[Transcriber's Note: the original handwritten copy of this sermon, nicely bound and preserved, may be found in the Archives of the Episcopal Diocese of New York. A typed insert in the volume reads,
"SERMON PREACHED BY THE REV. JOHN BARTOW JANUARY 1722. THIS SERMON WAS FOUND 2 YEARS AGO BY THE RECTOR BACK OF AN OLD PICTURE FRAME. IT SERVED AS A BACKING FOR THE PICTURE. THE REV. JOHN BARTOW WAS SENT OUT FROM ENGLAND AS RECTOR OF THIS PARISH UNDER THE ENGLISH MISSIONARY SOCIETY OF THE PROPAGATION OF THE GOSPEL IN FOREIGN PARTS. TREATED IN SILK AND BOUND THRU THE COURTESY OF MISS ADELE BROWNING."
There is no date affixed to the note to indicate when the restoration took place. The title page of the bound volume reads, "Sermon preached at E. Chester January 1722 by the Rev. John Bartow. Read at E. Chester Jan. 31, 1875 by the Rev. W. S. Coffey." The text from the Mount Vernon Chronicle follows.]
Through the kindness of the Rev. Wm. S. Coffey, Rector of St. Paul's, Eastchester, we are enabled to lay before our readers the sermon he read last Sunday morning, and which was originally delivered in the same parish one hundred and fifty-three years ago, by its rector of that time, the Rev, John Bartow.
"It is more blessed to give than to receive." --Acts xx-xxxv.
Those who are covetous and love to be on ye taking hand, and those who are niggard and care not to part with their worldly goods, may think this saying a Paradox; yea, what is contrary to their own knowledge and experience; for the one finds it a pleasant thing to receive, and the other grudges to give; but Christ says 'tis more pleasant to give than to receive. And why? Is it not because the heart and conscience of the giver is refreshed with joy and consolation from the blessed Spirit of God, who is pleased with all our acts of charity, and gives us in the room thereof such joy and satisfaction in the Spirit, as far surpasseth any pleasure we would have in the gift, if we had kept it and used it in the procuring of the most sensual pleasures. Nay, the giver has more pleasure than the receiver, because ye giver has spiritual consolation from God, and the object of charity or receiver has only outward comfort from it, because his bodily wants are relieved; and this is according to the words of the present text: "It is more blessed to give than to receive."
The words of the text are an encouragement to deeds of charity, and afford us these considerations:
1st--That we ought to endeavor to make ourselves capable, if we can, honestly, of relieving others' necessities, and not by our idleness or intemperance bring ourselves to want relief from others.
2d--There being two sorts of gifts, the one respecting the soul, the other the body of our neighbor, we must endeavor to be able to communicate either as need requires.
3rdly--We are encouraged to do this from the blessedness that attends all acts of charity.
1st--That we ought to endeavor to make ourselves capable, if we can honestly, of relieving others necessities, and not by our idleness or intemperance bring ourselves to want relief from others. The Apostle himself has set us an example of this virtue; for he labored with his own hands that he might have wherewith to minister to the necessities of himself and others. Some are willing and industrious enough to labor for themselves, but they cannot endure to make others partake of their labours. They grudge to bestow the least part to relieve those that are in want; yea, if they abound, they had rather consume their superfluity on their sensual lusts, that to give the least part unto him that needeth. Let such consider that the poor are as God's Treasury, and he that giveth unto them, lendeth unto the Lord; and we can put no part of our substance to a better use than to lend to Him who has the whole world in his possession, and divideth it to every one severally as he pleaseth. God is pleased to take our willingness of relieving the necessitous, as a mark of our love of Him; for "he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen;" and "whoso hath this world's goods and seeth his brother have need, and shutteth up his bowels of compassion from him, how dwelleth the love of God in him?" Again, there are some who for lack of faith do not expect a retribution from God, and therefore are loath to give, unless they can discern some self interest and profit arising therefrom. They will help a person in sickness or distress, but then they have a prospect that he will make them ample amends as soon as he is able. Now altho' such charity as this is not to be blamed, yet there are many will doe this, who are unwilling to relieve, if there be no such prospect; and therefore Christ bids us, "doe good and lend, hoping for nothing again." For herein is our charity proved, when we can freely give to those who are never likely to make us any return. This is like "casting thy bread upon ye waters," a parting with thy earthly substance forever, in obedience to God's will, expecting not the least retribution, but from Him who will reward all our charitable works with his blessing, which will far exceed any recompense we could ever have from ye object of charity. For he is not entitled to God's blessing for receiving thy gift, but thou art for giving it. Labor therefore to make thyself in a capacity, to be able to give, but not by any unjust and unlawful means. Do not steal, nor cheat, nor defraud with a design to give alms; but give of thine own, and not what thou hast gotten unjustly from others. And yet, if by reason of death or distance, thou canst have noe opportunity to make retalliation (as Zacharias in ye Gospel when he was brought to repentance), then alms-giving is the best use thou canst put thy ill-gotten goods unto. But doe no wrong to this end, for then thy gifts will not be acceptable with God, however acceptable they may be to the receivers, and thou losest His blessing. It is a blessed thing to give, but then let the gift be pure and clean, fit to be laid upon God's altar, who is of purer eyes than to behold iniquity. Let it not be acquired by wrong or robbery, but by honest labor and just dealing; otherwise I know not, but it may be more blessed to receive than to give; for the receiver is refreshed and comforted with thy gift; but thou missest of God's blessing, thy gifts are not pleasing to him, because thou givest not thine own.
