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racter is summed up in this, that “ he went about doing good.” The like may be observed of the whole host of heaven, the blessed company of saints and angels, who have been always engaged in the same friendly designs, constantly employed in doing good. After so many, and so great and glorious examples, need we any precept, any persuasion, to incite us to this duty ? Yet to secure our compliance in this point, to imprint and rivet it into our hearts and minds, every page almost of the Old and New Testament inculcates this lesson to us, and presses it most earnestly upon us. There we find God declaring, that he prefers the works of charity and mercy to his own more immediate service, in as much as he does not stand in need of our services, but our brethren do, and may be benefited by them. He therefore rejects all our prayers and praises in comparison, looking upon them as nothing, if brought into competition with relieving the widow and fatherless in their affliction, or doing good to the bodies or the souls of men. There also we find our blessed Saviour acquainting us with the particulars of the inquiry to be made at the last day; whether we have fed the hungry, or clothed the naked; given drink to the thirsty, or visited the sick and afflicted, to speak comfort to them. And there we see that the unprofitable and wicked servant are the same in God's account of them; that it is in vain for any man who does no good, to pretend he has done no harm : he must answer for his neglects and omissions of this kind. The not doing good, when we might and ought to have done it, is a high crime, and will be enough to condemn us at the great day. So strong, so indispensable are our obligations to this duty. Indeed it is the very life and soul of Christianity, the sum and substance of all religion; and love is the fulfilling both of the Law and the Gospel. All other duties either yield to it, or else are implied in it; and that we may not pretend to want objects of compassion and charity, or to grow straitened and narrow in our affections, all mankind have an interest and concern in them. No distance of place or time can limit the extent of this duty: for our good wishes and prayers at least may reach unto the ends of the earth, and be serviceable where we cannot know it; and the fruits of our present services may spring up and grow to all succeeding generations. No difference in opinions or opposition of parties can make void our obligations; for all are in a Christian sense neighbours; and we are to “ love our neighbours as ourselves.” No affronts or injuries, no injustice, violence, or oppression, ought to stifle our sense of this duty; for we are to “love our enemies, to do good to them that hate us, and to

pray for them that despitefully use us and persecute us. If “our enemy hunger, we must feed him” never the less for being such ; and “if he thirst, we must give him drink; that by so

doing,” if possible, we may melt him into love and gratitude, “ heaping," as it were, “ coals of fire upon his head.” And this indeed is as great an instance of pity and compassion, as curing either the blind or lame; nay, a much greater, thus to heal the rage of a distempered mind, and to bring a man back again to his right senses. “ As we have therefore opportunity, let us do

good unto all men,” whether friends or enemies, whether brethren or aliens, to all who can stand in need of, and may be any thing the better for us.

Having thus considered the duty in general, the reasonableness, necessity, and excellency of it in its largest extent, I proceed, in the second place,

II. To consider the limitation of it to particular times and seasons, “ as we have opportunity;” and to particular persons, especially unto them who are of the household of faith.”

The words ós kaipòvěxquev are sometimes rendered, while we have time; that is, while by the mercy of Almighty God our frail and uncertain lives are continued to us. And this is evident, that we ought always to be “ doing the work of him that sent

us, while our day lasts, and before our night cometh, when no man can work.”

And so our season for doing good, taken at large, is the whole time of our sojourning here in this world. But then as to some particular acts and kinds of it, there are some special seasons and opportunities proper for them; the well-observing of which will be the best means to direct us as well what good to do, as in what manner, so as to answer the ends and designs of it. And in this sense it is, that I would here understand the words of my text, “as we have “ opportunity.”

Now these proper seasons or opportunities of doing good may be conceived to respect either the persons who are to do a kindness, or those it should be done to. In regard to the former, every advantage which accrues to them, every increase of their substance, power, or ability in any kind, affords a fresh occasion; and is, as it were, a new opportunity given them for doing good.


Does any man abound in wealth, and riches flow in upon him? This is the season, the opportunity which God hath put into his hands, that he may do good by his liberality and bounty towards his poorer brethren. Is he withal advanced to great honours, power, and authority? This must be looked upon as an opportunity given him of doing good, by protecting and encouraging virtue and piety, by discountenancing and restraining vice and immorality. Hath any man, by the blessing of God and his own industry, attained to a good degree of learning, or by years, thought, and experience, to more than ordinary measures of wisdom? This then is the season and opportunity for his doing good, by instructing the ignorant and unlearned, or by advising and admonishing the unwise and unthinking. Or is he by God's grace, prayer, and endeavour, arrived to a better sense of religion, and a more exalted piety, than his neighbours ? This likewise is another opportunity of doing good, that “ being him“ self converted he may then strengthen his brethren." And, that it may not be thought, that only the rich, great, wise, learned, or eminently good, are blessed with opportunities, it must be observed, that all others, in different proportions, or in different ways, have their opportunities too, and are obliged in their respective capacities to do what they can. The offices of humanity, civility, and courtesy, lie open and common to all ; and the very meanest and lowest may do good by their honest industry in time of health, and at all times by humility, modesty, and peaceable carriage, by good advice, by prayer, or by example. Hitherto I have considered how a man may be said to have opportunity with respect to his own power and abilities of doing good.

