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of them delivered to St. Paul, and by him preferved to us in his farewel-fpeech to the elders of Ephefus. In which after he had given them fome needful advice, and commended them to the grace of God, he appeals to them concerning the integrity of his converfation among them; that he was fo far from feeking his own advantage, and from coveting any thing that was theirs, that he had not only fupported himself, but also relievcd others by the labour of his own hands; giving them herein a great example of charity, which, it feems, he was wont to enforce upon them by an excellent faying of our Lord, It is more blessed to give, than to receive.
And it is really a particular endearment of this faying to us, that being omitted by the Evangelifts, and in danger of being loft and forgotten, it was fo happily retrieved by St. Paul, and recorded by St. Luke. The common fayings of ordinary perfons perish without regard, and are fpilt like water upon the ground, which no body goes about to gather up; but the little and fhort fayings of wife and excellent men are of great value, like the duft of gold, or the leaft fparks of diamonds. And fuch is this faying of our Lord, which is not only valuable out of refpect to its author, but for the fake of that admirable fenfe which is contained in it.
Some interpreters have needlefly troubled themfelves to find these words, or fomething equivalent to them, in the gofpel. That the fenfe of them may be inferred from feveral paffages in the gofpel, none will deny; but that they are either exprefly to be found there, or that there is any faying that founds to the fame fense, I think no-body can fhew. Befides, that St. Paul cites a particular fentence or faying of our Lord, that was PTs, and in thofe very words fpoken by him.
And there is no reafon to imagine, that the gofpels are a perfect and exact account of all the fayings and actions of our Lord, though St. Luke calls his gospel, A treatife of all things that Jefus did and fpake; that is, of the principal actions of his life, and the fubftance of his difcourfes, at least fo much of them as is needful for us to know: for St. Luke leaves out several things related by the other Evangelifts. And St. John exprefly
tells us, that Jefus did innumerable things not recorded in the hiftory of his life: and there is no doubt but the difciples of our Lord remembered many particular fayings of his, not fet down in the gofpels, which upon occafion they did relate and communicate to others, as they did this to St. Paul.
The words themfelves are the propofition I fhall fpeak to, It is a more blessed thing to give, than to receive. This, I know, feems a paradox to most men, who know no happiness but in hoarding up what they have, and in receiving and heaping up more; but as ftrange as this faying may appear, the fenfe of it is owned and affented to by thofe great oracles of reafon, the wisest and molt confiderate Heathens; τῆς ἀρετῆς μᾶλλον τό ἔν ποιεῖν ἢ τὸ ἐν πάσχειν, It is a more virtuous thing "to do than to receive good," fays Ariftotle; which according to his opinion was to fay, it is a greater happinefs, because he placed happiness in the practice and exercife of virtue. To the fame purpofe is that faying of Plutarch, ἐν ποιεῖν ἴδιον ἐςιν ἢ πάσχειν, "There is "more pleasure in doing a kindness, than in taking " one." And that of Seneca, Malim non recipere beneficia, quam non dare; "Of the two, I had rather not "receive benefits, than not beftow them." And that the Heathen have spoken things to the fame sense of this faying of our Saviour's, is so far from being any prejudice to this faying of our Saviour, that it is a great commendation of it, as being an argument that Our Saviour hath herein faid nothing, but what is very agreeable to the beft notions of our minds, and to the highest reafon and wifdom of mankind. In the handling of this propofition, I fhall do these two things,
First, Endeavour to convince men of the truth and reasonablenefs of it.
Secondly, To perfuade men to act fuitably to it. Firft, To convince men of the truth and reasonablenefs of this principle, that it is more bleffed to give, than to receive. And this will fully appear by confidering thefe three things.
I. That it is an argument of a more happy spirit and temper.
II. Of a more happy ftate and condition. III. That it fhall have the happiness of a greater reward.
I. To be governed by this principle, is an argument of a more happy fpirit and temper. To do good, to be ufeful and beneficial to others, to be of a kind and oblig. ing difpofition, of a tender and compaffionate fpirit, fenfible of the ftraits and miseries of others, fo as to be ready to eafe and relieve them, (for to this kind of goodness and charity the Apoftle applies this faying of our Saviour, as appears by the context,) this certainly is the happieft fpirit and temper in the world; and is an argument of a noble, and generous, and large heart, that is not contracted within itself, and confined to little and narrow defigns, and takes care of no-body but itself, envying that others fhould fhare with it, and partake of its happiness; but is free and open, ready to do good, and willing to communicate, and thinks its own happiness increased, by making others happy..
