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ON THE GREAT CHRISTIAN LAW OF RECIPROCITY BETWEEN MEN.
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 de-
Now, there is one way, and a very effecLet a man, in fact, give himself up to a strict and literal observance of the precept tual one, of getting these two ends to meet. in this verse, and it will impress a two-fold Moderate your own desires of service from direction upon him. It will not only guide others, and you will moderate, in the same him to certain performances of good in be- degree, all those duties of service to others half of others, but it will guide him to the which are measured by these desires. Have regulation of his own desires of good from the delicacy to abstain from any wish of them. For his desires of good from others encroachment on the convenience or proare 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 train of punishment which is annexed to selfishness. There is one way of being relieved from such a burden. There is one way of reducing this verse to a moderate and practicable requirement; and that is, just to give up selfishness-just to stifle all ungenerous desires-just to moderate every wish of service or liberality from others, down to the standard of what is right and equitable; and then there may be other verses in the Bible by which we are called to be kind even to the evil and the unthank-to ful. But, most assuredly, this verse lays upon us none other thing, than that we should do such services for others as are right and equitable.
which was also in the Apostle of the Gentiles; and, then, the text before us will not come near you with a single oppressive or impracticable requirement. There may be other passages, where you are called to go beyond the strict line of justice, or common humanity, in behalf of your suffering brethren. But this passage does not touch you with any such preceptive imposition: and you, by moderating your wishes from others down to what is fair and equitable, do, in fact, reduce the rule which binds you
act according to the measure of these wishes, down to a rule of precise and undeviating equity.
The operation is somewhat like that of a governor or fly, in mechanism. This is a The more extravagant, then, a man's very happy contrivance, by which all that wishes of accommodation from others are, is defective or excessive in the motion, is the wider is the distance between him and confined within the limits of equability; the bidden performances of our text. The and every tendency, in particular, to any separation of him from his duty, increases mischievous acceleration, is restrained. at the rate of two bodies receding from each The impulse given by this verse to the conother by equal and contrary movements.duct of man among his fellows, would seem, The more selfish his desires of service are to a superficial observer, to carry him to all from others, the more feeble, on that very the excesses of a most ruinous and quixotic 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 As he sinks, in the scale of selfishness, beneath the point of a fair and moderate expectation from others, does the
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
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 is the beautiful operation of that piece of moral mechanism that we are now employed in contemplating, that while it keeps down all the aspirations of selfishness, it does, in fact, restrain every extravagancy, and impress on its obedient subjects no other movement, than that of an even and inflexible justice.
and new plans of philanthropy, has at length learned to resist and to resent every one of them; and, spurning the whole of this disturbance impatiently away, to maintain a firm defensive over the close system of his own selfish luxuries, and his own snug accommodations. Such a man keeps back, it must be allowed, from the cause of 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 character, as to obtrude itself at once on the notice of the Christian moralist. But the poor also have a duty in it-to which we feel ourselves directed by the train of argument which we have now been prosecuting-and 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
that is yet unbroken, and there are resources which are still unexplored, that will yield a far more substantial produce to the good of humanity, than he, and thousands as wealthy as he, could render to it out of all their capabilities.
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 monopo- | life becomes, will it be the more seen of lized, by the food, or the raiment, or the what a high pitch of generosity even the money, which he has diverted to himself, very poorest are capable. They, in truth, from the more modest sufferers around him, though perhaps they are not aware of it, he has done what is infinitely worse than can contribute more to the cause of charity, turning aside the stream of charity. He by the moderation of their desires, than the has closed its floodgates. He has chilled rich can by the generosity of their doings. and alienated the hearts of the wealthy, by They, without, it may be, one penny to bethe gall of bitterness which he has infused stow, might obtain a place in the record of into this whole, ministration. 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
bution to the peace and comfort of society.
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 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 philanthropy; and many have abandoned it, who, but for him, would fondly have lingered thereupon; very many, who, but for the way in which their simplicity has been tried and trampled upon, would still have tasted the luxury of doing good unto the poor, and made it their delight, as well as their duty, to expend and expatiate among their habitations.
