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able to any
the oracles of God, if we are neglecting any of the gifts with which we are intrusted, or are deficient in a zealous discharge of the offices which we occupy.
“ We command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye withdraw yourselves from every brother that walketh disorderly, and not after the tradition he received of us : for we behaved not ourselves disorderly among you; neither did we eat any man's bread for nought ; but wrought with labour and travail night and day, that we might not be charge
For even when we were with you, this we commanded you, that if any would not work, neither should he eat. For we hear that there are some among you which walk disorderly, working not at all, but are busy bodies. Now them that are such we command and exhort, by our Lord Jesus Christ, that with quietness they work, and eat their own bread *."
Numerous and obvious are the advantages which result from the practice of this duty. But that which I have at present more particularly in my view is, the ability which we thus acquire to discharge some of the most important duties of benevolence. We thus are capable, not only of meeting every claim of justice, but of giving to him that needeth. And if the happiness of giving, or the blessedness which accompanies the exercise of active benevolence, be greater than that which can be enjoyed in receiving, ought not every individual, however obscure or humble his rank, to aspire to the attainment of this felicity ? He is thus elevated in his sphere of duty; and in
* 2 Thess. iv. 6-11.
becoming the voluntary instrument of diffusing the bounty of the Great Parent of all, he increases the sum of his own virtue and happiness.
CHARITY; OR, CHRISTIAN BOUNTY.
So important, as an effect of that love which is the fulfilling of the law, is almsgiving, that it is generally designated by the name of charity. The duty of distributing to the poor and needy according to our ability and opportunity, is so obvious from the light of nature, so congenial to those feelings of sympathy and compassion which the Creator has implanted in the human heart, and so clearly established and frequently enforced by revelation, that it has never been questioned. “ 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 poor shall never cease out of the land: therefore I command thee, saying, thou shalt open thine hand wide unto thy brother, to thy poor and thy needy in the land*.” · Charge them that are rich in this world, that they be not high minded, nor trust in uncertain riches, but in the living God, who giveth us richly all things to enjoy ; that they do good, that they be rich in good works, ready
* Deut. xv. 10. 11.
to distribute, willing to communicate, laying up in store for themselves a good foundation against the time to come, that they may lay hold on eternal life."
The account which Divine Revelation gives of the principles on which the last judgment will be conducted, is decisive on this subject. Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you
from the foundation of the world; for I was an hungered, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in: naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me.Then shall he say also to them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels: for I was an hungered, and
ye gave me no meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me no drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me not in: naked, and ye clothed me not : sick, and in prison, and ye visited me not t."
It is not necessary, for my present purpose, to take notice of the various, and some of them very difficult, points, connected with this important subject. I shall confine myself to the two following questions : First, to what extent, and in what manner, is it our duty to give of our property to the poor? and, secondly, who are the persons to whom we ought to administer charity ?
First, To what extent, and in what manner, is it our duty to give of our property to the poor? It will, I believe, be readily allowed, that we are
* Matt. xxv. 34–44.
* 1 Tim. vi. 17.
bound to give to the extent of our ability. But how is each to ascertain what his ability really is ? The income may be relatively great, but the expenditure may be necessarily great also. Without any improper conformity to the corrupt maxims and fashions of the world, our expenses must bear some near proportion to what the usages of society have rendered becoming in the rank in which we are placed. Can we, with decency, greatly retrench, or without incurring the imputation of penuriousness?
Every man must judge for himself on this point: but in forming his judgment, let him remember, that it is clearly his duty to make his charity bear a proportion to his income; and that he ought so to regulate his expenditure, that it may never interfere with the sum which is sacredly allotted to charitable purposes. It should not satisfy his conscience that he can, without any apparent extravagance, consume his whole income; and that he finds at the end of the year that little as he has given away, he has given as much as he can afford. It may be so: but let him seriously ask himself, whether he has included charity in the necessary expenditure of the year, “as an article to be increased with every augmentation of his revenue; and as an article never to be suffered intentionally to fall short of a definite proportion of that revenue.”
“ Remember also, that the scriptural measure of your obligation to bounty is your reasonable ability, not your artificial inability. The duty of opening your hand wide to your brother, to the poor and to the needy, is not to be escaped by encircling your hand with voluntary ligatures, and then shewing to how small a compass only it can be expanded. Reduce the external trappings of your station, be it higher or lower, within the narrowest limits which decency of appearance will authorize. Renounce every extravagant indulgence; be sparing in lawful gratifications which entail expense. The foundation of christian bounty must in part be laid in christian self-denial* "
It has been often remarked, and the fact is undoubted, that the poor and the inferior ranks of society in general contribute much more liberally in proportion to their income, for the relief of the indigent, than the rich. How readily, in many cases, do they bestow their time, a share of their food, and a mite out of their earnings, on the destitute, the sick, and the aged in their neighbourhood! Let those who are in affluent circumstances learn from their example how inuch more liberal they might be, and ought to be, in comparison of from what they actually are. Might they not devote a much larger share of their property to charitable uses without encroaching on any necessary comfort, or reasonable indulgence, without being prevented from providing, with christian moderation, for the future comfort of their children, and without affecting that expenditure which is suitable to the decent maintenance of that rank in which Providence has placed them?
With regard to the manner in which charity should be exercised, it is clear that before what we give away can with propriety be called by this name, it
* Gisborne's Christian Morality, p. 182.