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To conclude: There is hardly a doty enjoined in the whole book of God, on which more stress se^ms often to be laid, than this virtue of meekness. "The Lord lovetli the meek.—The meek will he beautify with his salvation —He arises to save the meek of the earth." Christ was sent to preach "glad tidings to the meek." Upon this our Lord rests his own character. "Learn of me, for I am imek." In the epistles of Paul there is a remarkable expression: " I beseech you by the meekness and the gentleness of Christ." The Holy Ghost, too, is called, "the Spirit oi Meekness." Implore, then, O Christian! the assistance of the Divine Spirit, that he may endow you with this virtue, and that you may shew in your life the meekness of wisdom.
Isaiah Iviii. 7
—Deal thy bread to the hungry :—hide not thyself from thine ownjtesh.
TVTHY there are to many evils in the world is a qucs"tion that has been agitated ever since men felt them. A- God is possessed of all perfections, he could have created the universe without evil. To him, revolving the plan of his creation, every benevolent system presented itself. How came it then to pass, that a Being, neither controlled in power, nor limited in wisdom, nor deficient in goodness, should create a world in which many evils are to be found, and much suffering to be endured? It becomes not us, with too presumptuous a curiosity, to assign the causes of the Divine conduct, or with too daring a hand, to draw aside the veil which covers the councils of the Almighty. But from this state of things we see many good effects arise. That industry which keeps the world in motion; that society which, by mutual wants, cement mankind together; and that charily, which is the bond of perfection, would neither have a place nor a name, but for the evils of human life. Thus, the enjoyments of lite are grafted upon its wants: from natural evil arises moral good, and the suffering of some contribute to the happiness of all. Such being the state of human affairs, charily, or that disposition which leads us to supply the wants, and alleviate the sufferings of unhappy men, as well as bear with their infirmities, must be a duty of capital importance. Accordingly, it is enjoined in our holy religion, as being the chief of the virtues. There is no duty commanded in Scripture, on which so much stress is laid, as on the duty of charily. It is assigned as the test and criterion, by which we are to distinguish the disciples of Jesus, and it will be selected at the great day, as being that part of the character which is most decisive of the lite, and according to which the last sentence is to turn. Charity, iti its most comprehensive sense, signifies that disposition of mind, which from a regard and gratitude to God, leads to do all the good in our power to man. Tiius it takes in a large circle, extending to all tiie virtues of the social, and many graces of the Divine life. But as this would lead us into a wide field, all that I intend at present is to consider that branch of charity, which is called Almsgiving; and, in treating upon it, shall in the first place, shew you howalms ought to be bestowed; and, secondly, give exhortations to the practice of this duty.
I. I am to shew you what is the most proper method of bestowing charity. This inquiry is the more necessary, as, in the neighbourhood ol great cities, we are always surrounded by the needy and importunate, and it is often difficult to distinguish those who are proper objects of charity from those who are not.
The best method of bestowing charity upon the healthy and the strong is to give them employment. Almighty God created us all for industry and action. He never intended that any man upon the face of the earth should be idle. Accordmgly he hath placed us in a slate which abounds with incentives to industry, and in which we must be active, in order to live. Gue half of the vices of men lake their origm from idleness. He, who has nothing to do, is an easy prey to the tempter. Men must have occupation of one kind or other. If they are not employed in useful and beneficial labours, they will engage in those which are pernicious and criminal. To support the indolent, therefore, to keep those idle who are able to work, is acting contrary to the intention of God; is doing an injury to society, which claims a right to the services of all its members; is defrauding real objects of charity of that which is their proper due, and is fostering a race of sluggards to prey upon the vitals of a state. But he is a valuable member of society, and merits well of mankind, who by devising means of employment for the industrious, delivers the public from an useless incumbrance, and makes those who otherwise would be the pests of society, useful subjects of the commonwealth. If it be merit, and no small merit it is, to improve the face of a country; to -turn the desert into a fruitful field, and make the barren wastes break forth into singing; it is much more meritorious to cultivate the deserts of the moral world; to render those who might be otherwise pernicious members of society, happy in themselves and beneficial to the state; to convert the talent that was wrapt up in a napkin, into a public use; and by opening a new source of industry, make life and health to circulate through the whole political body. Such a person is a true patriot, and does more good to mankind, lhan all the heroes and man destroyers who fill the annals of history. The fame of the one is founded upon the numbers that he has slain; the glory of the other arises from the numbers that he preserves and makes happy. Another act of charity, of equal importance, is to supply the wants of the really indigent and necessitous. If the industrious, with all their efforts, are not able to earn a competent livelihood; if the produce of their labour be not proportionable to the demands of a numerous family; then they are proper objects of your charity. Nor can there be conceived a more pitiable case, than that of those whose daily labour, after the utmost they can do, will not procure daily bread for themselves and their household. To consider a parent who has toiled the live-long day in hardship, who yet at night, instead of finding rest, shall rind a pain more insupportable than all his fatigues abroad, —the cravings of a numerous and helpless family, which he cannot satisfy: this is sufficient to give the most lively touches of compassion to every heart ttiat is not past feeling. Nor can there be an exercise of charity better judged, than administering to the wants of those who are at the same time industrious and indigent.
