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neighbours ? Would you not think that they ought to be ready to help you? And would you not take it hardly, if you saw a contrary spirit in them, and saw that they made light of your difficulties :
If one of your children should be brought to poverty by captivity,* or otherwise, how would your hearts be affected in such a case? If you should bear that some persons bad taken pity on your child, and had been very bountiful to it, would
you not think that they did well? Would you be at all apt to accuse them of folly or profuseness, that they should give so much to it?
2. If ever there should be such a time, your kindness to others now will be but a laying up against such a time. If you yourselves should be brought into calamity and necessity, then would you find what you have given in charity to others, lying ready in store for you. Cast thy bread upon the waters, and thou shalt find it after many days, says the wise man. But when shall we find it? He tells us in the next verse; “ Give a portion to seven, and also to eight; for thou knowest not what evil shall be upon the earth.” Then is the time when you shall find it, when the day of evil cometh. You shall again find your bread which you have cast upon the waters, when you shall want it most, and stand in greatest necessity of it. God will keep it for you against such a time. When other bread shall fail, then God will bring to you the bread wbich you formerly cast upon the waters; so that you shall not famish. He that givetb to the poor shall not lack.
Giving to the needy is like laying up against winter, or against a time of calamity. It is the best way of laying up fu yourselves and for your children. Children in a time of need very often find their father's bread, that bread which their fathers had cast upon the waters. Psalm xxxvii. 25. “ I have been young and now am old, yet have I not seen the righteous forsaken, nor his seed begging bread.” Why? what is the reason of it? It follows in the next verse, “ He is ever mer. ciful and lendeth, and his seed is blessed."
Whether the time will ever come or not, that we or our children shall be in distressing want of bread; yet doubtless evil will be on the earth. We shall have our times of calamity, wherein we shall stand in great need of God's pity and help, if not of that of our fellow-crcatures. And God hath promised that at such a time, he that bath been of a charitable spirit and practice, shall find help, Psalm xli. 1-4. “Blessed is be that considereth the poor; the Lord will deliver him in time of trouble. The Lord will preserve him, and keep him alive, and he shall be blessed upon the earth ; and thou will not deliver him into the will of his enemies. The Lord will strengthen him upon the bed of languishing : thou wilt make all bis bed in his sickness." Such as have been merciful and liberal to others in their distress, God will not forget, but will so order it, that they shall have help when they are in distress. Yea, their children shall reap the fruit of it in the day of trouble.
* The author repeatedly brings in this idea, doubtless because Northampton, the place where the author lived, was at that time a frontier-town, and suffered much by the incursions of the Indians from Canada, who slaughtered and çaptivated the people, as they found opportunity.
3. God hath threatened uncharitable persons, that if ever they come to be in calamity and distress, they shall be left belpless; Prov. xxi. 3. “ Whoso stoppeth his ears at the cry of the poor, he shall cry himself and not be heard."
Objections which are sometimes made to the Exercise of Charity,
I PROCEED now to answer some OBJECTIONS, which are sometimes made against this duty.
OBJECT. I. I am in a natural condition, and if I should give to the poor, I should not do it with a right spirit, and so should get nothing by it.- To this I answer:
1. We have shewn already that a temporal blessing is promised to a moral bounty and liberality. This is the way to be prospered; this is the way to increase. We find in scripture many promises of temporal blessings to moral virtues; as to diligence in our business, to justice in our dealings, to faithfulness, to temperance. So there are many blessings promised to bounty and liberality.
2. You may as well make the same objection against any other duty of religion. You may as well object against keeping the sabbath, against prayer, or public worship, or against doing any thing at all in religion: for while in a natural condition, you do not any of these duties with a right spirit. If you say, you do these duties because God hath, commanded or required them of you, and you shall sin greatly if you neglect them; you shall increase your guilt; and so expose yourselves to the greater damnation and punishment. The same may be said of the neglect of this duty; the neglect of it is as provoking to God.
If you say that you read, and pray, and attend public worship, because that is the appointed way for you to seek salvation; so is bounty to the poor, as much as those. The appointed way for us to seek the favour of God and
eternal life, is the way of the performance of all known duties, of which giving to the poor is one as much known, and as necessary, as reading the scriptures, praying, or any other. Shewing mercy to the poor does as much belong to the appointed way of seeking salvation, as any other duty whatever. Therefore this is the way in wbich Daniel directed Nebuchadnezzar to seek mercy, in Dan. iv. 27. “ Wherefore, O king, let my counsel be acceptable to thee, and break off thy sins by righteousness, and thine iniquities by shewing mercy to the poor.
OBJEC. II. If I be liberal and bountiful, I shall only make a righteousness of it, and so it will do me more hurt than good. To this I say,
1. The same answer may be made to this, as to the former objection, viz. That you may as well make the same objection against doing any religious or moral duty at all. If this be a sufficient objection against deeds of charity, then it is a sufficient objection to prayer; for nothing is more common than for persons to make a righteousness of their prayers. So it is a good objection against your keeping the sabbath, or attending any public worship, or ever reading in the Bible; for of all these things you are in danger of making a righteousness.Yea, if the objection be good against deeds of charity, then it is as good against acts of justice; and you may neglect to speak the truth, may neglect to pay your debts, may neglect acts of common humanity; for of all those things you are in danger of making a righteousness. So that if your objection be good, you may throw up all religion, and live like heathens or atheists, and may be thieves, robbers, fornicators, adulterers, murderers, and commit all the sins that you can think of, lest if you should do otherwise, you should make a righteousness of your conduct.