Moreover take heed that thou doe not by idleness and intemperance bring thyself to want relief of others. Such people are little pitied, and ye charity, even of well disposed people, is cool and backward, slow and constrained unto them. The force of laws or common humanity doth cause that such are relieved for fear they should perish; and they grudge even what they give, and cannot give cheerfully. I wish that those who are given to riot and drunkenness, whereby they are wasting and consuming their worldly substance, and bringing on themselves poverty, would consider of these things, that they might keep themselves in a condition rather to give than to receive. For they cannot but think it a miserable case and disgraceful, to be in need of relief from those who doe it out of constraint and necessity, and not out of real pity and commiseration. Indeed, if any doe fall into unavoidable calamities, and are brought to want by sickness, old age and misfortune, it naturally draws pity and commiseration; but if want come from vice and sensuality, hardly any will relieve but by constraint and necessity. Yet in such a case it is far better to be able to give, than to be in need to receive; for thy gift may save from perishing in sin, and be a means of repentance, and turning unto God, after he has had experience of the bad consequences of his wicked ways. But if it should have a contrary effect, and raise up the sinner, and give him strength and ability to pursue his wicked course of life; yet thou hast done thy duty, and shalt not be answerable for his sins, unless haply thy gift was intended to this end, and that the person might be supported to work wickedness, and be continued in an ability to promote the Kingdom of Sin and Satan, which none would doe but those who love and take delight in the work of darkness themselves, and wish that sin and ungodliness may flourish and increase, to the diminishing and extirpating of the Kingdom of Christ.
2dly--There being two sorts of gifts, ye one respecting the soul, the other the body of our neighbor, we must endeavor to communicate either as need requires.
And 1st--The soul being the most principal part, we must endeavor to contribute, what we can, towards saving of that. Now it may be that we are not capable to teach and instruct; yet if we are of ability, we must contribute towards the maintenance of them that are. There is little difference whether we doe a thing ourselves or employ others to do it for us; therefore we are bound, as we are Christians to give what assistance we can, towards the furtherance of the salvation of ye souls of men, and supply them with all lawful and moral means, that are any ways conducing thereunto. And howsoever too many doe most ungratefully contemn and undervalue, and slight this spiritual charity, yet it shall turn to the exceeding great reward of them that endeavor to bring men to salvation thro' Christ; for "they that be teachers, shall shine as the brightness of the firmament, and they that turn many unto righteousness as the stars forever and ever;" and "he who converted a sinner from ye error of his way, shall save a soul from death, and shall hide a multitude of sins." And that we may doe this, let us take an example from our blessed Savior, who was so tender-hearted as to fear we might involve ourselves in eternal torments, and therefore was wounded for our transgressions, and suffered the pains of a violent death, that he might save us from eternal death torments.
