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who can tell if the people now lift up their hearts, if every one of you that is called Christian, or that is a Christian, should now lift up his heart, that the God of heaven may now, even before we leave his sanctuary, pour out upon us some mighty blessing from above. Thus some may have to bless God that they ever entered the church
doors to-night; and thus while you are sleeping in your beds to-night, angels in heaven will be singing and rejoicing over some sinner brought to God. "Verily, I say unto you there shall be joy in heaven over one sinner that repenteth, more than over ninety and nine just persons that need no repentance."
DELIVERED BY THE REV. EDWARD RICE,
AT TRINITY CHURCH, TRINITY SQUARE, BLACKMAN STREET, FOR THE BENEFIT OF THE ST. ANN'S SOCIETY, FEB. 20, 1831.
1 Corinthians, xiii. 13.—" And now abideth faith, hope, charity; but the greatest of these is charity."
THROUGHOUT the whole of this chapter, St. Paul has given us a peculiar specimen of energetic eloquence. Filled with that glow of Christian benevolence, which so eminently distinguished his crucified Master, he labours earnestly to breathe into his Corinthian converts a portion of his own warmth. He feels his heart expanding towards his fellow-creatures-he feels that universal love was the fundamental feature of that religion which he had been appointed to disseminate throughout the world; and he, therefore, inculcates the pre-eminence of charity in a strain of the clearest argument and the most persuasive eloquence, in the very commencement of which, he tells us, that he himself, though specially selected, and miraculously summoned to the Apostolic dignity-though eminently distinguished by the favour of his Redeemer, and entrusted with the secrets of immortality, yet was nothing; not only unworthy of the name of Christian, but even that of man, unless he possessed that excellent quality of charity towards all mankind.
At the close of the chapter, however, he reminds his readers, that there are two other features in the Christian character which must be associated with charity, though he concludes, by giving the preference to the latter. "And now abideth faith, hope, charity; but the greatest of these is charity." I propose, therefore, to call your attention to each of these three qualifications, as separately and collectively adorning the character, the influence, and the conduct of the true disciple of Jesus Christ, confining myself, in conclusion, more particularly to the last topic.
First, then, of FAITH. On this head there are unhappily at the present period, and have been more or less at all periods, various conflicting opinions. Our way, however, through these differences of opinion is plain and clear if we will but seek it. Faith, in its proper and original sense, is simply belief. Thus, the pagan has faith in the deities of his superstitious worship; and the follower of Mahomet has faith or belief in the divine mission of that prophet. The act, by which Abraham
obtained the favour of God, was his nity, weigh well your outward acbelieving the declaration which God tions, and, particularly, examine the made to him, in opposition to Sarah | motives that influence your conduct. his wife, who disbelieved. St. James, Ask yourselves a few such questions in one of his epistles, speaking of the as the following-Do I believe that comparative merits of faith and works, one all-good, all-wise, and Almighty asks,“ Can faith save us?” evidently Being, created me and placed me in implying mere belief; and, accord. this world? That the same Being ingly, he proceeds to direct his readers still protects me with a father's care, to show their belief of the Christian preserving me and guiding me in my covenant by their works.
progress through life? Do I believe This is the original meaning of the that the only Son of this Almighty word faith ; but, as applied to the Being came down from heaven, and Christian in most parts of the New dwelt amongst men, and died upon Testament, and in the service of our the cross, as an atonement for my sin, church, it has obtained a more ex- as well as those of my fellow sinners ? tended signification. So that it ap- Do I believe that the Spirit of God pears in itself not merely an act of be- hovers over me unceasingly, strengthlieving in God the Father, the Son, ing my weakness, comforting my deand the Holy Ghost, but also, of spair, infusing into me good desires, embracing the offers of mercy made to and confirming me in holy resolutions? us in the Gospel; and applying our Am I truly grateful to this Father who understandings to ascertain the will of protects me—this Son who died for heaven, with a deep and heart-felt me-and this Holy Spirit which sancdesire for performing that will to the tifies me? Am I determined to imbest of our power. This is the faith prove these inestimable advantages to which St. Paul speaks of as justifying the glory of God, and the salvation of a sinner; and this, doubtless, is the my own soul? If your conscience refaith which is alluded to in the chapter turns you a favourable answer to these under contemplation.
enquiries, you may rest assured that If, however, my brethren, you are you have that faith in you which St. really and sincerely anxious about the Paul laboured to excite, and which, if great business of your salvation—if you persevere in the pursuit, will you are humbly and heartily desirous finally lead you to the kingdom of God. of treading that path which the Scrip
But, if there are any amongst you, tures point out to you as leading to who feel that you have not this subheaven, you will not stop to cavil stantial, this productive, this unquesabout the meaning of the word, or en
tionable faith within you, let me advise danger your own salvation, and perhaps you to lose not an instant in applying that of others, by discussions useless yourselves to the acquisition of it. at the best, and generally injurious. There will be a time when you will Your Saviour has given you a rule, by find that nothing in this world was which you may always discover, equivalent to it—when your Saviour's whether or not you have the true faith words will appear to you too true, that
“ By their fruits,” says he, if you should gain the whole world “ye shall know them.”
