by John Downame
This text has been initially updated from EEBO-TCP by Project Puritas (Logan West, with David Jonescue and Alex Sarrouf.) www.puritansearch.org. Further revision and editing done by Monergism. Copyright Monergism via universal text usage permission from the above.
Or a treatise of beneficence and alms-deeds: teaching how these Christian duties are rightly to be performed, and persuading to the frequent doing of them. Necessary for these times, wherein the works of mercy are so much neglected, or so indiscreetly practiced.
"To do good and communicate forget not: for with such sacrifices GOD is well pleased." - Hebrews 13:6
In the heart of the early 17th century, Puritan author John Downame penned a seminal work, "A Plea for the Poor". This passionate and profound treatise implores the better-off members of society to embody compassion, kindness, and generosity towards the less fortunate.
Downame masterfully employs Scriptural themes, painting a compelling portrait of the godly man as one who is beneficent and liberal towards the poor. In his view, imitation of the divine nature is the cornerstone of godliness, with such imitation being most evident when we display bountiful beneficence to those who need our assistance.
In "A Plea for the Poor", Downame does more than preach moralistic generosity; he delves into the spiritual blessings that come from such acts. Drawing from the Scripture, he argues that not only is mercy a virtue in itself, but it also leads to an individual's own happiness and ultimate spiritual reward. According to Downame, those who show mercy will receive mercy, and inherit the kingdom prepared for them from the foundation of the world.
Simultaneously, Downame presents a stark warning for the merciless and the neglectful. He posits that those who fail to help the needy, who disregard acts of mercy, will face divine judgment and eternal separation from the divine love they failed to emulate.
"A Plea for the Poor" is more than a historical document—it's a timeless call to action, a persuasive argument for the transformative power of kindness, and an exploration of the inherent value of every human being. It is as relevant today as it was in the 1600s, serving as a testament to our shared capacity for compassion and a reminder of our moral obligation to aid those less fortunate.
Table of Contents
CHAPTER. 1. The resolution of the whole Psalm, the parts of the text, and the general doctrines which arise out of it.
CHAPTER 2. Of Beneficence, the subject, object and properties of it.
CHAPTER 3. Of Almes deeds, and first of the action of giving, and the properties of it.
CHAPTER 4. That the poor should be the object of our bounty.
CHAPTER 5. What alms deeds are, and of the true causes from which they arise.
CHAPTER 6. That we ought to visit the poor, that we may the better perform these works of mercy.
CHAPTER 7. Of the right ends of giving alms
CHAPTER 8. Of the subject matter of alms: where is shown that we ought to give unto the poor only that which is our own; and what it should be both in respect of quantity and quality.
CHAPTER 9. Of the persons who ought to give alms.
CHAPTER 10. Of the persons who may lawfully give alms.
CHAPTER 11. Whether it be lawful for the wife to give alms without consent of her husband.
CHAPTER 12. Of the persons unto whom alms are to be given: and in what order one is to be preferred before another.
CHAPTER 13. Of the manner how, and time when, alms are best and most seasonably bestowed.
CHAPTER 14. Of the properties of the Christians alms: wherein they differ from those which are done by worldlings; And of the diverse sorts and kinds of them.
CHAPTER 15. That Alms deeds are an act of righteousness: so that they be not left arbitrary, but we in conscience are bound to do them.
CHAPTER 16. That in the works of mercy we resemble God, please him, and make our calling and election sure.
CHAPTER 17. That what we give to the poor we shall receive again with great increase.
CHAPTER 18. Of certain special benefits both corporal and spiritual promised to those who give liberally to the relief of poor.
CHAPTER 19. That they who are liberal in giving alms, shall be rewarded with permanent and eternal blessings.
CHAPTER 20. That God will make the estate of the merciful prosperous and flourishing.
CHAPTER 21. Certain objections and excuses answered and taken away, whereby men are hindered from doing the works of mercy.