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THE first qualification of charity point- SERMON ed out in the text is purity; charity out of a pure heart. Purity includes the virtues which belong to the individual, considered in himself, and with respect to the government of his desires and pleasures. It hath its seat in the heart; but extends its influence over so much of the outward conduct, as to form a great and material part of the character. They are only the pure in heart, we told by our Saviour, who can see God*. It is also true, that they are only the pure in heart who can properly discharge their duties towards mankind. Inordinate love of pleasure, intemperance, sensuality, and a course of irregular life, are inconsistent, not only with the general character of a good man, but also with the peculiar exercises of charity and benevolence. For nothing is more certain than that habits of licentious indulgence contribute to stifle all the good affections; to harden the heart; to nourish that selfish attach

ment to our own vicious pleasures which

*Matth. v. 8.



SERMON renders us insensible to the circumstances II. and wants of others. A profligate man is seldom found to be a good husband, a good father, or a beneficent neighbour. How many young persons have at first set out in the world with excellent dispositions of heart; generous, charitable, and humane; kind to friends, and aimable among all with whom they had intercourse? And yet how often have we seen all those fair appearances unhappily blasted in the progress of life, merely through the influence of loose and corrupting pleasures; and those very persons who promised once to be the blessings to the world, sunk down in the end, to be the burden and nuisance of society! The profusion of expence which their pleasures occasion, accounts in a great measure for the fatal reverse that takes place in their character. It not only drains the sources whence the streams of beneficence should flow, but often obliges them to become oppressive and cruel to those whom it was their duty to have patronised and supported.


Purity of heart and conduct must there- SERMON fore be held fundamental to charity and love, as well as to general piety and virtue. The licentious, I know, are ready to imagine, that their occasional deeds. of bounty and liberality will atone for many of their private disorders. But, besides that such plans of compensation for vices, by some supposed virtues, are always fallacious, the licentious may be assured, that it is an appearance only of charity, not the reality of it, to which they can lay claim. For that great vir

tue consists not in occasional actions of humanity, in fits of kindness or compassion, to which bad men may be prompted by natural instinct; but in the steady and regular exercise of those good affections, and the discharge of those important duties towards others, for which the licentious are in a great measure disqualified. Their criminal propensities direct their inclinations to very different objects and pursuits; and often determine them to sacrifice the just rights of others, sometimes to sacrifice the peace and the reputation of the innocent, to the gratification

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SERMON cation of their passions. Such is the perII. nicious influence which the love of plea

sure has on the good qualities of its devoted votaries. The impure heart is like the stagnant and putrifying lake, which sends forth its poisonous exhalations to corrupt and wither every plant that grows on its banks.

THE Second qualification annexed charity in the text is, that it be of a good conscience. By this I understand the Apostle to mean, that charity be in full consistency with justice and integrity; that the conscience of the man, who purposes to perform actions of benevolence, be free from the reproach of having neglected the primary duties of equity. For, undoubtedly, justice is a virtue primary to charity; that is, it must go before it in all its exertions. One must first do justly before he can pretend that he loves mercy. Religion, my friends, in order to render it useful to mankind, must be brought down by its teachers from the sublimity of speculation to the functions and occupations of ordinary life. It is


my duty to admonish you, that you must, SERMON in the first place, be fair in all your dealings with others; you must discharge the debts you owe; you must pay the wages due to your servants and dependents; you must provide for your own family, and be just to the claims of relations; then, and then only, you can, from a good conscience, as the text enjoins, perform acts of generosity and mercy.

This leads to a reflection which here deserves our attention; that in order to fulfil that charity which is the end of the commandment, œconomy, and good order in private life, ought to be carefully studied by all Christians. This is more closely connected with a good conscience, than many seem inclined to admit. Oeconomy, when prudently and temperately conducted, is the safeguard of many virtues; and is in a particular manner favourable to the exertions of benevolence. He who by inconsiderate duct is injuring his circumstances, will probably in time lose the inclination, and certainly is depriving himself of the means, of being serviceable. to his brethren. Some VOL. IV. important


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