« AnteriorContinuar »
ciple of benevolence, practised at the expense of a long protracted course of self-denial. It is that redeeming principle that has saved the Church, and will save the world. Till Christians understand it, and act upon it, they have not learned the heavenly art of being useful; and if they may even hope to reach heaven, must assuredly calculate to be in that world stars of the smallest magnitude.
In applying further the principle which actuated the apostle in the case we have reviewed, I would say, in the
1. Place, That honesty should lead every believer to its adoption. We profess to have passed from death unto life, to have been plucked as brands from the burning. And we see those around us who are urging their way to hell, and we profess to love them. If possible, they should be stopped in their career. And if there is the most forlorn hope that our example would do any thing to stop them, our example should be employed. Else how can we be honest in our profession. If idleness is destroying souls, (and probably few sins are destroying more,) how can we be honest if we will not refrain from wasting precious hours with prayerless idlers, who, in the hordes that indolence collects around them, are learning and teaching the deadliest principles and the most polluting practices? And if drunkenness is destroying souls, how can we be honest in our profession of benevolence, if there is any amount of sacrifice within our power that we will not make to dam up and dry up this broad, and deep, and dark river of death, that is bearing down to hell such a mighty congregation.
2. Consistency of character should lead us to adopt this high principle of Christian benevolence. We profess, as Christians, that religion has a value paramount to all other interests combined. We believe that interrogatory assertion, that the whole world is not to be compared in value to a soul. Hence any sacrifice possible should be made to save a soul; and if the world see us ready to make none, will God save our character?
Believers are accustomed to pray that the kingdom of Christ may come, that men may be converted and saved, and we profess to be asking for large favors. But when we have risen from our 'knees, and it is seen that we can practice no self-denial to have our prayers answered, can we hope to conceal our hypocrisy? Can we have any consistency of character in the world's estimation? Will they hear us pray? Will they have any faith in our tears? No, none.
3. It will be seen, of course, that we cannot be useful in the absence of this high principle of Christian benevolence. The world honors and believes the man whose actions tally with his tears and his professions. By him they will be influenced. But they must not see us trying to escape the cross. They must not hear us pray, and then not see us do. We may not rebuke their profaneness, nor their Sabbath-breaking, nor their gambling, and then edge along as near as may be to the very crimes we have rebuked. We may not reprobate their intemperance, and yet drink temperately with them out of the same cup. We do them no good by our admonitions. They will wield dexterously that motto, "Physician, heal thyself.". Believers should not forget that though they may have learned more than other men of Bible truth, yet in native unsanctified cunning, the men of the world are before them, and will perceive a discrepancy of character even sooner, perhaps, than themselves. "The children of this world are wiser in their generation than the children of light."
4. Without that spirit of high Christian benevolence which will lead us to make great sacrifices to bless our fellow-men, our religion will not render us happy. The child of God is happy in doing good. In this God is happy. When he had built the world and made man, he surveyed his works with delight, because they were all good. When we cannot reflect that we have done good, the mind corrodes itself and is put to pain.
FINALLY-We cannot be safe while wanting this spirit of Christian benevolence. Every soul that is born of God has it. It is that most prominent feature of the Divine image that was lost in the fall, and is restored in regeneration. "If one loves not his brother whom he has seen, how can he love God whom he has not seen." "Hereby shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love to one another."
THE CONCENTRATED RESULTS OF THE GOSPEL.
ISAIAH LIV. 13.
And all thy children shall be be taught of the Lord; and great shall be the peace of thy children.
In the preceding chapter there is brought into view the sufferings of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the blessed effects of his death upon the beings whom he died to redeem. "He shall see the travail of his soul and be satisfied." Under that new dispensation which his mission should introduce, the barren should sing and the desolate become fruitful. The Church is directed to "enlarge the place of her tent, and stretch forth the curtains of her habitation," with the assurance of a large increase of her spiritual offspring. She shall branch forth on the right hand and on the left, shall inherit the Gentiles, shall forget the shame of her youth, and wipe off the reproach of her widowhood. Her Maker, the Lord of Hosts, will be her husband; and the Holy One of Israel, the God of the whole earth her Redeemer. "In a little wrath God hid his face from her for a moment, but will now, with everlasting kindness, have mercy on her."
