The Duty of Charity to the Poor

Jonathan Edwards preached this message in Northampton in 1733. The sermon and background information can be read at The Jonathan Edwards Center at Yale University. Edwards original manuscripts can be seen and studied at the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library. The first page is pictured here:



The sermon was published posthumously by Jonathan Edwards Jr. in his 1788 collection of his father's sermons called Practical Sermons, Never Before Published (Edinburgh, 1788). This version can be seen and studied on Google Books. The title page is pictured here:




The entire (quite lengthy) sermon has been reproduced here. It expresses a thorough and tremendous theology of generosity and kindness in the Christian life. It has been lightly edited for online aesthetics.

 

The Duty of Charity to the Poor


Deuteronomy 15:7–11 If there be among you a poor man of one of thy brethren within any of thy gates in thy land which the Lord thy God giveth thee, thou shalt not harden thy heart, nor shut thine hand from thy poor brother: but thou shalt open thine hand wide unto him, and shalt surely lend him sufficient for his need, in that which he wanteth. Beware that there be not a thought in thy wicked heart, saying, The seventh year, the year of release, is at hand; and thine eye be evil against thy poor brother, and thou givest him naught; and he cry unto the Lord against thee, and it be sin unto thee. Thou shalt surely give him, and thine heart shall not be grieved when thou givest unto him: because that for this thing the Lord thy God shall bless thee in all thy works, and in all that thou puttest thine hand unto. For the poor shall never cease out of the land: therefore I command thee, saying, Thou shalt open thine hand wide unto thy brother, to thy poor, and to thy needy, in thy land.


[We shall] observe in the words,


1. The duty here enjoined, viz. giving to the poor: "If there be among you a poor man of one of thy brethren… thou shalt open thine hand wide unto him." Whereby "thy poor brother" is to be understood the same as in other places is meant by neighbor: not only those of their own country, as 'tis explained; Leviticus 25:35, "And if thy brother be waxen poor, and fallen in decay with thee; then thou shalt relieve him: yea, though he be a stranger, or a sojourner." The Pharisees interpreted it to signify only one of their own nation, but Christ removes this interpretation; Luke 10:29–37.2 Christ there teaches, contrary to their opinion, that the rules of charity in the law of Moses are to be extended to the Samaritans, that were not of their nation, and between whom and the Jews there was the most bitter enmity, and were a people that were very troublesome to the Jews.


2. God gives us direction how we are to give in such a case in two things:


(1) That we should give bountifully and sufficient for the supply of his needs; Deuteronomy 15:7–8, "thou shalt not shut up thine hand from thy poor brother: but thou shalt open thine hand wide unto him, and lend him sufficient for his need, in which he wanteth"; and Deuteronomy 15:11, "thou shalt open thine hand wide unto thy brother, to thy poor, and thy needy, in thy land."


(2) The second direction God gives about the manner of giving is to give willingly and without grudging; Deuteronomy 15:7, "thou shalt not harden thine heart against thy poor brother"; and Deuteronomy 15:10, "and thine heart shall not be grieved when thou givest him."


3. We may observe how peremptorily this duty is enjoined and how much insisted on. 'Tis repeated over and over again, and enjoined in the strongest terms; in Deuteronomy 15:7, "thou shalt not harden thine heart, nor shut thine hand from thy poor brother"; Deuteronomy 15:8, "but thou shalt open thine hand wide unto him, and shalt surely lend him"; Deuteronomy 15:10, "thou shalt sure give him"; and Deuteronomy 15:11, "I command thee, saying, thou shalt open thine hand wide unto thy brother, to thy poor, and thy needy."


4. God strictly warns against objections, as Deuteronomy 15:9: "Beware that there be not a thought in thy wicked heart, saying, The seventh year, the year of release, is at hand; and thine eye be evil against thy poor brother, and thou givest him naught; and he cry unto the Lord against thee, and it be sin unto thee." The matter concerning the seventh year, or year of release, was thus: God had given Israel a law in the beginning of the chapter that every seventh year should be a year of release, and that if any man had lent anything to any of his poor neighbors, if he had not been able to repay him before that year, he should release it and should not exact it of him, but give it to him.


God therefore warns the children of Israel against making an objection against helping their poor neighbors of that, that the year of release was near at hand and it was not likely that he would be able to pay him again before that, and then he should lose it wholly because he should be obliged then to release it. God foresaw that the wickedness of their hearts would be very ready to make such an objection.


But God very strictly warns them against it, that they should not be the more backward to supply the wants of the needy for that, but be willing to give him: "thou shalt be willing to lend expecting nothing again." Men are exceeding ready to make objections against such duties, which God speaks of here as a manifestation of the wickedness of the heart; "Beware that there be not a thought in thy wicked heart."


The warning is exceeding strict. God don't only say, "Beware that thou don't refuse to give him," but "Beware that thou han't one objecting thought against it arising from a backwardness to liberality." God warns against those beginnings of uncharitableness in the heart, or what tend to his forbearing to give: "And thou givest him naught, and he cry unto the Lord against thee, and it be a sin unto thee." God warns them from the guilt they will be likely to bring upon themselves hereby.


5. We may observe here several enforcements of this duty. There is a reason of the duty implied in that, in God's calling him that is needy "our brother": "thou shalt not shut thine hand from thy poor brother"; and Deuteronomy 15:9, "beware that thine eye be not evil against thy poor brother"; and Deuteronomy 15:11, "thou shalt open thine hand wide to thy brother." We are to look upon ourselves as related to all mankind, but especially to those that are of the visible people of God. We are to look upon 'em as brethren and to treat them accordingly. We shall be base indeed if we are not willing to help a brother in want.


Another enforcement is God's promise that for this thing God will bless us in all our works and in all that we put our hands unto: a promise that we shall not lose but be gainers by it (as Deuteronomy 15:10).


Another is that we shall never want proper objects of our charity and bounty; Deuteronomy 15:11, "for the poor shall never cease out of the land." This, God says to the Jewish church; and the like, Christ says to the Christian church; Matthew 26:11, "the poor ye have always with you." This is to cut off an excuse that uncharitable persons would be ready to make for their not giving, that they could find nobody to give to, that they saw none that needed. God here, and in that other place in Matthew, cuts off such an excuse by telling of us that he would so order it in his providence that his people everywhere and in all ages shall have occasion for the exercise of that virtue.


Doctrine.


'Tis the most absolute and indispensable duty of a people of God to give bountifully and willingly for the supply of the wants of the needy.


[There are] three propositions.


Prop. I. 'Tis the duty of a people of God to give bountifully. 'Tis commanded once and again in the text, "thou shalt open thine hand wide unto him." A merely giving something is not sufficient; it don't answer the rule or come up to God's holy command. But we must open our hand wide.


What we give, considering our neighbor's wants and our ability, should be such as may be called truly a liberal gift. It is explained in the text, what is meant by opening our hand wide in a people that are able, in Deuteronomy 15:8: "thou shalt open thine hand wide unto him, and shall surely lend him sufficient for his want in that which he needeth." By lending here, as is evident by the two following verses, and as we have just now shown, is not only meant lending to receive again; the word "lend" in the Scriptures is sometimes used for giving, as in Luke 6:35: "Do good and lend, hoping for nothing again."


We are commanded therefore to give our poor neighbor what is sufficient for his need. There ought to be none suffered to live in pinching want, among a visible people of God that are able to cause it to be otherwise, unless persons are idle, or spendthrifts, or some such case that the Word of God excepts.


It is said in the beginning of the chapter wherein is the text that the children of Israel should lend to the poor, and in the year of release should release what he had lent, save when there shall be no poor among them [Deuteronomy 15:1–4]. It is rendered in the margin,3 "to the end there be no poor among you"; you should so supply the wants of the needy that there may be none that may be in pinching want among you; which translation seems the more likely because God says in Deuteronomy 15:11 that there shall be no such time when there shall be no poor so as to be proper objects of charity.


When persons give very sparingly, it is no manifestation of charity, but of a contrary spirit; 2 Corinthians 9:5, "Therefore I thought it necessary to exhort the brethren, that they would go before unto you, and make up beforehand your bounty, whereof ye had notice before, that the same might be ready, as a matter of bounty, and not as of covetousness." The Apostle calls a very sparing contribution, a matter of "covetousness."


Prop. II. 'Tis the duty of a visible people of God to give for the supply of the needy freely, and without grudging. It don't at all answer the rule before God if it be done with an inward grudging; if the heart is grieved, and inwardly it hurts a man to give what he gives. "Thou shalt surely give," says God, "and thine heart shall not be grieved." God looks at the heart, and the hand is not accepted without it; 2 Corinthians 9:7, "Every man according as he hath purposed in his heart, so let him give, not grudgingly, or of necessity; for God loveth a cheerful giver."


