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for doing, but not for receiving acts of kindness and beneficence.
If we search the scripture upon this subject, we shall find more ample prornises of both temporal and eternal rewards made to deeds of charity, than even to the duties of devotion. Here, then, let us consider first the temporal and then the eternal rewards promised to beneficent actions.
There are but few things which God has promised to reward men for in this life. He more commonly encourages them to activity and fidelity in his service, by directing them to wait for their recompense in a future state ; but he promises to reward acts of munificence with special tokens of his favor in the present life. I will recite a number of his peculiar promises to those who abound in deeds of charity. “ Blessed is he that considereth the poor; the Lord will deliver him in time of trouble. The Lord will preserve him, and keep him alive; and he shall be blessed upon the earth.” “ A good man showeth favor and lendeth. He hath dispersed, he hath given to the poor; his horn shall be exalted with honor." The following sayings were confirmed by common observation in Israel. “ He that hath mercy on the poor, happy is he.” “ He that giveth unto the poor shall not lack.” “ He that hath a bountiful eye shall be blessed; for he giveth of his bread to the poor.” “There is that scattereth, and yet increaseth; and there is that withholdeth more than is meet, but it tendeth to poverty." 66 The liberal soul shall be made fat, and he that watereth shall be watered.” “Honor the Lord with thy substance, and with
” the first fruits of all thine increase ; so shall thy barns be filled with plenty, and thy presses shall burst out with new wine.” These are words of Solomon, who was the most critical and judicious observer of the ways of Providence. He discovered the peculiar smiles of Heaven upon those who abounded in acts of kindness and charity to their fellow men. The prophet Isaiah says, " The liberal deviseth liberal things, and by liberal things shall he stand." The alms as well as the prayers of Cornelius were had in divine remembrance, and he was rewarded in his life time with peculiar tokens of the divine favor. Thus God often approves and rewards men for their kind and compassionate deeds in the present life. But this is not all; he means to reward them more openly and fully at the great day of retribution. Hence our Saviour said to the almsgiver, “ When thou doest thine alms, let not thy left hand know what thy right hand doeth ; that thine alms may be in secret; and thy Father who seeth in secret, himself shall reward thee openly." He declared that the smallest act of charity to one of his followers, should meet with a future recompense.
“ Whosoever shall give to drink unto one of these little ones a cup of cold water only, in the name of a disciple, verily I say unto you, he shall in no wise lose his reward." He likewise recommended general benevolence by the same motive. “ I say unto you, make to yourselves friends of the mammon of unrighteousness; that when ye fail, they may receive you into everlasting habitations." And on a certain occasion he observed that men would gain more by giving to the poor than to the rich, because they would be more amply recompensed at the resurrection of the just. We are expressly told, “ He which soweth sparingly shall reap also sparingly, and he which soweih bountifully shall reap also bountifully." It appears from the connection of this passage, that it has a sole reference to the future reward of the bountiful giver. There is one passage more, which deserves particular attention, and that is in the twenty fifth of Matthew, where we have an account of the process of the general judgment, when both rewards and punishments shall be impartially dispensed to all mankind. « Then shall the King say unto ihem on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was an hungered, and ye gave me meat; I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink; I was a stranger, and ye took me in; naked, and ye clothed me; I was sick, and ye visited me; I was in prison, and ye came unto me." ACcording to this representation of the supreme and final Judge, it seems that no acts of justice, and no acts of worship will be so much approved and rewarded at the last day, as acts of kindness and mercy to those in want and distress. It is, there. fore, the dictate of both scripture and reason that it is more blessed to give than to receive; yea, that it is more blessed to give than do any thing else in the power of our hands.
It now remains to improve the subject.
1. If it be more blessed to give than to receive, then we ought to entertain the most exalted ideas of the blessedness of the Supreme Being. He designed from eternity to promote his own felicity, in giving existence and happiness to his creatures. He has been constantly pursuing his original purpose of benevolence, and dispensing his favors through every part of his wide dominions. And as he is the most liberal, so he is the most cheerful giver. He gives, because he delights in giving. He takes infinitely more pleasure in doing good to his creatures than they ever do in doing good to one another. “ If ye,” says Christ to parents, “know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your Father which is in heaven give good things to them that ask him?" God would have every one view him as the most cheerful giver, who en
joys the highest satisfaction in acts of mercy and beneficence. “ Let him that glorieth, glory in this, that he understandeth and knoweth me, that I am the Lord, which exercise loving kindness, judgment, and righteousness in the earth ; for in these things I delight, saith the Lord.” God perfectly enjoys all the good he bestows, and is infinitely more blessed in giving than all his creatures in receiving. This must give us the most exalted idea of the blessedness of the kind Parent of the universe, who is good unto all, and whose tender mercies are over all his works.
