is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself upspotted from the world."

So Christ tells us, it is one of the weightier matters of the law : Matt. xxii. 23. “Ye bave omitted the weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy, and faith.” The scriptures again and again teach us, that it is a more weighty and essential thing than the attendance on the outward ordinances of worship : Hos. vi. 6. “I desired mercy, and not sacrifice :" Matt. ix. 13, and xii. 7. I know of scarce any duty which is so much insisted on, so pressed and urged upon us, both in the Old Testament and New, as this duty of charity to the poor.

The reason of the thing strongly obliges to it. It is not only very positively and frequently insisted on by God, but it

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