Prop. III. This is a duty that a people of God are under very strict and indispensable obligations to. 'Tis not merely a commendable thing for a man to be kind and bountiful to the poor, but our bounden duty, as much a duty as 'tis to pray or go to meeting, or anything else whatsoever; and the neglect of it brings great guilt upon any person. I shall mention [two] reasons.


First. Upon the account of its being so absolutely commanded and so much insisted on in the Word of God. Where have we any command in the Bible laid down in stronger terms, and in a more preemptory, urgent manner, than the command of giving to the poor in the text? And we have the same law again in a positive manner laid down in Leviticus 25:35, "And if thy brother be waxen poor, and fallen in decay with thee; then thou shalt relieve him: yea, though he be a stranger, or a sojourner; that he may live with thee." And at the conclusion, in Leviticus 25:38, God enforced it with this: "I am the Lord thy God."


'Tis mentioned in Scripture not only as a duty, but as a great duty. 'Tis generally acknowledged to be a duty to be kind to the needy, but by many seems not to be looked upon as a duty of very great importance. But 'tis mentioned in Scripture as one of the greater and more essential duties of religion; Micah 6:8, "He hath showed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the Lord thy God require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?" Here, to love mercy is mentioned as one of the three great things that are the sum of all religion. So 'tis mentioned by the apostle James as one of the two things wherein pure and undefiled religion consists; James 1:27, "Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this."


So Christ tells us it is one of the weightier matters of the law; Matthew 23:23, "ye have omitted the weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy, and faith." And the Scripture teaches us again and again that 'tis a more weighty and essential thing than attending the outward ordinances of worship; Hosea 6:6, "I desired mercy, and not sacrifice"; and Matthew 9:13; and Matthew 12:7.


And I know of scarce any particular duty that is so much insisted upon, so pressed and urged upon us, both in the Old Testament and New, as this duty of charity to the poor.


Second. The reason of the thing strongly obliges to it. 'Tis not only very positively and frequently insisted upon by God, but 'tis most reasonable in itself; and so, upon this account, there is reason why God should much insist upon it. Here,


1. 'Tis most reasonable considering the general state and nature of mankind. This is such as renders it most reasonable that we should love our neighbor as ourselves. For men are made in the image of God, and are worthy of our love upon this account. And then, we are all nearly allied one to another by nature: we have all the same nature, like faculties, like dispositions, like desires of good, like needs, like aversion to misery, and are made of one blood. And we are made to subsist by society and union, one with another, and God has made us with such a nature that we can't subsist without the help one of another.


Mankind in this respect are as the members of the natural body, are one, can't subsist alone without an union with and the help of the rest. Now, this state of mankind shows how reasonable and suitable it is that men should love their neighbors, and that we should not look every one at his own things, but "every man also on the things of others" (Philippians 2:4).


A selfish spirit is very unsuitable to the nature and state of mankind. He that is all for himself and none for his neighbors deserves to be cut off from the benefit of human society, and to be turned out among wild beasts, to subsist as well as he can. A private, ni-----dly spirit is more suitable for wolves and beasts of prey than for human beings.


Loving our neighbor as ourselves is the sum of the moral law respecting our fellow creatures, and helping of them and contributing to their relief is the most natural expression of this love. It is vain to pretend to a spirit of love to our neighbor when it grieves us to part with anything for their help when under calamity. They that love only in word and in tongue, and not in deeds, have no love in truth; any profession without it is a vain pretense.


To refuse to give to them that are needy is unreasonable, because we therein do by others contrary to what we would have them do to us in like circumstances. We are very sensible of our own calamities, and when we suffer are ready enough to think that our state requires others' compassion and help, and are ready enough to think hard if others won't deny themselves to help us when in straits.


2. 'Tis especially reasonable considering our circumstances under such a dispensation of grace: considering how much God hath done for us, how greatly he hath loved us, and what he hath given us when we were so unworthy, and when he could have no addition to his happiness by us; considering that silver and gold and earthly crowns were but mean things to give us in his esteem, and hath therefore given his own Son; considering how Christ hath loved us and pitied when we were poor, and how he has laid out himself to help us, and shed his precious blood for us without grudging, did not think much to deny himself and be at such great cost for us vile miscreants, not merely to relieve us in some measure, and deliver us from the extremity of want, but to make rich, to clothe with kingly robes when we were naked, to feast us at his own table with dainties infinitely costly when we were starving, to advance us from the dunghill and set us among princes, and make us to inherit the throne of his glory, and so to give us the enjoyment of the greatest wealth and plenty to all eternity; 2 Corinthians 8:9, "For ye know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that, though he was rich, yet for our sakes he became poor, that ye through his poverty might be rich."


Now, what a poor business will it be for them that hope to have the benefit of this, that yet can't give something for the relief of a poor neighbor without grudging: if it grieves them to part with a small matter to help a fellow servant in calamity, when Christ did not grudge to shed his blood!


How unsuitable will it be for us that live wholly by kindness to be unkind! What should we have done, if Christ had been so choice and saving of his blood, and loath to bestow it, as many men are of their money or goods: if he had been as ready to excuse himself from dying for us, as many men are to excuse themselves from charity to their neighbor? If Christ would have made objections of such things, as men commonly do against charity for their neighbor, he would have found enough of them.


And then, Christ by his redemption has brought us into a more near relation one to another, hath made us children of God, children in the same family. We are all brethren, having God for our common Father, which is much more than to be brethren in any other family. He has made us all one body; therefore, we ought to be united, and subserve to one another's good, and bear one another's burdens, as members of the same body in the natural body. If one of the members suffers, all the other members bear the burden with it (1 Corinthians 12:26). If one member be diseased or wounded, the other members of the body will minister to it and help it. And so surely it should be in the body of Christ; Galatians 6:2, "Bear ye one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ."


Application.


Use I. Of Self-Exam. Whether or no you don't lie under guilt upon the account of a neglect of this duty, in withholding that charity that God has required of you towards the needy. You have often been put upon examining yourself whether or no you don't live in some way displeasing to God; it may be, at such times, this never came into your mind, whether or no you did not lie under guilt upon this account.


But this neglect is a thing that brings great guilt upon the soul in the sight of God, as is evident by the text; Deuteronomy 15:9, "beware that thine eye be not evil against thy poor brother, and thou givest him naught; and he cry unto the Lord against thee, and it be sin unto thee." 'Tis often mentioned as one of the sins of Judah and Jerusalem, for which God was about to bring such terrible judgments upon them. And it was one of the sins of Sodom, for which that was destroyed, that she did not give to supply the poor or needy; Ezekiel 16:49, "This was the iniquity of thy sister Sodom, pride, fullness of bread, and abundance of idleness in her, and in her daughters; neither did she strengthen the hand of the poor and needy."


And han't we reason to fear that much guilt lies upon this land upon this very account? We in this land have a high conceit of ourselves for religion, but do not many other countries shame us? Do not the Papists and Quakers, that we abhor, shame us in this respect? So far as I can understand the tenor of the Christian religion, and the rules of God's Word, the same are in no measure answered by the general practice of most places in this land, in this respect. There be many that make a high profession of religion; but do not many of 'em want4 to have the apostle James tell them what true religion is?


Let everyone examine himself, whether he don't lie under guilt with respect to this matter. Han't you forborne to give, when you have seen your brother in want? Han't you shut up the bowels of your compassion towards him, forborne to deny yourself a little for his relief? Or, when you have given, have [you not] done it very grudgingly? Han't it inwardly hurt and grieved you: you have looked upon what you have given as lost, as it were, so that what you have given has been, as the Apostle expresses, a matter of covetousness rather than of bounty [2 Corinthians 9:5]? Han't occasions of giving been unwelcome to you; han't you been uneasy under them? Han't you felt considerable backwardness, and loatheness? Han't you, from a grudging backward spirit, been apt to raise objections against giving, and to excuse yourself? Such things as these bring guilt upon the soul, and oftentimes bring down God's curse upon persons, as we may show more fully hereafter.5


Use II. Of Exh. to this duty. We are professors of Christianity, pretend to be the followers of Jesus, pretend to make the gospel our rule. We have the Bible in our houses; let us not behave ourselves in this particular as if We had never seen the Bible, and were ignorant of Christianity, and did not know what kind of religion it was. What will it signify to pretend to be Christians, and at the same time live in the neglect of the rules of Christianity that are mainly insisted on in the institution of it? But there are several things that I would here particularly propose to your consideration:


First [Motive]. Consider that what you have is not your own, i.e. you have no absolute right to it, have only a subordinate right. Your goods are only lent to you of God to be improved by you in such ways as God directs you. You yourselves are not your own; 1 Corinthians 6:19–20, "Ye are not your own, for ye are bought with a price; your body and your spirit are his." And if you yourself are not your own, so then neither are your possessions your own. You have by covenant given up yourself and all you have to God; you have disclaimed and renounced any right in yourself, as in anything that you have, and given God all the absolute right. And if you are a true Christian, you have done it from your heart.


