Imatges de pàgina

vour to convert them from the error of their ways, and exhort them to turn to the obedience of the just ? Might we not expostulate with them on the great enormity of immoral conduct, and shew them the excellence and the beauty of holiness? Could we not repeat our solicitations and entreaties to forsake vice, and become virtuous, till we have prevailed with them to change their conduct? We may indeed say, it is no business of ours to reform our neighbours, neither will delicacy nor good breeding allow us to mention their faults in order to reclaim them. But though indeed prudence is required in our attempts to improve the character of others, it is still a duty which mercy to their souls requires at our hands. Let us then take every opporturity of warning the careless against the danger of continuing without God in the world; remonstrate with the vicious on the folly and wickedness of transgression; and build up those who are desirous of being good, in the love and practice of universal holiness.

If others are suffering mental anguish, from sorrow and dejection, occasioned by losses either in their families or fortunes; mercy requires us to soothe and comfort them in their distress. Many are the calamities which embitter human life, and render our condition in this world a weary pilgrimage. Sometimes the death of friends occasions a load of anguish, by which our spirits are oppressed and broken. At such seasons the mind of the surviving sufferer requires the sympathy and comfort which others can bestow; and callous indeed would be our hearts, if we refused to minister to their relief. Then might we represent the alleviating circumstances, which should render the death of our nearest friends at least tolerable: that we must all die sooner or later by the law of mortality; that God calls his people hence at the most proper seasons, and that those who die in the Lord have entered into bliss. · Wherefore we should comfort the disconsolate with these words.-Also, when others suffer worldly losses and embarrassments, let us remind them that this world is not intended as an unmixed scene of happiness; that pains as well as pleasures are our portion, to teach us that this is not our rest; and that we should not set our affections on things on earth, but transfer them to things in heaven. By exhibiting such subjects of consolation as these, we might perform an important act of mercy to their souls, by soothing their sorrows and relieving their anguish.

But, as men have bodies, as well as souls; mercy requires us to contribute to their outward wants which are often many and distressing. There are several objects of pity, to whom our mercy and compassion may be extended in various ways. Often the widow and the orphan are left on the world friendless and unprovided; these have a powerful claim on our sympathetic affections. To them we should open our hands liberally, either by charitable contributions to relieve their necessities; or by bestowing such things as are needful for the body. We should enquire into the circumstances of such individuals as are thus destitute of any regular provision for the supply of their daily wants; and devise such generous plans for their relief as may be effectual to promote their comfort. We shall soon discover, what species of charity will be most beneficial for the person who is the object of our bounty. If he be young, let us along with others endeavour to provide for his education ; if advancing towards manhood, let us procure for him employment by which he may earn his subsistence: and if old, let us minister to his wants by a regular supply of pecuniary allowance, or of such food and raiment as may be requisite for necessary purposes. We may indeed allege that we cannot spare much from the exigencies of our own families, to bestow in acts of beneficence and charity. But surely it is possible to save a small pittance from our superfluities, which might contribute somewhat to relieve the needy. If every one around us would do the same, the condition of many helpless individuals might be greatly ameliorated, so that want and wretchedness would be often unknown.Perhaps one of the most efficient methods which we could adopt, in administering our charity, would be to reserve a stated portion of our income, however small, for contributing to the support of the poor and indigent. Accordingly the apostle Paul seems to recommend this plan of being charitable, when he advises Christians to “ lay by

