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SUMMARY OF DISCOURSE IX.

MATTHEW, CHAP. XVIII. --VERSES 29. 30.

WHEN we consider the various distresses under which many persons and families labor, and their utter inability to support themselves under these evils, it is some alleviation to observe the diligence of Christian charity in finding proper methods for the comfort and support of such objects.

This thought arises naturally from the business of the day. Series of observations made on the present assembly; on the manner in which men oppress the poor and miserable ; particua larly in the case to which the text refers ; that is, the hard-hearted cruelty exercised towards insolvent debtors. Consideration of what reason, conscience, and Christian charity require of us in this case.

Observations on the words of our Saviour's parable in the text.

First; here is a debt supposed to be justly due. The poor man owed his fellow-servant an hundred pence.

Secondly; when the debt is demanded, he does not deny it or refuse to pay it, but desires forbearance only, till by his labor he could discharge it.

Thirdly; he asks even this as a favor, and with great submission. On the contrary,

Fourthly; the creditor with insolence and violence demands the debt; for which behavior he is called, (ver. 32.) Thou wicked servant.

Some of these circumstances seem to be added, in order to aggravate the cruelty of this wicked servant; as the violence

used on the one side, and the submission made on the other, And the case commonly falls out to be so.

But the circumstances on which the reason of the case depends are principally two: first, that the debtor was not able to discharge the debt at the time of the demand : secondly, that he was willing to do justice to his creditor, and to endeavor, by the best means in his power, to raise a sum which might answer the demand. Therefore where either of these circumstances are wanting, the reason of the case ceases, and together with it all pleas for compassion and forbearance: this point enlarged on.

Another circumstance, on which the judgment of our Saviour in this case depends, is, that there be a readiness and willingness in the debtor to do justice whenever he is able, and to use his best endeavors for that purpose : consequently all such debtors are out of this case who deny their just debts, or any part of them; or who conceal their effects to defraud their creditors; also such as live idly and profusely on the estate which ought to be applied to do justice to whom it is due. The reason of these exceptions given in each case.

In these therefore, and others of the like nature, a good man may, and a wise man will, make use of the power which the law gives him for the security of his property.

But when the circumstances mentioned in the text meet together; when the debtor is chargeable with no fraud or fault, but is disabled by mere poverty from discharging his debts, to use the extremity of the law against such a man is not only cruel and inhuman, but contrary to the true meaning and desigu of the law : this point enlarged on.

Is it then a general rule that the law can never with good conscience be executed against insolvent debtors? There may possibly be many exceptions; but they must all be attended with this circumstance, that there be a prospect of recovering the debt, though the debtor be insolvent : this point esplained.

Some think that no severity is too great to be used against those who have spent their estates riotously, to the injury of their creditor ; and indeed little is to be said in behalf of such persons. Yet still it is worth consideration, whether a man would choose to be judge and executioner in his own cause.

But the case which is now principally in view, stands clear of these exceptions. Those unfortunate persons with whom the jails are crowded, are for the most part such as have neither money nor friends to assist them; such as have fallen into poverty by misfortunes, by a decay of business, or perhaps by the numbers of a family which their utmost diligence could not support. Were they at liberty, they might be of use to themselves, to their poor families, and also to their creditors: this case enlarged on: the report read. Concluding observations.

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DISCOURSE IX.

The case of the Insolvent Debtors, and the charity due to

them, considered.—Preached before the Lord Mayor, &c. at St. Bride's, on Monday in Easter week, April 22, 1728.

MATTHEW, CHAP. XVIII.-VERSES 29. 30.

And his fellow-servant fell down at his feet, and besought him,

saying, Have patience with me, and I will pay thee all. And he would not; but went and cast him into prison, till he

should pay the debt.

When we consider the various calamities and distresses under which many persons and families labor, and their utter inability to support themselves under these evils, it is some alleviation to observe with what diligence and application Christian charity has been at work to find proper methods for the comfort and support of such as are in misery and affliction.

This thought arises naturally from the business of this day. And surely this great and worthy city never appears more honorable in the sight of God and man, than when assembled for the sake and on the behalf of those who have nothing to plead for them but their misery; and nothing to return but their prayers.

As the charitable institutions under your direction and government have no use of riches or possessions but for the supply of the needy; the true way of estimating their condition is, to consider the proportion which their revenues bear to the

necessities of those who stand in need of their assistance. If the poor thrive and grow able to support themselves, the hospitals grow rich in proportion; if the poor and their wants increase, the hospitals themselves grow poor, and become the object of every Christian's charity.

From hence it is evident, that whoever, by any methods of oppression or cruelty, adds to the number of the poor and miserable, does as truly act in opposition to these charitable foundations, and the end for which they are instituted, as if he took from them their possessions. For whether you increase their burden, or lessen their maintenance, it is the same thing.

There are few who will suspect themselves to be chargeable with any design against these charities; and there are, I believe, few indeed who have any formed design against them. But if you consider the case in the view now opened to you, it may appear perhaps that there are many who act daily in opposition to this good work, increasing that burden, which is already almost insupportable.

There are many ways which men practise in oppressing the poor, which might properly fall under this consideration ; but I shall confine myself to that single instance, to which the text relates, the hardheartedness and cruelty which men use towards their poor

insolvent debtors. And I the rather choose to speak to this case, because men are apt to imagine that conscience has nothing to do in it, and that they are secure from any guilt so long as they follow in a legal inanner the method prescribed by the law. Perhaps too, for a like reason, this iniquity has been less reproved than it deserves by the preacher; for fear he should be thought to condemn the law of his country

I have no such fear; nor do I mean to condemn the law of my country, or to charge it with the cruelty of those who abuse it. If the law itself is severe, the more reason there is to be cautious in the use of it: but if men will turn the law, which was given them for the security of their property, into an instrument of oppression and revenge, the law is free, but they are guilty. And without doubt there have been many legal proceedings in courts of justice, which, when they come to be

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