« AnteriorContinuar »
times were very corrupt in Israel, the people abounded in the former kind of duties, but were at such times, always notoriously deficient in the latter; as the prophets complain, Isa. Iviii. four first verses, Jer. vi. 13, compared with verse 20. Hypocrites and self righteous persons, do much more commonly abound in the former kind of duties, than the latter ; as Christ remarks of the Pharisees, Matth. xxiü. 14, 25, and 34. When the scripture directs us to shew our faith by our works, it is principally the latter sort are intended ; as appears by James ü. from 8th verse to the end, and I John ü. 3, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11. And we are to be judged at the last day, especially by these latter sort of works ; as is evident by the account we have of the day of judgment, in the 25th of Matthew. External acts of worship in words and gestures, and outward forms, are of little use, but as signs of something else, or as they are a profession of inward worship : They are not so properly shewing our religion by our deeds ; for they are only a shewing our religion by words, or an outward profession. But he that shows religion in the other sort of duties, shews it in something more than a profession of words, he shews it in deeds. And though deeds may be hypocritical, as well as words ; yet in themselves they are of greater importance, for they are much more profitable to our. selves and our neighbor. We cannot express our love to God, by doing any thing that is profitable to God; God would therefore have us do it in those things that are profitable to our neighbors, whom he has constituted his receivers : Our goodness extends not to God, but to our fellow Christjans. The latter sort of duties, put greater honor upon God, because there is greater self denial in them. The external acts of worship, consisting in bodily gestures, words and sounds, are the cheapest part of religion, and least contrary to our lusts. The difficulty of thorough, external religion, does not lie in them. Let wicked men enjoy their covetousness, and their pride, their malice, envy and revenge, and their sensuality and voluptuousness, in their behavior amongst men, and they will be willing to compound the matter with God, and submit to what forms of worship you please, and as many as you please ; 2:5 is manifest in the Jews of old, in the days of the prophets, and the Pharisees in Christ's time, and the Papists and Mahometans at this day.
At a time when there is an appearance of the approach of any glorious revival of God's church, God does especially call his professing people to the practice of moral duties. Isa. lvi. 1. “ Thus saith the Lord ; keep ye judgment and do justice ; for my salvation is near to come, and my righteousness to be revealed.” So when John preached that the kingdom of heaven was at hand, and cried to the people, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make his paths strait, as we have an account, Luke iii. 4, the people asked him, What they should do ? He answers, He that hath two coats, let him impart to him that hath none, and he that hath meat, let him do tikewise. The publicans said, What shall we do? He answers, Exact no more than that which is appointed you. And the soldiers asked him, What shall we do ? He replies, Do violence to no man ; neither accuse any falsely ; and be content with your wages. Verses 10, 11, 12, 18, 14.
God's people at such a time as this, ought especially to abound in deeds of charity, or alms giving. We generally, in these days, seem to fall far below the true spirit and practice of Christianity, with regard to this duty, and seem to kave but little notion of it, so far as I can understand the New
Testament At a time when God is so liberal of spiritual things, we ought not to be strait handed towards him, and sparing of our temporal things. So far as I can judge by the scripture, there is no external duty whatsoever, by which persons will be so much in the way, not only of receiving temporal benefits, but also spiritual blessings, the influences of God's holy Spirit in the heart, in divine discoveries, and spiritual consolations. I think it would be unreasonable to understand those promises, made to this duty, in the 58th chapter of Isaiah, in a sense exclusive of spiritual discoveries and comforts. Isa. lviii. 7, &c. “ Is it not to deal thy bread to the hungry, and that thou bring the poor that are cast out, to thy house ? When thou seest the naked that thou cover him, and that thou hide not thyself from thine oin flesh? Then
VOL. III. 2 U
shall thy light break forth as the morning, and thy health shall spring forth speedily, and thy righteousness shall go before thee, and the glory of the Lord shall be thy rereward ; then shalt thou call, and the Lord shall answer, thou shalt cry, and he shall say, Here I am. If thou take away from the midst of thee, the yoke, the putting forth of the finger, and speaking vanity ; and if thou draw out thy soul to the hungry, and satisfy the afflicted soul ; then shall thy light rise in ob
; scurity, and thy darkness be as the noon day ; and the Lord shall guide thee continually, and satisfy thy sout in drought, and make fat thy bones ; and thou shalt be like a watered garden, and like a spring of water, whose waters fail not." So, that giving to the poor is the way to receive spiritual blessings, is manifest by Psal. cxii. 4, &c. “Unto the upright, there ariseth light in the darkness ; he is gracious, and full of compassion and righteous : A good man sheweth favor, and lendeth, he will guide his affairs with discretion ; surely he shall not be moved forever ; the righteous shall be in everlasting remembrance ; he shall not be afraid of evil tidings, his heart is fixed, trusting in the Lord ; his heart is established, he shall not be afraid, until he see his desire upon his enemies : He hath dispersed, he hath given to the poor ; his horn shall be exalted with honor." That this is one likely means to obtain assurance, is evident by 1 John jii 18, 19. « My little children let us not love in word, neither in tongue, but in deed, and in truth; and hereby we know that we are of the truth, and shall assure our hearts before him.
