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SERMON important exertions, indeed, there are of II. charity, which have no connection with giving or bestowing. Candour, forgiveness, gentleness, and sympathy, are due to our brethren at all times, and in every situation of our own fortune. The poor have opportunities for displaying these virtues, as well as the rich. They who have nothing to give can often afford relief to others, by imparting what they feel. But, as far as beneficence is included in charity, we ought always to remember, that justice must, in the first place, be held inviolably sacred.
The wisdom of Scripture remarkably appears, in the connection pointed out by the text between charity and good conscience, or integrity; a connection which I apprehend is often not attended to so much as it deserves. Among the frugal and industrious, great regard is commonly paid to justice. They will not defraud. They will not take any unlawful advantage. in their dealings: And, satisfied with this degree of good conscience, they are strangers to that charity which is the end of the commandment. They are hard and
unfeeling. They are rigid and severe in SERMON their demands. They know nothing.of humanity, forgiveness or compassion.Among another class of men, who have been more liberally educated, and who are generally of a higher rank in life, justice is apt to be considered as a virtue less noble than charity; and which may, on some occasions, be dispensed with. They are humane, perhaps, and tender in their feelings. They are easy to their dependents. They can be liberal, even to profusion. While, at the same time, they are accumulating debts, which they know themselves unable to discharge. Their affairs are allowed to run into confusion. Oeconomy and good order are neglected. The innocent, in great numbers, suffer materially through their mismanagement : And all the while they assume to themselves the praise of being generous and good-hearted men. This surely is not that charity which the Gospel enjoins; and which, in its very essence, involves good conscience and integrity. He, who pretends to do good to his brethren without first doing them justice, cannot be account
SERMON ed their real friend. True charity is not
a meteor, which occasionally glares; but a luminary, which, in its orderly and regular course, dispenses a benignant influence.
THE third and last adjunct connected in the text with charity is, that it be of faith unfeigned. Faith, in the Scripture sense of it, includes the whole of religious principles respecting God, and respecting Christ. Good principles, without good practice, I confess, are nothing; they are of no avail in the sight of God, nor in the estimation of wise men. But practice not founded on principle, is likely to be always unstable and wavering; and, therefore, the faith of religious principles enters, for a very considerable share, into the proper disc arge of the duties of charity.
It will be admitted that, without faith, our duties towards God cannot be properly performed. You may be assured that your duties towards men will always greatly suffer from the want of it. Faith, when pure and genuine, supplies to every part of virtue, and in particular to the virtue of charity, many motives and assistances,
of which the unbeliever is destitute. He SERMON who acts from faith, acts upon the high principle of regard to the God who hath made him, and to the Saviour who redeems him; which will often stimulate him to his duty, when other principles of benevolence become faint and lang or are crossed by opposite interests. When he considers himself as pursuing the approbation of that divine Being, from whom love descends, a sacred enthusiasm both prompts. and consecrates his charitable dispositions. Regardless of men, or of human recompence, he is carried along by a higher impulse. He acts with the spirit of a follower of the Son of God, who not only has enjoined love, but has enforced it by the example of laying down his life for mankind. Whatever he does in behalf of his fellow-creatures, he considers himself as doing, in some degree, to that divine Person, who hath said, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye Hence charity is
have done it unto me *.
with him not only a moral virtue, but a
SERMON Christian grace. It acquires additional dignity and energy from being connected with the heavenly state and the heavenly inhabitants. He mingles with beings of a higher order, while he is discharging his duty to his fellow-creatures on earth; and, by joining faith and piety to good works, he completes the character of a Christian.
THUS I have endeavoured to explain the full sense of that comprehensive view of religion which is given in the text. I have shewn in what respects charity, joined with the pure heart, the good conscience, and faith unfeigned, forms the end of the commandment. Let us ever keep in view those essential parts of a virtuous character, and preserve them in their proper union. Thus shall our religion rise into a regular and well proportioned edifice, where each part gives firmness and support to another. If any one of those material parts be wanting in the structure; if, out of our system of charity, either purity, or justice, or faith, be left, there will be cracks and flaws in the building which prepare its ruin.
This is indeed one of the greatest and most frequent errours of men, in their moral conduct.