THE RULE OF CHARITY: OR, THE Liberal Mans Guide; Design'd, For the Use of all good CHRISTIANS.

Being the Pious Result of a Lay-Man's Ordinary Meditations.

By H.W. Gent.

Licensed according to Order.

LONDON, Printed for the Author, in the Year, MDCXC.

[...]

TO THE Right Honourable, Sir Thomas Rokeby, Kt. One of Their Majesties Judges of the Court of Common-Bench.

My Lord,

REligion being not that Melancholy Piece, that Obligeth us to be­come Unsociable, and Ene­mies to all that hath any dif­ference to Chearfulness & Plenty; but rather Instru­cteth [Page]us, how to make use of Both, so as we may best enjoy our Selves, and benefit Others: I hope that inherent Goodness, which hath rendered you so Remarkable for your Cha­rity, will not refuse Her now Your Refuge, when by Your Noble Dispositions she is En­courag'd, not only to pretend to, but confidently Plead a just Title to your Patronage.

'Tis true, the Receders from this Duty, neither re­gards her Rule, nor owns her Practice, but are afraid of all that carries the Face of Love, and true Munifi­cence; and are only Valiant in breaking those holy Laws, which Heaven hath made Eternal: That would have no such Images of God in the World, as the Distres­sed; and seem to believe, Liberality, at best, but a Romish Superstition.

But let these, I say, do Right to Julian the Apo­state, and Confess, it was no Aspersion thrown upon our Religion, when he gave out, [Page]there was nothing in it beyond a Mode of Believing, that will not allow her Sacred Sanction, nor submit to the Rule of Charity; but had rather acknowledge Her a Popish, or an Italian Ver­tue, than have Her Natu­raliz'd here, to the Prejudice of the Exchequer.

This part of it, that is here presented, is but the Imperfect Effigie of the Precept, per­form'd by one that is at pre­sent, render'd by his ill Cir­cumstances, too great a Dependent on its Mandates.

I know You would even dote upon the Piece, were it well Drawn, because it is impossi­ble, for Right-Reason, to resist the Charms of Truth and Love, Painted in good Colours to the full Proportion.

My Ambition, at present, extends but to Your Pardon, not to Your Esteem; and it is my Request, that where it cannot be admitted as a Counsel, it may serve for an Admonition: Hoping you will have the same Vene­ration [Page]for the Vertue, and not look upon Her as the less a Beauty, because I have shew'd Her in so mean a Habit.

Charity takes most de­light in her Self, when she goes Plainest, and is in a Dress of Condescention; affecting no Garbe so Little, as that of a Great Fortune.

If you discern Imperfections in the Copy, let not Charity for my Sake, fall under an Imputation; That needs no such Advocate as I am, nor such a Common Pen, but one from an Angels Wing, to advance Her Esteem.

There is a Beauty in Ho­liness, exceeding that of State; and a Glory in Hu­mility, Superior to the proud Inscript of Monarchs: Both of these waits upon Charity, and are the proper Orna­ments of Her Profession.

But here the known Antipa­thy which some Persons visibly Bares to the disregarders of this Duty, diverts my for­ward Pen, believing it not [Page]Pertinent to be too Nice in my Description of that, which hath been already so excel­lently well expressed in your Life and Conversation.

The Consideration of which, obliges me to an unwilling Silence, by Humbly taking leave to Subscribe my Self,

Your Lordships Most Faithful, and Most Devoted Servant To Command, Henry Waring.

THE Rule of Charity.

IF an Authors Place or Degree that he holdeth, can add Vertue to Words, or serve to procure Atten­tion, the Crown of Solomon will oblige you to hear a King newly become a Preacher: (The Richest Monarch that ever Reign'd in Jerusalem, and the Wisest of Eastern Sophies, steps from the Throne of David, to the Chair of Moses, and Teacheth us,) Eccles.11.4. Cast thy Bread upon the Water, and after many days thou shalt find it. This is not an ordinary Rule of Human Policy, but the Doctrine of true Religion, by which Men are best Govern'd. Commentators agree, That these words of the Preacher, [Cast thy Bread upon the Water,] exhort us to the Relief of all such as are Distrest; which the Verse following doth Illustrate: But [Page 2]when they came to Expound the single words of that Text, they differ: A few say [Cast thy Bread] that is, The sub­stance or matter whereof Bread is made [upon the Water,] that is, A fruitful Soyl, [and thou shalt find it,] that is, Reap it again, [after many days,] that is, In time of Harvest; these make the Precept of Charity to become an Allegory. Let us rather say, These Alms we bestow, are as Seed dispersed, and the Poor receives a Soyl so Fertile, that daily bestowing our Charity, we Sow with a large hand, not without assurance of receiving an ample re­turn of Eternal Rewards. This Expositi­on is the plainest, only this acceptation of the word [Bread] seems harsh and un­usual; yet we shall find that Bread may be taken for Alms, while we converse with the Hebrews, (the Original [...]) Lehem, which we commonly Translate Bread, is taken in the Scripture for all sorts of Provision; in that sense you may read it, Deut. 8.3. Lehem signifies the flesh of Beasts Sacrificed, Levit. 3.11. It is used for the Fruit of Trees, Jer.11.19. [Page 3] Lehem is also taken for the Fodder of Cattle, Psal.14.7, 9. because the Hebrew Language consisteth of few words, so that every word beareth many significa­tions; which is the reason that Lehem (among the Jews) did sometimes import all manner of subsistence, every thing that Man or Beast used to live upon; in which sense it is taken in the Pater Noster, when we Pray for Daily Bread, and in a larger Extent there, implying not only the necessaries of our Body, but also that Angels food, (that [...] , Luke 13.3.) the Blessed Sacrament, by which our Souls are nourisht for Eternity: But most Divines understands the word Bread, in the Gra­matical sense, placing the Figure in the word Waters, which carries divers In­terpretations: Some Authors will have these words of Solomon, recommended to us, Giving of Alms at all adventure, with­out having an Eye to the recompence of Re­ward: As if we were advised to cast our Bread upon those rouling and inconstant Waves, that will sooner float away with [Page 4]our Estates, than return us (in this or the next life) a laudable Cargo: But the Best and Wisest, deliver the words in a contrary Sense, which is indeed most Catholick, or Ʋniversal; affirming, To cast our Bread (or Charity) upon Solo­mon's Waters, is the safest and speediest way to Merchandize and Trade with Heaven; where, in exchange for some small tokens of Christian Love, and cheap instances of Compassion, we shall receive secret assurances in this Life of future Mercy, attended with publick Blessings; and, in the next, an Eternal weight of Glory. Either such another Fish as came to discharge the Tax for Christ, and St. Peter, shall repay our Bounty into our Bosom, or some Dolphin shall make good our Adventure: That Bread you so graciously bestow, shall not fail to be returned with Advantage, as the Ring of St. Arnold, in the Legend; or that of Polycratus, in Herodotus. The Fa­thers of the Church further ingage us to bestow our Bread, or works of Mercy, with Waters; that is, our Alms moisten­ed [Page 5]with tears of Pity; as if a liberal hand in the Donor, should be prompted to give, by the secret Motions of the Bowels of Compassion; and that the Sluces of Grief should remain open, to render the Charity Perfect.

Some would have the Waters here, signifie distressed Merchants, poor Sea­men and Passengers, that in their way of living, are compelled to struggle with an Ocean of Danger; so much indeed the word carries, and more; for by Wa­ters, all infirm and decayed persons, all people of the meanest condition are sig­nified, [Apocalyps 17.15.] such as creep into their Graves in Silence, that come and go without notice, that pass away from this World without any noise of Revenge, or pomp of Ceremonious La­mentation. The vulgar, the most com­mon sort of Men, are denoted by the word Waters, because they are very dan­gerous in their Use and Excesses, un­settled in their Condition, always Rouling this way and t'other; their Temper is Weak, their Motions Irregular, always [Page 6]in Perturbation; every Hurricane of State, Wind of false Doctrine, Tempest of Fears and Jealousies, transports and hurries them hither and thither, so as they can remain at no certainty. The Poet made such a Remark upon them, and hath suited the Epithet of Moveable, to their Inconstancy; (Mobile vulgus,) whose humour and departure the Royal Prophet so well understood, that he thought he could compare the raging of the Sea, to nothing more properly, than to the Madness of the People. So when he telleth us, The Waves of the Sea are gone over his head, and entered into his Soul, Psal. 69. he meaneth, the Insolen­cies of the Rabble; for it exceedingly troubled David, to see the common peo­ple so prone to Rebellion. The first Eng­lish Bibles of Tyndal and Erasmus have it, [Lay thy Bread upon wet Faces,] that is, upon all people in a Mourning condi­tion, that water their Couches with their Tears, and appear lamentable Objects of your Pity and Compassion. St. Jerom a­lone Interprets the words in this manner, [Page 7][Cast thy Bread,] that is, place the Word of God [upon the Waters,] that is, Peni­tent Souls; intimating, that you are not to give your wholesome Doctrine of Sal­vation, to such as will have you in De­rision. Such another Caution as that, is offered us, Eccles. 32. 4. Not to be Wise unseasonably,( [...]) for so shall we loose the good Seed of Christian Ad­monitions and Reproofs, upon Hearts ob­durate and impenitent. 'Tis a breach of that Precept, Mat.7. To cast Pearls before Swine, by offering a Creed to those that are ready to throw Contempt upon the Gospel. The English word [Cast] in the two famous Translations of the Greek and Latin Churches, is the same with Sow, Send, or Scatter: The Truth is, the first English Translators were no very good Linguists, but made an easie mistake of the letter Caph for Cheth, ( [...] for [...]) WHEREAS THE ORIGINAL WORD IS Shallah, ( [...]) they Construed it as Shallach, ( [...]) making a notorious difference in signification; for the latter imports De­liberation and Judgment, the former Pro­fuseness [Page 8]in giving; the one sounds as if we never could bestow too much; the other, that a Man as soon giveth too much as too little: These Interpretations do well together, and so long as they af­ford us divers excellent Rules of Practice, we may admit both as Orthodox. All objects of Charity are here designed by the word Waters; that is, the several parts of Mankind, all such as appear Poor, Infirm, or any way Miserable; Captives and Gally-slaves, Exiles, decayed Mer­chants or Tradesmen, distressed Passen­gers, Schollars not prefer'd, impoverish'd House-keepers, that through too much Trust, and too many bad Debts, are forc'd into Sanctuary; Widows and Orphans, that are left Friendless and Deso­late; Sick or Maimed Laborours, Hun­gry Travellers, and weeping Penitent Strangers, and all that are destitute of Friends and Comfort, that with dejected Countenances implore your Pity. The World affords us such variety of sad Objects, that the Writer might turn his Catalogue into a Volum: Some want [Page 9]Advice, some Law, some Religion, some Friends, some Medicines; yes, and so numerous are Human wants and imper­fections, that I want room and leisure to express the number of such as are Com­missioned by Heaven to receive your Charity; yet all come here under the name and notion of Waters: Is it not pity, to see the lean and naked Cripple, that hath a Stomach, to desire Bread, but wanteth Hands to receive it; or that Blind Lazar, deprived of Eyes, wherewith he might behold his own Nakedness; or the Man that is rob'd of his Taste and Feeling, by Icy distempers, or grievous Casualties? Have you never beheld the treacherous Limbs of some people, Rot­ing away before their Faces? Some have their Spirits so darkned, they guide them­selves, while Reason hath lost the right use of her Organs; others sadly want common Sense, to distinguish the Food that is safe, from that which is un­wholesome; shewing us where Nature will leave us, when we are forsaken by Heaven.