This language, though highly figurative, is yet easily understood. The prophet evidently looked forward to gospel times, and sung of a period then very distant, but in its events more glorious than any that had gone by. We can easily believe that he had at length a distant but delightful view of the present period, and pleased his soul with the very scenes that are now transpiring before our eyes, when the children of the Church should become wise and happy. "All thy children shall be taught of the Lord, and great shall be the peace of thy children."
That God has cast our lot in a favored period of the Church, there can be no doubt. And the man who is not thankful to see opening before himself and his children, a prospect so rich, must have a mind which none will covet, and a heart which is the seat of very sordid and groveling affections. It will be my wish, in what will now be said, to awake your attention to those objects
which Isaiah saw, and in which he exulted some twenty-five hundred years since. I would then remark,
I. The present is a period of great interest. This is a truth which must impress the mind of every thinking man. In addition to what our fathers have told us, we have learned by our own experience, that the world is undergoing a vast moral change. So rapid are the movements of Providence that we can scarcely keep pace with its present history.
1. This is an age prominent in its benevolent exertions. Our fathers, with all their piety, made almost no exertion to better the condition of a miserable world. They held in their hands the charter of eternal life, but made few inquiries respecting the extent to which this blessing was enjoyed. They often read the command, "Go ye unto all the world and preach the gospel to every creature," but had no idea that it was a precept binding them to disseminate that gospel on which they hung their own hopes of everlasting life. Few of us that have lived fifty years have received from our parents any lesson on this subject. They taught us those branches of duty with which they were acquainted, and put into our hands that book from which, through the teachings of the Holy Ghost, the present generation has learned one new lesson that those who have the gospel must give it to the world.
Hence the Christian world has waked to the subject, and the benevolent heart has learned to expand, and spread its sympathies over all the miseries of the apostacy. Nor have the advocates of that charity which regards only the body, and terminates its toils at the sepulchre, any cause to mourn at the change. Since the Bible has been making its way to the habitations of poverty, it has not diminished their wonted supply of bread. He that pities the body may have no compassion for the soul, but he who aims to save the soul from death, will feel for the miseries of the body. The charity of the gospel is generous and impartial.
Nor yet have the advocates of that charity which begins at home, the least occasion to regret the exertions made in the more distant field. It was since we cast our eye upon India, and heard the moans of Africa, and saw and wept over the desolation of Palestine, that we have pitied strongly the wandering tribes of our own America, and have attempted to build up the waste places in our immediate vicinity. We had begun to translate the Scriptures into other languages, that we might export them to other nations, 13
before we had made the inquiry whether there were not families within ten minutes' walk of home who had no Bible. The poor in our land, and under the eaves of our sanctuaries, have reason to bless the day when the Christian world began to pity the distant heathen.
I said the Christian world had waked, I should have said they had begun to wake: for many who eat the bread and drink the cup of the Lord, are yet as profoundly asleep as though nothing new had transpired. Still to some extent exertions are made to carry into effect the system of the gospel. The Bible is going into every language, and missionaries into every country, and the hope and the promise is, that soon the angel having the everlasting gospel to preach to them that dwell on the earth, will publish it to every kindred, and nation, and tongue, and people. The rich are casting of their abundance, and the poor their mite, into the treasury of the Lord. More is done now in a single year to lessen the miseries of the apostacy, than had been done perhaps in ages previously to the commencement of the present era.
And no part of Christendom is yet impoverished. Too little has been done to be esteemed a sacrifice. We have distributed to the hungry nothing but the crumbs of our plenteous board. We have done so little that scarcely a conscience in Christendom is satisfied; so little that if our children should hereafter learn the amount of our charities, they would burn the record that they might conceal our shame. Philanthropy must yet ten-fold its sacrifices, or the present generation of the heathen must almost all share the destiny of their unpitied predecessors. But when all this is said, and said truly, the present is comparatively an age of charity. There begins to be opened an avenue to the conscience and the heart. There is some pity where there has been none, there is some interest felt where recently there was indifference the most profound.
2. The present age is distinguished by a union of interest and effort among the friends of the gospel. Most that was done till recently was the effect of individual exertion. The pious heart was always benevolent. I should offend my readers and myself, if I should deny to our dear parents who are resting in their graves all the sympathy and the charity which they entailed to their offspring. But benevolent exertions during most of the ages that have gone by was personal and insulated. The Christian Church had not learned that union of effort would augment her strength, and multiply the resources of her charity. This discovery under