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(From Mr. Scott's Sermon, occasioned by his Death.)
MR. THORNTON was distinguished by his great liberality; disposed of very large sums in various charitable designs, with an unremitting constancy, during a long course of years; and his charities were SO much larger, than is common with wealthy persons of good reputation for beneficence, that he was rather regarded as a prodigy, which might excite astonishment, than as an example, that other men of equal affluence were in duty bound to imitate. Yet, his character hath not been in this respect over-stated, and few were acquainted with the full extent of his charities.
In respect to this leading circumstance, we must advert to several particulars.
In dispensing his bounty, it is well known that he always aim ed to promote the knowledge and practice of the religion of the Bible amongst mankind; and to bring the careless, the ignorant, the profane, and the profligate, to attend to the concerns of their souls, to repent, Vol. III. No. 1.
and turn to God, and "to do works meet for repentance." For this purpose also, he was the patron of all pious, exemplary, and laborious ministers of the gospel; frequently educating young men, whom he found to be religiously disposed; and purchasing many livings, not so much with a view of benefiting the individuals to whom he gave them, as for the sake of planting useful ministers of the gospel in those parts where he supposed the people to be perishing for lack of knowledge.
He also dispersed a very great number of Bibles, in different languages, in distant countries, perhaps even in all the four quarters of the globe; and with them vast quantities of such books as he thought most suited to alarm the conscience, to affect the heart with a sense of the importance of eternal things, and to lead men to repentance, faith in Christ, and holiness of life; thus labouring to render those, whom he never saw, wise unto salvation: and no doubt num
bers will forever bless God for these his pious and charitable endeavours.
But though his liberality had this for its grand object, yet it was by no means conducted on an exclusive principle. He aimed to adorn and recommend, as well as to spread, the religion which he professed, and to shew its genuine tendency in his own conduct towards all men.. In subserviency to this design, and from the most enlarged and expanded philanthropy, he adopted, supported, and patronized every undertaking, which was suited to supply the wants, to relieve the distresses, or to increase the comforts of any of the human species, in whatever climate, or of whatever description, provided they properly fell within his sphere of action. Perhaps it would even be difficult to mention one public or private charity of evident utility, to which he was not, at one time or other, in some measure a benefactor. that he plainly observed the command, "to do good to all men, especially to them that are of the household of faith."
And here it should especially be noted, that his beneficence was not always withheld, even on account of the extreme wickedness of those that were to receive the advantage of it; but that he was guided, in this respect, by the prospect of doing them good, either in respect of their temporal or eternal welfare.
It is in the next place worthy of observation, that this friend of mankind, in the exercise of his beneficence, not only contributed his money, (which is often done to very little purpose) but he devoted his time and
thoughts very much to the same object; doing good was the great business of his life, and may more properly be said to have been his occupation, than even his mercantile engagements, which were uniformly considered as subservient to that nobler design.
To form and execute plans of usefulness; to superintend, arrange, and improve upon those plans; to lay aside such as did not answer, and to substitute others; to form acquaintance, and collect intelligence for this purpose; to select proper agents, and to carry on correspondence, in order to ascertain that his bounties were well applied: these, and similar concerns, were the hourly occupations of his life, and the ends of living, which he proposed to himself; nor did he think that any part of his time was spent either happily, or innocently, if it were not some way instrumental, directly or indirectly, to the furtherance of useful designs. It is therefore evident, that if he be supposed to have been in any measure true to these principles, the sum total of the good which he did to mankind, by persevering in such habits for many years, must exceed all ordinary computation, and can only be ascertained at the great day of ac count and retribution.
As a proof how much his business was rendered subservient to his beneficence, it may be remarked, that he not only made the gains of his commerce in a great degree a fund for the supe port of his charity, but his commerce itself was oftentimes an introduction to the knowledge of the wants, calamities, and deplorable condition of mankind in distant
regions of the earth; and a medium through which to communicate to their necessities, and to circulate amongst them the word of God, and other means of instruction, for the benefit of their immortal souls.
Such numerous and expensive plans of usefulness did not embarrass his affairs, interfere with the real interests of his family, or oblige him to alter his very hospitable, though simple manner of life. A proper and prudent economy furnished him with sufficient funds for his profuse bounty. He had no relish for extravagance and luxury, and an unnecessary magnificence and pomp; though he was courte ous to all men, and not forgetful to entertain strangers. He was not cramped in following the dictates of his large and generous heart by a slavish subjection to the humours, opinions, and fashions, by which public good suffers so much, and private happiness gains so little.
Far from being impoverished by his extraordinary liberality, his estate was considerably increased with the fairest character for integrity; his children are amply provided for, and reflect with greater satisfaction on the sums that their honoured father expended in doing good, than even on those, by which he left it in their power to emulate his example.
A second peculiarity of his character was, his exact attention to religious duties. Men of light and inconsiderate minds are apt to conceive, that such strictness has little or no connexion with the exercise of beneficence; not knowing that the love of God, which induces to,
and is advanced by these duties, when they are practised without formality or hypocrisy, always promotes, in a proportionable degree, the love of our neighbour also. The person of whom we speak spent much of his time, especially during the latter part of his life, in retirement and religious exercises: the Lord's day was appropriated to these uses, and entirely rescued from the avocations of ceremonious visits, and even of common hospitality. He found much pleasure in public worship, and in family religion and it is not therefore wonderful, that having once contracted those habits, which seem stiff and singular at the first, he should afterwards adhere to them, when he found that they tended to improve his heart, to establish his faith, to promote the enjoyment of life, and to comfort him in his declining years, and in the prospect of his approaching dissolution. Nor could it be expected, that he, who employed himself so much in distributing Bibles, and in propagating Christianity in distant nations, should neglect the religious instruction of his own household; or that he should endure that those habits of irreligion, which are so generally disregarded in servants, should be contracted and continued in his own view, and within the sphere of his own immediate influence.
He was also exact and punctual in the private exercises of the closet: He daily read the Sacred Scriptures with great reverence and attention; and he adhered to the rules which he had formed for himself, from a deliberate consideration of their