Page images
[ocr errors]

measure of the world's goods, must be so much the more liberal to the poor; for to whom much is given, of him is much required. In helping of the necessitous, the apostle's rules are to be observed, that special regard is to be had to our relations that may be in straits, 1 Tim. v. 8.; and that though all that need are to be helped, yet special respect is to be had to the poor members of Christ, Gal. vi. 10.; and the greatest need is to be most regarded and most helped.

This duty is to be managed with these qualities.

(1.) People must give to the poor out of conscience towards God, and a design to honour him, Prov. iii. 9.; not out of vain-glory, else the work is lost as to acceptance, Matth. vi. 1, 2.

(2.) With an honourable regard to the poor, either as Christians, and members of the fame mystical body of Christ, or at least as 'of the fame blood with ourselves, and not with contempt, and shaming of them, 1 Cor. xi. 22.

(3.) Cheerfully and freely, not grudgingly and as by constraint, 2 Cor. ix. 7.

(4.) According to the measure of what the Lord has given unto us, 1 Cor. xvi. 2. So the more we have, the more.we ought to give. The particular quantity cannot be defined, but by wisdom and charity it must be defined by every one for themselves, Pfal. cxii. 5.

To engage you to this duty, consider,

[1.] We are not absolute masters, but stewards of our goods. The whole world is God's household; and he has made fome ftewards to feed others, Luke xvi. 10, 11, 12. We must give account of our stewardship to him, who could have put us in their cafe, and them in ours.

[2.] It is a duty bound on us with ties of nature and revelation. The law of God requires it, 2 Cor. viii. 9. Nature itself binds it on us, teaching us to do to others as we would be done by, if in their cafe. Not only Christianity, but humanity calls for it.

[3.] In this duty there is a fingular excellency. For (1.) It is a blessed thing by the verdi&t of our blessed Lord, Acts xx. 35., “ It is more blessed to give than to receive." (2.) The image and likeness of God shines forth in it in a peculiar manner, Luke vi. 35, 36. “ Love ye your enemies, and do good, and lend, hoping for nothing again : and your reward shall be great, and ye shall be the children of the High

[ocr errors]

to pay

est: for he is kind unto the unthankful, and to the evil. Be ye therefore merciful as your Father also is merciful.” Though Christ became poor for us, yet he gave to the poor, to commend it to us by his example. (3.) It is particularly taken notice of in the day of judgment, Matth. xxv. 34, 35.

Lastly, It is the most frugal and advantageous way of managing of the world's goods. For,

(1.) It is the way to secure to ourselves a through-bearing; there is a good security for it, Prov. xxvüi27. “ He that giveth unto the poor shall not lack.”

(2.) It is the best way to secure what we have, which is liable to so many accidents, Eccl. xi. 1. “ Cast thy bread upon the waters : for thou shalt find it after many days.” Lay. ing out for God is better security than laying up what God calls for. For so it is put in a sure hand, that will be sure it again. The


and needy are God's receivers, Prov. xix. 17. “He that hath pity upon the poor, lendeth unto the Lord; and that which he hath given, will he pay him again.”

(3.) It is the way to be rich, as the Bible points out the way, Prov. iii. 9. “ Honour the Lord with thy substance, and with the first fruits of thine increase." Solomon obferves the accomplishment of it, Prov. xi. 24. “ There is that scattereth, and yet increaseth.”

(4.) It is the way to secure comfort to us in the time when trouble shall overtake us, Psal. xli. 1, 2, 3. “ Blessed is he that considereth the poor; the Lord will deliver him in time of trouble. The Lord will preserve him, and keep him a. live, and he shall be blessed upon the earth ; and thou wilt not deliver him unto the will of his enemies. The Lord will strengthen him upon the bed of languishing : thou wilt make all his bed in his ficknefs."

Lastly, God has promised that such shall find mercy, Matth. v. 7.; always taking along what is said, ver. 3. “ Blessed are the poor in fpirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven." See Luke xvi. 9. 1 Tim. vi. 17, 18, 19.

II. I come now to shew, what is forbidden in the eighth commandment. It “ forbids whatsoever doth or may unjustly hinder our own or our neighbour's wealth or outward estate." The fins forbidden in this command may be reduced to these two heads : whatever doth or may hinder our own wealth unjustly; and whatever doth or may unjustly hinder our neighbour's wealth or outward estate.

FIRST, Whatsoever doth or may hinder our own wealth unjustly. This is necessarily understood : for we may neither do a sinful thing to procure our own wealth, not yet to preserve it. But when there are lawful means which Provi: dence calls us to the use of, and we do not use them, we fin against God and ourselves. Thus this command says to each of us, in the first place, Thou shalt not steal from thyself. Thus we are guilty,

1. By idleness, when people that are able do not employ themselves in some honest calling or work according to their ability, 2 Theff. ii. 11. The idle man wrongs himself, while he exposes himself to poverty, and so to a snare, by his not using means to preserve and improve his substance. And he fins against God, who has appointed, that in the sweat of his face man fhall eat bread, Gen. iii. 19. And this is fo although he have enough of his own, and needs not be bur, densome to others, Ezek. xvi. 49. He makes himself a waif for Satan to pick up.