2. If it be more blessed to give than to receive, then we may see why charity or beneficence holds the highest rank among all the moral and Christian virtues. It must be allowed that charity, or any species of generosity, is much more admired and applauded by mankind, than justice, veracity, fidelity, or any of the virtues which appear more essential to the order and support of civil society. This, some very ingenious writers have considered as a paradox, and taken very different methods to explain it. One author, in particular, makes a distinction between the primary and secondary virtues. He represents justice, veracity, and all the primary virtues, as resulting from the nature of things, and of course binding upon all mankind; but he considers charity, generosity, and all the secondary virtues, as arising from a different source, being mere voluntary actions, which men are under no moral obligation to perform. And he supposes it is for this reason alone, that the secondary virtues of charity, liberality, and beneficence, are so much more admired and applauded, than justice, veracity, or any other primary virtues. But this opinion appears to have no solid foundation. Men are under the same moral obligation to be generous as to be just, and are as free and voluntary in doing justice, as in showing mercy. This leads us to look for some other reason for the universal opinion, that charity is a more amiable virtue, than even justice or veracity. And the subject we have been considering suggests the true reason of this opinion. It is because charity, or beneficence, has more true benevolence or moral excellence in it, than any of the primary virtues. There is more pure, disinterested love displayed in giving a cup of cold water in the name of a disciple, than in speaking the truth, or in doing any act of mere justice. David discovered more true benevolence and virtue, in his generosity to Mephibosheth, the poor, feeble son of Jonathan, than in any of his most splendid actions in the field of battle. Those who are the most illustrious examples of charity and beneficence, justly deserve to have the highest place in the love, esteem, and gratitude of mankind, and they very seldom fail of receiving this VOL. VI.
due reward of their superior virtue. Job's generosity commanded the highest respect and applause of all who saw and felt the effects of his charity and beneficence. When the young men saw him, they hid themselves, and the aged arose and stood up. When the ear heard him, then it blessed him, and when the eye saw him, it gave witness to him ; because he delivered the poor that cried, and the fatherless, and him that had none to help him; and because he was eyes to the blind, and feet to the lame, and caused the widow's heart to sing for joy. Charity, liberality, and beneficence are the noblest traits in the moral and Christian character, and will continue to command the highest respect of mankind, as long as they retain their moral discernment of moral excellence.
3. If it be more blessed to give than to receive, then it is a great and peculiar favor to be made rich. Poverty is a real calamity in itself, and draws after it a long train of natural evils. It not only deprives men of the power and pleasure of giving, but subjects them to the disagreeable necessity of receive ing alms. This calamity, in a greater or less degree, prevails through the world. There are many more in a state of poverty, than in a state of mediocrity; and many more in a state of inediocrity, than in a state of wealth and affluence. It is only a few families in any place or in any nation, who are comparatively rich; and among these, there are many individuals, who, by misconduct or misfortune, are reduced to the most reproachful and painful poverty. God commonly dispenses wealth with a sparing hand, and of course highly distinguishes as well as favors those upon whom he lavishes the bounties of providence. Accordingly we find that he has given wealth as a peculiar token of his favor to his peculiar friends. He made Abraham, Job, and the patriarchs rich; and promised to bestow the same mark of his favor upon his ancient covenant people, so long as they continued dutiful and obedient. So that it became a proverb in Israel: “ The blessing of the Lord, it maketh rich, and he addeth no sorrow with it.” Wealth ought to be esteemed a peculiar favor, not merely as the source of private and personal benefit, but as a talent to be employed to the glory of God, and to the good of mankind. What benevolent man would not wish to be able to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, relieve the distressed, and promote every charitable and beneficent design? Who, that has the spirit of a man or of a christian, would not esteem it an honor and a privilege to be the steward of God, to dispense the blessings of his goodness to his indigent creatures ? How happy was Job in doing good to the poor, the fatherless, and the widows! And how much happier still was Joseph in supplying the wants of millions, and saving whole nations from the fatal effects of famine! All men of opulence have abundant reason to be thankful, that God has given them the power of gratifying their own benevolent feelings, in promoting the happiness, and diminishing the miseries of the objects of charity.
4. If it be more blessed to give than to receive, then we may learn what ought to be the supreme and governing motive of men, in pursuing their secular concerns, and seeking to increase their worldly interest. The great mass of mankind are extremely attached to the world, and are willing to labor, and toil, and run every hazard to accumulate property, and acquire a large portion of the good things of life. But they are too generally prompted to gain the world from mean and mercenary motives. Some labor to be rich from the motive of avarice, or a hoarding disposition; some labor to be rich from the motive of ambition, or a desire of rising to honor and influence; but many more, perhaps, are eager to enlarge their fortunes, for the sake of displaying grandeur, and gratifying the evil propensities of their carnal hearts. They wish to lay up goods for many years, that they may fare sumptuously every day, and live a life of indolence and dissipation. All these are men of the world, who choose their portion in this life, and who labor to be rich from selfish and forbidden motives. But there still remains one virtuous and laudable motive, which ought to induce all men to be laborious and industrious in getting the world, and increasing their earthly treasures. It is the motive of pure, disinterested benevolence, or an ardent desire to do good, and communicate of their abundance to those whom Providence has thrown into a state of poverty and distress. This is the noble motive to be active and industrious in gaining the world, which governed the conduct of the apostle Paul; and which ought to govern the conduct of all other ministers, and of all other men, in their worldly pursuits. “I have cov
I eted no man's silver or gold or apparel,” says he to the elders of Ephesus. “ Yea, ye yourselves know that these hands have ministered unto my necessities, and to them that were with me. I have showed you all things, how that so laboring ye ought to support the weak, and to remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he said, It is more blessed to give than to receive.” There is little danger of man's being too industrious and laborious to become rich, from the benevolent motive of ministering to the wants and necessities of the poor, and of promoting the cause and interest of Christ. The farmer and mechanic ought to labor with their hands, the soldier and seaman ought to jeopard their lives, and all classes of men ought to use every lawful method to enlarge their fortunes, that they may be more