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men generally take shelter, is that of inability. “ Their circumstances will not permit them to “ become benefactors; the public weight of taxes, “ the general decay of traffic, and some particu“ lar lofses they have felt, lie heavy upon them; “ their families and their creditors do of right “ lay claim to all they possess; and it would be “ an injury to both, should they otherwise dispose “ of it. The care of the poor is not committed “ to them, but to the rich, and prosperous, and « childless.” Now it is true, that from these the moft bountiful supplies are expected ; These are the great springs, that chiefly feed the general current of charity; for “to whom much is given, " of them shall be much required," Luke xii 48. However, there is still a proportion due even from those, who are not blessed with their affluence; and, before we can excuse ourselves from paying it, it will behove us to consider-Whether there be no unnecessary expences, that we support ; such as are unsuitable to our circumstances, and the duties of our rank and station do not require; whether we are too magnificent and sumptuous in our table and attendance ; in our attire and furniture; in our houses and gardens of pleasure: Whether we do not squander away some part of our fortune at play, or indulge some costly vice, which cats up all we have to spare from the reasonable conveniences of life, and the just demands of our family. For, if any of these be the case, we have no right to plead inability, in respect of works of mercy, which our faults and our follies only hinder us from promoting; but ought immediately to retrench those superfluous expences,
in order to qualify ourselves for the exercise of charity.
The public burthens, though they may be a good reason for our not expending fo much in charity as perhaps' we might otherwise do, yet will not justify us in giving nothing ; especially if, as those burthens increafe, we take care to improve in our frugality and diligence ; virtues, which always beconie us, but more particularly in times of war and public expence'; however a diffolute people, whom God (in spight of all their vanities and vices) has bleffed with fuccefs, may at present disregard them.
Our private losses and misfortunes may indeed unqualify us for charity : But it were worth our while feriously to reflect, whether they might not originally be, in some measure, owing to the want of it; I mean, whether such loffes may not have been inflicted by God, as a just punishinent of our former avarice and unmercifulnefs, when we had it more in our power than now (and yet had it as little in our will) to be charitable. And if so, can we take a furer or nearer way towards repairing those loffes, than by betaking ourselves to the practice of that duty, the omillion of which occasioned them ? For the lips of truth have faid ; " He that giveth unto the poor, shall ( not lack. The liberal foul shall be made fat; « and he that watereth, shall be watered also "s himself,” Prov. xxviii. 27.
Our children and families have, indeed, a right to inherit our fortunes ; but not altogether in exclusion to the poor, who have also a right (even God's right) to partake of them. As therefore VOL. II.
we ought not to defraud our children, for the fake of the poor ; fo neither ought we to rob the poor of their share, for the sake of our children: For this is a kind of facrilege, and may prove an eating canker and a consuming moth in the estate that we leave them. Have thy children a due sense of religion? they will be pleased, that thou haft made a pious disposal of such a part of thy fortunes, as will fanctify and secure the rest to them: Are they ungracious and diffolute ? thou hast the less reason in thy charitable distributions to regard them ; who, perhaps, when thou art gone, will be the most forward to tax thy needless parcimony, and will fpend in riot what was saved by uncharitableness.
Out of a tender concern, therefore, for the welfare of thy family, that very concern which makes thee shut thy hand to the poor, open it, and scatter among them a proper portion of the good things of life ; "and be not faithless, but is believing," that thou, and they “ shall be 6 blessed in thy deed: for there is that scattereth, « and yet increafeth; and there is that withholda “ eth more than is meet, but it tendeth 10 “ poverty,” Prov. xi. 24.
As to the excufe drawn from the demand of ereditors, if it be real, it is unanswerable : For no alms can be given, but out of what is properly our own; and nothing is our own, but what remains to us after all our just debts are satisfied. However, there is one sort of debt, which, to whomsoever it is owing, can only be paid to the poor; I mean, when, in the course of our deal. · ing, we have either done wrong ignorantly, or
have afterwards forgotten the wrong, which we
Hitherto of the first excuse foruncharitableness, drawn from pretended inability; which I have considered the more largely, in its several branches, because it is, of all others, the most general and
prevailing illusion: I proceed now to reckon up other pleas and pretences, which, not being of equal weight, shall be handled more biiefly. For,
II. There are those that plead unfettled times, and an ill prospect of affairs (whether wrongly or rightly, is not the case; but there are those that plead these things) as impediments to the exercise
of charity. For in such an uncertain world, who . knows, but that he may want to-morrow what . he gives to-day? Who knows, what the fate of thoie public charities may be, which are now fo fair and flourithing?
But, if this be a good objection, it will at all times equally hinder us from abounding in the offices of charity; since there is no time when we may not entertain such conjectures as these, and alarm ourselves with such fears and forebodings. “Ile that observerh the wind, shall " not fow; and he that regardeth the clouds, “ thall not reap,” Eccl. xi. 4 says the wife man, in this very cale, and of these very pretences: He that too curiously observes the face of the heavens, and the signs of the times, will be often withheld from doing what is absolutely neceifary to be done in the present moment; and, by milfing his feed-time, will lose the hopes of his harvest. And therefore the counsel there given by the same pen is, “ In the morning sow thy feed, " and in the e:ening withhold not thy hand : for “ thou knowest not whether thall prosper, either “ this or that; or whcther they both thall be a“ like good,” ver. 6. Neglect no opportunity of doing good, nor check thy deure of doing it,