Imatges de pÓgina
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to part with what you have at God's call. I told you before when God calls you to part with what you have. Now when any of these is your case God hath you on your trials. Accordingly I exhort

you,

1. That whenever it is so, that you must either sin or suffer loss. Choose always the last. The greatest loss in the world is to be chosen rather than the least sin. A man should rather lose his life than tell a lie. Consider there is more evil in the least sin, than in the greatest suffering or loss. Sin is a sinful evil, the other but a penal evil. There is some good in the evil of punishment, the good of justice, there is none in sin. Losses come from the Lord, sin only from the devil. Sure that which comes from the devil, must be worse than what comes from God. Sin is the only object of God's hatred if all other evils in the world should centre in a man, God could love him for all that; but if all other goods should meet in him, God would hate him for sin. There is more evil in sin, than there is goodness in all the angels of heaven; therefore when it entered it spoiled all their goodness, and made them devils, which could not have been, if the goodness in them had been greater than the evil of sin.

Again, If you intend to follow the footsteps of the flock you must take this way. As for the fearful, that fear suffering more than sin, their doom is, "to have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone, which is the second death. Fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul; but rather him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell." Daniel would rather be cast into the den of lions than sin. The primitive Christians chose loss and poverty, yea, prisons and death rather than sin, Heb. xi. 25, 26, 35. It is better to be God's prisoner, than the devil's freeman. Nay, they chose hell rather than sin. They whose experience hath given them a commentary on 2 Cor. vii. 11. clearing, indignation, fear, vehement desire, zeal, revenge, will own it. It was a saying of Chrysostom, I thus think, and I will constantly declare, that it is more bitter to sin against Christ, than to suffer the torments of hell.

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Ettrick, September, 1710.

[Same Subject Continued.]

AMIABLE PROFESSORS FALLING SHORT OF HEAVEN.

SERMON XXXV.

MARK X. 21. (Second Clause.)
And give to the poor.

FROM these words taken in their strict connection with the preceding and following clauses of the verse, I would exhort you to make conscience of giving to the poor. This is a duty at all times, and the present is in a peculiar manner a hard time. Many are reduced to great want, and it is certainly God's call to us, in a special manner, now to put on bowels of mercy for that effect. Here I shall show,

First, How or in what manner God calls us to give to the poor, and,

Secondly, Bring forward motives to enforce this duty.

then,

I am

I. To show how or in what manner God calls us to give to the poor. We are to do it,

"He that hath pity

1. Under a sense of the command of God. upon the poor, lendeth unto the Lord; and that which he hath given will he pay him again." God asks it of us by the mouth of needy creatures, and it should be given as to him, who in that way calls for it. This is necessary to make it a Christian giving.

2. For his sake. Love to the Lord should be the source of it, and his glory the end of it. "Honour the Lord with thy substance, and with the fruits of all thine increase." He gave us what we have, and it should be laid out for his sake. Hear our Lord's own words, and from them learn how highly he values this duty. "Whosoever, says he, shall give to drink unto one of these little ones, a cup of cold water only in the name of a disciple, verily I say unto you, he shall in no wise lose his reward." Again, "Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me."

But it may be objected, that there are but few to whom we can give it as saints. Answer, It is a sad truth, most of the poor of the world are poor every way. But you see the rule in this case. It

is, "As we have therefore opportunity, let us do good unto all men, especially unto them who are of the household of faith." Though many of the poor are not God's saints, they are God's creatures; though not true Christians, yet men of the same blood with ourselves, and so our neighbours, whom we are to love as ourselves. See Gen. ix. 6.

3. Humbly without any opinion of merit or valuing ourselves upon our charity. "When thou doest alms, let not thy left hand know what thy right hand doeth." It is but God's own we return him, why should we think much of it. They that think to buy heaven with their works of charity, will find that they have sold it by their presumption.

4. Compassionately and tenderly. Hence it is called shewing mercy, because it should flow from a charitable and compassionate mind, pitying those that are in distress. The injunction is, "Put on therefore (as the elect of God, holy and beloved) bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, long-suffering." And thus it will be given without shameing the poor. Thus Boaz caused, "let some handfuls fall on purpose for Ruth, and leave them that she may glean them, and said, reproach her not."

5. Seasonably, when there is most need. Unnecessary delays must be carefully avoided. The command is, "Withhold not good from them to whom it is due, when it is in the power of thine hand to do it." Say not to thy neighbour, "Go, and come again, and tomorrow I will give; when thou hast by thee." A gift in season is a double gift. And much of God's goodness is sometimes seen in that.

6. Cheerfully, with real good will. The Lord loveth a cheerful giver. What is given with a grudge, is much lost before the Lord. Why should we that are but stewards of our Lord's goods, grudge to give out at his command.

