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Gospel proposes, betake themselves to the exercise, of it, withi as much ardour, as the voluptuous run to their sensual entertainments.
Darkness differs not more from light, than the charity of the faithful ministers differs from that of a scribe ill instructed in the mysteries of the kingdom. The love of ihe good pastor " rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth, which frequently comes to bumble human pride. On the contrary, the charity which every false : Apostle preaches, is no more than the phanton of a ville lue, consoling the heart in the midst of sin, Pejoicing in a lie, and resting upon assurances altogether contrary io the word of God. To be charitable, according to the notions of these men, is to indulge a persuasion, that there is much to be abated of the threatenings contained in the Gospel, and that St. Paul is far beside the truth, when he declares, that " no unclean or covetous person hath any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ." Il is to be lieve, that the Holy Spirit was too severe, when it dictated to St. James, that " he who is a friend of the world, is the enemy of God,” and violates his baptis. mal vow in as full a sense, as adulterers violate the sacred vow of conjugal fidelity. It is to insinuate, that Christ himself overpassed the bounds of reason, when he publicly cried out, “ Whosoever shall say to his brother, thou sool, shall be in danger of Hell. fire. Judge not,” saith the Redeemer, that ye be no! julged.” But, according to the sentiments of these crring guides, to be divinely charitable, is to conclude from this precept, that a man may even revoke the judgments of Christ himself: thus, una der pretext of not judging those, who are evidenily. walking in the road to perdition, they indirectly give judgment against the kedeemer, as bearing a false testimony. In errors like these it is, that the world will needs have the greatest part of charity to consist.
The true minister attacks this false grace, as an enemy to the truths of the Gospel, while he pleads for that Christ-like charity, which may properly be called the sister of truth. He asserts the dignity and power of truth; holding it up to the veneration and love of those, who would not wilfully offend the God of truth. Let us, continues he, " speaking the truth in love, grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ :' and having first “purified our souls in obeying the truth, let us love one another with a pure heart fervently." Between these scriptural companions he will suffer no separaiion to take place ; and when they are treated by the injudicious, as enthusiastic and heretical, he will dare to stand forth in defence of these two confederate virtues.
Another opinion, that generally prevails ainong the professors of christianity, is, that charity con. sists in giving alms to the poor : and this opinion is earnestly contended for by many, although the pharisees, who were regarded by our Lord, as serpents and vipers, through their want of unfeigned charity, were yet remarkable for their generosity in almsgiving. St. Paul manifestly opposes this erronevus notion, where he declares, that it is possible for a man to "give all his goods to feed the poor, and yet be destitute of charity. The faithful pastor, it is true, maintains, that every charitable person is constrained to assist the poor, according to his ability : but he adds, that alms giving is as unceriain a maik of charity, as a constant attendance upon the sacramental table, is an equivocal evidence of faith : since it is as possible to relieve the poor through weakness op vanity, us to receive the holy communion through timidity or custom.
If the charity of worldly men is ever found in exceed this discription, yet it will always be limited to the necessities of the body. As ihey knojy not, how far ile immortal spirit is superior to the perishe ing body, which must soon be blended with the dust of a thousand carcases, it is no wonder, that their chief concern is engrossed by the latter. The welfare of their own souls is attended to with a very small degree of solicitude ; and wbile this is the case, it cannot be imagined, that they should mani. fest any extraordinary degree of affection towards the souls of their neighbours. They behold without sorrow those deluded partizans, who make var upon each other for the sake of their particular errors : they can even gaze, without pity on those obdurate souls, who are desperately plunging from one abyss of sin to another. How different were the feelings of David, when, like a true penitent, he' not only wept for his own offences, but shed torrents of tears for those, who transgressed the law of God. And how contrary was the character of St. Paul, who went through a kind of spiritual travail, till the degenerate were born again. In like manner the primitive christians exposed themselves to imminent dangers, that they might give proofs of the most exalted cha. rity, by snatching souls from sin and death. And when they were not able lo effect this by their external labours, they then wrestled in their closels, with sacred prayers and tears, for the conversion of the ungodly: Where there is no desire after the salvacion of others, there true charity is unknown : for while a inan disregards the soul of his neigh. bour, all the inierest he lakes in his temporal affairs, can manisest no more than the charily, of a disciple of Epicurus, which is as far below the charity of Chrisi's disciples, as inaterialism is inferior to christianity.