them in store as God had prospered them, that they might have to give to them that needed.” Every man should consider how much he might spare from his expenditure for distributing to the necessities of his poorer brethren; and if he bestows a portion suited to his income, it will be acceptable in the sight of God, “ according to what he hath, and not according to what he hath not.” When, therefore, we know any destitute family, who are left friendless and unprovided, let us afford them assistance according to our ability; when we know of any private individual, who, from the pressure of worldly calamities, or the want of employment, is reduced to extremity; let us supply them with temporary relief. When we behold the needy traveller wandering from place to place, without bread to eat or a home to shelter him; let us commi. sorate his distress, open our hands for his timely succour, and give him such things as may supply his wants. Little do we know of the Christian spirit, if we can be indifferent to the distresses which our fellow-creatures endure. If our hearts feel with the genuine sympathy of human nature, we will be alive to the miseries of others; we will be full of mercy and of good fruits; we will not shut up our bowels of compassion against any object of pity, whose wants we can supply. “ True religion, before God," says an apostle, “is this, to visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction:" and says another; “ though I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, yet if I have not charity I am nothing." High are the encomiums bestowed on this beneficent virtue throughout the whole page of scripture; and every saint whose name has been transmitted to posterity, has abounded in charity and alms to the poor. Thus Job, who was righteous in his generation, obtained a good report, because he was bountiful as he had opportunity. “ When the ear heard him, then it blessed him; and when the eye saw, it gave witness to him; because he delivered the poor that cried, the fatherless and him that had none to help him. The blessing of many that were ready to perish came upon him, and he caused the widow's heart to sing for joy.” What an amiable character is this! how worthy to be imitated by every one who would be a benefactor of mankind! We may not indeed have it in our power to be so extensively beneficent as the patriarch Job, and other eminent saints, whose wealth enabled them to relieve the wants of others. But we have instances of several minor deeds of charity, recorded in scripture for our imitation; to shew us, that our gifts to the poor, however small, are still acceptable in the sight of God. Thus, we read of the Centurion “ who gave much alms to the people ;” of Dorcas “ who made clothes to the poor;” nay, of the poor widow " who threw her mite into the treasury." Great was the approbation bestowed by God on these and other holy persons, for their charitable deeds. An angel was commissioned from heaven to send Peter to instruct the good Centurion in words whereby he and all his house might be saved. St. Paul restored to life the benevolent Dorcas; and our Lord himself commended the poor widow, as more charitable than all they who had cast into the treasury.-We are not indeed to expect such signal marks of the divine favour on our alms and charity; but we know not that though not now signalized, we shall be recompensed for every deed of beneficence at the resurrection of the just.

It now remains to explain the other duty here required of us, to walk humbly before God. This comprehends all those practical regards to him which a pious man will entertain in the course of his conduct. We then walk humbly with our God, when, from a persuasion of his omniscience, and omnipresence with us, we live as secing him who is invisible;-abstain from all appearance of evil, because it would be displeasing in his sight ;-and preserve the purity of our minds, because he searcheth the heart, and trieth the reins of the children of men. We walk humbly before God, when we pay him that religious homage, which we perceive to be due to the perfections of his nature; and celebrate his goodness for bestowing upon us all things pertaining to life and to godliness. We walk humbly before God, when, from a sense of our sins and imperfections, we are ashamed to look up to the throne of grace; but in the contrition of our souls exclaim, God be merciful to us sinners; it is of thy mercies we are not

[ocr errors]

consumed, and because thy compassions fail not. We walk humbly before God, when, from the experience of our frailty in time past, we dare not form resolutions of obedience for the future, unless through the strength of divine assistance enabling us to will and to do God's good pleasure ;-and unless we receive a supply of spiritual influences to help our iufirmities, and stablish us “ with all might in the inner man.” We walk humbly with our God, when we ascribe to his abundant grace the disposi. tions which we have to live as becometh saints; and that he hath called us by an holy calling, to glory and to virtue; while others may be dead in trespasses and sins. But while we are still encompassed with many imperfections, and stand in need of pardon for our well-meant services; we then walk humbly with our God, when we earnestly implore his mercy and forgiveness;-to impute not our sins nor our trespasses unto us ;-—but to regard them as atoned for on the cross of Christ. When also we endeavour to cease from doing evil, and learn to do well, to maintain our integrity, and to persevere in well-doing; we walk humbly with our God, if we are still conscious of our defects;- and when we have done all, esteem ourselves "unprofitable servants.” If we have a sincere desire to attain the end of our faith, even the salvation of our souls; we walk humbly before God, when we ascribe the hopes of everlasting happiness which we entertain, to the unmerited favour of our gracious Redeemer, who hath prepared mansions of glory for his faithful people. In these and many other respects, may we walk humbly before God, and perform every duty of devotion and piety which religion requires. But as this subject is too extensive to be discussed in detail, I proceed,

III. To shew very shortly our obligations to perform these duties of justice, mercy, and piety, from the motives furnished to us, both by reason and revelation.

As we are informed of the essential difference between good and evil, the excellence of the one, and the deformity of the other, by the perceptions of our minds ;—the experience of some actions producing happiness, and others

« AnteriorContinua »