« PreviousContinue »
hospital will afford you other opportunities, when you please. And you well know, that small sums frequently given, make a large total : besides that even the widow's mite singly is precious in the sight of God
Some, of various ranks, may not know objects enough for their charity: may not have leisure or convenience to enquire after them : may not care to trust or trouble others with doing it. Here then is a way open for such to bestow, unquestionably well, just as much as they wish. And they should give the more, because they are put to no difficulties, in order to give. Others have had servants, or dependents, or neighbours, under cure in the infirmary, of whom they would else have taken the charge themselves. Now these ought at least to reimburse the infirmary: for still they will be gainers by it; but else, they will in effect defraud it.
Persons professing religion cannot but be sensible, that were they to let unbelievers excel them in acts of bounty, it would afford them such a triumph, as Heaven forbid they should ever have. And persons indifferent or unfavourable to religion, most of them profess the highest regard to benevolence: as indeed, if doing good to men be the only homage they will pay to God, surely they ought to be very abundant in it. We invite them therefore to a fair contention with us on this head. But at the same time we must admonish them, that without moral self-government, and dutiful piety, they will on the whole do harm to their fellow-creatures : or could that be otherwise, will fail of becoming inwardly such, as their all-wise Creator expects. And it is grievous to think, that with some qualities so amiable, by the wilful or care
* Mark xii, 41-44.
less leglect of the rest, they should deserve condemnation, instead of reward. Still they shall obtain more mercy, than if they had not been merciful*: and therefore, however wicked in other respects, it is highly their interest to be virtuous in this. But charity shall cover the multitude of sins t, only when it proceeds from an efficacious resolution of universal amendment. And then it is peculiarly, both a proper thankful claim to God's promise of forgiveness, and likewise a proper compensation to men for past injuries and omissions : if it be sufficiently plentiful; and bestowed on the sufferers, when they can be found; or on the poor, as their substitutes, when they cannot. I hope therefore, that every one here, whose conscience tells him he hath offended against his brethren and his heavenly Father, will take this method of reconciliation now without delay.
If desire of increasing your wealth obstructs your liberality; you cannot, even in this world, receive near so much true satisfaction from having added a little to it, as from having done the great good, which that little is capable of doing. Besides, what is to become of your wealth? Your heirs are to have it. And how are they to employ it? If they are to perform acts of beneficence with it, why may not you as well ? If they are only to go on augmenting it, where is the use or end of that? And if they are to squander it, as sooner or later they will, you are only contriving to make yourself and them a reproach, in contrary ways.
Suppose then, on the other hand, it be pleasures and amusements, that intercept your charity: of what kind are they ? Many fashionable ones are mean, irrational, destructive of the time, fortune, * Matt. v. 7.
+ 1 Pet. iv. 8.
health, temper, principles, of those who delight in them. What will be your credit and weight now, what the esteem of your memory, and the state of your posterity, an age or two hence, if you live, and teach them to live, only or chiefly to such things ? At least intermix with them somewhat worthy of notice and of praise. Retrench a sin or a folly, and give the cost to these poor creatures. Put out of
your power, by spending well, what else you would have spent ill. This will be of double service to you.
But possibly you devote the superfluity of your income to innocent entertainment, ornaments, decorations. And is it fitting then, that you should be humouring your fancy, or displaying your taste, while wretches around you are perishing and unassisted ? But such things, you will say, employ the poor, and so do good. Why, allowing that they do good; which however is not true, without several exceptions : yet the poor, who are incapable of employment, should be considered first. Others indeed may suffer, if you overlook them: but these are suffering. Others will make some shift; perhaps a better for the public, if not for themselves too : but these can make none. Besides, you may be a great deal surer, that the good, to which self-indulgence cannot prompt you, is meant for good : and it will procure you far more esteem from the worthy and considerate. Some ofthe vain and thoughtless perhaps may affect to ridicule you for it. But only avoid injudicious projects of beneficence,and degrees of liberality inconsistent with other obligations or proprieties: and you will be abundantly supported, within and without. Private parsimony, when moderate, and combined with generosity in matters of public concern, was highly celebrated, even by heathens, in
former ages *; and will to the latest be an honour, and selfish
pomp and luxury a disgrace, to all nations and all persons, that are noted for either. The givers of memorable single benefactions indeed will be longest and most extensively respected: but such as join with others, will also have praise for it, equal to their modest desires. In our hospital particularly, their names and contributions are recorded, and openly proposed for imitation : while yet they, who choose it, may be as secret in their donations to this charity, as to any.
Possibly you may think, it will be sufficiently carried on without your help. But what if every body were to think so ? Besides, how do you know it will ? And if it would, your concern is, not so much that good works be done, as that
share towards them.
But you give to other charities, to other hospitals. And so do many of the bountiful friends to this. Why then may not, why then should not, you be such a friend to it likewise ? But, at the very least, be not an enemy. That we demand, as justice. If we are wrong in any thing, we shall be glad to correct it: if deficient, to supply it. If we think we excel in any thing, we heartily wish we could excel in nothing. If we have chanced to take a name, that may seem too lofty: we had rather never have taken it, than have given offence by what was intended, not to arrogate the least pre-eminence above our elder sisters; but only to express, in the strongest manner, how numerous the objects, for whom provision is wanted, were; and to whom we principally trusted for the means of relieving them.
Cic: L. Flacco. $ 12. Hor. Od. 2. 15. 10—20. Sat. 2. 2.
Let us all therefore go on, amicably as well as diligently, in this and every method of lessening misery,and promoting goodness and happiness, in the world, from an humble sense of duty to the Maker of it: till the exercise of the virtues, adapted to our present suffering state, improve our souls into a fitness for that approaching time of enjoyment; when God shall wipe away all tears from our eyes, and there shall be no more death, nor sorrow nor crying ; neither shall there be any more pain *.
* Rev. xxi. 4.