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shall never see again; for else your alms or courtesy is not charity, but traffic and merchandise; and be sure, that you omit not to relieve the needs of your enemy and the injurious; for so, possibly, you may win him to yourself; but do you intend the winning him to God.
12. Trust not your alms to intermedial, uncertain, and under-dispensers: by which rule is not only intended the securing your alms in the right channel: but the humility of your person, and that, which the apostle calls " the labour of love.'' And if you converse in hospitals and alms-houses, and minister with your own hand, what your heart hath first decreed, you will find your heart endeared and made familiar with the needs and with the persons of the poor, those excellent images of Christ.
13. Whatsoever is superfluous in thy estate, is to be dispensed in almsp. "He, that hath two coats, must give to him, that hath none;" that is, he, that hath beyond his need, must give that, which is beyond it. Only among needs, we are to reckon not only, what will support our life, but also what will maintain the decency of our estate and person; not only in present needs, but in all future necessities, and very probable contingencies, but no further: we are not obliged beyond this, unless we see very great, public, and calamitous necessities. But yet, if we do extend beyond our measures, and give more, than we are able, we have the Philippians and many holy persons for our precedent; we have St. Paul for our encouragement; we have Christ for our counsellor; we have God for our rewarder, and a great treasure in heaven for our recompence and restitution. But I propound it to the consideration of all Christian people, that they be not nice and curious, fond and indulgent to themselves in taking accounts of their personal conveniences: and that they make their proportions moderate and easy, according to the order and manner of Christianity; and the consequent will be this, that the poor will more plentifully be relieved, themselves will be more able to do it, and the duty will be less chargeable, and the owners of estates charged with fewer accounts in the spending them. It cannot be denied, but, in the expenses of all liberal and great personages, many things might be spared; some superfluous servants, some idle meetings, some unnecessary and imprudent feasts, some garments too costly, some unnecessary lawsuits, some vain journeys : and, when we are tempted to such needless expenses, if we shall descend to moderation, and lay aside the surplusage, we shall find it with more profit to be laid out upon the poor members of Christ, than upon our own with vanity. But this is only intended to be an advice in the manner of doing alms: for I am not ignorant, that great variety of clothes always have been permitted to princes and nobility and others, in their proportion; and they usually give those clothes as rewards to servants, and other persons needful enough, and then they may serve their own fancy and their duty too: but it is but reason and religion to be careful, that they be given to such only, where duty, or prudent liberality, or alms, determine them ; but, in no sense, let them do it so, as to minister to vanity, to luxury, to prodigality. The like also is to be observed in other instances; and if we once give our minds to the study and arts of alms, we shall find ways enough to make this duty easy, profitable, and useful.
P Praemonstro tibi
Vt ita te aliorum miserescat, ne tui alios misereat. — Trinummus.
1. He, that plays at any game, must resolve beforehand, to be indifferent to win or lose: but if he gives to the poor all that he wins, it is better than to keep it to himself: but it were better yet, that he lay by so much, as he is willing to lose, and let the game alone, and, by giving so much alms, traffic for eternity. That is one way.
2. Another is keeping the fasting-days of the church; which if our condition be such as to be able to cast our accounts, and make abatements for our wanting so many meals in the whole year (which by the old appointment did amount to one hundred and fifty-three, and since most of them are fallen into desuetude, we may make up as many of them as we please, by voluntary fasts,) we may, from hence, find a considerable relief for the poor. But if we be not willing sometimes to fast, that our brother may eat, we should ill die for him. St. Martin had given all, that he had in the world, to the poor, save one coat; and that also he divided between two beggars. A father in the mount of Nitria, was reduced at last to the inventory of one Testament; and that book also was tempted from him by the needs of one, whom he thought poorer than himself. Greater yet: St. Paulinus sold himself to slavery to redeem a young man, for whose captivity his mother wept sadly: and it is said, that St. Katharine sucked the envenomed wounds of a villain, who had injured her most impudently. And I shall tell you of a greater charity than all these put together: Christ gave himself to shame and death to redeem his enemies from bondage, and death, and hell.
3. Learn of the frugal man, and only avoid sordid actions, and turn good husband, and change your arts of getting into providence for the poor, and we shall soon become rich in good works: and why should we not do as much for charity, as for covetousness; for heaven, as for the fading world; for God and the holy Jesus, as for the needless superfluities of back and belly?
14. In giving alms to beggars and persons of that low rank, it is better to give little to each; that we may give to the more; so extending our alms to many persons: but in charities of religion, as building hospitals, colleges, and houses for devotion, and supplying the accidental wants of decayed persons, fallen from great plenty to great necessity, it is better to unite our alms, than to disperse them ; to make a noble relief or maintenance to one, and to restore him to comfort, than to support only his natural needs, and keep him alive only, unrescued from sad discomforts.
