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gave his strength and life to works of active goodness: Should not his disciples do the same? Where do we learn that his example in this respect, was not set to be imitated ? It has been admired; it has been greatly praised; why should it not have been followed ?
2. It is the universal conviction, that such a life as that of our Saviour's in such a world as this, is the highest and best which can be lived ; and hence the unquestionable fitness between his life and the perfection of his character. But this shows demonstratively that Christ's mode of life should be chosen by his followers. Had it not been his design to show them by his manner of life, what theirs should be, yet they could not intelligently and seriously reflect on that specimen of living among men, without feeling a conviction that they ought to imitate it. It is unquestionably the best mode of spending life, and the rational nature of man inclines him to what he knows to be the liighest and best. The desire of perfection, however far he may be from perfection itself, is inwrought in his being. Let a mai do a thing, and then find that he might have done better, and if true to his nature, he will regret that he did not perform the better deed. Let bim have a greater and a less good before him soliciting his preference, and he will do violence to himself if he does not choose the greater. The perfection, therefore, of our Saviour's life, instead of being a reason why it should not, is the highest possible reason, why it should be imitated by his followers. And of the force of this reason they cannot but be sometimes conscious. As they look upon that life of perfect beneficence, the very law of their being prompts them to pattern after it ; and if they decline, or just in so far as they do decline, that law condemns them for doing so: And many a professed Christian passes his lifetime, under a consciousness more or less vivid, that he is hastening to the retributions of eternity with the sentence of this law in full force against him. How many members are there of the christian church, who while they live for self-advancement or self-indulgence, and cannot help remembering how different from theirs was the life of Jesus Christ, know better than if an angel's tongue had told them, that there is no way of justifying their mode of passing away their days. — They may not reflect very definitely on the subject, but the subject though kept at a distance, and in the shade, has a face of terror to their hearts, and haunts them in the night season, and sometimes troubles them amid the activities and pursuits of the day.
3. That Christ's way of living in this world, should as far as practicable be chosen by his followers, is the natural influence from the essential conformity, the spiritual oneness, which according to Scripture subsists, between them and him. They were, from eternity, predestinated to be conformed to his image, and this, their high election, is made sure in the day of their second birth, when they are taken out of the corrupt human mass, and fashioned into the likeness of the great Refiner and Purifier himself. Now what should be hence concluded respecting their external conversation and beliavior among men ? Like Christ, in spirit or the inner life, shall they be unlike him in the manner of their outward life? Let due allowance be made for remaining imperfection and the weakness of the flesh; still there is substantial oneness with Christ in the inner man of the heart, and shall there not be substantial oneness with him also, in conduct and external development ? Is natural expectation in this case groundless ? Is the connection here dissolved between the cause and its effect? Must we not adhere to the rule, by their fruits ye shall know them, though by doing so, we should be obliged to admit that the malignant remark of infidelity is true, that there are no such persons as Christians on earth?
4. That the life of Christians in this world should, like that of their Lord, be a life of beneficence, is a conviction which must at once seize any mind, that with a just idea of christian character, associates a recollection of the real state of the world. There was nothing arbitrary in Christ's choosing the mode of life he pursued; and, there is nothing arbitrary in the requisition that Christians should imitate it. The example of Christ was but true virtue developing itself fitly in the circumstances in which he found himself when his duelling was with men. It was a form, which holiness, carried out into just action, in such a world as ours, naturally assumes, Holiness is benevolence; but how can benevolence with eyes to see, and ears to hear, and feet to walk, and hands to help, refrain in such a world as this, froin active and self-denying exertions to do good? Whether we might innocently give ourselves up to quiet contemplations, or private indulgences, or projects for increasing our personal possessions, if we were among a race of sinless and happy beings, we need not inquire ; but can we pretend to benevolence, and live for any such purpose, while we have our residence amidst such scenes and circumstances as those in which
we are passing our days ? Too few even of Christians appear to be aware of their circumstances. How little do any of us reflect that we cannot go abroad into the streets, without passing by some habitation of beggary, of disease, or of death ; or, what is worse, of ignorance and crime, where benevolence might be doing works of goodness, at which angels would renew their songs of praise? While we are sitting together in the sanctuary, or rejoicing in the society of our friends, or pursuing our gainful business
, how seldom or how slightly do we think, that men, not far distant from us, are groaning life away in want and distress, in dungeons and in chains; and that widows and orphans, paupers
, prisoners, slaves, and others ready to perish, far and near
, and all the world over, are by their deep necessities crying aloud for our pity and our assistance ! heart-rending still, that nearly the whole world are lying in the chains and under the curse of sin; and generation after generation are led captive of the great destroyer, at his will, into the prisons of eternal death! But should Christians be thus unmindful that it is in such a world they have their dwelling? If nothing could be done by them to alleviate human wretchedness, they might well forbear beneficent effort, and live for other purposes than to do good to men. But as this is a world of hope as well as of sorrow, and as we have, through the bounty of Providence and the sacrifice of Christ, ample remedies for both the temporal and spiritual ills of man, where is our benevolence, if we do not exert ourselves to make full proof of these remedies ? Must it not astonish the holy angels to see benevolent beings in our circumstances unemployed in doing good? Is it strange that in these circumstances our Saviour should have devoted himself to works of mercy and compassion ? Where is the vigor of piety in the church, when but here and there can a Christian be found who lives only to be useful to his perishing fellow men, and he passes too often for little better than a well meaning enthusiast !
