Concerning doing good to Posterity. A SERMON PREACH'D before their MAJESTIES AT WHITE-HALL, On February the 16th, 1689-90.

Psalm Lxxviii. 5, 6.

He establish'd a Testimony in Iacob, and appointed a Law in Israel, which he commanded our Forefa­thers, that they should make them known to their Children.

That the Generations to come might know them, even the Children which should be born, who should arise and declare them to their Children.

By Thomas Tenison, now Lord Archbishop of Canterbury.

Published by their Majesties Special Command.

London: Printed by H. Hills, in Black-fryars, near the Wa­ter-side. For the Benefit of the Poor.

PSALM Lxxviii. 5, 6.

V. 5. ... He established a Testimony in Iacob, and appointed a Law in Israel, which he commanded our Forefathers, That they should make them known to their Children.

V. 6. That the Generations to come might know Them, even the Children which should be born, who should arise and declare them to their Children.

THE Title of Benefactor does principally belong to those who are at present useful, and likewise oblige Posterity. Such a one was King David, who Serv'd his own Gene­ration very Faithfully; and having finish'd his Course, delivered his Lamp to the succeeding Age. Of this, as many are convinced, as either read the History of his Life, or peruse his Psalms with Application of Mind.

And it was his care, amongst his other pious De­signs, to continue the Memory of God's Wonderful Works from Age to Age; to the end that the Conside­ration of his Power and Goodness might effectually move them to obey his Laws. Of such Remembrances they stood in great need, being apt no longer to think upon the Miracles of Divine Mercy, than whilst they saw them.

Wherefore God himself prescribed this way of teach­ing his Statutes, and rehearsing the History of his Mighty Acts, (and especially those at Horeb) to their Sons, and their Sons Sons. Deut. 4. 9.

And that the Isrealites might not err in the repetition, he caus'd those Statutes and wonders to be written down; not leaving them to the uncertainty of Oral Tradtion, [Page 4] which sometimes either passeth by things of mo­ment, or delivers them down very imperfectly, and too often brings it to pass, that the Legends of one Age, be­come History in those that follow.

God established a Testimony in Iacob, and appointed a Law in Israel, which he commanded our Fore-fathers; that they should make them known to their Children.

That the Generations to come might know them, even the children which should be born, who should arise and declare them to their children.

The Argument of Doing Good to Posterity, being set forth in these words, not by any General Precept, but only by the especial Instance of propagating the Knowledge of his Law; I shall use them rather as the Occasion, than the Ground of this Proposition.

That a Good Man, according to his Talent and Circumstance, does endeavour in such manner to Do good in his time, that the next Age also may proba­bly reap the benefit of it.

Concerning this kind of Charity, I purpose to consi­der.

  • 1. How fit and just a thing it is to put it in Practice.
  • 2. That, notwithstanding its fitness, there is too general a disuse of it.
  • 3. Whence it comes to pass that there is of Common a failure in so necessary a Duty.
  • 4. By what means the Exercise of it may be made more re­gular, and more frequent among us; that so the ages to come may have just cause to Bless Almighty God for the advantages derived to them from this Generation.

1. Now, First of all, the doing of Good to Posterity, may appear a fit and reasonable Practice;

  • 1. From a common Rule of Good and Evil.
  • 2. From the Obligation which man is under, to imi­tate God.
  • 3. From the Gratitude we owe to former Ages.

1. This is a Common rule concerning Good, not only that it is to be done, but that we are to do what, [Page 5] upon the whole matter, is the greatest good which we are ca­pable of doing in our Sphere and Condition. Now Good is increased as well by the Duration of Benefits, as by their Magnitude and Number; so that if the Good be e­qual in other respects, he that does the Charity that lasts but a day, does well; but he that does the Good that lasts some years, does still better. He who out of good will, gives a cup of cold water to a thirsty man, performs a Charitable Office; but that Person is, by much, the greater Benefactor, who opens a Fountain which from time to time may give refreshment to Man and Beast. Wherefore by the Reasons and Proportions of Good, a man is requir'd, according to his ability, to look beyond the term of his own few and uncertain days, known on­ly to God how few they are.

He is,

2. Required to benefit Posterity, that he may be a Fol­lower of God in true Religion, which is the imitation of Him who we worship: And by doing Charities which may last, we are made, in some measure like to Him; for all Generations partake of the Goodness of God.

He so framed the Material World at the beginning, that by the same Order of Nature (the same for the main) it might in its several Ages conveniently subsist; and the same Sun that shone on Adam, enlightens us.

