Set on the Great Pot
Set on the Great Pot
Preach'd at a late Visitation at
Tunbridg in Kent,
On 2 KINGS IV. 38.
Printed for the Sons of the Prophets.
PUBLISHED FOR Sons of the Prophets
I Read in the Holy Writ, that when St. Paul had refreshed himself at the House of Onesiphorus, he expressed his Thankfulness to him in this Prayer, The Lord have Mercy on the House of [Page iv] Onesiphorus: and not being content with that single Prayer, he publishes another in his Behalf, God grant that he may find Mercy at the last Day. He remembered him in his Prayers, and publickly acknowledged his Hospitality in most of his Epistles. In the like manner, I that have often refreshed my self at your Table, and have there been an Eyewitness of your Hospitality to others, what can I do less for your free and generous Entertainments, than become your Orator to God by my Prayers; your Herald to the World, by dedicating this Sermon of Hospitality to you, to shew to the World I am none of those ungrateful Wretches that can receive a Kindness, and immediately forget it.
1.1. 2 KINGS IV. 38.
- And he said to his Servant, Set on the great Pot, and seethe Pottage for the Sons of the Prophets.
PErhaps the Repast that I am now about to deliver unto you may be thought too gross for some nicer Palates, and the Text now read too light and airy for so Reverend and Learned an Auditory: but if any think so, I shall not apologize for my Text as long as I find it within the Verge of the Bible, and a Portion of Holy Writ: Neither shall I matter any that disgust the Entertainment, since 'tis the same that the Prophet Elishah affords his Guests, and they Sons of the Prophets, and Clergy-men too; and will you disdain what they accepted of?
I shall not here stand upon criticizing, and tell you how the Words are in the Original, and read you the meaning in the Arabick, Chaldaic, and Syriac: this would argue much Vanity in me; and to you it would be superfluous, and bode no better than casting of Water into the Sea.
Neither shall I stand upon the literal Meaning of the Words, which every Cook better than my self knows; but my Design is to extract something spiritual from this corporal Viand, and present you with some Food for your Soul from this of the Body.
The Words express Elisha's Hospitality and frank Disposition to the Sons of the Prophets, and may afford us this useful Theorem.
That a kind and liberal Reception, neither niggardly sordid, nor extragavantly profuse, first became the Sons of the Prophets.
Or else take the Meaning in these Words, viz. [Page 7]
That all Clergy men, especially the Elisha's of them, those Persons that Nature and Heaven have so liberally bestowed their Favours upon, and loaded with Riches and Greatness, ought to be hospitable and charitable.
I am now to preach to a mix'd Congregation, made up of Clergy-men and Laymen: My Text, Janus like, hath two Faces; the first respects you my Brethren of the Clergy, the other of the Laity.
To you my Brethren of the Clergy that are this Day come to honour me with your Company, I preach up Hospitality, not only from the Example of Elisha, but from the Holy Word of God, which both commands and commends it to us.
To you of the Laity that are come with good and honest Hearts to hear my Doctrine, I preach up Justice, that you should be so just in paying your Tythes, that you may be hospitably [Page 8] and charitably received at your Minister's Houses; for if you withdraw their Dues, how can they perform their Duty? if you shut your hands, how can they enlarge their Tables, and be given to Hospitality?
Now that Hospitality is a Duty injoined on all the Christians, and consequently on all the Preachers of that Doctrine, I'll prove by these three Arguments:
- From the Law of Nature.
- From the Scripture.
- From the Examples of good Men that encourage us to perform it.
Then from the Law of Nature. They are not merely positive but natural Laws that require us to be hospitable: these are Laws written in our Hearts and our Minds, which will direct us to them; they are the easy and unforced Suggestions of our Souls; and whoever he be that hath been but a little conversant with the Writings of the Heathens, will find that they practised this Duty, and that nothing was so detestable [Page 9] among them, as not to be civil to Strangers: Inhospitu littora populus barbarus, were Appellations of the worst Sound in their Ears; and every little School-boy that had been but some time conversant with the classical Authors, will tell you how Homer brings in Nestor, importuning Minerva and Telemachus to stay with him: he tells them they leave him as if he had no Entertainment for them; or that he could not lodg them, but this he would never suffer so long as he kept Servant.
The Grecians are observed by Historians to have two Tables for Strangers; and the jus Hospitii was looked upon as a most scared thing. This shews what Hospitality they used, and what the Heathens themselves thought of it in those old times in which they lived. So that indeed could we not find a Bible in our Closets, neither had we the Will of God from Heaven revelaed to us, yet the Light of Nature will dictate to us this Truth.
