Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

DISCOURSE LXXV.

CHARITY RECOMMENDED ON ITS TRUE MOTIVE.

1 JOHN iv. 11,

If God so loved us, we ought also to love one

another.

[ocr errors]

GREATER injustice cannot be done to the doctrines of Christianity, than to suppose them barren speculations, subjects intended only for the meditations of the pious in their closets, or the controversies of the learned in their writings, and issuing in no conclusions for the benefit of society, and the comfort of mankind. The contrary is happily evinced by the words just read, in which allusion is made to the incarnation of the Son of God, as the great instance of the divine love towards us; and that love proposed as the principle and the pattern of our love toward our neighbour. “If “ God so loved us” that he “sent his Son to be the

propitiation for our sins,"—such are the words immediately preceding the text-then,“ we ought “ also to love one another.” We might ask him in whom zeal for the welfare of his fellow-creatures burns with the brightest and most ardent flame, what his patriotic and generous heart could wish

more, than that men might be brought to this blessed temper of mind ? Did it but prevail in its full extent, it would reform the world at once. Transgression would cease, and with it much of our misery and trouble. The reign of righteousness and happiness would commence, and paradise be, in great measure, restored upon earth. St. Paul assigns the reason in very few words, “ Love “ worketh no ill to its neighbour *;" it can work him no ill; it can never injure him in his person, , his bed, his property, or his character; it cannot so much as conceive a desire for any thina

that belongs to him. But it resteth not content with negatives. It not only worketh him no ill, but it must work for him all the good in its power. Is he hungry? It will give him meat. Is he thirsty ? It will give him drink. Is he naked ? It will clothe him. Is he sick? It will visit him. Is he sorrowful? It will comfort him. Is he in prison ? It will go to him, and, if possible bring him out. Upon this ground, wars must for ever cease among nations, dissensions of every kind among lesser societies, and the individuals that compose them. All must be peace, because all would be love. And thus would every end of the incarnation be accomplished; good will to men, peace on earth, and to God on high glory from both.

In the farther prosecution of the subject, your attention is requested to a few observations on the motive proposed by St. John for the duty of charity and the best manner of performing the duty upon that motive.

* Rom. xiii. 10.

Many seem to think, that if charity be but shown, the motive is a matter of indifference. It may be so to the party receiving, but not to the party bestowing. A sick person is equally benefited, whether he who sits by his bed-side sits there from real affection, or with design to make a will in his own favour. Nothing can determine the sterling worth of an action, but a knowledge of the motive upon which it is performed. Here, then, we should be very careful not to deceive ourselves. We should deal fairly, and search our hearts to the bottom. In the day of inquisition and retribution, he who made them, and therefore knows what is in them, will certainly do so. Men and angels, on that day, will be made acquainted not only with all we have done, but with the true reasons why we did it; and the transactions of human life will be found far other than they seem. Nay, there are, even now, men of the world, endowed with sagacious and penetrating minds, who judging partly from what they experience in themselves, and partly from what they have observed in others, are not easily imposed upon. By knowing a person's general character, and laying circumstances together, they will give a shrewd guess at what is passing within, and not be led to take the ostensible motives for the real. Some French authors, and, after them, some English ones, writing upon this plan, have given a very unfavourable representation indeed of human nature. Their maxims are by no means universally true ; but might be rendered serviceable, if we made use of them, not to censure others, but to examine, our

[ocr errors]

selves ; not to judge our neighbours, but to let our own consciences plead, Guilty or Not Guilty.

In the case before us, some information is necessary for us all, lest, after performing actions of charity, by performing them upon wrong and sinister motives, we become exposed to the mortification of losing their reward. We may perform them merely because there is a decency and propriety in so doing; others perform them, and we should be thought meanly of were we to omit them; we may perform them out of vanity, to acquire the character of benevolent; a character to which, perhaps, upon the whole, we have no good title: we may perform them out of envy, lest a rival bear off the honour from us: we may perform them to become popular, and serve by them some secular and political interest : we may perform them in the way of commutation for a favourite sin, in the practice of which we have determined to continue, and hope thus to buy off the punishment due to it. In this last article we shall find ourselves grievously mistaken. In all the rest may be applied the words of our Lord; “ You “ have your reward :" you sought the praise of men; you obtained it: you sought not the praise of God; you obtained it not.

There is yet another motive, concerning which the determination is more difficult-when we perform an act of charity, to escape from the pain we feel at the sight of misery. We relieve the object; but it is to relieve ourselves. We hear much of these fine feelings, from persons who reject with disdain the influence of a higher principle. God forbid we should depreciate this humane and exquisitely tender sentiment, which the beneficent Author of our nature gave us, as a spur to remove the distresses of others, in order to get rid of our own uneasiness. But it has been justly observed, that “where not strengthened by superior mo

tives, it is a casual and precarious instrument of

good, and ceases to operate, except in the im“mediate presence, and within the audible cry, “ of misery. This sort of feeling often forgets " that any calamity exists which is out of its own

sight; and though it would empty its purse for “such an occasional object as rouses transient

sensibility, yet it seldom makes any stated

provision for miseries, which are not the less “real because they do not obtrude upon the

sight, and awaken the tenderness of immediate

sympathy. This is a sort of mechanical charity, “ which requires springs and wheels to set it a

going *"

Not so the real Christian charity recommended in the text to be performed upon other motives“ If God so loved us”-as he hath done" we “ought also to love one another:" a motive at once rational, pure, and permanent.

I say a rational motive. There is indeed a feeling and an affection in the case; but they are founded on the highest truth and the strongest reason: they are fixed and directed by the judgment. A friend has done me the greatest service in the world; to his kindness I owe every good that I

* Thoughts on the Manners of the Great, p. 64.

« AnteriorContinuar »