and lose your own soul it will profit Judge, therefore, yourselves by this you nothing. Hasten, then, to cultiinfallible criterion, looking to your vate those pious affections which are own minds, observe, what is the state comprized in the faith of Christ. Be of your feelings with regard to eter- earnest in this your day to learn the
things which pertain to your peace, | pretended friends, or the loss, the bitremembering that the night is fast ter loss, of real ones, unless
felt coming upon each of you, when it will an inward and unspeakable comfort be too late to begin to work.
from the consideration, that these are The Second grace, which the Apos- but the troubles of a moment, that tle mentions is that of hope; and he they are the affectionate chastenings of has very properly mentioned it after your heavenly Father, and that they faith, as it arises from it, and depends will procure for you a crown of glory? entirely upon it. No sooner does the It was the want of this cheering soul embrace and adopt, through faith, hope that rendered the life of many an the great truths of the Gospel, than it enlightened heathen, before the times feels itself expanded with hope, the of the Gospel, a dreary and desolate blessed hope of life and immortality. wilderness. Their judgment was too Rescued from the shackles of infidelity, enlarged, and their taste too refined, or the darkness of ignorance, it now to allow of their participating in the breathes freely the delightful atmos- | low and senseless gratifications of their phere of Christian confidence and fellow mortals. They looked for enChristian love. It now sees clearly joyments more worthy of the immortal its own nature, and its future destina- spirit, but, alas, they could find none. tion. Eternity opens to its view, it They attempted to dive into futurity, sees the way that leadeth to it, and but they could not. Before them all learns to tread that way, with humi- dark and impenetrable; and lity indeed, and with fear, but yet with around them was nothing that could hope. Delightful indeed is the pros- clear the obscurity from the scene. pect of the Christian, and sweet the Thus they lived in uncertainty, and expectation that illumines his heart. they died without hope. Some of No dreary anticipations, no dark and them, indeed, when sated with the awful uncertainties, spread a gloom follies, or harassed with the troubles around him. He sees the goal in the of life, hesitated not to throw off an distance before him, and he knows that existence with which they felt themhe can reach that gaol because his God selves dissatisfied, which, in ignorance has told him so.
of their immortal destination, they did But we shall perceive more distinct- not conceive themselves bound to prely the full value of this hope, if we
serve after it had become disagreeable consider, for a moment, what this life to them. Not knowing who it was would be without it. How could you that placed them at their post of life, endure the vain and restless bustle they thought themselves justified in which surrounds you—the empty va- abandoning that post whenever it benities which the cares of this world came tiresome or dangerous ; and they oblige you to pursue the unsubstan- rushed, therefore, into eternity unbidtial and unsatisfactory enjoyments den and uninvited, little imagining with which your better judgment is whither their desperation was carrying often disgusted, unless you knew, that them. How thankful, my brethren, all these are but the noxious weeds ought we to be, when we think of that disfigure the path to a real and these things, for the life that we enan eternal happiness ? Or how would joy, and the hope that we are peryou bear the sufferings which so often mitted to cherish. Ours is no desart oppress you, the pangs of disease, the journey, our God accompanies us, and anxieties of business, the failure of points to us the road. Do we faint ? your dearest hopes, the ingratitude of he supports us. Do we fear? he reassures us; He is truly “A lamp | deed, it is, that “ He who giveth tó to our feet, and a light unto our path.” the poor, lendeth to the Lord;” and Never, never then, relinquish the hope the relieving the wants of our fellowwhich your religion gives you, and you creatures was always regarded by our will find it be an anchor to your soul Saviour and his Apostles as a presure and steadfast. It will guide your eminent part of charity, as I shall prefootsteps here, unto the ways of peace sently show you ; but St. Paul here -it will console you when you shall wishes to inculcate that it is not all. be stretched upon the bed of death He therefore proceeds to detail to us with nothing else to console you—it the other features of charity.
