The Duty of Remembering the Poor
I think one reason that God has His poor in the world is to teach us HOW GRATEFUL WE SHOULD BE FOR ALL THE COMFORTS HE BESTOWS ON MANY OF US. One of the sweetest meals I think I have ever eaten was after beholding a spectacle of penury which had made me weep. When we see others wanting daily bread, does not our loaf at once taste very sweet? It may have been very dry; but we saw someone begging for bread in the streets, and we thanked God for what we had that day, when we knew that others wanted. When we take our walks abroad and see the poor, he must be but a very poor Christian who does not lift up his eyes to heaven and thank his God thus—“Not more than others I deserve,
But God has given me more.”God is pleased always to have a poor people, that HE MAY DISPLAY HIS SOVEREIGNTY in all He does. If there were no poor saints, we should not so strongly believe the doctrine of the sovereignty of God, or, at least, if the saints believed it, as they always must and will, yet the wicked, and those who despise it, would not have so clear an evidence of it, and would not sin against such great light, which shines upon their poor dark, blind eyeballs from evident displays of sovereignty in salvation.
Those who deny divine sovereignty, deny it in the face of all testimony certainly in the teeth of Scripture, for it is there positively affirmed, and God, in order that there may be something besides Scripture, has made his providence bear out the written word, and has caused many of his children to be the despised among the people. “I take whom I please,” save God. “Ye would have me choose kings and queens first; I choose their humble servants in their kitchens before I choose their masters and mistresses in their banqueting halls. Ye would have me take the counsellor and the wise man; I take the fool first, that I may teach you to despise the wisdom of man. I take the poor before the rich, that I may humble all your pride, and teach you there is nothing in man that makes me choose Him, but that it is the sovereign will of God alone which creates men heirs of grace.”
I bless God that there are poor saints, for they teach me this lesson, that God will do as He pleases with His own. They show me manifestly, that however much men may deny the sovereignty of God, they cannot rob Him of it, that He will still exert it to the very last, long as this earth shall stand, and mayhap find ways of exerting it, even in future ages. Certainly the existence of a poor people in the world is proof positive in the mind of the saint, and a plain and bold affirmation to the most obtuse intellect of the sinner, that there is a sovereignty of God in the choice of men.
I shall now endeavor to speak of THE DUTY here alluded to: “THEY WOULD THAT WE SHOULD REMEMBER THE POOR.” “Remember the poor;” that word “remember” is a very comprehensive word.
We ought to remember the poor in our PRAYERS. I need not remind you to offer supplication for the rich, but remember the poor; remember them and pray that God would comfort and cheer them in all the trials of their penury, that He would supply their wants out of the riches of His fullness. Let the angel touch you on the arm, when you have nearly finished your prayer, and say, “Remember the poor; remember the poor of the flock.” Let your prayers always go up to heaven for them.
Remember the poor, too, in your CONVERSATION. It is remarkable that all of us remember the rich. We always remember the rich. You see a man respectable in church; you always know him, don’t you? You are on the exchange, or walking down the street; you never find any difficulty in recognising him. Somehow or other, your memory is very treacherous in remembering the poor, but very strong in remembering a rich man. Let me remind you to “Remember the poor.” It is singular enough that there, is no command to remember the rich; I suppose because there is no necessity for it, for we usually remember them. But there is a COMMAND for us to remember the poor.
Now, the next time you see a poor brother coal-heaver, bricklayer, hodsman, or whatever he may be, do know him, if you please; and if you see him in all his dirty garments still know him; do not forget him; try and recollect him. Next sacrament Sunday look him if the face as though you remembered him; for the last twenty times you have seen him you have appeared as if you did not remember him, and the poor man’s mind has been hurt as much as if it were same slight on your part, because he was a poor brother. I will not say that it was so, but I am rather afraid it was in some degree. Now, when you see him in the street, say, “Well, brother, I know you,” and if he comes up to speak to you, do not think it will lower you to be seen speaking to him in the street. If he is your brother, acknowledge him; if he is not tell no lie about it, but leave the church, and make no false professions. But if you believe it, carry it out.
If you do not put your hands in your pockets, and help the aged pilgrims, I am afraid there is not much Christianity in you, or if you do not help the one that you see has the greatest need, I am afraid the love of God dwelleth not in you. It is a duty we owe to the poor of the Lord’s flock, and we reap many advantages we should not have if we had not to remember the poor.
Now, allow me to press home THIS OBLIGATION: WHY SHOULD WE REMEMBER POOR? I shall not urge it upon the ground of common philanthropy and charity, that were a too mean and low way of addressing Christian men, although even they perhaps might be benefited by it. I shall urge it in another way. “Remember the poor,” because they are your Lord’s brethren.
Remember, beloved, the blood of Jesus runs in the veins of poor saints they are his relatives, they are his friends, and if that move thee not, remember they are thy friends too. They are thy brethren if thou art a child of God; they are allied to thee; if they are sons of God, so art thou, and they are brethren of thine. What! let thy brother starve? If thou canst, wilt thou not relieve thy brother’s necessity, not shield him from the cold, not ward off hunger, not provide for his needs? Oh! I know thou lovest Jesus I know thou lovest the friends of Jesus and I know thou lovest thine own family and, therefore, thou wilt love thy poor brethren, wilt thou not? I know thou writ, thou wilt relieve them.
Remember, too, that thou thyself mayst be like thy poor brother ere long, therefore, take heed that thou despise him not, for someone will despise thee. Oh! think thee that all thou hast God has lent thee, He may take it all from thee if He pleases, and if He seeth that thou makest an ill use of it, perhaps He will take it from thee now. Full many a man has lost his wealth by God’s righteous judgment for his misuse of it. Thou art God’s steward, wilt thou cheat him? He has given thee his wealth to distribute to the poor; wilt thou not supply their needs out of what He hath given thee? Yes, surely thou wilt; I cannot believe thou wilt turn them away, so long as thou hast aught wherewith to relieve them, but wilt share what thou hast with them.
Remember, if thou dost not relieve them, thou givest great and grave suspicion that thou lovest not Christ, for if ye love not Christ’s people, how can it be that ye are His disciples, since it is the mark, “By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye love one another;” and how can ye love, where ye have, and give not where God hath made you rich, and yet you do not bestow? Gravely ye give cause to doubt that the love of God is in you, if the love of the brethren is not in you also. Oh! remember, when thou givest, God can give thee more. Thou hast lost nothing! thou hast put it in another purse, and God may hand it back to thee in larger measure yet.
Men lose nothing by what they give to God’s saints. It would often be a heavenly investment if they bestowed it upon God’s family; but if they retain it, God hath other means to make them poor, if they will not give to His cause. John Bunyan tells of a man who had a roll of cloth, and the more he cut from it, the more he had; and he says, in his rhyming way,—
“A man there was, though some did count him mad,
The more he cast away, the more he had.”
May God give a blessing to you in remembering the poor.