There remains yet another Querae, raised from these words of Solomon, (Cast thy Bread upon the Waters,) Whether the Royal Preacher did intend them for a Precept, or a Councel? The One doth absolutely oblige, the Other recommends a matter of Practice; If a Precept, the words must be included in the Moral Law, and universally Bind all persons of Ability. Were it no more than found Advice, some Men only should observe it, in some Cases; but take it (as it is) for a part of that Eternal Law of Na­ture, (which ought to influence all Man­kind, I might have said, all Creatures,) What living thing is there in the World, that doth not communicate some bene­fit to its fellows? and by consequence, sheweth it self loving and serviceable to the other parts of the Creation. And shall Man alone degenerate? Shall be that is Master of Reason, shew himself a Beast to his Companions, whilst the most Irrational part of the Universe teacheth him the way to be Charitable? Let him not know, how to prove unkind to his [Page 11]Fellows; that cannot but know, how much he hath received from our good Master.

You may prove Solomon's words a part of the Law of Nature, by those indelible Characters of the Soul, that exert their Powers in the practise of Pagans. We find among those people, that are yet in the shadow, positive Rules of doing Good, both to their own, and to Strangers; which not deriving themselves from the Edicts of Divine Revelation, must be ascribed to the provident Dictates of Nature.

But we may better prove Alms a Duty, from the express Reason of Holy Scrip­ture; wherein Uncharitableness is consi­dered as a grievous Sin, because it is in­consistent with the Love of God, and di­rectly contradicts the meaning of Di­vine Precepts.

That most eminent Seer puts the Question, 1 Job. 3.17. He that seeth his Brother in want, and shutteth up his Bowels of Compassion from him, how dwelleth the love of God in him? The Querae there [Page 12](as in several other places in the Bible,) is put for a vehement Negative; and im­ports, that in obdurate hearts, the Love of God cannot be Resident. The Prayers of Uncharitable people are not answered; for God giveth us, because he percieves us free to give, and forgive others: He that stoppeth his ears at the cries of the Poor, shall cry himself, and not be heard, was a Proverb in Jury, and continues a great Truth all the World over, (Prov. 21. 13.) for so God delights to retalliate with his Creatures.

Want of Love (in us) occasions our Wants, and bespeaks Unhappiness for us in this Life, and in the next, everlasting Perdition. There is not another Sin charg'd upon Damn'd Dives, besides his want of Charity; and those Wretches that are mentioned in St. Math. 25. were con­demned only for their unkindness to the Brethren, and their gross defects in the visible part of this Duty.

You would ask, In what part of the Decalogue, the Rule of Charity is con­tain'd? Bellarmine following Aquinas, [Page 13]refers it to the Fifth Commandment, which includes all Rights appertaining to Su­periors, Equals, and Inferiors; and of this last sort, the Poor are Principals: And of all Duties belonging to the Poor, Alms is most considerable; and there is scarce any thing that we are oblig'd to do for them, but comes within the Pre­cincts of Charity.

Other Authors derive this Duty from the Eighth Commandment, and will have Robbery to be but one and the same thing with Uncharitableness; affirming, That he that is able to Give, and withholds his Alms from those that Want, and call for his Relief, Robs his poor Neighbour of his just Comfort, and God of his Ho­nour. Therefore, the Phraise is changed, St. Luk. 16. 9. and Solomons Precept, be­come an Evangelical Law; where it is not left at our choice, to do good; but we are charged to make us Friends with the Mammon of Unrighteousness. 'Tis cal­led Unrighteous Mammon, saith S. Austin, not only when it is unjustly acquir'd, but also while it is Uncharitably detain'd [Page 14]from those that are Necessitated. Is it commendable, that I live in superfluous manner, while my poor Brother wanteth to suffice Nature? Sure, it is a wrong to withhold from the Poor what I can easily spare, in their Affliction and Extremity. Superflua diviti necessaria sunt Pauperi, aliena retinet qui ista tenet. Augustine saith, The Rich mans Exceedings, are the Poor mans Portion; so as he unjustly seems to Defraud others, that reserves to him­self more than is sufficient.

St. Ambrose, in a rougher Dialect, af­firms, It is no less Criminal, for Rich per­sons to deny Necessitated people Relief, than to take from them that they have, and use violence to the Laws of Property. Yes, and some proceed further, reducing these words of Solomon to the Sixth Command­ment; making Uncharitable Men no bet­ter than Thieves and Murderers; agree­able to that of Eccles. 34. 21. The Bread of the Needy, is their Life; he that de­fraudeth them thereof, is a Man of Blood. So that we see, to detain necessary Pro­vision from them that Want, is to shor­ten [Page 15]the lives of Poor men; and, as much as in us lies, to deprive him of Succession, it is to Famish our afflicted Neighbour, (the sharpest of all Deaths) and in him to seek to Murther his Posterity.

You hear how this Edict of Alms, has been referred to Three of the Ten Com­mandments, yet more properly belongs to the Second Table, referring to the ge­neral Law of our Neighbour; which Law, (as St. John expounds it, cap. 3. 18.) Con­sists not in words alone, but in Truth, and real Testimonies of Affection. Who shall believe we Love indeed, without appa­rent works of Love and Charity? The Scripture teacheth us a Method of doing Mercy, ( [...]) not talking of it only; for then are acts of Charity best perform'd, when fewest words are made of the Benevolence: Giving of Alms, is at one and the same time, to Love God, and honour Him in his Image; to make a Friend, and to relieve a Neighbour.

Our Blessed Saviour calleth it, An evil Generation, who demanded a sign of their Redemption: And we cannot Repute it a [Page 16]better, that ask, Where is the Mandate for well doing? A small excuse Men are willing to make use of, to save their Estates; and where the Commandment is Positive, they seek for their own sakes, (more than their Neighbours,) to dwin­dle the Precept into a Councel: Yet is this more than a meer matter of Advice; for it is a Breviate of what our dear Master left us in Charge, at his Ascen­sion; viz. That we Love one another; which Love admits of no proof inferior to that of Almsgiving.

Holy Writ, and all the Tomes of the Fathers, abounds with Exhortation to this Duty: But this is added to poor Mens miseries, they now live in a cold Age of the World; and here, in a very chill Climate. 'Tis a wonder, to hear Men, every where, boast of Faith, with­out Mercy; and when they shew no fruits of a living Faith, still do boast of Godli­ness: For (Charitate ipsa, nihil Charius,) Love, and its Effects, are some of our greatest Rarities.

When we speak of Christians, none can be mistaken, where we find Charity, but the Giver, and he not easily; but admitting he may loose part of his Re­ward, by valuing his Gift at too great a Rate, or by wronging himself, by the manner of Giving; we have a great as­surance, that he that pretends to Faith, without Works, deceives himself, and the whole World, and offers to put a Cheat upon his Master; for he doth under­value, at one and the same time, his Af­flicted Brethren, and the Truth of Divine Promises.

Some tells of three sorts of Command­mandments, that occur in Scripture, Af­firmative, Negative, and Mixt: The Decalogue consists of such as are mostly Negative, though some of them are Af­firmative; As, Keep holy the Sabbath: Honour thy Parents, &c. And more of that sort we have in the Bible; as, Mourn for thy Sins; Shew Mercy; Do Pe­nance, &c. There are also Commandments of a Mixt nature; as of Restoration, and Forgiveness, &c. A Negative Commandment [Page 18]doth oblige all Persons at all Times, eve­ry where, and Eternally: Affirmative Precepts are binding for ever, but not in all Times, nor in all Places; Mixt Commandments oblige us at all Times, and in all Places; but not always.

I shall not determine to which of these Sorts the Words of Solomon may best be reduc'd; but, am certain, they oblige all persons of Ability, to Confer Benefits, and pay good Offices, according to their power, to all persons, without Excuse or Exemption; that entreat their As­sistance.

Cast thy Bread upon the Waters.] We read it Cast in our Common English-Bi­bles; intimating, That if we are oblig'd to cast, or scatter our Charity, we ought not to be very curious in Examining every Circumstance concerning our Gift, and the Conditon of the Receiver; but we should give frequently, and li­berally, without an excessive Care to whom, or to what purpose our Donative is bestow'd: It is enough, that we know our own Intentions to be Warrantable, [Page 19]without searching too strickly into the Meaning or Appetite of the Petitioner: Let us not be too scrupulous in seeking a very fit Object, to make the best use of what we bestow; lest such a severe Examination should obstruct our Cha­rity: 'Tis lawful to enquire, but not with too much Curiosity, how the Receiver became Poor; but if he have fail'd in Diligence to Live, let us not fail in his Support, for to supply his present Want, which is the way to Encourage him to be Diligent for the future: Never let the Despicable Circumstances of any person in Despair, or any manner of Af­fliction, divert thy Bounty; It is a Niceness God cannot approve, who dis­penceth many Mercies to thee, where few are deserved.

But if we take it according to that other Reading, and Translate for the word Cast, or Scatter; Send, or Sow; it implies Caution, and addeth an Act of Prudence to that of Charity: Then it will import a Care and Art in Giving, as well as in Enjoyment. Where Solomon [Page 20]directs us to send our Charity, he does intend we should give Alms with Dis­cretion, and to be Cautious in dispen­cing our Bounty. Alms is a sort of Mer­chandize that we Barter with Heaven, and which we ought to send with Circumspection, that they may not mis­carry. 'Tis no Wise-man's way to be Careless of what he sendeth, but he com­mits it to the surest Hands, that it may be safely conveyed to the Owner: A small Token, a Ring, or a Letter, is not trust­ed with every idle Fellow that is of small Trust, or no good Reputation; but we make it our Business, to know from whence the Messenger cometh, and whi­ther he designs to Travel, that taketh charge of our meanest Presents. The Wife-man here adviseth us to the same Method; so to send our Alms in the safest Bottoms, and by God's usual Messengers, that they may be safely deliver'd; not suffering our Contributions to Perish, or strengthen the Hand of the Evil-Doer: We must not Give with a Design to pro­mote evil Councels, ill Practises, or bad [Page 21]Company; least of all, must we give to further Lascivious Courses, or multi­ply Places of Debauchery: To do this, is not giving Alms, but a joyning of For­ces against Heaven, to augment the Re­venues of the Riotous; whose great Work is to maintain Brothels, or repair Houses of Licentious Entertainment, where Christ hath no Habitation; such Bene­volence is prejudicial to the Rule, and to the Reward of Charity.