Your money and your goods are not your own. They are only committed to you as stewards, to be improved for him who committed 'em to you; 1 Peter 4:9–10, "Use hospitality one to another without grudging. As every man hath received the gift, even so minister the same one to another, as good stewards of the manifold grace." A steward has no business with his master's goods to use 'em any other wise than for the benefit of his master's family or according to his master's direction. He has no business to make use of them as if he were the proprietor of 'em, or had anything to do with them, only as he is to use them for his master. He is to give everyone of his master's family their portion of meat in due season [Luke 12:42].


But if, instead of that, he hoards up his master's goods for himself, and withholds them from those of the household, so that some of the family are pinched for want of food and clothing, he is therein guilty of robbing his master and embezzling his substance. And would any householder endure such a steward? If he discovered him in such a practice, would he not take his goods out of his hands and commit 'em to the care of some other steward, that shall give everyone of his family their portion of meat in due season?


We must remember that we must, all of us, give account of our stewardship, and how we have disposed of those goods that our Master has put into our hands. And if it be found, when our Master comes to reckon with us, that we have denied some of his family their proper provision, while we have hoarded up for ourselves as if we had been the proprietors of our Master's goods, what account shall we give of this?


Second [Mot.] Consider that God tells us that he shall look upon what is done in charity to our neighbor that is in want as done unto Him, and what is denied unto them as denied unto Him; Proverbs 19:17, "He that hath pity upon the poor lendeth to the Lord." God has been pleased to make our needy neighbors his receivers. He, in his infinite mercy, hath so interested himself in their case that he looks upon what is given in charity to them, given to himself; and he looks upon it when we deny them what their circumstances require of us as that we therein rob him of his right.


So Christ teaches that we are to look upon our fellow Christians in this case as himself, and that our giving to or withholding from them shall be so taken as if we so behaved ourselves towards him. In Matthew 25:40, there Christ says to the righteous on his right hand, who had supplied the wants of the needy, "in that ye have done it to one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me." In like manner, he says to the wicked, who had not shown mercy to the poor, "inasmuch as ye did it not to one of the least of these, ye did it not to me" (Matthew 25:45).


Now what stronger enforcement of this duty can be conceived, or is possible, than this, that Jesus Christ looks upon our kind and bountiful, or unkind and uncharitable, treatment of our needy neighbors as such a treatment of himself. If Christ himself was here upon earth and dwelt amongst us in a frail body, as he once did, and was in calamitous and needy circumstances, should not we be willing to supply him? Should we be apt to excuse ourselves from helping him? Should we not be willing to supply him, so that he might live free of distressing poverty? And if we did otherwise, should we not bring great guilt upon ourselves; might it not justly be very highly resented by God? Christ once was here in a frail body and stood in need of peoples' charity, and was maintained by it; Luke 8:2–3, "And certain women which had been healed of evil spirits and infirmities, Mary called Magdalene, out of whom went seven devils, and Joanna the wife of Chuza, Herod's steward, and Susanna and many others, which ministered unto him out of their substance." And so he still, in many of his members, needs the charity of others.


Third [Mot.] Consider that there is an absolute necessity of our complying with the difficult duties of religion. A giving to the poor in the manner and measure that the gospel prescribes is a difficult duty; i.e. 'tis very contrary to corrupt nature, and that covetousness and selfishness of which there is so much in the wicked heart of man. Man is naturally governed only by a principle of self-love, and 'tis a difficult thing, to corrupt nature, for us men, to deny themselves of their present interest, trusting in God to make it up to them.6


But how often has Christ told us the necessity of our doing difficult duties of religion: if we will be his disciples, then we must sell all, and take up our cross daily, to deny ourselves, to deny our own worldly profit and interest [Luke 16:24]. And if this duty seems hard and difficult to you, let not that be an objection with you against your doing of it; for you have taken up a quite a notion of things, if you expected to go to heaven without performing difficult duties, if you expected any other than to find the way to life a narrow way.


Fourth [Mot.] The Scripture teaches us that this very particular duty is necessary.7 The Scripture teaches us this three ways.


1. In that the Scripture teaches that God will deal by us as we do by our fellow creatures in this particular; that with what measure we mete to others in this respect, God will measure to us again. This, the Scripture asserts both ways. It asserts that if we are of a merciful spirit, God will be merciful unto us; Matthew 5:7, "Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy"; Psalms 18:25, "With the merciful thou wilt show thyself merciful." On the other hand, it tells us that if we ben't merciful, God will not be merciful unto us, and that all our pretenses to faith and a work of conversion won't avail us to obtain mercy unless we are merciful to them that are in want; James 2:13–16, "For he shall have judgment without mercy, that hath showed no mercy; and mercy rejoiceth against judgment. What doth it profit, my brethren, though a man say he hath faith, and have not works? can faith save him? If a brother or sister be naked, and destitute of daily food, and one of you say unto them, Depart in peace, be you warmed and filled; notwithstanding ye give them not those things that are needful to the body; what doth it profit?"


2. This very thing is often mentioned in Scripture as an essential part of the character of a godly man; Psalms 37:21, "the righteous showeth mercy, and giveth"; and again, Psalms 37:26, "He is ever merciful, and lendeth"; and Psalms 112:5, "A good man showeth favor and lendeth"; and again, Psalms 112:9, "He hath dispersed, and given to the poor." So Proverbs 14:31, "he that honoreth" God "hath mercy on the poor"; so Proverbs 21:26; so in Isaiah 57:1, a righteous man and a merciful man are used as synonymous terms: "The righteous perisheth… the merciful men are taken away." So 'tis mentioned in the New Testament as a thing so essential that the contrary can't consist with a sincere love to God; 1 John 3:17–19, "But whoso hath this world's good, and seeth his brother have need, and shutteth up his bowels of compassion from him, how dwelleth the love of God in him? My little children, let us not love in word and in tongue; but in deed and in truth. And hereby we know that we are of the truth, and shall assure our hearts before him." So the apostle Paul, when he writes to the Corinthians and proposes their contributing for the supply of the poor saints, he tells 'em that he does it for a trial of their sincerity; 2 Corinthians 8:8, "I speak to prove the sincerity of your love."


3. Another thing whereby the Scripture teaches us the necessity of this duty in order to salvation is that Christ teaches that judgment will be passed at the great day according to men's works in this respect. This, Christ teaches us in the account that he gives us of the day of judgment in Matthew 25, which is the most particular account of the proceedings of that day that we have in the whole Bible; Matthew 25:34–46,


Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: for I was an hungered, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in…. Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungered, and fed thee? or thirsty, and gave thee drink?… And the King shall answer and say unto them… Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me. Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire… for I was an hungered, and ye gave me no meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was stranger, and ye took me not in…. Then shall they also answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungered, or athirst, or a stranger…? Then shall he answer them, saying, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye did it not to one of the least of these, ye did it not to me. And these shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal.


'Tis evident that Jesus Christ thus represented the proceedings and determinations of this great day, as turning upon this one point, of purpose and on design to lead us into this notion, and to fix it in us, that a charitable spirit and practice towards our brethren is necessary to salvation. Consider, in the


Fifth [Mot.]. [Fifth] place, what abundant encouragement the Word of God gives you, that you shall be no loser by your charity and bounty to them that are in want. As we have already observed, that there is scarce any one particular duty that is prescribed in the whole Bible so much insisted on as this, so there is scarce any that there is so many promises of reward made to it as to this duty. We could not desire more and greater promises; this virtue especially has the promises of this life, and that which is to come.


If we may believe the Scripture, when a man charitably gives to his neighbors in want, it is the giver that has the greatest advantage by it, greater than the receiver; Acts 20:35, "I have showed you all things, how that so laboring ye ought to support the weak, and to remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he said, It is more blessed to give than to receive." He that gives bountifully is a happier man than he that receives bountifully; Proverbs 14:21, "He that hath mercy on the poor, happy is he."


Many persons are ready to look upon what is bestowed to charitable uses as lost, but we ought not so to esteem it. We ought not to look upon it as lost, because it benefits those to whom it is given, whom we ought to love as ourselves; and not only so, but 'tis not lost to us if we give any credit to the gospel. See the advice that Solomon gives; Ecclesiastes 11:1, "Cast thy bread upon the waters," says he, "for thou shalt find it after many days." By casting our bread upon the waters, Solomon means giving of it to the poor, as appears by the next words: "give a portion to seven and also to eight." Waters are sometimes in Scripture put for peoples and multitudes.


