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ErM.cellent EJseSl, which the general Practice of this Virtue would have in the World j
'rVN- and the great Stress which our Saviour and his Apostles accordingly do constantly lay upon it, as being the Principal Part and the main End of Religion. 3<//y, I shall take Notice of the incredible Mischiefs arising to Mankind, from the Want of this great Virtue. And Lastly, I (hall draw some useful Inferences from the whole.
I. I Am to explain What That Virtue is, which the Apostle here calls Charity: and What its opposite Vice. And here it is evident at first sight to every attentive person, that the word in This place cannot possibly mean, what in common Speech it is now generally used to signify, Alms or Charity to the Poor. For it is expressly distinguished from That, in the very words of the Text itself: Though 1 bestow all my Goods to feed the Poor, and have not Charity, it frofiteth me Nothing. Charity therefore must needs here signify some Virtue or good Habit, of a more general and extensive Nature. And indeed the Apostle himself distinctly defines it, in the
verses verses following my Text; Charity\ faysSerm. he, jujsereth long, and is kind; cnroicth XIII. not, vaunteth not itself\ is not puffed up; /"v^* doth not behave itself unseemly, secketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no Evil; rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejciccth in the Truth; beareth all things, endureth all things j and so on, ver. 4, 5, 6, 7. From this description *tis evident, that by the Word Charity in the Text is exprefled That Christian Temper and Disposition, That Love and Good-JVill towards Mankind, which is the Great Foundation of All virtues j and concerning which the lame Apostle elsewhere tells us, that the End of the Commandment is Charity. Without this Good and Christian Temper of Mind, no single ABion is valuable in the Sight of God: Though I bestow all my Goods to feed the Poor, and have not Charity, it profiteth me nothing: That is, Almsgiving, or the Act of any other Virtue, if it proceeds only from some accidental Cause, and springs not from a right Principle: if it be accompanied with, and made subservient to, Designs of Pride and Ambition, of imperiousness and dominion,
S E R M. minion, of Party, Faction and worldly XIII, Powers in matters of Religion j 'tis of No
ISYSiEsteem in the sight of God. Where Love and Goodness and Christian Temper, are not the Governing Principle; nothing is acceptable, no not even Almsgiving itself. But where Love and universal Charity, (even That l*ove which St Paul declares to be the fulfilling of the Whole Law; Where This) is the Root; There indeed, one of its Fairest Branches, one of the goodliest Instances and Effects of it in particular, is Liberality towards our Poor Brethren. From whence it has come to pass, that Charity, which properly signifies universal Love and Good-Will, has by frequent use been confined, to the particular sense of Charity to the Poor. And Great indeed are the Promises which are made in Scripture, to this single Branch of Charity, in particular; It is stiled by our Saviour, St Luke xvi. 9. a making to ourselves Friends of the Mammon of Unrighteoufiiess, that when we fail, they may receive us into everlasting Habitations. Upon which Application of the Parable of the Unjust Steward, I cannot but observe r by by the way, that his remitting to hisSErM. Lord's Debtor, a part of their Debt, XIII. . ought not to be understood (as it usually is) to have been a defrauding of his Lord j For 'tis only upon his former behaviour, that the Text charges him with Injustice: But in this last Action, he seems to be represented as obliging his Lord's Debtors out of what He himself was still to account for: For which reason, our Saviour compares his securing to himself by a timely Bounty the Frendfhip of those Debtors, (he compares it) to Our laying up for ourselves, by works of Charity and Beneficence here on Earth, a treasure hereafter in the Heavens. Very Great things therefore, I fay, are indeed spoken in Scripture, concerning this particular Virtue of Liberality to the Poor. But 'tis evident This is not what is meant by the word Character in the Text, because 'tis expresily distinguished in the words themselves, from bestowing all our goods to feed the Poor. And indeed it deserves to be particularly taken notice of, that not only in This Text, but in all Other places alsp, without exception, through the whole - . - New
Sf.hm.2vvu> Testament-j the word Charity never XIII. once signifies the giving of Alms, but allways That Universal Love, That Christian Temper and Good-will towards All nun, of which Alms-giving to the Poor is but one single Branch, or one particular Effect. And Many other Instances there are, wherein the Signification of words in common Use being much changed by custom and course of Time, considerable Errors and Mistakes are thence apt to arise among such as read the Scriptures carelcflly and without Attention: Which Errors can no otherwise be prevented, but by taking care to observe, not the bare Sound ot Jingle Words, but the connexion and sense and meaning of the whole -Discourse. To Him who thus reads and eon-* siders with Attention, 'tis mani|est that the Charity, which the Apostle here supposes a Person may be wholly void of, though he befloxvs all his goods to feed the Poor; and which he at large describes, in the following part of this Chapter; 'tis manifest, 1 fay, that the Charity here spoken of, is That Christian Temper, That Universal Love and Benignity of Mind, which, in