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from our compassion, if we consider ourselves merely in the light of reasonable creatures: this topic enlarged on.
And as the case stands on the ground of reason and the natural sentiments of men, so likewise have the precepts of the gospel bound these duties on us in the same extent.
Honor and reverence are due to those who deserve them; but love is a debt due to all men, which can never be fully paid and exhausted. Therefore St. Paul commands that we render to every man his due, fear to whom fear, honor to whom honor is due: but when he speaks of love, he varies his style, and considers us in this respect as debtors to every man owe no man any thing but to love one another.
If we consider these laws as derived from the author of nature and of the gospel, we shall find that they proceeded from a love as universal as that which they enjoin; the general good of mankind being provided for in them: this point enlarged on.
The extent of this great duty of love and mercy having been considered, it will be easy, in the second place, to estimate by this measure the value of excuses often made for the neglect of it.
To speak without confusion, it is necessary to distinguish between love as merely a sentiment or habit of the mind, and as coupled with a power and ability to exert itself in external acts of mercy: this subject considered.
Where men are able to practise acts of love and generosity towards others in distress, there is often an unwillingness, and always an excuse to attend it. From what has been said of the duty in general, it is evident that to confine our charity to relations, acquaintance, &c., is inconsistent with the great reasons on which the duty itself is founded, and is therefore a breach of duty which cannot be justified: indeed it is that very pretence which our Saviour intended to exclude and condemn in the parable. But what shall we say to the personal merit
of those who are objects of charity? In the parable the person relieved was a stranger to his benefactor, known to him only by his misery and distress; here therefore personal character had no influence in the charity. And to follow such an example we are exhorted in other places of the gospel. But as no man's ability to do good in any way is unlimited, it is commendable surely to seek for the properest objects of charity; and in this consideration the virtue and innocence of the sufferer must be of great moment.
There would perhaps be little reason to be very nice and curious in the choice of objects, were it not for the many frauds daily practised on well-disposed persons, since begging has become a trade, &c.
Another great discouragement to charitably disposed persons, is the ill use which the poor often make of their benefactions : this point enlarged on.
How to advise charitable persons to steer clear of these inconveniences in their private benevolence, is difficult: perhaps it may be a good rule not to be too curious, or hard to be satisfied. But with respect to the great work of charity connected with the day, this stands free of all such difficulties. This shown; first, from the nature of the charity itself; secondly, from the method in which it is conducted. Concluding exhortation.
The nature and extent of charity.-Preached at St. Margaret's, Westminster, before the Trustees of the Infirmary in James Street, April 26, 1735.
LUKE, CHAP. X.-VERSES 36. 37.
Which now of these three, thinkest thou, was neighbor unto him that fell among the thieves? And he said, He that showed mercy on him. Then said Jesus unto him, Go, and do thou likewise.
THE case of the good Samaritan, to which the text has relation, was not principally intended to show the necessity of works of mercy, or to recommend them to the practice of the world : these were points in which our Lord, and the person with whom he discoursed, had no difference. Nor is there in the world any material difference in opinion on this point, as long as the duty is recommended in general propositions, and application is made to the common sentiments of humanity in behalf of the miseries and sufferings of our fellow-creatures. Nor are these sentiments peculiar to Christianity; they have their foundation in nature, and extend as far as reason and sense prevail; and it is to the pen of a heathen we owe that memorable saying, Homo sum, nihil humanum a me alienum puto.
But however agreeable these works are to the sense and reason of mankind, whilst they consider them only in general, yet in making the application to particular cases in order to practise, many difficulties are moved; and men, unwilling to undergo the trouble or the expense which attend on works of charity, or lay aside their prejudices and resentments against per
sons whose misfortunes and calamities have reduced them to be objects of charity, have found out many limitations on these duties; and have let in so many partial considerations and restrictions, that mercy and humanity, which naturally extend to all the world, seldom reach to one country, oftentimes not to all the parts of one family.
To remove these kinds of pretences or prejudices, was the direct view of our Lord in stating the case of the good Samaritan; and the person discoursing with him led him into this consideration, by admitting the love of our neighbor to be a fundamental duty, and immediately inquiring after limitations and restrictions on the practice of the duty. That this was the case will appear on considering the whole passage, of which the text is a part.
At the 25th verse, a lawyer stood up and tempted our Lord, saying, Master, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?' Our Lord refers him to the law, and asks him what he read there. He answers out of the law-Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind; and thy neighbor as thyself.' Our Saviour replies, 'Thou hast answered well; this do, and thou shalt live.' Thus far all was right; and had the inquirer stopped here, we should have had no reason to suspect but that his principles at least were sound and uncorrupt. He had great reason to be satisfied with the answer, when he had received that approbation from our Lord, This do, and thou shalt live.' But he goes on, and in the words of the 29th verse it follows, But he, willing to justify himself, said unto Jesus, And who is my neighbor?' What now is it that he would justify himself from? No charge had been brought against him : so far from it, that our Lord had commended his discreet answer; and if he acted according to the terms he had proposed, our Lord had promised him life. This can be no otherwise accounted for but from the consciousness of the person himself, who knew very well that his practice was not conformable to the general rule he had laid down, and which had been approved and commended by our Lord. Our Saviour's saying to him, 'THIS DO, and thou shalt live,' called him to compare his practice with the rule he had proposed; and on a secret comparison made in his own mind, he
found that, to justify himself, the terms of the rule must be explained and limited; and therefore he says, Who is my neighbor ?' In the sense of the law, and according to our Saviour's exposition of it, every man who wants our assistance, and whom we are able to assist, is our neighbor, and as such intitled to our good offices. The Jews had some very near neighbors, in the restrained sense of the word, with whom they were so far from entertaining any intercourse of good offices, that all common civilities had ceased among them: those were the Samaritans; and so far were the resentments of the Jews carried, that when our Saviour desired a woman of Samaria to give him a little water to drink, she expresses great wonder at it, and says, How is it that thou, being a Jew, askest drink of me, which am a woman of Samaria?' And the Evangelist gives the reason of her wonder- for the Jews have no dealings with the Samaritans:' John iv. 9. This being the case, when our Saviour put eternal life on 'obedience' to this law, 'Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself,' there was great reason to ask the question, Who is my neighbor?' Had our Lord told him, in conformity to the opinions and practices of the Jews, that they only were neighbors who were of the family and stock of Abraham, or of the same faith and religion with themselves, the man had found what he sought after, a justification of himself: but when our Saviour, demanding his opinion on the case of the good Samaritan, had forced him into a confession that even the Samaritan was his neighbor, he stood condemned out of his own mouth; and on the example of one whom he reckoned his enemy, was sent away with this short reproof and admonition, Go, and do thou likewise.'
The parable of the good Samaritan is so well known, that I shall but just mention the circumstances of it. One travelling from Jerusalem fell among thieves, was robbed and wounded. A priest and a Levite; who were in every sense of the word neighbors to the unfortunate man; and if, in duties of common and general obligation, one can be more obliged than another, they were, by character, especially obliged to relieve this poor neighbor; but they looked on him, and passed by on the other side. A Samaritan, excluded by the Jews from all rights of neighborhood, came by, and had compassion on the sufferer;