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our brother, by indissoluble bands of blood, and agreement of nature, knit and united to us: this point enlarged on.
6. Farther, as the poor man is so nearly allied to us by the society of a common nature, so is he more strictly joined to us by the bands of spiritual consanguinity; all Christians, high and low, being children of the same heavenly Father, &c.
Moreover, if we reflect on ourselves, we cannot but observe many strong engagements to the same practice.
1. The very constitution, frame, and temper of our nature directs and inclines us thereto; whence by observing these duties, we observe our own nature, we improve it, we advance it to the best perfection it is capable of: by neglecting them, we thwart, impair, and debase the same.
2. And if the sensitive part within us suggests so much, the rational dictates more to us: that heavenly faculty, having such vast capacities and energies, was surely not created to serve mean or narrow designs, to scrape eternally in earth, or to amass heaps of clay for private enjoyment, &c.
3. Farther, examining ourselves, we may also observe that we are, in reality, what our poor neighbor appears to be, in many respects no less indigent and impotent than him: we no less depend for our subsistence on the arbitrary power of another, than he seems to rely on ours.
4. The great uncertainty and instability of our condition also requires our consideration. We that now flourish in so fair and full an estate, may soon be in the case of that poor creature who solicits our relief: this subject enlarged on.
5. And as wisdom advises, so does equity exact these duties from us for were any of us in the needy man's plight, we should believe that our case deserved commiseration; should with importunity demand relief; and complain of cruelty, if succor were denied us.
We should also remember concerning ourselves, that we are mortal and frail: this subject dilated on at length.
Farthermore, if we contemplate our wealth itself, we may therein descry great motives to charity.
1. Thus to employ our riches is really the best use of which they are capable; not only the most innocent, worthy, and plausible, but the most safe, pleasant, advantageous, and consequently most prudent way of disposing of them. To keep them close without use or enjoyment, is a sottish piece of extravagance or madness, by which a rich man impoverishes himself this point enlarged on.
2. But setting aside the absurd excuses of penuriousness, we may consider that, secluding the good use of them in beneficence, riches are very impertinent, cumbersome, dangerous things; either superfluous toys, troublesome clogs, treacherous snares, or all these in combination.
3. Again, we may consider that to dispense our wealth liberally is the best way to preserve it, and to continue masters thereof: what we give is not thrown away, but saved from danger while we detain it at home, it is really abroad and at adventures. Even according to ordinary human estimation, abstracted from the special providence of God, the liberal person hath, in consequence of his bounty, more real security for his wealth than he could obtain by any other method: this point enlarged on.
4. Nay, we may consider that the exercise of liberality is the most advantageous way of improving an estate, whilst tenacity and illiberality tend to the diminution and decay thereof the way to obtain a great increase is to sow much.
5. Farther, the dispersing a part of our goods among the poor will qualify us to enjoy the rest with satisfaction and comfort.
6. One consideration still remains persuasive of this practice : it is this. The peculiar nature of our religion specially requires it; the honor thereof exacts it from us: nothing better suits Christianity, nothing more graces it, than liberality; nothing
is more inconsistent therewith, or more disparages it, than miserable sordidness. No niggard is so absurd as a Christian niggard: this point explained.
7. To all these considerations, examples might be adduced for the practice of this kind of charity. We have for it the patterns of God himself, of our blessed Saviour, of his disciples, and of saints and eminent servants of God in all times: but no words would be so apt to move and excite the audience as the case itself.
The Report read.
For encouragement to the practice of charity, let us now reflect briefly on the latter part of the text; which represents some instances of the felicity which is peculiar to a bountiful person, or some rewards appropriated to him. The first is, His righteousness endureth for ever: which words are capable of various senses; but according to all of them the bountiful man's righteousness doth endure for ever; that is, very lastingly, in any sense; or for an absolute perpetuity, in some sense: the various truths which the words involve briefly touched on.
1. As for future reputation and fame, it is evident that it peculiarly attends on this practice: the bountiful person is especially that just man whose memory is blessed; that is, prosecuted with praise and commendation.
2. The effects of his righteousness are likewise very durable : when he is departed hence, and is no more seen, he remains visible and sensible in the footsteps and fruits of his goodness towards the poor, the sick, and the afflicted, who still rejoice in the comfort and ease which he procured for them; whilst the world in general benefits from his example.
3. His righteousness also endureth in respect to his posterity, on whom his beneficence will have entailed real blessings; entitling them to the rewards of grateful men, and to God's special care and protection.
4. It endureth for ever in the perpetual favor of God, and in the eternal rewards which he has prepared for it: when all the fashion of this world, with its glories, are gone, his righteousness shall then endure for ever.
It follows, his horn shall be exalted with honor. A horn is an emblem of power and of dignity. And that this shall so be, may appear from many considerations.
1. Honor is inseparably annexed thereto, as its natural companion and shadow. God hath impressed on all virtue a majesty and a beauty, which command respect, and extort veneration from men; but whilst other virtues are seen and approved as goodly to the sight, this is tasted and felt; this by the most sensible experience is found pleasant and profitable; and it is therefore most highly prized.
2. But farther, an accession of honor, according to gracious promise, is due from God unto the bountiful person, and is by special promise surely conferred on him and there is no kind of piety or obedience, whereby God himself is more signally honored than by this; since from it proceed those good works, the which men seeing, are apt to glorify our father which is in heaven.
3. God will thus exalt the bountiful man's horn even here in this world; and to an infinitely higher pitch he will advance it in a future state: he shall there be set at the right hand, in a most honorable place and rank, among the chief friends and favorites of the Heavenly King. Conclusion.
THE DUTY AND REWARD OF BOUNTY TO THE POOR.
PSALM CXII.-VERSE 9.
He hath dispersed, he hath given to the poor; his righteousness endureth for ever, his horn shall be exalted with honor.
As this whole Psalm appears to have a double intent; one to describe the proper actions and affections of a truly religious or pious man; (of a man who feareth the Lord, and delighteth greatly in his commandments;') the other to declare the happiness of such a man's state, consequent on those his affections and actions, whether in way of natural result or of gracious recompense from God: so doth this verse particularly contain both a good part of a pious man's character, and some considerable instances of his felicity. The first words (' He hath dispersed, he hath given to the poor') express part of his character; the latter ('His righteousness endureth for ever, his horn shall be exalted with honor') assign instances of his felicity. So that our text hath two parts, one affording us good information concerning our duty, the other yielding great encouragement to the performance thereof; for we are obliged to follow the pious man's practice, and so doing we shall assuredly partake of his condition. These parts we shall in order prosecute, endeavoring (by God's assistance) somewhat to illustrate the
*This Sermon was preached at the Spital on Wednesday in Easter Week, A. D. 1671.