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compassion from him, how dwelleth the 66 love of God in him?" In short, our Saviour has expressly taught us that by works of charity and mercy our fate shall be determined at the last day.
II. From what has been now said, the obligation of charity clearly appears ; but while men allow the obligation in general, they are always inventing pretences and excuses for neglecting it in particular cases. The validity of these I now proceed to consider.
1. The majority of mankind apologize for refusing to relieve the distressed, by saying that charity is a duty incumbent only on the rich; their income is sufficient for the support only of themselves and their families, and after their necessary expenses are paid, they have nothing to spare for objects of distress. This excuse, when made with sincerity and truth, is so far good that no man is required to give beyond his ability. But you cannot be ignorant that the smallness of the sum, you can afford to give, does not diminish the obligation or lessen your merit. You are bound to give your little, as much as the rich to give out of their abundance ; and if you give with a willing mind, you will be accepted according to
what you have, and not according to what you have not. You remember the poor widow, who cast all her living into the treasury for the poor, and whose two mites were of more value in the sight of God than all the gifts of the rich.
But, farther, let me ask you, by what rule you determine that which is necessary, or that which is competent ? If you are directed by the maxims and opinions of the world, you follow a very erroneous guide. Nay more,
, be your riches what they may, they will never exceed competence, and of course you will never be rich enough to give any thing away. If
you follow your own inclinations in this matter, and suppose every thing necessary, which is necessary to feed your vanity and pride, to gratify your love of pleasure and amusement, to satisfy every whim and caprice, then, to get rid of this duty, you have only to become voluptuous and ostentatious, dissolute and profuse. In proportion as the passions you have to gratify increase, your obligation to works of goodness will diminish, and that multitude of sins and follies, which we are told charity will cover, will only prove an apology for neglecting its performance,
How inconsistent are the opinions and conduct of men.
On every other occasion, how unwilling are they to confess their poverty. How often, to keep up the reputation of being wealthy, do they endeavour to conceal a real derangement of affairs by expensive appearances
and show. Their vanity forsakes them only when reminded of the duties of charity and mercy; then they not only confess, but exaggerate their poverty ; their hardness of heart gets the better not only of their virtue, but even of their vanity itself. Now will any one be imposed on by so shallow an excuse as that which is thus proposed, when he considers your manner of life? You are too poor to spare a rag to cover the nakedness of your brother, but you are rich enough to spend immense sums in the decoration of your own person. You are too poor to bestow a trifle to purchase a crutch for the lame, but you are rich enough to keep a splendid equipage for your own convenience and indulgence. You are too poor to give a morsel of bread to him who is ready to perish, but you are rich enough to spend in a single entertainment for your friends, who stand in no need of your bounty, what would have dif
fused happiness through a helpless family for a a whole year.
You have money enough to stake at the gaming table, and have you none to lay out for the prize of the high-calling of God in Jesus Christ?
2. Some men complain of the waywardness of the times, of losses and misfortunes which they have sustained, of unsuccessful trade, and of unprofitable seasons, which make it difficult for themselves to live in their former style, and consequently exempt them from every obligation to charity. But if such men would duly examine their own character and conduct, in them, perhaps, they would discover the source of such disastrous events. They would, perhaps, discern the hand of God lifted up to avenge the cause of the poor, (whose cries ascend to heaven against the illiberal and hard-hearted,) to punish the rich for their want of compassion, and to convince them that they ought not to be so sparing of what does not properly belong to them, and of which they may so easily be deprived. Such events, then, are intended to promote and not to extinguish charity. Endeavour, therefore, by works of charity and mercy, by prayers and alms, to recover the favour of
God. Heaven frowns on the unfeeling miser, but ever looks with kind regard on the bountiful and generous.
Your land will again yield its increase ; success will accompany your endeavours; and riches will yet flow in abundance.
And if a change of circumstances make some retrenchments necessary, why begin with that which you owe to the poor? Retrench your pleasures; retrench your amusements; retrench your attendants ; retrench your vices, before
duties. Lastly, if
situation be uneasy in times of general misfortune and distress, think seriously what must be the situation of those who can with difficulty subsist in the best of times. Then, more than ever, is your
assistance required, when no works are carried on to employ the active and industrious; when the small pittance which they obtain from their own exertions and the charity of the humane, is so soon swallowed up by the high price of provisions; and when the season of the year forbids their being dispersed into asylums of distress.
3. Many men excuse themselves by saying, that the demands upon them are so fre