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to the truths of the gospel, while he pleads for that Christlike charity which may properly be called the sister of truth. He asserts the dignity and power of truth; holding it up to the veneration and love of those who would not wilfully offend the God of truth. Let us, continues he,
speaking the truth in love, grow up into him in all things which is the head, even Christ :” and having first “purified our souls in obeying the truth, let us love one another with a pure heart fervently." Between these scriptural companions he will suffer no separation to take place; and when they are treated by the injudicious as enthusiastic and heretical, he will dare to stand forth in defence of these two confederate virtues.
Another opinion that generally prevails among the professors of Christianity is, that charity consists in giving alms to the poor; and this opinion is earnestly contended for by many, although the Pharisees, who were regarded by our Lord as serpents and vipers through their want of unfeigned charity, were yet remarkable for their generosity in alms giving. St. Paul manifestly opposes this erroneous notion, where he declares that it is possible for a man to "give all his goods to feed the poor and yet be destitute of charity.” The faithful pastor it is true, maintains that every charitable person is constrained to assist the poor
according to his ability : but he adds, that alms giving is as uncertain a mark of charity, as a constant attendance upon the sacramental table is an equivocal evidence of faith : since it is as possible to relieve the poor through weakness or vanity as to receive the holy communion through timia dity or custom
If the charity of worldly men is ever found to exceed this description, yet it will always be limited to the necessities of the body. As they know not how far the immortal spirit is superior to the perishing body which must soon be blended with the dust of a thousand carcasses, it is no wonder that their chief concern is engrossed by the latter. The welfare of their own souls is attended to with a very small degree of solicitude; and while this is the case it cannot be imagined that they should manifest any extraordinary degree of affection toward the souls of their neighbours. They behold without sorrow those deluded partisans who make war upon each other for the sake of their particular errors: they can even gaze without pity on those obdurate souls who are desperately plunging from one abyss of sin to another. How different were the feelings of David, when like a true penitent he not only wept for his own offences, but shed torrents of tears for those who transgressed the law of God. And how contrary was the character of St. Paul, who went through a kind of spiritual travail till the degenerate were born again. In like manner the primitive Christians exposed themselves to imminent dangers, that they might give proofs of the most exalted charity by snatching souls from sin and death. And when they were not able to effect this by their external labours, they then wrestled in their closets with sacred prayers and tears for the conversion of the ungodly. Where there is no desire after the salvation of others, there true charity is unknown: for while a man disregards the soul of his neighbour, all the interest he takes in his temporal affairs can manifest no more than the charity of a disciple of Epicurus, which is as far below the charity of Christ's disciples as materialism is inferior to Christianity.
In opposition to all the false ideas which have been received upon this subject, the minister of the New Testament teaches that charity is the image of God: and that “eternal and infinite charity” is nothing less than God himself. One apostle declares that God is love ; and another assures us that we are called to be made “partakers of the Divine nature:" whence the sacred preacher infers that the new creature of which St. Paul makes mention, must necessarily consist in charity. When a Christian is filled with charity he is then regenerate and born of God. Christ is then formed in his heart, the Holy Spirit rests upon him, and he is “ filled with all the fulness of God." He keeps the first commandment of the law by making a full surrender of his heart to God, from a consciousness that he is in himself the sovereign good : but he chiefly loves him in the person of Christ, through whom the Father is pleased peculiarly to shine forth as a God of love. In a secondary sense he loves the works of God in all their wonderful variety, as they shadow forth his matchless perfections and place them within the reach of man's understanding. And his esteem for his admirable productions is in proportion to the nearer or more distant relation in which they stand to that eternal wisdom which formed them all. Guided by this principle, he loves all mankind with an extraordinary
degree of affection. The soul of man is peculiarly dear to him because created in the image of God and redeemed with the blood of his beloved Son: while as the organized vehicle of the soul he admires and loves the perishable body. As the souls of the poor and the rich are equally immortal, he is never meanly prejudiced in favour of the latter; but on the contrary is ever ready to prefer a poor and pious beggar, before a sensual and supercilious noble. Thus the true Christian cherishes the faithful not only for the love of the Creator and Redeemer, but also for love of the sanctifying Spirit unto whom their souls are consecrated as living altars, and their bodies as hallowed temples. From this divine charity good works of every kind proceed as from an inexbaustible fountain : a fountain which is making, as it were, continual efforts to enrich the barren soil around it. But where this is wanting, all external appearances are without any real value : the lavish giver loses his worth before pious men, and the zealous martyr his reward before a righteous God.
