Page images
PDF
EPUB

istic of our love to God; but if hatred, unconcern, and covetousness, are traits in our character--whatever sanctity we may profess--they are indicative of an unrenewed nature. “ Whoso hath this world's good, and seeth his brother have need, and shutteth up his bowels of compassion from him, how dwelleth the love of God in him?" 1 John iii. 17. Christianity, and the sympapathies of our common nature, require the observance of the great law of humanity, “Whatsoever ye would that men should do unto you, do ye even so to them.”

3. From a principle of the justice and worthiness of those claims. “The way of the just is uprightness : thou, most upright, dost weigh the path of the just,” Isa. xxvi. 7. When we contemplate the objects of christian benevolence in a proper light, we must at once admit the justice of their claims. In point of order and importance, perhaps the institution of the gospel ministry takes the precedence of all others. The renowned Baxter said :—"The souls of men are to be preferred before their bodies in estimation and intention : but in point of time, the body is often to be preferred before the soul; because if the body be suffered to perish, the helping of the soul will be past our power.” But while the one is attended to, the other must not be neglected. True charity couples both together; it promotes the benefit of the body as well as the good of the soul. It must be obvious to all who duly appreciate the preaching of the gospel, that its claims to christian benevolence are binding, reasonable, and just.

Other noble and praiseworthy institutions adorn the age, which have been termed the moral wonders of the age. The Sabbath-school institution, the Bible Society, the Religious Tract Society, and the Temperance Society, are worthy of support, and have claims on our charity; for they are subordinate but essential auxiliaries to the preaching of the gospel. If we look at the

condition of those who are destitute of religion, reflect on the importance of promoting their salvation, and consider that such are the objects for whom the Saviour suffered and expired upon the cross, we must acknowledge the justice and worthiness of their claims.

The same principle will apply to the church. Christians are to labour for her extention and prosperity. “ Christ loved the church, and gave himself for it; that he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, that he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing," Eph. v. 25-27. If Christ gave himself for the church, for the reasons stated by the apostle, christians ought to seek her good, by contributing to her funds, maintaining purity of doctrine, enforcing scriptural discipline, and in unwearied efforts to promote her edification and holiness. Pray for the peace of Jerusalem : they shall prosper that love thee.” Hear the language of the sorrowing captives by the rivers of Babylon, when reflecting on the city or place from which they had been driven : "If I forget thee, O Jerusalem, let my right hand forget her cunning. If I do not remember thee, let my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth, if I prefer not Jerusalem above my chief joy," Ps. cxxxvii. 5, 6.

4. From a principle of religion. “I will that thou affirm constantly, that they which have believed in God might be capable to maintain good works. These things are good and profitable unto men,” Tit. iii. 8. Religion has a powerful influence on the manners and habits of its possessors. Having believed in God, and publicly avowed allegiance to him, they are to maintain good works, by administering to the wants of others, in proportion to the means possessed, and in accordance with the principles of religion. While good works are essential to religion, by these alone none can gain heaven.

:

a

a

In religion, faith and works go together. The apostle James, when exposing the fallacy of those whom we should call by a modern term Antinomians, who placed all their religion in faith, and neglected good works, as forming no part of religion, laid much stress on good works, not as the cause of his justification, but as the effect or evidence of his faith. Let us hear him on this matter. “What doth it profit, my brethren, though a man say he hath faith, and have not works? Can faith save him ? If a brother or sister be naked, and destitute of daily food, and one of you say unto them, Depart

in
peace,

be

ye warmed and filled; notwithstanding ye give them not those things which are needful to the body; what doth it profit? Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone. Yea, a man may say, thou hast faith, and I have works : shew me thy faith without thy works, and I will shew thee my faith by my works. Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble. But wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead?” James ii. 14–20.

III. THE REWARD WHICI SUCH CONDUCT SECURES.

It is more blessed to give than to receive,” Acts xx. 35. For every act of kindness, for every deed of mercy, and for every instance of benevolence shown towards the people of God, there will be an an ample recompense. The widow's mite cast into Lord's treasury, and the cup of cold water given to a disciple, will not be overlooked. Such actions shall in no wise lose their reward; for the Saviour will say to those who performed them, “Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.” There is,

1. Personal satisfaction. This arises from a sense of duty performed. Active goodness is a source from which arisc in a renewed heart the most enlarged and elevated

a

pleasures. “But to do good and to communicate forget not: for with such sacrifices God is well pleased,” Heb. xiii. 16. The consciousness of having done our duty to God and our fellow-men, must on all occasions afford pleasurable reflection and internal satisfaction.

But how frequently professors of religion have to mourn on account of the privileges they have neglected, and lament over manifold omissions of duty and unfaithfulness to God. Dying regrets are very common; and if the rich but coveteous professor desires to be free from such emotions when he leaves the world, he must now rid himself of the charge of parsimony, and cease to sin against his Maker, and attend to the requirement of the gospel, “Freely ye have received, freely give." Let the less affluent be more active, and the lukewarm more earnest and prayerful; for, “It is good to be zealously affected always in a good thing," Gal. iv. 18. Adopt every mode and available means within your reach to contribute to the sum of human happiness; serve your own generation by the will of God. This will afford you the greatest pleasure on earth, and the highest satisfaction when to Jordan's brink you come.

" And I heard a voice from heaven saying unto me, Write, Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord from henceforth : yea, saith the Spirit, that they may rest from their labours; and their works do follow them," Rev. xiv. 13. Then there is,

2. Success in the enterprise of christian benevolence. To a pious mind this is a liberal reward : “Your labour is not in vain in the Lord.” The consciousness of having wiped some tear away, of having relieved some person in distress, comforted some sorrowing heart, alleviated the misery of some outcast, led some wanderer to Christ, and directed some inquiring penitent to the old paths and the good way, is a rich reward for the labour bestowed.

a

The christian is warranted to expect the blessing of God upon his efforts to do good. The amount of success may not be equal to his desires ; but this is no inducement to relax his efforts, but should stimulate to greater diligence, and more frequent pleadings at the throne of grace. “My brother," said an active minister, “to have one poor sinner to own thee in the day of judginent, as an instrument in God's hand in plucking him as a brand from the burning, will be a greater comfort to thy glorified spirit in the day of the Lord, than if thou hadst been the greatest orator that ever engaged the ato tention of an audience.”

Cast thy bread upon the waters, and thou shalt find it after many days.” It is encouraging to a pious and liberal christian to know that his example has produced emulation. Others, by seeing his good works, have, in many instances, been induced to go and do likewise. “ And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works,” Heb. x. 24. Besides, there is,

3. The assurance of Divine love. “Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God," 1 John iï. 1. They know they are loved : they possess the internal evidence of his favour; they know it experimentally. He manifests his love to them by the witness of his Holy Spirit, in the peace and joy shed abroad in their hearts, by renewing their spiritual strength, by supporting them in their conflicts, by the pledges and promises revealed in his word, by the rich communications of his grace, by the revelations of his glory, and by the title he has given them to an incorruptible inheritance in heaven. Then there is the constancy of this love. The Father loves his willing and obedient children with an unremitting love. He loves them at all times, and under all circumstances, with a love that is pure and unchangeable. “Having loved his own which were in the

« PreviousContinue »