God permitted men in the first Age of the World, to live very many Years, that by their Experience (espe­cially in the Course of the Stars, which required length of time for observation) the following Ages might re­ceive useful Instruction; useful, not only in secular Af­fairs, but in Religion; the Heavens, the more they under­stood, declaring the more the Glory of God.

He ordained the Sabbath, the Passover, the Sacrament of the Lords Supper, not merely for the men of any one Age, but as Memorials of the Creation, of the Deliverance out of Egypt, of the meritorious Passion of our Redeem­er, for many Generations.

[Page 6] He sent his Blessed Son once to offer a Sacrifice, whose Virtue might be communicated to all true Christians, as long as there should be a Church on Earth.

He caused Holy Scriptures to be written for the good of all following times; and the things which were written of old, were written for our Admonition, upon whom the ends of the world are come. For instance; we are com­manded to Remember the wife of Lot, who, so many Years ago, (looking back towards Sodom) was turn'd into a Pillar of Salt and Sulphur, Gen. 19. 25. 26. S. Luke 17. 32. Deut. 29. 23. being punish'd in the same ex­traordinary way with those unclean Sinners who re­mained in it.

3. There is not a fitter expression of our gratitude to former Ages, than a hearty endeavour to procure advan­tage to those who come after us, as we have received benefit by those who went before us; borrowing Light from their Light, and living upon the Effects of their Benevolence. If nothing had been done for us, in how misirable an Estate should we have come into the World and lived in it? Much more miserably than Adam, who in the state of Innocence, enjoy'd the Earth, without the Curse which Disobedience brought upon it. If all Arts, and Sciences, and Buildings, and other such Helps and Conveniences of Humane Life, were to be in­vented and begun with every Age, how rude, how mean would the condition of it be? How heavily would it be pressed with the burthen of Necessity? How much more painful and laborious would this render the Pilgrimage of man, which as it is, with all its advan­tages, has still its sufficient share of trouble? In what darkness had we fate in reference to the means of our Redemption, if it had not pleased the God of Wisdom, through the hands of the Christians of former Centuri­es, to deliver down to us the Holy Bible?

It does therefore well become us to have a sense of the Favours of those who died before our times, but [Page 7] still live in their benefits; and gratefully to celebrate their just Praise, and to have a perpetual inclination, when we have not further power, to go, and to do like­wise.

But as fit and just as this Practice is, there seems to be

2. Too general a disuse of it, Some are careful even to Anxiety, but they show that the solicitude is for their selves, by their backwardness in disposing of anything so much as by a WILL. Some let Receits and Inven­tions dye with them, by which great numbers in suc­ceeding Ages might have been profited. Some are not provident for their selves, and therefore not likely to take due care for Posterity. They will not put a stone into a decaying Building, or drop an acorn into the Ground for the sake of those that shall follow them; much less have they a zeal for the supporting of Gods Church in difficult times, or the planting of true Reli­gion in places that want the blessing of it: Insomuch that when they give up their wretched lives (as give them up they must, what aversion soever they have to it) they appear as a Place surrendred after a long and tedious Siege, where little remains, besides dead Corpses Rubbish, and Ruins.

And this puts me in mind of still a worser sort of men, who by their inhumanity, make such desolations in their times, as late Posterity can scarce repair. Their Ta­lent lies not in promoting Truth, and Holy Worship, but in forcing Error and Idolatry; not in Building and Planting, but in plucking up and destroying. They are imitators of Apollyon the God of this World, whose Delight is Mischief, whose Triumphs are Barbarities, Fire and Sword are the Instruments of their Glory: They spare neither the Bodies of the Living, nor the Monu­ments of the Dead. They lay wast in a few hours, strong and beautiful Cities, which were the fruit of the Arts and Labours of former Times. One would think they would anticip [...]e Doomsday it self, if their Force were [Page 8] equal to their Pride and Malice: Though that sort of men, of all others in the World, have the least reason to hasten the Day of Judgment. When their Acts shall be rehearsed before the Children that are yet unborn, they will rise up with just indignation, and call their Memo­ries accursed.

If (as we have proposed in the third place)

3. We inquire into the Causes of this Uncharitable­ness, we shall without much difficulty, find them a­mongst the ill Principles and disorderly Lusts and Passions and Humours of unreasonable men. As for exam­ple;

The Atheistical, if they follow the consequence of their Opinion, terminate their Designs, as they i­magine they do their humane Beings, in this Life.

Those who live by Sense, whose Objects are present, have no regard for such as they shall never live to see; for such as are not capable of returning them immedi­ate thanks, of making them Presents, of pleasing them with flatteries, of rendring them such services as are most grateful to flesh and blood.