He knew better than we doe ourselves, how insupportable are the pains of Hell; and therefore was willing by his own most bitter sufferings to keep us from it. And our Lord, who himself used to work by the use of outward means, as in using clay and spittle to open the eyes of the blind, would have the work [1/2] of the ministry settled and established, for the bringing in and conversion of souls. This cannot be done without charge. Therefore he says, "render unto God the things that be God's," by which, we are commanded to give outward things for the maintenance of God's publick worship; which the subject-matter of his then discourse doth show. For he was talking that we ought to pay tribute to Caesar, and at the same time takes occasion to show us that we must not forget to render that which belongs unto God. And forasmuch as God himself needeth none of our temporal things, nor can we anyways advance his happiness thereby, we plainly see that he willeth us to bestow part of our substance for the devout maintenance of his public worship, that thereby men may be brought to believe and repent that their souls may be saved from the everlasting torments of Hell. And the same, the practice and injunctions of the Apostles doe show afterwards. "If we have sown unto you spiritual things," saith St. Paul, "is it a great thing if we shall reap your carnal things? Doe ye not know that they who minister about holy things, live of ye things of the temple; and they who wait at the altar are partakers with the altar? even soe hath the Lord ordained that they which preach the Gospel should live of the Gospel. And tho' St. Paul required none of those things, but preached the Gospel freely to those Corinthians; yet he owns he received an allowance from others. "I robbed other churches taking wages of them to do your service." You see then it is needful something should be given for the maintenance of the publique worship of God, in order to promote the salvation of mens' souls; and whatsoever is given by well disposed persons to that end, doth merit for them the blessings of God.
2dly. Other sort of gifts doe respect the body of our neighbor or his present welfare in this life, which, tho' it be short, yet may be made tedious and irksome by pains and miseries. Whosoever hurteth and woundeth the body of his neighbor, is to him the cause of pain and anguish; and he that seeth one that is hurt or wounded, and will afford him no help, is cruel, and unmerciful. The Priest and Levite passed by the wounded man, and took no notice of him; but ye compassionate Samaritan bound up his wounds and brought him to an Inn, and paid and engaged for the charges of his entertainment and cure. This was an example of charity and mercy, worthy to be followed in all like cases. To be willing and ready to help and give unto those that fall into misfortune and distress, yea tho' they may be strangers. This wounded man, in all likelihood, was a Jew, and so was the Priest and the Levite that were void of charity; but the Samaritan, who had no dealings with the Jews, took care of him, tho' he was a stranger to him, and one of another nation. So we aught to doe likewise--to be helpful to any that are in distress, whether acquaintances or strangers, friends or enemies; which is meant by that precept of Christ: "Love your enemies; bless them that curse you; do good to them that hate you; and pray for them which despitefully use you and persecute you." But more especially are we obliged to be charitable to those who are members of Christ's body, the Church. "As we have opportunity, let us do good to all, specially to them that are of the household of faith." For such are nearly related to us by virtue of the new birth and regeneration in Christ. They are our brethren in Christ, born again to the hope of the same everlasting promises, and doe challenge our chief regard, and are the truest objects of our charity; and Christ taketh particular notice of all such deeds of charity, and accepts it as kindly as if done to himself. "Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me." "For whoeoever shall give a cup of cold water or drink in my name, because ye belong to Christ, he shall not lose his reward." When, therefore, we see those who profess Christianity injure, vex, oppress, wrong, and defraud one another, we may, and have cause to think, that they are not yet come to that pitch of charity which Christ would have to be in us. And let any be ever so zealous in their way, and abound with spiritual gifts, yet if they want this love to Christ's members, they are deficient. "Tho I speak with the tongues of men and of angels," "have the gift of prophesy," "understand all mysteries and all knowledge," and "have faith to remove mountains;" "tho' I give my goods to feed the poor," (i.e. those that are without ye church, or those only of my own sect) "and my body to be burned," yet if I have not charity to those that really belong to Christ, it will profit me nothing. Moreover, our Saviour's precept is "Whatsoever ye would that men should doe unto you, even so doe unto them." The love of God is universal, extending to all parts of the creation. He maketh his sun to shine, and sendeth rain on ye just and unjust; and none do want the general blessings of his providence touching the things of this life. And because mankind is the most apt to hurt and injure one another, and have power and ability to doe it, more than any other creature here below: therefore he has placed this principle in every one's breast by nature, to commiserate all that are like himself when in affliction and distress. And tho' some have worn out this natural affection by repeated acts of inhumanity and cruelty, yet he would not have any of those who profess to be his disciples to be ever devoid of it towards any part of mankind; and therefore hath caused it to be written among the precepts of the Gospel, that we should doe by others as we would be done unto, if we were in their condition; that we should take as much pleasure in doing good to others, as in benefitting ourselves; that we should be as loath to doe anything that is hurtful and injurious to them as to doe to ourselves. Whenever, therefore, we see any person, of what nation soever, lying in a distressed and deplorable condition, and it in our power lawfully to help and relieve him, our Christian religion obligeth us to doe it, tho' it requires pains and charge; for which we have the example of the heathen Samaritan in the Gospel. So I come to observe:
3dly. That we are encouraged to be charitable, from the blessedness that attends all such deeds.
