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And. this Interpretation is agreeable to the importance of the Greek Word,' ASlxsx, which we here render Unrighteousness, and. does in some other Places, signify Falseness or Deceitsuln?ss. And this Acceptation of the Words may be confirmed, by comparing them with the like Expression at the nth Verse, the Unrighteous Mammon ,• which, as it stands in opposition to True Riches, denotes that Earthly Treasures are not properly and truly to be esteem'd Riches: They do in this resemble the Possessors of them, that they are Deceitful upon the Weights, they are altogether lighters han Vanity it self. Spiritual Blessings are the only True Riches; which are therefore here opposed to Temporal Possessions, the Unrighteous Mammon, or False and Deceitful Riches.
Our Blessed Lord therefore requires his Disciples to devote their Riches unto good Works, in expectation of a Future Reward. The Expressions in the Text, are adapted to the Circumstances in the foregoing Parable. As the Unjufl Steward did, by his management, secure himself of Friends and Future Reception; so our
H 3 Saviour Saviour suggests this Inducement to Works of Charity, that by the faithful Performance of them, we shall, in effect, make to our selves Friends, who, when wefai/, when we are removed out of our Stewardship, out of this World by Death, will secure our Admission into a Future and Eternal State of Happiness.
Such is the Occasion, and such the Importance of the Words, which may supply us with matter of Meditation, under the three following Enquiries:
I. How far, and in what Respects, we are obliged to dispense our Wealth in Acts of Charity?
II. Upon what Accounts chiefly it is, that those Charitable Dispensations are to be esteemed so Excellent, as they are supposed to be in the Text?
III. In what Sense we are to understand that Efficacy, which here seems to be ascribed to them?
I. It should be inquired, How far, and in what respects, we are obliged to dispense our Wealth in Acts of Charity? And, in relation to the Special and Restrain'd Sense of this Expression, the Mammon of Unrighteousness, 'tis to be observ'd, that there are Cases, wherein Alms-deeds would be not only Unnecessary, but Unlawful; because they would be attended with the Violation of Justice. Satisfaction must be made to those who are Injur'd, before Provision for those who are in Want. • Riches procur'd by Theft or Fraud, Extortion or Oppression, do not properly render a Man capable of performing Acts of Charity, but lay him under a Necessity of making Restitution. But if the Persons Injured are not known, or if it does, by any other Necessary Obstacle and Impediment, become impossible to make Restitution, then should the Riches, which are Wrongfully engrossed, be Devoted to good Works: And yet such Works are rather to be esteemed Acts of Justice, than of Charity.
ft 4 The
The same Measures should be taken when Circumstances are such, that Restitution is not necessary, notwithstanding that Opportunities of making it may easily be found. Such are the Circumstances of Persons corrupted by Bribery. For since every Bribe is at once a Voluntary Gift, and the Fruit of Injustice, the Sordid Giver hath forfeited all Rightful Claim to it, and therefore Equity does not require that it should be restored to him; and yet it cannot Lawfully be retained by the Polluted Hands of him who receives it, because he hath no Propriety in it, unless Propriety can be grounded upon Injustice: And therefore it should be appropriated to Works of Charity. And in General, all Unlawful Possessions should be intirely given up by Restitution, where that is Pojfible and Necessary; and where it is not, they should be disposed of in good Works, without excepting and reserving any the least Part of them; for it is a Cursed thing.
But it seldom becomes Necessary to give up all our Just Possessions, for the relies of the Poor. Indeed we find, that amongst the First Christians the Rich did admit the Indigent to a Free and 1111— mited Participation of their Riches: The Bounty of the one was determined by no measure but the Wants of the other. For as * they had all things Common., which they possessed; so, when the Possessors of Lands or Houses fold them, "f Distribution .' was made unto every Man according as he had Need. These were Eminent and Glorious Effects of Charity; but we do not find these Degrees of it Indispensably and Universally required.
Our Blefled Saviour indeed lays this Injunction upon the Ruler; % Sell all that thou hafi, and distribute unto the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven. This Person was without doubt under a Necessary Obligation to Obey this Command, which was Particularly given to Him j but it does not seem Obligatory upon thofe, to whom it is not Particularly given; unless the Obligation of it should arise from some Uncommon and
* Acts iv. 32. t Ver. 34, 35. fLufce xviii. 22.