It is the property of narrow and envious fpirits to think their own happiness the greater, because they have it alone to themfelves; but the noblest and most heavenly difpofitions defire that others fhould fhare with them in it. Of all beings, God is the fartheft removed from envy and ill-will, and the nearer any creature approacheth to him, the farther it is from this hellish difpofition. For it is the temper of the devil to grudge happiness to others; he envied that man fhould be in paradife, and was restless till he had got him out.
Some perfections are of a more folitary nature and difpofition, and fhine brightest when they are attained to but by few, as knowledge and power: but the nature of goodness is to diffuse and communicate itself, and the more it is communicated, the more glorious it is. And therefore knowledge and power may be in a nature most contrary to God's; the devil hath these perfections in a high degree.
To receive good from others, is no certain argument of virtue or merit, for the unworthy and unthankful often receive benefits: but to be good and do good, is the excellency of virtue, because it is to resemble God in that which is the most amiable and glorious of all his L
other perfections. And therefore when Mofes defires to fee God's glory, Exod. xxxiii. 19. he tells him, that he will caufe all his goodness to pass before him. Without goodness the power and wifdom of God would be terrible, and raife great dread and fuperftition in the. minds of men. Without goodness, power would be tyranny and oppreffion, and wifdom would degenerate into craft and mischievous contrivance. So that a being endowed with all power and wifdom, and yet want ing goodness, would be a dreadful and omnipotent mifchief. We are apt to dread power, and to admire knowledge, and to fufpect great wifdom and prudence; but we can heartily love and reverence nothing but true goodness. It is not the infinite power and knowledge of God, confidered abftractedly, and in themfelves, but thefe in conjunction with his great goodnefs, that make him at once the most awful and amiable being in the world; which is the reason why our Saviour, Matth. v. 48. fpeaks of the mercy, and goodnefs, and patience of God, as the top and fum of the divine perfections; Be ye therefore perfect, as your Father which is in heaven is perfect. How is that? in being good to the evil and unthankful, as God is, who makes his fun to rife, and his rain to fall, not only on the just but unjust. And therefore St. Luke renders it, Be ye therefore merciful, as your Father which is in heaven is merciful. To be good and merciful as God is, is to be perfect as he is; because it is to imitate him in that which is his chief perfection.
Gratitude is one of the nobleft virtues, and our goodnefs to men is gratitude in us to God. It is an acknowledgment of the bleffings we have received from God; the beft ufe we can make of them, and the beft requital we can make to him for all his benefits. For we can give him nothing again, because he stands in need of nothing. But a truly grateful perfon, who hath a kindness done to him by one that is out of all capacity and reach of requital, will enquire whether there be any of his family and relations, to whom he may fhew a kindnefs for his fake. Yea, benefits have often been requited by thankful perfons, upon thofe who did but refemble their benefactors, though they were no ways related to them. Though we can do nothing to
God, yet we may do it to men, who are made after the image of God. We may fhew kindness to his relations, and to thofe of his houfhold and family, to his creatures, to his fervants, to his friends, and to his children here in the earth.
Befides that our goodness to others like ourselves, is an argument of great confideration and prudence; it is a fign that we know ourselves, and confider what we are and what we may be; it fhews, that we have a due fenfe of the indigence and infirmity of human nature, and of the change and viciffitude of human affairs, it is a juft fenfe and acknowledgment of our state, that we are infufficient for our own happinefs, and muft depend upon the kindnefs, and good-will, and friendship of other men; that we all either do or may ftand in need of others one time or other: for he who is now in the greatest plenty and abundance of all things, and thinks his mountain fo ftrong, that he can never be moved, may, by a fudden revolution of fortune, by a thousand accidents, be thrown down from his height of profperity, into the depth of mifery and neceflity.
And as it is an argument of confideration, fo of great prudence. He that is good to others, apt to commiferate their fad case, and to relieve them in their straits, takes the wifeft and fureft way that can be, to incline and engage others to be good to him, when it shall fall to his lot to ftand in need of their kindness and pity. Upon this account our Saviour commends the prudence of the unjuft fteward, who laid in for the kindness of others, against himself fhould have occafion for it.
And though it fhould happen otherwife, and that we should have an uninterrupted tenour of profperity, which few or none have, or that coming to ftand in need of others, our kindness should meet with no equal returns, yet it would not be quite loft; for as Seneca truly fays, delectat etiam fterilis beneficii confcientia, though our charity fhould fall upon ftony and barren ground, and we fhould find no fruit of it from those whom we have obliged, yet there is a pleasure in being. confcious to ourfelves, that we have done well, what was worthy and generous, and what became wife and confiderate men to do, whatever the event and fuccefs.