Friday, 9 November 2007

Jonathan Edwards on the poor

I have been very intrigued and challenged to read Edwards' treatise on Christian Charity and our obligation to the poor. It is a masterful exposition of Deut 15 and I think it comes as a bit of surprise to a number of people today. After all, Edwards can hardly be written off as a 'wooly liberal' who doesn't care about gospel preaching. As with everything he writes and preaches, he turns his logical-biblical bazooka style of argument on those who object. It's unnerving stuff for those of us who want to excuse ourselves from generosity and kindness.

"...God foresaw that the wickedness of their hearts would be very ready to make such an objection. But very strictly warns them against it, that they should not be the more backward to supply the wants of the needy for that, but should be willing to give him. “Thou shalt be willing to lend, expecting nothing again.”

Men are exceedingly apt to make objections against such duties [generosity to the poor], which God speaks of here as a manifestation of the wickedness of their hearts: “Beware that there be not a thought in thy wicked heart,” etc. The warning is very strict. God doth not only say, Beware that thou do not actually refuse to give him, but, Beware that thou have not one objecting thought against it, arising from a backwardness to liberality. God warns against the beginnings of uncharitableness in the heart, and against whatever tends to a forbearance to give. “And thou give him nought, and he cry unto the Lord against thee, and it be sin unto thee.” God warns them, from the guilt which they would be liable to bring upon themselves hereby."