« AnteriorContinuar »
M. thies with them who rejoice and them who weep. It teaches us to slight and despise no man. Charity is the comforter of the afflicted, the protector of the oppressed, the reconciler of differences, the intercessor for offenders. It is faith t fulness in the friend, public spirit in the magistrate, equity and patience in the judge, moderation in the sovereign, and loyalty in the subject. In parents it is care and attention; in children it is reverence and submission. In a word, it is the foul of social life. It is the fun that enlivens and cheers the abodes of men. It is like the dew of Hermon, fays the Psalmist, and the dew that defeendetk on the mountains of Zion, where the Lord commanded the blefjing, even lifefor evermore*.
Such charity, says the text, is the end* of the commandment. This assertion of the
* Psal. cxxxiii. 3.
Apostle is undoubtedly consonant to all S E; R M. that reason can suggest on the subject of uJi—> religion. For, on considering the nature of the Supreme Being, reason gives us much ground to believe, that the chief design of all the commandments which he has given to men, is to promote their happiness. Independent and self-sufficient, that Supreme Being has nothing to exact from us for his own interest or felicity. By our services he cannot be benefited, nor by our offences injured. When he created the world, it was benevolence that moved him to confer existence. When he made himself known to his creatures, benevolence in like manner moved him to give them laws for their conduct. Benevolence is the spring of legislation in the Deity, as much as it was the motive of creation. He issued his commands on earth on purpose that by obedience to them, his creatures might be rendered happy among themselves in this life, and be prepared for greater happiness in another. Charity, especially when
SE R M. joined with purity, good conscience, and
,_____, faith, is obviously the great instrument
for this purpose; and therefore must
needs possess the chief and primary place
in the laws of God.
Accordingly, throughout the New Testament, it is uniformly presented to us in the same light in which it is placed by the text. This is known to all who have any acquaintance with the sacred books. Charity is termed the fulfilling of the laio, and the bond of perse £lnefs. It was assumed by our blessed Lord as the characteristical distinction of his disciples; and in that magnificent eulogium which the Apostle Paul pronounces upon it, in the thirteenth chapter of the first epistle to the Corinthians, it is ex. pressly preferred by him to faith and hope. This deserves to be seriously considered by those who are apt to undervalue charity, as an appendage of what they contemptuously call Morality i while they confine true religion to some favourite tenets and observances of their own, which they consider
tier as comprehending the sum of whatSERM. is acceptable to God. Such persons show ^_^ themselves profoundly ignorant of the nature of religion, and may too often be suspected of being strangers to its influence. For, as the apostle John reasons, He that loveth not his brother, whom he hath seen, how can he love that God whom he hath not seen*?
At the fame time, while I ascribe to Charity that high place in the system of religion, which justly belongs to it, I am not to be understood as confining all religion to this disposition alone. With much wisdom and propriety, the text hath annexed to it certain adjuncts, without which neither the character of a good man can be completed, nor charity itself exercised to advantage. To the consideration of these I now proceed; and I enter the more readily on this branch
* 1 John ivv 20,
S E R M.of the subject, as there is ground to be^.J^j lieve, that many pretend to possess charity, without properly understanding its nature and efficacy. There has been always an unhappy tendency among men to run to extremes, on one fide or other, in matters of religion. As one set of men, who employ all their zeal on right belies, are prone to undervalue good practice : so another set, who wish to be esteemed rational Christians, are inclined to rest the whole of their duty on charitable deeds, while they overlook certain dispositions and habits which ought always to accompany them. It is therefore of importance, that the mistakes of both these classes of men should be rectified, in order that religion may be held forth to the world in its complete form, and in its full and undiminished lustre.
The first qualification of charity pointed out in the text is purity; charity out of a pure heart. Purity includes the virtues which belong to the individual,