[Send thy Bread;] Sending implies a Communication of the Good Things that are in our Power, to such as live at a Distance, as well as to the Neigbour­hood: Let us do good abroad, for that argueth true Devotion at home; not to give only so far as our Hand can ex­tend, but as far as our Gift can be trans­ported by the Hands of Others. The Houshold of Faith is first to be consider'd and reliev'd, and what remains is the Portion of distressed Strangers, and Un­believers. I wish I could truly say, Eng­land had not as much need of this Do­ctrine, as any Nation; I think we have [Page 22]been so far from approving our selves Charitable to Strangers, that we scarce afford them Civil usage. Let us no more pretend to Science and Reformation, until we cease to be Barbarous, and have learn'd Humanity: What if they be remote? what if they be Jews? what if they be Turks? what if they be Pagans? we must not excuse our selves, by pleading Ignorance of their Lineage, their Principles, or their Country: 'tis enough that we know their unfortunate Condition. Send, is an Imperative word, that leaveth not the Thing Indifferent, or at our Election; but chargeth us to give Alms, and to do good, according to our Ability, without making abatement for want of Merit in the Receiver; or for the sake of the strong Aversion we bear to his Person, or to his Religion. The word Send, declares it a Duty in­cumbant, expresly commanding us to shew Mercy, without Excuses, and with­out Delay: If you neglect to bestow what you can well Spare, 'tis at worst an Act of Injustice, at best, a Detinue. [Page 23]Send your Charity where you cannot go, for fear of Corporal Danger, or De­famation: it is infamous for some per­sonally to give to some people; there you must send your Charity, where your go­ing to carry it, would bring upon you a Scandal: Shorten not your Hand of Suc­cour from the poor Prisoner, that's al­most pin'd and smoother'd in a noysom Dungeon. Send your Bounty to the Sick, that are going to their Graves with some Infectious Disease: You may safely send it, when you cannot go with safety. Yes, and there are some Cases, wherein the good Christian must hazard Reputation and Life to perform good Of­fices; that is, where God or Nature, his Religion or Country, are most nearly Con­cern'd: Here it is he must Advance a­gainst all Dangers, struggle with all Ad­versities, & encounter with evil Beasts, as S. Paul did at Ephesus: We must fight upon such great Occasions, an whole Army of Scandals; there we must not matter Ob­loquy, but oppose our selves to the Ty­ranies of State, and stand the unwhole­some [Page 24]Censures of the Insolent and un­grateful Multitude. There are Evan­gelical Counsels that have the same In­fluence over good Men, as if they car­ried with them the Nature and Force of a Commandment: But these words of Solomon are a positive Law, which, not only Invites us to, but Prescribes us Obedience. The Neglect or Omission, to observe those Counsels, we read in the Gospel; as, single Life, voluntary Poverty, &c. are but Imperfections in our Nature; whereas the Breach of this Law of Cha­rity, is a plain Sin, a complicated Sin; and of that sort, that renders the Sinner odious in the highest Degree; because there is more comprehended in this Law of Love, than in all other Laws, Divine and Humane; for Love is the Life and End of Laws, and this one is the Ac­complishment of the Ten Commandments. There is nothing enjoyn'd by the Church, for Defects in Alms-giving, because there it is that God reserveth the Sentence to Himself, and punisheth the failure in that Duty, with more than the Church is [Page 25]willing to Declare: Only God hath been pleas'd to Reveal how far good Works are acceptable to him, and what Happiness they will procure for us hereafter, that He may see how far we are willing to proceed in our Charity, for the sake of Divine Love, and for an Eternal Re­ward. Send your Alms therefore as far as Paul or Silas, Camels, or Ships will carry them; from Rome to Macedon, or Antioch; or from the place of your Re­sidence, to Jerusalem or Hungary: To this end we were indued with reason­able Faculties, with the Comforts of this Life, and all those Temporal Blessings that are reacht within the Complicated Name of an Estate; that we might Ho­nour our God in Compliance with his holy Will; and that we might enjoy and benefit our selves and others.

[Send thy Bread.] Bread is of excel­lent Use, and large Extent; signifying all that is necessary for Man's Subsistence: All manner of Provision is included in that Monosyllable. The Chaldee. Dialect expresseth a Sumptuous Feast, by the [Page 26]word, Bread delighting to set forth a large Bill of Fare in a few Letters, and with a single word, to furnish a Table more for Pleasure than Necessity. And this luxurious Sense, the word Bread carries, Ecclesiastes 10.19. For which cause some inform us, the Grecians derived the word [ [...]] that signifies every Thing: and their God Pan, from Panis, that goeth for Bread among the Latins; nei­ther is the Dearth of Flesh, Wine or Oyls, but the want of Bread alone, styled a Famine in Scripture. Bread is termed the Staff of Life, that supports the Feeble, (Psalm 104.) And, fulness of Bread, was ever reputed one of the greatest Blessings of the Jewish Nation; the Plenty thereof prevents Insurrecti­ons; for such as follow'd Christ, chiefly for the sake of the Loaves and Fishes; more for the Miracles he wrought, to feed them, and heal them, than for the sake of his Prayers, or his Preaching. The Mul­titude, (I mean those that are ready to make their Belly their God,) are most Devout there, where they can find most [Page 27]Bread, and care not to embrace a Religion that commends Fasting: remove their Al­tars, set aside their Bishops, take away their Priests, and their Christ too, you provoke them not much, so as you leave them entire, their Wine and their Man­chet. Our ordinary Prayer, is for daily Bread, with which every one of us ought to rest contented, is the one thing necessary, if it be taken for our common Provision; but it is the only thing neces­sary, if taken as divers excellent Wri­ters, and Dr. Person upon the Creed, Ex­pounds it, The Divine Food of our Souls, the Blessed Sacrament. The Roman Satyrist knew how much the People va­lu'd Bread, while he informs us, they covet nothing above [Panem & circen­ses,] Bread and Recreation; meaning by the First of the Two, all necessary Provision. [Cast thy Bread;] that is, thy Substance or Estate, thy Means of Living; or whatever a Man needeth: If it be dear to thee, it will be dearer to thy God; who when you esteem it not much, values it as little. He was no less [Page 28]than a Royal Divine, that useth this Ex­pression; Shall I give to God that which costeth me nothing? The Poor are God's Receivers, and his Factors; if you have Ability to Dispence much to them for his Service, and to send great Things by their Hands, you shall be certain of am­ple Returns. That is not to be called Charity, but ridding of your House, to bestow some pitiful thing upon the Poor, that other-ways to keep, would dispa­rage their Master. How can Men expect their Reward to be Great, where they place a matter of so small Merit? Bread, implies something that is good, and some-what in readiness; to shew you, that you are to Give with Expedition, that which may prove beneficial to the Petitioner: That which you bestow, ought to be wholsome, or advantageous, conducing to the Health or Profit of the Receiver: You are not so much to ex­pect his Pleasure; though in some Cases of Despair or Sickness, that is not alto­gether to be neglected. Let your Boun­ty be such as Nature requireth, rather [Page 29]than a Banquet, or piece of Rarity.

Cast, or Send thy Bread; give the same in Substance or in Quality, with which Thou dost usually furnish thy own Ta­ble: So 'tis in the Chaldee, Spare from thy own Mouth the Bread of thy Table: For this end did the Church anciently ap­point frequent Fasts, that the Provision which was spar'd by good Mens Ab­stinence, might supply the Wants of those that groan'd in Poverty.

Thus by feeding the Mouths of the Hungry, thou dost engage the Tongues of the needy Beads-man, to make Pray­ers and Intercessions for Thee at the Throne of Mercy, praising God for thy sake, the Author of all Good to Man­kind; and by their Importunate Petiti­ons, taking Heaven by violence, and cal­ling down Blessings upon Thee and thy Family.

It was thus our Fore-fathers; thus the first and best Christians Fasted, giving those Dishes of Meat to the Poor, which themselves should have eaten. But now, [Terras astrâ reliquit;] Devotion is fled, [Page 30]and too many, not only devour the Meat & Subsistance of the Poor, but the poor Men too; while any thing given to Cha­ritable Uses, is interpreted with a pur­pose to Feast Parish-Officers. How ma­ny may we see Fatted daily with Varie­ties, and Surfeited with Exceedings; ser­ving the Poor with nothing, or that which their Dogs would refuse; delight­ing more in Foddering their Beasts, than Relieving their hungry Brethren; and to feed Hogs, or Hounds, are Covetous to pine helpless Christians.

I hope in all this there is but little Re­formation; to let the poor Man want Bread for his Family, while a Rich Es­quire perhaps usurps the Owners Living; driving out poor Christians from their own Habitations, to keep Hawks, and Whores, and Hounds, in their Abodes: You cannot imagine it is this Solomon means, when he says; Cast thy Bread upon the Waters. Bread is a cheap and ready thing to bestow; you need not go far to porcure such an Alms for the un­fortunate Petitioner.

This Imports, that we must not serve the Poor with Delays, but make Dis­patches in our Charity; because, what we are to give is ready; there is no occa­sion for us to go to Burdeaux for Wines, or to Virginia for Smoak; or to fetch In­dian Silks, or Import Persian Tapsteries, in order to perform Works of Mercy: Give your Bread, that is neither Dear to pur­chase, nor difficult to procure. What should they, poor Hearts, that stand wait­ing for your Alms, do with useless Toys, or extravagant Curiosities? 'Tis no Cha­rity to bestow a Thing that is vain, or superfluous, tending more to Man's Ad­miration, than Profit. You may Give and Debauch, as well as Give and Re­lieve; 'tis Bread, not Bottles of Brums­wick or Canary, that are required; What is it you can more easily reach, or forgo? Yet is this Bread more acceptable to the hungry Soul, than Ingots of Gold in a Wilderness, or a Palace of Ivory. If the Historian did not take too much up­on Trust, those Aegyptian-Children that were suckled by Goats, and not permit­ted [Page 32]to hear any Humane Speech, were taught by Nature to pronounce the word Beccos, that signifies Bread in the Coptick Language: But if the truth of this Report faileth; 'tis certain, our Lamp of Light, [Byolychimum;] by which we live, and move, and make such a Figure as we have, subsisteth not, but by daily supplys of some proper Oily Nutriment: and Nature cannot be so far wanting to Her-self, and to Us, as not to seek and demand (after her own way) somewhat of Subsistence to preserve that Vital Flame from sinking in the Lamp, or in the Heart, its Receptacle, from a dark Extinction.

[Cast thy Bread.] The Bread thou gi­vest must be thine; it ought to be stam­ped with the Character of Property; let it be thine by some known right, and in­disputable Possession: Thine lawfully, not obtained by Fraud, or Violence. He that grindeth the Face of the Poor, to feed an Hospital with the Bread of such Get­tings: He that purveys, purloins, and pilfers, and out of much, so gathered to­gether, [Page 33]thinks to distribute a little, be­stowing now and then some small Alms for Ostentation, doth an iller thing, than the Man that stealeth a Goose, to stick a Feather: for, to lessen a Levy for the Poor, he puts a scorn upon all obligati­ons of Nature; and to open himself a way to the Name of Riches, he forceth a breach in the Law of Nations; so pro­mising to himself not to shew a Bounty, that shall exceed noise and appearance, he falleth under those Curses, that con­stantly pursue Covetous and unjust Wretches. Not much inferior in doing wrong, is he, that oweth all he bestows, and meaneth not otherwise to discharge his Debts in this World, than by making God (by giving to the Poor) Trustee for ballancing his present Account, and his Debtor, to make good his future Estate: This is not to be truly Chari­table, out of his own, (as every man ought to be,) but out of his Creditors Coffers; and seeming to be Zealous for God, he wrongeth his Friend that lends or forbears the Charity he makes bold [Page 34]to dispose: Nor is it a single Injury; be­cause in such acts, he doth prejudice to Human Society, that is best preserved by just and punctual Dealing: Have we not those among us, that by Wit and Deceit, live out one half of the year, exercising them both in Worldly matters? and the other half, they wear out much in the same manner, with specious pretences of Law, and Religious Hypocrisie; they walk with their Eyes lifted up to Hea­ven; and would have all others do so too, that they may not be able to discern the Lands and Tenements they have seized upon Earth, by the Arts of Oppression.

Such as can Usurp Lordships under a Pretext of Law, and take Sanctuary in a Church, while they Rob the Hospital, shall They hope to expiate their Sins by some small Contributions? or to escape the Torments of Hell, by leaving at their Death some small Legacy to the Poor of the Parish? Their hopes are vain and dangerous, that hope by Building an Alms-house, to obtain a License from Heaven, for the Usurpation of a Lordship; [Page 35]what is this, but to render our selves Slaves to the Prince of Darkness, and Enemies to good and honest Men, all our lives; only with hopes of serving God a little at our Death, and of doing some good, it may be an hour before our Fu­nerals? Let all good Men rather believe, that Shame and Confusion, and horrid Spectres, attend the Tombs of such un­just Persons! and that the Houses, from which those miserable Wretches are con­vey'd, (when Life and Sin forsakes them) shall be daily Besieg'd with the Cries of Widows and Orphans, and with the Cur­ses of all those distressed Creatures that were undone, and made pitiful objects of Charity, by the power and artifices of those Ill-livers; and that those Mansions of theirs (if there be left one Stone upon another) shall remain upon Earth, but as execrable Monuments of their Impiety. Supposing there were none of these, yet to defer our Charity till Death, is to lose much of the commendation that is inseparable from holy Practises; because then it appears a work of necessity, to [Page 36]give that away, which we cannot longer possess: sure it is not a very deserving matter, for me to pretend to relieve or gratify some person with that thing, which refuseth any more to own me for its Master. Thus Divines love to speak, that they may quicken Charitable minds, to call down Blessings betimes upon themselves, and their Posterity; to secure their Estates to their Issue, by giving Alms according to their Power; and that the best Christians may thereby feel and acknowledge the reward of good Works, before they change their condition.

