Sidor som bilder

himself by Jesus Christ, 2 Cor. V, 18; what conscious heart can be unaffected with these tokens of his love, or what tongue can be silent in his praise?

This God of charity thus affectionately addressed an ancient class of his servants : “I have loved thee with an everlasting love, therefore with loving kindness have I drawn thee,” Jer. xxxi, 3. The favour here expressed toward the Jewish Church is great ; but that which is testified by the same adorable Jehovah to the Christian Church, is still more astonishing. His Son, the living and eternal image of his Father, humbles himself to the dust, and invests himself with our nature, that raising us from our low estate, he may at length place us at the right hand of the majesty on high. “He loved the Church,” saith St. Paul, “ and gave himself for it, that he might sanctify and cleanse it, and that ho might present it to himself a glorious Church, not having spot or wrinkle, or any such thing,” Eph. v, 25, 27. Thus he has given to believers an example of the love which they ought to entertain for all their Christian brethren, and to husbands a pattern of the attachment they should feel to their wives; since he left the bosom of his Father for the very purpose of suffering with and for his Church, which, in the language of Scripture, is called his spouse, Rev. xix, 7. But, adds the apostle, “this is a great mystery,” Eph. v, 32. Now the true minister is happily initiated into this grand mystery of charity. He can say, with Peter, “ Lord ! thou knowest all things; thou knowest that I love thee.” He can testify, with Paul, “ The love of Christ constraineth me.” And, at other times, when the emotions of his heart are too tender for utterance, tears of gratitude and joy silently cry out, like those of dissolving Mary, “Lord, thou art worthy of all my love, since thou hast graciously pardoned all my sin.” Animated with this love, he publicly insists upon universal charity, with all the ardour of St. John, testifying that it flows from the knowledge of God, and must be considered as the root of Christian obedience. “Hereby,” saith he, “perceive we the love of God, because he laid down his life for us; and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren. My little children, let us not love in word, neither in tongue; but [according to the example of Christ) in deed and in truth,” i John iii, 16–18. For, if “ God so loved us, we ought also to love one another,” and remember, “he that loveth not, knoweth not God, for God is love," 1 John iv, 11, 8.

Although Christ evidently came to break down the wall of separation between the Jews and Gentiles, by preaching the doctrine of universal charity; yet he willed that believers should love one another with a peculiar degree of affection. We are required to meet the unregenerate with a love of benevolence; but believers should be bound to each other by ties so tender and powerful, that the world may acknowledge them to be men of one heart and one soul. " By this,” saith our Lord, “ shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another," John xiii, 35. And who can describe the generosity, the sweetness, the strength, and the constancy, of this enlivening grace? It is more active than the penetrating flame; it is stronger than death. The communion of saints is received among Christians as a sentence in their established creed. Happy would it be did it constitute a part of their religious experience! As to the difference between Christian charity and that which

was required under the law, it seems to be satisfactorily pointed out by St. John in the following passage: “Brethren, I write no new com. mandment unto you, but an old commandment, which ye had from the beginning;" for Moses himself earnestly exhorted his people to main. tain among themselves the holy fire of fraternal love. “ Again, a new commandment I write unto you,” i John ii, 7, 8; new, in relation to Christ, who hath loved us not only as himself, but even more than him. self; since he offered up his life a ransom for the rebellious. Moses tasted not of death for Pharaoh, as Jesus did for Pilate, Herod, and Caia. phas. The Christian Legislator alone requires a charity of this perfectly disinterested nature; and for the support of so 'exalted a precept, he has seconded it with his own great example. “Herein is love," continues the apostle, “not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins." Love, then, is undoubtedly of God; flowing from him, as from an inexhaustible spring; "and he that loveth safter the same pure and fervent manner) is born of God, and knoweth God," 1 John iv, 7, 11.

This charity is set forth by St. Paul as a source of consolation. “If,” saith he to the Philippians, “there be any comfort in love, be ye like. minded, having the same love (one to another ;), and let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus,” Phil.'ii, 1, 6. And, in another epistle he cries out, “I have a great conflict for them at Laodicea, that their hearts might be comforted, being knit together in love,” Col. ii, 1, 2.

1. Charity may be considered as a spring of comfort, because it frees us from the fear of death, and delivers us from a thousand other terrors, which trouble the peace of worldly men. “There is no fear in love ; but perfect love, hoping all things, casteth out fear; because fear hath torment. He therefore that feareth is not made perfect in love,” 1 John iv, 18.'

