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able that a Christian, who is born among the children of light, should be fond of that ignorance, which was the misfortune and curse of the heathen world.

Now we have taken a prospect of, these evils, let us consider the obligations we are under to find a remedy for them. And the first obligation is that of gratitude; when we remember our own dependence upon God, and the blessings we receive from his bounty. If we have any portion among the good things of this life, it is he who giveth us all things richly to enjoy; and the offerings we make out of what we have are so many acknowledgements that we have nothing but what we have received. All the beasts of the forest, says he, are mine, and so are the cattle upon a thousand hills. No sacrifice therefore could be offered to God under the law, but of that which was already his own. And the case is the same now: God is the real proprietor of all things; the earth is the Lord's and the fulness thereof: so that we can make no return to God, but of that which was his own before.

The obligation we are under to do this, is farther evident on a principle of distributive justice. That inequality of possession, which is both wise and necessary, does not proceed from any respect to particular persons; for the mercies of God are over all his works; but God has been pleased to put the allowance of one man into the hands of another, for a trial of his virtue; so that the rich are guilty of fraud and injustice if they either keep it, or bestow it wantonly upon themselves. Withhold not good, saith the wise man, from them to whom it is due*; as if charity were not a gift, but a debt. As such it is spoken of in the New Testament;

• Prov. iii. 27.

Charge them that are rich-that they be ready to distribute, willing to communicate; the original means, willing to make that common, which God intended to be so; at least, amongst the household of faith; in which they that have most are stewards for the rest.

But our obligations as Christians is plainest of all, from this consideration; that God doth not require us to do any thing for the poor, but what he himself hath done for us, in a sense infinitely superior. If he commands us to visit them, he himself, as the day-spring from on high, hath visited us: If he commands us to give bread to the hungry, he himself hath given to us the bread of life. Who is it that commands us to clothe the naked, but he who hath put the best robe upon his returning prodigal, and clothed us with the garments of his own righteousness, which shall never decay? as a sign of which, the clothes of his people did neither wear out nor wax old, neither their shoes upon their feet, in their journey through the wilderness. Who is it that expects we should teach the ignorant, but he who hath taught us by his holy word, opening to us all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge, and giving light to them that sit in darkness? Few exhortations will be wanting to those who believe these things, and are sensible of their own obligations to God as the Saviour of sinners: the love of God is already shed abroad in their hearts, and charity to man will be the fruit of it. Happy are they who act on such liberal and sublime principles: it is their pleasure, as well as their honour to be doing good. Far from looking with an evil eye upon their poor brethren, they rejoice that there are any poor to be relieved; they would never wish to be without them; and they are thankful for the opportunity of assisting

them; and if the poor do not look for them, they look for the poor.

But besides the obligations which arise from the consideration of what is past, we are encouraged to do good to the poor from the expectation of future blessings. And here let me observe, that no kind of charity answers better in this world than that which provides for the teaching of the children of the poor. It shews them the way, and it gives them the power of becoming useful members of society; it introduces them to the knowledge of God's holy will and commandments; it sets before them the reasons, the measures, the rewards of those duties, by means of which they are to prosper now, and be happy hereafter. Superior talents, with good principles, may lawfully raise the poor above the level of their birth; but it cannot be expected that this should happen, without the advantage of an early education. I have known some instances of poor children, who have attained to credit and affluence, by the help of that learning, which they obtained from the hand of charity; and who lived to make returns of gratitude to the persons from whom they had received it. Where the seed of instruction has fallen into a proper soil, there have undoubtedly been many examples of the same kind, which never came to the knowledge of myself, or of any that are here present. But with all this, we are to consider, that if a charitable education should never raise them to wealth, it may do more; it may be the saving of their souls: and though the effect in this case is not so conspicuous as if it mended their fortune, it may be of greater value, though but little heard of; for the advancements of piety are secret and silent, and better known to God than to man.

This is an encouragement which relates only to them

that receive they who are the givers have something higher to expect; and the case is stated to us in such a manner as is well worthy of our attention. He that hath pity upon the poor lendeth unto the Lord, and that which he hath given will he pay him again*. To the charitable man the proprietor of heaven and earth is a debtor, and will assuredly pay him in another life, and probably in this also. There are some sins which meet with their punishment even in this world: I look upon the oppression of the poor to be of that number: therefore by parity of reason, the same attention of Providence which punishes some, will reward others; especially as the Author of all good is more ready to bless than to afflict. He does the one unwillingly; the other is the natural fruit of that mercy which is over all his works.

So much for this world: but when the great day of retribution fhall come, then our blessed Saviour will consider himself as the object of what we have done to his poor brethren. I was an hungered, says he, and ye gave me meat. I was thirsty and ye gave me drink; I was naked and ye clothed me t. When he was manifested in the flesh, he joined the party of the poor, not of the rich nor honourable. We are all ready to own him under the majestic part of his character; for human vanity loves to attach itself to what is great and splendid but this is the trial of our affection; whether we can condescend to him as the advocate and brother of the poor; whether we can make ourselves poor with him, who was poor with us; who submitted to the condition of a servant, that he might bring down the pride of man, and prepare him for exaltation by selfabasement; the hardest, and therefore the greatest of all the Christian virtues.

* Prov. xix. 17.

↑ Matth. xxv. 35.

Upon the whole. in order to fulfil the duty which is due from the rich to the poor, it is good that there should be a natural tenderness of the mind, which makes it susceptible of what is called compassion; which, if it is not a virtue of itself, is nearly allied to it is the soil of virtue. and a rich one too, on which excellent fruits_may grow. Did not I weep, says Job, for him that was in trouble? was not my sout grieved for the poor * ?

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To this disposition we are to add the obligations of gratitude, and justice, with the encouragement arising from the hope of a blessing upon us in this world, and the next. But if all these considerations should be insufficient, there remains one more, which is the fear of punishment, and as it is urged in the book of Job, with all the vehemence and zeal of a godly mind, it seems irresistible: If I have with-held from the poor their desire-If I have eaten my morsel myself alone-If I have seen any perish for want of clothing—If I have lift up my hand against the fatherless; then let mine arm fall from my shoulder-blade, and let mine arm be broken from the bone: for destruction from God was a terror to me, and by reason of his highness I could not enduret. He means, that God will destroy those who ean bear to see others destroyed; and that this consideration had raised a terror in his mind which he could never resist. The same sentiment is more forcibly expressed in another place; where, on a supposition of any neglect in this matter, he asks, what then shall I do when God riseth up? and when he visiteth what shall I answer him? To some of his servants God hath committed more, to others less to all will he come at last, and enquire how that which he committed

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Job xxx. 25.

Job xxxi. 16, &c.

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