Send thy Bread.] Thou hast no Au­thority to dispose, (under the notion of thy own,) of the Bread of the circum­vented Buyer, or the defrauded Labourer; least of all must you bestow the Shew­bread, or that which hath been Sacrile­giously taken from God's own Table; but send the Bread that is lawfully thine, by just Title and harmless Possession; if not thine by Inheritance, yet thine by Gift, Purchase, or Labour; thine by some honest way of Trading or Desert; thine [Page 37]by lawful Arts, or laudable Industry: Whosoever giveth Alms of ill gotten Goods, doth worse than the Fellow that offer'd a Sow to Pallas: 'Tis a great af­front that he doth to the Deity, offer­ing to GOD that which is more loath­some to Him, than Swines Blood, the price of a Dog, or the hire of an Harlot: He Killeth the Son, before the Father's Face, says the Wisdom of Sirach: Eccles. 34. 20. He Selleth Joseph his Brother, that he may carry home a Coat to his Sier. I wish there were fewer of those Men in this Age, who being Honoured with the Blessing of a plentiful Estate, are yet Covetous to become the Executors of their poorest Neighbours; making daily Merchandize with the Beggar's­Penny, selling the Sweat of the Labour­ers Brows, his single Beast, or little Cot­tage; and when they have given them­selves Possession of all the small Pittance he has, they continue to force him into desperate Extremities. This is not to Cast thy Bread upon the Waters; but to [Page 38]cast thy self backward, to Worship the Tempter, and gratifie him with thy Fall and Degradation.

'Tis no better, to cozen all the Week in the Shop, that you may give Alms on the Lord's-Day; or to Impoverish as many as possibly you can, in your whole Life, only to leave behind some small Relict of an Estate [when you Die,] either to Feast the Parish, or Repair the Church, or Adorn it, as some (not of the better sort of Christians) fancy'd they did, by placing a Cheap-Figure of the Serpent upon the Steeple.

The Wicked Man's Legacy to the Poor, when this World will continue no longer with him, is no Charity, but a sort of Restitution; which cannot pro­duce its proper Effect, because it is not performed to the right Party. Let that therefore be thine, that thou givest away, that thy Alms may be more acceptable.

Cast thy Bread upon the Waters.] We may understand by these Waters, all those that are most subject to Tears, the Sick and Friendless, and such as are any [Page 39]way brought into Distress: The Stranger, the Widow, and Fatherless, that go hand in hand, throughout the Scripture.

All those sad objects of Pity, that are not only sent into this World, to shew what the Lord is able to do, but also, what Flesh and Blood deserves to suffer, (and more than that, to make Experi­ment of what Men are willing to do for GOD, our great Benefactor) are sent hither to be Receivers of our Charity: You may read their Errand in their Faces, and their Commission in Scripture; where GOD passeth His Word for the Foundation of the Charitable Man's Me­rit; and gives His Justice and Honour to be Security for your Repayment: 'Tis this Infallible Word of God, upon which you put the Adventure; these Waters would deceive you, without that Word's Assurance: For, what Recompence can you expect from the meanest Abject, from such as are loaded with this World's In­juries, with Losses, or with Nature's Im­perfections?

'Tis the way of many of those that [Page 40]stand upon good Bottoms (as to this Life) to make use of the Times, and of all Expedients, to Advance or Secure their Fortunes, to Court those that are in high Places, and Flatter such as are in Authority; whereas GOD giveth us an Original of another nature, Exalting the Humble, and Filling the Hungry, while the Rich are sent away Empty; not out of Hatred to their Persons, but because He hath already conferred upon them extraordinary Favours, and rendered them (before) remarkable Objects of his Bounty; those Waters are Fluxive and Inconstant: Court the Waves, and they will Drown you for your Kind­ness: Yes, and much like that, is the Temper of the poorest sort of People; Give them, and they will throw them­selves upon you, and throw Dirt in your Face; yet their Aspersions shall but add weight to their own Sorrow, and imper­fect Comfort.

The Waters you Feed, shall threaten your Ruine with their raging Motions and Inconstancy; yet the Command [Page 41]runs, you must Feed these Waters, tho' it is the Nature of them to let the Benefit sink and disappear: Fear not, it is in their Will, but not in their Power, either to hide or to drown your works of Mercy: And, for your Incouragement, remem­ber these Waters, even the poorest Vas­sals are made for your Ease, your Ho­nour, and your Advantage; make it your business to imploy them in the best manner: These Waters will do you good, if you understand their Uses; there is a way for you to be Charitable to the Poor, and at the same time receive profit by their Service. It is an Element that is an useful part of the World; and with­out the Poor, the Rich knows not how to Subsist.

Livy, long ago, made Three sorts of Men, and his division is thus far verify'd; there has always been a Governing part, and a Teaching part among Men; and there is a Third sort, that seem to have been Born meerly for Labour and Obe­dience. He that hath his Talent in his Head, or in his Coffer, must imploy such [Page 42]as have it in their Hands and Feet; by which, they may serve themselves with the just and necessary Comforts of this Life, and, at the same time, prove Be­nefactors.

Cast thy Bread upon the Waters.] intimating, we are obliged to do Good, without Grudging, as if what thou Givest were to Perish; not looking to perpetu­ate thy Name, or obtain a present Ap­plause; not expecting so much as a ver­bal Recompence from the Receiver. Write upon the Sea, with the best of Pencils, and a Man of exquisite Sight shall not find there one legible Character: No more should we perform acts of Cha­rity, for Sight or Ostentation; because the Good Works that are most secretly carried, shall be most, and most openly Rewarded; yet there is a Time, when Good Works ought to be Visible, and so to be Transacted, that they may be discern'd:

1. For Distinction, that a good Chri­stian may be signaliz'd by his Charity.

2. For the Example and Encourage­ment [Page 43]of others; such Lights are now a days wanting, to those that are misled in the ways of Darkness.

GOD hath so ordered his Blessings, that many times visible Good Works, and publick Rewards meet, and are as the noise of so many Waters: The flux, re­flux, and freedom of Motion in that Ele­ment, teacheth us to multiply Good Works, and give Alms Liberally: The Lord loveth the Chearful Giver, whose Acts of Charity resemble the Waves rolling one upon another.

Whoever communicates his Bread unwillingly, more to deliver himself from the Petitioner's Importunity, than for the sake of Christ, or in obedience to his Commands; that Man, surely, either distrusts GOD's Knowledge, or his Pro­mises, imagining his Master is ignorant of his Estate, or his Meaning; or he dares not trust Him, to requite his Kindness.

Will you hear another Reason, that may prevail with us to Cast our Bread upon the Waters; It is, because those Wa­ters, by their several Channels, return [Page 44]to their Head and Fountain. CHRIST is that Head, Source, or Spring of those Waters, on which our Bread is to be scatter'd. Christ is stiled Shiloh in our English Bibles, signifying a Fountain of living Waters: The Poor stream from Him; and, by them, our Charity shall suddenly be return'd into Christ's Bosom: For this, among other Reasons, our Shiloh, the Saviour of the World, did appear Poor, and destitute of Friends, and Temperal Comforts, to promote, and to make Tryal of the World's Charity.

Care is to be taken, that the Frowns of the Alms-giver may not sowre the Bread he bestows; but let a liberal hand, and a chearful Heart, accompany'd with Affability, render the Gift more ob­liging, and the Gratuity more valuable; so will your Kindness every where be welcome; so will it be manifest, you Give for the Love of Christ, and not meer­ly in hopes of a Requital: He that shew­eth Mercy, let him do it with Chearfulness, says the great Doctor of the Gentiles, Rom. 12. 2 Cor. 9. 7. From such a Ge­nerous [Page 45]Mind proceeds the Name of Li­berality, says Seneca, in his Tract of Be­nefits; whose Sentences, more than Mo­ral, seem Abstracts of that Evangelical Doctrine, which St. Paul Taught the Romans, to whom Seneca was a Friend, and some think a Disciple: Those Gifts are less acceptable that casually fall, or have been extorted by vehement en­treaties; but of the Two, the first are most grateful; that is, where a Kind­ness that was design'd for one Party, happens, against the Will of the Donor, to be the Lot of another; which some­times cometh to pass, through a mistake, by our particular Providence.

A good Christian will approve him­self habitually Kind; and he will, in pre­paration of Mind, always remain Chari­table. This readiness to Give, is plea­sing to Heaven, as much as to the long­ing Receiver; whose desire is not pre­vented, altho' his Demands are, by the greatest expedition that can be used in dispensing your Bounty: ('tis in these cases, that speedy Help is double Assi­stance; [Page 46] Multaque gratius venit quod facili, quam quod plena manu datur.) It matters not, whether the Hand be full, so as it be ready to communicate.

The Person that doubts or delays to relieve the Poor, shews some unwilling­ness; and while he taketh time to con­sult the case, and defers his Answer, by causing the Petitioner too long to wait upon his Pleasure, he spoyls the Benefit.

Go, and come again to Morrow, are the words of no good Christian, and but of an ill Neighbour: 'Tis a subtle sort of Denial, that proves the more cruel, be­cause it is Politick. I would chuse rather to refuse the Mendicant's Request at once, than twice to Answer him coldly; so as my delays, by tyring the poor Creatures Patience, shall force him to seek that Assistance from others, which is in my Power to contribute. Such is the spiritual Nature of all Works of Mercy, they are apt to evaporate by slow effusions; whereas he that suddenly Giveth, by shortning the Time, doubles the Recei­ver's Profit. You cannot be delighted [Page 47]with the Sighs, Groans, and Tears of Christians, almost Pin'd and Naked; Must the sorrowful Accents of the Poor, awaken your dull Charity? Then suppose your self as much in Want, and as im­portunate, imploring at the Gate of Heaven, of GOD, for Mercy; then imagine an Angry Judge delaying to give Ear to your Complaints: Why should not that GOD you have so much, and often Offended, use you with the same vigour, and examine you with the same strictness? Why should he not hear, before your Face, ill Neighbours accu­sing you with Violence and Falshood; scarce permitting you to plead in your own defence? Why should he not take all advantage of your Pleading? This is your way; and therefore, no more than in Justice you ought to expect. For­bear your hopes of Mercy, after your Death, which in your Life you have re­fus'd to extend to your afflicted Brother.

Cast thy Bread upon the Waters.] Remember it is an Element of Universal use, in which all plead a freedom; de­sign'd [Page 48]for the Benefit of all Creatures; and such is the nature of Charity; 'Tis universally communicable, and ought to be every where flowing. We are o­blig'd, not only to Give, but to Give u­niversally, without respecting the Person, or enquiring too severely into the occa­sion, or other circumstances of his De­cay: Hear Saint Paul publishing this Doctrine, Gal. 6. Do good unto all Men: 'Tis a general Rule, without exception; yet there is a Remark follows in the Tenth Verse of that Chapter, That it ought to be done to the Houshold of Faith espe­cially; directing our Alms to be distri­buted in a more particular manner to some, than to others.