2. By careleffness, foth, and mismanagement in our calls ing, Prov. xyiii. 9. Carelessness lets occasions of furthering our own wealth flip; and slothfulness in business is next to doing nothing at all. And they that cannot put down their hands to work diligently, will hardly miss some time or ano, ther to put out their hand to steal. Careless and flothful management of business by one hand in a family, may do more mischief than many diligent hands can remedy, Prov. xiv. 1. Religion does not allow either men or women to be drones in their family, good for nothing but to make a noise, take up room, and feed on the product of the diligence of their relatives, Rom. xii. 11.

3. By not owning God in our business, and so flighting his blessing, who gives man power to get wealth, Deut. viii

. 18. It is he that gives rains and fruitful seasons, that makes the cattle to thrive or to be diminished, and that profpereth the work of our hands. Do they not then stand in their own light that acknowledge him not in these things?

4. By wastefulness and prodigality, whereby people foolifh, ly spend and lavish away what God has brought to their hands, Proy, xxi. 17. And indeed these two ordinarily go together,

unthriftiness and wastery; for readily they that have no hands to gather, have two to scatter; and they that can do no good to get, are active at putting away. Thus they not only misapply what God has given them, but take the high way to poverty and stealing.

5. By rash engaging in such things as may ryin our wealth and outward estate, as unnecessary inveigling ourselves in law pleas, whereby the contentious humours of some have made them like the ass in the fable, that seeking his horns, lost his ears, 1 Cor. vi. 6, 7, 8.; as also cautionry, which although it be duty in some cases, as giving and lending is, yet if it be not managed with prudence and discretion may prove but a plucking the bread out of the mouths of our own, to put it in the mouths of strangers, Prov. xi. 15. and vi. 1, &c.

6. By distrustful and distracting care in getting and keeping of worldly things, Matth. vi

. 31. Can that man be wealthy indeed, who, have what he will, never has enough, and whose abundance suffereth him not to sleep?. Eccl. iv. 8. This keeps him from the comfort of what he has, that he robs himself of, which is the only valuable thing in worldly enjoyments, Prov. X. 22.

7. Lastly, By sordidness, which is when a man has no power to enjoy the gift of God, Eccl. vi, 1, 2. We can fcarcely say, have what they will, that they have it, but it has them; for they have not the convenient decent use of it, They are of no use but to be serviceable to people’s necessi, ties and conveniencies; so that where that is wanting, it is as good as if they had them not.

To conclude this : Let us walk conscientiously in these things, knowing that we are accountable to God in them. We are not at our own disposal, but must lay out ourselves as Gad calls us. Neither may we do with our own what we will; for we are but inferior lords of them, and must use them agreeably to the will of the great Proprietor,

SECONDLY, Whatsoever doth or may unjustly hinder our neighbour's wealth or outward estate, is forbidden here, as theft in God's account. Whatsoever way we wrong 0thers in their outward estate, comes under this notion of stealing. So this command says, Thou fhalt not steal from others. In respect of our neighbour, this command is broken two ways.

First, By direct stealing, which is the taking away of what

is our neighbour's against his will, to his hurt and loss. If it be done fecretly, without the knowledge of the owner, it is called theft ; if it be by violence, it is robbery, whether by sea or land. There are two sorts of it.

1. Stealing of persons, called man-stealing, 1 Tim. i. 9, 10. It was the stealing away of men, women, or children, either to use them or sell them for slaves. Slavery having no place among us, there is no practising of it with us, lo far as I know. But there want not other sinful practices participating of the nature of this fin, such as running away with persons for marriage, whereby their parents are robbed of what is their own; enticing away of other people's servants, to the prejudice of their masters; and seducing of people's children to vicious and lewd practices. All which are contrary to the golden rule of justice,

66 Whatsoever ye would that men should do unto you, do ye even so unto them."

2. Stealing of substance. Whereof there are three kinds. (1.) Stealing from the public or commonwealth, whereby the magistrate and nation are wronged. (2.) Stealing from the church, taking away of what is devoted for pious uses, for maintaining the service of God and the poor. It is called facrilege, Rom. ii

. 22. These are the worst kinds of theft, in regard of the relation these things have to God. (3.) Single theft, whereby private persons are wronged in their private substance. Whether the thing stolen be little or great, he that takes it away, is a thief, and is therefore excluded out of the kingdom of heaven, 1 Cor. vi. 9, 10. A man may lose his soul

by the unlawful getting of what is not worth a penny, as well as of what is worth a thousand. Did men and women believe the curfe of God which they take up with the thing they take away from others, they would see they had a sad bargain of it, Zech. v. 3, 4.

Secondly, By indirect stealing, which, though not account. ed theft among men, yet is so in the fight of God. And of this there are a great many ways, all here forbidden. People are thus guilty of theft, and break this command.

1. In their hearts, by nourishing those lusts that have a tendency thereto; for as there is heart-adultery, so there is heart-theft. And this especially lies in these three things. (1.) Discontent with our condition, Heb. xiii. 5. This lays people open to the worst of snares. (2.) Envying and

« PreviousContinue »