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surely better, that every limitation to a commandment of God's, should be defined by God himself, than that it should be drawn from the assumptions of human fancy, or from the fears and the feelings of human convenience.
rule rise, in the scale of duty, with its demands upon him; and thus there is rendering to him double for every unfair and ungenerous imposition that he would make on the kindness of those who are around him.
Now, there is one way, and a very effectual one, of getting these two ends to meet. Moderate your own desires of service from others, and you will moderate, in the same degree, all those duties of service to others which are measured by these desires. Have the delicacy to abstain from any wish of encroachment on the convenience or pro
Let a man, in fact, give himself up to a strict and literal observance of the precept in this verse, and it will impress a two-fold direction upon him. It will not only guide him to certain performances of good in behalf of others, but it will guide him to the regulation of his own desires of good from them. For his desires of good from others are here set up as the measure of his per-perty of another. Have the high-mindedformances of good to others. The more ness to be indebted for your own support selfish and unbounded his desires are, the to the exertions of your own honourable larger are those performances with the ob- industry, rather than the dastardly habit of ligation of which he is burdened. What-preying on the simplicity of those around soever he would that others should do unto you. Have such a keen sense of equity, him, he is bound to do unto them; and, and such a fine tone of independent feeling, therefore, the more he gives way to unge- that you could not bear to be the cause of nerous and extravagant wishes of service hardship or distress to a single human from those who are around him, the hea- creature, if you could help it. Let the vier and more insupportable is the load of same spirit be in you, which the Apostle duty which he brings upon himself.-The wanted to exemplify before the eye of his commandment is quite imperative, and disciples, when he coveted no man's gold, there is no escaping from it; and if he, by or silver, or apparel; when he laboured not the excess of his selfishness, should render to be chargeable to any of them; but it impracticable, then the whole punishment wrought with his own hands, rather than due to the guilt of casting aside the autho- be burdensome. Let this mind be in you, rity of this commandment, follows in that which was also in the Apostle of the Gentrain of punishment which is annexed to tiles; and, then, the text before us will not selfishness. There is one way of being re- come near you with a single oppressive or lieved from such a burden. There is one impracticable requirement. There may be way of reducing this verse to a moderate other passages, where you are called to go and practicable requirement; and that is, beyond the strict line of justice, or common just to give up selfishness-just to stifle all humanity, in behalf of your suffering breungenerous desires-just to moderate every thren. But this passage does not touch wish of service or liberality from others, you with any such preceptive imposition: down to the standard of what is right and and you, by moderating your wishes from equitable; and then there may be other others down to what is fair and equitable, verses in the Bible by which we are called do, in fact, reduce the rule which binds you to be kind even to the evil and the unthank- to act according to the measure of these ful. But, most assuredly, this verse lays wishes, down to a rule of precise and undeupon us none other thing, than that we viating equity. should do such services for others as are right and equitable.
The operation is somewhat like that of a governor or fly, in mechanism. This is a very happy contrivance, by which all that is defective or excessive in the motion, is confined within the limits of equability; and every tendency, in particular, to any mischievous acceleration, is restrained. The impulse given by this verse to the conduct of man among his fellows, would seem, to a superficial observer, to carry him to all the excesses of a most ruinous and quixotic benevolence. But let him only look to the skilful adaptation of the fly. Just suppose the control of moderation and equity to be laid upon his own wishes, and there is not a single impulse given to his conduct beyond the rate of moderation and equity. You are not required here to do all things whatsoever in behalf of others, but to do all things whatsoever for them, that you would
The more extravagant, then, a man's wishes of accommodation from others are, the wider is the distance between him and the bidden performances of our text. The separation of him from his duty, increases at the rate of two bodies receding from each other by equal and contrary movements. The more selfish his desires of service are from others, the more feeble, on that very account, will be his desires of making any surrender of himself to them, and yet the greater is the amount of that surrender which is due. The poor man, in fact, is moving himself away from the rule; and the rule is just moving as fast away from the man. As he sinks, in the scale of selfishness, beneath the point of a fair and moderate expectation from others, does the
