« PreviousContinue »
A Spittal-Sermon. tog and faithful high-prieft; who could be touched withe the feeling of our Infirmities, Heb ii. 17. becaufa he was in all points tempted like as we are, Heb. iv, 15. and himself also compasd with intirmity, Heb. y. 2. If then, by taking upon himself human nature at large, he hath a compassionate and tender sense of the infirmities of mankind in genc. ral; he must needs, in a peculiar manner, feel, and commiserate the infirmitics of the poor, in which he himselt was so eminent a sharer. To the rest of mankind he was allicd indeed by his humanity; but to the poor, even by the humble and suffering circumstances of it : He was made “ in the like. ness of men ;" but most like the meanest among the sons of men. “Wherefore he is not ashamed to call them brethren,” by way of distinction; to publish their near relation to him ; to recommend their cafe particularly to us; to espouse all their interests; to take part in all their afflictions; and even to acknowledge the good offices we do them, as done to himself ---" I say unto you, inafmuch aş ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren ye have done it unto me."
I have dispatched the argument in both its branches, which I undertook to consider. The use we are to make of it, is obvious and easy ; so obvious, that I question not but you have prevented me in this respect, and have all along, as* I paffed from point to point, applied it to your" selves, to the enforcing of the great duty of chao rity, to the enfiaming your souls with an ardent love of it, and a resolution of practiting it in fuch an exalted degree, as becomes the true difciples (nay the friends and brethren) of j fus. Many
excellent things are Spoken of this divine grace, in Scripture; many high encomiums are there given of it; many encouraging promises are made to it: But I question, whether all of them taken together carry more life, and force, and warmth in them, than the two affecting considerations I have explained to you. The wit of man cannot contrive (for even the wisdom of God hath not suggested) any more pressing motives, more powerful incentives to the exercise of charity, ihan these; That we shall be judged by it at the last dreadful day; and that then, all the acts of mercy we have done to the poor, shall by our merciful Judge be owned and rewarded as personal kindneffes done to himself.
What can awaken us to do good, if the sound of the last trumpet cannot? If a lively fense and anticipation of the great scene of judgment which shall then be unfolded, of the procels which shall be formed, of the scrutiny which shall be made, of the sentence which shall be pronounced ; if, I say, the bright ideas of these folemnities, which the Scripture hath taken care to imprint upon our minds, do not excite us to abound in the labour of love, whilst it is yet day, ere the night cometh, when no man can work: John xi. 4. Vain will be the attempt of rousing us into the love and practice of goodness, by any less astonishing methods ; all other applications and motives whatsoever will be lost upon us; and we must even be suffered to feep on in our security, und take our rest, till our judgment, which lingereth not, overtakes us, and our damnation, which sumbereth not, lays hold of us, 2 Pet. ii. 3.
Can caried exercifor us we hagining here works
Do we, in good earnest, believe the account of that day's transaction which our Lord hath given us; Let us Thew our faith by our works and pass the time of our sojourcing here (as it will then be well for us we had passed it) in the unwearied exercise of beneficence and charity. Can we believe that God hath appointed a day wherein he will judge the world by the Man Chrift Jefus ; without believing alsó, that he will judge it in that very manner, and with those very cir. cumstances, which the Judge himself hath revealed to us? And if so, how can we ever think of appearing at that awful Tribunal, without be. ing able to give a ready answer to the questions which he shall then put to us, about the poor and the afflicted, the hungry and the naked, the sick and the imprisoned? What confusion of face shall we be under, when that grand inqueft begins ; When an account of our wealth and our opportunities of doing good is displayed, on the one fide, and a particular of our use, or misuse of them is given in, on the other? And it shall appear, That the good things we have done, are few, and little, in comparison of those we have received ? How shall we then with (to no purpose with) that it might be allowed us to live over our lives again, in order to fill every minute of them with charitable offices, which, we find, will at that time be of so great importance to us? - In vain shall we then plead (though we could truly plead) that we have been frequent and devout worshippers of God, temperate and sober in our enjoyments, just and conscientious in our dealings; in vain shall we attempt to justify our
selves as the rich young man in the gofpel did, by appealing to the great duties of the law, and saying, “ All these have I kept from my youth “ up ;” Matt. xix. 20. unless we can say also somewhat more for ourselves, than he could ; even that we have been liberal in our distributions to the poor, and well discharged that important Stewardship with which God hath entrusted us. One single instance of relief afforded to the afflic. ted and the miserable, one “cup of cold water “ given to a disciple,” that is, the smallest act of charity, done out of a fincere principle of good. ness, Thall then ftand us in greater stead, and recommend us more effectually to the favour of our Judge, than all our pretended zeal for the divinç honour and the advancement of religion, than all the flights and fervours of devotion, than all the rigors and severities of the mortified ftate, nay, than whatever Christian graces and virtues we can suppose it poffible to attain, without attaining true Chriftian charity, i. e. fuch an ars dent love of God, as manifests itself in a proportionable love of our neighbour, and particularly in those genuine fruits of love, with which Chris stian mercy and tenderness will be sure to infpire us.
This is a truth, which cannot be too often, or too earnestly inculcated, because (important as it is) we are apt, extremely apt, to overlook it, and to persuade ourselves, that, if we do but observe the rules of moral honefty in all our transactions ; if we wrong no man, or make restitution to those we have wronged ; such a righteous and faultless conduct will secure our title to hap
-Sermon. piness. We own, indeed, that extraordinary acts of charity are commendable, and shall have their reward : But we think we can escape hell, without performing them ; and are humble enough to be contented with the lowest station in heaven. Human judicatories, we observe, give sentence only on matters of right and wrong, but enquire not into acts of bounty and beneficence; and we easily transfer this known method of proceeding from earthly tribunals to that of heaven. To rectify a mistake of fo great consequence as this, it was requisite to affure us, that, though the forms and folemnities of the last judgment, as they are described in the gospel, may bear some resemblance to those we are acquainted with here below, yet the rule of, proceeding shall be · very different : That we shall be tried at that bar,
not merely by our righteousness, but inoreover and chiefly by our charity; That it will not avail us then to say, We have done no evil, if we have done no good; That however virtues of omission (if I may so speak) will not save us, yet, that fins of omission will certainly damn us. 'Tis because we have not given the hungiy, meat; and the thirsty, drink; because we have not taken in the ftranger, and cloathed the naked; because we have not visited the sick, and those that are in prison; that we shall be then included in that terrible sentence, “ Depart from me, ye cursed, " into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and “ his angels !” The ignorance of those, who are strangers to the covenant of Christ, may be winke. ed at, and their future happiness secured to them upon lower terms: But it is madness in Christians, VOL. II.