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But, if this fhould not happen, if even Mankind, whom thou haft obliged, fhould fail in Point of Gratitude, yet God is not unrighteous, that be fhould forget thy Work, and Labour of Love, in that thou best ministered to the Diftreffed. For this Thing be fhall bless thee in all thy Works, and in all that thou putteft thine Hand unto; he fhall deliver thee in the Time of Trouble; he fhall preferve thee from the Hand of thine Enemies, and firengthen thee on thy Eed of Languishing. For this Thing he will blefs thee in thy Relations and Pofterity, the Seed of the Merciful all be mighty on the Earth, and the Generation of the Upright fhall be blessed; and therefore, caft thy Bread upon the Waters, (as the wife Man elegantly expreffes the Duty of Beneficence) and thou shalt find it after many Days; for thy Childrens Children fhall find the Advantage of it. For this Thing he will bless thee in (what is more than all) the Salvation of thine immortal Soul; for, as be. fhall have Judgment without Mercy on him who bath fhewed no Mercy, fo, in him that hath fhewed it, Mercy hall rejoice against Judgment, when, in that great and terrible Day of the Lord, he fhall meet with a gracious Sentence from his Judge, and a kind Reception in the Kingdom prepared for him. And therefore, to fum up all in that elegant Difcourfe of Lactantius, concerning Works of Mercy and Charity: "Since human Nature, fays "be, is weaker than that of other Creatures, who "came into the World armed with defenfive Pow
ers, therefore our wife Creator has given us a "tender and merciful Difpofition, that we might place the Safeguard of our Lives in mutual Af"fiftances of one another; for, being all created
by one God, and fprung from one common "Parent, we fhould reckon ourselves a-kin, and "conjoined to all Mankind; and, being ourselves "obnoxious to Mifery, we may more comfortably N 3
hope for Help, in cafe we need it, when we are confcious to ourfelves that we gave it to others, "If any be hungry, then, let us feed him; is he naked, let us cloathe him; is he wronged by . a powerful Oppreffor, let us rescue and relieve him. Let our Doors be open to Strangers, and fuch as have no Habitation: Let not our Af"fiftance be wanting to Widows and Orphans ;
and (what is a mighty Inftance of Charity) let "us redeem the Captive, deliver the Prisoner, vi
fit the Sick, and, in case he should die, not fuf"fer him to want the Conveniency of a Grave, "These are the Works and Offices of Mercy : "And, to prepare us for these, let us not fet our "Heart on Money, but tranfmit it into the hea"venly Treasures, where it fhall be kept to our eternal Advantage, under the Cuftody of God " himself."
Of Mercy to Mens Souls,
ERCY, as we faid before, has properly Mifery for its Object; and the Mileries incident to human Life are of two Kinds, either fuch as affect the Body, or fuch as affect the Soul of Man. The Miferies, which affect the Soul, are. either Blindness, and Ignorance in Matters of the greatest Importance; or Malice, and Obstinacy of Will in wicked and pernicious Courses: To the former belongs the Bufinefs of Inftruction; and tọ the latter, the Office of Reproof; and our Purpose is to fee what Duties are required of us, with refpect to both thefe.