What strange advice would this seem to many, to cast their bread upon the waters, which would seem to them like throwing of it away! What more direct method to lose our bread, than to go to throw it into the sea? But the wise man tells us, "No, 'tis not lost; you shall find again after many days." It is not sunk, but you commit it to providence; you commit it to the winds and the waves, but, however, it will come about to you, and you shall find it again. Though it should be many days first, yet you shall find it at last, at a time when you most need it.


He that gives to the poor, lends to God, and God is not one of them that won't pay again what is lent to him. If you lend to God, you commit it into faithful hands; Proverbs 19:17, "He that hath pity on the poor lendeth to the Lord, and that which he hath given will he pay him again." And God won't only pay you again, but he'll pay you with great increase; Luke 6:38,


"Give and it shall be given you in good measure, pressed down, and shaken together, and running over."


Men don't account that lost that they let out to use; but what is bestowed in charity is lent to the Lord, and he pays with great increase; Isaiah 32:8, "The liberal deviseth liberal things, and by liberal things shall he stand." Here,


1. If you give what you bestow with a spirit of true charity, you shall be rewarded in what is infinitely more valuable than what you give. For parting with a small part of your earthly substance, you shall be rewarded with eternal riches in heaven; Matthew 10:42, "whosoever shall give to drink unto one of these little ones a cup of cold water only in the name of a disciple, verily I say unto you, he shall in no wise lose his reward."


A giving to our needy brethren is in Scripture called a laying up treasure in heaven in bags that wax not old; Luke 12:33, "Sell what ye have, and give alms; provide yourselves bags that wax not old, a treasure in the heavens that faileth not, where no thief approacheth, nor moth corrupteth." Men, when they have laid up their money in their chests, don't look upon it that they have thrown it away; but on the contrary, it is laid up safe. Much less is treasure thrown away when it is laid up in heaven. What is laid up there is laid up much safer than what is locked up in cabinets. You can't lay up treasure so on earth but that it may be liable to be stolen or otherwise to fail; but there, no thief approacheth nor moth corrupteth. It is committed to God's care, and he'll keep it safe for you; and when you die, then you shall receive it with infinite increase. For a part of your earthly substance thus bestowed, you shall receive heavenly riches in which you may live in the greatest fullness, honor, and happiness to all eternity, and shall never be in want of anything. For feeding with some of your bread those that cannot recompense you, you shall be rewarded at the resurrection, and eat bread in the kingdom of God; Luke 14:13–15, "when thou makest a feast, call the poor, the maimed, the lame, and the blind: and thou shalt be blessed; for they cannot recompense thee: for thou shalt be recompensed at the resurrection of the just. And when one of them that sat at meat with him heard these things, he said unto him, Blessed is he that shall eat bread in the kingdom of God."


2. If you give to the needy only in the exercise of a moral virtue, you won't be in the way to lose by it, but greatly to gain in your temporal interest. They that give in the exercise of a gracious charity, they are in the way to be gainers both here and hereafter; and those that give, in the exercise of a moral bounty and liberality, they have many temporal promises made to them. We learn by the Word of God that they are in the way to be prospered in their outward affairs. Ordinarily, such don't lose by it; but there is such a blessing attends their concerns, that they are paid double for it; Proverbs 11:24–25, "There is that scattereth, and yet increaseth; there is that withholdeth more than is meet, and it tendeth to poverty. The liberal soul shall be made fat; and he that watereth, shall be watered also himself"; Proverbs 28:27, "He that giveth to the poor shall not lack."


When men give to the needy, they do, as it were, sow seed for a crop. Men, when they sow their seed, they seem to throw it away; but they don't look upon it [as] thrown away, because, though they don't expect the same again, yet they expect a great deal more as the fruit of it. And though it ben't certain that they shall have a crop, yet they are willing to run the venture of it; for that is the ordinary way wherein men obtain increase. So it is when persons give to the poor. Though the promises of gaining in our outward affairs are not absolute, yet 'tis as much the ordinary consequence of it as men's having increase for their sowing their seed. 'Tis compared to sowing seed in this respect in Ecclesiastes 11:6, "In the morning sow thy seed, in the evening withhold not thine hand: thou knowest not whether shall prosper, either this or that, or whether they shall both be alike good." By "withholding thine hand," the wise man means from giving to the poor, for he was speaking of that in Ecclesiastes 11:1–2: "Thou knowest not whether shall prosper, either this or that, or whether they shall both be alike good," which intimates that giving to the poor is as likely a way to obtain prosperity and increase, as sowing seed in a field.


The husbandman don't look upon his seed [as] lost that he sows in his field, but is glad that he has opportunity to sow. It don't grieve him that he has land to be sowed; but [he] rejoices in it. For the like reason, we should not be grieved that we find needy people to bestow our charity upon; for this is as much an opportunity for the obtaining increase as the other. Some may think this a strange doctrine, and 'tis to be said that not many will so far believe as to give to the poor with as much cheerfulness as they sow their ground. But, however, 'tis the very doctrine of the Word of God; 'tis easy with God; 2 Corinthians 9:6–8, "He which soweth sparingly shall reap also sparingly; and he which soweth bountifully shall reap also bountifully. Every man according as he purposeth in his heart, so let him give; not grudgingly, or of necessity: for God loveth a cheerful giver. And God is able to make all grace abound toward you; that ye, always having all sufficiency in all things, may abound to every good work."


Many men but do but little consider how their prosperity in their outward affairs, on the contrary, depends upon providence. There are a thousand turns of providence that their affairs are liable to, whereby God may either add to their outward substance, or diminish from it: a great deal more than they are ordinarily called to give to their neighbors.


How easy is it with God to diminish what they possess by sickness in their families, or by drought, or frost, or mildew, or vermin, or unfortunate accidents, or by entanglement in their affairs, or disappointments in their business. And how easy to increase them by suitable season or health and strength, giving them fair opportunities for promoting their interest in their dealings with men, by conducting them by his providence so that they may attain their design, and innumerable other ways that might be mentioned. How often is it that only one turn of providence in a man's affairs either adds to him or diminishes from him, more than he would need to give to the poor in a whole year! And God has told us that this is the way to have his blessing attending our affairs; thus in the text, Deuteronomy 15:10: "Thou shalt surely give him, and thine heart shall not be grieved, when thou givest unto him, because that for this thing the Lord thy God shall bless thee in all thy works, and in all that thou puttest thine hand unto"; and Proverbs 22:9, "He that hath a bountiful eye, shall be blessed."


It is a remarkable evidence how little many men realize the things of religion, whatever they pretend: either how little they realize that the Scripture is the Word of God, or, if it be, that he speaks true, that notwithstanding all the promises made to bounty to the poor in his Word, yet men are so backward to such duties, and are so afraid to trust God with a little of their estates. But observation may confirm the same thing that the Word of God teaches in this. It may be that God in his providence generally smiles upon and prospers those men that are of a liberal, charitable, bountiful spirit.8


Sixth Mot. God has threatened to follow them with his curse that are uncharitable to the poor; as Proverbs 28:27, "He that giveth to the poor shall not lack: but he that hideth his eyes shall have many a curse." 'Tis said that [he] "hideth his eyes" because this is the way of uncharitable persons: they hide their eyes from seeing the wants of their neighbor. A charitable person, whose heart disposes him to bounty and liberality, will be quicksighted to discern the needs of others. They won't be at any difficulty to find out who is in want; they'll see objects enough of their charity, let 'em go where they will.


But, on the contrary, he that is of a niggardly spirit, so that it goes against the grain to give anything, they'll be always at a loss for objects for their charity. They'll excuse themselves with that, that they don't find anyone to give to; they hide their eyes and won't see their neighbor's wants. And if a particular object presents [himself], they won't very readily see his circumstances; they are a long while a-being convinced that he is an object of charity. He hides his eyes, and 'tis not an easy thing to make him sensible of the distresses and necessities of his neighbor, or at least that they are such that he ought to give him any great matter. Another man, that is of a more bountiful spirit, sees 'em very easily. They are very unapt to see their obligations to this duty; 'tis because they are of that sort spoken of here by the wise man: "he hides his eyes." Men will readily see where they are willing to see, but where they hate to see, they will hide their eyes.


God says such an one as hides his eyes in this case shall have many a curse. Such an one is in the way to be cursed in soul and body, in both his spiritual and temporal affairs. We have shown already how those that are charitable to the poor are in the way of being blessed; there are so many promises of God's blessing, that we may look upon it as much the way to be blessed in our outward concerns as sowing seed in a field is the way to have increase. A being closed and uncharitable is as much the way to be followed with a curse as a being charitable is to be followed with a blessing. Withholding more than is meet tends as much to poverty, as scattering tends to increasing (Proverbs 11:24).