The slothful will not be at the pains to build or to up­hold, to manure or cultivate, to catechise a Child, or instruct a Servant, or discreetly to reprove an irregu­lar Neighbour: They will let their own Vineyards be over-run, in their own times with Briars and Thorns.

The Careless and Voluptuous are contented to think (if thinking be at any time the exercise of such Affectors of of Ease) that Peace and Plenty will last for their Days; and that is all the Eternity they care for; though by such neglect, Ruin often comes down upon their Heads before the term of their Life is expired. So it common­ly happens to the Prodigal who inspect not their Affairs, and believe their Fortune to be sufficient for their Time; And in that Imagination, say to their Souls, Take your [...]ase: and dream on till they are surpriz'd by Poverty: [Page 9] And, if their loose and swift way of living permits them to number many Years; there remain to them the fewest Supplies in that Age which has the most and greatest needs, the Age of Labour and Sor­row.


The Ill-natur'd hate the rest of the World, and are not pleased that the state of it should be bettered by them. Out of the abundance of such an ill Heart came that worst of Sayings pronounced by one of the Brutal Hea­thens, When I leave the World, let Earth and Fire mingle; or, let the Frame of Nature be immediately dissolv'd. He would have forborn those wicked Words, if he had but just thought of that more dreadful Fire which Divine Justice has prepared for the Uncharita­ble.

Moreover, the Proud and the Designing, who are them­selves ignorant, will on purpose deny a leberal Educa­tion to those Children who are under their Conduct, lest they grow too wise and sensible for them.

From the same Passion it is, that Wicked Men en­deavour to hinder both present and future Good, by depressing generous and worthy Persons, giving them occasion to complain, with that great Warrior Be­lisarius; ‘It was not a Crime that hurt us but En­vy.’

Likewise, the Covetuous either stifle the Wills of the Charitable, or forbear to fulfill them; converting that to their own use, which was piously intended for others.

Also, the Malicious study on purpose to leave That which must go to others, in a ruinous Condition. It may be, without a House for shelter, or a Tree for shade, or a Field worn out with perpetual bearing, or a Paper for Direction, and for the determination of Strife; much more withour a Prayer for the Prosperity of those who shall come after them.

Again, of some Men of revengeful Dispositions, it [Page 10] has been said, That on their very Death-Beds, [a solemn Time in which nothing should supplant the Love of God and Man; when their abundant Charity should, through Christ, prepare their way to the Mercy of God before whom they are suddenly to appear] that, being engag­ed in vexatious Suits and Quarrels with others, they have given it in charge to the Heirs of their Families, to keep up the Grudg, and to continue the Controversy from Generation to Generation.

Finally, Where this Evil Tempter abounds, it en­tails Trouble and Confusion: For it requires little skill to unfix and embroil, but a great deal to establish. May That (as we hope, and as we pray) be, for the future, the Wisdom of this Age, to the end that it may flourish in True Religion, in Unity, in Plenty, Peace and Health, and by that means become a Blessing to these Lands for ever.

These Evil Principles, Lusts, Passions, and Humours which I have mentioned, are the Causes of the Decay of that generous Charity so beneficial to the Ages to come.

But, Fourthly,

Let us not follow the inordinate Affections and unrea­ble Customs of the Men of this World, but be pre­vailed with to imitate David? or rather, the God of Da­vid, who hath a Blessing for every Age; and who, when he rested from the Work of Creation, did not forbear the Works of Providence.

To this purpose,

First, That we may be capable of practising this sort of Charity, the forementioned Passions are to be subdu­ed by pious Consideration, by Prayer for the especial Grace of God, by firm and steadfast Resolution, by Conversation with Christians whose Hearts are enlar­ged, by reading the holy Scriptures, and in them, the History of God's Power and Goodness.

Secondly, being thus made capable of doing present and future Good; that we may do it as we ought, [Page 11] the Good-will, the right Scope, the Decence, the Iustice of It, are well to be weighed.

And, First, Good-will ought to be the Spring which moves Men that benefit those who succeed them; for it is no Virtue to leave that behind us, which Death will not permit us to carry away. Dives laid up Goods for many years, and he left them to Others, without being to them a Benefactor; for, he laid them up for himself, upon a vain and presumptuous supposition of long Life; in which he was miserably disappointed, by the surpriz­ing Justice of that Righteous God, who said to Him, Thou Fool! this Night thy Soul shall be taken from thee.

