« PreviousContinue »
have injured and defrauded our Neighbour, our Debt to him will not be paid by Charity to another. An hundred Pounds given to the Poor will not atone for a thousand, nor even for an hundred, gained by Extortion or Oppression. We must do Justice before we pretend to be charitable, even in this Sense, and refund our wicked and ungodly Gains, before any Part of our Wealth can be made an acceptable Sacrifice to God.
It is too common for Men to compound such Debts as these, and to imagine they fanctify their Extortion by laying out Part of it for the Glory of God, as they love to speak; but it is the highest Insolence and Affront to God to think to bribe his Justice, and to obtain his Pardon, by such a Piece of Corruption as any human Court would condemn. Go any Court of Justice, tell them that
you have by Fraud and Extortion got a thousand Pounds from one Man, but you are willing to give an hundred to another who is in great Want: What would they say to you? Would they not tell you,
your Charity was Hypocrisy, a Pretence to cover Iniquity? And shall not God judge righteously, who knows your Fraud, whether you will own it, or not?
In a word: Charity will not atone for Want of Justice. Owe no Man any Things says the Apostle, but to love one another. First pay the Debts of Justice, and then think of Charity; at least, till the Debts of Justice are discharged, do not imagine that your Charity will cover the Multitude of Sins,
GALATIANS vi. 9. And let us not be weary in well-doing : For in
due Seafon we shall reap, if we faint not.
*HE Text, and other like Para
sages of Scripture, are founded T
in this known Truth, That God does not ordinarily dispense the
Rewards and Punishments due to Virtue and Vice in this Life; but that he has appointed another Time and Place, how far distant we know not, in which all Accounts shall be set right, and every Man receive according to his Works. What Force the Objects of Sense have upon the Minds of Men, how far they outweigh the distant Hopes of Religion, is Matter of daily Experience. The World pays presently; but the
Language of Religion is--We shall reap, if we faint not. It
It may be thought perhaps, that it would have been better for the Cause of Religion, if the Rewards of it had been immediate, and more nearly related to our Senses; and, the Case being otherwise, proves in fact a great Prejudice to Virtue. But, if we can take leave of our Imaginations a little, and attend to Reason, we shall see, that this Dispensation of Providence was ordained in Wisdom. Were the Case otherwise; were Men to receive a due Recompence of Reward in this world for the Good they do, there would be no Reason why they should grow weary in well-doing, no Cause for their fainting under the Work, which would so abundantly and immediately repay all their Labour and Pains.
It is natural for Men, when they have before their Eyes flagrant Instances of Wickedness and Impiety, to make a secret Demand upon God in their own Hearts, for Justice against such notorious Offenders. If their Demands are not answered, and they rarely are) but the Wicked continue to flourish, and the Good to suffer under their Oppression; they, rightly judging that they were mistaken in their Expectations, and not
rightly judging where to charge the Mistake, are apt to conclude, that they have cleansed their Hearts in vain, and in vain have they washed their Hands in Innocency.
Whenever the Hopes and Expectations are raised beyond all Probability of being anfwered in the Event, they can yield nothing but Uneasiness, Anger and Indignation against the Course of Things in the World: And yet, who is to blame? Not he that appointed this natural Order, but he who understood it so little, as to expect from it, what it was never intended to produce. Would you pity the Husbandman, should you see him lamenting his Misfortune, because he could not reap in Spring, when all the World knows the Time of Harvest is not till Summer? The Case is the same in all other Instances : If Men anticipate the Reward of their Labour by the Eagerness and Impatience of their Hopes, they will be disappointed indeed; but not because their Labour is in vain, which in due Time will bring its Reward, but because their Expectations are vain and unreasonable, and outrun the Order of Nature, which cannot be transgressed.
You see then of what Consequence it is to us rightly to balance our Expectations, and