« AnteriorContinuar »
principle, as they seem to me to give a more obvious solution of the difficulty. They are not intended as in opposition to Mr. Faber, for whose Disquisitions on the Prophecies I have a very high esteem, and for whose abilities I have a sincere respect; but with a simple view to elucidation, in which his letters, and those of Talib, have, much to their honour, shewn, that it is still possible for literary men to differ in opinion, without becoming enemies.
Could I, with Mr. Faber, assume that the prophecy, contained in these texts, was intended of a series of events, to be considered as one series, however remote the last were from the first, I should find little difficulty in agreeing to the sense jto the verb Yevgoal. But to me these passages appear to belong to two distinct orders of events; the one immediately, then approaching, the other to follow, but after an undefined interval of time. As the prophecy was given in answer to the disciples, it must be referred to the questions to determine its purport. The questions were (Matt. xxiv. 3), 1. “When shall these things” (viz. the destruction of the temple) “ be ” and, 2. “What shall be the sign of thy coming, and of the end of the world?” Here are evidently two distinct questions, and it is to be presumed, that each had its proper answer. And that each had so, will, I think, appear from an attentive consideration of the passages, though, from the manner in which part of the answer to the second is involved parenthetically in that to the first, it is not immediately discerned, because the parentheses are not properly marked. Understanding the answer thus to refer to two distinct questions, I conceive the portion in Matt. xxiv. should be thus arranged. In verse 6, before the words, “but the end is not yet," there should be a bracket; and its corresponding one at the end of verse 14. Another bracket should be placed before the word
Chaist. Obstov. No. 114.
“immediately,” verse 29, and its correspondent one at the end of the 31st verse. If, then, the passages, thus inclosed in parentheses, be considered as parts of the answer to the second question, and the words, “ those days,” in verse 31, be referred to verse 7 ; the remainder, from verse 4 to verse 35, inclusive, will be the answer to the first question. In verse 36, the answer to the second question is resumed, and continued to the end of the following chapter. The all, that was to be fulfilled before the generation passed away, must have been intended of the destruction of Jerusalem; for, if the day of judgment could not be known by man, or our Saviour, in his human character, the time when that, which he said of it, would be fulfilled, could not have been included in that, which was to be so before that generation passed away; neither could the times of the Gentiles. What I would lay particular stress upon is, that the three corresponding passages consist an answers to two very Distinct questions. This, I think, does not admit of a doubt. Whether the manner, in which I have attempted to distinguish the answers to each respectively, will appear satisfactory, I submit to your readers. I will only add, that a parenthesis may be marked as decisively in conversation as in a book; and that the frequency and length of parentheses, used by St. Paul, indicates an habitual use of them in his time amongst the Jews. INDaCato it.
FAMILY sermons. No. XXX.
Gal. vi. 10.-Let us do good unto all men.
True benevolence was never properly understood or felt in the world, till our blessed Saviour came down from heaven, and offered, in his own person, a glorious o of that love which dwells in God, and which was the moving cause of all that our blessed Saviour either said, or did, or suffered. His whole life was one scene, one grand act of benevolence, wherein we hardly know which to admire most, the purity of his motives, the extent of his designs of good, his indefatigable exertions, or his painful sufferings. And with his conduct, his doctrine exactly agreed. It breathed peace and good-will to man. It enforced on all his followers the same love which he himself had manifested. Actuated, therefore, by a-like spirit of love, his apostles laid themselves out to do good to their fellow-creatures. Silver and gold they had none, but what they had they gave liberally. They went into every land preaching the glad tidings of the Gospel, and imparting hope and consolation to perishing sinners. And while thus employed in promoting the best interests of man, they were content, after the example of their Master, to endure hardships, and to be exposed to hunger, and thirst, and naked. ness, and peril, and the sword, without a murmur; nay, they joyfully suffered persecution, and even death itself; and in the midst of their sufferings they forgave, and prayed for all who had injured them, returning good for evil, and blessing for cursing. From them the true converts to Christianity in every corner of the earth caught a portion of their great Master's spirit: their hearts glowed with a like love to their fellow-creatures, and like him they went about doing good. It is true, indeed, that, in the present day, many persons may possess a kind and liberal disposition,
