« PreviousContinue »
we should reverence doubly in their distress: and those, for whom at all times we are bound to pray, we should then with uncommon earnestness recommend to the God of all comfort *. Let us therefore accordingly at present beseech Him, that he would be merciful to that house, which is now peculiarly the house of mourning : that he would be merciful to these nations, which have the justest cause to share in all their griefs : that he would turn from us those evils, that we most righteously have deserved : and continue to us those blessings, which through his infinite goodness we enjoy. Grant these our petitions, gracious God, for the sake of thy ever blessed Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
2 Cor. i. 3.
PREACHED IN THE PARISH CHURCH OF ST. BRIDGET,
LONDON, BEFORE THE RIGHT HONOURABLE THE LORD MAYOR, &c. ON MONDAY IN EASTER WEEK, 1738.
1 PET. iv. 10.
As every man hath received the gift, even so minister
the same one to another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God.
The inducements that we have to relieve the miseries, and promote the happiness of our fellow creatures, are, God be thanked, both many in number, and of various kinds. Our hearts naturally incline us to it: our reason approves of it as right. The more we cultivate kind dispositions, the truer peace we possess within ; and the greater capacity of social happiness, the sweetest part of the enjoyment of life. Willingness to do good, is always rewarded with the esteem of mankind; and selfishness of temper, the constant object of every one's aversion. We have frequent experience in ourselves, what suffering is: and are therefore inexcusable, if we overlook it in others. We live in a world, where, if it were not for the exercise of mercy and pity, the face of things would look dreadful with miserable objects; and the multitudes of persons, driven to despair, make society unsafe. Besides, we kồow the vicissitudes of human affairs : and are nearly concerned, to encourage by our example that spirit of goodness and compassion; of which we or ours may, on one occasion or another, easily come to have
These are powerful motives to beneficence: and yet the influence of them is too commonly exceeding small. The hearts of some persons have but little sensibility; and those of others a very confined and partial one. Some content themselves with talking of benevolence, instead of cultivating it; or with the inward feeling of good affections, instead of exerting them : and others give scope to their wrong inclinations, and their right ones, promiscuously; and so easily do more harm in the world, than good. To speculative reasonings but few persons attend : and fewer still are governed by them in practice. Their liableness to the common accidents of life, men either forget amidst the pleasures of it, or turn into an argument for attending the more closely to their own interests. As for reputation; a few acts of goodness, well managed, will obtain as much of it as they are concerned about. Or, if they cannot be esteemed ; they may hope at least to be courted. And even if they fail of this; they can affect to despise it, and appear, notwithstanding happy; some in their wealth, some in their voluptuousness.
Our wise and good Maker hath therefore not left us to the influence of these motives only: but, as he saw it necessary, that in all our ways we should be directed by regard to him; so he hath added infinite force to the above-mentioned considerations, by giving us the knowledge of himself, and teaching us to look on them as evidences of his will. He undoubtedly designed the good things of this world, not for the gratification of a few of his creatures; but for the benefit of all. And he hath divided them unequally amongst us; not that one part of the human race should sink under misery and want, and the other look down with contempt upon them : but that pity and gratitude should be mutually exercised, and the pleasure of doing and receiving good, felt among men: that the poor should be serviceable to the rich; they, in return, kind to the poor; and both united in the bonds of mutual good-will, from a sense of their mutual dependency. These, it appears, from the knowledge that we have of his nature, must have been his intentions. The same thing appears further from the nature he hath given us, and the circumstances in which he hath placed us. But that no sort of evidence of it might be wanting, he hath made known to the world his pleasure by express revelation also : requiring of us all to do good, and to communicate *, both as we are servants, bound in every thing to obey him; and as we are stewards, appointed and intrusted by him for this very purpose.
Let us therefore consider, with due seriousness,
I. What general influence it should have upon us, that we are stewards of the manifold grace of God.
II. What influence in particular with respect to those methods of charity, which are the occasion of our present meeting.
I. Let us consider the general influence. Every thing, which God hath done for the good of his creatures, is grace or favour to them: and every thing, which he has placed in our hands for their good, is grace of which we are stewards. All the means and opportunities we have, of making the world, or any part of it, better or happier ; by our knowledge or wealth, by our power or interest, our care or pains, our friendly behaviour or good example: are given us in trust, to be so exercised. How manifold these are, upon the whole, it is not perhaps easy for us to be fully sensible: but we should each of us think very carefully, what his own share of them is, and wherein it consists. For no one is without his talent, though some have more committed to them than others : and they who have least, will be expected to improve what they have; as our Saviour's parable very awfully shews*. The poorest person in the world, is capable of being useful, some way, to his fellow-creatures : and the greatest can never be above the obligation of imitating, to their power, the beneficence of their Creator. They who are engaged in business, far from having their attention confined to themselves, have usually, by the very means of their business, peculiar advantages both for knowing and supplying the wants of others. And such as have no particular employment, have only the privilege of a freer choice, what part they will take in that general one assigned to us all, of doing good.
* Heb. xiii. 16.
Since then we are appointed, each in his proper station, dispensers and stewards of the manifold grace of God; it concerns us to behave as faithful ones : not to intercept the streams of the divine bounty;, nor confine to our own gratification, what our Maker hath designed for the common benefit of all around us. He hath not indeed fixed the proportions of any kind of charity: for circumstances vary so infinitely, that general rules concerning such matters are impossible.
* Matt. xxv. 14—30.