Imatges de pÓgina

position recommends his opinions, his rules of life, his various conduct, and the several plans, which he proposes for the benefit of mankind. Multitudes will embark with readiness and ardour in the promotion of purposes, which he recommends; because they are recommended by him; because they think favourably of whatever he proposes, and love to unite with him in any pursuit. Thus, this spirit, beside rendering him eminently agreeable to others, gives him an influence with mankind, which he could not otherwise possess; and in the happiest manner increases his power to do good. It deserves particular consideration, that some of the most popular men, who have ever lived in this country, have not been distinguished for brilliancy of genius, extensiveness of views, or profoundness of research; but, while they possessed respectable talents, were remarkably distinguished by the disposition, which I have here described.

Of this disposition, Contentment is the uniform, and the only efficacious, source. By a discontented man, it can be assumed only by effort, and for a moment; and must speedily, and characteristically, give way to the uneasy, fretful spirit, which has taken possession of his mind. There is, indeed, a native good humour, which is pleasant to the possessor, and very agreeable to those with whom he converses. But this desirable disposition, although possessing many advantages, is radically defective, because it is a mere propensity, and not a moral principle. Too frail to sustain the rude shocks, or the long-continued pressure, of adversity, it is prone to give way in seasons of severe trial; and is incapable of the serene and steady endurance, so characteristical of a contented mind. Such a mind may bend; but, while life lasts, it will not break. Where native good humour would shrink, and fly, from the conflict, on innumerable occasions; the Contented mind will firmly brave the danger; sustain the assault; and, with a cool, noiseless, unruffled energy, in the end, overcome. At the same time, such a mind will always find at hand a Divine Auxiliary, an Almighty Friend, ever present, ever watchful, ever extending his arm to protect, strengthen, and give the victory. This indispensable aid, native good humour cannot claim. All its ultimate reliance is fixed on this world. Its eye is never lifted upward; but fastens on earth, and time, for all its resources. Contentment, on the contrary, while she finds more sweetness in earthly enjoymen* than good humour can ever find, and far more effectually lightens the pressure of calamity by the assistance, which this world presents, fixes her eye on the Heavens for superior aid; and sees the thickest darkness of suffering, and even of death, delightfully il lumined by beams of Glory, shining from beyond the grave!



1 TIMOTHY VI. 17-19.-Charge them that are rich in this world—that they do good, that they be rich in good works, ready to distribule, willing to communicate; laying up in store for themselves a good foundation against the time to come, that they may lay hold on eternal life.

THERE are, as I have heretofore observed, two attributes of the human mind, in the indulgence of which, we especially disobey the Tenth Command, viz. Ambition and Avarice. Contentment is opposed to both, particularly to the former. What in modern times is called Charity, that is, a disposition cheerfully to impart our property, and kind offices to the poor, and suffering, is especially opposed to the latter. Of course, it naturally becomes the next subject of our consideration, in our progress.

In examining it, I propose briefly to point out,

I. The Nature of this duty;

II. The Persons, to whom; and,

III. The Manner, in which, it is to be performed; and,

IV. The Motives to the performance.

I. I will endeavour to explain the Nature of this duty.

It has been already mentioned as a general definition of Charity, as an attribute of the human mind, that it is a disposition cheerfully to impart our property, and our kind offices, to the poor and suffering. But we are not to suppose that every cheerful communication of these benefits to persons of this description, merits the name of Charity in the evangelical sense.

Persons often aid the suffering merely from ostentation. These will not be suspected of Charity.

Others do the same thing merely to free themselves from the importunate applications of those, by whom it is solicited. This will not be mistaken for Charity.

Some, and those not a few, impart their property to the distressed, because they place little value upon property. Neither will this be soberly considered as charitable conduct.

Some perform charitable acts to free themselves from those reproaches of conscience, which they are assured will follow the refusal of such acts.

Multitudes perform offices of this nature from the hope of ac quiring the esteem of others, and the various benefits which it is expected to confer.

Other multitudes extend relief to sufferers from a native spirit of generosity. This is amiable; but is not even an intentional VOL. III.


performance of any duty, and can therefore possess no evangelical character.

Others still do the same things, under the influence of constitutional compassion, or native tenderness. This also is amiable, but for the same reason does not partake of an evangelical nature.

Some perform actions of this class, because they have been taught and habituated in early life to perform them as a duty. Though they merit and obtain the esteem of those around them, yet they never with the heart, or in the evangelical sense, perform any duty.

Others do works of this nature, because they have been accustomed to commend them highly, and are thus compelled to charitable exertions, for the sake of maintaining consistency of char


Finally; Not a small number pursue a charitable course of life, because they think actions of this nature the sum and substance of religion, and expect by them to recommend themselves to the favour of God, and to obtain the blessings of a happy immortality These men, whether aware of it or not, are intending to purchase neaven by paying the price, which they suppose to be set upon it in the Gospel.

It must undoubtedly be admitted, that, in several of these cases, that which is actually done, is done cheerfully, and that property and kind offices are really imparted to the distressed; yet in none of them, at least in my opinion, is there any degree of evangelical charity.