and exert themselves for the good of others, who are not true disciples of Christ Jesus. But the fact is, that the influence of Christianity has extended itself far beyond the limited circle of its real disciples. Its light has to a degree been dif. fused in almost all lands; and wherever this has been the case, men have received at least a part of the truth. If the true motives from which men ought to act have not been felt, they have at least been acknowledged. If the duties owing by man to man have not been practised, they have at least been understood. The doctrines of the Gospel have thus had a silent and indirect, but powerful, influence in the world at large, by which the standard of morality has been raised, the moral taste refined, and a more quick and accurate sense of what is right and wrong communicated. Christianity, then, being the great source of true kindness or benevolence, we ought ever to regard it as the means of producing charitable affections, and also as our guide in regulating them. Would we do good to our fellow-men, we must look to the Lord Jesus Christ: we must study diligently his words and conduct; and we shall then learn what are the motives which ought to influence us, and the rules by which we ought to proceed. There are some who perform acts of charity merely from ostentation. This is not charity: it is vanity. And this motive has been so strikingly reproved, and so fully exposed by our blessed Lord himself, that men who act from it are ashamed to own it, and studiously contrive to disguise and conceal it. No man now, like the pharisees of old, sounds a trumpet before him when he gives alms. The injunctions, and the example of Christ, have produced this great change. “Let not thy left hand know what thy right hand doeth,” was his direction ; and to this his conduct always corresponded. His manner
was always the farthest possible from ostentation or display. Besides he set the standard of duty in this respect so high as to exclude boasting, every one being conscious that, instead of exceeding, he fell short in his duty, and that, after having done his utmost, he was still an unprofitable servant. There are many who expect some return for their ... One person requires gratitude at least to be shewn him; and if he is disappointed,he thinks himself justified in being more sparing for the future. Another expects that his charity will at least be a balance against his defects, and thinks with satisfaction of the stock of merit he is laying up for the great day of account. But alms, bestowed on such principles, is not charity but barter: it is the giving up part of your property for something of equal value. Now it is of the very nature of true charity, that it should be free, and without hope of reward or return. And here let us look to our great Pattern: what reward did he ask in quitting his throne of fly above, dwelling amongst sinul men, and going about doing good? He met with ingratitude, but he does not once complain of it; nor does he, on that account, restrain his kindness. His aim was to do good, and in doing good he found all the reward he sought. What an affecting example do we tee in him of the highest disinterestedness, and the purest generosity . He did not need us or our services. We could make him no return, yet he stooped to the lowest step of humiliation, and laboured with the most unwearied exertion for our enefit, unmoved by reproaches, °PPosition, and evil treatment, and *"en by the prospect of a cruel death from the hands of the very men whose good he earnestly sought. What, then, is the spring and foundition of true charity; our *ed Lord has amply explained * in his conduct. First, A supreme love to God;
a love to him occupying the whole soul. It was this which animated the breast of our blessed Redeemer. It was his meat and drink to do his Father's will, and that will was the redemption and salvation of sinners. The same motive he set before his disciples. He represented his Father as altogether good, and kind, and lovely, and enjoined obedience to him as a free tribute of gratitude and love; as the homage of affection, not of fear; as the duty of a son, not the work of a servant. Love to God, then, should teach us to do what is pleasing to him. But what can be more pleasing to him than imitating His example who is the best of beings, and shewing kindness, for his sake, to his creatures, who, though fallen, are the work of his hands. Our Saviour has shewn us what was the work which he knew his Father would approve; for he was always engaged in doing good, in instructing. the ignorant, raising the feeble, relieving the distressed, lessening the prevalence of sin, and removing the evils it had brought upon the world. A second principle of true charity which our Lord laid down, and from which he constantly acted, and which, indeed, flowed from love to God, was love to mankind. He has given a clear measure for this love. We are “ to love our neighbour as ourselves;” we are “to do to others as we would they should do to us.” The extent to which this love may be carried, is purposely left unfixed; because like every other holy principle taught by the Gospel, it never can be carried to its full extent. No man can love God or his neighbour too much, nor can he ever do too much good to his neighbour. The best man living can never be so zealous in his exertions, so full of kindmess and compassion as he ought to be. Our Lord alone carried this love to its highest pitch. He laid down his life even for his enemies. His heart glowing with love to God, and melting with pity to man, he went about doing good. His life was devoted to this object: and he has herein left us an example, not to equal, indeed, but to imitate. Let us next remark the unwearied zeal with which our Lord laboured in the service of mankind. To do good was not with him a thing that happened only now and then; a departure from the usual course of his employment; it was his stated business, his object in life. He was engaged without ceasing in labours of love. He taught by day; he prayed by might; he instructed in public and in private, in the field and in the temple, in Jerusalem and in the villages of Galilee. What town, what village in Judea, did he not visit, going about to do good to the bodies and the souls of men How graciously did he carry the glad tidings of salvation to those who would not be at the pains of seeking for it ! His body was worn with toil, and his friends thought him beside himself on account of the greatness of his labours. Would we rightly value our exertions Let us compare them with his. All, indeed, have not power to devote themselves, as he did, to the good of others; nor, indeed, are we called to the selfsame actions; but all the disciples of Christ ought to possess the same spirit of love which influenced him, and all ought to consider the good of others as the chief object for which they live. And here I would remark, that this spirit may be as much shewn in labouring to do good to those immediately around us, and especially to those of our own family, as in seeking out objects of distress abroad, and giving them pecuniary relief. A heart touched with a love like that of Christ, will shew itself in continual though small acts of kindness; in candour, in forbearance, in comforting the afflicted, advising the doubtful, warning the sinner, as well as in relieving bodily wants; for thus did Christ act. If then we wish to cultivate a truly charitable disposition, let us look
