Sivut kuvina

calumny, which you may meet with in it. Be still attentive to the general good, and steadily resolute in your efforts to promote it; and leave it to providence, to guard or to rescue your character from the base assaults of malice and falsehood; which will often, without your labour, confute themselves, and heap upon the authors greater shame, or (if they are inaccessible to that,) greater infamy, than your humanity will allow you to wish them.

§. 10. Once more, Has God blessed you with riches? Has he placed you in such circumstances, that you have more than you absolutely need for the subsistence of yourself and your family? Remember your approaching account. Remember what an incumbrance these things often prove to men in the way of their salvation, and how often, according to our Lord's express declaration, they render it as difficult to enter into the kingdom of God, as it is for a camel to go through the eye of a needle*. Let it therefore be your immediate, your earnest, and your daily prayer, that riches may not be a snare and a shame to you, as they are to by far the greater part of their possessors. Appropriate, I beseech you, some certain part and proportion of your estate and revenue, to charitable uses; with a provisional increase, as God shall prosper you, in any extraordinary instance. By this means you will always have a fund of charity at hand and you will probably be more ready to communicate, when you look upon what is so deposited, as not in any sense your own; but as already actually given away to those uses, though not yet affixed to particular objects. It is not for me to say, what that proportion ought to be. To those who have large revenues, and no children, perhaps a third or one half may be too little: to those whose incomes are small, and their charge considerable, though they have something more than is absolutely necessary, it is possible a tenth may be too much. But pray, that God would guide your mind; make a trial for one year, on such terms, as in your conscience you think will be most pleasing to him; and let your observations on that teach you to fix your proportions for the next; always remembering, that he requires justice in the first place, and alms-deeds only so far as may consist with that. Yet at the same time take heed of that treacherous, delusive, and in many instances destructive imagination," that justice to your own family requires that you should leave your children very rich;" which has perhaps cost some parsimonious parents the lives of those darlings for whom

* Mat. xix. 24.

they laid up the portion of the poor; and what fatal consequences of divine displeasure may attend it to those that yet survive, God only knows; and I heartily pray, that you or yours may never learn by experience.

§. 11. And that your heart may yet be more opened, and that your charity may be directed to the best purposes, let me briefly mention a variety of good uses, which may call for the consideration of those, whom God has in this respect distinguished by an ability to do good. To assist the hints I am to offer, look round on the neighbourhood in which you live. Think how many honest and industrious, perhaps too I might add religious people, are making very hard shifts to struggle through life. Think what a comfort that would be to them, which you might without any inconvenience spare from that abundance which God hath given you.-Hearken also to any extraordinary calls of charity which may happen, especially those of a public nature; and help them forward with your example, and your interest, which perhaps may be of much. greater importance than the sum which you contribute, considered in itself. Have a tongue to plead for the necessitous, as well as a hand to relieve them; and endeavour to discounte nance those poor shameful excuses, which covetousness often dictates to those, whose art may indeed set some varnish on what they suggest, but so slight a one that the coarse ground will appear through it.-See how many poor children are wandering naked and ignorant about the streets, and in the way to all kinds of vice and misery; and consider what can be done towards cloathing some of them at least, and instructing them in the principles of religion. Would every thriving family in a town, which is able to afford help on such occasions, cast a pitying eye on one poor family in its neighbourhood, and take it under their patronage, to assist in feeding, and cloathing, and teaching the children, in supporting it in affliction, in defending it from wrongs, and in advising those that have the management of it, as circumstances may require, how great a difference would soon be produced in the appearance of things amongst us?-Observe who are sick, that if there be no public infirmary at hand to which you can introduce them, (where your contribution will yield the largest increase) you may do something towards relieving them at home, and supplying them with advice and medicines, as well as with proper diet and attendance. Consider also the spiritual necessities of men; in providing for which, I should particularly recommend to you

the very important and noble charity of assisting young persons of genius and piety, with what is necessary to support the expence of their education for the ministry, in a proper course of grammatical or academical studies. And grudge not some proportion of what God hath given you, to those who, resigning all temporal views to minister to you the gospel of Christ, have surely an equitable claim to be supported by you, in a capacity of rendering you those services, however laborious, to which for your sakes, and that of our common Lord, they have devoted their lives. And while you are so abundantly satisfied with the goodness of God's house, even of his own temple, have compassion on those that dwell in a desart land; and rejoice to do something towards sending among the distant nations of the heathen world, that glorious gospel which hath so long continued unknown to multitudes, though the knowledge of it, with becoming regard, be life everlasting.—These are a few important charities, which I would point out to those, whom providence has enriched with its peculiar bounties: and it renders gold more precious, than it could appear in any other light, that it is capable of being employed for such purposes. But if you should not have gold to spare for them, contribute your silver or as a farthing, or a mite, is not overlooked by God, when it is given from a truly generous, and charitable heart, let that be cheerfully dropped into the treasury, where richer offerings cannot be afforded.