5. As the will or main purpose of God concerning his people, in all that he has done and is doing for them, by his Son, his Spirit, his servants, his word and ordinances, and his high Providence, is their sanctification or personal holiness ; and as holiness, in such circunstances as ours, naturally takes the form of BENEFICENCE, it is evident, that what God is chiefly intent upon, in all things, respecting us, is that our life should be a life
of active goodness.
But we are not left to learn this by inference.
The Scriptures declare it expressly, and with the strongest emphasis. It is the import of that saying of Christ, the saying, not so much of his lips on any one occasion, as of his whole ministry and appearance among men, -“ it is more blessed to give than to receive.” What else too is the import of our being created in Christ unto good works; and of Christ's giving himself for us, that he might purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works; and of that superlative praise which every part of Scripture conspires to bestow upon the very life of which we speak; prophets, apostles, and louder than all the rest, Christ himself, joining in the inspired chorus of commendation And above al], what is the drift and meaning of that grand prediction of our Saviour,* that acts of beneficence will be the test and touchstone of eternal destiny, at the last great day? Has not God spoken decisively enough, as to what it is, he would have his people employ themselves about, during the short season of this mortal life?
6. It is a high argument why all Christians should make the life of Christ the model of their own, that it is only by means of practical beneficence on their part, that Christianity can advance among mankind. That it is the design of its author that this divine religion should become universal, and that it will in fact, become so, should be no more doubted, than it is true, and is alike needful to all men. Further, that it is to become universal by the instrumentality of Christians themselves, is as certain as the truth of any fact or doctrine which it contains. But the precise sort of instrumental influence which Christians should mainly rely on for its propagation, seems not to have been well understood, or well considered, since the gospel's primitive triumph. That triumph was, under the divine blessing, the achievement, not of discussion, or controversy, or intellectual labors, but of active goodness. Christians, not the apostles only, but private Christians, of both sexes and of every condition, in accordance with the last solemn charge of their Lord, devoted themselves, collectively and personally, to the spreading of Christianity over the world. And what was their plan for carrying the work on? They had no plan, but such as the living spring of benevolence in their own breasts suggested to every one; the plan of holy love longing to honor its great Benefactor, by living, and, if needs
* Matt. XXV.
be, dying, as he did, for the present and eternal well being of mankind. They had none of our means and facilities for combined action ; no press, almost no books ; (the christian faith, it has been truly said, is not unknown to have spread all over Asia, ere any gospel or epistle, was seen in writing ;) no connection with, no countenance from the State; no opportunities even for free intercommunion among themselves; no patronage but that of heaven; no impulse of sectarian zeal; no motives of personal advantage. They went individually to work, under the influence of one spirit — that spirit in their Saviour, which made him such a martyr in the cause of man. It is granted, and should not be overlooked, that there were imperfections in the first Christians; they had their personal faults; there were errors too, among them ; their doctrinal faith, in some very important points, was imperfectly defined, and in others it was erroneous; they were annoyed by philosophical speculations ; some of their great teachers held notions, which, had they lived in other times, would have subjected them to excision from the church. But they abounded in that charity which is the end of the gospel, and is better and more enduring than faith ; they loved one another, and they loved and lived for the welfare of their fellow men. And marred as the record of their acts is, by various sorts of blemishes, it is, as a whole, so brightened and sanctified by the accounts it contains of their matchless beneficence, that the annals of the world furnish no parallel to it. How pleasant would it be, were there time, to collect in one view, the evidences of their strange philanthrophy; but we must not stay to attempt this; let us only call to mind the success of their mode of evangelism. The world in requital for their selfsacrificing charity, accounted them as sheep for the slaughter, and pursued them with fire, and sword, and every means of death and torture ; but the influence of their beneficent spirit could not be overcome; it prevailed over whatever was adverse among themselves; it covered the multitude of their imperfections ; it turned the very violence of the world in their favor ; and their religion, after three centuries of bloody persecution, became the religion of civilized man. Their mode of spreading Christianity should be adopted in our day. It is the appointed mode, the best mode, the only adequate mode. It should be adopted forthwith throughout every part of christendom. Some seem to think that Christianity cannot spread, until our theology becomes purer, and our biblical literature is improved ; some