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The nature and extent of charity.-Preached at St. Marga

ret's, Westminster, before the Trustees of the Infirmary in James Street, April 26, 1735.


Which now of these three, thinkest thou, was neighbor unto him that

fell among the thieves ? And he said, He that showed mercy on him. Then said Jesus unto him, Go, and do thou likewise.

The case of the good Samaritan, to which the text has relation, was not principally intended to show the necessity of works of mercy, or to recommend them to the practice of the world : these were points in which our Lord, and the person with whom he discoursed, had no difference. Nor is there in the world any material difference in opinion on this point, as long as the duty is recommended in general propositions, and application is made to the common sentiments of humanity in behalf of the miseries and sufferings of our fellow-creatures. Nor are these sentiments peculiar to Christianity; they have their foundation in nature, and extend as far as reason and sense prevail; and it is to the pen of a heathen we owe that memorable saying, Homo sum, nihil humanum a me alienum puto.

But however agreeable these works are to the sense and reason of mankind, whilst they consider them only in general, yet in making the application to particular cases in order to practise, many difficulties are moved ; and men, unwilling to undergo the trouble or the expense which attend on works of charity, or lay aside their prejudices and resentments against persons whose misfortunes and calamities have reduced them to be objects of charity, have found out many limitations on these duties; and have let in so many partial considerations and restrictions, that mercy and humanity, which naturally extend to all the world, seldom reach to one country, oftentimes not to all the parts of one family.

To remove these kinds of pretences or prejudices, was the direct view of our Lord in stating the case of the good Sama. ritan; and the person discoursing with him led him into this consideration, by admitting the love of our neighbor to be a fundamental duty, and immediately inquiring after limitations and restrictions on the practice of the duty. That this was the case will appear on considering the whole passage, of which the text is a part.

At the 25th verse, a lawyer stood up and tempted our Lord, saying, “ Master, what shall I do to inherit eternal life? Our Lord refers him to the law, and asks him what he read there, He answers out of the law~Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind; and thy neighbor as thyself.'

Our Saviour replies, • Thou hast answered well; this do, and thou shalt live.' Thus far all was right; and had the inquirer stopped here, we should have had no reason to suspect but that his principles at least were sound and uncorrupt. He had great reason to be satisfied with the answer, when he had received that approbation from our Lord, This do, and thou shalt live. But he goes on, and in the words of the 29th verse it follows, · But he, willing to justify himself, said unto Jesus, And who is my neighbor ?' What now is it that he would justify himself from? No charge had been brought against him so far from it, that our Lord had commended his discreet answer; and if he acted according to the terms he had proposed, our Lord had promised him life. This can be no otherwise accounted for but from the consciousness of the person himself, who knew very well that his practice was not conformable to the general rule he had laid down, and which had been approved and commended by our Lord. Our Saviour's saying to him, “THIS DO, and thou shalt live, called him to compare his practice with the rule he had proposed; and on a secret comparison made in his own mind, he

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found that, to justify himself, the terms of the rule must be explained and limited ; and therefore he says, 'Who is my neighbor ? In the sense of the law, and according to our Saviour's exposition of it, every man who wants our assistance, and whom we are able to assist, is our neighbor, and as such intitled to our good offices. The Jews had some very near neighbors, in the restrained sense of the word, with whom they were so far from entertaining any intercourse of good offices, that all common civilities had ceased among them : those were the Samaritans; and so far were the resentments of the Jews carried, that when our Saviour desired a woman of Samaria to give him a little water to drink, she expresses great wonder at it, and says, “How is it that thou, being a Jew, askest drink of me, which am a woman of Samaria ? And the Evangelist gives the reason of her wonder—' for the Jews have no dealings with the Samaritans:' John iv. 9. This being the case, when our Saviour put eternal life on obedience' to this law, .Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself,' there was great reason to ask the question, Who is my neighbor ? Had our Lord told him, in conformity to the opinions and practices of the Jews, that they only were neighbors who were of the family and stock of Abraham, or of the same faith and religion with themselves, the man had found what he sought after, a justification of himself : but when our Saviour, demanding his opinion on the case of the good Samaritan, had forced him into a confession that even the Samaritan was his neighbor, he stood condemned out of his own mouth; and on the example of one whom he reckoned his enemy, was sent away with this short reproof and admonition, •Go, and do thou likewise.'