Therefore, if you withhold more than is meet, you will cross your own disposition, and will frustrate your own end. What you seek by withholding from your neighbor is your own temporal interest and outward estate. But if you ben't atheistical, so as not to believe the Scripture to be the Word of God, you must believe that you can't take a more direct course to lose and be crossed and cursed in your temporal interest than this. Consider,


Seventh [Mot.], you know not what calamitous and necessitous circumstances you yourself or your children may be in. It may be you are ready to bless yourself in your heart, as though there was no danger of your being brought into calamitous and distressing circumstances; there is at present no prospect of it, and you hope you shall be well able to provide for your children. But then, you little consider what a shifting, changing, uncertain world you live in, and how often it has been so upon earth, that men have been reduced from the greatest prosperity to the greatest extremity, and how often the children of the rich have been reduced to pinching want. This is the advice that the wise man gives us; Ecclesiastes 11:1–2, "Cast thy bread upon the waters…. Give a portion to seven, and also to eight; for thou knowest not what evil shall be upon the earth." Thou knowest not what calamitous circumstances thou mayest be in thyself, here on earth, in this changeable, uncertain world.


You know not what circumstances you or your children may be brought into by captivity or other unthought of providences. Providence governs all things. You may trust, it may be, to your own wisdom to uphold your prosperity, but you can't alter what God determines and orders in providence, as in the words immediately following the forementioned text; Ecclesiastes 11:2–3, "Give a portion to seven, and also to eight; for thou knowest not what evil shall be upon the earth. If the clouds be full of rain, they empty themselves upon the earth: and if the tree fall toward the south, or toward the north, in the place where the tree falleth, there it shall be." I.e. you can't alter the determinations of providence. You may trust to your own wisdom {to uphold your prosperity}, but if God has ordered adversity, it shall come. Like when the clouds are full {of rain}, so what is in the womb of providence shall surely come to pass. And as providence casts the tree, whether toward the south or toward the north, whether for prosperity or adversity, there it shall be, for all that you can do, agreeable to what the wise man observes; Ecclesiastes 7:13, "Consider the work of God: for who can make that straight, which he hath made crooked?"


This consideration, that you don't know what calamity and necessity you may be in yourself, or your children, tends very powerfully to enforce this duty several ways.


1. This may put you upon considering how your heart would be if it should be so. If it should be so that you or some of your children should be brought into such circumstances as these and those your neighbors are in, how grievous it would be to you! Now, it may be you say of this and the other poor neighbors that they can do well enough; if they do pinch a little, they can live. You can now make light of their difficulties. But if providence should so order it that you or your child should be brought into the same circumstances, would you make light of 'em then? Would you not use another sort of language about it? Would you not think that your case was such as needed your neighbor's being kind to you; would you not think that they ought to be ready to help you, and would you not take it hard if you saw a contrary spirit among them, and saw that they made light of your difficulties?


If one of your own children should be brought to poverty, by captivity or otherwise, how would your heart have stood affected in such a case? If you should hear that some should take pity on it and be very liberal and bountiful to it, would you not think they did very well in so doing? Should you be at all ready to accuse 'em of folly, or lavishness and profuseness, that they should go to give so much to it?


2. If there ever should be such a time, your kindness to others now will be but a laying up against such a time. If you yourself should be brought to calamity and necessity, then you will find what you have given in charity to others laying ready in store for you. "Cast thy bread upon the waters, and you shall find it after many days," says the wise man [Ecclesiastes 11:1]. But when shall we find it, he tells us in the next verse: "Give a portion to seven, and also to eight; for thou knowest not what evil shall be upon the earth." Then is the time when you shall find it: when the day of evil comes, you shall find your bread again, that you have cast upon the waters. When you want it most and stand in the greatest necessity of it, God will keep it for you against such a time. When other bread fails them, God will bring to you the bread that you formerly have cast upon the waters, so that you shall not famish. "He that gives to the poor shall not lack" [Proverbs 28:27].


A giving to the needy is like laying up against winter, against a time of calamity. 'Tis the best way of laying up for themselves, and laying up for their children. Children in a time of need very often find their father's bread that they have cast upon the waters; Psalms 37:25, "I have been young and now am old, yet have I not seen the righteous forsaken, nor his seed begging bread." Why? What is the reason of it? It follows in the next verse: "He is ever merciful, and lendeth; and his seed is blessed."


Whether the time will ever come or not that we or our children shall be in pinching and distressing want of bread, yet, doubtless, evil will be on the earth. We shall have our times of calamity, wherein we shall stand in great need of God's pity and help, if not that of our fellow creatures. And God has promised that at such a time, he that has been of a charitable spirit and practice shall find help; Psalms 41:1–2, "Blessed is he that considereth the poor: the Lord will deliver him in time of trouble. The Lord will preserve him, and keep him alive; and he shall be blessed upon the earth: and thou wilt not deliver him unto the will of his enemies." Such as have been merciful and liberal to others in their distress, God won't forget it, but will so order it that they shall have help when they are in distress; yea, their children shall reap the fruit of it in the day of trouble.


3. God hath threatened uncharitable persons, that if ever they come to be in calamity and distress they shall be left helpless; Proverbs 21:13, "Whoso stoppeth his ears at the cry of the poor, he shall cry himself, and not be heard."


[III.] I proceed now to answer some objections that are sometimes made against this duty.


First Obj. I am in a natural condition, and if I should give considerable to the poor, I should not do it with a right spirit, and so should get nothing by it.


Ans. 1. We have already shown that a temporal blessing is promised to a moral bounty and liberality. This is the way to be prospered and blessed in your affairs, as much as sowing seed is the way to increase. We find many promises of temporal blessings to moral virtues in Scripture, as to diligence in our business, justice in our dealings, faithfulness, temperance. So there are many blessings promised to bounty and liberality.


[Ans.] 2. You may as well make the same objection against any other duty of religion. You may as well make the same objection against keeping the sabbath, against prayer, or going to meeting, or against doing anything at all in religion; for you, while in a natural condition, don't do it with a right spirit. If you say you do these duties because God has commanded and required them of you, and you shall sin greatly if you neglect them, you shall increase your guilt, and so expose yourself the more to damnation and to a greater punishment, the same may be said of the neglect of this duty as those. It is as much required and commanded as those, and the neglect of it as provoking to God.


If you say that you read, and pray, and come to meeting because that is the appointed way for you to seek conversion in; so is bounty to the poor, as much as that. The appointed way for us to seek God's grace, it is a way of the performance of all known duties, of which giving to the poor is one, as much known and as necessary as reading, and {praying, and coming to meeting}. Showing mercy to the poor does as much belong to the appointed way of seeking salvation as any other duty whatever. And, therefore, this is the way that Daniel directed Nebuchadnezzar to seek mercy; Daniel 4:27, "Wherefore, O king, let my counsel be acceptable to thee, and break off thy sins by righteousness, and thine iniquities by showing mercy to the poor."


Second Obj. If I am liberal and bountiful, I shall only make a righteousness of it, and so it will do me more hurt than good. To this I say,


[Ans.] 1. The same answer may be made to this as to the last objection, viz. that you may as well make the same objection against doing any religious or moral duty at all. If this be a sufficient objection against deeds of charity, then 'tis a sufficient objection against your ever praying to God; for nothing is more common than for persons to make a righteousness of their prayers. And so 'tis a good objection against your keeping the sabbath, or attending any public worship, or ever reading in the Bible; for all these things, you are in danger of making a righteousness of. Yea, if the objection be good against deeds of charity, then 'tis as good against acts of justice. And you may neglect to speak the truth, and may neglect to pay your debts, may neglect acts of common humanity; for all these things, you are in danger of making a righteousness of.


So that if the objection be good, you may throw up all religion, and live like a heathen or atheist, and may be a thief, and a robber, a fornicator, and adulterer, and murderer, and commit all the sins that you can think of, lest if you should do otherwise, you should make a righteousness of it.


[Ans.] 2. Your objection carries it thus, that it is not best for you to do as God commands and counsels you to do. We find many commands in Scripture to be charitable to the poor; the Bible is full of 'em; and you ben't excepted from those commands. God don't make any exception of any particular kinds of persons that are especially in danger of making a righteousness of what they do; and God often counsels and directs persons to this duty. Now, will you presume to say that God has not directed you to the best way? He has advised you to do thus, but you don't think it is best for you but would do you more hurt than good if you should do it. You think there is other counsel better than God's, and that 'tis the best way for you to go contrary to God's command.


Third Obj. I have given to the poor in times past and never found myself the better for it. I have heard ministers preach that giving to the poor was the way to be blessed and prospered, but I don't perceive that I have any more prospered than I was before; yea, I have met with many misfortunes and crosses and disappointments in my affairs since. Yea, it may be, some will say, that very year or soon after the very time I had been giving to the poor, hoping to be blessed for it, I met with great losses, and things went hardly with me. And therefore I don't find what I hear preached, about giving to the poor being the way to be blessed and prospered, agreeable to my experience.


