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SERMON guishing affection, which gives every II. man an equal title to our love. Charity, if we should endeavour to carry it so far, would be rendered an impracticable virtue, and would resolve itself into mere words, without affecting the heart. True charity attempts not to shut our eyes to the distinction between good and bad men ; nor to warm our hearts equally to those who befriend and those who injure us. It reserves our esteem for good men, and our complacency for our friends. Towards our enemies it inspires forgiveness and humanity. It breathes universal candour, and liberality of sentiment. It forms gentleness of temper, and dictates affability of manners. It prompts corresponding sympathies with them who rejoice and them who weep. It teaches us to slight and despise no man. Charity is the comforter of the afflicted, the protector of the oppressed, the reconciler of differences, the intercessor for offenders. It is faithfulness in the friend, public spirit in the magistrate, equity and patience in the judge, moderation in the sovereign, and
loyalty in the subject. In parents it is SERMON care and attention; in children it is reverence and submission. In a word, it is the soul of social life. It is the sun that enlivens and cheers the abodes of It is like the dew of Hermon, says the Psalmist, and the dew that descendeth on the mountains of Zion, where the Lord commanded the blessing, even life for ever
SUCH charity, says the text, is the end of the commandment. This assertion of the Apostle is undoubtedly consonant to all that reason can suggest on the subject of religion. For on considering the nature of the Supreme Being, reason gives us much ground to believe, that the chief design of all the commandments which he has given to men, is to promote their happiness. Independent and self-sufficient, that Supreme Being has nothing to exact from us for his own interest or felicity. By our services he cannot be benefited, nor by our offences injured. When he created the world, it was benevolence that
*Pfal. cxxxiii. 3.
SERMON moved him to confer existence.
When he made himself known to his creatures, benevolence in like manner moved him to give them laws for their conduct. Benevolence is the spring of legislation in the Deity, as much as it was the motive of creation. He issued his commands on earth on purpose that, by obedience to them, his creatures might be rendered happy among themselves in this life, and be prepared for greater happiness in another. Charity, especially when joined with purity, good conscience, and faith, is obviously the great instrument for this purpose; and therefore must needs possess the chief and primary place in the laws of God,
throughout the New Testament, it is uniformly presented to us in the same light in which it is placed by the text. This is known to all who have any acquaintance with the sacred books, Charity is termed the fulfilling of the law, and the bond of perfectness. It was assumed by our Blessed Lord as the characteristical distinction of his disciples; and in that magnificent eulogium which the
apostle Paul pronounces upon it, in the SERMON thirteenth chapter of the first epistle to the Corinthians, it is expressly preferred by him to faith and hope. This deserves to be seriously considered by those who are apt to undervalue charity as an appendage of what they contemptuously call Morality; while they confine true reli→ gion to some favourite tenets and observances of their own, which they consider as comprehending the sum of what is acceptable to God. Such persons shew themselves profoundly ignorant of the nature of religion, and may too often be suspected of being strangers to its influence, For, as the apostle John reasons, He that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can be love that God whom he bath not seen *?
AT the same time, while I ascribe to charity that high place in the system of religion, which justly belongs to it, I am not to be understood as confining all religion to this disposition alone. With much
* 1 John, iv. 20.
wisdom and propriety, the text hath annexed to it certain adjuncts, without which neither the character of a good man can be completed, nor charity itself exercised to advantage. To the consideration of these I now proceed; and I enter the more readily on this branch of the subject, as there is ground to believe, that many pretend to possess charity, without properly understanding its nature and efficacy. There has been always an unhappy tendency among men to run to extremes, on one side or other, in matters of religion. As one set of men, who employ all their zeal on right belief, are prone to undervalue good practice; \ so another set, who wish to be esteemed rational Christians, are inclined to rest the whole of their duty on charitable deeds, while they overlook certain dispositions and habits which ought always to accompany them. It is therefore of importance that the mistakes of both these classes of men should be rectified, in order that religion may be held forth to the world in its complete form, and in its full and undiminished lustre.