And indeed 'tis a piece of good Nature, [Page 10] which so well becomes a Man, that is is called Humanity: and therefore the Antients called our Kindness to Strangers by this name, Humanity; as if they then shew themselves to have more of a Man in them than others, when they were kind to Strangers: and those People that wanted this Generosity, were ever censured by them with this Expression, to be barbarous and inhumane. They banished inhospitable Men from the Society of Mankind, and ranked them among the Wolves and Tygers: They were not fit for the Company of Men, and therefore they ranked them among the worser sort of Beasts.
The Scripture. But besides the Law written in our Hearts, the Laws that we have revealed to us from the God of Heaven, and written, as I may say, with the Finger of the Almighty, I mean the Holy Scriptures, give us full Proof of it.
How often in that Holy Book is Hospitality enjoined? how often inculcated? [Page 11] how much commended? and how severely is the Neglect of it censured and punished? as may be proved both out of the Old and New Testament.
If as your leisure you turn over those Sacred Leaves, you will find that the ancient People of God, the Jews, are in most plain Words commanded to use Strangers well, not to oppress them, no not to vex them, but to love them as themselves, Exod. 22. 21. Thou shalt do no Injury to Strangers. And also the same Duty is in the 9th Verse of the following Chapter, pressed again, and the Command is back'd with a forcible moving Reason, viz. why we should be kind to them: and this was the Reason, because they were Strnagers in the Land of Egypt, and knew the Hearts of Strangers; they were put in the mind of the Condition they were once in, and of the Usage they wished from the Egyptians: And this Reasoning supposes they would now deal with others as they once wished they might be dealt withal themselves. And the same Duty [Page 12] is again injoined them; Lev. 19. 34. And if the Stranger sojourn with you, &c.
Why now I pray is this duty so often incalculated? why are we so often reminded of it, but because 'tis a Duty very necessary for all Men to put in practice? But from the Jews let us now go to the Christians, and see how well they practised this Duty. And that you may not think this a legal Precept, and abolished in the time of the Gospel, let us see what Proofs are to be met with in the New Testament; and in Rom 13. 12. you will find it enjoined the Christians, and they are commanded to use Hospitality: And in Heb. 13. they are cautioned not to forget it; which supposes that Christians are otherwise, both by Nature and former Revelations, taught to do thus: And in Mat. 25. you will find the Practice of it is not good and fit, but necessary and indispensible; which may appear from the sad Doom Christ pass'd on them that neglect it, I was a Stranger, and ye took me not in. He [Page 13] does not lay this their Charge, that they were Whoremongers, Adulterers, Murderers, guilty of those open Crimes which not only the Laws of God do threaten, but the Laws of Men punish with Death; but this was the chief Sin that was laid to their Charge, I was a Stranger and ye took me not in, that is, you were inhospitable.
And as it is commanded us in the Scripture, so also is it recommended to our Practice from the Example of several eminent Persons that have performed it: so that we have both Precepts and Precedents to oblige us to it. Rules now are best learned when illustrated with Examples: the rich Storehouse of the Scripture affords us Variety of Instances both in the Old and New Testament; some few I will instance in.
In the Old Law we find it to be the Practice of Abraham and Lot, Men beloved of God, and famous with us; for they were not only honoured while they lived, but are renowned among us to all Posterity: And in Gen. 18. 1, [Page 14] 2, 3, 4. we may find Abraham's Hospitality recorded, what he did, and with what Heartiness, Alacrity and Diligence he entertain'd them, how free he was in it; they asked not him, but he them: this was a Carriage that became the hearty Goodness of those old times; and it was a Work worthy of and sutable to the great Faith of that excellent Man. And also in the beginning of Chap. 19. we have Lot's Hospitality recorded; he saw two Strangers, he went to meet them, bowed himself with his Face to the Ground, addressed himself to them with all the most obliging Civility; he would not be denied: but when they said they would tarry in the Street all Night, he forced them into his House, entertained them bountifully, and made a Feast for them bountifully, and made a Feast for them. But was this his Kindness unrewarded? how id they gratify their Host? why, the same Chapter tells you how they saved his Life, and rescued him and his Family from those fiery Showers, fatal to the rest of the Inhabitants. [Page 15] And as for his Brother Abraham, they so greatly requited his Hospitality, that they gave him the News of a Son in his old Age; and also such a Son in whom all the Nations of the Earth should be blessed.
