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1 Samuel xxv. 10, II.
And JVabal ansivered David'^s servants, and said. Who ls David f and who is the son of Jesse ? there be many: servants now-a-days that break away every man frorn his master. Shall I then take my bread, and my water, and my flesh that I have killed for my shearers, and give it unto men, whom I knoiv not whence they be ? Such is still the language of the avaricious man ; such are still the excuses made by the insensible heart, when it seeks some pretexts to exempt it from relieving the wants of the unhappy. When we plead for the afflicted, abals are still to be found, who reply only by words of railing and contempt against the children of sorrow ; only by representing the conferment of alms, and the support of charitable institutions, as an encouragement to indolence and vice; only by reminding us, that their wealth is their * This Sermon was preached for the benefit of the Savannah Orphan Asylum.
262 SERMO cxxxvn. own, and that they have a right to dispose ol it according to their pleasure. To show you the baseness and criminahty of such characters, to answer the excuses which they make against the exercise of benevolence, and to urge you to the performance of the opposite virtues, is the design of the ensuing
discourse. Say not that this is an Unnecessary subject; that ?here are few abals among you ; few that can close their hearts against the cries of distress, and the tears of helpless infancy: we know it; with delight we speak of your generosity. These children before me, fed, clothed, instructed by your bounty, are a living proof that you have hearts that can led for others. But, brethren ! though we doubt not your benevolence, the subject will not be useless: it will confirm in their laudable conduct those whose kindness to the poor anil the unhappy we have often experienced ; it will guard our youth against the indulgence of that cruel, covetous spirit, which would render them curses to society, rob them of the esteem of the community, and deprive them • of the sweetest enjoyments; and should tliere be a single • abal present, perhaps, through tlie iniluence of the Spirit of grace and of love, his heart of stone may be taken from him, and a heart of llesli bestowed, which will induce him liberally to contribute to this important and interesting iiihlitution. Before entering on the immediate subject of this discourse, it will be proper to give a brief view of the history with which the text is connected. David, at this period of his life, was pmsued by Saul, who, from jealousy and envy, ardently wished \n> iiestruction. Wandering, a poor distressed exile.
MISCELLA EOUS. 263 among mountaine, caves, and wildernesses, he was often reduced to the want of the necessaries of life. On such an occasion, he sent some ot
his followers to the wealthy abal, and in terms the most courteous and gentle, entreated his kindness. To this kindness he had indeed a just claim, since he had carefully protected the flocks and possessions of abal from the injurious assaults of others. But, instead of giving any assistance, instead of sparing to David a small portion of that expensive feast with which he was at this time gratifying his vanity and his appetite, abal only answered in the contemptuous and reproachful words of the text. "Who is David, and who is the son of Jesse ? There be many servants now-a-days that break away every man from his master. Shall I then take my bread, and my water, and my flesh that I have killed for my shearers, and give it unto men whom I know not whence they be ?" Let us consider the frivolity of these his excuses. I. Excuse made by abal : My possessions arc strictly and properly my own^ and I have a right to cmploy them as I please. " Shall 1 take my bread, and my water, and my flesh." This is also an excuse that we still hear daily presented by the covetous and uncharitable. But common as is this excuse, it is not only demonstrably false, but also awfully impious, and. strikes directly at the providence, the government, and the sovereignty of the Most High God, o ! Your wealth is not your own : natural, as well as revealed religion, declares that you are only stewards, to whom God has given a certain portion of wealth and talents to be employed for him, and according to his pleasure, and for your use, of which you must
^64 SERMO CXXXVII. render an account to him at the judgment-day. He
has laid down rules for your observance, and if you transgress these rules, it is at the peril of your souls ! Among these rules, none are more explicit than those which relate to the distressed and the needy. ff at any time God appears to renounce a right to your riches, it is only when he transfers this right to the poor. If you refuse to assist them, you are now at the bar of conscience, and you will hereafter be found at the bar of the Holy God, wrongful usurpers, retaining what is theirs by the allotment of the Almighty. You will then find, whatever you now imagine, that it is the bread of the needy which you have hoarded, that it is the gold of the perishing, which has been hidden in your coffers, that it is the silver of the orphan and the fatherless with which you have refused to part, and for which you must render a strict — oh, how strict an account ! Brethren, these are solemn truths! Look then, at these poor orphans ; and let conscience declare, in the presence of the Searcher of hearts, whether you do not believe they are among that number whom the Bestower and Owner of your wealth, your Ruler and your Judge, requires you to relieve.'^ If they are, by withholding your charity from them, you either challenge the authority of the God of heaven, or else wilfully resist his commands. Ah, for this will he hold you guiltless ! II. Excuse of abal: The supposed inferiority of those for ichom his assistance was solicited^ and his want of relationship to him. " Who is David ? and who is the son of Jesse .'^ There be many servants now-adays that break away every man from his master." This excuse also is still daily presented, when we plead for the distressed.
