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2. The consentient properties required to bounty, hospitality, almsgiving, and every other sort of beneficence


1, A proper feeling and consideration towards its ultimate as well as towards its immediate objects, namely: a degree of faith and love with heartfelt gratitude, as well for his other blessings as for those by which he has enabled us to make, or endeavour at, a return of the same in blessings on our fellow creatures. And indeed it is such a part, is this, as one who pretends to love God can hardly know how to get out of, if he be base enough to desire it; considering first, how our Universal Benefactor has identified himself with the very objects of our duty and attention, with those very objects whom he enables us to relieve-the hungry, the thirsty, the stranger, the naked, the sick, the prisoner ; and next, how he means to present himself again hereafter in the person of the Son glorified, as both party and Judge, rewarding or condemning as every one has deserved of him in the parties aforesaid, “ when the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him” (Matt. xxv. 31). For Christ sympathising and suffering with the afflicted as he does, and as it was foretold of him (Isai. lxiii. 9), we can neither benefit nor incommode them, without pleasing or displeasing him: and therefore in all such transactions he is the object to be especially regarded by us; as in all his transactions with mankind the Father was his. “My meat and drink (he would say) is to do the will of Him that sent me, and to finish his work” (John iv. 34), i. e. to prosecute his benevolent designs. So at last “he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross” (Phil. ii. 8). And“ it is a faithful saying: for if we be dead with him, we shall also live with him : if we suffer, we shall also reign with him " (Tim. II. ii. 11, 12).

2, Therefore, our love and gratitude towards the Giver of goodness and of all that is good, must be accompanied in this case with a sense of duty; or the living principle of obedience being the root of all righteousness, as aforesaid. “ Blessed is that servant whom his Lord, when he cometh shall find so doing (says our Saviour). Of a truth, I say unto you that he will make him ruler over all that he hath” (Luke xii. 43, 44). And again, “Well done, thou good and faithful servant; thou hast been faithful over a few things; I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy Lord” (Matt. xxv. 21). There

may be a chance for the poor servant or ruler over few things beyond that of the rich devotee or ruler over many things: and that, not only for the reason assigned by our Saviour in the parable here alluded to, v. g. of a servant's reaping before God according to his zeal, rather than his ability ; but because it is likely that a servant will also reap in this case according to another consentient with the same aspect, being

3, His humility. When we go up to the treasury of divine Providence with our hundreds and thousands, we imagine that we do great matters; and Heaven allows us to encourage ourselves with this innocent deception; while it knows, that we are not the enlightened instruments that we take ourselves to be, nor our services of the great importance that we imagine. But the poor payer is wise enough to know this : he does not esteem his contribution any object in itself: like the poor widow with her two mites, he has given his all, and DOES NOT OVERPAY HIMSELF BY A FOND RECKONING.

4, In reference more especially to other men, a prime consentient or qualification for beneficence appears in charity, or a kind intention towards any one who may happen to become its object. From different expressions in Scripture, and especially from some of St. Paul's in that eloquent eulogium on charity (Cor. I. xiii.), it would seem as if beneficence had no merit without this addition; consequently was indifferent in itself, and consequently characteristic. But we are talking now of relative, not of absolute goodness: and in that respect beneficence must necessarily be good for its object under all circumstances : though to its subject only if he be good, that is, benevolent.

For every action will have two parts in relation to its subject, as above stated; one intrinsic, which consists in its beginning, motive, notion, or image ; the other extrinsic, consisting in its end, effect, matter, or substance; one thinking, the other doing in short. And though either part may be good alone, unless they are both good together, the whole cannot be perfect and available in both relations; v. g. in relation both to subject and object; and particularly to the former, as it should be. It is not as wanting our assistance, that God Almighty requires us to cooperate with him in affording advice to the simple, comfort to the afflicted, relief to the indigent, or any other kind office; but to give us an opportunity of serving ourselves by them, in exercising and improving that paramount principle in an earthly relation, called Charity : therefore, should this principle be wanting in any good work, however serviceable it may be to others, we shall not serve ourselves by it, as we ought and might.