We also find it upon Record in the New Testament, in Acts 28. that Publius entertained Paul three Days courteously; and in Requital he healed his Father-in-law of a Fever: And Onesiphorus having once or twice refreshed Paul at his Table, he remembered him in his Prayers, and publickly acknowledged his Hospitality in his Epistles.
But now to instance in an Example above all Examples, whose Example if we follow not we can never go to Heaven, you may read Deut. 10. 18. God himself is said to love the Stranger, and to give him Food and Raiment: but we have a far greater Proof of God's Love to Stangers than these; for us Gentiles that were Foreigners hath he visited with his Salvation: To us that had a long time sat in Darkness, and in [Page 16] the Shadow of Death, hath he given a Light; he hath given to us his Son, and treated us with all the Expressions of Kindness imaginable.
Now if this Duty be enjoined us in the Scripture; if it hath been the Practice of the best Men that ever lived; nay, if it hath been the Practice of God himself, let us then be hospitable, that we may be like unto God.
And indeed as you ought to be hospitable to Strangers, so ought you to be charitable to the poor: we have an express Mandate for it in Luke 14. 13, 14. When thou makest a Feast, call the Poor, the Maimed and the Lame, and thou shalt be blessed, &c.
And it may well deserve our Observation to consider the great Care God took of the Poor in th Mosaic Law; for besides what was given privately, God made several Laws for the publick and visible Relief of them.
When God Almighty had blessed them with Encrease, and they came to reap their Harvest, they were commanded [Page 17] to leave some uncut for the Benefit of the Poor, Lev. 19. 9. And besides every Year's Tything they had the third Year's Tythe, which by God's Law was their due; and not only the third Year, but the seventh Year the Land was to lie still, and they were to share in common the Fruits of it.
Neither did the Primitive Christians fall short of the Jews in their Christianity, witness that ancient and primitive Institution of the Offertory in the Sacrament, which was so considerable a part of it, that it gave Denomination to the whole: and this I have read to be one reason why 'tis called the Communion Service, because every Sunday the Primitive Christians did communicate to the Necessities of others.
Nay, we may learn this Duty from the very Heathens themselves, for they had a Temple in Athens, and it was dedicated to charitable Uses: and it was the greatest Reproach among them, to upbraid one with this, that they had never been at the Temple of Mercy.
And what greater Reproach can it be to a Christian than to be churlish and unmerciful. We read in the Mosaick Law, that the Shell-fish was accounted unclean; this I take to be one Reason, because the Meat was enclosed in the Shell, and it was hard to come by. They Indeed are to be reckoned among the Unclean, viz. among the Wicked and Ungodly, that inclose their Estate within the Shell of their Cabinet, denying others the Benefit of it; that, Hedg-hog like, wraps up himself in a Bed of Down, and throws out his Prickles to all the World besides. But besides the Command of God, and the Example of good Men, common Gratitude may oblige us to this Duty; we are all born Beggars, and live upon Alms, and all the Creatures do liberally contribute to our Necessities; the Sun hath not his Light for himself, but enriches the Earth with his golden Beams: The Eath brings for a fruitful Crop; one Creature gives us wool, another Silk; nay, all the Creatures, in some sort, administer [Page 19] to Man's Necessities: and now shall every Creature be good to Man, and shall Man himself be inhuman to his Neighbour?
But beside common Gratitude, our own Interest may oblige us to this Duty: 'tis the best Money we can lay out, and brings to the Donor the greatest Advantage: He that giveth to the Poor, lendeth to the Lord, who gives double Interest for the Money, and rewards us with temporal and eternal Blessings.
It was the Counsel of him that was the wisest Man that ever the Universe yet bore, (our Saviour Chirst excepted, who was both God and Man) Cast thy Bread upon the Waters, and thou shalt find it after many Days. The word is not da, give, but mitte, send; like a Person that sends an Adventure to Sea, 'tis lost for the present, but yet he hopes it will one Day turn to a great Advantage.
Give me leave ot superadd one Motive moe: As Charity procures Blessings, so also doth it divert those Judgements [Page 20] that hang over our Heads. When Nebuchanezzar for his Pride had a Vision, that God would take away his Kingdom, he consulted with Daniel what to do; and his Counsel to him was this, Break off your Sins by Righteousness, and your Iniquities by doing good to the Poor: as if his Alms could divert those Judgments that hanged over his Head, and the practice of these could wash away his Offences; and like Celestial Fuller's Earth, take the Spots of the Flesh from the Soul. We find it therefore ranked with Righteousness in the Scripture, and they are promiscuously used one for the other. And this put Job into such an Amazement, that his Afflictions should befal him when he had been so merciful to the Poor. And indeed though the Poor be counted a Burden to many of us, yet among the Jews they were reckoned among their greatest Blessings. And this we find to be one of God's Promises to them, that the Poor shall be always among them, that so they might know [Page 21] what to do with their Wealth. Now that you may dispose of your Alms to the best Advantage, take along with you these following Rules.
