Chapter IV. Of Charity, Preparatory to the Blessed Sacrament.
HE that loves me, does me good; for until love be beneficial, it is not my good, but his fancy and pleasure that delights in me. I do not examine this duty by our alms alone; for although they are an excellent instrument of life, ["for alms deliver from death," said the angel to old Tobit,] yet there are some who are bountiful to the poor, and yet not charitable to their neighbour. You can best tell whether you have charity to your brother, by your willingness to oblige him, and do him real benefit, and keeping him from all harm we can. Do you do good to all you can? Will you willingly give friendly counsel? Do you readily excuse your neighbour's faults? Do you rejoice, when he is made glad? Do you delight in his honour and prosperity? Do you stop his entry into folly and shame? Do not you laugh at his miscarriages? Do you stand ready in mind to do all good offices to all you can converse with? For nothing makes society so fair and lasting, as the mutual endearment of each other by good offices; and never any man did a good turn to his brother, but, one time or other, himself did eat the fruit of it. The good man in the Greek epigram, that found a dead man's skull unburied, in kindness digging a grave for it, opened the inclosures of a treasure. And we read in the annals of France, that when Gontran, king of Burgundy, was sleeping by the murmurs of a little brook, his servant espied a lizard corning from his master's head, and assayed to pass the water; but seeming troubled because it could not, he laid his sword over the brook, and made an iron-bridge for the little beast, who, passing, entered into the earth, and speedily returned back to the king, and disturbed him, as it is supposed, into a dream, in which he saw an iron-bridge, which landed him at the foot of the mountain, where if he digged, he should find a great heap of gold. The servant expounded his master's dream, and showed him the iron bridge; and they digged where the lizard had entered, where they found indeed a treasure; and thus the servant's piety was rewarded upon his lord's head, and procured wealth to one, and honour to the other. There is in human nature, a strange kind of nobleness and love to return and exchange good offices: but because there are some dogs who bite your hand, when you reach them bread,--God by the ministry of his little creatures, tells, that if we will not, yet he will certainly recompense every act of piety and charity we do one to another. This the Egyptians did well signify, in one of the new names of their constellations: for when the wife of Ptolemy Euergetes had vowed her hair to the temple, upon condition her husband might return in safety; and she did consecrate the beauty of her head to the ornaments of religion,--Conon, the astronomer, told her, that 'the gods had placed her hair among the stars: 'and to this day they call one knot of stars by the name of 'Berenice's hair.' For every such worthiness like this, will have an immortal name in some record, and it shall be written above the stars, and set by the names of the sons of God, who, by doing worthy things, have endeared communions and societies of mankind.
In all the sacrifices of the ancients, they were hugely kind to one another: tlvey invited their friends to partake the sacrifice, and called them to a portion of pardon, that they might eat of that mercy and that forgiveness, which they expected from their god. Then they sent portions to the absent; then they renewed leagues, and re-established peace, and made marriages, and joined families, and united hearts, and knitted interests by a thread and chain of mutual acts of kindness and endearment.--And so should we, when we come to this holy sacrifice; we must keep our hearts entire to God, and divide them amongst our brethren, and heartily love all them who feed upon the same Christ, who live by the same faith, who are entertained by the same hope, and are confederate by the laws, and the events and the causes, by the acts and emanation of the same charity. But this thing is plain, no discourse here is useful but an exhortation: all that can be said is this; that it is decent, and it is useful, and it is necessary, that we be very kind, and very charitable to all the members of Christ, with whom we are joined by the ligatures of the same body, and supported by the strength of the same nourishment, and blessed by influences from the same divine Head, the Lord Jesus Christ.