15. The precept of alms or charity binds not indefinitely to all the instances and kinds of charity : for he, that delights to feed the poor, and spends all his portion that way, is not bound to enter into prisons and redeem captives: but we are obliged, by the presence of circumstances, and the special disposition of Providence, and the pitiableness of an object, to this or that particular act of charity. The eye is the sense of mercy; and the bowels are its organ; and that enkindles pity, and pity produces alms: when the eye sees, what it never saw, the heart will think, what it never thought: but, when we have an object present to our eye, then we must pity; for there the providence of God hath fitted our charity with circumstances. He, that is in thy sight or in thy neighbourhood, is fallen into the lot of thy charity.
16. If thou hast no moneyq, yet thou must have mercy; and art bound to pity the poor, and pray for them, and throw thy holy desires and devotions into the treasure of the church: and if thou dost, what thou art able, be it little or great, corporal or spiritual, the charity of alms or the charity of prayers, a cup of wine or a cup of water, if it be but love to the brethren1, or a desire to help all or any of Christ's poor, it shall be accepted according to that a man hath, not according to that he hath not*. For love is all this, and all the other commandments: and it will express itself, where it can; and where it cannot, yet it is love still; and it is also sorrow, that it cannot.
1 Luke, xii. 2. Acts, iii. 6. Chi ti da un ossa, non ti verrebbe morto.
Motives to Cliarity.
The motives to this duty are such, as Holy Scripture hath propounded to us by way of consideration and proposition of its excellences and consequent reward. 1. There is no one duty, which our blessed Saviour did recommend to his disciples with so repeated an injunction, as this of charity and alms \ To which add the words spoken by our Lord, "It is better to give than to receive." And when we consider, how great a blessing it is, that we beg not from door to door, it is a ready instance of our thankfulness to God, for his sake to relieve them that do. 2. This duty is that alone, whereby the future day of judgment shall be transacted. For nothing but charity and alms is that, whereby Christ shall declare the justice and mercy of the eternal sentence. Martyrdom itself is not there expressed, and no otherwise involved, but as it is the greatest charity. 3. Christ made himself the greatest and daily example of alms or charity. He went up and down doing good, preaching the gospel, and healing all diseases: and God the Father is imitable by use in nothing, but in purity and mercy. 4. Alms, given to the poor, redound to the emolument of the giver, both temporal and eternalTM. 5. They are instrumental to the remission of sins. Our forgiveness and mercy to others being made the very rule and proportion of our confidence, and hope, and our prayer, to be forgiven ourselvesv. 6. It is a treasure in heaven; it procures friends, when we die. It is reckoned as done to Christ, whatsoever we do to our poor brother: and, therefore, when a poor man begs for Christ's sake, if he have reason to ask for Christ's sake, give it him, if thou canst. Now every man hath title to ask for Christ's sake, whose need is great, and himself unable to cure it, and if the man be a Christian. Whatsoever charity Christ will reward, all that is given for Christ's sake, and therefore it may be asked in his name: but every man, that uses that sacred name for an endearment, hath not a title to it, neither he, nor his need. 7. It is one of the wings of prayer, by which it flies to the throne of grace. 8. It crowns all the works of piety w. 9. It causes thanksgiving to God on our behalf: 10. And the bowels of the poor bless us, and they pray for us. 11. And that portion of our estate, out of which a tenth, or a fifth, or a twentieth, or some offering to God for religion and the poor goes forth, certainly returns with a great blessing upon all the rest. It is like the effusion of oil by the Sidonian woman ; as long as she pours into empty vessels, it could never cease running: or like the widow's barrel of meal; it consumed not, as long as she fed the prophet. 12. The sum of all is contained in the words of our blessed Saviour: "Give alms of such things as you have, and behold all things are clean unto you." 13. To which may be added, that charity, or mercy, is the peculiar character of God's elect, and a sign of predestination; which advantage we are taught by St. Paul: " Put on therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, bowels of mercy, kindness, &c. Forbearing one another, and forgiving one another, if any man have a quarrel against any x." The result of all which we may read in the words of St. Chrysostom: "To know the art of alms is greater than to be crowned with the diadem of kings. And yet to convert one soul is greater than to pour out ten thousand talents into the baskets of the poor."
'1 Pet. i. 22. ■ 2 Cof. viii. 12.
'Matt. vi. 4; xiii. 12, 33 ; xxv. 16. Luke, xi. 41. "Phil. iv. 17. "Acts, x. 4. Hel1. xiii. 16. Dan. iv. 27. VOL. IV. R
But, because giving alms is an act of the virtue of mercifulness, our endeavour must be, by proper arts, to mortify the parents of unmercifulness, which are, 1. Envy; 2. Anger; 3. Covetousness: in which we may be helped by the following rules or instruments.
» Nunquam memini me legisse mala morte mortmtm, qui libenter opera
charitatis exercuit S. Hieron. ep. ad Nepot.
1 Coloss. iii. 12.