In opposition to all the false ideas, which have been received upon this subject, the minister of the new Testanient teaches, that charity is the image of God: and thai « cternal and infinite charity," is nothing less than Gol himself. One Apostle declares that God is love; and another assures us, that we are called to be made “partakers of the divine nature :” whence the sacred preacher inférs, that the new creature, of which St. Paul makes mention, must necessarily consist in charity. When a christian is filled with charity, he is then regenerate and born of God. Christ is then formed in his heart, the Holy Spirit rests upon him, and he is filled with all the fulness of God." He keeps the first commandment of the law, by making a full surrender of his heart to God, from a consciousness that he is in himself the sovereign good : but he chiefly loves him in the person of Christ, through whom the Father is pleased peculiarly to shine forth, as a God of love. In a secondary sense, he loves the works of God in all their wonderful variety, as they shadow forth his matchless perfections, and place them within the reach of man's understanding. And his esteem for his admirable productions, is in proportion to the nearer or more distant relation, in which they stand to that eternal wisdom, which formed them all. Guide by this principle, he loves all mankind with an extraordinary degree of affection. The soul of man is peculiarly dear to him, because created in the image of God, and redeemed with the blood of his beloved Son: while as the organized vehicle of the soul, he ad. mires and loves the perishable body. As the souls of the poor and the rich are equally immortal, he is never meanly prejudiced in favour of the latter ; but, on the contrary, is ever ready to prefer a poor and pi. ous beggar, before a sensual and supercilious noble. Thus the true christian cherishes the faithful, not only for the love of the Creator, and Redeemer, but, also for love of the sanctifying Spirit, unto whom their souls are consecrated as living altars, and their bodies as hallowed temples. From this divine charity, good works of every kind proceed, as from an inexhaustible fountain : a fountain which is making, as it were, continual efforts to enrich the barren soil around it. But where this is wanting, all external appearances are without any real value : the la.
vish giver loses his worth before pious men, and the zealous martyr his reward before a righteous God.
Uniting in his own heart the love of God, with the love of his neighbour, the true minister anxious. ly endeavours to demonstrate the folly of those, who seek to separa:e these important duties. He mainlains, that charity without piety, is but a mere natu. ral virtue, which discovers itself as frequently in the brute creation, as among unregenerate men. The swallow and the bat are careful of their young..., The beaver and the ant are observed to labour for the respective societies of which they are individuals, and the she-bear is ready to meet death in defence of her cubs. On this account, the good pas for furnishes his flock with those exalted motives to christian love, which, by giving a divine principle to natural charity, ennobles it in inan, and renders it divine.
As charity, without piety, is no more than a natural virtue, and may be the effect of pharisaical or diabolical pride, so devotion, without brotherly love, is to be considered as a species of hypocrisy, as our Lord himself teaches in the following passage. « If ihou bring thy gift to the altar, and there remember, est that thy brother hath ought against thee ; leave There thy gist, before the altar, and go thy way ; first be reconciled to thy brother, and then coine and offer thy gift," which would otherwise be rejecied, as an abomination by the God of love. True charity embraces all men, because being made of 'one blood, they compose but one vast family, of which God himself is the great parent. And here our Lord permits us not to except even our most cruel enemy. “Ye have heard," saith he, thai it hath · been said, thou shalt love thy neighbour and halę thire enemy : but I say unto you, love your enc. anies, bless ihem, that curse you, do good to them ibat hate you, and," manifesting a concern for their souls, as well as an attention to their persons,“ pray