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The Duty of doing Good,
THE UNIVERSITY OF CAMBRIDGE,
ST. MARY'S CHURCH,
ON COMMEMORATION SUNDAY,
Nov. 2, 1712.
Galat. vi. 10.
As we have therefore opportunity, let us do good unto all men,
especially unto them who are of the household of faith. TH HESE words having relation to what went before, it may be
convenient to look back to the sixth verse of this chapter, where the Apostle begins his exhortation to acts of charity and kindness towards the ministers of the Gospel. “Let him," saith he," that is taught in the word communicate to him that teach“eth in all good things,” that is, in all good offices; particularly those of beneficence and liberality for their support and maintenance. He proceeds in the two next verses to press the duty further, from the consideration of God's strict and impartial justice in punishing any omission or neglect of it.
66 Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, " that shall he also reap. For he that soweth to his flesh shall “ of the flesh reap corruption ; but” then, for their encouragement, he adds, that “ he that soweth to the Spirit shall of the
“ Spirit reap life everlasting.” And, to obviate any mistrust about it, he exhorts them “not to be weary of well doing," from the certainty of the reward attending it, “in due season “ we shall reap, if we faint not.” Then follows, “As we have “ therefore opportunity, let us do good unto all men, especially “ unto them who are of the household of faith.” This is the connection of the words with those foregoing, which may be sufficient to let us into the general drift and design of them at present; their more particular explanation shall come in due time and place, according to the order and method in which I mean to treat of them, as follows:
I. I shall consider in general the duty of doing good to all men ; the reasonableness, necessity, and excellency of it: “ Let
us do good unto all men.” II. The limitations of this duty to some particular seasons ;
as we have opportunity :” and to particular persons ; « cially unto them who are of the household of faith.”
I shall beg leave to detain you a while upon these points; and then endeavour briefly to apply the whole to the present occasion.
I. I am to consider in general the duty of doing good to all men; the reasonableness, necessity, and excellency of it.
It hath pleased Almighty God so to order the affairs of the world, that the welfare and happiness of mankind both present and future shall in a great measure depend upon their mutual kindness, their amicable and friendly offices towards one another. Not only our food and raiment, the necessaries and conveniences of life, come in to us this way, but even our spiritual food and sustenance, our instruction and improvement in piety and virtue, are in a great measure owing to the same ; we are beholden to each other for them. God is pleased to convey his mercies and blessings, spiritual and temporal, by the mediation and service of men, making us the dispensers and stewards of the bounties of Heaven. He feeds and clothes us, while tender and helpless, by the assistance of kind parents; instructs us, as we grow up, by masters and teachers; calls us to our duty by his ministers; and provides for us, all along through our manifold wants and necessities, by our friends. Our obligations therefore to do good, to be kind and serviceable to each other in our respective capacities, are laid deep in our nature, are the necessary result of our state and condition here, are what we are all born to, and mainly designed for, and that no doubt for very wise and good
It would be easy for Almighty God to make every man independent upon any but himself, to send us bread from heaven, or to make every thing we have occasion for spring up ready to our hands; or he might administer to our necessities a thousand other ways, which we know not of, without the least assistance or service of our neighbours. But not to mention other things, where would there be that lovely harmony of society consisting of mutual offices? What charms of conversation would be left us, which is rendered so agreeable by our contributing to each other's happiness? What exercise of love and amity, which endears us to one another, and so unites us together? In fine, what foundation would there be for the many social virtues to which we are trained up here, in order to prepare us for much nobler and diviner exercises of love hereafter? Love and amity are the delight of heaven, and make up the blessedness of saints and angels. We are therefore taught the practice of those virtues now, which in greater perfection are to be our chief employment, our joy and bliss for ever. And hence perhaps it is, that we are made in a manner to depend upon one another from the first moment we breathe till our last; and that we have all some means or other of being useful and beneficial to our kind put into our hands, that by the exercise of love and amity in this life we may be duly qualified for a better.
As God has thus taken care, by the very state and condition of our being, to oblige us to this duty of doing good, so to enforce it yet further, it comes recommended to us by our own natural instinct and passions, by the best and brightest examples, the most frequent and solemn exhortations, and the most engaging motives.
There is no man, who has not very much debauched his nature, but finds in himself a very strong propensity to acts of mercy and pity upon some special occasions; and feels a sensible pleasure and satisfaction within arising from them. To relieve the needy, to assist the helpless, to raise the drooping soul, and to bring comfort to the afflicted and heavy laden, these are very delightful and pleasurable duties. And it is hard to determine whether the pleasure of bestowing a favour in this manner dues not equal or even exceed the joy of the receiver. Thus by the very bent and inclinations of our nature are we incited to do
good; we find pain and trouble in resisting these inward motions
And when this Divine Saviour was pleased to take upon him our nature, to converse with sinful men, all his endeavours were to do them good ; and every action of his life and circumstance of his death was a fresh instance of it. He healed diseases, cast out devils, fed thousands by miracle, at once contributing both to the happiness of this life and of that which is to come. He laid hold on all opportunities of being kind and serviceable, and industriously sought out more; in fine, his cha