2. Your objection carries it thus, that it is not best for you to do as God commands and counsels you to do. We find many commands in scripture to be charitable to the poor : the Bible is full of them, and you are not excepted from those commands. God makes no exception of any particular kinds of persons that are especially in danger of making a righteousness of what they do; and God often directs and counsels persons to this duty. Now will you presume to say that God has not directed you to the best way? He has advised you to do thus; but you think it not best for you, but that it would do you more hurt than good, if you should do it. You think there is other counsel better than God's, and that it is the best way for you to go contrary to God's command.
Objec. III. I have in times past given to the poor, but never found myself the better for it. I have heard ministers preach, that giving to the poor was the way to prosper; but I perceive not that I ain more prosperous than I was before. Yea, I have met with many misfortunes, crosses, and disappointments in my affairs since. And it may be that some will say, That very year, or soon after the very time I had been giving to the poor, hoping to be blessed for it, I met with great losses, and things went hardly with me; and therefore I do not find what I hear preached about giving to the poor, as being the way to be blessed and prosperous, agreeable to my experience.
To this objection I shall answer several things :
1. Perhaps you looked out for the fulfilment of the promise too soon, before you had fulfilled the condition; as particularly, perhaps you have been so sparing and grudging in your kindness to the poor, that what you
have done has been rather a discovery of a covetous, niggardly spirit, than of any bounty or liberality. The promises are not made to every man who gives any thing at all to the poor, let it be ever so little and after what manner soever given. You mistook the promises, if you understood them so. A man may give something to the poor, and yet be entitled to no promise, either temporal
I'he promises are made to mercy and liberality. But a man may give something, and yet be so niggardly and grudging in it, that what he gives may be as the apostle calls it, a matter of covetousness. What he does may be more a manifestation of his covetousness and closeness, than any thing else. But there are no promises made to men's expressing their covetousness.
Perhaps what you gave was not freely given, but as it were of necessity. It was grudgingly; your hearts were grieved when you gave. And if you gave once or twice what was considerable, yet that dath not answer the rule. It may be for all that, that in the general course of your lives you have been far from being kind and liberal to your neighbours. Perbaps you thought that because you once or twice gave a few shillings to the poor, that then you stood entitled to the promises of being blessed in all your concerns, and of increasing and being established by liberal things; though in the general you bave lived in a faulty neglect of the duty of charity. You raise objections from experience, before you have made trial. To give once, or twice, or thrice, is not to make trial, though you give considerably. You cannot make any trial, unless you become a liberal person, or unless you become such that you may be truly said to be of a liberal and bountiful practice. Let one who is truly such, and has been sueh in the general course of his life, tell what he hath found by experience.
2. If you have been liberal to the poor, and have met with calamities since, yet how can you tell how much greater calamities and losses you might have met with, if you bad been otherwise ? You say you have met with crosses, and disappointments, and frowns. If you expected to mect with no trouble in the world, because you gave to the poor, you mistook the matter. Though there be many and great promises made to the liberal, yet God hath no where promised, that they shall not find this world a world of trouble. It will be so to all. Man is born to sorrow, and must expect no other than to meet with sorrow here. But how can you tell how much greater sorrow you would have met with, if you had been close and unmerciful to the poor? How can you tell how much grcater losses you would have met with ? How much more vexation and trouble would have followed you ? Have none ever met with greater frowns in their outward affairs, than you have?
3. How can you tell what blessings God hath yet in reserve for you, if you do but continue in well-doing? Although God hath promised great blessings to liberality to the poor, yet he hath not limited himself as to the time of the bestowment. If you have not yet seen any evident fruit of your kindness to the poor, yet the time may come when you shall see it remarkably, and that at a time when you most stand in need of it. You cast your bread upon the waters, and looked for it, and expected to find it again presently. And sometimes it is 50; but this is not promised: it is promised, “ Thou shalt find it again after many days.” God knows how to choose a time for you, better than you yourselves. You should therefore wait his time. If you go on in well-doing, God may bring it to you when you stand most in need.
It may be that there is some winter coming, some day of trouble; and God keeps your bread for you against that time; and then God will give you good measure, and pressed down, and shaken together, and running over.
We must trust in God's word for the bestowment of the promised reward, whether we can see in what manner it is done or no, Pertinent to the present purpose are those words of the wise man in Eccles. xi. 4. 6 He that obseryeth the winds shall not sow; and he that regardeth the clouds shall not reap.” In this context the wise man is speaking of charity to the poor, and comparing it to sowing seed: and advises us to trust Providence for success in that, as we do in sowing seed. He that regardeth the winds and clouds, to prognosticate thence prosperity to seed, and will not trust Providence with it, is not like to sow, nor to have bread-corn. So he that will not trust Providence for the reward of his charity to the poor, is like to go without the blessing. After the words now quoted, follows his advice, ver. 6. “ In the morning sow thy seed, and in the eyening withhold not thine hand; for thou knowest not