Receive the Rule therefore in this Sense, Do good to All, but to some more eminently; Give there, and Give yonder, but Give here more plentifully; Allow them, but Maintain these; there Relieve, but here Support: You must look upon the Houshold of Faith as your own Fa­mily, that calls for your Paternal Care and Conduct, as the Neighbourhood does for your Kindness.

The best next, are those good Offices shewed to your Country: Then all Men, and the whole World of Pagans, so far as they Want, and you are able to Con­tribute, are become Objects of your Charity: For all good Christians are so far from wishing, and so much further from endeavouring the Confusion of any Person, that they make it their daily business; not only to pray for the Con­version of All, but useth all Means, at all Times, to benefit their Souls with their Bodies.

Truly, that Mandate for Alms is very large, St. Luke 6. 30. Give to every Man that asketh, &c. and He that Imposeth that Command, is Lord of all that we Possess: And that we may afford so to Give, He hath made us as large a Pro­mise, St. Matthew 7. Ask, and you shall have; Seek, and you shall find, &c. St. Jerom, with an Eye upon these words of our Blessed Saviour, says, We must do Good without Discretion; not Setting, but Sowing; not Planting, but Scattering our Acts of Charity; not using too much [Page 50] Exactness, but all manner of Freedom in Giving; so shall we reconcile to our selves a multitude of Blessings. Thus are we encouraged by the Prophet Isaiah, Blessed are you that Sow beside all Waters.

The Evangelical Seer herein imitates the Language of Solomon, Cast thy Bread upon the Waters, &c. Ben. Sira, varies the Phrase, saying, Scatter thy Bread upon the Waters, and upon firm Land also: By Firm Land, he means Men of Estates, Men that are in no Want, as Magistrates, and Temporal Powers, (they are the Terra sirma,) and the Rule is, to make this Commandment of Charity ex­tend to that great Duty of Obedience, to which the Jews, as well as we, had enough to be Exhorted; that their Man of Israel desir'd should include all sort of Allegiance, which is a Debt of the Subject, to the Supream Power of the Nation; but because this is a Tiffany piece, that will abide but gentle touches. I shall leave the Rabbi to mannage his own Argument: 'Tis certain, Love com­prehends all that we owe to Superiors, [Page 51]as well as Inferiors; and we ought to Obey the Higher Powers; more for Conscience sake, than Terror.

This is the meaning of those Doctors, that tell us, Dominion is founded in Love, and that by Love, the World is Govern'd: But, while I am discoursing of Alms, I shall confine the Words of Solomon to a more narrow Signification: And for­saking the notion of the Rabbi, side with that of the Philosopher, Vbiamque homo beneficio est locus; Where-ever a Man is, there's place for a Benefit; for where there is a Man, there is Misery; which, as soon as he declares, we are oblig'd to shew him Mercy. When the Poor Man standeth at thy door, in expectation of thy Kindness, be careful your Examina­tions of his Person, his Parentage, his Education, his Country, his manner of Living, be not over tedious or detri­mental; not made to protract Time, or find Excuses, or that you may take oc­casion of Denial: Yet you may lawfully question the Party concern'd, as the Ma­riners did Jonah; Who art thou? Where [Page 52] is thy Habitation? What's your Imploy? Not as a News-monger, or one fond of Idle Stories; but as a good Christian, to discourage Idleness, and promote Piety: Not looking for eminent Vertues in the Beggar, nor demanding large Testimo­nials; as if you were to bestow an Office, or bequeath him your Estate; as if you were not then design'd to relieve his present Wants, but to reward his Merits: Enquire only for God's-sake, and Give for God's-sake, from GOD alone expect­ing a Recompence.

What if these Waters are many? What if they rise higher and higher upon our Practice? Fear not the failure of your Estate, because the Sacrifices are frequent and numerous; because Alms is derived from the Corruption of the Greek, Ele­emosynary, [ [...]] whose Root is Mercy, [ [...]] of which Christ is the Fountain, and that Fountain is inexhau­stible: Yet there is a Barbarous Author, derives Elemosynary, from two words of the Hebrews, viz. Eli, God; and Mois, Water; and to confirm his Derivation, [Page 53]He stileth Alms, the Dew of Heaven. The Gentleman seemeth to have been no great Proficient either in Greek or Hebrew; for He might have taken his Etymology, with as great Reason, from Elias and Moses; and from that infer'd, Charity comprehends the Whole Law, and the Prophets.

But, leaving Etymologies, Alms is de­fined a work of Mercy, Love, and Li­berality, persormed only for GOD's sake, to some necessitated Persons. In the Work, there is to be considered somewhat within us [aliquid intus] so as, looking at home, we find it a Christian Act of Mercy; but if we look abroad, it appears an external Act of Charity, that is exerted in Obedience to the Divine Commandment: We make it a Beauty, by putting upon it the be­coming Face of Liberality: 'Tis con­ceiv'd by Compassion; but Love gives it the hand of Accomplishment. A Bountiful Hand and Heart, oblige even those that Hate you, by making their Favours Publick; and, by this happy [Page 54]way of doing well, bribe their Enemies into good Nature.

If you desire to see the Mother of Alms, let me tell you, first, if she could appear in Human Shape, nothing but Truth could vye Beauty with her; for her Name is Charity: She is spotted with Stars, and spangled with Divine Graces. Here give me leave to say, That Alms­giving is a good Work, and is Meritori­ous; but the Merit is not plac'd upon the bare human Act, but upon the Grace of GOD's Holy Spirit, and upon his never-failing Promise, which are the Grounds, and constitutive Principles of all Merit. 'Tis not us, but the Grace of God working in us, and the Third Person of the Holy Trinity, co-operates with us, that deserves GOD's Notice, and his Recompense, [Principia meritorum omnium sunt Divina:] Yet not excluding the Will and Disposition of the Alms­giver, that hath the Honour, in all good Works, to co-operate with his Maker. GOD is Love; and all Works of Love, partake so much of the Divine Nature, [Page 55]that they must needs be Crowned. But this Discourse relates to the Promise; yet we were Treating of the Command­ment, which injoyns us to Give; weigh­ing the Receiver's Wants, but over-look­ing his Deserts; for we are not bidden to Taste those Waters, that we are to cast our Bread upon, to prove, whether they are Sweet or Bitter; for, who-ever giveth Alms, not because GOD hath so Commanded, but because he supposeth either the Poor have Merited so much at his hands already, or now do, or will hereafter deserve his Charity; that Person, to speak properly, giveth not an Alms, but dischargeth the Debt, and stateth an Account. So he that giveth not meerly for the Lord's-sake, but in hopes of some Human Requital, instead of bestowing his Alms, he purchaseth a Kindness, and maketh himself an Interest. The especial attract of Alms, ought to be Divine Love, without any by-respect to Temporal Returns, or the Merits of the Receiver.

Why should I tyre you with Repe­titions? Effects of Love ought to be in­larg'd only to such as are really Necessi­tated; for Want is the proper Object of Mercy. Where there is no Want, there may be Favours, Gifts, and Pre­sents, but no perfect Charity.

Thus far in reference to the Defini­tion: The Division of Alms hath anci­ently been in Seven Spiritual Acts, re­specting the Soul:

  • 1. To Pray for.
  • 2. To Forgive.
  • 3. To Admonish.
  • 4. To Instruct.
  • 5. To Counsel.
  • 6. To Comfort: And,
  • 7. To Forbear.

And in Seven more, as pertinent to the Body.

  • 1. To Feed the Hungry, and give Drink to the Thirsty; which some divide, and make Two different Offices; [Page 57]but I take it as one and the same Act of Benevolence, putting in the second place, viz.
  • 2. Assistance, or Protection of the Weak, from Bodily Dangers.
  • 3. To Cloath the Naked.
  • 4. To Lodge the Harbourless.
  • 5. To Visit the Sick.
  • 6. To Bury the Dead: And,
  • 7. To Redeem the Captive, &c.

These are principal Acts of Charity, which affords us a mighty Prospect into a large Field of Discourse, but some­what beside our present business: I de­sire only to lead you to this Duty; to that end, setting before you, how much good those best of Men, that went be­fore us, have perform'd for our Example: If we look no farther than the Jews, (GOD's Select People) they were in­joyn'd every Third Year, To Tythe the encrease of their Lands a Second Time, for Charitable Uses, (after they had Tythed it once for the maintenance of the Clergy:) So we read, Deut. 14. [Page 58]They gave a Tythe extraordinary de­sign'd for an Alms, to Four sorts of Peo­ple:

  • 1. The Stranger.
  • 2. The Fatherless.
  • 3. The Widow: And,
  • 4. The Poor Infirm Levite, that could not Officiate.

And in Harvest, they were forbidden the Reaping every Corner of their Fields, and might not gather up the Gleanings: They were not permitted to pull every Cluster of Grapes in their Vintage: Nor to beat every Bough of their Olives: Nor to fetch a Sheaf forgotten.

These were Elemosynary parcels, de­sign'd for the Relief of all that were Poor and Afflicted. These Statures are re­corded, Levit. 19. 23. And the same Commands, and Prohibitions, we find Deut. 24. rendring this single, as suffi­cient, I am the Lord, your God; which adds force to the Mandate, and puts a period to the Duty: as if the Sacred Vo­lume had thus declar'd; Murmur not [Page 59]at these Orders, nor grudge such consi­derable Leavings; for, I am the Lord, you are but Tenants at Will: All you possess, is Mine: It is an Honour I do you, to give you the Title: You hold your Lands, your Lives, your All, of Me, by certain Services, and by Courtesie: I am the Lord; the Property Resides in Me: There is nothing yours, at most, but by Will, or by Copy; so as you have no Right to Ingrose the good things of this Life, or to hold them in durance. I am the Lord; from Me you receive all your Treasure; therefore, fear not Poverty: I gave you this, and can give you more; take My Word, your Alms shall be doubled in Blessings, and restor'd into your Bosoms.

The Jews were Commanded not only to be Charitable in the Field, but had a plain Statute for Alms-giving, at their own Houses, Deut. 15. If there is a Poor Man among thy Brethren, within thy Gates, thou shalt not harden thy Heart, nor shut thy Hand from thy poor Brother; but thou shalt open thy Hand wide, and thy Heart [Page 60]shall not be grieved, when thou Givest.

Observe in the Text, Three Motives to Compassion.

  • 1. The Man is Poor.
  • 2. He is near in Blood, One among thy Brethren.
  • 3. He is within thy Gates.

Let his Poverty make you sensible of his Want: Let his Relation move you to Pity: Let his Neighbourhood inflame your Affection. And you may there take notice of Two directions in Giving:

1. Dispence your Alms with a hand wide open; that is, Give Bountifully.

2. With a willing Heart, free from Grudging.

These latter Authorities are derived from the Law that was given at Mount Sinai. Let us now here the Prophets.

David maketh it a Characteristical Note of a good Man, to be Merciful; and holdeth giving Alms the best use of an Estate, Psal. 72. 2. He nameth it the great work of the Messiah, to Defend [Page 61]the Poor, Heal the Infirm, and Succour the Afflicted.

Solomon, his Son, informs us, Prov. 29. 7. A Righteous Man considereth the cause of the Poor; adding in the 14. ver. of the same Chapter, The King that faithfully judgeth the Poor, shall have his Throne Established: And this is the Wisest of Monarchs.

You may read in the Book of the Prophet Isaiah, The way to Divine and Eternal Honour, is dealing thy Bread to the Hungry, lodging Exiles, covering the Naked; and, in a strange Phrase, to draw out thy Soul to the Empty: Then He continues, Thy Light shall arise from Obscurity, thy pristine Darkness shall be­come Light, and resemble the Sun in its Glory. This is the Evangelical Prophet.