should be done unto yourself. This is the | exclusion on every call that proceeds from check by which the whole of the bidden it; who in a tumult of perpetual alarm movement is governed, and kept from run-about new cases, and new tales of suffering, ing out into any hurtful excess. And such and new plans of philanthropy, has at is the beautiful operation of that piece of length learned to resist and to resent every moral mechanism that we are now employ- one of them; and, spurning the whole of ed in contemplating, that while it keeps this disturbance impatiently away, to maindown all the aspirations of selfishness, it tain a firm defensive over the close system does, in fact, restrain every extravagancy, of his own selfish luxuries, and his own and impress on its obedient subjects no snug accommodations. Such a man keeps other movement, than that of an even and back, it must be allowed, from the cause of inflexible justice. charity, what he ought to have rendered it This rule of our Saviour's, then, pre-in his own person. There is a diminution scribes moderation to our desires of good of the philanthropic fund up to the extent from others, as well as generosity to our of what benevolence would have awarded doings in behalf of others; and makes the out of his individual means, and individual first the measure of obligation to the se- opportunities. The good cause is a sufferer, cond. It may thus be seen how easily, in not by any positive blow it has sustained, a Christian society, the whole work of be- but the simple negation of one friendly and nevolence could be adjusted, so as to render fostering hand, that else might have been it possible for the givers not only to meet, stretched forth to aid and patronise it but also to overpass, the wishes and expec-There is only so much less of direct countations of the receivers. The rich man tenance and support than would otherwise may have a heavier obligation laid upon have been; for, in this our age, we have no him by other precepts of the New-Testa- conception whatever of such an example ment; but, by this precept, he is not bound being at all infectious. For a man to walto do more for the poor man, than what he low in prosperity himself and be unmindful himself would wish, in like circumstances, of the wretchedness that is around him, is to be done for him. And let the poor man, an exhibition of altogether so ungainly a on the other hand, wish for no more than character, that it will far oftener provoke what a Christian ought to wish for; let him an observer to affront it by the contrast of work and endure to the extent of nature's his own generosity, than to render it the sufferance, rather than beg-and only beg, approving testimony of his imitation. So rather than that he should starve; and in that all we have lost by the man who is such a state of principle among men, a tide ungenerous in his doings, is his own conof beneficence would so go forth upon all tribution to the cause of philanthropy. And the vacant places in society, as that there it is a loss that can be borne. The cause should be no room to receive it. The duty of this world's beneficence can do abunof the rich, as connected with this adminis- dantly without him. There is a ground tration, is of so direct and positive a charac- that is yet unbroken, and there are resources ter, as to obtrude itself at once on the notice which are still unexplored, that will yield a of the Christian moralist. But the poor far more substantial produce to the good of also have a duty in it-to which we feel humanity, than he, and thousands as wealourselves directed by the train of argument thy as he, could render to it out of all their which we have now been prosecuting-and capabilities. a duty, too, we think, of far greater importance even than the other, to the best interests of mankind...
For, let us first contrast the rich man who is ungenerous in his doings, with the poor man who is ungenerous in his desires; and see from which of the two it is, that the cause of charity receives the deadlier infliction. There is, it must be admitted, an individual to be met with occasionally, who represents the former of these two characters; with every affection gravitating to itself, and to its sordid gratifications and interests; bent on his own pleasure, or his own avarice—and so engrossed with these, as to have no spare feeling at all for the brethren of his common nature; with a heart obstinately shut against that most powerful of applications, the look of genuine and imploring distress-and whose very countenance speaks a surly and determined
But there is a far wider mischief inflicted on the cause of charity, by the poor man who is ungenerous in his desires; by him, whom every act of kindness is sure to call out to the reaction of some new demand, or new expectation; by him, on whom the hand of a giver has the effect, not of appeasing his wants, but of inflaming his rapacity; by him who, trading among the sympathies of the credulous, can dexterously appropriate for himself a portion tenfold greater than what would have blest and brightened the aspect of many a deserving family. Him we denounce as the worst enemy of the poor. It is he whose ravenous gripe wrests from them a far more abundant benefaction, than is done by the most lordly and unfeeling proprietor in the land. He is the arch-oppressor of his brethren; and the amount of the robbery which he has practised upon them, is not to be esti
mated by the alms which he has monopolized, by the food, or the raiment, or the money, which he has diverted to himself, from the more modest sufferers around him, he has done what is infinitely worse than turning aside the stream of charity. He has closed its floodgates. He has chilled and alienated the hearts of the wealthy, by the gall of bitterness which he has infused into this whole, ministration.