I. Blindness, and Ignorance in Things of the highest Moment for us to know, is one of the
greatest Miseries that can poffibly happen to the Soul in this Life: For, as Souls are defigned to live happy or miserable for ever, which Happiness depends upon the right Ufe of their Liberty, and that upon their Knowledge, how to use and determine it, it will be impoffible for them to attain eternal Happiness, or escape eternal Mifery, without Knowledge to fteer and direct them right. And now, what a miferable Cafe is this, to have an eternal Intereft at Stake, and not to know how to manage it? To be travelling on this narrow Line of Life, which divides the boundless Continents of Happiness or Mifery, and not fee one Step of our Way before us, nor perceive whither we are going, until we are gone beyond all Recovery? Should we behold a blind Man, walking upon the Brink of a fatal Precipice, without any Guide to direct his Steps, and fecure him from the neighbouring Danger, would not our Hearts ake, and our Bowels yearn for him? Should we not call out to him, and warn him of his Danger, and make all the Hafte we could to take him by the Hand, and conduct him to a Place of Safety?' And is it not a much more deplorable Sight, to fee a poor ignorant Wretch, walking blindfold on the Brink of Hell, and, for Want of Sight to direct him Heavenwards, ready to blunder at every Step into the Pit of Destruction? Certainly, if we duly understood the Worth and Value of Souls,' fuch a woeful Spectacle could not but affect us with Commiferation, and excite us to employ all our Faculties, to convince him of the Danger he is incurring, and to inftruct him, by what Means he may avoid it: For this is the proper Act of Mercy, which fuch a miferable Cafe requires, viz. to endeavour to difpel that fatal Ignorance which furrounds Mens Minds, and to enlighten them with all the Principles of Religion, that are necefLary
fary to conduct them to eternal Happiness. And this, by the Way, may recommend thofe liberal Foundations, which are now fo frequent in this Nation, whereby great Numbers of Perfons, by a virtuous Education, are inftructed in the Doctrines of Faith, and seasoned with the Principles of pure Religion, that fo, knowing their Duty, and the manifold Obligations to it, they might not fall blindfold into everlasting Perdition; and whereby the poorer Sort, that are leaft of all capable of inftructing their Children, or making any competent Provifion for them, have pious Grounds to hope, that their Sons may grow up as young Plants, and their Daughters be as the polished Corners of the Temple.
How much we stand obliged, not only in Fidelity to God, who has committed the Souls of our Children and Dependents to our Charge, and will one Day require an Account of them at our Hands, but in Mercy likewife to them, that they may not perifh for Lack of Knowledge, to inform their Minds in all the Duties and Obligations of Religion, is what we had Occasion to confider before; and shall only take Notice farther, that, befides thofe, who are thus immediately related to us, Mercy requires us to take all fair Opportunities of infinuating the Knowledge of Divine Truths to any, we know deftitute of it, or, if we ourselves cannot do it, without incurring the Imputation of Impertinence or Pedantry, to recommend them to others, whofe Authority with them is greater, and from whofe Hands the kind Office may be better taken; for what St Paul fays to Timothy, is applicable to all Chriftians that have a Capacity for it; the Servant of the Lord must be gentle unto all Men, apt to teach, in Meeknefs inftrutting thofe, that oppose themselves, if God peradventure will give them Repentance, to the Acknowledgment of the Truth; and that they may recover
themselves out of the Snare of the Devil, who are taken Captive by him at his Will.
And this gives us too fad an Occafion to lament the great Decay of religious Difcourfe in common Conversation, though certainly the most easy and effectual Way of Inftruction. Sermons may do good, and Books may edify; but, being defigned for general Ufe, they cannot come down to particular Cafes; they cannot fuit the Condition and Çapacities of all Men: They want that Life and Energy, that Address and Infinuation, which only dwell on the Tongue: They are indeed but dead Things, in Comparison of those lively Births of Piety, which come from the Mouth in Conversation, when Hearts, truly touched with the Love of God, communicate their Light and Heat, and blow up one another's dormant Fires into a burning and fhining Flame. As Iron Sharpeneth Iron, fays Solomon, fo a Man fharpeneth the Countenance of bis Friend, i. e. quickens and enlivens them, and fets a new Edge, both upon his Wit, and upon his Paffions and Affections. With good Reason therefore does our holy Religion direct, that we should provoke unto Love, and to good Works, by exhorting one another; that our Speech fhould be always with Grace, feafoned with Salt; and that no corrupt Communication fhould proceed out of our Mouths, but that which is good to the Ufe of edifying, that it may minifter Grace unto the Hearers.
And indeed, if we confider the End and Defign of Speech, we can hardly imagine, but that it was given us for higher and more material Purposes, than to drive Bargains upon the Exchange, to talk Politicks over a News- Paper, or to hold an impertinent Chat in goffiping Company about Cloaths, and Fashions, and the little Affairs and Tranfactions of the eighbourhood. Among all the Creatures under Heaven, Man is the only one, that has