A Wedding Garment with a Pocket for the Poor

From “Of a Worthy Preparation for the Sacrament of the Eucharist” (1688).

Every devout prayer is designed to ascend and fly up to heaven. As fasting, according to St. Augustine’s allusion, has given it one wing, so let almsgiving to the poor supply it with another. And nothing, certainly, can give a greater efficacy to prayer, and a more peculiar fitness for the sacrament, than a hearty and conscientious practice of this duty, without which all that has been mentioned before is nothing but wind and air, pageantry and hypocrisy. For if there be any truer measure of a man, than by what he does, it must be by what he gives. He who is truly pious will account it a wedding supper to feed the hungry and a wedding garment to clothe the naked. And God and man will find it a very unfit garment for such a purpose, which has not in it a purse or pocket for the poor.

But so far are some from considering the poor before the sacrament, that they have been observed to give nothing to the poor, even at the sacrament. If rich clothes might pass for a wedding garment, none could appear better fitted for such a solemnity than themselves; yet some of this kind I myself have seen at a communion, drop nothing into the offering for the poor.

But, good God, what is the heart of such worldlings made of, and what a mind do they bring with them to so holy an ordinance! An ordinance in which none can be qualified to receive, whose heart does not serve them also to give.

From such indeed as have nothing, God expects nothing. But where God has given, I might say, with both hands, and men return with none, such must know that the poor have an action of debt against them and that God himself will undertake and prosecute their suit for them. In the meantime let them know further, that whosoever dares, upon so sacred and solemn an occasion, approach the altar with a heart so shut up as to leave nothing behind him there for the poor, shall be sure to carry something away which will do him but little good.

Dr. Robert South (1634-1713) was a prebendary of Westminster Abbey and chaplain to King Charles II, one of the most influential preachers of Restoration Anglicanism. He preached the sermon Of a Worthy Preparation for the Sacrament of the Eucharist on Palm Sunday,  April 8,1688 in Westminster Abbey, and it was published in Volume 1 of his Sermons upon Various Occasions.


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