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Extraordinary Occasion. For such Extraordinary Events may offer, in relation to the Christian Church, or to some particular Branches of it, as may introduce a Necessity, not only to Sell all that we have, but likewise * to lay down our lives for the Brethren. • But in ordinary occurrences, and according to the usual state of Things, the general Rules of Charity are, that every Man should give Liberally and Cheerfully, considering that when he hath made competent Provision for himself and Dependents, That which is Superfluous should be the Portion of the Poor. In order therefore to discharge our Obligations to Charity, 'tis needful to enquire, what is properly to be esteemed Superfluous? And under this enquiry, it may be of some use to reflect upon a Distinction frequently made by Scholastick Writers; who observe, that Superfluity does either relate purely to Life and Subsistence, or, to the particular Circumstances and Stations of Men in the World. Whatsoever is possessed
more than is Necessary to the preservation of Life, is called Superfluous to Life; And whatsoever is possessed more than is Necessary to support Mens Respective Characters and Stations, is styled Superfluous to State, or Condition. ''Tis obvious then, that those things, which are Superfluous to a Man's Life, are yet Necessary to that Decency which belongs to his Station. And therefore, if no Extraordinary Occasions should offer themselves, he is not obliged to dispense, in Acts of Charity, all that is Superfluous unto Life: For if this were, in all cases an indispensable Duty, that variety of Orders and Offices, which runs through Human Society, must fink; which would at once break up the very foundations of the Civil Constitution, and be likewise highly prejudicial to the State of Religion. · The Measures therefore of Common Charity would easily be fixed, if Men did but determine what is Superfluous to their several Stations. But, in the dea termination of this point, they are very apt to Disobey God, Deceive themselves,
and and Defraud the Poor. For if they will resolve, at any rate, and to the utmost of their Power, to Indulge, and Inrich, and Aggrandize themselves and their Families; 'tis then no wonder, that they will never acknowledge themselves possessed of any thing Superfluous. If Ambition, or Sensuality, or Covetousness be admitted into our enquiries, concerning what is Necessary, and what Superfluous, the Question will certainly be determined on the Uncharitable side. But if these fountains of Prejudice and of all Iniquity, do not derive their Impure Streams upon Mens. Hearts; if they do impartially and Sincerely enquire into their Duty, it will easily and plainly appear, that their Temporal Blessings are generally more than equal to their own exigencies, to the proper Decency and Dignity of their Stations, to that suitable Provision, which they are obliged to make for their Families, and to that Provision likewise, which may be made, with regard to future Necessities.
tion to support them. They may Imagine, or Alledge, that the Fire of God may possibly fall from Heaven, and confume One part of their Substance, whilft the Chaldeans may seize upon Another: They may urge the Reasonableness of arming themselves against All future Dangers, against All Unexpected Accidents: And if this way of arguing be allowable, then must they suffer the Poor to perish, because they themselves may Possibly fall into that number. But they should be extremely cautious of trifling with themselves in matters of this moment, and of running Perversely into such Fatal and Destructive Absurdities. Necessaries and Superfluities are not to be estimated by Possibility, but by Probability, and the common Course of things. When any one hath made fuch Provision, as will probably, and under the usual course of God's good Providence, answer the Necessities and Just Conveniencies of Himself and Dependents; the other shares of his Treasures are to be reached out une to those who want them. Not that works of Charity are to be neglected, whilst such
Provision is Gathering, for 'tis not to be conceived, that a sincere Christian can, in a direct contradiction to Christ's command, be, in any period of Life, so engaged in laying up treasures upon earth, :: that he wholly neglects to lay up treasures in heaven. St. Paul gives this commandment to the Corinthians ; * Concern . ing the collection for the Saints, as I have given order to the Churches of Galatia, even Jo de ye. Upon the first day of the week, let every one of you lay by him in store, as God hath prospered him. Charitable Contributions were not only incumbent upon those, who were poffefsed of a Full, Fixed Estate, but upon all others likewise, whose support depended upon Success in their Employments. Every one must, from time to time, lay by him in fore, as God hath profpered him; must Constantly devote unto good Works, as large a Proportion of his Encrease, as will consist with the supply of his present Exigencies, and with the Probable expectation of making suitable Provision for. * Cor. xvi. 1, 2, 3