Again, This Good-will is to be directed to a right and profitable Scope; that Charity may not be blinded by Superstition, which hath founded many Societies, and left great Revenues, and enriched many Shrines, to the hurt of Posterity, by promoting the Honour of false De­ities and Saints; and by encouraging a Worship from Age to Age, in which the True God can take no plea­sure.

There is also to be observed, in this Practice, a De­cency, which forbids a Man to be severely Penurions all his days, for the doing a greater Good at the last. It is true, He is not to be condemned for cutting off unnecessary Pomps and Expences in order to so good an End: And he may be bold with himself. But, though there may be a laudable Frugality, there must not be a sordidness in his Selfdenial.

Add to this, That Iustice, as well as Decency becomes all Men who piously design to be Benefactors to Posteri­ty. They are not to do Evil that Good may come of it; or, to be unjust, Oppressors, Extortioners in one Age, that they may be bountiful to another. Yet, such is the manner of the Covetuous, who love not Man­kind, nor their very Off-spring as Men, but in the Qua­lity of their second-selves: They run the hazard even of Damnation, for the greatning of those, who gene­rally [Page 12] spend with vicious profuseness all that Wealth which, with such guilt of Conscience they had gather­ed together.

Thirdly, Having found out such Rules as these for the governing of our Practice, we may render our selves more fit for the discharge of so Excellent a Du­ty.

First, By removing certain Discouragements.

Secondly, By attending to some further Mo­tives.

The Discouragements are of Two Kinds.

1. Suspicions of Ability to do such good.

2. Hindrances of Willingness in Those who are able to do it; and in some of them who are not ill inclin­ed.

1. Men of inferiour Condition suspect their Ability; i­magining, that he who would become a Benefactor, must be arm'd with great Power and Authority indued with high degrees of Wisdom, and furnished with such heaps of growing Wealth, as may supply Charity, with­out sensible Diminution.

Whereas there are divers waies by which Persons, in meaner Circumstances, may, in their Age, be useful both to that and the next. A poor Man, as we read in Ecclesiastes, did by his prudent Counsel deliver a City. And that Place had, probably, the Benefit of his good Advice a long time after; tho' whilst his wisdom made him considerable, his Poverty exposed him to the Scorn and Neglect of the Proud and u [...]grateful. There are true Benefactors in the World besides such who have A­bility to make Publick Waies, to repair Breaches of the Sea, to calm that which is tumultuous, the Rage of the People; to build Houses for God's Worship, to found Colledges and Hospitals, to subdue public Enemies, and to enact wholsom Laws, which are the Nerves of Society, and by the strength of which we a while (by God's Blessing) subsisted, though Popish Superstition did so furiously assault us. Many may communicate [Page 13] to their Neighbours a wholsom Medicine, though they cannot erect a House for the Sick, and Wounded, and Impotent. Every Master of a Family in Israel. was ob­liged to shew his Children the Reason of the Paschal Feast, and to teach them the Law of God. Those, therefore, were not Performances out of their Power, for then they could not have been their Duty. And to Christians their great Master saith, What excellent things do ye? What do ye more than others? Much Good they may do by rehearsing the Holy History of God's Law and his wonderful Works before others, that they may learn it and transmit it to the next Generation. Much Good they may do by teaching of necessary Doc­trines to Youth, and by forming the manners of those who are likely to outlive them. They may instil into them betimes such Christian Principles as may grow up with them, and bring forth Fruit in their Age. He who hath a small proportion of Silver or Gold, may yet be sometimes capable of leaving behind him a more valuable Legacy: By giving the World a Book of Piety, such as that of the Whole Duty of Man, by which the ju­dicious and modest Author hath done a greater Good to those who lived in and after his Time, than if he had poured forth other Riches [...]on them in overflowing measure.

Most are capable of doing a durable Charity by good Example, which may operate when they are dead and gone. To how many Generations has the Instance of afflicted Iob administred Courage and Support, whilst they have called it to Remembrance in the Time of their Trouble? And there is great need of virtuous Example for the ballancing of that which is Bad; the Contagion of which sticks like Leprosie in Families, Churches and Kingdoms. Ieroboam the Son of Nebat made Israel to sin 1. King. 14. 16. [to commit that great Sin of Ido­latry, by worshipping the true God by an Image] both in his Time, and after he was gone to answer both for his own and for other Men's Sins. But what An­swer [Page 14] could he make for either? Either was a Burthen too heavy for him to bear.

Then, for the Charity of Prayer, who is there that can­nor call on God for a Blessing on Persons and Families, on Churches and States, after they shall have left this unquiet Stage, and that Sche [...] of the World which passeth away. Exod. 20. 5, 6. [...] 34. 7. Deut. 7. 9.