“ Chawill uphold you in trembling confi- rity,” says he, “ suffereth long, and dence at the tribunal of your everlast- is kind; charity envieth not; charity ing Judge.
vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up; Lastly, I shall call your attention to doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh that most excellent gift of CHARITY not her own." That is, seeketh not her which the Apostle has mentioned last, own praise, profit, or pleasure, to the giving it at the same time a preference injury of others, but inclines men to to the two former. As a better illus- seek the good of others; or, in other tration of the meaning and properties words, is not self-interested. “ Is not of charity cannot be given than that easily provoked, thinketh no evil.” which St. Paul himself has given, I That is, it neither meditates mischief will entreat you to accompany me in a to others, nor suspects any from them. review of a part of the chapter; and “Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but relet us hope that we may imbibe some joiceth in the truth.” That is, depart of the Apostle's spirit, and be riveth no malicious satisfaction from filled with good will towards men. the misconduct of others, but delight
“ Though I speak with the tongues eth in following the truth itself, and of men and of angels,” says he, “and in seeing others follow it with her. have not charity, I am become as Beareth all things ;" that is, beareth sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal.” with the follies, frailties, and transThat is, though I could speak the lan- gressions of others, knowing that itself guages of all nations, or knew how to is also encompassed with infirmities. converse even with angels themselves, “ Believeth all things, hopeth all yet if I have not charity, I am totally things ;” that is, believing whatever insignificant. The charity which is may be urged in mitigation of a fault ; here recommended, consists not merely and even where nothing is urged, in outward acts, but also, in the in- hoping the best that the case will adward disposition of the heart; for says mit of.“ Endureth all things ;" that the Apostle, “ Though I bestow all is, patiently sustaining and enduring my goods to feed the poor, and though every wrong, or as it is elsewhere exI give my body to be burned, and have pressed, “ When reviled, it revileth not charity, it profiteth nothing." It not again." is possible for a person to give alms We see then, my brethren, that chawithout any true Christian love for his rity, according to St. Paul's definition brethren ; and to give his body to be of it, is a concentration of all those burned, that is, to become a martyr amiable feelings which still charactefor religion without any true love to rize our nature, fallen as it is, and of God? Vain glory and superstition, all those mild graces which Chrismay be, and perhaps too often have tianity has introduced amongst us. It been, the motive of both. True, in- is patience it is kindness--it is the
absence of envy and of pride of intel- God, when instructing his creatures lect—it is disinterestedness—it is in their duty, and in the allegiance mildness of disposition—it is harm- they owe to him, necessarily delivers lessness and unsuspecting confidence- perfect rules; and as those creatures it is fellow-feeling in the welfare of are deeply entangled in the trammels others—it is a readiness to believe and of sin, their allegiance will be unato forgive-and it is a love of peace voidably deficient; and here it is that and unanimity. Not, then, without the atonement of Jesus Christ steps in reason does the Apostle prefer it even to our aid, and renders us admissible to faith and hope : for if such a com- into those mansions which must otherprehensive virtue as this was univer- wise have been barred against us for sally embraced and universally prac-ever. Some degree of this blessed tised amongst us, this world would charity is attainable by us even in be itself a paradise, and we should this life; and unless we strive to athave no occasion to desire another. tain it, in vain shall we look to Jesus The effects of faith and hope are con- for the supply of our deficiencies. fined to the individuals in whom they We can check, if we cannot subdue reside ; but the effects of such a cha- our angry passions—we can forgive, rity as this are diffused over all crea- and we can ask forgiveness—we can tion. Faith will guide each of us to be kind and affable and condescending heaven, and without it there is no -we can administer to the wants and admission there; and hope will cheer bodily infirmities of others—we can enand invigorate us in our efforts to reach deavour to cultivate peace and good will, it; but charity will benefit not ourselves each in his own narrow circle. Thus only, but all those, with whom in the we may in part adopt the spirit of St. varied walks of life, we may chance Paul, and I may add too, the spirit of to meet, or over whom our actions our blessed Lord, as it was manifested may have any influence. Our faith in every accent of his lips, and in and hope will save ourselves ; but our every work of his hands. charity may promote the salvation of Having dwelt thus at length upon others.
charity in its general and diffusive naHave you then, my brethren, this ture, let me now call your attention to excellent gift of charity? Do you in that particular branch of it, which reyour intercourse with your fellow-lates, more immediately, to the object mortals act on such principles as I of my present address. The relief of have above enumerated ? Are you the wants and the distresses of our thus patient, long-suffering, kind, hum- fellow-creatures is, as I observed, a ble, unsuspicious, disinterested, for- pre-eminent part of Christian charity. giving, and peaceable ? Alas! there it is that too, which is of the most are few of us, perhaps, that can pressing obligation ; as the sufferings answer altogether in the affirmative. of the unfortunate are, alas, constantly The pattern is too perfect for us accu- presenting themselves to our sight. rately to imitate ; yet, let us remem- In discharging this duty, then, we ber though we cannot obtain perfec- have two methods to adopt :-First, tion, we may, nevertheless, so far that of privately relieving those of the practise the pure precepts laid down afflicted whose sufferings may fall for us in the Gospel, that at the great within the sphere of our observation day of account, the all-sufficient me. or knowledge ; and Secondly, that of rits of our Redeemer may be pleaded contributing to the support of public on behalf of our imperfect services. institutions which have been esta