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“No blank, no trifle Nature made or meant.
If nothing more than purpose in thy power,
An old writer remarks, that “The soul is always stamped with the same characters that are engraven upon the end it aims at;"—the correctness of which statement we presume but few, if any, will question. Men in general have their minds fixed upon some object they are anxious to accomplish ; and to realise the fulfilment of their hopes and desires, they spare no pains, regard no privations, and deem no exertions too laborious. The warrior is ambitious for fame and conquest; the politician attempts to exert an influence over the destinies of an empire; the voyager encounters the dangers of the ocean to make new discoveries; and the traveller hazards his life in exploring remote regions to ascertain the nature of the climate, the manners and customs of the inhabitants. If such courage, eagerness, intrepidity, and zeal were transferred to religion, in carrying out the great purposes of Jeho ah in reference to the salvation of the human race, what a vast amount of truth and holiness would be promoted in the world.
But christians are engaged in an enterprise of a far
higher order than any of the characters just alluded to -an enterprise of mercy and beneficence. The religion of Christ is a religion of love, and all who enjoy its blessedness endeavour to contribute in some measure to the peace and welfare of their fellow-creatures. Goodness signifies desirable qualities, either physical or moral ; and to be a christian is to possess these virtues.
We should manifest at all times a disposition and readiness to do good, both in a temporal and spiritual point of view. Such a disposition God has graciously manifested towards us, for, “He is good to all, and his tender mercies are over all his works.” He has provided for our temporal and spiritual wants : “Every good gift, and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning." The same benevolent spirit was manifest in the conduct of the Saviour, not only toward those who acknowledged him as their rightful Sovereign, but also to those who despised and rejected him.
This excellent virtue ought to be exhibited by all christians as far as practicable, in relieving the wants of the destitute, and in supporting the cause of God according to their ability. A religion without good works is false and vain; and if we lack this virtue, this fruit of the Spirit, our profession will avail us nothing. Goodness, or benevolence, is another important link in the believer's golden chain,--another necessary trait in the christian character, and is worthy of your attention and regard. Observe,
I. CHRISTIANS ARE TO MANIFEST A SPIRIT OF BENEVO
The apostle Paul prayed that the Colossians "might walk worthy of the Lord unto all pleasing, being fruitful in every good work, and increasing in the knowledge of God." Notice,
1. Who are claimants to christian beneficence? Here I may remark, that a judicious discrimination should be exercised, in order that the stream of benevolence may flow in proper channels. That there are many objects of indigence, distress, and even wretchedness, we have ample evidence; but in many instances it is self-imposed distress, arising from idleness, extravagance, and dissipation; and numbers of this class become itinerant mendicants, and, by unfolding tales of woe, frequently impose on a generous public. To lavish charity on such characters as these, is to countenance vagrancy, support crime, and give license for deception and every concomitant evil.
But there are others who are in a state of comparative destitution, occasioned by a variety of circumstances over which they had no control, and are, therefore, justly entitled to christian sympathy and aid. The widow and the fatherless, who have been deprived of their subsistence by a stroke of Providence; those who, by a sudden and unlooked-for catastrophe, as the Holmfirth flood, have been stripped of nearly all they possessed ; those who are wrecked on the ocean, and cast penniless on a distant shore, or who perish, and leave sorrowing friends to bemoan their loss; and those who have been reduced to penury and want by severe and protracted afflictions, all have claims on our kindness and hospitality.
It appears from scripture that the poor of Christ's flock have prior claims on christian benevolence. have therefore opportunity, let us do good unto all men, especially unto them who are of the household of faith," Gal. vi. 10. The apostle instructs the Corinthians to make a liberal contribution for the poor saints at Jerusalem. "Now therefore," says he, “perform the doing of it; that as there was a readiness to will, so there may be a performance out of that which ye have," 2 Cor. viü. 11. And in his epistle to the Romans, he says,
" As we
“ Distributing to the necessity of saints; given to hospitality," chap. xii. 13. The apostle Peter urges the manifestation of the same principle. “Use hospitality one to another, without grudging.” But we must not confine our acts of kindness to the poor of the Saviour's flock; but, on Bible principles, it must be extended even to our enemies : hence says Solomon, “If thine enemy be hungry, give him bread to eat; and if he be thirsty, give him water to drink: for thou shalt heap coals of fire upon his head, and the Lord shall reward thee,” Prov. XXV. 21, 22. But while it is obligatory upon christians to bestow their charity upon the bereaved and destitute, there are still higher objects that must not be overlooked which are purely religious ; they must do good not only to the bodies, but also to the souls of men. This may be done,
2. By devoting a portion of our substance to religious purposes.
“Honour the Lord with thy substance, and with the first fruits of all thine increase; so shall thy barns be filled with plenty, and thy presşes shall burst out with new wine,” Prov. iii. 9, 10. There was a striking manifestation of liberality in behalf of the tabernacle in the time of Moses. “Take ye from among you an offering unto the Lord: whosoever is of a willing heart, let him bring it, an offering of the Lord; gold, and silver, and brass,” Ex. xxxv. 5; and at the 21st and 22nd verses, we read that, “Every one whose heart stirred him up, and every one whom his spirit made willing, and they brought the Lord's offering to the work of the tabernacle of the congregation, and for all his service, and for the holy garments : and they came both men and women, as many as were willing hearted, and brought bracelets, and earrings, and rings, and tablets, all jewels of gold : and every man that offered offered an offering of gold unto the Lord.”
Places of worship are needed, in which to preach the
glorious gospel of the blessed God, and conduct the devotional exercises of his people; and in order to accomplish this desirable object, there must be the consecration of property, the free-will offerings which the Lord requires.
Great responsibility devolves upon the members of the church of Christ in reference to the extent they contribute to its support. Christians are to set an example in this respect as well as in any other duty they have to perform. There are innumerable spiritual wants to be supplied ; and unless the contributions of professing christians become more liberal and practical than heretofore, those necessities, however pressing, will not be supplied. Have we not at the present day to mourn on account of the spirit of covetousness which is cherished by many who avow their allegiance to Him who gave himself a ransom for the world? Do we not frequently blush when we receive the niggardly contributions of the more wealthy members of our societies, parted with, too, very reluctantly? Have not many yet to learn the important lesson, "Ready to distribute, willing to communicate ?" And how much more might be devoted to the cause of Christ by the less opulent in our communities, if the principle of economy was understood and practised ? Some make inability a pretext for giving so little, or nothing at all. Speak to them about the claims of the heathen, and request them to hear the cries from abroad, as they are borne on the breeze, or roll on the bosom of the ocean, “ Come over and help us,” they will soon answer, “Charity begins at home;" and at home it ends also. It would be much better if such cankered, money-loving, world-starving professors would reform their system of expenditure, or dispense with some superfluities, to enable them to render more pecuniary aid to religious objects. In many instances this might be done without sacrificing any domestic