In sum, all Wicked M [...] [...]s wi [...]ked, are hurtful, and all Good Men, a [...] good, [...]re beneficial both at present and for the future. Blessing and Cursing persue Families very often, according to the Righteousness or Impiety of the first Heads of them.

Secondly, There are Discouragements which hinder Men, who are able to do Good to other Generations, from being Willing. That is to say, The Instance of Backwardness in Public Mannagers to reward those who have undone themselves by some useful Invention, which generally ruines the first Projestors, whilst Posterity reaps the fruit of their Wit, Labour, and Expence. Also the Instances of Failures and Frauds of smothered or abused Legacies, in Trust, of the converting of that to the use of the Rich, which is bequeathed to the Poor; together with the Consideration of the uncertainty of Times, in which, by Wars and tumultuous Violences, the Effects of publick Charity do often perish.

There is much Truth in this Objection, but yet not so much as makes it unanswerable. Useful Inventions are of­ten greater Charities than could have been done by the Pains and Wealth which they cost. Frauds and Abuses do not alwaies happen: They do not alwaies come; and wo to them, no [...] who are injur'd by them, but by whom they come. And the Observation of such acciden­tal Miscarriages should, indeed, increase the Caution, but not prevent the Charity of wealthy Men. It is, also, profitable for us to remember, That whatsoever Ha­zards Good Works run, the Soul that has done them in Christian Manner, shall be safe in the Hands of their Mediator. Christians know in whom they have believ­ed, [Page 15] and how able he is to keep that which is committed to his Trust to that Day.

For the uncertainty of Times and Seasons, that's an Ob­jection against doing Good in all Ages; for Heaven only is a Kingdom which cannot be shaken.

Wherefore, laying aside these Impediments, cast in our Way by too great a Degree of Jealousie, let us,

Secondly, Provoke our selves to Piety and to Good Works, by laying before our Thoughts such further Motives as these.

The First may be taken from the true pleasure which is found in all good Acts, and particularly of those of that kind of which we have been speaking. Pleasure natu­rally springs up in the Mind, when we think of any thing we much value, as continuing and prospering. A great degree of happiness consists in hope, and in hope cherished by proceeding. The Mind is damp'd when it is stinted, and when it sees an end of any thing in which it took content. And if pleasure is derived to us from the growth and progress even of our humblest Plants, much more shall we be pleased by the extent of our goodness to Christian Men, and in the duration of it. It is a blessed and comfortable Thought, that God will vouchsafe to use such frail earthen Vessels, as Instruments of good; by In­struction, by Example, by Prayers, by Alms, not on­ly for the Span of our Life, but for many years to come. It was a strong Consolation to Abraham, that in his Off-spring all the Nations of the Earth should be bless­ed.

The Second Motive may be taken from Honour, which is Fame acquired by doing of worthy things. After this Men so naturally thirst, that some have affected the Name of Benefactors, Luke 22. 25. who have turn'd their Power into Oppression; for of that number (as Philo shews us) was Caius Caligula. They understood what was venerable, but they did not pursue if.

[Page 16] Even the Charity which is transient, is honourable▪ and the Woman who with her Spikenard anointed our Saviour to his burial, is to this day honourably remem­bred wheresoever the History of the Gospel is read. And if to transient good our Praise is due, certainly to that which is lasting it ought not to be denied. Wherefore the Holy Virgin, considering the Salvation of the World by Christ, whose Mother she was become through God's special favour, believed not her Magnificat to be a vain­glorious Hymn, but said with humble Joy, God hath regarded the lowliness of his Hand-maiden; for behold from henceforth all Generations shall call me blessed.

But the greatest Motives of all are, Conscience, which requireth us to do good, as our Christian Duty.

Religious Fear, which sets before the Unprofitable (the unprofitable to Men, for God we cannot profit) the Terrors of the great Day. And, last of all,

Religious Hope, which moves us to be useful, in all our Capacities, whilst time lasts, upon the most comforta­ble prospect of an Eternal Recompence.

O the blessed Day, when those who abound in the work of the Lord Iesus, shall find their labour not to be in vain in the same Lord. When the penitent, pious, and righ­teous, shall behold the general Assembly of those great Souls who neither liv'd nor dy'd to themselves. May God prepare us for this Felicity, by Faith, and Repentance, and Good Works, through him who was both the desire and the blessing of all Nations, Iesus Christ the Righteous, to whom with the Father and the Holy Ghost be all Honour and Glory, World without end, Amen.


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