life becomes, will it be the more seen of what a high pitch of generosity even the very poorest are capable. They, in truth, though perhaps they are not aware of it, can contribute more to the cause of charity, by the moderation of their desires, than the rich can by the generosity of their doings. They, without, it may be, one penny to bestow, might obtain a place in the record of heaven, as the most liberal benefactors of their species. There is nothing in the humble condition of life they occupy, which precludes them from all that is great or graceful in human charity. There is a way in which they may equal, and even outpeer, the wealthiest of the land, in that very virtue of which wealth alone has been con
A few such harpies would suffice to exile a whole neighbourhood from the attentions of the benevolent, by the distrust and the jealousy wherewith they have poisoned their bosoms, and laid an arrest on all the sensibilities that else would have flowed from them. It is he who, ever on the watch and on the wing about some enter-ceived to have the exclusive inheritance. prize of imposture, makes it his business to There is a pervading character in humanity work and to prey on the compassionate which the varieties of rank do not obliteprinciples of our nature; it is he who, in rate; and as, in virtue of the common coreffect, grinds the faces of the poor, and that, ruption, the poor man may be as effectually with deadlier severity than even is done by the rapacious despoiler of his brethren, as the great baronial tyrant, the battlements of the man of opulence above him-so, there whose castle seem to frown, in all the pride is a common excellence attainable by both; of aristocracy, on the territory that is be- and through which, the poor man may, to fore it. There is, at all times, a kindliness the full, be as splendid in generosity as the of feeling ready to stream forth, with a ten-rich, and yield a far more important contrifold greater liberality than ever, on the bution to the peace and comfort of society. humble orders of life; and it is he, and such To make this plain-it is in virtue of a as he, who have congealed it. He has generous doing on the part of a rich man, raised a jaundiced medium between the when a sum of money is offered for the rerich and the poor, in virtue of which, the lief of want; and it is in virtue of a geneformer eye the latter with suspicion; and rous desire on the part of a poor man, when there is not a man who wears the garb, and this money is refused; when, with the feelprefers the applications of poverty, that has ing, that his necessities do not just warrant not suffered from the worthless impostor him to be yet a burden upon others, he dewho has gone before him. They are, in clines to touch the offered liberality; when, fact, the deceit, and the indolence, and the with a delicate recoil from the unlooked-for low sordidness of a few who have made proposal, he still resolves to put it for the outcasts of the many, and locked against present away, and to find, if possible, for them the feelings of the wealthy in a kind himself a little longer; when, standing on of iron imprisonment. The rich man who the very margin of dependence, he would is ungenerous in his doings, keeps back one yet like to struggle with the difficulties of labourer from the field of charity. But a his situation, and to maintain this severe poor man who is ungenerous in his desires, but honourable conflict, till hard necessity can expel a thousand labourers in disgust should force him to surrender. Let the moaway from it. He sheds a cruel and ex-ney which he has thus nobly shifted from tended blight over the fair region of phi- himself take some new direction to another; lanthropy; and many have abandoned it, and who, we ask, is the giver of it? The who, but for him, would fondly have lin- first and most obvious reply is, that it is he gered thereupon; very many, who, but for who owned it: but, it is still more emphathe way in which their simplicity has been tically true, that it is he who has declined tried and trampled upon, would still have it. It came originally out of the rich man's tasted the luxury of doing good