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"as the hypocrites do, in the synagogues and "in the streets, that they may have glory of "men. Verily, I say unto you, they have "their reward. But when thou doest alms, let "not thy right hand know what thy left hand "doth that thine alms may be in secret, and
thy father which seeth in secret himself "shall reward thee openly."
In like manner, think not by works of charity to compound for other sins with which you are unwilling to part. Some would be glad to give a little of their goods for the relief of the poor, provided it would screen them from the punishment due to fraud, injustice, and oppression, and were they allowed to spend the rest in extravagant and unlawful pleasures. In former times, indeed, religion was of a nature so accommodating as to admit pretensions of this kind. If any man, at the close of a wicked and abandoned life, expended the money he had acquired by violence and deceit, in building churches, in erecting monasteries, and in founding charitable institutions, all his former offences were blotted out, and his saintship infallibly secured. But we preach a very different religion. Not that we are less anxious than our predecessors that
you should practise works of charity; but we wish you to be just as well as charitable; we wish you to act from purer motives than hypocrisy and a love of praise. If your wealth has been acquired by extortion and rapine, by grinding the face of the poor and oppressing the stranger who is within thy gates, by overreaching the unwary, or withholding from your creditor his due; and you think that by giving some little of it away in charity, you may safely continue in the same course of profitable iniquity, cast it not into the treasury of the Lord; it is the price of blood and of sin, and cannot be received.
3. Let your charity be performed in a proper manner. This rule is of more consequence than may at first be imagined. An action, however good in itself, if performed in an improper manner, loses half its merit. Many a charitable deed is performed in so harsh and insulting a manner, or is accompanied with so liberal a proportion of reproach and invective, that a refusal of the gift desired would have been far less disagreeable. To grant a request with a willing heart, to confer a favour with delicacy and propriety, is one of the most difficult offices which occur in the intercourse
of society. Let your charity, then, be performed in a kind and compassionate manner; and shew that you feel and are interested for the person whom you relieve. Give your alms with gentleness and affability, avoid ing all harshness of manner, and all unnecessary display of superiority. Be charitable with a glad spirit; give cheerfully and without reluctance; and let no appearance of force and restraint detract from the merit of your virtue, or cause your good to be evil spoken of.
IV. I shall now conclude with stating a few of the motives which should induce you to follow after charity.
And first, let me observe, that the intrinsick excellence and beauty of this virtue, are sufficient to recommend it to all the lovers of what is great and beautiful. How noble, how godlike an employment, to supply the wants of the necessitous, to raise up the bowed down, to heal the wounds of the afflicted, and to smooth the bed of sickness! Such conduct must be free from all selfish and interested motives; from the poor and wretched we can expect no return. By such conduct we shew ourselves to be the
genuine children of our
father in heaven, who is the helper of the poor, the father of the fatherless, and the husband of the widow, who giveth unto all liberally and upbraideth none, who is constantly conferring favours on those who profit him nothing. By such conduct we shew ourselves to be the true disciples of Jesus, whose life was one continued course of charity and goodness to mankind.
On Meekness: its nature and great excellence in the sight of God,
PSALM 25, VERSE 9.
"The meek will he guide in judgment; and the meek will he teach his way.
RELIGION, while it elevates the soul to God, and teaches us to set our affections on things above, neglects not the duties of civil life, or those laws which regulate our connections. with one another. It not only prepares us for a future life, by prescribing doctrines and precepts for the cultivation of our moral and religious powers; but it also smooths our road through the present stage of existence, and sweetens the intercourse of society, by inculcating love, gentleness and meekness. The wisdom which cometh from above is pure, peaceable, gentle, and easy to be entreated; full of mercy and of good fruits.