1st. If we are charitable and give away part of our earthly substance, we shall grow rich in grace. It is not a mean and transitory treasure we are to expect, (tho' that may come too, some times), but an heavenly, which will last forever. By thus laying out our earthly treasure, we are laying up a treasure in heaven. He that bestows all his time and thoughts how to get the things of this life, and doth not consider nor regard the poverties and miseries of others, soe as to relieve them, is very unworthy of God's blessing in the world to come. Nor doth he know the true value of spiritual and heavenly riches. And if we have not heavenly riches, we must expect to be eternally miserable. It is but a small price to purchase with earthly things the company and conversation of Angels and blessed spirits in heaven, and bear a part in ye eternal comfort of divine Hallelujahs, and dwelling in the presence of God, partake of ye fullness of joy, in the fruition of ye beatifick vision; "blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy." Since there is a possibility for every one of us to obtain celestial riches, and our charity unto man is one of the means we must use, let us not be slack to give when need requires, nor be of a stingy, covetous spirit, as if all were lost which we give in deeds of charity. It is a vain thing to trust in the multitude of earthly riches, for they will stand us in no stead, if our souls are poor and void of heavenly grace. The best riches are to be rich in faith and in good works. There is nothing in this world can make us truly happy. Let us then labor for the things above, where Christ sitteth at the right hand of God, and not be willing to exchange the things temporal for the things eternal, "laying up in store for ourselves a good foundation against the time to come, that we may lay hold on eternal life."
2dly. If we are sincerely inclined to do good to others, and have evidenced this affection when we had opportunity, we may be assured that God loveth us, and will not refuse to grant us ye free communications of his grace and Holy Spirit, to make our minds easy and comfortable. The pleasure and comfort of the mind is the truest and safest comfort and satisfaction when it arises from the consciousness of good deeds and God, who is ye author of every good gift, will grant this to ye charitable. He that followeth after peace with men shall not fail of having the peace of God.
Yea, 3dly, charity is, sometimes, the cause of many temporal blessings, God having promised to bless the labors and prosper the endeavors of the charitable. "Blessed is he that considereth the poor and needy, the Lord will deliver him in time of trouble," "ye Lord will preserve him and keep him alive," and "he shall be blessed upon ye earth," which denotes that the charitable shall not only be blessed with inward peace and joy in ye mind and conscience, but also abound with outward blessings. So that the blessings of God to the charitable are abundant and overflowing. He has peace and comfort within, and plenty and prosperity without. And why is God so bountiful to the charitable? Is it not because he is a lover of mankind, and loveth those more especially who are lovers of others? And this love he showed in a more extraordinary manner in giving his only Son for the salvation of our souls--the greatest gift that was ever given unto mankind. And "if God so loved us, we ought to love one another;" and how canst thou refuse thy charity for one for whom Christ died? and the rather because he died for thee also, but he to whom thou givest thy gift was the cause of his death as well as thyself. Finally, seeing "it is more blessed to give than to receive," let us then learn to revere the great majesty of heaven and earth, who is the author and giver of every good and perfect gift unto mankind. Let us acknowledge his superiority and pre-eminence over the works of his hands, and gather that he must be perfectly blessed in himself, who can bestow such manifold blessings on his creatures. And therefore he is most worthy to be worshipped and adored by us, which are all the returns we can make him. And let his goodness and bounty towards all learn us to imitate him in doing good unto the few we can. It is not in our power to do good to many. This perogative alone belongs unto God; but yet let us do good to all as far as we can, by praying unto God for all. He is able to do good to all, and we are permitted to pray and intercede for all, and he loveth to see our sincere affection in the behalf mankind, specially that they may come to the knowledge of the truth, and their souls may be saved. It is our duty to pray; but God is the giver of spiritual grace, and yet we may have some blessing from this gift, because we endeavor to be someway the means of its being bestowed. God will doubtless be good and beneficent to mankind, tho' we had no houses of prayer, and did not pray unto him, for it is his nature to be soe; and yet he loves our prayers, and delights to see a harmony and agreement between our desires and his beneficent acts. And whatsoever our gifts are, let us ascribe all the blessings to him, because "it is more blessed," for Him "to give" than for us "to receive."