unto the abundance: but it was the noble-hearted poor, and made it their delight, as well as generosity of the poor man that handed it their duty, to expend and expatiate among onwards to its final destination. He did their habitations. not emanate the gift; but it is just as much that he has not absorbed it, but left it to find its full conveyance to some neighbour poorer than himself, to some family still more friendless and destitute than his own. It was given the first time out of an overflowing fulness. It is given the second time out of stinted and self-denying penury. In the world's eye, it is the proprietor who be
We say not this to exculpate the rich; for it is their part not to be weary in welldoing, but to prosecute the work and the labour of love under every discouragement. Neither do we say this to the disparagement of the poor; for the picture we have given is of the few out of the many; and the closer the acquaintance with humble
stowed the charity. But, in heaven's eye, | days, the diversities of wealth and station the poor man who waived it away from will at length be equalized. On looking forhimself to another is the more illustrious ward to the time when kings shall be the philanthropist of the two. The one gave it nursing fathers, and queens the nursing out of his affluence. The other gave it out mothers of our church, we think that we of the sweat of his brow. He rose up early, can behold the perspective of as varied a and sat up late, that he might have it to be- distribution of place and property as before. stow on a poorer than himself; and without In the pilgrimage of life, there will still be once stretching forth a giver's hand to the the moving procession of the few charioted necessities of his brethren, still is it possi- in splendour on the highway, and the many ble, that by him, and such as him, may the pacing by their side along the line of the main burden of this world's benevolence be same journey. There will, perhaps, be a borne. somewhat more elevated footpath for the
It need scarcely be remarked, that, with-crowd-there will be an air of greater comout supposing the offer of any sum made to fort and sufficiency amongst them; and the a poor man who is generous in his desires, respectability of evident worth and goodness he, by simply keeping himself back from will sit upon the countenance of this general the distributions of charity, fulfils all the population. But, bating these, we look for high functions which we have now ascribed no great change in the external aspect of to him. He leaves the charitable fund un- society. It will only be a moral and a spitouched for all that distress which is more ritual change. Kings will retain their seepclamorous than his own; and we, therefore, tres, and nobles their coronets; but, as they look, not to the original givers of the mo- float in magnificence along, will they look ney, but to those who line, as it were, the with benignant feeling on the humble waymargin of pauperism, and yet firmly refuse farers; and the honest salutations of regard to enter it-we look upon them as the pre- and reverence will arise to them back again; eminent benefactors of society, who narrow, and, should any weary passenger be ready as it were, by a wall of defence, the ground to sink unfriended on his career, will he, at of human dependence, and are, in fact, the one time, be borne onwards by his fellows guides and the guardians of all that opu- on the pathway, and, at another, will a lence can bestow. shower of beneficence be made to descend from the crested equipage that overtakes him. It is Utopianism to think, that in the ages of our world which are yet to come. the outward distinctions of life will not al be upholden. But it is not Utopianism, it is Prophecy to aver, that the breath of a new spirit will go abroad over the great family of mankind-so, that while, to the end of time, there shall be the high and the low in every passing generation, will the charity of kindred feelings, and of a common understanding, create a fellowship between them on their way, till they reach that heaven where human love shall be perfected, and all human greatness is unknown.
