Imágenes de páginas

found no more than the sounding brass or the tinkling cymbal.

The laws of every Christian country should be founded upon the law of God, and administered in a manner consistent with charity. It is the express command of God, which is repeated no less than three times, that those who have power shall not rule with rigour; and the meaning is well explained by a reference to the Israelites in Egypt, where it is recorded that the Egyptians made the children of Israel to serve with rigour; and they made their lives bitter with hard bondage, in mortar and in brick, and in all manner of service in the field: all their service, wherein they made them serve, was with rigour.* This is a rule for our rulers to observe, as they will one day have to answer for it at the tribunal of Divine justice, when, if they have not been merciful, mercy will not be shown to them. We come now to consider, in the last place,

IV. The motives which the Apostle has stated for the performance of this duty.

The approbation of God and of our own consciences are alone sufficient motives for the exercise of charity. It is the character of God that he is good, and that he doeth good, and that his tender mercies are over all his works. He hath also declared in his word, Blessed is he that considereth the poor: the Lord will deliver him in time of trouble; the Lord will preserve him and keep him alive, and he shall be blessed upon the earth; the

* Levit. xxv. 43, 46, 53.

Lord will strengthen him upon the bed of languishing. He hath dispersed; he hath given to the poor; his righteousness endureth for ever.

Is not this a powerful motive and serious consideration? Was not this the character of our blessed Saviour and Redeemer, who was (saith the Apostle) a man who went about doing good? And shall we not go and do likewise, by imitating the example of the Good Samaritan? Without insisting here on the divine doctrines which he taught, I would call your attention to the miracles which he performed, and which were all directed to this single end of doing good to the souls and bodies of men. For this very purpose he healed the sick; he fed the hungry; he comforted the afflicted; he cleansed the lepers; he cast out devils; he restored soundness to the lame, sight to the blind, hearing to the deaf, and life to the dead. I know very well, and I need not be told, that in this infidel and apostate age these things are very little regarded; but, nevertheless, all true Christians will be found to follow the precepts and example of Christ, looking for his mercy unto eternal life.

It is a remarkable part of the doctrine in the text, that the Apostle Paul exhorts Timothy to charge the rich to do good by the distribution of their riches, and the communication of their good things to others, from the motive of receiving a future and eternal reward, laying up in store for themselves a good foundation against the time to come, that they may lay hold on eternal life. These words are to be understood in that sense which is most consistent with other passages of Scripture on the same subject, and we cannot explain them away without a violation of their true meaning. It is clear that they do not teach us that we are justified by the works of the moral law, any more than that they do not teach us that we are justified by faith without works.

The Apostle has taught us elsewhere the meaning of his words, where he says, God is not unrighteous, to forget your work and labour of love (or charity), which love (or charity) ye have shewed toward Ids name, in that ye have ministered to the saints, and do minister.* And again he says, in the same Epistle, To do good and to distribute, forget not; for with suck sacrifices God is well pleased. We see, therefore, that this doctrine is consistent with itself, and must be taken in connexion with the other points of doctrine with which it agrees. But in conclusion of the subject, I will place the whole truth of this doctrine upon the words of our Lord himself, and rest the truth upon his authority alone. It is certain, that in the account which he has given of the final judgment, he has expressed his approbation of the conduct of his faithful followers, and held out to them an eternal reward for their performance of the duties of charity. He makes this the sole criterion of their characters, and of the sincerity of their faith in him. Come, ye blessed

* Heb. vi. 10.

of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from thefoundation of the world; for I was an hungered, and ye gave me meat; I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink; I was a stranger, and ye took me in; naked, and ye clothed me; I was sick, and ye visited me; I teas in prison, and ye came unto me. Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungered, and fed thee; or thirsty, and gave thee drink 9 When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in; naked, and clothed thee; or when saw we thee sick, and in prison, and came unto thee? A nd the king shall answer, and 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.* On the other hand, the cause expressly assigned for the condemnation of the wicked, at the day of judgment, is their omission of this charity, and their neglect in the performance of its various duties. 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 clot/ted 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

* Matt. xxv. 34—40.

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.*

* Matt. xxv. 41—46.

Note.—We may certainly collect from our Lord's representation of our final judgment, that charity, or love to man, in the true scriptural sense of that word, is one of the most essential duties of our religion, and that to neglect that virtue 'above all others, which our Redeemer and our Judge lias selected as the peculiar object of his approbation, and as the representative of all the other Evangelical virtues, must be peculiarly dangerous, and render us peculiarly unfit to appear at the last day before the great tribunal of Christ.— Bishop Porteus's Lectures, xx.

« AnteriorContinuar »