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PREACHED IN CHRIST-CHURCH, PHILADELPHIA, OCTOBER 10,
1769, BEFORE THE CORPORATION FOR THE RELIEF OF THE WIDOWS AND CHILDREN OF CLERGYMEN, IN THE COMMUNION OF THE CHURCH OF ENGLAND, IN AMERICA.
JOB, Ch. XXIX. v. 11–13.
When the ear heard me, then it blessed me, and when the eye
saw me, it gave witness to me, because I delivered the Poor that cried, and the Fatherless, and him that had none to help him. The blessing of him that was ready to perish came upon me, and I caused the Widow's heart to sing for joy.
JEREMIAH, Ch. XLIX. v. 11. Leave thy Fatherless Children, I will preserve them alive; and
let thy Widows trust in me.
JAMES, Ch. I. v. 27. Pure Religion and undefiled, before God and the Father, is
this-To visit the Fatherless and Widows in their affliction; and to keep ourselves unspotted from the world.
MY RESPECTED HEARERS!
IT is from no affectation of singularity, that I have introduced this discourse to you, with sundry texts of Scripture, instead of one; but to shew how rich are the sacred oracles of God, as in exalted les. sons of Benevolence in general, so particularly in that amiable branch thereof which I am to recommend to your present regard. Through the whole inspired books of the Old Testament, as well as the New, we shall scarce find a writer that hath not made the cause of the Fatherless and Widows peculiarly his
Amidst a very imperfect system of morality, even in the heathen-world, the voice of God, speak | ing in the hearts of men, had carried their lessons of benevolence to a more exalted pitch, than most other branches of their doctrine; in so much, that some of their sages could embrace, in the calm wish of Phi. lanthropy, the whole* human species.
But it was from the Scriptures of God, and particularly from the divine documents of our Saviour and his Apostles, that the doctrine of Universal Love and Charity, received its finishing lustre, and was placed on its true foundation. Although the motives to this heavenly virtue be strong, both in the Old and New Testament; yet are they carried infinitely farther in the latter, and pressed home upon nobler and more animating principles.
True it is, that no writer can express a more ami. able Spirit of Benevolence, nor recount his acts of mercy and kindness, with more conscious delight and complacency, than the author of the book of Job; as well in the passage before us, as elsewhere
“ When the ear heard me, then it blessed me; ! “ when the eye saw me, then it gave witness to me”and why? “ Because I delivered the Poor that cried, " and the Fatherless, and him that had none to help “ him. The blessing of him that was ready to perish
came upon me, and caused the Widow's heart to “ sing for joy.”
The principles upon which he acted in all this, may perhaps be understood from what he says after- . wards
* Homo sum; humani nihil a nxe alienum puto.
For—" If I have withheld the poor from their “ desire, or caused the eyes of the Widow to fail; “ if I have eaten my morsel myself alone, and the " Fatherless hath not eaten thereof; if I have seen
any perish for want of clothing, or any Poor with“ out covering, if his loins have not blessed me" and if he were not warmed with the fleece of my “sheep-If I have made Gold my hope, or have said " to the fine Gold, thou art my confidence-this were “an iniquity to be punished by the Judge; for I “ should have denied that God is above*"
So that the sum of his argument seems to amount just to this—That if out of the Good Things wherewith my Almighty Creator hath abundantly blessed me, I should refuse to communicate and provide for the Destitute, I should be worthy of the highest punishment. For this would be, in effect, to claim all those things as my own absolute and perfect property, which are only given me in trust by my benevolent Maker. It would be denying that the Almighty reigns in heaven above, the sole and absolute source of every thing we enjoy here below. In such case, justly might He re-claim his own, strip me of the abundance He hath given me (turn me naked into the world, leave the wife of my bosom destitute, and my childern in their turn, to beg in vain for that bread which my unfeeling heart refused to others.
Scarce any higher than this will the Old Testament documents of Love and Beneficence be found to run; and no small height it is—but founded, how
Job Ch. xxxi. v. 16-28.
ever, on arguments of Almighty Justice and Judgment, seemingly reaching no farther than to secure the Divine favour in this world. Wholly in this strain is the language of the old law itself
“ Ye shall not afflict any Widow or Fatherless “ Child; for if thou afflict them in any wise, and they cry at all unto me, I will surely hear their cry,
and my wrath shall wax hot, and I will kill you with “ the sword; and your wives shall be Widows, and your children Fatherless*"_
Such denunciations of wrath and punishment, like the thunderings and burnings of the Mount, were suited to bend and awe the hearts of a people, whose genius was too gross and servile, or too stubborn, to be wooed and won by the soft breathings of everlasting Love. And here the danger was, that, attentive only to the letter of the law, and its awful sanctions, but not discerning its divine Spirit, the outward offices of Love and Beneficence, might be fulfilled from carnal motives—to secure the Divine Favour in this world—as considering that the more liberally they might give, the more liberally they would be supplied, of God's infinite bounty. Or the fond praise of men might be no small motivethat “ the ear which heard them might bless them, " and the eye which saw them, bear witness to their “ good deeds.”
Of this spirit were those who affected “ to bestow their alms before men.” But when Jesus Christ came to give a more noble foundation to the
Exodus xxij. 22.
law of Love and Charity, this ostentatious spirit met with His early reprehension. Although he did not annul the Old Testament motives to Love and Almsgiving, he added new ones, infinitely more powerful and animating. He placed life and immortality before us. He taught us that we were candidates for an Eternity of Glory, which none could be fit to inherit, but they who having the Love of God shed abroad in their hearts, did, for his sake, Love all his Creatures, and prepare their souls for the final enjoyment of Him, through the constant exercise of every act of kindness and mercy here below. And in the raptúrous glimpses which he gives us of this future and eternal bliss, and of that awful process and sentence which is to fix the doom of mankind-Charity to the Poor, the Sick, and the Needy, is made the grand Preparation of the Heart, for all that we can hope to enjoy from him.
Nor was it by Doctrines alone, but by constant and living Example, that this heavenly Temper was inculcated by Him. As his errand into the world was at first proclaimed by choirs of angels to be
Glory to God on high, with Peace and Good-will " to Men on carth”-So Good-will to men was the leading principle of his whole life; which was at last closed with an act of Good-will so stupendously great, that both men and angels were left astonished at the benevolence thereof-For he died to save sinners--He breathed out his last in “ Love which
passeth knowledge*"--constituting Love as the
Ephes. iii. 19.