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of our expenses, yet that is but as to our ordinary course : for if in an extraordinary case it fall out, that another way is more to God's glory and the common good, it must then be preferred; for all means are to be judged of by the end, and chosen, and used for it. For example, if the good of church and commonwealth, or of the souls of many do stand up against our corporal provision of our children or families, it is to be preferred ; which is easily proved' a fortiore,' because it is to be preferred before our own good, even the saving of our lives. A good subject will lose his life to save the life of his king; and a good soldier will die to save his general or the army; and a useless member of the church should be content to die, if it be necessary to save the life of a pastor that is greatly useful. If a poor, ordinary Christian then had been so put to it, that either Paul or he must famish, no doubt but his ultimate end would have commanded him to prefer the apostle before himself; so that in extraordinary cases, the end and greatest good must be our guide.
4. Though I may ordinarily prefer my own life before another's, yet I must not prefer my mere delight or health, before another's life : and though men must provide for the lives of their children, before the lives of others, yet the life of a poor neighbour ('cæteris paribus') must be preferred and provided for, before the portions of your own children, and before the supply of their tolerable wants : so that as long as there are poor about
that are in necessity of food to save their lives, the portions or comeliest clothing of your children must rather be neglected, than the poor be suffered to perish. How else do I love my neighbour as myself, if I make so great a difference between myself and him?
5. Even the food and raiment, and other necessaries, which a Christian useth himself, he must use for God, and not for his carnal self at all; not taking it as his own, which he may use at and for his own pleasure, but as part of his master's goods, which are all to be used only for his service. As a steward, that when he giveth every servant his part, and taketh his own part, it is not as if it were primarily his own, but as a servant on the same account with the rest : so when I devote all that I have to God, I am so far from excepting my own part, even my food and raiment, that I do more confidently intend the serving of God with that, than with the rest, because it is more in my power, and there is in it more of my duty. The same I may say of that which is given to our children and other relations.
6. Therefore when mure of the service and interest of God, lieth upon your own, or your children's using of his talents, than upon other men's, you are bound (for God, and not for selves), to retain so much the more for yourselves and children. It is a fond conceit that a man is bound to give all to others, rather than to himself or children, when it is most probable, that those others would do God less service with it, than himself or his children would do : as suppose such a man as Mr. Elliot of New England (that devoteth himself to the conversion of the Indians) had riches, when some neighbour ministers were poor, that are engaged in no such work; he that knoweth that God hath given him a heart and an opportunity to do him more service with it than another would do, is not bound to put it out of his own hands into another's, that is less like to be a faithful improver of it. If you have a son of your own that is a preacher of the Gospel, and is more able and serviceable than other ministers in equal want, no doubt you have then a double obligation to relieve your own son before another; as he is your son, and as he is more serviceable to God. If other men are bound to supply your want for the work and interest of the Gospel, you are not bound to give away your own supplies, to the disabling you from your work, unless when you see a greater work, or the present absolute necessity of others, doth require it.
7. It is imprudent and unsafe, and therefore unlawful, ordinarily, to tie yourself unchangeably for continuance, to any one particular way of using your estates for God; as to vow that you will give it to ministers, or to the poor, or to schools, &c., because the changes may be such which God will make, as shall make that way to be one year necessary, which before was not, and so change your duty. We cannot prescribe to God what way he shall appoint us for the future, to use his talents in. His Word bids us prefer the greatest good; but which is the greatest, bis providence must tell us.
8. He that hath no more than is necessary to the preservation of his own life and his family's, is not bound to give to others (unless in some extraordinary case, which calleth him to prefer a greater and more public good): and he that hath no more than is needful, to the comfortable support of himself and family, is not bound to relieve those that have no greater wants than himself. And his own necessity is not to be measured merely by what he hath, but by the use he hath for it; for a magistrate, or one that is engaged in public works, may have need of as many hundreds a year, as a private man of pounds.
9. Those that have many children to provide for, or poor kindred that nature .casteth on them, cannot give so much (proportionably) to other poor, as those are bound to do that have few or none; for these are bound to give all, except their personal necessaries, to public, pious or charitable works, because God calleth not for it any other way.