The parable of the good Samaritan is so well known, that I shall but just mention the circumstances of it. One travelling from Jerusalem fell among thieves, was robbed and wounded. A priest and a Levite ; who were in every sense of the word neighbors to the unfortunate man; and if, in duties of common and general obligation, one can be more obliged than another, they were, by character, especially obliged to relieve this

poor neighbor; but they looked on him, and passed by on the other side. A Samaritan, excluded by the Jews from all rights of neighborhood, came by, and had compassion on the sufferer; he dressed his wounds himself, and afterwards placed him, at his own expense, under the care of one who was to see the cure perfected.

The question now was, who was neighbor to this unfortunate man, in the sense of the law, ' Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.' As the case was stated, there was no room to insist on the near relation the priest and Levite bore to the wounded man ; the nearer their relation, the worse neighbors were they for neglecting him; no room to object against the Samaritan, his want of relation, or his difference in religion ; the less and the fewer his private obligations were, the more disinterested was his obedience to the law, and the better neighbor was he. On the whole of this case, our Lord's conclusion is, ‘Go, and do thou likewise.'

Taking then this direction of our blessed Saviour, as it stands explained by these circumstances, it will lead us to consider,

I. The nature and extent of charity, or love to our neighbor.

II. The value of the excuses which men frequently make for neglect of this duty. And,

III. The excellency of that particular charity which gives occasion to this day's meeting.

I. Of the nature and extent of charity, or love to our neighbor..

I observed to you before that the principal intention of our blessed Saviour was not to show the necessity of works of mercy, for that under certain limitations was admitted on all sides. Nor was it to recommend one kind of charity in preference to another, but to show the extent of all.

In stating a case, it was necessary to instance in some sort of charitable work; but the conclusion, Go, and do thou likewise,' is not confined to that kind of work only, but is intended to show us who are our neighbors in regard to works of mercy and com. passion in every kind.

The works of mercy are as various and of as many kinds as the wants and infirmities of men, which are the objects of mercy. Were men perfect, there would be nothing in them to pity or compassionate. Every kind, therefore, and every degree of misery is an object of mercy; and whether men are

exposed to calamities by the necessity of their condition, and the overruling providence of God; or whether they bring them on themselves by sin and wickedness, or by folly and indiscretion; yet still, considered as miserable, they are objects of pity. If this were not so, mercy would not be one of the attributes of the Deity. For he is not moved by a fellowfeeling of our calamities, or any apprehension for himself: for no evil can approach him. Sin and wickedness are attended with guilt as well as misery, and therefore also objects of justice and punishment; and it may, perhaps, be a case attended with difficulties, when we attempt to reconcile the operations of justice and mercy, with respect to the same subject. But if God be a God of mercy, as undoubtedly he is, the conclusion must stand, that misery, viewed by the eye of reason, is an object of compassion ; and the consequence must be, that in the reason of things mercy is as extensive as misery; and not to be confined by any particular or partial considerations to misery of one kind, or of one man more than another. If we consider ourselves, therefore, merely as reasonable creatures, no reason can be assigned for excluding any object of misery from our pity and compassion. But if we consider ourselves as men, there is another and perhaps a more sensible inducement to the practice of the works of mercy, and which on examination will be found, as far as our power of doing good goes, of like general influence. And this arises from reflecting that there is no misery we see to which we are not ourselves liable. The case therefore of the miserable is a common case, and in some sense every

man's own. If we find ourselves better than others, so as to avoid the calamities which sin and iniquity bring on many; or wiser than others, so as to shun the evils which folly and indiscretion draw down on numbers; this is so far from being a reason why we should despise or neglect their sufferings, that it daily reminds us to ask of ourselves this question, Who made thee to differ from another ? And if we answer it as we should, it will furnish us with another reason for the exercise of charity, which will extend to all men.

For if all men are the sons of one common father; if all conditions of life are the appointment of one common master ;

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