We read in the 22. Chap. of Ezekiel, GOD threatneth the Jews with many terrible Judgments, for Oppressing the Stranger, and Vexing the Fatherless and Widow. This is the Priest of the Cap­tives, transferr'd with Jehoiachim.

Daniel maketh Alms the truest sign of sincere Repentance; and will have Charity put into the definition of the Righteous. This is the Man of Visions, to whom all Changes, which should con­cern the Jews, from the Babylonian Cap­tivity, to the general Resurrection, was Revealed. These preceded the Messiah; and their Writings make the biggest part of the Old Testament. Let us now consult the Gospel.

To begin with the Baptist. These Alms are the good Fruit He demands; Fruit fit for Penitents to produce. Our dear Master Preacheth the same Doctrine, St. Luke II. Give Alms of such things as you have, and behold all things are clean unto you: As if C HRIST had told us, Alms are instead of all Levitical Purifi­cations; and are accepted in Heaven sooner than the curious Prescription of Moses. Love is a Flame that cleanseth better than the Legal Rites; and a Fire that is consistent with Holy Water; the small Sacrifices of Christian Love, re­commended in the New-Testament, have [Page 63]Vertues Superior to the first Fruits, and those greater ones of the Old-Testament: They have power to Sanctifie our Whole Estate, to make it Firm and Fertile, and to propagate it with our Issue. 'Tis more Blessed to Give, than to Receive; that's a Maxim of the Blessed JESƲS, which his Apostles and Disciples did approve; and every true Christian will acknow­ledge.

St. Peter mightily presseth us to Chri­stian Love, and Hospitality, 1. Ep. cap. 1. ver. 22. Seeing you have purified your Souls, in Obeying the Truth, through the Spirit, and to unfeigned love of the Bre­thren, see that you love one another with pure Heart fervently. This is the Prince of the Apostles.

St. John speaks of nothing so much, as Love and Charity, 1 Ep. St. John, cap.4. Let us Love one another, for Love is of GOD, &c. This is the Beloved Disciple.

St. James extols good Works much, and with some vehemence promotes Charity; deriding the Solifidian Profes­sors, that have nothing, [ [...],] [Page 64]besides a strong credulity; with which Julian upbraided some early Believers, that expected Salvation by Faith only. This James was the first Christian Bishop of the Holy City Jerusalem.

St. Paul, whose Writings too many wrested to their own Destruction; which was one cause some other Apostles wrote so little, and some wrote nothing: He was careful and zealous to deal with the first Christians of Rome, and those in Greece and Asia, for a Collection, as St. Peter, St. James, and St. John had charg­ed him, when he first Travelled to make Proselytes, Gal. 2. And this is the great Doctor of the Gentiles.

Will you have another added to these Four great Apostles. The Author of that Learned Epistle to the Hebrews, writeth in this manner, To do Good, and to Communicate forget not; for with such Sacrifices GOD is well pleased. If you will contend, that Epistle was Written by St. Paul, I shall be content to Humor you, seeing the Doctrine of good Works shall receive no disparagement by his Au­thority.

Thus far the Duty hath been ratify'd by Precepts: But Examples are more forcible motives to Well-doing, and are as numerous in the Bible; pointing out to Christians (as so many Mercuries) the direct way to Felicity.

Abraham, sitting at the door of his Tent, looketh for some weary Traveller, to whom he may give an Instance of his Charity; who, for his repeated Works of Mercy, deserv'd the Reverend Title of the Father of the Faithful.

Lot, standing at the Gate of his City, doth expect some distressed Stranger to make experiment of his Kindness, and Taste his Hospitality; He gave the wan­dring Passenger a Meeting, lest he should be prevented in his Courtesies. This was an Oriental Prince and Prelate, Patron of the Five Cities, and Lord of Zoar.

It was the custom of Job, to enter­tain the Fatherless in his House, and in­vite the Poor to his own Table. This Man, if you will have it so, was High-Priest of Hierapolis, and Prince in Arabia.

Solomon, in such Practises, was Exem­plary; shewing himself in Love, as well as Empire, a Successor to his Father Da­vid. This Man, after God's own Heart, thought himself not degraded by particu­lar Acts of Devotion and Charity. He knew how to reconcile Love and Honor; and reputed himself no less a King, for distributing, at certain Seasons, a Loaf of Bread, a Flaggon of Wine, and a Por­tion of Flesh, to every single Person of his decay'd Subjects.

Observe how the Jews, when they were return'd from their Captivity, ce­lebrated their Festivals with remarkable Contributions. Their Forms of Devo­tion ended, they did enjoy themselves in a generous participation of Delicacies; they drank freely, to Chearfulness, not to Excess, and dispatcht away Pro­visions to the Poorest Families, that they might be sharers in the Joy, and the Feast, which they were not able to fur­nish; and be made Partakers in the Gra­titude they paid to Heaven, by shewing themselves pleas'd for National Blessings.

We read Gen. 21. 33. of the Patriarchs Grove, which, the Rabbins inform us, was planted purposely for Charitable Entertainments; which they gather, be­cause the Letters of the Name [ [...] E­shel, a Grove] signifie by Cabalism, Meat, Drink, and Lodging; viz. Achilah, Sh [...] ­tyan, Linah.

To pass from the Jews to the Christi­ans; How are the Churches of Achaia and Macedonia celebrated in St. Paul's Epistles, for their generous Contributi­ons? The Prayers and Alms of Cornelius ascended to GOD, shewing their Master the way to Heaven: And tho' both are very laudable, yet the Fathers ascribe to Alms the preheminence.

So to Live, and practice Religion, is to accomplish the Laws, and comply with the Will of Solomon: 'Tis to do more than that comes to; for Solomon was but a Type of Christ: But to ex­ercise Love, is to follow the steps of Christ himself, and to obey the Dictates of the Supream Master; who, having no Purse-bearer for Himself, had always [Page 68]a Treasurer for the Distressed; and daily wrought Miracles, to satisfie their Wants in the Wilderness; choosing rather to Fast Forty Days, than to multiply Loaves for appeasing his own Hunger; He ha­ving no House to hide his Head in, laid his Commands upon the Heavens, that his Followers might be freed from the Injuries of the ill Weather. While he was contentedly depriv'd of ordinary conveniencies, He was not contented his Disciples should suffer; but, for their sakes, made use of his Divinity, that He might shew Himself Hospitable in the Desart.

'Tis not for Men alone to pretend to, or claim the Glory that attends Christian Love; for Women seem naturally more Compassionate. Sacred and Prophane Story will furnish us with Infinite Prece­dents of their Charity: The Zereptan Widdow, to relieve the Prophet Eliah, hazzards the Pining of her self, and her Son, and puts to the adventure, all the sad accidents of a miserable Famine. Another cast Two Mites into the Corban, (or Sacred Treasury) from which the [Page 69]Poor of all sorts were Relieved. It was her Whole Pittance; and to approve her self Charitable, she runs the Risk of the most disconsolate effects of Poverty. Charity (the Name is Feminine, and) hath always been Pictur'd in the Shape, and with the Features of a Beautiful Wo­man: The Christian Church takes de­light in the rehearsal of the Names of her loving, and her officious Daughters: She hath many such as Dorcas, that im­ploy, and please themselves in Lodging Strangers; in working admirable Pieces for Temples and Altars; and design­ing their Studies and Portions for the publick Uses of True Religion. They exercise their Christian Vertues, by giv­ing Alms daily, Washing the Saints Feet, Visiting the Sick, and Comforting all those that are in any manner of Affliction.

Credible Historians acquaint us with the Hospitality of the Ancient City Bre­tinore, in Italy; how the Burgesses vyed Bounty, & strived to exceed one another, in putting Obligations upon Strangers. So great was their emulation to do good, [Page 70]that, in sine, they determin'd to Erect a Collume in their Market, to which Bra­zen Rings in Plates were fastened; upon those Plates, the Names of all the Noted Families in Town were Engraven'd; all Strangers were carried thither, and made choice of one of those Names for their Reception: The House, to which the Stranger by choice desir'd to resort, was forthwith inform'd, by one of the daily Waiters; the Master of the Family there­upon came rejoycing, and conducted his Guests, that was sometimes miserable Poor, to his House, with signs of Tri­umph: And, why not? seeing Charity goes attended with Reward and Victory.

'Tis not always, that we ought to do well with so much Solemnity: For many times, Works of Mercy are best perform'd with privacy. Sound not a Trumpet when thou givest Alms, says our dear Master, St. Matthew 6. No, not a Trumpet, says Chrysologus; because such Kindness, at­tended with a Noise, cometh not so much like a Friend, as like an Enemy: It seems to Insult over the Wants of the [Page 71]Receiver, and to assault his Modesty. This is not to Relieve so much, as to Triumph over thy poor Brother. It is worse: It is an upbraiding of GOD, as if He was beholding to your Favour, and could not enable that poor Heart to Subsist without your Charity. If that be the English way of giving Alms, such Donors must pay themselves with the popular Name of Patriots, or Benefactors to the Publick. They must forbear their Pretensions to future Recompence; be­cause our Great Master declares, they have their Reward. The prevailing Prayers of the Poor, and the never­failing Promise of GOD, shall prove but of small advantage to their mistaken Souls, that had no respect to either of them, in their Alms-giving, but only to the Applause of the People.

Let it suffice, that GOD discerns thy Bounty; make Him only thy Witness, that is to be thy Judge; and the Righ­teous GOD shall make Requital, that knows how much confidence you repose in his Justice. You may remain assur'd, [Page 72]He that would not have the Left-hand know what the Right-hand giveth, will not allow you to tell them that will tell every Body, how much you bestow. Give Alms there, where there is no Man to discover it, and Thy Father, which seeth in Secret, will Reward you openly.

Thus we have Traverst the Command­ment: Let us proceed to the Promise; Thou shalt find thy Bread, after many Days, which thou dost cast upon the Waters.

Seeing Riches are valuable Blessings, such as afford us in this Life no despica­ble Comforts; it concerns us to know, for whose sake, & upon what account, we cast them away; for it is somewhat to de­prive our selves, and our Posterity, of their Service: Hear me, therefore, and acknow­ledge the Charitable Practices of the Church, to be sounded upon the highest Reason. You will be loath to part with your Treasure, but upon the best Secu­rity; you shall have the best Word of a King, and a Priest; and They are both [Page 73]inviolable. Solomon ingages his Honour, that you shall find it; which is as much as to secure you, you shall be no Losers. What you scatter upon the Waves, doth not Perish; but the Stream will return to restore your Kindness.

Have you never seen a Ship, of good Burthen, Laden with the Richest Mer­chandize, Arrive in a safe Haven? She carries out of the Owners sight; She makes a Voyage of many days; yet, at length, she returns her Treasure upon the Exchange, and brings the Adven­turer an advantageous Cargo.

But the Ship may be wrackt, and there the Lading may Perish: But Here you run no such hazzard: For, supposing the Poor should Miscarry, your Alms will be safely conveyed to the Port; for the Bearer is no sooner out of your Door, or the Gift out of your Hand, but GOD takes it into his Protection and Custody: Holy Angels are the Convoy, and CHRIST looking upon the Dona­tive, now to be Consecrated, under­takes to ballance all Losses. He con­siders [Page 74]of Gains, to place to the Donor's Account, and of a way to double your Interest: The Lord chargeth himself with the Gift, where-ever it is; and therefore doth not allow you to demand or expect Repayment, by Word or Deed, from a Third Person.

