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purchased with his own blood. For I know this, that aster my departing, shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock,” Acts xx. 26--29.
Jesus Christ, in like manner, is ready to finish the work which his heavenly Father has given him to do: he shrinks from it no longer: he advances forward, braving the cross, being “now ready to be offered," 2 Tim. iv. 6. Arise, says he to them, arise ; (he was still in the house where he had just eaten the passover, when he pronounced t?re discourse which we are endeavouring to explain) let us go hence, ch. xiv. 31. I must pass no more time with my belov, ed disciples; I am going to be delivered up to my executioners: I must no more drink with you of the fruit of the vine, Luke xxii. 18. in a feast of love; it is tiine for me to go and drink to the very dregs the cup which the justice of my Father is putting into my hands: let us go hence : let us go to Gethsemane; let us ascend Golgotha. But,
But, “Simon, Simon, behold, Satan hath desired to have
yoll, that he
sift you as wheat,” Luke xxii. 31. But, “all ye shall be offended because of me this night," Matt. xxvi. 31. But, the Devil, and the world, and all hell, are going to unite their efforts to dissolve your communion with me.
What does he oppose to danger so threatening? What means does he employ to prevent it? What ought to be done by a good pastor when stretched on a death-bed: not only earnest prayers addressed to beaven, but also tender exhortations addressed to men. them an abridgement of the sermons which, during
the period of his intercourse with them, had been the subject of his administrations : “ If ye love ine, keep my cominandments,” chap. xiv. 15.
But what merits special attention in the last address of Jesus Christ to his apostles, is the precept on which he particularly insists: and the subject of that precept is charity : “by this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another," ch. xiii. 35. “A new commandment I give unto you, that ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another,” ver. 34.; a precept which they were bound to observe as Christians, and more especially as ministers of his gospel.
1. As Christians: without charity Christianity cannot possibly subsist. A society, the individuals of which do not love each other, cannot be a society of the disciples of Jesus Christ. Tell me not of your passing whole days and nights in meditation and reading the scriptures; of your uninterrupted assiduity in exercises of devotion; of your fervor and frequency of attendance at the table of the Lord. The question still recurs, Where is thy charity? Lovest thou thy neighbour? Makest thou his interests thy own? Is his prosperity a source of satissaction to thee? Canst thou bear with and overlook his infirmities? Respectest thou, recommendest thou his excellencies ? Defendest thou his reputation ? Labourest thou to promote bis salvation? Such questions are so many touchstones to assist us in attaining the knowledge of ourselves: so many articles of condemnation to multitudes who bear the Christian
Of Charity, alas, little more is known than
the name : and the whde amount of the practice of it is reduced to a few of the functions altogether inseperable from mere humanity: when a man has given away a small portion of his superfluity to relieve the poor; when he has bestowed a morsel of bread to feed that starving wretch: when he has covered those shivering limbs from the inclemency of the air, he considers himself as having satisfied the demands of charity: he founds, shall I venture to say it? he founds on this symptom of love a title to warrant his indifference, his vengeance, his hatred : he backbites without control, he calumniates without hesitation, he plunges the dagger without remorse : he pines at the prosperity of another, and his neighbour's glory clothes him with shame.
2. But if the disciples of Jesus Christ are engaged as Christians to love one another, they more especially are só as ministers of the gospel. Where are we to look for charity, if not in the heart of those who are the heralds of charity? What monster so detestable as a minister destitute of charity! The more that charity is inculcated by the religion which he professes to teach, the more it must expose him as a most unnatural being, if he is capable of resisting the power of motives so tender. The more venerable that his ministry is, the more liable must it be to suspicion and contempt, when exercised by a man: who is himself a stranger to charity. He will warp the truths of religion according to seasons and circumstances : he will accommodate his preaching to his interest : he will carry his passions with bim into the pulpit: he will conceal the heart of a wolf un
der the clothing of a sheep, and will avail hiinself of the law of charity itself, to diffuse through the whole church the pestilential air of that hatred, animosity, and envy, which torment and prey upon his own mind.
It was, in a peculiar manner, the desire of Jesus Christ, that charity should be the reigning principle in the college of the apostles: that, united together in bands of the tenderest affection, they might lend each other effectual support in the great work of publishing the gospel. Never does the Devil labour with inore success against a church, than when he acquires the power of disuniting the ministers who have the oversight of it. Call to the pastoral charge of a flock, persons of the greatest celebrity, preachers the most eloquent, geniusses the most transcendent, unless they are closely united in the bands of charity, small will be their progress; they will separate the hearts which they were bound to unite ; they will foster the spirit of party; they will encourage the fomenters of discord; they will instruct one to say, I am of Paul ; and another, I am of Cephas ; and another, I am of Apollos, 1 Cor. iii. 4. They will be in constant mutual opposition. Apollos will do his utmost to pull down what Cephas had built up : Cephas will attempt to rear what Paul had demolished. Discover the art, on the contrary, of uniting the hearts of those who have the care of a flock and you ensure their success : they will strengthen each other's hands; they will attack the common enemy with concentrated force ; they will concur in pursuing the same object. “A new commandment VOL. VI.
I give unto you, that ye love one another. By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.” O charity ! the livery of the disciples of Jesus Christ, must it needs be that thou shouldst be as rare as thou art indispensable ! Banished from the rest of the universe, flee for refuge to the church. Exert thy sovereign power at least in the sanctuary. Bind together in bands of indissoluble affection the shepherds of this flock. Let all animosity, let discord, let envy, be for ever banished from the midst of us, my beloved companions in the work of the ministry, Eph. iv. 12. Amen.