5, While the heart accompanies the hand, the head too (as it is considered) must not be wanting. It is the business of the head to see to the measures of the heart for fear of overweening. And without the concurrence of these two members, or as it would here be said more consistently, of these two sets of properties; the more spiritual and the more intellectual also in other respects, beneficence will not deserve the name of bounty or charity. One might as well call it Charity, to scatter money in the streets, to be taken up, one neither knows nor cares by whom ; as to bestow it on individuals without any prudence or circumspection.

6, Some discrimination and distinction will likewise be required for the proportions of our beneficence: and, though we are certainly bound to do good to all by our Saviour's example and institution, we are not bound to do it to all in the same measure and proportion, if there be any meaning in Gospel regulations; as e. g. in that of St. Paul, “ as we have opportunity let us do good unto all men, and especially unto them who are of the household of faith" (Gal. vi. 10). Without overlooking or neglecting any whom we can possibly serve, we should generally give a preference in our favours as far as our means and information will enable us, to believers and doers of the truth, and that in proportion to their attested belief, before those who are mere professors, and perhaps not so much, Which we should do; not because the faithful deserve more than others : for they have received infinitely more already in faith and righteousness, but because our means are limited, and we cannot do as much good as we would to all.

7, Another very important article, though it be rather a consequence than a consentient of beneficence, is secrecy : which our Saviour, who always taught his followers to do the best things with the best grace, strictly enjoins, and particularly in that rule on almsgiving, “When thou doest alms, let not thy left hand know what thy right hand doeth” (Matt. vi. 3). He will not have his followers be like the hypocrites who sound their own trumpet (Ib. 1, 2) to gain the applause of the multitude. Neither is that so certain a reward for prodigality, since the multitude, however prone to admiration will not be weak enough to admire long any profusion without the accompaniments before mentioned, particularly a kind disposition: as if they had determined to make the prodigal experience what St. Paul says, “ Though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor--and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing” (Cor. I. xiii. 3). But when good is done secretly · and without ostentation, the benefit as well as beauty of this consentient, may be felt in many temporal respects; as for one, that of not drawing people from their work, by teaching them to look up to you; also as the avoiding of envy sometimes ; sometimes of robbery; sometimes of calumny, or at least of unpleasant imputations; with others already mentioned. But the greatest of all the benefits attending secrecy in beneficence is one of a spiritual nature, and the same which our Saviour suggests as its reason, that of an open reward for secret services- 66 That thine alms may be in secret (says he) and thy Father which seeth in secret himself shall reward thee openly” (Matt. vi. 4). The third mentioned consentient, humility, may also be assisting in this case, and help to ensure the consequence or condition of secrecy; and if we do not think too much of the little good that we do, we shall not be so apt to publish as to improve on it.

It is not necessary to seek any farther examples of these consentient properties attending on beneficence, in order to shew the improbability of finding it any where in perfection. Indeed, considering how many points must concur to make beneficence perfect, it may well be questioned, if such an accomplishment has ever been found in any subject that was merely human. And we may be still farther satisfied only by this sample, that there is no extravagance, nor mistake in asserting THE IMPERFECTION OF ALL OUR RIGHTEOUSNESSES ; and that more especially when we recollect, that to make beneficence complete the means of gratifying should be our own as well as the thought and application. For what great things were it, to give out of another man's purse ? But not only are not the thought and application ours, but neither in strictness have we any thing of our own to give; as David confesses in that beautiful thanksgiving to God for himself and people, “ Thine, O Lord, is the greatness and the power, and the glory, and the victory, and the majesty : for all that is in the heaven, and in the earth is thine : thine is the kingdom O Lord, and thou art exalted as Head above all. Both riches and honour come of thee, and thou reignest over all; and in thine hand is power and might; and in thine hand it is to make great, and to give strength unto all. Now, therefore, our God, we thank thee, and praise thy

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