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our continuing in this world. To contend with him. we know to be fruitless. The word that is gone out of his mouth must stand. In the path which he has marked out for us, whether it be short or long, rugged or smooth, we must walk. Is it not then the dictate of wisdom, that we should previously reconcile ourselves to this sovereign ordination, and bring our minds to harmonize with what is appointed to be our destiny? Let us mortify this temper, by recalling that reflection of the wise man; who knoweth what is good for man in this life; all the days of his vain life which he spendeth as a shadow? *
To enjoy long life, and see many days, is the universal wish; and, as the wish is prompted by nature, it cannot be in itself unlawful. At the same time, several circumstances concur to temper the eagerness of this wish; and to show us that it should always be formed under due submission to the wiser judgment of Heaven. Who among us can tell whether, in wishing for the continuance of many years on earth, we may not be only wishing for a prolongation of distress and misery?—You might live, my friends, till you had undergone lingering rounds of severe pain, from which death would have proved a seasonable deliverance. You might live till your breasts were pierced with many a wound from public calamities or private sorrows. You might live till you beheld the death of all whom you had loved; till you survived all those who love you; till you were left as desolate strangers on earth in the midst of a new race, who neither knew you, nor cared for you, but who wished you off the stage.
* Eccles. vi. 12.
Of a nature so ambiguous are all the prospects which life sets before us, that in every wish we form relating to them, much reason we have to be satisfied that our times are in the hands of God, rather than
THIS Consideration is greatly strengthened, when, in the last place, we think of God acting, not as a Sovereign only, but as a Guardian, in the disposal of our times. This is our great consolation in looking forward to futurity. To God as a wise Ruler, calm submission is due; but it is more than submission that belongs to him as a merciful father; it is the spirit of cordial and affectionate consent to his will. Unknown to us as the times to come are, it should be sufficient to our full repose that they are known to God. The day and the hour which are fixed in his counsels for our dismission from life, we ought to be persuaded are fixed for the best; and that any longer we should not wish to remain.
When we see that last hour drawing nigh, though our spirits may be composed on our own account, yet, on account of our friends and families, no little anxiety and sorrow may be sometimes apt to take possession of the mind. Long we have enjoyed the comfort of their society, and been accustomed to consider them as parts of ourselves. To be parted \ from them for ever is, at any rate, a bitter thought; but to the bitterness of this, is over and above added the apprehension of their suffering much by our death. We leave many a relation, perhaps may leave young children, and a helpless family, behind us, to be exposed to various dangers, and thrown forth on an unfriendly world. Such virtuous anxieties often op
render the Christian character complete. the pure heart, the good conscience, and faith unfeigned. In treating of these, I shall show the nature of their connection with charity, and the importance of their being always united with it.
The end of the commandment is charity. Charity is the same with benevolence or love; and is the term uniformly employed, in the New Testament, to denote all the good affections which we ought to bear towards one another. It consists not in speculative ideas of general benevolence floating in the head, and leaving the heart, as speculations too often do, untouched and cold. Neither is it confined to that indolent good-nature, which makes us rest satisfied with being free from inveterate malice, or ill-will to our fellow-creatures, without prompting us to be of service to any. True charity is an active principle. It is not properly a single virtue, but a disposition residing in the heart; as a fountain whence all the virtue of benignity, candour, forbearance, generosity, compassion, and liberality flow, as so many native streams. From general good-will to all, it extends its influence particularly to those with whom we stand in nearest connection, and who are directly within the sphere of our good offices. From the country or community to which we belong, it descends to the smaller associations of neighbourhood, relations, and friends; and spreads itself over the whole circle of social and domestic life. I mean not that it imports a promiscuous undistinguishing affection, which gives every man an equal title to our love. Charity, if we should endeavour to carry it so far, would be rendered an impracticable virtue, and would resolve itself into mere words, without
affecting the heart. True charity attempts not to shut our eyes to the distinction between good and bad men; nor to warm our hearts equally to those who befriend and those who injure us. It reserves our esteem for good men, and our complacency for our friends. Towards our enemies it inspires forgiveness and humanity. It breathes universal candour, and liberality of sentiment. It forms gentleness of temper, and dictates affability of manners. It prompts corresponding sympathies with them who rejoice and them who weep. It teaches us to slight and despise no man. Charity is the comforter of the afflicted, the protector of the oppressed, the reconciler of differences, the intercessor for offenders. It is faithfulness in the friend, public spirit in the magistrate, equity and patience in the judge, moderation in the sovereign, and loyalty in the subject. In parents it is care and attention; in children it is reverence and submission. In a word, it is the soul of social life. It is the sun that enlivens and cheers the abodes of men. It is like the dew of Hermon, says the Psalmist, and the dew that descendeth on the mountains of Zion, where the Lord commanded the blessing, even life for evermore. *
SUCH charity, says the text, is the end of the commandment. This assertion of the Apostle is undoubtedly consonant to all that reason can suggest on the subject of religion. For on considering the nature of the Supreme Being, reason gives us much ground to believe, that the chief design of all the commandments which he has given to men, is to promote their happiness. Independent and self-sufficient, that * Psalm cxxxiii. 3.
Supreme Being has nothing to exact from us for his own interest or felicity. By our services he cannot be benefited, nor by our offences injured. When he created the world, it was benevolence that moved him to confer existence. When he made ́ himself known to his creatures, benevolence in like manner moved him to give them laws for their conduct. Benevolence is the spring of legislation in the Deity, as much as it was the motive of creation. He issued his commands on earth on purpose that, by obedience to them, his creatures might be rendered happy among themselves in this life, and be prepared for greater happiness in another. Charity, especially when joined with purity, good conscience, and faith, is obviously the great instrument for this purpose; and therefore must needs possess the chief and primary place in the laws of God.
. Accordingly, throughout the New Testament, it is uniformly presented to us in the same light in which it is placed by the text. This is known to all who have any acquaintance with the sacred books. Charity is termed the fulfilling of the law, and the bond of perfectness. It was assumed by our Blessed Lord as the characteristical distinction of his disciples; and in that magnificent eulogium which the apostle Paul pronounces upon it, in the thirteenth chapter of the first epistle to the Corinthians, it is expressly preferred by him to faith and hope. This deserves to be seriously considered by those who are apt to undervalue charity as an appendage of what they contemptuously call Morality; while they confine true religion to some favourite tenets and observances of their own, which they consider as comprehending the sum of what is acceptable to God. Such persons