Another class of men, that demand onr charity, is the aged and feeble, who, after a life of hard labour, after being worn out with the cares and business of life, are grown unfit for further business, and who add poverty to the other miseries of old age. What can be more worthy of us," than thus to contribute to their happiness, who have been once useful, and are still willing to be so; to allow them not to feel the want of those enjoyments, which they are not now able to procure; to be a staff to their declining days, to smooth the furrows in the faded cheek, and to make the wjnter of old age wear the aspect of spring?
Children also bereft of their parents, orphans cast upon the care of Providence, arc signal objects of compassion. To act the part of a father to those upon whose helpless years no parent of their own ever smiled; to rear up the plant that was left alone to perish in the storm; to fence the tender bloom against the early blasts of vice; to watch and superintend its growth, till it flourishes and brings forth fruit: this is a noble and beneficial employment, well adapted to a generous mind. What can be more delightful than thus to train up the young to happiness and virtue; to conduct them, with a safe but gentle hand, through the dangerous stages of infancy and youth; to give them, at 2n age when their minds are most susceptible of good impressions, early notices of religion, and render them useful members of society, who, if turned adrift, and left defenceless, would, without the extraordinary grace of God, become a burden and a nuisance to the world.
But there is a class of the unfortunate not yet mentioned, who are the greatest objects of all; those, who, after bavin" been accustomed to ease and plenty, are, by some unavoidable reverse of fortune, by no fault or folly of theirs, condemned to bear, what they are leas.t able to bear, the galling load of poverty; who, after having been perhaps fathers to the fatherless, in the day of their prosperity, are now become the objects of that charily which they were wont so liberally to dispense. These persons plead the more strongly for our relief, because they are the least able to reveal their misery, and make their wants known. Let these, therefore, in a peculiar manner, partake the bounty of the liberal and open hand. Let your goodness descend to them in secret, and, like the Providence of Heaven, conceal the hand which sends them relief, that their bliuhe> may be spared while their wants are supplied.
Concerning one class of the indigent, vagrants and common beggars, I have hitherto said nothing. About these vour own observation and experience will enable you to judge. Some of them are real and deserving objects of your compassion. Of others, the greatest want is the want of industry and virtue.
II. I proposed to give exhortations to the practice of this duty. This duty is so agreeable to the common notions of mankind, that every one condemns the mean and sordid spirit of that wretch whom God has blessed with abundance, and consequently with the power of blessing others, and who is yet relentless to the cries of the poor and miserable. We look with contempt and abhorrence upon a man who is ever amassing riches, and never bestowing them; as greedy as the sea, and yet as barren as the shore. Numbers, it is true, think they have done enough in declaiming against the practice of such persons: for upon the great and the opulent they think the whole burden of this duty ought to rest; but for themselves, being somewhat of a lower class, they desire to be excused. Their circumstances, they say, are but just easy, to answer the demands of their family, and, therefore, they plead inability, and expect to be exempted from the performance of this duty. Before this excuse will be of any avail, it behoves them to consider whether they do not indulge themselves in expences unsuitable to their rank and condition. Imaginary wants arc boundless, and charity will never begin, if it be postponed till these have an end. Kvery man, whether rich or poor, is concerned in this duty, in proportion to his circumstances: and he, that has little, is as strictly bound to give something out of that little, as he, that hath more, is obliged to give more. "What advantage was it to the poor widow, that she, by giving her one mite into the treasury, could exercise u nobler charity than all the rich had done! The smallest gift may be the greatest bounty.
The practice of this duty, therefore, is incumbent upon all. To the performance of it you are drawn by that pity and compassion which are implanted in the heart. Compassion is the call of our Father in heaven to us his children, to put us upon relieving our brethren in distress. This is an affection wisely interwoven in our frame by the Author of our nature, that, whereas abstracted reason is too sedentary and remiss a counsellor, we might have a