MISCELLA EOUS. 265
There can be little doubt, that the ignorance of abal was was only pretended, that he might render his reply more contemptuous. He well knew the valour and reputation of David ; he knew that when a stripling he had overcome the gigantic champion of Gath, and had often since smitten the Philistines ; that he was nearly allied to Saul, and cruelly and unjustly persecuted. But even if his ignorance had been real ; nay, had he certainly known that the situation of David was most abject, his excuse would have been frivolous. For, my brethren, when we look with contempt upon the poor, and refuse to assist them because of any real or imagined inferiority, we look with contempt on that God whose image they bear, on that Jesus, who died for them as well as for the opulent and distinguished; and who has declared that they are his representatives on earth, and that he considers as done to himself what we perform to them. Yes, let every sentiment of contempt for them be stifled in thy breast, when thou rememberest, that all thy hopes of salvation are founded on our blessed Redeemer's voluntary assumption of that poverty which thou scornest or neglectest. When thou despisest the poor, thou despisest the holy and adorable Jesus, our Lord, our Redeemer, and our Judge, " who though he was rich, yet for our sakes became poor." Do you add, with abal, " Who is David.?" ' Who are these poor orphans ? What relationship have they to me, that I should assist them ?^ They have descended from the same parent with you; their origin is your own ; the blood which flows in their veins is that which Adam has transmitted to you; they like you have a body prganized and fashioned VOL. IV. .34
*2Q6 serjMon cxxxvii. Ly the hand of God ; thej walk under the same heaven with yon. and the same earth snstains them : like you they bear the sacred impression of the image of God ; an image, it is true, greatly obscured and disfigured by sin ; an image nevertheless of which sufficient trails remain, to cause you to respect them for this august impression. In them as well as you, there is a soul endued with wonderful faculties; a soul destined to endless happiness or eternal misery. On these orphans, as well as on yourselves, is the aspersion of the blood of Jesus ; for them he spared not his life : will you withhold from them your benevolence ? Ill, Excuse of abal : His unwUlingness to encourage vice or indolejice. "There be many servants nowa-days that break away every man from his master !" This excuse too we often hear when we ask relief for the distressed. Brethren, I am not commending a blind and indiscriminate charity. It is necessary at times to refuse the wicked and the idle, that we may have resources for the relief of the deserving poor; of those who, through disease or decrepitude, through the adverse dispensations of Providence or the villany of others; through the weakness of infancy or the feebleness of age, are unable to provide for themselves. But were abal to revive among us, with all his avarice, would he dare to say that, by contributing to this institution, he was encouraging vice.'^ o! it is one of the most important and interesting circumstances in this establishment, that it saves destitute children not oidy from ignorance and want, but probably from iniquity. Were they to grow up, with minds uninformed, uninstructed in the principles of religion,
exposed to the contagion of evil example, and ex-
MISCELLA EOUS. 267 periencing the pressure of calamity ; who can tell what scourges they would be to the community? But on the contrary, by your benevolent exertions, they are placed in a situation where the religion of, Jesus is taught to them ; where they are instructed in useful knowledge; where the principles of virtue are early inculcated ; where they are trained to habits of industry; where they are shielded from that penury which might have led to their ruin ; where, under the constant care and vigilant inspection fof prudent and pious females, they are preparing to become useful members of society ; and to increase the sum of virtue, and