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Virtue never strikes us so strongly, as when exhibited to our view in the character of persons who fill a low station of life; and no one can fail of being charmed with the artless and friendly hospitality he happens to meet with in the cot of a peasant. An instance of this sort we meet with in the book of Judges, which serves to relieve our minds of the pain we feel, from the sad story of the Levite and his concubine with which it is connected. As these two people with their servant were returning from the house of the father of this unhappy woman, they took up their lodging for a night in Gibeah of Benjamin. But so inhospitable were the inhabitants of that place, that they were obliged to sit them down in a street of the city, no man inviting them to his house. At length, however, a good old man comes from his work in the field, and seeing these strangers in the street, after asking them whence they came and whither they were going; invites them to his house, poor as he was, saying, Peace be with you, let all your wants lie upon me. So he gives provender to their asses, washes their feet, and with a hearty good-will makes them eat and drink a. Who can read this little story without wishing this poor man had possessed an estate in Gibeah, large enough to excuse him from manual labour, and enable him to gratify his benevolent disposition to the utmost extent of it?
The story likewise of the Shunamite must not be passed over in silence. She was indeed in a superior station to that of the good man just mentioned, but she had a heart as benevolent as his. When Elisha the prophet came that way she was used to invite him with great earnestness to her house, to constrain him, as it is expressed, to eat bread. And in the fulness of her heart we hear her saying to her husband, Let us make a little chamber, I pray thee, on the wall, and let us set for him there a bed, and a table, and a stool, and a candlestick: and it shall be
Next Teuthras's son distain'd the sands with blood,
Axylus, hospitable, rich and good:
In fair Arisba's walls (his native place)
He held his seat; a friend to human race.
Fast by the road, his ever-open door
Oblig'd the wealthy, and reliev'd the poor. PORE.
a Judges xix. 16-21.
when he cometh to us, that he shall turn in thither a. genuine hospitality, the fruit of benevolence and not of ostentation: for when the prophet on a time, sensible of his obligations to her for the care she had taken of him and his servant, asks. her whether he should speak to the, king or the captain of the host on her behalf; she replies with all the sweet tranquillity of unambitious contentment, a virtue nearly allied to that we are discoursing of, I dwell among mine own people b.
As to persons in a superior station of life, who were eminent both for their piety and their hospitality, many instances occur in the Old Testament; but it shall suffice to remind you of David, Obadiah, and Nehemiah. The first of these it is true was a mighty prince; his generosity however on occasion of his bringing up the ark to the tabernacle he had pitched for it, exceeded what might be expected even from royal munificence. He dealt among all the people, it is said, even among the whole multitude of Israel, as well women as men, to every one a cake of bread, and a good piece of flesh, and a flagon of wine c. Obadiah was ruler over the house of king Ahab, and by favouring the reformation which took place through the means of Elijah, hazarded every thing; yet such was his piety and hospitality, that he took an hundred prophets, and hid them by fifty in a cave, and fed them with bread and water d. Nehemiah was governor of the Jews on their return from the captivity twelve years; and during that time, so great was his benevolence that at his own private expence he kept open table for an hundred and fifty of the Jews and rulers, besides those that visited him from among the heathens e.
To come now to the New Testament. What a good-natured and hospitable family was that of Lazarus at Bethany! And though Martha was perhaps too anxious about her domestic affairs, yet who can forbear applauding the benevolent regards she expressed for our Saviour and his friends? The generous love of one of the Maries, who at a great expence procured an alabaster box of very precious ointment, and shook it over our Lord's head as he sat at meat; was so grateful to him that he declared, what she had done should be told for a memorial of
a 2 Kings iv. 8-10. d1 Kings xviii. 4.
b 2 Kings iv. 13.
c 2 Sam. vi. 19. fLuke x, 38-ult,
her wherever the gospel should be preached in the whole world a. The primitive Christians were much given to hospitality. In the beginning they had all things in common: they sold their possessions and goods, and parted them to all men, as every man had need; and daily, breaking bread from house to house, they eat their meat with gladness and singleness of heart b. Whereever the gospel was received a liberal spirit was diffused among the people, and the houses as well as hearts of men in all places were open to entertain strangers who came properly recommended to them. In fine, the names of Priscilla and Aquila, of Lydia, of Gaius, and many others, will be conveyed down to the latest posterity with marks of divine approbation for their benevolence and hospitality.—But the most powerful argument to persuade us to the duty we are recommending, is that which results,
5. And lastly, from divine Hospitality.
The blessed God is the Father of a numerous family, the great Householder of the universe; and words are wanting to express the benevolence of his heart and the bounty of his hands.
