« PreviousContinue »
after such a declaration as this, to flatter them. selves with the hopes of getting to heaven, without abounding in the offices of charity. 'Twas chiefly to rouse men up into a fense of their duty and danger in this respect, that our Saviour ut. tered the parable of the rich man and Lazarus. The rich man is not blamed in the parable, as having made use of any unlawful means to amafs riches, as having thriven by fraud and injustice, or grown fat upon the spoils of rapine and oppression : All that is there laid to his charge is, That he was “ cloathed with purple and fine “ linen, and fared fumptuously every day," without regarding the wretched condition of Lazarus, who was laid at his gate; and who is faid, indeed, to have « desired to feed of the crumbs which « fell from his table,” but is not faid to have obtained what he desired. And even this want of humanity to an object fo pityable and moving, did, it feems, deferve to be punished with ever. lasting torments. Hear and tremble, all ye who o have this world's good, and fee your brother « have need, and shut up your bowels of coma « passion from him," , John iii. 17.
But I believe far better things of all, and know far better things of many, that compose this audience ; for I fee here, the worthy governors and encouragers of those public and useful charities, which are a greater ornament to this city than all it wealth and fpledor; and do more real honour to the reformed religion, which gave birth to them, than redounds to the church of Rome, from all those monkish and superstitious foundations,
of which the vainly boasts, and with which she dazzles the eyes of ignorant beholders.
We live at a time, when popery, which is so far shut out by our laws as not to be able to reenter openly, is yet stealing in privately by the back-door of atheism, and making many other secret and unperceived advances upon us. Its cmiffaries are very numerous, and very busy in corners, to seduce the unwary. And among all the popular pleas, which they employ to this purpose, there is none more ensnaring (I speak what I know, by experience) than the advantageous representations they make of the public charities, which abound in their communion. Many ways there are of exposing the vanity of such pretences : but I have found none more successful, than to direct the persons, who are struck with the specious appearances of charity in that church, to the real and substantial effects of it in ours; those noble monuments of glory to God, and good-will to men, which the piety of our protestant ancestors raised; and which have since received as great ad. ditions and improvements, as the renouned city itselt to which they belong. I mention them together, because I take the one of them to have sprung, in some measure, from the other; and the present prosperous estate of this great emporium to be owing, not more to the industry of its inhabitants, than to those shining instances of charity in which they excel; there being no surer way towards increasing riches, than by sharing them with the poor and the needy. i ;
I have not room to give you a complete view of what hath been expended in such charitable dif
tributions tributions within the walls of this city, since the time of our blessed réforniation, when these goodly plants were firft sét, which have since, by due watering and culture, fo wonderfully grown and flourished: You may guess at the prodigious fum to which such' an estimate would amount, when you have heard, what hath been here done for the poor by the five hospitals and the work-house, within the compafs of one year, and towards the end of a long, expensive war; which, however it may have drained our wealth in other respects, yet hath (thanks be to God) not exhausted, and scarce diminished, our charity. I shall give you a short account of two reports, which were read at large to you yesterday.
[Here an abstract of those reports was read.]
"Tis not necessary to plead very earnestly in behalf of these charities; they speak fufficiently for themselves, by a filent, but powerful eloquence, that is not to be with stood. There is such a native comeliness and beauty in well-designed works of beneficence, that they need only be shewed, in order to charm all that behold them. Particularly Iliefe, of which you have had an account, are such wife, such rational, such beneficial institutions, that it is impoflible for a good man to hear thein repesented, without wishing them all manner of fuccefs; and as impossible for one that is both rich and good not to contribute to it. To relieve the helpless poor; to make sturdy vagrants relieve themselves; to hinder idle hands froin being mischievous to the common-wealth; nay, to employ
them for that they may be of public service; to restore limbs to the wounded, health to the fick, and reason to the distracted ; to educate children in an honest, pious, and laborious manner; and, by that means, to sow a good seed, of which perhaps another age, and another race of men, may reap the benefit; these are things of 1o evident, use, of so confessed an excellence, that it would be an affront to men's understandings to go about to prove it.
Besides, the vigilance of those who preside Om, ver these charities, is so exemplary, their conduct. so irreproachable, that persons disposed to do. good in these instances, can entertain no suspicions of the misapplication of their bounty ; but are almost as sure, that what they give will bc , made use of to its proper end, as they are that the end itself is good, for which they bestow it., It is a mighty check to beneficent tempers to con.. fider, how often good designs are frustrated by : an ill execution of them; and perverted to pur- . poses, which, could the donors themselves have : foreseen, they would have been very loth to pro- . mote. But it is the peculiar felicity of charitably. minded persons in this place, to have no objeco , tons of that kind to struggle with. All they have to consider is, What portion of their wealth they ; design for the uses of the poor; which they may then chearfully throw into one of these publica repositories; fecure, that it will be as well em- . ployed as their hearts can defire, by hands well, versed in the labour of love, and whose pleasure it is to approve their own beneficence to the pub- .
lic, by a careful management and distribution of other men s charity.
This gives benefactors an opportunity of doing their alm', with that felf-denying secrefy, which our Lord recommends, and which greatly enhances the present pleasure and the future reward of them. For we may then safely conceal our good deeds from the public vicw, when they run no hazard of being diverted to improper ends, for wint of our own inipection. Hence it is, that these public charities have been all along f polied and tod by private springs; the heads of which have sometimes been wholly unknown. And I take it to be an argument of God's peculiar blesfmg upon them, that the expences of some of them do always much exceed their certain annual in. come; but seldom, or never, their casual supplies. I call them casual, in compliance with the common form of speaking; though I doubt not but that they owe their rise to a very particular direction of povidence. The overseers of these bounties seem to me, like those who live on the banks of the Nile; who plough up their ground, and fow their feed, under a confident expectation, that the soil will in due time be manured by the overflowing of that river, though they neither fee, nor know the true cause of it.
May God touch the hearts of all that are able to contribute to such works of mercy, and make them as willing as they are able ! In order to excite their christian compassion, I need use no other motive than that which the text fuggests; that the Lord 7 fils will look upon what. ever we do or this kind, as done to himself; “in