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DISCOURSE II.

Preached before the Sons of the Clergy at St. Paul's Cathe

dral, December 5, 1710.

MATTHEW, CHAP. X.-VERSES 41. 42.

He that receiveth a prophet in the name of a prophet, shall receive

a prophet's reward; and he that receiveth a righteous man in the name of a righteous man, shall receive a righteous man's reward. And whosoever shall give to drink unto one of these little ones a cup of cold water only in the name of a disciple, verily I say unto you, he shall in no wise lose his reward.

TOWARDS the beginning of this chapter we read that our Saviour sent forth his disciples to preach the kingdom of God. That they might preach with authority, he endowed them with power from above, and with the manifold gifts of the Spirit. That they might attend on their ministry without distraction, he eased them of the care of providing for themselves, and gave them power to demand and receive of those under their instruction whatever their wants required. • Provide,' says he, • neither gold, nor silver, nor brass in your purses; nor scrip for your journey, neither two coats, neither shoes, nor yet staves; for the workman is worthy of his meat :' verse 9. 10. Or as St. Luke expresses it, • The laborer is worthy of his hire :' ch. x. 7. This reason shows the true sense of the precept ; that it was not meant to take from them the necessaries and conveniences of life, or to make poverty a part of their profession; but only to discharge them of the care and solicitude of providing for themselves; for they had a right to be provided for by those whom they served in the gospel : • For the laborer is worthy of his hire.'

And this farther appears to be the sense of this precept in Luke xxii. 35. And he said unto them, When I sent you without purse, and scrip, and shoes, lacked ye any thing? And they said, Nothing. Had it been his intent to make poverty a necessary qualification for the ministry, he would not have asked this question, or received this answer. But so little did he intend it, that his care supplied the wants of theirs throughout their journey, and enlarged the hearts of the people towards them : so that their poverty was turned into plenty; and they preached the gospel, without the incumbrance of worldly cares, 'as having nothing, and yet possessing all things.'

As the office of preaching the gospel was to be perpetual in the Christian church, so this right of maintenance was for ever to attend it; for the • Lord ordained,' as St. Paul tell us, “ that they which preach the gospel should live of the gospel :' 1 Cor. ix. 14. A right on one side infers a duty on the other: if the ministers of the gospel have a right to be provided for, it is the duty of the faithful to provide for them; but the proportion of this maintenance being no where determined, but men left to give as their circumstances enable them, and as their love and honor for the ministry incline them; what is given on this account comes to be considered as a charity freely offered, rather than as a debt duly discharged : and as such, our Saviour has promised to accept and reward it. And since in this kind of charity the honor of his name, and the promoting his religion, are most immediately consulted, he has distinguished it from all others by a more honorable and glorious reward: * He that receiveth a prophet, in the name of a prophet, shall receive a prophet's reward :' &c. Matt, x. 41.

To receive a prophet' sometimes signifies to receive his doctrine, and to become his follower or disciple; but in this place it cannot signify so, for these two reasons :

First, our Saviour himself distinguishes this reception of a prophet from the other reception, which is obeying and hearkening to his voice, in the 14th verse : • Whosoever shall not receive you, nor hear your words, when you depart out of that house or city, shake off the dust of

your

feet.' Had the same thing been intended by receiving and hearing a prophet, the words would have been thus connected : Whosoever shall

not receive you, and' hear your words; but the disjunctive particle “nor' shows that they are here spoken of as different things. The 11th verse, compared with this 14th, will determine what is meant in this place by receiving a prophet : Into whatsoever city or town ye shall enter, inquire who in it is worthy; and there abide till ye go thence :' ver. 11. In the 14th it follows, · Whosoever shall not receive,' &c. that is, to “abide' with them; which abode implies, not only house-room, but a supply of such other necessaries as their circumstances required : for it was to answer the want of gold and silver, and such other things as they were expressly forbidden to provide for themselves.

The second reason may be collected from the last verse of the text: 'And whosoever shall give to drink unto one of these little ones a cup of cold water only in the name of a disciple, verily I say unto you, he shall in no wise lose his reward.' It is manifest that our Saviour here speaks of giving a 'cup of cold water only,' as the lowest degree of that virtue which he was then recommending; for to show how acceptable an offering it would be to God to receive a prophet in the name of a prophet, he adds, that even a cup of cold water given in the name of a disciple should not lose its reward. To receive a prophet, therefore, and to give a cup of cold water to a disciple, are acts of the same kind, though differing in degree; and consequently to receive a prophet in this place, is not an act of faith or obedience, but of charity and beneficence.