He is good to all, and his tender mercies are over all his works. All his works praise him, and his saints bless him. His crea tures, every one of them, wait upon him, and he gives them their meat in due season. He openeth his hand, and satisfies the desire of every living thing c.' His sun shines and his rain falls on the evil as well as the good. His very enemies share of his bounty. He gives liberally to all men, and upbraids not. From him we receive ability to be hospitable, and hearts to be so too. The tables to which we invite our friends he spreads, and the cup we put into their hands he fills. Oh the munificence of the great God! How large, how constant, how inexhaustible is his bounty! Ought we not then to be followers of God as dear children? To be hospitable is to be like God: and to resemble his Maker is the glory of an intelligent creature.
But when we have surveyed the bounties of Providence in their largest extent, the idea we collect from thence of the generosity of the blessed God falls prodigiously short of that which the gospel inspires. Here, to use the language of an apostle, he hath shewn the exceeding riches of his grace, in his kind
a Matt. xxvi. 6-13.
b Acts ii. 45, 46.
c Psal. cxlv. 9, 10, 15, 16,
ness towards us, through Christ Jesus a.' A feast he has prepared for myriads of guilty, wretched, helpless beings, at an expence which angels are at a loss to compute. The sacrifice is his own Son! How exquisitely grand must the feast on such a sacrifice be! Let eastern monarchs in all the pride of wealth and power, assemble their princes, nobles, and people, to partake of a banquet the most expensive and magnificent they can furnish. Let them on these occasions, like Ahasuerus, exhibit to the view of their subjects the riches of their glorious kingdoms, and the honour of their excellent majesty b.' It is all idle shew, a mere splendid nothing, when compared with this the noblest of all entertainments. Nor is the reception which the Master of this feast gives his numerous guests, less kind and gracious than the feast itself is sumptuous and delectable. With infinite condescension and goodness he sends his servants to invite men of all descriptions to it, with a cordiality not to be imagined he welcomes them to it, and with unexampled hospitality pours upon them a profusion of joys the most refined, substantial, and unutterable. Happy day, when all the guests shall be assembled, and this glorious festival shall be celebrated in the palace of the great King above!
Let us now lay all these ideas together-the fitness of this duty-the reward it brings with it-the fair examples of those who have most distinguished themselves by their generosity in this way-and, above all the hospitality of the blessed God, on whose favour our happiness depends; let us lay all these considerations together, and then ask ourselves, whether we can find it in our hearts to be selfish, parsimonious, and inhospitable? A man of this character is a wretch, a disgrace to his species, and deserving of the .contempt and detestation of every rational and sociable being. Such monsters there may be in our world: but such, surely, are not to be found among the disciples of the kind, the benevolent, the hospitable Jesus. It is impossible that they who have shared of his bounty, and have drank into his spirit, should thrust the honest poor from their doors, shut up their bowels of compassion from the widow, the fatherless, and the stranger, and have no taste for the generous pleasures of friendship and society. We speak there
a Eph. ii. 7,
b Esth. i. 4.
fore, Christians, a language harmonious in your ears, and congenial to your hearts, when we say with the apostle, Use hospitality one to another, without grudging.
JOB 1. 4, 5.-And his sons went and feasted in their houses, every one his day, and sent and called for their three sisters, to eat and to drink with them. And it was so, when the days of their feasting were gone about, that Job sent and sanctified them, and rose up early in the morning, and offered burnt-offerings according to the number of them all: for Job said, It may be that my sons have sinned, and cursed God in their hearts. Thus did Job continually.`
FESTIVALS in families, on occasion of marriages, births, and other prosperous events, have been usual in most ages and countries. And it is not to be doubted that the practice is innocent and commendable. It is capable of being improved to ends the most salutary and important; and on the contrary, of being abused to purposes very criminal and pernicious. To offer such advice therefore as may prevent the evils apprehended, and contribute to the cheerfulness and utility of these domestic friendly associations, is the object of this discourse. The story just read naturally leads us to our design: the particulars of it therefore we shall consider and explain.
It has been questioned by some whether the story of Job is to be considered in any other light than a fable or allegory, after the manner of the easterns, and agreeable to some other parts of Scripture. But there does not appear to me ground sufficient to support this opinion. The story, exclusive of the discourse between the several parties, is short, told with a great air of simplicity, and an exactness of circumstances and names