Let it be the part of Publicans and Sinners, to Feast their thriving Neigh­bours; while He that designs to perform Acts of Charity, must, by his Invitations, make the Sick, the Blind, and the Lame, his Guests, and those poor People that want a Dinner: So shall he be Blessed; so shall he make himself a growing In­terest: If he dare take the Word of the World's Messiah, he shall not fail to be Rewarded at the Resurrection of the Just, St. Luke 14. which some offer to assert, shall precede the general Resur­rection. The Reward is certain, Thou shalt find it; the Terms are positive. Our good Deeds cannot pass unregarded: Not a Cup of cold Water; not a Morsel of Bread, shall escape GOD's Notice, or fall short of His remuneration.

Thou shalt find it; Thou thy self. 'Tis a strange Kindness, that all Persons have for their own Flesh and Blood: Men are now a-days, more than ever, Lovers of themselves; and they will adventure that upon their own Heads, which they dare not trust upon the Heads of their Children and Relations. What Man is he, that possesseth an Estate or Honors, which he desireth not to continue for ever? Behold a way to preserve your Dignities, and hold your Mannors to E­ternity! Convert them into Solomon's Bread, and Cast them upon the Waters; it will prove pregnant of Blessings, and, resembling good Seed, it will continue to grow and ripen, and to yield an ever­lasting Harvest: You shall find it, after many days, in Heaven.

Suppose a Man as Solicitous as can be, to Get and Save; 'tis not in his Power to secure his Estate upon Earth, so much as to the Fourth Generation. Notwithstanding his Gains, he has no certainty, but that Poverty shall seize his Sons or Nephews: But if you covet, to secure your Possessi­ons [Page 76]to the Third and Fourth Generation, take the Measures here prescrib'd by Solomon. You shall not only leave an Assurance to the Third Heir, but you shall also retain what you give away: And, changing the Property by those Alms you bestow, you shall both make it theirs, and your own for ever. 'Tis only so much of your Estate, that you can possibly lose, as you are not free to impart: For all that you give in the way of Charity, you shall surely find; and reckon so much goeth towards the mak­ing your Spiritual Body the more Glori­ous; and to purchase for you one of those many Mansions, in the House of our Heavenly Father; where every to­ken of Christian Love shall appear an Ornament to the Donor, to render him bright as a Star, and serve his Appart­ment, instead of Painting and Coronish. Why, good Sir, should you then demand or expect a Requital at the Hand of him that Receiveth the Boon? As if you knew not the Man to be GOD's Re­ceiver; or, as if you were altogether [Page 77]unacquainted with the Disposition of that Just and Bountiful Master he ser­veth. Would you have many Thanks return'd? Or, would you be highly Courted? Or, basely Flatter'd out of your Benevolence? Thanks and Praises are but indifferent Bribes; they pay no Debts, but only serve to corrupt Servile Spirits: Make your self greater than that, and manifest more Honour than that comes to; for to disburse considera­ble Summs for those base ends, is no part of Charity, but an ill Exchange.

Where real Effects are Bartered for Oyly Words, and Slavish Gestures; [Gratis non datur quod gratiis venditur,] so doing, you sell your Kindness, and make but a bad Market; because, at the same time, you lose Possession of that you had, and lose sight of your Pay-Master. If that be your way to distribute Bread, for the sake of respective Honours and Address, you must compound with them for the whole Debt; and accepting less than half Pay, for the Whole, take your leave of additional Blessings, and future [Page 78]Glory; chusing to take the Word of a a Beggar, rather than the Word of GOD; you lose, at an Instant, both your Com­memoration and Requital.

When your meaning is to find your Bread, give it upon GOD's Account, that GOD may become your Debtor; so shall the Bread thou dost dispense, nourish thy own Soul unto Life ever­lasting.

Thou castest Bread upon the Waters, which vary themselves in many Figures, and often change their condition; yet, through the Divine Power, and Truth, 'tis reserv'd for your Use, and the Bread is found again; intimating, how the Substance of all things is perserv'd en­tire, and lives Eternally.

The Bread which you lately did im­part, you have given over for lost: 'Tis not so, your Fear imposeth upon your Reason; the same shall be return'd in a­nother Nature, and in a larger measure. How, are you qualified to Receive, but are not contented to Give? Is it your design to put limits to Providence, and [Page 79]confine this World to rest in your Coffers, that was created in Motion?

The Gift is put here, by an happy Fi­gure, for that Fruit and Recompense, which, after many days, follows the Act of Giving, it is so contriv'd, to render the Giver as certain of the One, as ever he was sure of the Other: As there is upon Earth, a Communion of Saints, maintain'd by certain Spiritual Acts of Devotion, mixt with Charity; so there is an everlasting Retaliation between Alms, and its Recompense.

There is a Time set down (tho' not many circumstances of it,) when the Charitable Person shall be Rewarded, after many Days, says the Royal Preacher; so I thought, says the Miser, my patience will be tyred with waiting, for the In­terest of my Money; it will be long, you say, (and I know not how long) e're I shall be the better for that I give away. Doth my Father lye the easier in his Grave, for the Legacy he left to the Poor of the Parish? His condition might have been more easie [Chuff] [Page 80]had he bestow'd upon his Son better E­ducation; all his Cares and Prayers are lost upon you, his Successor; that shew your self ungrateful to Heaven, and to your Parents.

I leave you to Time and Torment, to correct your Mistake; but know, these words (After many Days) carry their own weight; a Sense so pleasing, and include an Argument so strong, that when you, and your Ingratitude, are Buried together, it shall serve to oblige Generations to come to the per­formance of this Duty. 'Tis After many Days, the Charitable Man is said to find his Bread; to signifie, he shall live many Days; his Life shall not be shortned, neither shall his Death be sudden: But his Days shall be prolong'd in this World, meerly that he may do good in his Ge­neration.

The Wicked and Blood-Thirsty Man shall not live out half his Days; for Wick­ed, you may read Ʋncharitable, because the greater part of Wickedness proceeds from a defect of Charity. But there [Page 81]shall be Days added to the Bountiful Man's Years, as to Hezekiah's; until his Years, with his Vertues, encrease beyond the number of his Hairs, and procure for him everlasting Benedictions, and Em­bellishments.

Thou shalt find it after many Days: 'Tis as if the Wise-Man had said, Thou shalt live many Days, to do good with thy Riches; and, when thou hast finisht thy Course, of multiplying good Offices to thy Brethren; then, After many Days, thou shalt find an Heavenly Treasure, to the Accomplishment of thy Felicity. Think not the time long, because the Pay is certain; think it not tedious, be­cause at that time, Blessings are grow­ing for thy Comfort, and multiplying for thy Use and Advantage. Why should you think the Time long, when all Time is inconsiderable, less than a Minute, compar'd with that Eternity, which shall afford you an Abyss of Joys, and Treasures, that can never Perish?

Thou shalt find it after many Days: There is a Time set a part, in the secret [Page 82]Will of GOD, wherein the Lord hath decreed to make you a plenary Requital. Not of some Earthly thing, which is Transitory; but full Pay, and of a na­ture Spiritual, Glorious, and Permament. It may be, what you give away to Day, you would have again to Morrow; the Seed you Sow, doth not grow with that Expedition; you must allow it Time to dye, and to revive again; and to grow, before it can ripen to Harvest: But you dare trust Earth further than Heaven. If you will have your Reward before its due time, you must have it imper­fect, as immature Fruit gather'd out of Season.

But, my Advice is, and it is Solomon's, To give it leave to come to Perfection; so shall you be sure to find it, After ma­ny Days, such as you desire to have it, in all points absolute.

'Tis the Will of GOD, that as He for­bears to Punish us many Days, and ma­ny Days waits for our Amendments; so we should add Patience to Charity, that, at once, the Two Vertues may be Crown­ed.

However, for our greater Encourage­ment, there are present Renumerations appointed for those that are Charitable; they shall have their Wishes very much gratify'd in this World, and in the World to come, their Hopes shall expire in a happy Fruition. Here, in this Life, you shall receive the Wages of Love, in a good measure; but, in the next, you shall enjoy what you expect in a satis­factory manner; or, as the Chaldee Pa­raphrase reads it, Plenarily. For indeed, these words, After many Days, are prin­cipally referr'd to the Resurrection, and future Glory. Can you pretend to Christian Faith and Hope, and at the same time, Despair and Murmur? Will you prescribe your GOD the Time, any more than the Method of Payment? Hear the Voice of our Saviour! Lo, I come. Yet you say, Where is the Pro­mise of his Coming? If there be many Days before Christ's Advent, there is the greater Preparation making for your Reception; and when He comes, you will be fully satisfied for attending the Lord's Leisure.

Shorten not your Hand of Relief, be­cause GOD payeth Interest, for the whole Time of your Forbearance: You spoyl your Recompence, by coveting to have it suddenly. Comfort your self in recol­lecting the good Offices you have per­form'd; and in a good Conscience in GOD's Promise, and in Comforts of this Life, that are ordinarily conferr'd and enjoy'd by the Charitable Person, as sure Earnest of a future Reward. Have a little Patience, the Days may be many; yet, at most, they are but Days, that will soon expire. Persist in your Godly purposes; 'Tis not long, e're Mercies will plentifully return into your Bosom.

The Time of waiting is not exprest by Tears, or Months, nor by so much as Weeks; but only by Days, that quickly come to their Period. Days are men­tioned, because a Day receives denomi­nation from, and has reference to the Sun's Motion; importing, how Christ, the Son of Righteousness, hath in this Day many great Works to perform in the Hearts of the Faithful; many Divine [Page 85]Graces to quicken; many Methods of Holiness, and Measures of Redemption to finish; we must not antedate our own or others Happiness. When the Work of Christ is perfect in us, we shall surely find the Reward of our Charity.

Come then with a chearful Heart, and a Liberal Hand; give the World an Instance of that Love and Bounty, which appears in imparting much to many; and shows it self with advantage in the quan­tity of the Gift, and the multitude of Receivers.

He that Soweth Bountifully, (or as the Greek readeth, in Blessings) 2 Cor. 10. shall Reap in Benedictions and plentifully. The Apostle there proveth, That the same Assurance the Seed-Man has of an In­crease, according to the proportion of his Sowing, that GOD will multiply his Favours upon the Alms-giver, with equi­volent augmentations of Glory.

It was David's way of Praying, and ought to be ours, Have Mercy upon us, O Lord, according to the multitude of thy Mercies: Which is so far Doctrinal, that [Page 86]we must afford a multitude of Mercies to our poor Brethren; and then we may approach the Throne of Grace with boldness, having Assurance that our Petitions will be Answered.

You shall find it, after many Days, says the Royal Preacher; and, tho' a Miser may refuse it, yet a good Christi­an ought to look upon Solomon's Word, as better Security than Bond and Judg­ment. You are to have Regard to the poor Man's Wants, and at the same time, to your own Ability; and confiding in Providence, are to Give rather more than your Estate can afford; for such is the Advice of the discreet Noble-man to his Son; Tobit, Chap. 4. Of abundance, Give accerdingly. Of a Little, be not a­fraid of giving Alms of that Little; for thereby th [...]u boardest up to thy self Trea­sure against the day of Necessity. Did I not tell you this before? His Opinion agrees with mine; You are to live upon the thing only which you gave away. It follows in the 10. Verse of that 4. Chap. Alms deliver from Death; meaning [Page 87]Death Eternal: Where you find, in what manner you shall be repaid your Acts of Charity, with Life everlasting.