De nostris dandum. When Selimas the great Turk lay on his Death-bed, being moved by Pirrhus to bestow that Wealth that he had wronged the Persian Merchants of, upon charitable Uses, he made this honest Reply, Nay rather, saith he, let it be sent back to the right Owners. And shall not a Christian's Creed be much better than a Turk's Alcoran? 'Tis a Will not pleasing to God, not yet good Men, when a Person on his Death-bed bequeaths his Soul to God, and his ill-gotten Goods to the Poor. Neither can he be thought charitable that robs perhaps an hundred Families to build an Hospital for seven Droans.
The second Rule is this; What you give must be done with a good Intention. I have read of a Traitor, who being hired to imbrue his Hands in Royal Blood, made his Attempt on the [Page 22] Royal Person, but by Accident only cut off a Wen, which the Skill of the ablest Chirurgion durst not venture; so that instead of killing, he cures his Enemy. Now whether the accidental Good he did could compound for the Wickedness of his intended Treason, I leave it to any sober Person to judg.
The third Rule is this; Give as you are able: 'Tis not always necessary that Alms should come out of a Sack; a Man may be charitable though he hath not an expanding Plenty. A little Purse contained that Mite which was the greatest Gift in the Treasury, I mean the poor Widow's Gift, which was acceptable to God, because coming from her who wanted it her self. But should the rich Man take his Measures from hence, and give no more than she did, he would come as far short of her Charity, as she did of his Wealth.
I am now come to address my self to the Laity; and to you do I recommend a just and great Care of paying whatsoever [Page 23] the Laws of the Lands have made the Dues of your Ministers, and by no means to look with an evil Eye upon what is allotted them as an Encouragement to discharge their Office. When St. Paul makes it the Qualification of a Bishop, that he should be given to Hospitality, (1 Tim. 3. 2.) you may be sure that he did not, like the Egyptian Tyrant, enjoin them to make Brick without Straw. He did not design they should build Castles in the Air, and feed their Guests with thin Notions and Speculations only. And without a Supply of the these earthly things, it was not possible they should set more than a Chymerical Table before them, as the Enchanter did before his Royal Guests: no, he tells you, thath no Man goeth to Warfare at his own Cost; and he that plants a Vineyard, eats of the Fruit of it; and he that keeps a Flock, is maintained with the Profit of it. From whence he argues the Equity of Ministers being liberally supplied by them in Temporals, whose spiritual [Page 24] Good they have devoted themselves and their Labours to: and therefore, in pursuance of the same thing, he adds, that he spake not these things as a Man, as one that had Reason, and might argue from thence for it, but he had the Institution and Command of God to back him herein; Say I these things as a Man? or saith not the Law the same also? 1. Cor. 9. 8. For it was written in the Law of Moses, Thou shalt not muzzle the Mouth of the Ox that treadeth out the Corn. Doth God take care for Oxen, or saith it altogether for our sakes? Was the Precept given in regard to the Beasts alone, or rather had it not farther Reference to his Servants the Priests and Levites, who prepared spiritual Food for the People? For our sakes no doubt he spake it, that he that plows should plow in Hope; and he that thresheth in Hope, should be Partaker of the same Hope.
Nay he proceeds further, and shews how mean a Recompence this is for the mighty Advantages we bring to the [Page 25] World, the immortal Glories and Happines that we, as Heralds, proclaim, purchased by our great Master the blessed Jesus for you: If we have sown onto you spiritual things, is it a great Matter if we reap your carnal things? If we teach how to live and be happy for ever, is it such a wonderful thing that you contribute towards our living, and being easy for a time here? Do you not know that they which minister about holy things, live of the things of th Temple, are maintained by the Offerings and Oblations that are made there?
