THUS far of domestic duties. We are next to speak of those which are exercised towards strangers.

The principal virtues in this class are almsgiving and hopitality.

Almsgiving consists in affording relief to the poor, especially to such as are brethren, in proportion to our means, or even beyond them, without ostentation, and from, the motive of true charity.[1] Exod. xxiii. 11. "the seventh year thou shalt let the land rest, and lie still, that the poor of thy people may eat." Deut. xv. 2. "this is the manner of the release," &c. v. 11. "thou shalt open thine hand wide unto thy brother, to thy poor and to thy needy, in thy land." xxiv. 19-21. "when thou cuttest down thine harvest in thy field —." Luke. iii. 11. "he that hath two coats, let him impart to him that hath none." xiv. 12-14. "when thou makest a dinner..... call not thy friends.... lest they also <439> bid thee again..... but call the poor, the lame," &c. xvi. 9. !make to yourselves friends of the mammon of unrighteousness, that when ye fail, they may receive you into everlasting habitations." Christ him self, although poor, set us an example of this virtue. John. xiii. 29. "that he should give something to the poor." Eph. iv. 28. "rather let him labour..... that he may have to give to him that needeth."

In proportion to our means. Matt. x. 42. "whosoever shall give to drink unto one of these little ones a cup of cold water only in my name —." Luke. xi. 41 . "rather give alms of such things as ye have." Acts. iii. 6. "silver and gold have I none, but such as I have give I thee." 2 Cor. viii. 12, 13. "if there be first a willing mind, it is accepted according to that a man hath, and not according to that he hath not."

Or even beyond them. Luke. xxi. 4. "all these have of their abundance cast in unto the offerings of God, but she of her penury hath cast in all the living that she had." 2 Cor. viii. 3. "to their power, I bear record, yea, and beyond their power, they were willing of themselves." He subjoins however, v. 13. "I mean not that other men be eased, and ye burdened; but by an equality, that now at this time your abundance may be a supply for their want." On this, as on similar occasions, we are to be guided by geometrical rather than by arithmetrical proportion, regulating our bounty according to the rank and dignity, the education and previous condition of each individual; lest we fall into the absurdity of equalizing those whom nature never intended for an equality.

To the poor; that is, to such as are unable to support themselves by their own labour and exertions. <440> Lev. xxv. 35. "if thy brother be waxen poor, and fallen in decay with thee, then thou shalt relieve him: yea, though he be a stranger." Deut. xv. 7, &c. "if there be among you a poor man," &c. 2 Thess. iii. 10. "if any would not work, neither should he eat." Hence we are not bound to relieve those vagrants and beggars who are such of choice, and not of necessity. v. 11, 12. "we hear that there are some which walk among you disorderly, working not at all, but are busybodies; now them that are such we command and exhort by our Lord Jesus Christ, that with quietness they work, and eat their own bread." Among the poor are to be reckoned orphans and widows, on account of the desolate situation of the one, and the tender age of the other." Exod. xxii. 22-24. "ye shall not afflict any widow or fatherless child." Deut. x. 18. "he doth create the judgment of the fatherless and widow." xiv. 28, 29. "at the end of three years thou shalt bring forth all the tithe of thine increase..... and the stranger, and the fatherless, and the widow, which are within thy gates, shall come, and shall eat and be satisfied." xxvii. 19. "cursed be he that perverteth the judgment of the fatherless or widow." Job. xxix. 11, &c. "because I delivered the poor that cried, and the fatherless" xxxi. 16. "if I have withheld the poor from their desire, or have caused the eyes of the widow to fail; or have eaten my morsel myself alone, and the fatherless have not eaten thereof." Psal. lxviii. 5. "a father of the fatherless, and a judge of the widows, is God in his holy habitation." cxlvi. 9. "he relieveth the fatherless and widow." Prov. xxiii. 10, 11, "enter not into the fields of the fatherless; for their redeemer is mighty." To these <441> may be added such as are weak or helpless from any cause whatever, and all who are in affliction, especially for religion's sake. Isai. lviii. 7. "is it not to deal thy bread to the hungry, and that thou bring the poor that are cast out to thy house? when thou seest the naked, that thou cover him, and that thou hide not thyself from thine own flesh?" Matt. xxv. 36. "naked, and ye clothed me; sick," &c. Luke. xiv. 13. "call the poor, the maimed, the lame, the blind." Heb. vi. 10. "God is not unrighteous to forget your work and labour of love which ye have showed toward his name, in that ye have ministered to the saints, and do minister."

Without ostentation. Prov. xxi. 14. "a gift in secret pacifieth anger, and a reward in the bosom strong wrath." Matt. vi. 1, &c. "when thou doest thine alms, do not sound a trumpet before thee —." 2 Cor. viii. 24. "wherefore show ye to them, and before the churches, the proof of your love, and of our boasting on your behalf."