Uniting in his own heart the love of God with the love of his neighbour, the true minister anxiously endeavours to demonstrate the folly of those who seek to separate these important duties. He maintains that charity without piety is but a mere natural virtue, which discovers itself as frequently in the brute creation as among unregenerate men. The swallow and the bat are careful of their young--the beaver and the ant are observed to labour for the respective societies of which they are individuals, and the shebear is ready to meet death in defence of her cubs. On this account the good pastor furnishes his flock with those exalted motives to Christian love, which by giving a divine principle to natural charity, ennobles it in man and renders it divine.
As charity without piety is no more than a natural virtue and may be the effect of pharisaical or diabolical pride, so devotion without brotherly love is to be considered as a species of hypocrisy, as our Lord himself teaches in the following passage : “If thou bring thy gift to the altar and there rememberest that thy brother hath aught against thee ; leave there thy gift before the altar and go thy way; first be reconciled to thy brother, and then come and offer thy gift,” which would otherwise be rejected as an abomination by the God of love. True charity embraces all
men, because, being made of one blood, they compose but one vast family of which God himself is the great parent. And here our Lord permits us not to except even our most cruel enemy. “Ye have heard,” saith he, “that it hath been said thou shalt love thy neighbour and hate thine enemy: but I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and” manifesting a concern for their souls as well as an attention to their persons, “pray for them that despitefully use you and persecute you; that ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good.”
Charity consists of two parts; patience and benevolence. By the one, we suffer every kind of indignity without entertaining a thought of revenge: and by the other, we heap upon our enemies unsolicited favours. Our adorable Master, whose conduct has furnished us with examples of the most perfect charity, discovers to us the extent of this virtue in the following passages : The world hath “ hated both me and my Father ;' nevertheless, “God so loved the world that he gave his only-begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. It hath been said, an eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth ;” and the time is coming, when it shall be said, a thrust with a sword for an abusive word, a pistol shot for a satirical expression ; “but I say unto you, resist not,” according to the maxims of those by whom you are evil entreated ; " but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also :" i. e. suffer two insults rather than revenge one.
Follow the same rule likewise with respect to their worldly substance," and if any man will sue thee at the law, and take away thy coat, let him have thy cloak also :" i. e. far from exacting with rigour, be ready to remit much of thy right for the maintenance of peace; since it is better to suffer a double injustice, than to lack condescension and charity. “ And whosoever shall compel thee to go a mile, go with him twain :" i. e. merely yielding to others in things that are good or indifferent, is not enough: thy charity should rather prevent and surprise them with unexpected acts of civility and kindness. From these expressions, it appears that our Lord would have his disciples to possess a charity not only extraordinary in some degree, but altogether divine. In point of quality, he requires that it should be equal to the inexpressible love of the Father ; as a drop taken from the ocean is of the same nature with those mighty waves that roll over the unfathomable deep. “If ye love them,” saith he, “that love you, what reward have you ? do not even the publicans so? Be ye, therefore, perfect” in charity, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.”
Faith, unspeakably excellent as it is, would be void of any real worth unless it produced this happy disposition.
In Christ,” saith the apostle, “the whole body'' of the faithful, “ fitly joined together, and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love. In Jesus Christ neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision ; but faith, which worketh by love : and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing." This celestial grace runs through the whole circle of Christian virtues. Thus when St. Paul enumerates the fruits or effects of the Spirit, he points to charity as the foremost of the train : and when St. Peter recounts the virtues which a Christian should add to his faith, he concludes with the finishing graces of " brotherly kindness and charity." Both these ideas are afterward united by the great apostle, where he exhorts the Colossians" to put on charity” as “ that bond of perfectness," without which the Christian character would be incomplete, and which may be said to include all the graces of the Spirit, as a thousand ears of corn are united in the same sheaf by one common band.
It was with these sublime views of charity that St. Paul thus addressed his converts : " By love serve one another ; for all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this : Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. Owe no man any thing, but to love one another, for he that loveth another," in obedience to Christ's command," hath fulfilled the law. Charity never faileth ;" inasmuch as it is the source of heavenly joy. Now,” in the church militant,
« abideth faith, hope, and charity; but the greatest of these is charity," which shall eternally animate the church triumphant.
Even here on earth, it is counted as the beginning of