To this objection, I would answer several things.


[Ans.] 1. It may be you looked out for the fulfillment of the promise too soon, before you had fulfilled the condition. As, particularly,


(1) It may be, you have been so sparing and grudging in your kindness to the poor as that what you have done has been rather a discovery of a covetous, niggardly spirit than of any bounty or liberality.


The promises ben't made to every man that gives anything at all to the poor, let it be never so little, and let it be after what manner soever given. You mistook the promises if you understood 'em so. A man may give something to the poor and yet be entitled to no promise, either temporal or spiritual. The promises are made to mercy, and bounty, and liberality; it is to this that the promises are made, in the text and everywhere throughout the Bible. A man may give something and yet be so niggardly and grudging in it that what he gives may be, as the Apostle calls it, a matter of covetousness [2 Corinthians 9:5]. What he does may be more a manifestation of the man's covetousness and closeness than anything else. Now, there are no promises made to men's expressing their covetousness.


[(2)] It may be, what you gave was not freely, but, as it were, of necessity. It was grudgingly; your heart was grieved when you gave. And if you gave once or twice what was considerable, yet that don't answer the rule. It may be, for all that, in the general course of your life it has been very far from being true of you that you have been a person that has been kind and liberal to your neighbors. You thought perhaps that because you once or twice gave a few shillings to the poor that you then stood entitled to the promises of being blessed in all your concerns, and increasing, and being established by liberal things, though in the general you have lived in a very faulty neglect of that duty.


You make objections from experience before you have made any trial. To give once or twice or thrice, though you give considerably, is not to make trial. You can't make any trial unless you become a liberal person, or so as that you may truly be said to be of a liberal, bountiful practice. Let one that is truly such an one, and has been in the course of his life, tell what he has found.


[Ans. 2.] If you have been liberal to the poor and have met with calamities since, yet how can you tell how much greater calamities and losses you might have met with if you had been other wise? You say you have met with crosses, and disappointments, and frowns. You mistook the matter if you expected to meet with no trouble in the world because you have given to the poor. Though there be many and great promises made to the liberal, yet God has nowhere promised that they shall not find this world a world of trouble. It will be so to all; man is born to sorrow, and must expect no other than to meet with sorrow here.


But how can you tell how much greater sorrow you might have met with if you had been closed and unmerciful to the poor? How can you tell how much greater losses you might have met, and how much more vexation and trouble you might have been followed with? Has never none met with greater frowns in their outward affairs than you have done?


[Ans.] 3. How can you tell what blessings God has yet in reserve for you if you do but continue in well-doing? Though God has promised great blessings to liberality to the poor, yet he has not limited himself as to the time of bestowment. If you han't yet seen any evident fruit of your kindness to the poor, yet the time may come when you may see it remarkably, at a time when you most stand in need of it. You cast your bread upon the waters, and looked for it, and expected to find it again presently. And sometimes, it is so; but this is not promised. 'Tis promised, thou shalt find [it] again after many days.


God knows how to choose a time for you better than you yourself. You should wait his time, If you go on in well-doing, God may bring it to you when you stand most in need. It may be there is some winter a-coming, some day of trouble, and God keeps your bread for you against that time; and then, God may give you good measure, and pressed down, and shaken together, and running over. We must trust in God's word for the bestowment of the promised reward, whether we can see in what manner it is done or no. Pertinent to the present purpose are those words of the wise man in Ecclesiastes 11:4, "He that observeth the winds shall not sow; and he that regardeth the clouds shall not reap." The wise man is there in the context speaking of charity to the poor and comparing of it to sowing seed, and advises us to trust providence for success in that, as we do in sowing seed. He that regards the wind and clouds, to prognosticate from thence to prosper his seed, and won't trust providence with his seed, is not like to sow, nor to have breadcorn; so he that will not trust providence for the reward of his charity to the poor is like to go without the blessing. And then follows his9 advice in Ecclesiastes 11:6: "In the morning sow thy seed, and in the evening withhold not thine hand: for thou knowest not whether shall prosper, either this or that, or whether they both shall be alike good."


I conclude with the words of the Apostle; Galatians 6:9, "And let us not be weary in well-doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not." Then think you have not reaped yet; but whether you have or no, go on still in giving and doing good, and if you do so you shall reap in due time. God only knows the due time, the best time, for you to reap in.1


Fourth [Obj.] Again, some may object against charity to such or such particular persons, that they are not obliged to give 'em [charity], for though they are [in] need yet they ben't in extremity. 'Tis true, they meet with difficulty, but yet not so but that they can live, though they suffer some hardships.


Ans. It don't answer [the] rules of Christian charity only to relieve those that are in extremity, as might be abundantly shown. But I shall at this time mention but two things as an evidence of it.


1. We are commanded to love and treat one another as brethren; 1 Peter 3:8, "have compassion one of another, love as brethren, be pitiful." Now is it a brotherly part for brethren to refuse to help one another, and to do anything for each other's comfort and for the relief of each other's difficulties, only when they are in extremity? Does it not become brothers and sisters to have a more friendly disposition one towards another than this comes to, and to be ready to be compassionate to one another under difficulties, though they ben't extreme?


The rule of the gospel is that when we see our brother under any difficulty or burden we should be ready to bear the burden with him; Galatians 6:2, "Bear ye one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ." So we are commanded, "by love" to "serve one another" (Galatians 5:13).


The Christian spirit will make us apt to sympathize with our neighbor when we see him under any difficulty; Romans 12:15, "Rejoice with them that do rejoice, and weep with them that weep." When our neighbor is under difficulty, he is afflicted; and we ought to have such a spirit of love to him that we should be afflicted with him in his affliction. And if we ought to be afflicted, then it will follow that we ought to be ready to relieve, because if we are afflicted with him, we relieve ourselves in relieving him; his relief is so far our relief as his affliction is our affliction. Christianity teaches [us] to be afflicted in our neighbor's affliction; and nature teaches us to relieve ourselves when afflicted.


We should behave ourselves one towards another as brethren that are fellow-travelers, for we are pilgrims and strangers here on earth, and are on a journey. Now, if brethren are on a journey together, if one meets with difficulty in the way, does it not become the rest to help him not only in the extremity of broken bones or the like? If the provision for the journey falls short, it becomes his fellow-travelers to afford him supply out of their stores, and not to be over nice, and exact, and fearful, lest they should give him too much; for 'tis but provision for a journey, and it makes no odds when they get to their journey's end.


2. That we should only relieve our neighbor when in extremity is not agreeable to that rule of loving our neighbor as ourselves. Though that rule don't imply that we should love our neighbor to the same degree as we love ourselves, yet it implies that our love towards our neighbor should work in the same manner and express itself in the ways as our love to ourselves. We are very sensible of our own difficulties; we should also be ready to be sensible of their difficulties. We, from our love to ourselves, when we are under difficulties and suffer hardships, are apt to be concerned for our relief, to seek relief, and lay ourselves out for it. And, as we would love our neighbor {as ourselves}, we ought in like manner to be concerned when our neighbor is under difficulty and seek their relief.


Fifth Obj. Some may object against charity to a particular object, that he is an ill sort of person and has been injurious to them. He don't deserve that people should be kind to him; he is of a very ill temper; he is of an ungrateful spirit and is an ill sort of man upon other accounts; and, particularly, he had not deserved well of me, but has treated me ill, has been injurious, and has a spirit against me.


Ans. We are obliged to relieve persons in want, notwithstanding those things, both by the general and particular rules of God's Word.


1. We are obliged to do so by general rules. I shall mention two.


(1) That of loving our neighbors as ourselves. A man may be our neighbor, though an ill sort of man and our enemy, as Christ himself teaches us by his discourse with the lawyer (Luke 10:25–37). A certain lawyer came to Christ, and asked him what he should do to inherit eternal life. Christ asked him how it was "written in the law." He answers, "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind; and thy neighbor as thyself" [Luke 10:27]. Christ tells him, if he does thus, he shall live. But then the lawyer asks him who is his neighbor, because it was a received doctrine among the Pharisees that no man was their neighbor but their friends and those of the same people and religion. Christ answers him by parable, or story, of "a certain man" who "went down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among thieves, which stripped him of his raiment, and wounded him, and departed, leaving him half dead" [Luke 10:30]. {After a priest and a Levite passed by the man on the other side,} "a certain Samaritan… came where he was: and when he saw him, he had compassion on him, and went to him… and brought him to an inn, and took care of him" [Luke 10:33–34]. And then Christ asks him, "Who was neighbor unto him that fell among the thieves?" [Luke 10:36].


Christ proposed in such a manner that the lawyer could not help owning that the Samaritan did well in relieving the poor Jew: that he did the duty of a neighbor to him. Now there was an inveterate enmity between the Jews and the Samaritans. They hated one another more than any nation in the world; and the Samaritans were a people exceeding troublesome to the Jews.


