« ՆախորդըՇարունակել »
for them that despite fully use you; and' persecute you ; that ye may be the children of your Father, which is in Heaven : for he maketh his sun tori:e on the evil and on the good.”
Charity consists of two parts, patience and benevolence. By the one, we suffer every kind of indig. nity, without entertaining a thoughé 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 cha. rity, discovers to us the extent of this virtue, in the followiog 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 thurst with a sword for an abusive word ; a pistol shot for a satyrical expression ; " but I say unto you, resist not,'' according to the maxims of those, by whom you are evilentreated ; " 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 world. ly substance, and if any man will sue thee ät tie law, and take away thy coat, let him hare lliy clock also :" i. e. far from exacting wiih rige ui's le ready to l'emit imuch of thy right, for the maintenance of peace; since it is beitei to suffer a double injustice, iban to lack condescension and charity. And whosvever shall compel thee to go a mile, go 'with him twain :" i. e. merely yieiding to oihers in things, that are good, or indifferent, is not enough ; thy charity should rather prevent and surprize 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 degrec, but altogether di
vine. In point of quality, he requires, that it should be equal to the inexpressible love of the Father; as à drop taken from the ocean is of the same nature with those mighty waves, that roll over the unfa. thomable 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 thie body, unto the cdifying of itself in love. In Jesus Christ neither circumcision evaileth any thing, nor uncircumcision ; but faith, which workelh 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 chartiy as the foremost of the train : and when St. Peter recounts the virtues which a christian should add to his faith, fie concludes with the finishing graces of “brotherly kindness and charity." Both these ideas are after wards 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 ove one another, for he that loveth another, in obedience lo Christ's command, “ hath fulfilled the law. Charity never faileth ;' inasmuch as it is the source of hea. venly joy. “Now, in the church militant, “abideth faith, hope and charity ; but the greatest of these is charity,” which shall eternally animate the church triuinphant. r ,
.. . we'ls, ..., Even here on earth, it is counted as the beginning of eternal life, to know, by faith, that God is love, and that he seeks to gain our affections by, blessings without number. A discovery of this kind cannot but give rise to some grateful return in the soul; since it is impossible firmly to believe these ravishing truths, without crying out, like the first chris, tians, We love him, because he first loved us." If God has mercifully made the first advances 10. ward his rebellious creatures ; if, notwithstanding the distance between him and us be infinite, and the obstacles to our union innumerable, he yet graciously presents himself in spite of all ; if he yet inclines to pardon the guilty, and endeavours to reconcile the world unto himself by Jesus Christ ; what conscious heart can be unaffected with these tokens of his love, or what tongue be silent in his praise ?
This God of charity thus affectionately addresses an ancient class of his servants ; " I have loved thee with an everlasting love; therefore, with loving kind. ness have I drawn thee.” The favour which he here expresses toward the Jewish church, is great ; but that, which he testifies to the christian church, is still more astonishing. Ilis Son, the living and eternal
jinage of his Father, humbles himself to the dust, . and invests himself with our nature, that raising us
from our low estate, he may, at length, place us üt the right hand of the Majesty on high. “He loved the church,” saith St. Paul," and gave himself for it, that he might sanctify and cleanse it, and that he might present it to hiinseli, a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing." Thus
A a 2
he has given to believers an example of the love which they ought to entertain for all their christian: brethren, and to husbands a pattern of the attache ment they should feel to their wives ; since he left the bosom of his father, for the very purpose of suffering with, and for his church, which in the language of scripture is called his spouse. But, adds the Apostle, “this is a great mystery." Now the true minister is bappily initiated into this grand mystery of charity. He can say, with Peter, “Lord thou knowest all things, thou knowest that I love thee:" he can testify, with Paul, “the love of Christ constraineth me: and, at other times, when the emo: tions of his heart are too tender for utterance, tears of gratitude and joy, silently cry out, like those of dissolving Mary, Lord thou art worthy of all my love, since thou hast graciously pardoned all my sin. Animated with this love, he publicly insists upon universal charity, with all the ardour of St. John, testifying that it flows from the knowledge of God, and must be considered as the root of christian obedience. “Hereby," saith be," perceive me the love of God, because he laid down his life for us: and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren. My little children, let us not love in word, neither in tongue ; but,'' according to the example of Christ,“ in deed and in truth:” for', " if God so loved us, we ought also to love one another." And rememher, i he that loveth nui, knoweth not God, for God is love."
Although Christ evidently came to break down the wall of separation between the Jews and Gen. Liles, by preacliing the doctrine of universal charily'; yet he willed, that believers should love one another with a peculiar degree of affection. We are required 10 meet the unregenerate with a love of benerolence : but believers should be bound to each othér by ties so tender and powerful, that the world may acknowledge them to be men of one heart and one soul. " By this," saith our Lord, « shall all men
know that ye are my disciples, if ye bave love one to another:" And who can describe the generosity, the sweetness, the strength, and the constance, of this enliyeping grace? It is more active than the penetrating flame ; it is stronger than death. " Tlie communion of saints," is received among christiári's as à sentence in their 'established creedl: happy would it be, did it constitute a part of their religious experience! As to the difference betwixt christian charity, and that which was requires under the law; it seems to be satisfactorily pointed out by S!. John, in the following passage ; " Brethren I write no new commandment unto you, but an old com. mandment, which ye had from the beginning :" for Moses himself earnestly exhorted his people to maintain among themselves ihe fire of fraternal love. " Again, a new covenant I write unto you :" new, in relation to Christ, who hath loved us not only as himself, but even more than himself ; since he otiered up his life a ransome for the rebellious. Moses tasted not of death for Pharoah, as Jesus did for Pilate, Herod, and Caiaphas. The christian legislator alone requires a charity of this perfectly disinterested nature ; and for the support of so exalted a precept, he has seconded it with his own great ex. ample. “Ilerein is love,” continues the Apostle, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Love," then, is undoubtedly of God;" flowing from him, ,25 from an inexhaustable spring ; " and he that loveth, after the same pure and fervent manner, "is born of God, and knoweth God." 1. This charily is set forth by St. Paul, as a source of consolation. " if," saith be to the Philippians, " there be any comfort in love, be ve like-minded, having the same love" one to another: and, 6 let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus." And in another epistle, he cries out; " I have a great conflict for them at Laodicea, ihat their hearts night be comforted, teing knit together in love.".