not of vice. Having thus considered the excuses of abal, let us answ^er the question which he proposes, " Shall I give unto those I know not ?" and at the same time reply to the similar inquiry which you may be proposing to yourselves, " Shall I give for the support of this institution ?" Yes ! give, if you would not be unkind to the Most Merciful; for he has declared that he is the friend, the patron, the protector, of the poor and the fatherless, and that he regards what is bestowed upon them, from correct principles, as conferred upon himself. Give, if you would not be ungrateful to God. What multiplied benefits has he conferred upon us ! Our lives, our health, our reason, our wealth and prosperity, our spiritual privileges, our hopes of glory ! Do we feel no thankfulness for these benefits } We are then worse than brutes. Do we feel gratitude ? We can
express it only by giving to the poor and necessitous. Without this, both scripture and reason declare that our praising God with our lips, and blessing him for his mercy, is a dreadful mockery, a horrible hypo-
268 SERMO cxxxvit. crisy. Without this, all acts of devotion are unavailing. The cries and complaints of the afflicted will drown their noise ; the sighs and groans of the orphan will obstruct their passage to the ears of God. Give, it' you believe God; for otherwise, whatever may be your pretences, you are infidels ; else the promises and threatenings, the joys and the torments, announced to the charitable and uncharitable, must affect you. Give, if you /ovcGod ; for if your heartbeats with affection to hira, it is impossible that you should be unwilling to part with a little gold and silver for his sake and at his command, that we should prize it beyond his favour and friendship. Give, if you desire to have the impress of God upon you. Mercy, compassion, and benevolence, are his peculiar properties, displayed in nature, providence, and grace. " But there is nothing so distant from God, so opposite to him, as a griping, covetous man. Hell is scarcely so contrary to heaven, as such a man's disposition to the nature of God : for it is goodness which sits gloriously triumphant -in the height of heaven, and uncharitableness lies grovelling under the bottom of hell; heaven descends from the one as its principal cause, hell is built upon the other as its main foundation. The one approximates the blessed angels to God, and beatifies them : the other removes the accursed fiends to such a distance
from the All-compassionate, and from happiness. ot to wish, not to do, any good, renders them at once so wicked and so wretched ;" and he who in his practice and feelings corresponds with them, prefers the image of the devil before that of God. Oh ! had abal looked up to the Source and Pattern of excellence, he could not have hesitated how
MISCELLA EOUS. 269 to act ; and if you are properly impressed with a view of your Father, we shall not plead in vain for these orphans. But other motives should affect you, as they ought to have done this covetous man. " Shall I give .^" Yes : because of the instability of all earthly things^ the great uncertainty of riches, you should devote a portion of your wealth to this benevolent purpose, that you may by charity secure some of your possessions beyond the possibility of losing them. Ah ! how many instances have you seen which prove, that to-day we may have the wealth of Job, and tomorrow need all his patience ; that to-day we may exult in boundless wealth, which to-morrow may vanish, and leave nothing but melancholy, disappointment, and remorse } We can give permanence and security to these fugitive blessings only by employing them in acts of charity. Thus they are placed out of the reach of the spoiler, and secured from accident or danger. What we give to the poor, we deliver and intrust into the hands of God, from which no force can wrest it, and no artifices withdraw it. It is laid up in heaven, whither no thief can climb, and where no moth or rust can consume. Thus it becomes a source of felicity, even when we no longer have it in possession.
