« AnteriorContinuar »
say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me. Then shall he say also unto them on the left-hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was an hungered, and ye gave me no meat; I was thirsty, and ye gave me no drink; I was a stranger, and ye took me not in; naked, and ye clothed me not; sick, and in prison, and ye visited me not. Then shall they also answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungered, or athirst, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not minister unto thee? Then shall he answer them, saying, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye did it not to one of the least of these, ye did it not to me. And these shall go away into everlasting punishment; but the righteous into life eternal.*
No language can be stronger than this to show the difference between the righteous and the wicked, and the blessing or the curse which awaits them at the final judgment. It is impossible for any one to deny the truth and the force of this description of retributive justice at the last day: and it is very remarkable, that there is no subject of religion on which men in general are so well agreed, or on which there is so little controversy or dispute, as the subject of charity. The only difference of opinion that exists concerning it, is the ifndue stress laid upon it as being meritorious in the
♦ Matt. xxv. 31—46.
sight of God, and so standing in opposition to the Protestant doctrine of justification by faith—when ignorant and mistaken persons suppose they can procure the pardon of their sins, or purchase heaven, by giving of alms to the poor, or by giving money for charitable uses. This, however, only proves that such persons have too high notions of the merit of good works, and does not otherwise militate against them as the fruits of faith. The only real evidences of our faith are to be seen in its effects, according to which we shall be judged at the day of judgment—accounted righteous by them, or condemned as wicked for want of them. No man who has any respect for the authority of the Scriptures will venture to deny or to dispute this truth, both as a moral and religious truth; and as to the opinions of modern philosophers, who are deists or infidels, we must oppose them to the utmost of our power, striving together for the faith of the Gospel. Our duty towards our neighbour arises from our duty towards God. For all the law (saith the Apostle St. Paul) is fulfilled in one word, even in this: Thou shall love thy neighbour as thyself. And in strict agreement with this declaration, St. John saith, And this commandment have we from him, That he who loveth God, love his brother also. It remains for us now to make such an application of the subject to ourselves as may lead to the fulfilment of this command, and by our obedience to the law of love, prove that we are the faithful followers of Jesus Christ. He hath himself taught us "to consider the cause of the poor," by regarding their interests, and by relieving their wants and necessities.
Persons in power and authority, more especially, may learn their duty from the words of the Psalmist, particularly addressed to them. Defend the poor and fatherless: do justice to the afflicted and needy: deliver the poor and needy: rid them out of the hand of the wicked* And every righteous man is incited and encouraged to the performance of this duty, by the blessing which is bestowed upon it. Blessed is he that considereth the poor; the Lord will deliver him in time of trouble.\
THE DUTY OF DOING GOOD AND DISTRIBUTING.
I. Timothy vi. 17—19.
Charge Them That Are Rich In This World That They Be Not High-minded, Nor Trust In UncerTain Riches, But In The Living God, Who Giveth Us Richly All Things To Enjoy; That They Do Good, That They Be Rich In Good Works, Ready To Distribute, Willing To Communicate; Laying Up In Store For Themselves A Good Foundation Against The Time To Come, That They May Lay Hold On Eternal Life.
The zealous advocates for doctrinal truth are very apt to overlook the preceptive part of the Gospel. Many such persons suppose that they are released from the law of God as a rule of duty, by the dispensation of Divine grace. They consider the preaching of moral and religious duties as legal, and that the design of such preaching is to establish justification by the works of the law, and to subvert the doctrine of justification by faith. Now this is a great and manifest error; for if it were true, it would prove that our Lord himself was a legal preacher in his sermon on the Mount, and his Apostles also in various passages of their Acts and Epistles, especially the Apostle St. Paul, in the words of the text.
That some persons may insist too often and too much on the precepts of the moral law, to the exclusion of the doctrines of the Gospel, cannot be denied; and the true system of the Christian religion is to unite both these considerations together. The end of all useful speculation is practice. The use of all religious truth is to regulate the actions of rational and intelligent beings, and to teach us upon what principles we ought to act When we find the Apostle Paul maintaining the permanent duty of Christian charity, we must be rigid in maintaining the same doctrine. Now abideth faith, hope, charity—these three; but the greatest of these is charity.* So likewise in the words of the text addressed to Timothy, we should form a very wrong opinion of this duty, and act in a very wrong manner, if we either thought or acted as Christians in a different way. Charge them that are rich in this world that they be not high-minded, nor trust in uncertain riches, but in the living God, who giveth us richly all things to enjoy; that they do good, that they be rich in good works, ready to distribute, willing to communicate; laying up in store for t/iemselves a good foundation against t/te time to come, that they may lay hold on eternal life.
* 1 Cor. xiii. 13.