10. To pamper the flesh, is a sin as well in the rich, as in the poor: the rich therefore are bound not only to give all that the flesh can spare, when its own inordinate desires are satisfied, but deny themselves, and mortify the flesh, and be good husbands for God, and studious to retrench all unnecessary expenses, and to live laboriously and thriftily, that they may have the more to do good with. It is a great extenuation of the largest gifts, as to God's esteem, when they are but the leavings of the flesh, and are given out of men's abundance, and when we offer that to God that costeth us nothing: as Christ doth purposely determine the case; comparing the rich man's gifts with the widow's two mites, he said, “Of a truth I say unto you, that this poor widow hath cast in more than they all: for all these have of their abundance cast in unto the offerings of God; but she of her penury, hath cast in all the living that she had :" that is, all the stock she had beforehand, though she had need of it herself. It is a very considerable thing in our charity, how much mortification and self-denial is expressed in it, and how much it costeth our own flesh, to give to others. And therefore they that think they are excused from doing good to others, as long as they have any need of it themselves, and will give nothing but what they have no
u Luke xxi, 1-4.
need of (it being not of absolute necessity to their lives) do offer a sacrifice of no great value in the eyes of God. What then shall we say of them, that will not give even out of their abundance, and that which without any suffering they may spare ?
11. The first and principal thing to be done by one that would give as God would have him, is, to get a truly charitable heart, which containeth all these parts.
1. That we see God in his needy creatures, and in his cause or work that needs our help.
2. That we be sensible of his abundant love in Christ to us, in giving pardon and eternal life, and that from the sense of this our thankful hearts are moved to do good to others.
3. That therefore we do it ultimately, as to Christ himself; who taketh that which is done for his cause and servants, as done to him, Matt. xxv. 40.
4. That we conquer the cursed sin of selfishness, which makes men little regard any but themselves.
5. That we love our neighbours as ourselves, and love most where there is most of God and goodness, and not according to self-interest : and that as members of the same body, we take our brethren’s wants and sufferings as our own ; and then we should be as ready to help them as ourselves.
6. That we know the vanity of worldly riches, and be not earthly-minded, but regard the interest of God and our souls, above all the treasures of the world.
7. That we unfeignedly believe the promises of God, who hath engaged himself to provide for us, and everlastingly to reward us in glory with himself. If these seven qualifications be wrought upon the heart, good works will plentifully follow. Make but the tree good, and the fruit will be good. But when the heart is void of the root and life which should produce them, the judgment will not be persuaded that so much is necessary, and required of us; and the will itself will still hang back, and be delaying to do good, and doing all pinchingly and hypocritically, with unwillingness and distrust.
No wonder if good works are so rare, when it is evident that to do them sincerely and heartily as our trade and business, it is necessary that the whole soul be. thus renewed by faith, and love, and self-denial, and mortification, and by a heavenly hope and mind. They are the fruits and works of the new creature (which is, alas, too rare in the world): “ For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained, that we should walk in them." Therefore our first and chiefest labour should be to be sure that we are furnished with such hearts, and then if we have wherewith to do good, such hearts will be sure to do it; such hearts will best discern the time and measure, as a healthful man's appetite will in eating : for they will take it for a mercy and happiness to do good, and know, that it is they that give, that are the great receivers. It is but a little money or alms, that the poor receive of us, but it is God's acceptance, and favour, and reward that we receive, which is in “ this life a hundred fold (in value), and in the world to come eternal life.” But if we have little or nothing to give, such a heart is accepted, as if we had given as much as we desire to give; so that if you have a heart that would give thousands if you had it, God will set down upon your account, so many thousands given (in desire). Your two mites shall be valued above all the superfluities of sensual worldlings : “ For if there be first a willing mind, it is accepted according to that a man hath, and not according to that he hath not p." But God taketh not that for a willing mind, which only saith, ' I would give if I should suffer nothing by it myself, or were sure I should not want;' but that which saith, “I will serve God as well as I can with my estate while I have it, and deny my flesh, that I may have to do good with, and trust God for my provision and reward; for if there be a readiness to will, there will be a performance also out of that which you have.
12. Such a holy self-denying charitable heart, with the help of prudence, is the best judge of the due proportion which we should give : for this willing readiness being supposed, prudence will discern the fittest objects, and the fittest time, and the fittest measure, and will suit the means unto the end : when once a man's heart is set upon doing good, it will not be very hard to perceive how much ourselves, our families, the poor, and religious uses should have; for if such a person be prudent himself, he hath always with • Ephes. ii. 10. P 2 Cor. viji. 12.
9 2 Cor. viii. 11.