We have a remarkable instance in Abraham, of God's rewarding deeds of charity with sweet discoveries of himself, when he had been remarkably charitable to his brother Loty and the people that he had redeemed out of captivity with him, by exposing his life to rescue them, and had retaken not only the persons, but all the goods, the spoil that had been taken by Chedorlaomer, and the kings that were with him, and the king of Sodom offered him, that if he would give him the persons, he might take the goods to himself, Abraham refused to take any thing, even so much as a thread or shoe latchet, but returned all. He might have greatly enriched him
self, if he had taken the spoils to himself, for it was the spoils of five wealthy kings, and their kingdoms, yet he coveted it not ; the king and people of Sodom were now become objects of charity, having been stripped of all by their enemies, therefore Abraham generously bestowed all upon them ; as we have an account in Gen. xiv. and four last verses. And he was soon rewarded for it, by a blessed discovery that God made of himself to him ; as we have an account in the next words, “ After these things the word of the Lord came unto Abraham, in a vision, saying, Fear not Abraham, I am thy shield, and thy exceeding great reward.” “I am thy shield, to defend thee in battle, as I have now done ; and though thou hast charitably refused to take any reward, for exposing thy life to rescue this people, yet fear hot, thou shalt not lose, thou shalt have a reward, I am thy exceeding great reward."
When Christ was upon earth he was poor, and an object of charity ; and during the time of his public ministry, he was supported by the charity of some of his followers, and particu. larly certain women, of whom we read Luke viii. 2, 3. And these women were rewarded, by being peculiarly favored with gracious manifestations, which Christ made of himself to them. He discovered himself first to them after his resurrection, before the twelve disciples : They first saw a vision of glorious angels, who spake comfortably to them ; and then Christ appeared to them, and spake peace to them, saying, Al hail, he not afraid ; and they were admitted to come, and hold him by the feet, and worship him, Matth. xxviii. And though we cannot now be charitable in this way, to Christ in person, who in his exalted state, is infinitely above the need of our charity ; yet we may be charitable to Christ now, as well as they then ; for though Christ is not here, yet he has left others in his room, to be his receivers, and they are the poor. Christ is yet poor in his members ; and he that gives to them lends to the Lord : And Christ tells us that he shall look on what is done to them, as done to him.
Rebekah, in her marriage with Isaac, was undoubtedly a remarkable type of the church, in her espousals to the Lord
He was .
Jesus. But she found her husband, in doing deeds of charity, agreeable to the prayer of Abraham's servant, who prayed that this might be the thing that might distinguish and mark out the virgin, that was to be Isaac's wife.
Şo Cornelius was brought to the knowledge of Christ, in this way. devout man, and one that feared God, with all his house ; which gave much alms to the people, and prayed to God alway. And an angel appeared to him, and said to him, thy prayers and thine alms are come un for a memorial before God; and now send men to Jorpa, and call for one Simon, whose surname is Peter, &c. Acts x. at the beginning. And we have an account in the following parts of the chapter, how God by Peter's preaching revealed Christ to Cornelius and his family, and of the Holy Ghost's descending upon them, and filling their hearts with joy and their mouths with praises.
Some may possibly object that for persons to do deeds of charity, in hope of obtaining spiritual blessings and comforts in this way, would seem to shew a selfrighteous spirit, as though they would offer something to God to purchase these favors. But if this be a good objection, it may be made against every duty wbatsoever. All external duties of the first table will be excluded by it, as well as those of the second. First table duties have as direct a tendency to raise selfrighteous persons' expectations of receiving something from God, on account of them, as second table duties ; and on some accounts more, for those duties are more immediately offered to God, and therefore persons are more ready to expect something from God for them. But no duty is to be neglected, for fear of making a righteousness of it. And I have always observed, that those professors that are most partial in their duty, exact and abundant in external duties of the first table, and slack as to those of the second, are the most selfrighteous.
If God's people in this land, were once brought to abound in such deeds of love, as much as in praying, hearing, singing, and religious meetings and conference, it would be a most blessed omen : There is nothing would have a greater ten. dency to bring the God of love down from heaven to the carth: So amiable would be the sight, in the eyes of our love