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FORGIVENESS OF INJURIES.
As to the motives for the forgiveness of injuries, what should operate more powerfully upon Christians than the example of Christ, from whom we are denominated And very ill shall we be entitled to the name of Christians, if we do not adopt the sentiments, follow the example, and obey the precepts of Christ. What are the injuries that we have received, great as they have been, compared to his, to say nothing of the difference of our characters and deserts, his superiority with respect to which ought not only to have exempted him from injuries, but ensured to him the gratitude and best offices of his countrymen and the world. Instead of this, as soon as ever he made himself conspicuous, though it was by the most exemplary virtue and universal beneficence, he began to be envied, hated, and ill-treated, by the priests and leading men of his nation; (the church, as we may say, and the state ;) and this malignity against him increased in proportion as I e distinguished himself, till they carried into execution their diabolical purpose of putting him to a cruel and ignominious death.
Notwithstanding this, in the very moment of his greatest agony, he could pray, in the words of my text, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” What dignity, my brethren, what greatness of mind, what self-command, what benevolence, and what piety, were here! All that we can feel or do, will fall far short of this. But, nevertheless, let us strive to come as near to it as we can ; for this is to approach the Divine character and conduct, which he imitated, and taught his followers to imitate, when he exhorted them to be “merciful, as our Father who is in heaven is merciful, and perfect, as he is perfect.”
CHARITY THE DEBT OF THE RICH TO THE POOR.
THE rich, therefore, reflecting on the wise intentions of Providence, should not suppose that they have an absolute exclusive right to their superfluity; the wise should not be wise for themselves alone, nor should the powerful protect themselves only from insults and injuries. Our common Parent had far other and more extensive views in appointing this inequality. It was no less than to bind all the parts of the great whole more strictly together, to make the one more dependent upon the other; and by an exchange of good offices, easy to some, and necessary to others, give scope to the increase of generosity on one side, of gratitude on the other, and of benevolence on both ; thus to advance them in real dignity and excellence of character, and thereby bring them to a near resemblance to Himself, the pattern of all perfection and excellence, to Him who is supremely, and, strictly speaking, alone good, as being the source of all goodness, who “is good to all, and whose tender mercies are over all his works.”
Had all men been equally well provided for, they would have been independent of one another, and of course unsocial and unfriendly, and therefore might have been disposed to avoid, rather than to court, that society of which they stood in no need; and a spirit of envy and hatred might have been the result. But the wants of some teach them humility, patience, and gratitude, excellent moral qualities; and the sight of distress softens the heart, and excites to acts of kindness in others, which strengthens the principle of benevolence, and thus meliorates the disposition, consequently the
108 CHARITY THE DEBT of THE RIch To The poor.
characters of both are improved, and it is not easy to say which is the more so, by this circumstance of inequality in the distribution of the gifts of Providence. Let not the rich man make a boast of his charity, as if he gave what he was under no obligation to give ; for, strictly speaking, it is a debt which he owes to the needy. Benevolence being the great law of our natures, and the happiness of all being the great object of the Divine government, whatever it be that promotes this end, is the proper duty of all, according to their respective abilities to contribute to it; and any person is guilty of a breach of trust, who refrains from doing it. All the good that any man can do, he ought to do. The Divine Being, our common Parent, expects it of him, as a member of his large family; and if he “judge the world in righteousness”, as he assuredly will, he will punish the person who does less than it was in his power to do, as having neglected a duty that was incumbent on him. In whatever manner any person becomes possessed of wealth, it is the gift of God. If it have accrued to him from superior ingenuity or superior industry, that very superior ingenuity and spirit of activity, are alike the gift of God, who makes one man to differ in these respects, as well as others, from another man; so that, as the apostle says, God may say to any man, “What hast thou that thou didst not receive 7" And “if thou didst receive it, why dost thou glory, as if thou hadst not received it?” Consequently, not to make that disposition of our wealth which the Giver of it intended that we should, is to be guilty of ingratitude to God, and real injustice to man. It is to act the part of an unfaithful steward. For in this light, and no other, ought we to consider ourselves with respect to every thing that we have to spare, after the supply of our own wants. Neither let the rich boast of their independence with respect to the poor. In fact they are more dependent upon the poor, than the poor are upon them ; and were all persons reduced to a level, every advantage of which they now boast
CHARITY THE DEBT OF THE RICH TO THE POOR. 109
would vanish. They must then labor for themselves, and do for themselves those menial offices which are now done for them by others. But, happily for us all, there is such a foundation laid in the course of nature and the order of Providence, for that inequality in the conditions of men, which has so excellent an effect in binding us all together, in making our connexion both necessary and mutually advantageous, that no institutions of man can destroy it; though, as we are
in duty bound, we may lessen the evils that necessarily arise from it.
THE OBJECTS OF EDUCATION,
THE general object of education is evidently to qualify men to appear to advantage in future life; which can only be done by communicating to them such knowledge, and leading them to form such habits, as will lead them to be most useful hereafter : and in this the whole of their future being, to which their education can be supposed to bear any relation, is to be considered. If I knew that my child would die when he had attained to the age of five or six years, and that his existence would then terminate; I should certainly make no provision respecting him for any thing beyond that term, but endeavour to make him as happy as I could during the short period in which he could enjoy any thing. I would, for the same reason, provide for him only such gratifications as his infant nature was capable of Again, if I knew that he would attain to the age of manhood, but that then his existence would not be prolonged any farther; I should endeavour, as well as I could, to qualify him for acting such a part as would be useful to himself and others in that period, but should never think of extending my plan so far as to enable him to pass a comfortable old age, a term of life to which I knew he never would arrive. For the same plain reason, a man who believes that the whole period of his own existence, and that of his offspring, is confined to the present life, would act very absurdly if he should train up his children with a view to a future life, except so far as he should think that such a farther, though a