Charity, in the evangelical sense, is no other than the Beneficence required by the Gospel, administered, with the disposition which it requires, to a particular class of mankind, viz. those who are, or without this administration, would be, in circumstances of distress. The disposition, which is here intended, is that Love which is the fulfilling of the law, the genuine source of every other duty.

If this account of the subject be admitted, it must also be conceded, that all acts of real charity are performed from a sense of duty, and with an intention to obey God in the performance, and that this is indispensable to its very existence. It cannot therefore be the result of native tenderness or compassion. No virtue is in the proper sense an exercise of any human passion. Virtue, in all instances, is the energy of the mind directed to that which is right, or, in other words, agreeable to the will of God and conducive to the good of the universe, because it is believed to be of this nature. The native affections of the mind are in several instances amiable, and often contribute to enhance and adorn the real exercise of virtue; but in themselves they are never, in the evangelical sense, virtuous. That which is done without any sense of duty, and without an intention to perform a duty, can never sustain the character of virtue.

Further; It is plain, if the above observations be admitted, that Charity, in the sense of the Gospel, is disinterested. The design, in every act which is entitled to this name, is to do real good to those who are its objects. The intention of the author of it will invariably be to promote the happiness, or to relieve the distresses of the sufferer; not to advance his own reputation, to promote his own selfish purposes, nor even to prevent the reproaches of his own conscience. In a word, Selfishness, of whatever kind, and in whatever form it may exist, is not Charity.

In addition to these things, it may be observed, that evangelical charity demands, essentially, that we take delight in doing the good which is to be done. It is more blessed; in the original, it is more happy; to give than to receive; that is, It is an employment, a character, attended of course with a higher degree of happiness: or to declare the same truth in a more universal form; It is a happier state to communicate good to others, than to gain it from their hands. He, who does not find some degree of this happiness in bestowing alms and other kindnesses upon his suffering fellow-creatures, has not yet begun to be charitable.

II. The Persons to whom these offices of kindness are to be performed, are various.

These are, universally, such as already suffer, or have become liable to, some distress; to relieve or prevent which, the kind offices included under the name of charity, are necessary. It will readily occur, that, within this broad description, there must be not only many persons, but many classes of persons, differing very materially in their character and circumstances, and having therefore very different claims upon the kind offices of their fellowmen. Among these are found all gradations of character and of suffering.

The class, which first obtrudes itself upon the eye, is that of the common wandering Beggars; seen in every country, and particularly in the streets of every city. There are not wanting persons, and those of a fair reputation, who hold that alms ought not to be given to this miserable class of mankind. In their view, charity administered to them answers scarcely any other purpose than to encourage idleness, intemperance, and other vices to which these degraded beings are so generally addicted. Whatever is done for them, it is observed, is ordinarily useless, and worse than useless to themselves; and might always be bestowed on more deserving objects, and with happier effects. That, to a great extent, these observations are just, cannot be questioned. But it may be questioned, whether they are capable of so universal an applicationSome of these persons, and the number is not small, are unable to labour; and are yet without friends or home. To wander, scemr necessary for the preservation of their health, and even of theis lives. It is not true of all of them, that they are vicious, nor that vice has been the means of reducing them to their present suffer

ings. I know of no evangelical principle, which warrants us to leave them to perish, or to refuse the proper means of alleviating their distresses.

We commanded you, says St Paul to the Thessalonians, that if any would not work, neither should he eat. But it will not be supposed, that the Apostle intended to include in this prohibition those who are unable to work, many of whom are found in this class of the indigent. To these, subsistence, comforts, medicines, and whatever kind offices are necessary, cannot be denied. Were no person suffered to wander in this manner, but such as I have described, probably objections never would have been started against admitting them within the pale of charity.

As to the really idle and vicious members, of which almost the whole of this class is apparently composed, it is in my opinion the duty of every government to force them, by every vindicable and necessary measure, to labour for their own subsistence.

Individuals are often unable to distinguish among the wandering applicants for charity, which are proper objects of their bounty. In this uncertainty, it seems to be a good rule to relieve the distresses occasioned by hunger and nakedness, whenever we cannot satisfactorily prove imposition on the part of the applicant. Money is given to such persons, when given at all, without answering any valuable end.

Concerning the administration of charity to sufferers of every other description, there will be no dispute.

Among these, those whom Providence has stationed in our own neighbourhood seem, in ordinary cases, to have superior claims for relief upon us for three reasons; viz. that it is in our power to do them more good than we can do to others, because they are within our reach; that the poor who are at a distance from us will find other benefactors in their vicinity; and that, if we do not take a charitable care of those who surround us, they will ordinarily be without relief. It may be generally said, that Providence has placed them under our eye for the very purpose of awakening our beneficence towards them; and has thus, in a manner which may be called express, required this service at our hands.

A distinction ought to be made among these, on the score of that modesty which prevents some of them from soliciting benefactions, and even from making known their sufferings; on account of the industry and faithfulness, with which some of them labour, amid many discouragements, to supply their own wants; as well as with regard to the uprightness of their dispositions and the blamelessness of their lives. All these are obvious recommendations to evangelical charity. We are to do good unto all men as we have opportunity, but especially to them who are of the household of faith. The poor and suffering, who belong to this household, have the first of all claims to the good which we are able to do. To relieve the distresses of these men, when the relief springs

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