• To receive a prophet in the name of a prophet,’ is to receive him because he is a prophet; on account of his character and office, and near relation which he bears to Christ. To be kind to our friends and relations, and to administer relief to the extreme necessities and sufferings of our fellow-creatures, is, in some degree, to comply with the cravings of nature in ourselves, and to provide for our own ease and enjoyment: for the pity and compassion which miserable objects raise in us, are attended with a pain and uneasiness to ourselves, no otherwise to be allayed but by relieving the misery that caused them. But when we relieve the members of Christ, because of the relation they bear to him, we act then in the spirit of true Christian charity, and show ourselves to be lively parts of his

body; rejoicing with them that do rejoice,' and suffering with those who suffer.

The excellency of Christian charity is derived from this dignity of its object. In morality we can rise no higher than to consider men as men, as partakers of the same common nature with ourselves; and the natural sense we have of misery is the foundation of our tenderness and compassion towards others. In this case the regard we have for others is derived from ourselves; and our love and compassion bear a proportion to the relation that is between us and them : our children share as largely in our affections as they do in our blood : next to them our relations and friends have the preference: and in all cases the love of ourselves is the fountain from which our love to others is derived. But Christian charity flows from another spring : here all the affections terminate in Christ; and we know no other relation but that which is derived from him, who is head over the whole family.' And as the love of Christ is the source of Christian charity, so is it the measure of it too; and the rule by which we must adjust our love and charity to others : he is our nearest relation who is nearest related to Christ, and is therefore the most immediate object of our love and charity. •He that receiveth you,' says our blessed Lord to his Apostles,' receiveth me; and he that receiveth me, receiveth him that sent me.' Then follow immediately the words which I have now read to you for the subject of this discourse.

In treating on which, I beg leave to observe to you,

First, the several degrees of charity mentioned in them; and wherein the excellency of one above the other consists.

Secondly, how truly Christian and excellent in its kind that charity is, which is the end and design of this annual solemnity.

I. If we begin our account at the verse immediately preceding the text, we shall find four degrees of charity enumerated, and distinguished from each other by the several and distinct promises made to them. The first is, that of receiving an Apostle: "He that receiveth you, receiveth me.' The second, that of receiving a prophet: 'He that receiveth a prophet, in the name of a prophet, shall receive a prophet's reward.' The third, that of receiving a righteous man: He that receiveth a righteous man, in the name of a righteous man, shall receive a righteous man's reward.' The fourth, that of relieving the meanest of Christ's disciples: Whosoever shall give to drink unto one of these little ones a cup of cold water only in the name of a disciple, verily I say unto you, he shall in no wise lose his reward.'

Charity is distinguished into these different kinds and degrees, by the dignity of the persons who are the objects of it. For since receiving a prophet shall intitle us to a prophet's reward ; and receiving a righteous man to a righteous man's reward; it is plain that receiving a prophet as far exceeds the charity of receiving a righteous man, as a prophet is more es. cellent than he.

To receive a prophet because he is our friend or relation, is but a common degree of kindness ; the honor must be paid him because he is a prophet; it must be done in the name of a prophet : so that the motive and principle on which we act must be taken into the account; and our good deeds will receive their true and proper value, from the views and regards with which they are done.

In this lies the difference between the Christian and the moral virtue : the same object appears not in the same light to both. Nature melts at the sight of misery, and by a secret sympathy feels what it sees; and relieves itself by administering comfort and support to the afflicted : but grace looks on the sufferings of Christ in all his members; and gives that assistance to the miserable for his sake, which nature gives only for its own. For this reason we find Christ charging himself with all the kindnesses and acts of mercy shown to his brethren and disciples. •I was an hungered,' says he, “and ye gave ME meat; I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink; I was a stranger, and ye took me in; naked and ye clothed me; I was sick, and ye visited me; I was in prison, and ye came unto me.' This regard to Christ is the very life and soul of Christian charity; and that only which can intitle our good works to reward at the last day: for our good works themselves have neither merit nor righteousness, but as they begin and end in Christ : the love of Christ is the fountain of Christian charity; and Christ in his members is the object of it.

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