to our great Pattern, and compare: our life with his. Let us think how continually he was employed in doing good to others, and how seldom we are thus employed. We are chiefly employed in ministering to ourselves, and only do good to others occasionally. He ministered to others constantly, and never sought his own ease, pleasure, er indulgence. It is a common fault with us, that our bounty must be asked, otherwise we think ourselves excused from exercising it. We do not regard it as our business to search out cases of distress, and are, perhaps, not sorry when we can decently decline those that are brought to our notice. What would have been our state, had Christ been influenced by such a spirit! When he formed the plan of redemption, no one of the children of men sought his help. When he came into the world to execute it, though he came unto his own, his own received him not. Yet did he mot, therefore, give up his work in disgust. He still continued to labour assiduously. He healed even where he was not asked. He sought out objects of pity. And when he was going to be exalted himself, he commanded his ministers to preach his Gospel to every creature. They were to go to the highways and hedges, and bring in the poor, the maimed, the blind and the halt. And now that he is exalted on high, he does not wait to be entreated ; he entreats. He invites the sinner to come to him, and obtain, without money or price, the blessings of his Gospel; and, unprovoked by neglect,he continues to urge him with warnings and entreaties, so long as he remains in a state where mercy may be granted. Men are also apt to be weary in well-doing, or to be discouraged in their exertions. New charities, indeed, will often meet with encouragement; novelty having an influence as well as charity. It is the Patient continuance in well-doing
which best proves the strength and the purity of principle. If we look to Christ, we shall see that want of success did not damp his zeal. Though all the day long he stretched forth his hands to a disobedient and gainsaying people, we read of no intermission of his labours. He persevered in the same course to the latest hour of his life. At the moment of his apprehension, he heals the wound of one of the persons who had come to seize him. Even the pangs of death could not lessen his love. He pardons a malefactor while he himself is hanging on the cross. We often find the benevolence of men restrained within very narrow limits. They will readily give a small sum out of their abundance; they will unite for a charitable purpose; but they will spare very little time, which is often worth more than money, or make few sacrifices of convenience or comfort to attain it. But when we look to the character of our blessed Lord, we are astonished to see how much activity, and how many sacrifices, his benevolence led to. Every moment of his time was employed in doing good; he shrunk from no degree of self-denial; he cheerfully met the severest sufferings for the benefit of others. He patiently bore the contradiction of sinners. He prayed for his murderers. He was made a curse for us that we might he deliwered from the curse. How low a kind of charity is that, then, which confines itself merely to giving a small part of our abundance to the poor and needy, compared with our taking pains and trouble, and exposing ourselves to reproach or sufferings on their accounts Among men, there is often seen a harshness of manner, even in giving relief. Our Lord's example may be of use to us in this respect, as shewing the spirit in which benefits should be conferred. The mildness and gentleness of his manner were truly admirable. He assumed no air of superiority when he bestowed the greatest blessings. “Son, be of
good cheer; thy sins be forgiven thee.” He, in general, exerted his healing power the moment he was applied to ; and as if nothing extraordinary had happened, he went on to perform some other act of kindness. Observe also the mild-, ness of his reproofs: when, of the lepers cleansed by him, only one returned to give thanks, he merely asks, “Were there not ten cleansed, but where are the nine ** And when his disciples had been contending for rank, he reproves them by taking a little child, and commending before them his simplicity and indifference to worldly honours. Let us also consider, with a view to the regulation of our own conduct, the variety of good which our Saviour performed. He healed the sick; he gave sight to the blind; he comforted the mourner; he pardoned the sinner. But though he was ever ready to relieve the bodily wants of mankind, we may easily perceive that their spiritual wants were those to which he chiefly attended. Nay, the good which he did to the body was intended to promote the good of the soul. If he healed the body, it was with a view to save the soul. This was his chief object; to restore men to the favour of God, to deliver them from the power of Satan, to turn them from darkness to light, to make them happy in another world. Let us then learn from the blessed Jesus what ought ever to be our chief object, in every plan of benevolence. And while we are anxious to add to the temporal comforts of our fellow-creatures, let us, in the name of our Lord and Master, endeavour also to add that spiritual knowledge which may be the means of affording them abiding peace here, and eternal happiness hereafter. They will be disposed to receive kindly the exhortations of those who minister to their bodily wants. Let us then unite, as much as possible, instruction with our charity, and in the name of the Lord Jesus, and after his example, seek