2. Charity is consoling, because it assists and encourages us in the discharge of our several duties. When we glow with affection to God and our neighbour, works of piety and charity are performed not only without pain, but with heartfelt sensations of secret delight. “This is the love of God, that we keep his commandments ;” and to those who sincerely love him, “ his commandments are not grievous,” 1 John v, 3. Thus a tender mother loses her repose without repining, that she may tend to the wants of her restless infant ; thus an affectionate father labours with pleasure for the support and education of his children ; and thus, with every testimony of joy, the primitive Christians relieved and supported one another. The admirable effects produced by this un. feigned love are deseribed by St. Luke in the following terms: “ The multitude of them that believed were of one heart and one soul; neither said any of them that aught of the things which he possessed was his own; but slosing sight of every self-interesting view they had all things common," Acts iv, 32.

Here we behold that eminently accomplished by Christ which was anciently prefigured unto Moses in the desert, when the manna was so equally distributed among the people, that he who gathered much had nothing over, and he who gathered little had no lack,” Exod. xvi, 18.

Happy were these fleeting days of Christian fellowship! Days that bad long been promised by God, and of which a foretaste had been given VOL. III,


in the land of Canaan, when it was ordained that, during the year of Jubilee, the poor should be permitted to share the comforts of their richer neighbours. It must be allowed, that a multitude of insincere professorg overspreading the Church in these melancholy times, will not permit this method to be generally adopted among us, which would nevertheless be entirely practicable in a country inhabited by the affectionate follow.. ers of Jesus. But at the same time it is no less true, that every indi. vidual who is possessed of real charity, is still treading in the steps of his elder brethren, and waiting only the return of favourable times to prove that “ Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, to-day, and for ever," Heb. xiii, 8, and that unfeigned charity, in the same circumstances, will ever produce the same effect. · It is impossible too highly to exalt this charity, which springs from a grateful sense of the redemption that is in Jesus. He who is unac. įs quainted with this grace is a stranger to every real virtue, and utterly 3 destitute of that “ holiness without which no man shall see the Lord," : Heb. xii, 14. Hence we find the Apostle Paul so frequently connecting holiness with love; or rather, pressing the latter as the ground of the former. “God," saith he, “ hath chosen us in Christ, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love," Eph. i, 3, 4. “Let 3 Christ dwell in your hearts by faith ; that ye, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend, with all saints, what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height ; and to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fulness of God,” Eph. iii, 17, 18. « The Lord make you to increase and abound in love one toward another, and toward all men; to the end that he may establish your hearts .unblamable in holiness before God," 1 Thess. ür, 12, 13.

“Knowledge [alone) puffeth up, but charity [added to knowledge edifieth," 1 Cor. vii, 1, and conducts the soul from grace to grace, “ unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ,” Eph. iv, 13. Happy they who have attained to this high degree of spirituality, from which, with a look of pure beneficence, they can smile on all around them! Such may join the first professors of Christianity, and say, “ We have known and believed the love that God hath to us," and, penetrated in with a deep sense of his affection, we declare, from happy experience, that “ God is love ; and he that dwelleth in love, dwelleth in God and God in him," 1 John iv, 16. The love of these persevering disciples may, in a Scriptural sense, he termed “perfect;" since it enables them to bear a jast, though faint resemblance to the God of love, 1 John iv, 17. Their hearts are as replete with charity as sparks are filled with fire; and doubtless the smallest spark may be said to shine with a degree of perfection, in its little sphere, as well as the brighter sun in his more boundless .course.

St. Paul, who preached this charity with so much ferventy, declares,., that it was kindled in his heart by the love of Christ; and upon this account he labours to found it impon those doctrines which are universally despised by every class of Deists. In his Epistle to the Romans, which contains sixteen chapters, he employs eleven in laving this solid founda. tion, while the duties of charity are declared only in the five remaining chapters. Like a wise master-builder, before he attempts to raise this

[ocr errors]

sacred edifice, he endeavours to remove out of the way the ruins of cor. rupted nature, and the rubbish of self love. But had he endeavoured to do this without calling in to his aid the doctrines of the Gospel, he would have acted as ridiculously as Archimedes, had that philosopher attempted the removal of the earth without having first secured a solid footing suited to his purpose...

