Page images

the rooted love and habitual practice of every virtue whatsoever. But it well deserves to be remarked, that the disposition of soul which induces us voluntarily, directly, and frequently to promote the happiness of mankind, has, by the general use of words, following the general course of experience, and the general feelings of the heart, pre-eminently and almost exclusively obtained the appellation of humanity. By the same temper of mind, and the same train of action which is conformable to that temper, we ful6l the duties which are incumbent upon us, as the creatures of God and the disciples of Christ, and as the partakers of a common nature with our fellow creatures, and our fellow Christians. We employ the talents committed to us, as good stewards, when we minister them one to another, according to the measure of the ability which we derive from God above. We qualify ourselves for receiving the gracious approbation of our Redeemer at the last day, when every morsel of bread, and every cup of water which we give to our brethren for Christ's sake, will be remembered and rewarded, as if given to Christ himself. We gain the affectionate regard, and the ready confidence of beings who are endowed with the same rational faculties, the same social affections, the same exquisite and instinctive sense of right and wrong with ourselves. We imitate, with reverence be it spoken, that God, who has been luminously and emphatically described to us as love. We imitate him in the extent and variety of his works, when remembering that he has made of one blood all the nations of the earth, and that he causes the glorious sun to shine, and the refreshing rain to descend upon the unjust as well as the just, we strive in the exercise of this one great virtue, charity, to be perfect, even as he is perfect, and to diffuse the blessings of beneficence, so far as may be in our power, through the whole human race.

By thus considering and thus applying the manifold favour of God, we discharge a double obligationthe obligation of gratitude for those advantages which God has permitted us to possess for our own benefits and the obligation of debt for such a portion of those advantages as have been entrusted to us for the use of other men. Who indeed called us into being ? Who has put the beasts of the field, the fowls of the air, and the produce of the earth in subjection to us ? Who, after creating, hath preserved us ? Who, by the physical and moral order of things, hath provided for our safety, or improvement, through the whole constitution of our nature, mental and corporeal? Who, I say, hath endowed our minds with memory, with discernment, and all those higher classes of intellect, which are distinguished by the name of geniùs ? Who hath given health, strength, and activity to our bodies? Who hath filled the air, the earth, the rivers, and the seas with materials upon which that strength and that activity of our bodies, guided by those powers of our minds, may be employed with boundless diversity, for the comforts, the conveniences, and the ornaments of life? Who, in almost every climate, hath spread over the surface of the soil reinedies well suited to the

exigencies of local maladies, easy of access, antecedent in use even to the elementary rules of science, and operating by those simple processes, which afford speedy and efficacious aid to the restorative powers of nature, when those powers have not been enfeebled by the artificial delicacies of luxury, and the frequent excesses of debauchery? Who hath taught the savage, with the quickness resembling instinct, to cull and apply the leaves and the juices and the roots of plants, which even the dreary forest and the uncultivated plains hath set before him, for the alleviation of pain? Who hath instructed man, in a more civilized form of society, to explore the deep bowels of the earth, to analyze the discriminating properties of various minerals, and to compound them in endless variety, and with exquisite art, for averting or mitigating the mischievous effects of disease? Hath not the same wise and gracious being vouchsafed to us manifold instances of his favour, not arbitrarily intended for personal distinction, but accompanied by the higher and inore sacred consideration of a trust, in exalted station and abundant wealth ? Hath he not enabled, as well as commanded us to weep with them that weep, and to rejoice with them that rejoice? Let us therefore, not forget that all are favours conferred by one and the same God—that all are trusts reposed in us by him—that all are intended by him for the joint benefit of the possessor, and of his fellow creatures that, according to the degree in which we have been entrusted, we must render an account of our stewardship-and that having received freely, on

the part of God, we are required on our part to give freely.

From these general observations upon the duty of charity, and the usefulness of the means which give us the power of being charitable, both to ourselyes and other men, I would proceed to direct your attention to those laudable and beneficial purposes, which are more closely and more visibly connected with the occasion, upon which we are now assembled in the sanctuary. Here, doubtless, we shall find the grace or favour of God to be manifold, and we shall also find, that under different aspects and in different degrees, we are all of us partakers of that favour, and that by such participation we are severally invested with a stewardship, for the diligent or negligent, the faithful or unfaithful application of which we shall be accountable at the last day. Are we placed in a situation which lifts us above the ġenerality of our brethren ? Then surely, as good stewards, we must encourage other men to charity by the authority of example, and so let our good works shine before men, as to convince them that fortuitous and external distinctions have not placed an impassable barrier between them and ourselves that pride has not imperceptibly and secretly extinguished our social affections—that it has not made us callous to the sufferings, from which by the providence of God, and not by our own merits, we are exempted-above all, that it has not blinded us entirely to the sight of numberless woes which, from causes inscrutable and irresistible, may one day or other overtake the sovereign on his throne as well as the peasant in his cottage. He that wields the mighty sceptre – he that inhabits the stately palacehe that is clothed with purple and fine linen, and fareth sumptuously every day, can plead no exemption from the pestilence that walketh in noon day—from the sudden changes of weather—from the pernicious influence of climate-from the latent and complicated malignity of hereditary disease — from the gradual decay of age—from the effects of violent passions and unruly appetites upon our bodily constitution-and from innumerable evils, which by the established laws of nature rush forth from their secret ambuscade, and spread havoc indiscriminately among the highest and lowest classes of mankind. While indeed we grant that men in particular situations are furnished with a larger share of means to prevent or alleviate some of the calamities of which I have been speaking, we cannot forget that by the same means they are at the same time furnished with the power of averting or alleviating the same calamities in the condition of their fellow creatures. We must not dissemble, that the advantages by which they are themselves distinguished, constitute a direct and peculiar obligation for them to manifest their thankfulness to God by their tender and active compassion to man. Has it been the will of Heaven to grant us a more ample portion of intellectual ability, and more numerous opportunities for cultivating it by the discipline of education ? Surely the knowledge we acquire is a trust reposed in us for lightening the miseries of other men, who by their daily toil, or their inferior talents, are excluded

« ՆախորդըՇարունակել »