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
himself take some new direction to another; and who, we ask, is the giver of it? The first and most obvious reply is, that it is he who owned it: but, it is still more emphatically true, that it is he who has declined it. It came originally out of the rich man's abundance: but it was the noble-hearted generosity of the poor man that handed it onwards to its final destination. He did 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
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 a poor man who is generous in his desires, he, by simply keeping himself back from the distributions of charity, fulfils all the high functions which we have now ascribed to him. He leaves the charitable fund untouched for all that distress which is more clamorous than his own; and we, therefore, look, not to the original givers of the money, but to those who line, as it were, the margin of pauperism, and yet firmly refuse to enter it-we look upon them as the preeminent benefactors of society, who narrow, as it were, by a wall of defence, the ground of human dependence, and are, in fact, the guides and the guardians of all that opulence can bestow.
fort and sufficiency amongst them; and the respectability of evident worth and goodness will sit upon the countenance of this general population. But, bating these, we look for no great change in the external aspect of society. It will only be a moral and a spiritual change. Kings will retain their seeptres, and nobles their coronets; but, as they float in magnificence along, will they look with benignant feeling on the humble wayfarers; and the honest salutations of regard and reverence will arise to them back again; and, should any weary passenger be ready to sink unfriended on his career, will he, at one time, be borne onwards by his fellows on the pathway, and, at another, will a shower of beneficence be made to descend Thus it is, that when Christianity becomes from the crested equipage that overtakes universal, the doings of the one party, and the him. It is Utopianism to think, that in the desires of the other, will meet and overpass. ages of our world which are yet to come, The poor will wish for no more than the the outward distinctions of life will not all rich will be delighted to bestow; and the be upholden. But it is not Utopianism, it rule of our text, which every real Christian is Prophecy to aver, that the breath of a at present finds so practicable, will, when new spirit will go abroad over the great facarried over the face of society, bind all the mily of mankind-so, that while, to the end members of it into one consenting brother-of time, there shall be the high and the low hood. The duty of doing good to others in every passing generation, will the charity will then coalesce with that counterpart of kindred feelings, and of a common unduty 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 minis-do we see the checks of spirit and delicacy tration. 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
derstanding, 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.
In various places in the New Testament,
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 mea sure 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 We should not have dwelt so long upon when, a houseless wanderer in an unthankthis lesson, were it not for the essential ful world, he had not where to lay his head. Christian principle that is involved in it. We speak not of the meek and uncomplainThe morality of the gospel is not more ing sufferance with which he met the many strenuous on the side of the duty of giving ills that oppressed the tenor of his mortal of this world's goods when it is needed, than existence. But we speak of that awful it is against the desire of receiving when it burden which crushed and overwhelmed is not needed. It is more blessed to give its termination. We speak of that season than to receive, and therefore less blessed to of the hour and the power of darkness, when receive than to give. For the enforcement it pleased the Lord to bruise him, and to of this principle among the poorer brethren, make his soul an offering for sin. To estidid Paul give up a vast portion of his apos-mate aright the endurance of him who tolical time and labour; and that he might himself bore our infirmities, would we ask be an ensample to the flock of working with of any individual to recollect some deep his own hands, rather than be burdensome, and awful period of abandonment in his did he set himself down to the occupation own history-when that countenance which of a tent-maker. That lesson is surely wor- at one time beamed and brightened upon thy of engrossing one sermon of an unin- him from above, was mantled in thickest spired teacher, for the sake of which an darkness-when the iron of remorse enterinspired Apostle of the Gentiles engrossed ed into his soul-and, laid on a bed of toras much time as would have admitted the ture, he was made to behold the evil of sin, preparation and the delivery of many ser- and to taste of its bitterness. Let him look mons. But there is no more striking indi- back, if he can, on this conflict of many cation of the whole spirit and character of agitations, and then figure the whole of this the gospel in this matter, than the example mental wretchedness to be borne off by of him who is the author of it-and of whom the ministers of vengeance into hell, and we read these affecting words, that he came stretched out unto eternity. And if, on the into the world not to be ministered unto, great day of expiation, a full atonement was but to minister. It is a righteous thing rendered, and all that should have fallen in him who has of this world's goods, to upon us was placed upon the head of the minister to the necessities of others; but sacrifice-let him hence compute the weight it is a still higher attainment of righteous and the awfulness of those sorrows which ness in him who has nothing but the daily were carried by him on whom the chastiseearnings of his daily work to depend upon, ment of our peace was laid, and who poured so to manage and to strive that he shall not out his soul unto the death for us. If ever need to be ministered unto. Christianity a sinner, under such a visitation, shall again overlooks no part of human conduct; and emerge into peace and joy in believingby providing for this in particular, does it, if he ever shall again find his way to that in fact, overtake, and that with a precept fountain which is opened in the house of of utmost importance, the habit and condi- Judah-if he shall recover once more that tion of a very extended class in human so- sunshine of the soul, which, on the days ciety. And never does the gospel so exhibit that are past, disclosed to him the beauties its adaptation to our species-and never does of holiness here, and the glories of heaven virtue stand in such characters of strength hereafter-if ever he shall hear with effect, 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 rect sanction from the life and doings of the reconciliation-O! how gladly then should Saviour. he bear throughout the remainder of his And he who feels as he ought, will bear days, the whole authority of the Lord who 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.