You know little of the Constitution among the Jews, if you think any opened or shut a Door in the Temple for nought, Mal. 1. 10. and if all the inferior Officers had fair Allotments in proportion, much money they who attended at the Altar were Partakers with the Altar, shared in all the Gifts and Offerings which were brought thither. But why do I go about to light the Sun with a Taper, and prove that to you by Reason, [Page 26] which is so manifest by the Word of God? Perhaps my Sermon may make no Impression on your Hearts, because they are the Words of a mortal Man; behold, I will turn you to the Words of the ever-living God: I am a frail Man, and may err, but God is a God of Truth that cannot lie, nor alter the thing that is gone out of his Lips; hear then what he says by his Prophet Malachy, ch. 3. 8, 9, 10. Will a Man rob God? yet ye have robbed me: but ye say, Wherein have we robbed thee? In Tythes and Offerings. Ye are cursed with a Curse: for ye have robbed me, even this whole Nation. Being ye my Tythes into my House, and prove me, whether I will not open the Windows of Heaven, and pour out a Belssing, &c. In which Words we may observe, 1st. Their Sin, they robbed God. 2dly. Their Punishment, they are cursed 3dly. The Means to divert this Judgment, viz. to bring the full Tythes.
Will a Man rob God? 'Tis an horrible Wickedness to rob and dispoil our [Page 27] Parents or Masters, to ravish their Goods and Maintainance from them; but to rob our God is a Wickedness much more flagitious, a Sin so monstrous, that the Jews, though then very much degenerated and corrupted, startled at the mention of, Ye have robbed me: but they say, Wherein have we robbed thee? In Tythes and Offerings. For God, the great Donor of all, had reserved these to himself, which he gave to his Priests foe their Service in his Worship; and with-holding these, they robbed him. Hear then the Judgment that he denounced against them, Ye are cursed with a Curse. 'Tis bad to be cursed by Man: Elishah's Curse proved fatal to the Children bred up in Idolatory, that called him Bald Pate. Now if the Curse of the Man prove so fatal, what is the Curse of God? But now what was there to redeem them from this Curse? mark in the following Verse, Bring all the Tythes into the Store-house, that there may be Meat in my House. A mighty Encouragement not only for them, but [Page 28] for all succeeding Generations, to have a Regard for things sacred.
But now to draw to a Conclusion; Give me leave to make this short Address to my Brethren of the Clergy, not to instruct then in their Duty, but to speak their own Thoughts in my plain Words.
If the Laity be just to us, let not us be unjust to our Master, but let us give according as we are able, to the Necessity of the Poor. Remember the Levites were the least of all the Tribes, yet their Privileges and Revenues were greater then any other of the Tribes, for they had not only the Tenth of all the Fruits of the Land, but a share in all the Peace-Offerings and Free-will-Offerings of the People in their redemption of several things sacred to God, (as the First-born) besides the many Cities and Lands which were set a-part in every Tribe for them, with numberless other things that belonged to them. Nay, as I learned once by the Conference of an eminent Divine of the [Page 29] Church of England, they had near the sixth Part of the Revenue of the Nation allotted to them.
But now why, I pray, were their Privileges and Revenues greater than any of the other Tribes? Why this I take to be the Reason, because they were not only Priests, but Almoners to the other Tribes; and their Houses were as Hospitals to the Poor.
Let us therefore, as the Apostles advise us, be given to Hospitality; and following the Example of this great Prophet in time of Dearth and Famine, Set on the Great Pot, and seethe Pottage for our poor Brethren that are in Distress.
I shall now conclude with this earnest Prayer, That you may never want Clergy, Learned Persons, and Orthodox and diligent Workmen, that need not be ashamed, daily dividing the Word of Truth; and, like good Stewards, breaking the Bread of Life, and distributing to each, in their Families, sutable to their Needs and Capacities; [Page 30] and by an holy Life may powerfully lead, as well as by found Doctrine safely guide them to Heaven.
And I do further pray, That these may never want a People teachable and obedient, who may receive them as the Angels of God, the Ambassadors of Christ; and the Glory of the Churches; and then there is no doubt but they will meet with not only their legal Dues, but many grateful Returns for their abundant Labours, reverencing their Persons, consulting their Reputations, contriving for their decent and becoming Support and Maintainance; in a word, esteeming them and theirs highly for their Works sake. This would make our Country a Land of Delight indeed, the Glory of all Places, a little Resemblance and Figure of Heaven, where Knowledg, Righteousness, Love and Unity, with all other Graces and Vertues, would flourish and abound, to the Praise of him who has called us out of Darkness to his infinite Light: which God [Page 31] of his infinite Goodness grant, for the sake of his dear Son and our Saviour Christ Jesus and Righteous, to whom with the Father and Eternal Spirit be ascribed all Praise, Might, Majesty and Dominion.