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shoukl never raise them to wealth, it may do more; it may he the saving of their souls; and though the effect in this case is not so conspicuous as if it mended their fortune, it may be of greater value, though but little heard of; for the advancements of piety are secret and silent, and better known to God than to man.
This is an encouragement which relates only to them that receive: they who are the givers have something higher to expect; and the case is stated to us in such a manner as isv well worthy of our attention. He that hath pity upon the poor lendeth unto the Lord, and that which he hath given will he pay him again*. To the charitable man the proprietor of heaven and earth is a debtor, and will assuredly pay him in another life, and probably in this also. There are some sins which meet with their punishment even in this world; I look upon the oppression of the poor to be of that number: therefore by parity of reason, the same attention of Providence which punishes some, will reward others; especially as the author of all good is more ready £o bless than to afflict. He does the one
* Proy. xix. 17.
unwillingly; unwittingly; the other is the natural fruit of that mercy which is over all his works.
So much for this world: but when the great day of retribution shall come, then our blessed Saviour will consider himself as the object of what we have done to his poor brethren. I was an hungered, says he, and ye gave me meat: / was thirsty and ye gave me drink; / was naked and ye clothed me *. When he was manifested in the flesh, he joined the party of the poor, not of the rich nor honourable. We are all ready to own him under the majestic part of his character; for human vanity loves to attach itself to what is great and splendid: but this is the trial of our affection; whether we can condescend to him as the advocate and brother of the poor; whether we can make ourselves poor with him, who was poor with us; who submitted to the condition of a servant, that he might bring down the pride of man, and prepare him for exaltation by self-abasement; the hardest, and therefore the greatest of all the Christian virtues.
Upon the whole, in order to fulfil the duty which is due from the rich to the poor, it is
* Matth. xxv. 35,
good good that there should be a natural tenderness of the mind, which makes it susceptible of what is called compassion; which, if it is not a virtue of itself, is nearly allied to it; it is the soil of virtue, and a rich one too, on •which many excellent fruits may grow. Did not I weep, says Job, for him that was in trouble? was not my soul grieved for the poor *?
To this disposition we are to add the obligations of gratitude, and justice, with the encouragement arising from the hope of a blessing upon us in this world, and the next. But if all these considerations should be hir sufficient, there remains one more, which i» the fear of punishment, and as it is urged in the book of Job, with all the vehemence and zeal of a godly mind, it seems irresistible: If / have with-held from the poor their desire—// / have eaten my morsel myself alone—If I have seen any perish for want of clothing—If I have iijt up my hand against the fatherless; then let mine arm Jail from my shoulder-blade, and let mine arm be broken from the bone: for destruction from God was a terror to me, and by reason of his highness I could not endure f.
* Job xxx. 25. t Job xxxi. 16, &c.
He He means, that God will destroy those who can bear to see others destroyed; and that this consideration had raised a terror in his mind which he could never resist. The same sentiment is more forcibly expressed in another place; where, on a supposition of any neglect in this matter, he asks, what then shall I do when God riseth up? and when he visitetk what shall I answer him? To some of his servants God hath committed more, to others less: to all will he come at last, and enquire how that which he committed hath been disposed of. Every man is now to consider, what answer he shall then give: and what will become of him if he should have no answer! Better would it be to suffer all the evils of poverty in this life, than to stand speechless in the great day of our final account. If this one consideration is duly weighed, we shall want no farther instruction in the duty of this day: we shall never see the poor, without being willing to do them good.
Blessed is He That Considereth The Pooh
AND NEEDY; THE LORD SHALL DELIVER pIM IN THE TIME OF TROUBLE. PSALM XLI. 1,
nnO consider the poor, in the common ac-r ceptation of the phrase, is to give them something for the relief of their wants: but he only can be said to consider the poor in the true sense, who relieves them in conseT quence of having meditated on their coi> dition, and his own duty. When the nature of the case hath been duly considered, fevf words will be wanting to enforce the practice pf relieving the poor.
Poverty passes for a frightful subject, and Jhe poor (especially in these times) for a trou-r