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SER M O N XXI.
THE RELIGIOUS AND MoRAL NECESSITY OF CHARITABLE CONTRIBUTIONS.
Inasmuch as ye did it not to one of the least of these, ye did it not to me.
IF the last charge of heaven can affect us; if the final sentence of the Judge of the world deserve our care; if it may concern us to know why God accepts, why he rejects his creatures, the import of these words should be well weighed. - * Our Saviour, describing the last judgment, has given us this account of the proceedings of that great day. - - When the Son of man, says he, shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory; . And before him shall be gathered all nations; And he shall separate them one from another, the good on his right hand, and the wicked on his left. - o - - . . . .
Then shall he say to those on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the beginning of the world. And this is the cause why he pronounces them worthy of his acceptance: I was an hungred, says he, and ye gave me meat; 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; in prison, and ye came unto me. When the righteous shall disown the remembrance of these kind offices, and modestly refuse the acknowledgment to which they think themselves not entitled; then shall he reply, Inasmuch as ye have dome it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto 7716. When the wicked stand arraigned for the neglect of those duties which the righteous had discharged, the sense of guilt leads them to seek an evasion in the same answer which the candour of the just made use of to disclaim a merit they could not apply. For, when, say they, saw we thee an hungred, and fed thee not; or thirsty, and gave thee no. drink? When saw we thee a stranger, and took
thee not in; or naked, and clothed thee not? Sick, or in prison, and visited thee not * Then shall he answer, Inasmuch as ye did it not to one of the least of these, ye did it not to me. In the progress of this discourse, I shall consider, I. The nature and objects of charity, as described by our Saviour. II. The moral reasonableness of that duty. III. The absolute necessity of it, in compliance with the divine commands. And, IV. Draw such reflections from the whole, as may best excite us to the due discharge of it. - I. I am to consider the nature and objects of charity, as described by our Saviour. Charity is not, nor ought to be, confined to any sect or party of men. * When the Judge of the world, addressing himself to the righteous, says, Inasmuch as ye have done it to one of the least of these my brethren, all nations are before him, and are universally included in that title. The particular objects, mentioned in the context, are the hungry and thirsty, the stranger and the naked, the sick and the prisoner. Though all the circumstances of human
misery and misfortune are not here enumerated, they are, most of them, implied. Those conveniences which fortune can supply will find their proper objects, in the hungry and the naked; and none are more entitled to the kind offices of humanity than the sick and the prisoner. - - They, who through misfortunes, or the various disadvantages of life, are become destitute of the common necessaries of nature, are certainly entitled to the assistance of those, who, perhaps, have been enriched by the same inconstant hand of chance that has reduced these to depend on their relief; if it be proper to call that the hand of chance, which may, possibly, in some cases, be nothing else but the wise dispensation of Providence, that, places these objects before us for the exercise of virtue. Shall I then, see my brother in distress, without giving him that assistance which heaven has placed in my power? How shall I hope for the continued bounty and blessing of God, if I deal not my bread to the hungry: How, shall I claim the merits of my Redeemer's mediation, a charity which must be extended to me, if I neglect his most material precepts, and refuse my raiment to defend the naked: The hungry and the naked