Next we may observe the like with respect to the wants and occasions of others whom we ought to do good to. These indeed are innumerable, and we can never want opportunities in this sense of any sort or kind. “ The poor we have always with us, “and when we will we may do them good.” There will be always ignorance, weakness, folly, sin, and misery enough in the world, to furnish us with matter for our compassion and charity, and to exhaust all our services. But because our time is short, our talents few, and our abilities at the highest finite and limited ; our business must be, out of so great variety to choose such instances of doing good as we are best qualified for; and of those such as are most wanted, or by some peculiar circumstances


hold on, may

come more particularly recommended to us. Some special times and occasions may require our service more than others; and some opportunities may be offered, which, if not presently laid

be lost for ever. On this account the offices of love and charity may reasonably be distinguished into two sorts, constant and occasional, from the matter or the objects of them. We are constantly obliged to be doing good, of some kind or other, in proportion to our abilities; and the ordinary standing necessities of mankind afford constant matter for it. But besides this, we are also occasionally obliged to exert ourselves with greater zeal, vigour, and activity upon some special emergencies, and very urgent and pressing engagements. As if a church and nation be in present danger of sinking into heresy and schism, profaneness, irreligion, or atheism ; this is a special opportunity, calling for as special assistance; and at such a time all, who are capable of doing any good service, are obliged forthwith to employ their wits, tongues, pens, interest, and authority for the prevention and cure of such a threatening mischief. In cases of inferior and private concern, for instance, if any person or persons are nearly reduced to extremities, labouring under some heavy and severe pressures, and not being able to subsist, if not speedily relieved by kind neighbours ; such opportunities as these are what no good Christian, who has any bowels of compassion, no good heathen, would let slip froin him. In this sense therefore, “as we have opportunity" offered, “ let us do “good unto all men,” after the example of the good Samaritan, laid down for a rule of practice by our blessed Saviour in all cases of this nature.

There is another limitation of this duty, taken notice of in my text, and that is, to particular persons, as well as to times. Not that any persons, whom it may be in our power to serve, are to be excluded from our charity; only it may admit of different degrees, and is principally to be applied to some more than others :

: we may be allowed both in our constant and occasional charities to make a difference in regard to the quality and circumstances of the persons, and when all cannot be equally served, to prefer the most deserving. We are to "do good unto “all men, but especially unto the household of faith ;" that is, to Christ's church or family, and those particularly whose labours and services most eminently deserve and require it ; to them especially, in whose support and welfare the interest of religion, the honour of God, and the good of souls is so deeply concerned. Where other circumstances are equal, or but nearly equal, the value and character of the person, or the relation to us, ought to give them the preference in our charitable offices, and to entitle them to our first and best services. Indeed a stranger, or even an enemy in extremities, is to be relieved before a friend or a brother who is in no such want of us ; for the offices of humanity seem equally due to them as men, and a bare convenience of one may reasonably be postponed, and give way to the extremities of the other. But where this is not the case, or where both seem to lie under almost equal necessities, there certainly a man may be allowed and even obliged more especially to assist his friends before his enemies, brethren before aliens, Christians before heathens, kindred before acquaintance, good and well deserving before those who have less pretensions; and though we may be willing to assist all or any of them as we are able, and as we see proper occasions, yet towards some more especially we may give a loose to our affections, and be enlarged in our bowels of compassion; may open both our hearts and hands to receive and embrace them, and even overflow in our kindness and bounty towards them. To feed the hungry, and clothe the naked, is kind and Christian, though the persons so relieved be strangers and aliens, and even useless or ill-deserving. But if such offices be done to Christians, and good Christians, and such as have deserved well by their pious and painful endeavours, then the charity is the greater, as the design of it is nobler, and the good effect of it more diffusive, lasting, and beneficial than the other. The rule then which the voice of nature and reason, as well as the laws of God, have marked out for our charities, is this, that if at any time we can serve the honour of God and the interests of the public more by one sort of charity than another, or by relieving some persons before others, and in one particular manner beyond any else, we are always to choose that which may probably do most good, may spread the widest and last the longest. Thus to relieve any persons in necessity is an act of humanity and Christian charity; but more so, if they are persons of uncommon merit, or undeserved sufferings; and relieving them in such a way as shall promote the welfare of their souls, makes it yet more excellent than if it concerned only their bodily wants; and if it be at the same time useful and beneficial to many more besides, it is then

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