Thus it is, that when Christianity becomes universal, the doings of the one party, and the desires of the other, will meet and overpass. The poor will wish for no more than the rich will be delighted to bestow; and the rule of our text, which every real Christian at present finds so practicable, will, when carried over the face of society, bind all the members of it into one consenting brotherhood. The duty of doing good to others will then coalesce with that counterpart duty which regulates our desires of good from them; and the work of benevolence will, at length, be prosecuted without that alloy of rapacity on the one hand, and distrust on the other, which serves so much to fester and disturb the whole of this ministration. To complete this adjustment, it is in every way as necessary to lay all the incumbent moralities on those who ask, as on those who confer; and never till the whole text, which comprehends the wishes of man as well as his actions, wield its entire authority over the species, will the disgusts and the prejudices, which form such a barrier between the ranks of human life, be effectually done away. It is not by the abolition of rank, but by assigning to each rank its duties, that peace, and friendship, and order, will at length be firmly established in our world. It is by the force of principle, and not by the force of some great political overthrow, that a consummation so delightful is to be attained. We have no conception whatever, that, even in millennial
In various places in the New Testament, do we see the checks of spirit and delicacy laid upon all extravagant desires. Our text. while it enjoins the performance of good to others, up to the full measure of your de sires of good from them, equally enjoins the keeping down of these desires to the measure of your performances. If Christian dispensers had only to do with Christian recipients, the whole work of benevolence would be with ease and harmony carried on. All that was unavoidable-all that came from the hand of Providence-all that was laid upon our suffering brethren by the unlooked-for visitations of accident or disease-all that pain and misfortune, which necessarily attaches to the constitution of the species-all this the text most amply provides for; and all this a Christian society would be delighted to stretch forth
their means for the purpose of alleviating | not of his poverty all the time that he lived or doing away. upon earth. We speak not of those years when, a houseless wanderer in an unthankful world, he had not where to lay his head. We speak not of the meek and uncomplaining sufferance with which he met the many ills that oppressed the tenor of his mortal existence. But we speak of that awful burden which crushed and overwhelmed its termination. We speak of that season of the hour and the power of darkness, when it pleased the Lord to bruise him, and to make his soul an offering for sin. To estimate aright the endurance of him who himself bore our infirmities, would we ask of any individual to recollect some deep and awful period of abandonment in his own history-when that countenance which at one time beamed and brightened upon him from above, was mantled in thickest darkness-when the iron of remorse entered into his soul-and, laid on a bed of torture, he was made to behold the evil of sin, and to taste of its bitterness. Let him look back, if he can, on this conflict of many agitations, and then figure the whole of this mental wretchedness to be borne off by the ministers of vengeance into hell, and stretched out unto eternity. And if, on the great day of expiation, a full atonement was rendered, and all that should have fallen upon us was placed upon the head of the sacrifice-let him hence compute the weight and the awfulness of those sorrows which were carried by him on whom the chastisement of our peace was laid, and who poured out his soul unto the death for us. If ever a sinner, under such a visitation, shall again emerge into peace and joy in believingif he ever shall again find his way to that fountain which is opened in the house of Judah-if he shall recover once more that sunshine of the soul, which, on the days that are past, disclosed to him the beauties of holiness here, and the glories of heaven hereafter-if ever he shall hear with effect,
We should not have dwelt so long upon this lesson, were it not for the essential Christian principle that is involved in it. The morality of the gospel is not more strenuous on the side of the duty of giving of this world's goods when it is needed, than it is against the desire of receiving when it is not needed. It is more blessed to give than to receive, and therefore less blessed to receive than to give. For the enforcement of this principle among the poorer brethren, did Paul give up a vast portion of his apostolical time and labour; and that he might be an ensample to the flock of working with his own hands, rather than be burdensome, did he set himself down to the occupation of a tent-maker. That lesson is surely worthy of engrossing one sermon of an uninspired teacher, for the sake of which an inspired Apostle of the Gentiles engrossed as much time as would have admitted the preparation and the delivery of many sermons. But there is no more striking indication of the whole spirit and character of the gospel in this matter, than the example of him who is the author of it-and of whom we read these affecting words, that he came into the world not to be ministered unto, but to minister. It is a righteous thing in him who has of this world's goods, to minister to the necessities of others; but it is a still higher attainment of righteousness in him who has nothing but the daily earnings of his daily work to depend upon, so to manage and to strive that he shall not need to be ministered unto. Christianity overlooks no part of human conduct; and by providing for this in particular, does it, in fact, overtake, and that with a precept of utmost importance, the habit and condition of a very extended class in human society. And never does the gospel so exhibit its adaptation to our species-and never does virtue stand in such characters of strength and sacredness before us—as when impreg-in this world, that voice from the mercynated with the evangelical spirit and urged seat, which still proclaims a welcome to the by evangelical motives, it takes its most di-chief of sinners, and beckons him afresh to reet sanction from the life and doings of the reconciliation--O! how gladly then should Saviour. he bear throughout the remainder of his days, the whole authority of the Lord who
And he who feels as he ought, will bear with cheerfulness all that the Saviour pre-bought him; and bind forever to his own scribes, when he thinks how much it is for person that yoke of the Saviour which is him that the Saviour has borne. We speak easy, and that burden which is light.