« FöregåendeFortsätt »
lest we also be denied a visit in our sicknesses, and a comfort in our sorrow, or a counsel in our doubts, or aid in any distress, upon pretence that such sadness was procured by our sins : and ten to one but it was so. Do good to all,' saith the apostle, but especially to the family of faith ;' for to them our charity is most proper and proportioned. To all, viz. who are in need, and cannot relieve themselves; in which number persons that can work are not to be accounted. So that if it be necessary to observe an order in our charity, this is, when we cannot supply and suffice for all our opportunities of mercy, then ‘let not the brethren of our Lord go away ashamed. And in other things observe the order and propriety of our own relations : and where there is otherwise no difference, the degree of the necessity is first to be considered. Thus also, if the necessity be final and extreme, wbatever the man be, he is first to be relieved before the lesser necessities of the best persons or most holy poor. But the proper objects of our charity are old persons, sick or impotent, laborious and poor housekeepers, widows and orphans, people oppressed or persecuted for the cause of righteousness, distressed strangers, captives and abused slaves, prisoners for debt. To these we must be liberal, whether they be holy or unholy; remembering that we are sons of that Father who makes the dew of heaven to drop upon the dwellings of the righteous and the fields of sinners.
4. Thirdly, The manner of giving alms is an office of Christian prudence; for in what instances we are to exemplify our charity, we must be determined by our own powers, and other's needs. The Scripture reckons entertaining strangers, vi
siting the sick, going to prisons, feeding and clothing the hungry and naked : to which, by the exigence of the poor and the analogy of charity, many other are to be added. The holy Jesus in the very precept instanced in lending money to them that need to borrow; and he adds, looking for nothing again; that is, if they be unable to pay it. Forgiving debts is a great instance of mercy, and a particular of excellent relief: but to imprison men for debt, when it is certain they are not able to pay it, and by that prison will be far more disabled, is an uncharitableness next to the cruelties of savages, and at infinite distance from the mercies of the holy Jesus.
Of not Judging. ANOTHER instance of charity our great Master inserted in this sermon, not to judge our brother.' And this is a charity so cheap and so reasonable, that it requires nothing of us but silence in our spirits. We may perform this duty at the charge of a negative : if we meddle not with other men's affairs, we shall do them no wrong, and purchase to ourselves a peace, and be secured the rather from the unerring sentence of a severe judge. But this interdict forbids only such judging as is ungentle and uncharitable. In criminal causes let us find all the ways to alleviate the burden of the man by just excuses, by extenuating or lessening accidents, by abatement of incident circumstances, by gentle sentences, and whatsoever can do relief to the person, that his spirit be not exasperated, that the crime be not the parent of impudence, that he be not insulted on, that he be invited to repentance, and by such sweetnesses he be led to his restitution. This also, in questions of doubts, obliges us to determine to the more favourable sense: and we also do need the same mercies, and therefore should do well, by our own rigour, not to disentitle ourselves to such possibilites and reserves of charity. But it is foul and base, by de. traction and iniquity, to blast the reputation of an honourable action, and the fair name of virtue with a calumny. But this duty is also a part of the grace of justice and of humility, and by its relation and kindred to so many virtues, is furnished with so many arguments of amity and endearment.
THE PRAYER. Holy and merciful Jesus, who art the great principle and the instrument of conveying to us the charity and mercies of eternity, who didst love us when we were enemies, forgive us when we were debtors, recover us when we were dead, ransom us when we were slaves, relieve us when we were poor, and naked, and wandering, and full of sadness and necessities ; give us the grace of charity, that we may be pitiful and compassionate of the needs of our necessitous brethren, that we may be apt to relieve them, and that according to our duty and possibilities we may rescue them from their calamities. Give us courteous, affable, and liberal souls. Let us, by thy example, forgive our debtors, and love our enemies, and do to them offices of civility, and tenderness and relief ; always propounding thee for our pattern, and thy mercies for our precedent, and thy precepts for our rule, and thy Spirit for our guide : that we, showing mercy here, may receive the mercies of eternity by thy merits, and by thy charities, and dispensation, O holy and merciful Jesus. Amen.
Of Prayer. 1. The soul of a Christian is the house of God; ‘Ye are God's building,saith St. Paul; but the house of God is the house of prayer; and therefore prayer is the work of the soul, whose organs are intended for instruments of the divine praises; and when every stop and pause of those instruments is but the conclusion of a collect, and every breathing is a prayer, then the body becomes a temple, and the soul is the sanctuary, and more private recess, and place of intercourse. Prayer is the great duty, and the greatest privilege of a Christian : it is his intercourse with God, his sanctuary in troubles, his remedy for sins, his cure of griefs; and, as St. Gregory calls it, “It is the principal instrument whereby we minister to God, in execution of the decrees of eternal predestination:" and those things wbich God intends for us, we bring to ourselves by the mediation of holy prayers. Prayer is the “ascent of the mind to God, and a petitioning for such things as we need for our support and duty.”? It is an abstract and summary of Christian religion. Prayer is an act of religion and divine worship, confessing his power and his mercy: it celebrates his attributes, and confesses his glories, and reveres his person,
il Cor, iii. 4.
2 'Ανάβασις να προς θεόν, και αίτησις των προσηκόντων naoù Dez. Damasc. lib. iii. Orthodox. fid.
and implorex his uid, and gives thanks for his blessings. It is an act of humility, condescension, and dependence, expressed in the prostration of our bodies, and humiliation of our spirits. It is an act of charity, when we pray for others; it is an act of repentance, when it confesses and bega pardon for our sins; and exercises every grace, atcording to the design of the man and the matter of the prayer. So that there will be less need to amans arguments to invite us to this duty; every part in an excellence, and every end of it is a blessing, and every design is a motive, and every need is an impulsive to this holy office. Let us but remember how many needs we have, at how cheap a rate we may obtain their remedies, and yet how honourable the employment is to go to God with confidence, and to fetch our supplies with easiness and joy; and then, without further preface, we may address ourselves to the understanding of that duty by which we imitate the end ployment of angels and beatified spirits, by which we ascend to God in spirit while we remain on earth, and God descendy on earth while be yet resides in heaven, sitting there on the throne of his kingdom.
2. Our first inquiry must be concerning the matter of prayers : for our desires are not to be the rule of our prayers, unless reason and religion be the rule of our desires. The old heathenis prayed to their gods for such things which they were ashamed to name publicly before men; and these were their private prayers which they durst not, for their indecency or iniquity, make public. And, indeed, sometimes the best men ask of God things not unlawful in themselves, yet very hurtful to