Out of true charity. 1 Cor. xiii. 3. "though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, I am nothing." Not therefore of compulsion. 2 Cor. viii. 3. "they were willing of themselves." v. 8. "I speak not by commandment, but by occasion of the forwardness of others, and to prove the sincerity of your love."

Scripture every where declares that the reward of almsgiving is great. Job. xxix. 11 25. "when the ear heard me, then it blessed me..... because I delivered the poor that cried," &c. Psal. xli. 1. "blessed is he that considereth the poor: Jehovah will deliver him <442> in the time of trouble." cxii. 9. compared with 2 Cor. ix. 8, 9. "God is able to make all grace abound t ward you, that ye, always having all sufficiency in all things, may abound to every good work; as it is written, He hath dispersed abroad, he hath given to the poor, his righteousness remaineth for ever." Prov. xiv. 21. "he that hath mercy on the poor, happy is he." xix. 17. "he that hath pity upon the poor lendeth to Jehovah, and that which he hath given will he pay him again." xxii. 9. "he that hath a bountiful eye shall be blessed, for he giveth of his bread to the poor." xxviii. 27. "he that giveth to the poor shall not lack." Isai. lviii. 6, &c. "is it not to deal thy bread to the hungry?" &c. "then shall thy light break forth as the morning." Matt. x. 40-42. "he that receiveth you, receiveth me, and he that receiveth me, receiveth him that sent me." xxv. 34, 35. "come, ye blessed of my Father..... for I was an hungered, and ye gave me meat —." Luke. xi. 41. "give alms..... and behold, all things are pure unto you." xii. 33. "provide yourselves bags which wax not old, a treasure in the heavens that faileth not." xiv. 12-14. "thou shalt be blessed, for they cannot recompense thee." Acts. x. 2-4. "thy prayers and thine alms are come up for a memorial before God." 2 Cor. ix. 6. "he

which soweth bountifully shall reap also bountifully." 1 Tim. vi. 18, 19. "laying up in store for themselves a good foundation against the time to come, that they may lay hold on eternal life."

On the other hand, the neglect of this duty is condemned, Prov. xxi. 13. "whoso stoppeth his ears at the cry of the poor, he also shall cry himself, but shall not be heard." xxviii. 27. "he that hideth his <443> eyes shall have many a curse." Matt. xxv. 45. "inasmuch as ye did it not to one of the least of these, ye did it not to me." 2 Cor. ix. 6. "he which soweth sparingly, shall reap also sparingly."

Hospitality consists in receiving under our own roof, or providing for the kind reception of the poor and strangers; especially such as are recommended to us by the churches, or by our brethren in the faith. Deut. xxiii. 7, 8. "thou shalt not abhor an Edomite, for he is thy brother; thou shalt not abhor an Egyptian, because thou wast a stranger in his land." Job. xxxi. 32. "the stranger did not lodge in the street —." Rom. 13. "distributing to the necessity of saints, given to hospitality." xvi. 2. "that ye receive her in the Lord, as becometh saints, and that ye assist her in whatsoever business she hath need of you, for she hath been a succourer of many, and of myself also." Heb. xiii. 2. "be not forgetful to entertain strangers; for thereby some have entertained angels unawares." 1 Pet. iv. 9. "use hospitality one to another without grudging." 3 John 5, 6, &c. "beloved, thou doest faithfully whatsoever thou doest to the brethren, and to strangers; which have borne witness of thy charity before the church." The reward of a hospitable spirit is signally exemplified in the woman of Sarepta, and in the Shunamite, who received prophets under their roof.

Injury or oppression of guests or strangers was forbidden by various laws, recorded Exod. xxii. 21, &c. Levit. xix. 33, 34. Deut. x. 18, 19.

Opposed to this is inhospitality. Deut. xxvii. 19. "cursed be he that perverteth the judgment of the <444> stranger." Ezek. xxii. 29. "they have vexed the poor and needy, yea, they have oppressed the stranger wrongfully." 3 John 10. "not content therewith, neither doth he himself receive the brethren, and forbiddeth them that would, and casteth them out of the church."


Milton, when speaking of his mother, particularly notices her charitable disposition. 'Londini sum natus..... matre probatissima, et eleemosynis per viciniam potissimum nota.' Defensio Secunda pro Populo Anglicano. Prose Works, V. 230.

© 2024 The Newton Project

Professor Rob Iliffe
Director, AHRC Newton Papers Project

Scott Mandelbrote,
Fellow & Perne librarian, Peterhouse, Cambridge

Faculty of History, George Street, Oxford, OX1 2RL - newtonproject@history.ox.ac.uk

Privacy Statement

  • University of Oxford
  • Arts and Humanities Research Council
  • JISC