Do you still ask with abal, " Shall I give .^" Yes ; consider the day of trouble^ and bestow your benefaction. In a short time the shadow of death shall encompass you about, the vanities of life shall fade away, and the comforts of the world shall vanish. YjDur riches and your possessions, your pomp and your magnificence, your sports and pastimes; the companions of your pleasure, the admirers of your fortune, the flatterers of your vices, must be torn
270 SERMO CXXXVII. from you : desolate and unattended, you must go down to the chambers of darkness. This period may be near you : as in the case of abal, it may be only ten days before the Lord may smite you ; and smite you perhaps as he was smitten, for your illiberality. What do I say ? Perhaps in the midst of your dreams of long life, your '- soul may this night be required of you ; and then whose shall those things be which you possess ?" Then will you not acknowledge, that to have preserved and increased your wealth by illiberality and want of mercy, will only render your account more diihcult, and inllame your future reckoning; that all your treasures, instead of procuring you any favour, or bribing any advocate in the impartial world of eternity, shall •' be a swift witness against you," and press you deeper into perdition ? How much happier in the hour of dissolution is he, who from Christian principles, has " rescued sickness from the grave, and poverty from the dungeon; who has heard the groans of the aged struggling with misfortune, and the cries of infants languishing with hunger ! His recompense shall flow from the Fountain of mercy; he shall stand without fear on the brink of life, and pass into eternity with an humble confidence of finding through the Redeemer that mercy he has never denied."
(Taylor.) " Shall I give .^" Yes ; if you wish your memory to be cherished by your survivers. As to the uncharitable person, " men," says Job, " shall clap their hands at him, and shall hiss him out of his place." Having lived but for himself, no tears are shed over his corpse ; his possessions are pointed at as marks of obloquy, and monuments of infamy upon his memory. Who mourns for abal ? who regrets his departure
MISCELLA EOUS. 271 Irom the earth, to which he was a burden ? not one. Whilst with regard to a Dorias, with regard to all the benevolent, the unbought burst of sorrow from the widow and the orphan, declares the loss the children of misfortune have sustained ; their memorial is gratefully recorded on the fleshly tables of the heart ; and at the mouth of the grave is disclosed a part of that beneficence which their modesty when living had concealed, but of which the smallest circumstance shall never be erased from the records of eternity. " Shall I give ?" Yes ! for the judgment-day is approaching : and then, what unutterable anguish, what agonizing horror, shall convulse the heart of him who " shall receive judgment without mercy, because he hath showed no mercy!" While those who, from a sincere love to Jesus, have clothed the naked, consoled the afllicted, and caused the heart of the disconsolate to sing for joy, shall hear the transporting declaration of their beloved and almighty Redeemer, " Inasmuch as ye did it to one of the least of these, ye did it unto me." Read the account of the transactions of that day in Matthew xxv. and if you then dare act uncharitably, you are either
sworn enemies to your own felicity, or you have renounced your God, your religion, your Redeemer, your everlasting hopes. Brethren, it is unnecessary for me to proceed further. You well know the value of the institution for which your benefactions are solicited. Rich men^ we call upon you for your contributions. Present not the excuses of a abal; weigh the motives which have been urged upon you ; remember that the eye of Jesus, who solicits you in the person of these children, is fixed upon you ; and that
ii/2 SERMO cxxxvir. at his bar you are to give an account ot that wealth with which he lias intrusted you. Poor men^ be not discouraged because you can give but little ; your Redeemer accepted the mite of the widow; and has declared that the poor man, who gives a cup of cold water in the name of a disciple, shall not lose his reward. Mothers^ whose hearts fill with joy as yo« think of the fair prospects of your children sporting around you, your hands will be stretched out liberally to relieve these children of sorrow, who were born to poverty, and "' baptized in tears." Ye widows, who are blest with outward comforts, which cannot, however, expel the aching remembrance of the loved relatives you have lost, you will sympathize with those who are " widows indeed ;" who are left with children, poor and helpless, desolate and friendless, bereft of partners on whose bosoms they may recline their throbbing heads, and
who will divide their griefs. Ye who in early life became orphans, ye will look back with a sympathizing heart upon those who follow in the same dark, defenceless path ; and remembering with gratitude the friends Providence raised up for you, will emulate and exceed their benevolence. Christians, in the house of the God of mercy, on the day w hen Jesus rose to seal your immortal hopes, you will rejoice in the opportunity of showing your attachment to the Redeemer, by befriendiug the friendless and proving the orphan's stay. I proceed no further : you have seen your duty ; f confidently leave the result to your hearts, your consciences, and your God ; and I ])ray this God to accept the willing contributions which you are about to bestow.
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