. 12. And, that amidst so many pressing demands for charity, you may be better furnished to answer them, seriously reflect on your manner of living. I say not, that God requires you should become one of the many poor, relieved out of your income. The support of society, as at present established, will not only permit, but require, that some persons should allow themselves in the elegancies and delights of life; by furnishing which multitudes of poor, families are much more creditably and comfortably subsisted, with greater advantage to themselves, and safety to the public, than they could be, if the price of their labours, or of the commodities in which they deal, were to be given them as an alms: nor can I imagine it grateful to God, that his gifts should be refused, as if they were meant for snares and curses, rather than benefits. This were to frustrate the benevolent purposes of the gracious Father of mankind, and if carried to its rigour, would be a sort of con spiracy against the whole system of nature. Let the bounties

· † Mark xii, 42, 43,

*Psal. lxv. 4.

of providence be used; but let us carefully see to it, that it be in a moderate and prudent manner, lest by your own folly, that which should have been for our welfare, become a trap*. Let conscience say, my dear reader, with regard to yourself, what proportion of the good things you possess, your heavenly Father intends for yourself, and what for your brethren; and live not as if you had no brethren, as if pleasing yourself, in all the magnificence and luxury you can devise, were the end for which you were sent into the world. I fear this is the excess of the present age, and not an excess of rigour and mortification. Examine therefore your expences, and compare them with your income. That may be shamefully extravagant in you, which may not only be pardonable, but commendable in another of superior estate. Nor can you be sure that you do not exceed, merely because you do not plunge yourself in debt, nor render yourself incapable of laying up any thing for your family. If you be disabled from doing any thing for the poor, or any thing proportionable to your rank in life, by that genteel and elegant way of living which you affect, God must disapprove of such a conduct; and you ought, as you will answer it to him, to retrench it. And though the divine indulgence will undoubtedly be exercised to those in whom there is a sincere principle of faith in Christ, and undissembled love to God and man, though it act not to that height of beneficence and usefulness which might have been attained; yet be assured of this, that he who rendereth to every one according to his works, will have a strict regard to the degrees of goodness in the distribution of final rewards: so that every neglected opportunity draws after it an irreparable loss, which will go into eternity along with you. And let me add too, that every instance of negligence indulged, renders the mind still more and more indolent and weak, and consequently more indisposed to recover the ground which has been lost, or even to maintain that which has been hitherto kept.

§. 13. Complain not, that this is imposing hard things upon you. I am only directing your pleasures into a nobler channel; and indeed that frugality which is the source of such a generosity, far from being at all injurious to your reputation, will rather, amongst wise and good men, greatly promote it. But you have far nobler motives before you, than those which arise from their regards. I speak to you as to a child of God, and a member of Christ; as joined therefore by the most intimaté

* Psal, Ixix. 22.

union to all the poorest of those that believe in him. I speak to you as to an heir of eternal glory, who ought therefore to have sentiments great and sublime, in some proportion to that expected inheritance.

§. 14. Cast about therefore in your thoughts, what good is to be done, and what you can do, either in your own person, or by your interest with others; and go about it with resolution, as in the name and presence of the Lord. And as the Lord giveth wisdom, and out of his mouth cometh knowledge and understanding, go to the footstool of his throne, and there seek that guidance and that grace which may suit your present circumstances, and may be effectual to produce the fruits of holiness and usefulness, to his more abundant glory, and to the honour of your christian profession.

The established Christian breathing after more extensive Usefulness.

“O BOUNTIFUL Father, and sovereign author of all good, whether natural or spiritual! I bless thee for the various talents with which thou hast enriched so undeserving a creature, as I must acknowledge myself to be. My soul is in the deepest confusion before thee, when I consider to how little purpose I have hitherto improved them. Alas! what have I done, in proportion to what thou mightest reasonably have expected, with the gifts of nature which thou hast bestowed upon me, with my capacities of life, with my time, with my possessions, with my influence over others! Alas! through my own negligence and folly, I look back on a barren wilderness, where I might have seen a fruitful field, and a springing harvest! Justly do I indeed deserve to be stripped of all, to be brought to an immediate account for all, to be condemned as in many respects unfaithful to thee, and to the world, and to my own soul; and in consequence of that condemnation, to be cast into the prison of eternal darkness! But thou, Lord, hast freely forgiven the dreadful debt of ten thousand talents. Adored be thy name for it! Accept, O Lord, accept that renewed surrender, which I would now make of myself and of all I have unto thy service! I acknowledge that it is of thine own that I give theet. Make me I beseech thee, a faithful steward for my great Lord; and may I think of no separate interest of my own, in opposition to thine!

* Prov. ii. 6.

+1 Chron. xxix. 14.

« EdellinenJatka »