But yet, we see, Christ teaches us that the Jews ought to do that part of neighbors to the Samaritans, i.e. to love 'em as themselves, for it was that Christ was speaking of. And the consequence was plain: if the Samaritans were neighbors to the distressed Jew, then the Jews by a parity of reason are {neighbors to the distressed Samaritan}. If the Samaritan did well, did as he ought to, in relieving a Jew that was his enemy, then the Jews would do well and as they ought to do in relieving the Samaritans, their enemies.


That which I particularly observe is that Christ here plainly teaches that our enemies, those that abuse and injure us, are our neighbors, and therefore come under that rule of loving our neighbor as ourselves.


[(2)] Another general rule that obliges us to it is that wherein we are commanded to love one another as Christ has loved us; we have it [in] John 13:34, "A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another." Christ calls it a new commandment with respect to that old commandment of the Lord, of loving our neighbor as ourselves. This, of loving our neighbor as Christ has loved us, implies something further in it than that. And 'tis, with respect to that, a new commandment, as it opens our duty to us in a new manner and in a further degree than that did. We must not only love our neighbor as ourselves, but as Christ hath loved us. We have the same again [in] John 15:12, "This is my commandment, That ye love one another, as I have loved you."


Now the meaning of this is not that we should love one another to the same degree that Christ {loved us}, though there ought to be a proportion, considering our nature and capacity, but that we should exercise our love one to another in like manner. As, for instance, Christ has loved us so as to be willing to deny himself and to suffer greatly for our help, so should we be willing to deny {ourselves, and to suffer greatly to help others}. Christ loved us, and showed us great kindness, though we were far below him; so should {we be willing to love others, and show them kindness, though they be below us}. Christ denied himself to help us, though we are not able to recompense him; so we should be willing to lay out ourselves to help our neighbor freely, expecting nothing again.


Christ loved us, and was kind to us, and was willing to relieve us, though we were very hateful persons, of an evil disposition, not deserving any good, but deserving only to be hated, and treated with indignation; so we should be willing to be kind to those that are an ill sort of person, of a hateful disposition, and that are very undeserving. Christ loved us, and laid himself out to relieve us, though we were his enemies, hated him, had an ill spirit towards him, had treated him ill; so, as we would love Christ as he hath loved us, should {we love those who are our enemies, hate us, have an ill spirit toward us, and have treated us ill}.


2. We are obliged to by many particular rules. We are particularly required to be kind to the unthankful and to the evil, therein to follow the example of our heavenly Father, who causes his sun to rise {on the just and the unjust [Matthew 5:45]}: not only to be kind to them that are so to us, but to them that abuse us, to love our enemies, [and] do good to them that hate and that despitefully use us. I need not mention the particular places [where it is said that] we should relieve wicked men, [such as] Ezekiel 16:49, [where] Sodom is condemned, and Daniel 4:27, [where Daniel advises] Nebuchadnezzar.2


Not but that when persons are virtuous and pious persons, and of a grateful and thankful disposition, and are friendly to us, they are the more the objects for our charity for it; and our obligation to kindness to 'em is the greater. But yet if they are the contrary, that don't make 'em not fit objects of our charity or set us free from obligations to kindness to 'em.


Sixth [Obj.] Some may object from their own circumstances, that they have nothing to spare; they han't more than enough for themselves. To this, I say,


[Ans.] 1. That it must doubtless be allowed to be so in some cases that persons by reason of their own circumstances are not obliged to give to others. As, for instance, if there be a contribution for the poor, if those that are the poor themselves, are as much in need as those that [the contribution is to be] given to, it savors of a ridiculous pride [and] vanity in them to contribute with others, to give to those that are not more needy than they. It savors of a proud desire to conceal their own circumstances and an affectation of having them accounted above what in truth they are. But,


[Ans.] 2. There is scarce any body but what may make this objection, as they may mean by it. There is nobody but what may say he has not more than enough for himself, as he may mean by enough. He may mean that he has not more that he desires, or more than he can dispose of to his own advantage, or not so much but that if he had anything less he should look upon himself worse out than he is now. He'll own that he could live if he had less, but then he'll say he could not live so well.


Rich men may say they han't more than enough for themselves, as they may mean by it. They need it all, they may say, to support their honor and dignity proper for the place and degree they stand in. Those that are poor, [to] be sure, will say they han't too much for themselves. And those that are the middle sort will say they han't too much for themselves. The rich, they'll say {they han't too much for themselves}. And so there will be none found to give to the poor.


[Ans.] 3. We in many cases may, by the rule of the gospel, be obliged to give to others when we can't without suffering ourselves: as if our neighbor's difficulties and necessities are much greater than ours and we see that they are not otherwise like to be relieved, we should be willing to suffer with 'em and to take part of their burden upon ourselves. Or else, how is that rule fulfilled of bearing one another's burdens? If we are never obliged to relieve others' burdens but only when we can do it without burdening ourselves, then how do we bear our neighbor's burdens, when we bear no burden at all? Though we han't a superfluity, yet the case may be so that we may be obliged to give for the relief of others that are in much greater necessity, as appears by that rule; Luke 3:11, "He that hath two coats, let him impart to him that hath none; and he that hath meat, let him do likewise."


Yea, the case might be so that they that are very poor might be obliged to give to the relief of others in much greater distress than they. If there was no other way of their relief, those that have the lightest burden might be obliged still to take some of his neighbor's burden, to make his burden more supportable. A brother may be obliged to help a brother in extremity, though they are both very much in want. The Apostle commends the Macedonian Christians, that they were liberal to their brethren, though they were in deep poverty themselves; 2 Corinthians 8:1–2, "Moreover, brethren, we do you to wit of the grace of God bestowed on the churches of Macedonia: how that in a great trial of affliction, the abundance of their joy, and their deep poverty, abounded to the riches of their liberality."


[Ans.] 4. Those that han't too much for themselves are willing to spare seed to sow that they may have some hereafter. They, it may be, need that which they scatter on the field and seem to throw away. They need it for bread for their families, but yet they will spare seed to sow that they may provide for the future and may have increase. But we have already shown that giving to the poor is in Scripture compared {to sowing seed}, and is as much the way to increase. It don't tend to poverty, but the contrary. It is not indeed the way to diminish our substance, but to increase it. All the difficulties in this matter is in trusting God with what we give, in trusting his promises; if men could but trust his faithfulness to his promises, they would give freely.


Seventh [Obj.] Some may object, concerning a particular person, that they don't certainly know whether he be an object of charity or no. They ben't perfectly acquainted with his circumstances; they don't know what sort of man he is; they don't know whether he be in want, as he pretends, or, if he be, they don't know how he came to be in want, whether it was not by his own idleness, or whether he was not a spendthrift. They argue that they ben't obliged till they certainly know.


Ans. 1. This is Nabal's objection, for which he was greatly condemned in Scripture. In 1 Samuel 25, David in his exiled state came and begged relief of Nabal. Nabal objected, as in 1 Samuel 25:10–11: "Who is David? and who is the son of Jesse? there be many servants nowadays that break away every man from his master. Shall I then take my bread, and my water, and my flesh that I have killed for my shearers, and give it unto men, whom I know not whence they be?" His objection was that David was a stranger to him. He did not know who he was nor what his circumstances were. He did not know but he was a runaway; and he was not obliged to go to support and harbor a runaway: "shall I then take my bread, and my water, and my flesh that I have killed for my shearers, and give it unto men, whom I know not whence they be?" He objected [that] he did not know that he was a proper object of charity; he did not know but he was very much the contrary.


But Abigail no way countenanced his behavior herein, but greatly condemned it. She calls him a man of Belial, and [says] that he was as his name was: "Nabal was his name, and folly was with him" 1 Samuel 25:25]. Her behavior was very contrary to his, and she is greatly commended for it; the Holy Ghost tells us in that chapter, 1 Samuel 25:3, that "she was a woman of a good understanding." And God exceedingly frowned on Nabal's behavior here, as we are informed; we are told that about "ten days after God smote Nabal," that "he died" (1 Samuel 25:38).


This story is doubtless told us partly for that end, to discountenance an over-scrupulousness as to the object on whom we bestow our charity, and a making merely that an objection against kindness to, and charity to, others, that we don't certainly know their circumstances.


'Tis true, when we have opportunity to come to be certainly acquainted with their circumstances, 'tis well to improve [it]; and to be influenced in a measure by probability in such cases is not to be condemned. But yet 'tis better to give to several that are not objects of charity, than to send away empty one that is.