But still you Haesitate, and look as if you would Reply, I am very loath to part with a present Estate, without a present valuable Consideration: That is your Mistake; you part with no present Estate, and you receive that, at present, which ought to be your satisfaction. What would you be Recompensed for? you have so much only, as you can use; the residue you fancy to be yours; but there is no more yours, than you can enjoy; of a Thousand Mannors, and Ten Thousand Droves of Cattle, these may please your Eye, and your Conceit, and with the thoughts of Possessing, you may satisfie your hungry Humours; but, in­deed, another shall enjoy as much as you. Your Parks, Woods, Warrens, and your Game, with all the Delights and Gal­lantries of your Family; out of all these, you can take no more than Meat, Drink, and Cloathing; for which, a small Estate would suffice. But, here, you are Su­perior [Page 88]to many, having wherewithal to do good; that is, many good things trusted to your disposal; and, here, you have a ready way pointed out, to make a Temporal Income to become Spiritual and Eternal: for, only by giving Alms, you shall lay up for your self Treasure in Heaven, of which you can never be depriv'd; and you shall forthwith receive some Temporal satisfaction, for your Acts of Charity. For the Merciful Man never fails of particular Blessings in this Life, by Health, Strength, Wit, Peace, Preservation from Dangers, by sure Friends, by a good Wife, by hopeful Children, by secret Contentment in the Mind, and Joy that is unspeakable; by a clear Reputation, and quiet Conscience: By some or more of these Enjoyments, the Charitable Person shall immediately find his Bread, that he hath scatter'd upon the Waters.

Placing, therefore, One Eye upon your present Condition, fix the Other on the poor Man's Necessities; and let the fight of his Miseries, be the Rule of your [Page 89]Mercies; for, in Alms-giving, much is but a little, where more is wanting; and a little is much, where that little sufficeth.

Let the greedy Chuff plead a Di­stinction of thine and mine: Let him do what he can to secure Property: Let him Intail his Lands, and enterprize all he may, to confirm his Title, or inlarge his Possessions: Let him call Good Works a kind of Community, and oppose Alms as much as levelling: Let him say, All that I hold, is mine; and what wrong can I commit, by keeping my own to my self? For my part, Sir, I love Peace and Plenty; your Speech-making ought to be directed to them, that affect Lawless Lives, or Civil-Wars, seeking to deprive others of their Rights, and their Inhe­ritance. I should like Religion better, if the Teachers were not as so many Leaches, Give, give, continually; I love to hear them Preach up Christ Crucify'd, and forbear their old Popish Stories of Alms and Good-Works: You know, there was no Beggar in Israel; and, were I [Page 90]Task-Master General, there should be none lest in England. But, I think, of all poor People, the poor Gentleman is the most importunate; his Hands is always full of Briefs, and Letters of Request; and I seldom see one of that Tribe, but I am feeling in my Pocket.

When you have spoken your plea­sure, Nabal, against Christian Love, and Charitable Contributions, it is but one way of wounding your self with your own Weapon; seeing the way to make that you possess your own, is by your power of disposal: Which, if it be never put into Act, how can you be assured you have such a Power. By giving it a-way, we come to know it is yours; and, as without Property, there can be no Charity; so Charity, in its several Acts, doth best confirm Property: From the Laws of Thine and Mine, you bring an ill Inference, whereas, by Giving, those Laws are best put in Execution: You must give, not only for the Preservation of Discipline and Order, but also for the maintenance of your Title. Unless the [Page 91] Bread be yours, how can you dispose of it? There is neither Giving, nor Obli­gation by Gift, where all is in common. If you peruse the principal Causes, of the first distinction between Mine and Thine, long ago confirm'd by Custom, by the Positive Laws of GOD, and of all Nati­ons; you will find these, among others:

1. Encouragement to Labour, to pre­vent Idleness; for, where the most In­dustrious, and the most Negl gent Per­son, were to be sharers alike of a com­mon Fund, too many would lye basking in the Sun, while others were Sweating at their Imployment.

2. For Preservation of Peace; they being most remote from War, that have most to lose; who cannot soon be in­duc'd to Fight, so long as they can qui­etly enjoy their Effects, and Fruits of their Labour and Industry.

3. To distinguish Families; because it appears the Will of Heaven, that some Houses should be remarkable for Blessings, some for Vertues; and that some should be stiled, from their Inheriting of An­cient [Page 92]Riches, Generous and Noble; while others should be noted, for a Dull, and Idle Generation, born under Command, to remain Slaves and Peasants.

With this distinction, of Thine and Mine, began a Subordination of Men in Civil Societies, for the sake of Go­vernment. But, of all these causes of difference of Estates, none is greater than this, That there might be some Endowed with Riches, to impart; and that there might be some poor People, to make tryal of the Rich Man's Faith in GOD's Promises, and design'd for his own Good, to make Experiment upon his Charity: That, by contributing much in this Life, he might obtain, in the next, a more Illustrious and lasting Inheritance. Art thou a Propriator? yet you must own a Lord in chief of all your Substance.

The Earth is the Lord's, and the Ful­ness thereof; all Lands are held of him in Capire: So, to alleadge Property, when GOD Commands you to dirburse something upon his Account, is to say [Page 93]somewhat that is answer'd by the Laws of Supream Right, and suspended by the degrees of Charity. It is enough, that you have the Honour, and the Happi­ness of Distribution, and to reserve e­nough for your own Uses: Take what sufficeth for your Family, defraud not your Successors; and behold those poor People yonder, are sent to be Sharers of all that is to be spar'd from You, and your Posterity: If this or that be need­less to you, the same presently becomes one of their Necessaries: And what you reserve, cannot be so much your own, because it is over-plus to your Use every way, unless you put it to Interest, to that Company of Beads-Men: For, at the Instant you dispose it to them, the same is entered in the Day-Book of Heaven; and out of that Treasure, you shall be Repaid: And you shall find it, After many Days, infinitely multiply'd.

Observe, how Nature communicates; The Sun, out of his abundance of Light, gives a Largess of it to the Moon; Lucinoe gives Alms of the Light she receives to [Page 94]the Earth, that is founded in Darkness: This Earth, having no Light to spare, freely imparts such useful Matters, as she carries, though of another Growth and Temper, to her ingrateful Inhabitants: The Clouds, newly replenisht with Rain, empty their Stores upon the parched Mountains; they discharging themselves into the Rivers that over-flow, pay Tri­bute to the wide Ocean. Nilus and Euphrates are proud, in swelling over their Banks, to make the adjoyning Meadows Fertile. The glutted Bear and Tyger, have sometimes quitted their Prey, to others half pin'd, and to Beasts less Ravenous; while the more Civiller Creatures of every Species, have been famous in Story, for many tokens of Affection; shewing how all things, from the highest to the lowest, correspond for a mutual Relief: Here and there is an accursed Shimei, or a churlish Nabal excepted; that says, Who is David? Talk not to me of the King, or the Pro­phet; I know not that Man in the World, for whose sake I would little my Estate: [Page 95]Shall I take my Bread, and give it to Strangers? It is enough, Churle, that you know the Petitioners to be Men; and, that you may know, every Man is of more value, than a Mint of Gold and Silver: Would you lose a Man, for a Morsel of Bread? Shall I take my Bread, and give it away, dost thou say? 'Tis thy Bread, indeed, by the Favour of a better Master than thou art; but so, that it is not always, and every way thine. There is a certain Clause in the Conveyance, that speaks it thy Bread to Give, not thine to with-hold: 'Tis yours to dispose of, not to detain; the disposal of which, looks toward the Communion of Saints that is on Earth, with those in Heaven.

There is Bread of participation in every House, as the Eucharistical Bread is eminently such in Churches: And, for maintaining a Correspondence be­tween Divine and Humane Love, and their Effects, we are taught to make daily Petitions: 'Tis you, Miser, that makes bold to change our Lord's Form of [Page 96]Prayer; calling that Your Bread, in your selfish Language, which is call'd Our Bread, in the Language of our Re­deemer; And that is, and ought to be the Idiom of all good Christians. Which word [Our] doth import a Christian Communication.

Shall I take my Bread, and Cast it upon the Waters? How dare you put such a Question? Impudent Man, says St. Ambrose, What is thine but thy Sins? Did you command the Earth to nou­rish it? the Clouds to Water it? the Sun to Ripen it? What was yours when you came into this World, Mourning and Naked? What Silver and Gold did'st thou bring in thy hands? What Furniture for a House? What Garments for a Covering? Your Pride, in such Questions, doth wrong to your Discre­tion; for, all you Possess, you have re­ceiv'd. The Richest Heir must ac­knowledge himself beholding to the Rule of Charity. Here you found all at your Entrance, and Here you shall leave all at your Departure; you shall [Page 97]not carry with you so much, as is spent upon your Obsequies. All these things you so much covet and hoard, without asking your leave, will stay behind; unless you take this only sure way to make them yours, and carry them with you, by the proceeding Methods of Charity: That is a way, that will cer­tainly convey your Lands and Goods to your future Use; which will at once, by Sanctifying them, dedicate them E­ternally to your Service.

To secure those unjust Gettings of your Ancestors, and make such a firm Settlement of your Estate, as you desire to be made at the same time on your Posterity; you must take Solomon's Counsel; for so will it wear well, and endure many Generations.

Hear me farther: Is not he, that puts this Question, like the same Man, that, in a few late Years got an Estate by Fraud and Oppression? And dare you say, Shall I Cast my Bread upon the Waters, when all the Goods you possess, may be so many private Wrongs, or publick [Page 98]Grievances? Call them no more Thine, for which you rob'd Innocents, stript Honest Men Naked, and forc'd others to Beggary. You say, Must a Man im­poverish Himself, to relieve Strangers? You have a Family to maintain, Rents to pay, Farms to stock, and Houses to furnish; so that you set an Honest Care, in opposition to Divine Charity, and give the Servant the upper-hand of the Mi­stress: Whereas this Coelestial Vertue, demands only what may be spared, [ [...]] such as are rather Ornaments, and Complements of your condition, than necessaries of Nature; tho' these also be required, to save the Life of a publick Person of your dearest Friends, and near­est Relations.

But your State and Place require all your have, and more: Believe me, No! both Commands you to be Charitable: Your Honour is engaged by your Pre­serment, to do good according to your Title; whatever is absolutely necessary to your Person, is not to be sequestred by Charity, which calls for only so much [Page 99]as may be spar'd from your Person, and your Dignity; for all that appertains to distressed Objects, is, as to you, Superfluous. Fear not, Solomon requires none of your Necessaries, but your Ex­ceedings: He desires no prejudice to your Body, but to your Vices; and, seeking your Health, offers you means to pre­vent Diseases. Cannot you spare one Dish of Meat, one Loaf of Bread, one Coat, of many, one Shilling oppor­tunely, to keep Life in a poor Body.

Here me, Sir; Feed more at your Gates, and fewer in your Mews, Ken­nels, and Stables; Consider, how you disburse in needless Accoutrements, in Forreign Toys, in altering and furnish­ing your Houses. This Turret, that Cupolo might be spared; these Marble Columns, yonder Trrass-Walks; these Thorough-Lights, them Tapistry Hang­ings; that Garnishing, those Orient Jewels, be mighty chargable: I could have spared much of this costly Pearl; and, with some of that, I would have cased some poor Tenants: I would have [Page 100]Imploy'd some poor Labourers, Re­deem'd some poor Captives; I would have Lodged and Victualled some poor Travellers; I would have set some poor Prisoners for Debt at Liberty; I would have placed some poor Orphans Appren­tices; and have given Portions for the Marriage of some poor Maidens: Some College, or School of good Literature, should have been Endowed; some Hospi­tal Founded, &c. So should you make a competent Provision for your selves, Here, and Hereafter acquire Mansions of Eterni­ty: So should you Live in favour of God and Man, and obtain that due Respect from your Neighbours, which your Ava­rice and Vanity now makes Counterfeit, by thus begining to be Frugal at the right end; for Charity hath converted many Prodigals from Extravagant Cour­ses; and, by making them Masters of themselves, hath made them Lord of great Estates; of which Christian Ver­tue, those only may complain, that have small Experience.

FINIS.

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