The most powerful motives employed by this apostle in urging us to the practice of Christian charity, are the love of God and the compas. sion of Christ. “God,” saith he, “commendeth his love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us,” Rom. v, 8; and, "ye know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, that ye, through his poverty, might be. come rich," 2 Cor. viii, 9. Now, whoever is sensible of the power, and tastes the sweetness, of these two grand truths, feels himself at the same time carried to every good work, in the same manner as the miser is led to those actions which serve to increase his hoard. For, “ being saved by grace, through faith,” in these very truths, “ we are created by Christ Jesus unto good works,” Eph. ii, 8, 10. “Who gave himself for us,” on this sole account, “that he' might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people zealous of good works,” Tit. ii, 14. The consolatory doctrine of a gratuitous pardon offered to sinners as a token of God's unfathomable love, is another motive frequently made use of to the like purpose. “Put on," continues the same apostle, “as the elect of God, bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meek. ness, long suffering; forbearing one another, and forgiving one another, if any man have a quarrel against any : even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye,” Col. ii, 12, 13. . “ Above all things have fervent charity among yourselves; for charity shall cover the multitude of sins,” 1 Pet. iv, 8. Yes, it not only covers the sins of others, by considering their doubtful actions in the most favourable point of view, and by overlooking the most unpardonable of their failings; but may, in some measure, be said to cover our own atfences, since God, for Christ's sake, has promised to overlook our transgressions, as we give proof of a forgiving temper toward our brethren. Discord entered into the world by sin, Hence we see unregenerate men not only separated from God, but divided among themselves : and hence, by the rebellion of his growing passions against his enfeebled reason, every unrighteous man is at war with himself. Dreadful as these evils are, we are here presented with a perfect remedy for them all. He who created man upright, has sent his Son to re-establish harmony in the world, to reduce our passions under the dominion of universal benevolence, to subject our reason to the authority of truth, and to subdue the whole man under the sweet yoke of charity manifested in the flesh; that charity which is destined to reign for ever, and whose happy empire is called the “ kingdom of heaven.” “ The Father of glory," says St. Paul, “ hath put all things under the feet of Christ, and hath given him to be the head over all things to the Church, which is his body, the fulness of him that filleth all in all,” Eph. i, 17, 23. “Ye, who sometimes were far off, are now made nigh by the blood of Christ. For he is our peace” between Jews and Gentiles, between man and man, “ who hath made both one, and hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us, that he might reconcile both unto God in one body, by the cross, having slain the enmity" by that perfect charity of which he gave so many wonderful proofs. “Now therefore,” we, who are actuated by the same spirit of love, “are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints and of the household of God; and are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone. In whom the whole building, fitly framed together, groweth unto a holy temple in the Lord: in whom also ye are builded together for a habitation of God, through the Spirit” of charity, Eph. ii, 13, 22.

The minister who feels the force of these constraining motives, can. not fail to place them continually before his hearers. The various parts of his public discourses as naturally incline to this grand point, as the several parts of a solid edifice mutually rest upon the common foundation. “There is one body,” saith he with the apostle, "and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all," Eph. iv, 4, 6. “As we have many members in one body; so we, being many, are one body in Christ, and every one members one of another. Let love be, therefore, without dissimulation : be kindly affectioned one to another, with brotherly love; in honour preferring one another. Rejoice with them that do rejoice; and weep with them that weep. Be of the same mind one toward another. Avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath. If thine enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give him drink. Be not overcome of evil; but overcome evil with good,” Rom. xii, 4, 21. In a word, “let all things be done with charity," 1 Cor. xvi, 14.

To conclude. The evangelical pastor points out the excellence of charity, and urges every motive that can lead to the practice of it, till worldly men are constrained to cry out, with all the admiration of the ancient heathens, “See how these Christians love one another !” Lucian, indeed, could look with 'ridicule upon the zeal with which the primitive Christians. Accoured one another: «For," says he, “their legislator has made them believe that they are all brethren ; and hence they have all things common among them, despising even death itself, through the hope of immortality.” The good pastor, however, is anxiour to do that which this heathen writer was impious enough to censure in Christ. He admonishes believers to address the Almighty as their common parent, Luke xi, 2; conscious that so soon as they receive power to cry, “ Abba,” that is, Father, by the Holy Spirit, they will necessarily forget every scrupulous distinction between mine and thine, and put up, with unfeigned sincerity, that universal prayer, “Give us this day our daily bread.” This petition is commonly used by every member of our degenerate Church, while their hearts are comparatively insensible to the wants of their necessitous brethren. But were the love of ancient days to revive among us, we should not only solicit common blessings from above, but rejoice to share them with each other, as brethren partake of a repast provided for them at the table of their common parent.

Happy days! when the Gospel of Christ was seen to Mourish in the earth. Surely that sacred season might, with propriety, be termed the golden age of the Church. O that we could recall the felicity we have forfeited, and sec the joys of unanimity restored to a distracted world!

« FöregåendeFortsätt »