Ans. 2. We are commanded to be kind to strangers, whom we know not nor their circumstances. It is commanded in many places, but I shall mention but one at this time; and that is that in Hebrews 13:2, "Be not forgetful to entertain strangers; for thereby some have entertained angels unawares." By strangers there, the Apostle means one that we don't know and whose circumstances we don't know, as is evident by these words: "for thereby some have entertained angels unawares." Those that entertained angels unawares did not know the persons they entertained, nor their circumstances; else how could it be unawares?


Eighth [Obj.] Some may say they ben't obliged to give to the poor till they ask: "If any man is in necessity, let him come and make known his straits to me, and it will be time enough for me to give then. Or if he needs a contribution let him come and ask; I don't know that the congregation or church are obliged to relieve persons till they ask relief."


Ans. 1. 'Tis surely most charitable to relieve the needy in that way wherein we shall do them the greatest kindness. Now 'tis certain that we shall do 'em a greater kindness by inquiring into their circumstances and relieving of 'em without putting of 'em upon begging. There is none of us all, but that if it were our case, we would look upon it so. We should think it more kind in our neighbors to inquire into our circumstances and help us of their own accord.


To put upon begging in order to relief is, as the times are, a real difficulty; and we should, any of us, look upon it so. It is more charitable, more brotherly, more becoming Christians and the disciples of Jesus, to do it without. I think it is self-evident, and needs no proof.


[Ans.] 2. This is not agreeable to the character of the liberal man given us in Scripture, viz. that he devises liberal things; Isaiah 32:8, "But the liberal man deviseth liberal things." That is not to devise liberal things: to neglect all liberality till the poor come a-begging to us. But to inquire and contrive to find out who stand in need of our charity, and to contrive to relieve 'em in that way that shall do 'em the greatest kindness: that is to devise liberal things.


[Ans.] 3. We should not commend a man for doing so to his own brother. If a man had an own brother and sister in want, under great straits, and he was well able to supply him, but should say, "If he or she wants anything, let 'em come and ask, and I will give him," we should hardly think such an one behaved like a brother. But, as I observed before, Christians are commanded to love as brethren: to look upon one another as brethren in Christ, and to treat one another as such.


[Ans.] 4. We should commend any other people for taking the contrary method. If we should hear or read of any people that were so charitable, and took such care of the poor, and were so concerned that none that might suffer among 'em that were proper objects of charity, that they were wont diligently to inquire into the circumstances of others, to find out who [were in] need, and liberally supplied them of their own accord: I say, if one should hear or read of such a people, would it not appear well to us? Should not we commend 'em? Should we not have the better thought of that people, upon that account?


Ninth Obj. He has brought himself to want by his own fault.


Ans. It must be considered what you mean by "his fault."


1. If you mean a want of a natural faculty to manage affairs to advantage, that is to be considered as his calamity. Such a faculty is a gift that God bestows on some and not on others, and 'tis not owing to themselves. You ought to be thankful that God has given you such a gift that he has denied to him. And it will be a very suitable way for you to show your thankfulness to help them to whom that gift is denied and let them share of the benefit of it, which [is] as reasonable as that he to whom providence had imparted sight should be willing to help him to whom sight is denied, and that he should have the benefit of his sight, who has none of his own, or as he that God has given wisdom should be willing that the ignorant should have the benefit of his knowledge, or that he that has sound feet should be willing to lead the lame.


2. If they have been reduced to want by some oversight and are to be blamed that they did not consider themselves better, yet that don't free us from all obligation of charity to 'em. If we should forever refuse to help a man because of that, that would be for us to make his inconsiderateness and imprudent act an unpardonable crime, quite contrary to the rules of the gospel, which insist so much upon forgiveness. We should not be disposed so highly to resent such an oversight in any that we have a dear affection for, as our children or near friends, so as to refuse to help 'em in that necessity and distress which they have brought upon themselves by their own inconsiderateness; but we ought to have a dear affection and concern for the welfare of all our fellow Christians, whom we should love as brethren, as Christ has loved us.


3. If they are come to want by a vicious idleness or prodigality, yet we ben't thereby excused from all obligation to relieve 'em unless they continue in it. If they don't continue in it, the rules of the gospel direct us to forgive 'em; and if their fault be forgiven 'em, then it won't remain to be any bar in the way of our charitably relieving of 'em. If we do otherwise, we shall act very contrary to that rule of loving {one another} as Christ hath {loved us}: as we observed, not in degree, but [in the] manner of our expressing {love}. Now, Christ has loved us, pitied us, and greatly laid out himself to relieve us from that want and misery that we brought on ourselves by our own folly and wickedness. We foolishly and perversely threw away those riches that we were provided with, upon which we might have lived and been happy to all eternity.


4. If they continue in the same courses still, yet that don't excuse us from charity to their families that are innocent. If we can't relieve those of their families without them having something of it, yet that ought not to be a bar in the way of our charity; and that, because 'tis supposed that those of their families are proper objects of charity. And those that are so, we are bound to relieve; the command is positive and absolute. If we look upon that which the heads of the families have of it3 as entirely lost, yet we had better lose something of our estates than suffer those who are really proper objects of charity to remain without relief.


Tenth [Obj.] Some may object and say others don't do their duty. If others did their duty, the poor would be sufficiently supplied; if others did as much as they in proportion to their ability and obligation, they would have enough to help 'em out of their straits. Or, some may say, it belongs to others more than it does to me. They have relations that ought to help 'em, or there are others that it more properly belongs to than to me.


Ans. We ought to relieve others that are in want through others' fault. If our neighbor is poor and in necessity, though others are to blame that it is so, yet that don't excuse us from helping them.


If it belongs to others more than to us, yet if those to whom it properly belongs will neglect their duty, and our neighbor therefore continues in want, we may be obliged to relieve him. If a man is brought into straits through others' injustice—supposing he be brought into distress by thieves or robbers, as the poor Jew that the Samaritan relieved—yet we may be obliged to relieve him, though it was not through our fault that he is in want but through other men's. And whether that fault be a commission or a neglect, that alters not the case. The poor Jew that fell among thieves between Jerusalem and Jericho, it properly belonged to those thieves that brought him into that distress to relieve him more than any other. But yet, seeing they would not do it, others were not excused; and the Samaritan did no more than his duty in relieving of him as he did though it more properly belonged to others. So if a man has children or other relatives to whom it most properly belongs to relieve him, yet if they won't do it {we may be obliged to relieve him}.


So we should do the more by the same reason for the relief of the poor, because others don't do their proportion or what belongs to them, and because, by reason of others' failing of doing their proportion, they need more; their necessity is greater.


Eleventh Obj. The law makes provision for the poor and obliges the town to provide for them. And therefore some argue that there is no occasion for particular persons to exercise any charity this way. They say the case is not the same with us now as it was in the primitive church; for then Christians were under a heathen government. And therefore, however the charity of Christians in those times is much to commended, yet now, by reason of our different circumstances, there is no occasion for private charity. In the state that Christians are now in, provision is made for the poor otherwise.


Ans. This objection is built upon these two suppositions, both of which I suppose are false.


1. That the towns are obliged by law to relieve everyone that otherwise would be an object of charity. This, I suppose to be false, unless it be supposed that none are proper objects of charity but only those that have no estate left to live upon, which is very unreasonable, and what I have already shown the falseness of, in answer to the fourth objection, where I have already shown that it don't answer the rules of Christian charity to relieve only those that are reduced to extremity.


Nor do I suppose it was ever the design of the law to cut off all occasion for Christian charity; nor is it fit there should be any such law. 'Tis fit the law should make provision for those that have no estates of their own; 'tis not fit that persons that are reduced to that extremity should be left to anything so precarious as a voluntary charity. They are in necessity of being relieved, and, therefore, 'tis fit that there should be something sure for 'em to depend upon. But a voluntary charity in this corrupt world is an uncertain thing; and therefore the wisdom of legislators did not think fit to leave those that are so reduced upon such a precarious foundation for a subsistence. But I don't suppose it was ever the design of the law to make such a provision for all that are in want, as to leave no room for Christian charity. But then,


2. This objection is built upon another supposition that is equally false, viz. that there are in fact none that are objects of charity but those that are relieved by the town.


Let the design of the law be what it will, yet if there are in fact persons that are in want, so as to stand in need of our charity, notwithstanding that [law], that don't free us from obligation to relieve 'em by our charity. For, as we have just now shown in answer to the last objection, if it more properly belongs to others to relieve them than we, yet if they don't do it, we ben't free. So that if that be true, that it belongs to the town to relieve all that are in want, so as otherwise to be proper objects of charity, yet if they in fact don't do it, we are not excused. If one of our neighbors suffers through the fault of a particular person, a thief or a robber, or of a town, it alters not the case; but if he suffers and is without relief, 'tis an act of Christian charity in us to relieve him. Now, 'tis too obvious to be denied that there are in fact those that are in want, so that it would be a charitable act in us to help them, notwithstanding all that is done by the town as a town. A man must hide his eyes to think otherwise.

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