But to this it may be objected that the poor are often unthankful. Answer, That is their sin, but let it not be your temptation. You are to give as unto the Lord, and look for your reward at his hand, not at the hands of those to whom it is given. "Love your enemies, and do good, and lend, hoping for nothing again: and your reward shall be great; and ye shall be the children of the Highest; for he is kind unto the unthankful and to the evil." We are then to seek God's honour, not ourselves in the matter.

7. Liberally, according to your ability; making it a matter of bounty. We must give as God hath prospered us. We cannot determine what, and how much is to be given particularly, but that must be determined by every person considering his own ability,

and the need of the object. "Those to whom God hath given much, of them much is required." But though a man have not a farthing to give, he ought to give in affection, and whatever way it is in his power to help the poor he is bound to do it. Our own straits do not altogether excuse us, though they warrant us to give the less, as the widow's mite was fully enough for her. Men are even bound to labour and work for that very end, that they may have to give to the poor, Ephes. iv. 28. 2 Cor. viii. 1-4. I shall now,

II. Bring forward some motives to enforce this duty.

1. We are not absolute masters, but stewards of what we have in the world. The world is God's household. To some he hath given the stewardship, others are to be fed by them, Luke xvi. 10, 12. we must give an account to him of our stewardship, even to him who could have put us in their case, and them in ours. The due consideration of this, would make us more easily part with a portion of what we have to the poor.

2. It is a duty bound upon us with ties both divine and natural. The law of God, in the scriptures, requires it, 2 Cor. 8th and 9th chapters. Nature itself binds it on us, teaching us to do to others, what we would others should do to us, if we were in their case. It is not only charity, but humanity itself that commands us to supply the necessities of the poor. And therefore unless we divest ourselves of humanity we must attend to this duty.

3. Consider the evil of shutting up our bowels from the poor. It is a sin of a deep dye. It is horrid ingratitude to God. He hath given unto us so much, and yet we will not part with a portion of it back again to himself when he calls for it. It is Christ himself that asks alms of us by the mouth of the poor, Matth. xxv. 40, 45. Now, if Jesus Christ came to us personally, what a dreadful thing would it be to deny him.

It is perfidiousness to God, and unfaithfulness in the charge which he hath committed to us. It is as if a steward should turn all to his own use, which the master hath entrusted to him for the maintenance of the family. It is even a kind of theft, and that of the worst sort, robbing the poor of what God has made their due. This God will punish, though the laws of men do not.

It is a decree of murder, 1 John iii. 15, 17. For as the fire may be put out by withholding fuel, as well as by pouring water upon it, so a man's life may be taken away by denying to him the supports of life, as well as by doing violence to him.

4. Consider the evil that follows it. It is a disposition of soul most disadvantageous, attended with a train of miserable consequences. It brings a moth into what a man hath, and is the high

way to poverty and want. "There is that scattereth, and yet increaseth; and there is that withholdeth more than is meet, but it tendeth to poverty." For while men thus hold together, God in his anger scattereth what they have. It is also a very black mark against the soul in religion. It is inconsistent with the true love of God. "For whoso hath this world's good, and seeth his brother have need, and shutteth up his bowels of compassion from him, how dwelleth the love of God in him." Yea, it declares a person to be void of all religion, James i. 27. It is followed with most dreadful threatenings of the Lord's shewing no mercy to such. "They shall have judgment without mercy, that have shewed no mercy. Whoso stoppeth his ears at the cry of the poor, he also shall cry himself, but shall not be heard."

5. Consider the excellency of a charitable frame of spirit, ever ready to communicate to the poor. It is a blessed thing even by our Lord's own verdict, and he commends it as a thing more to be desired than received. It is more blessed, said he, to give than to receive. In this duty we do in a special manner put on the image and likeness of God, Luke vi. 35, 36. Our Lord Jesus Christ when he was in the world, though he became poor, yet by his own example he recommended the duty of giving to the poor. It is selected from among other works, and applauded in the day of judgment, Matth.

XXV.

6. Consider the advantages which attend it. God has bound many signal advantages to it by promise. It is the very way to secure a through-bearing. Give in this way what you have at God's call, and you shall be provided for. "He that giveth to the poor shall not lack: but he that hideth his eyes shall have many a curse." It is the best way to secure our means that are liable to so many accidents, Eccl. xi. 1-3. Laying out for God is better security than laying up what God calls for, for thus it is put in a sure hand, who will be sure to pay it again, Prov. xix. 17. It is the best way to be rich, as that way is pointed out by the Lord. If we thus honour God with our substance, our barns shall be filled with plenty, and our presses burst out with new wine. Solomon observes the accomplishment of this, for there is that scattereth, says he, and yet increaseth; and every age hath produced instances of this truth. may see a cluster of benefits annexed to this duty, Psalm xl. 1—5. Lastly, To sum up all, God has promised mercy to those that are thus rightly qualified. Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy. Therefore our Lord tells us how to improve the goods of this world for eternal life. "Make to yourselves, says he, friends of the mammon of unrighteousness, that when ye fail, they may re

You

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