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death is a very solemn and important day. The day when Christ poured out his soul unto death, was a solemn and distressing day. He then drank the bitter cup which his Father put into his hand, and which caused him to exclaim in the language of distress, “Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani? My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?" The day of death was extremely solemn and interesting to the two poor, guilty creatures, who were crucified and expired with him. That day determined their everlasting destiny. It put a final period to their probationary state, and fixed them both in an unalterable and eternal condition. It was a day of eternal salvation to one, and a day of eternal destruction to the other. The day of death has been equally terrible and interesting to thousands of other poor creatures, who have been sent into eternity under similar solemn circumstances. It was a day of awsul solemnity, which the last week determined the eternal destiny of four poor, guilty, miserable creatures.* It appeared so, I presume, to all who beheld the awful scene. But the circumstances of death are never so solemn and interesting, as the eternal consequences which follow from it. And these are essentially the same, let death come at what time and in what form it may. Death is now on his way to arrest every one of us, and how soon he will lay his cold hand upon us, we know not. The day is certainly near to and cannot be far distant from
We are all condemned to die, and the sentence will soon be executed upon us; for there is no reprieve from death; there is no discharge from that war. It deeply concerns each of us to ask himself, Have I cordially justified God and his law, in my condemnation ? Have I condemned myself as the law condemns me? Have I accepted the punishment of mine iniquity ? Have I with unreserved submission and a sincere faith turned my eye to Christ, and committed myself to his sovereign mercy ? Have I ever felt as that poor, guilty, humble, submissive, penitent, believing creature, felt, to whom Christ said, “ To-day shalt thou be with me in paradise?" If any of you, my hearers, can sincerely answer these questions in the affirmative to your own satisfaction, you must be, in your own view, prepared for the day of death. But if any of you cannot answer these questions sincerely in the affirmative, you are not, in your own view, prepared to meet the king of terrors. And if you are now, and continue to be impenitent and unbelieving, you must all, like the impenitent criminal on the cross, eventually and eternally perish. But why will ye die? Life, as well as death, is set before you. Choose life, and you shall live.
# The execution of four criminals, near Boston, February, 1819.
SERMON X X XIII.
THE GIVER MORE BLESSED THAN THE RECEIVER.
I Bave showed you all things, how that so laboring ye ought to support the weak, and to remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he said, It is
more blessed to give than to receive. - Acts, xx. 35.
Our Saviour went about doing good. He sought opportunities of healing the sick, of relieving the distressed, and of supplying the wants of the needy. He labored, he suffered, and even died for the benefit of mankind. And besides displaying such a bright example of beneficence, he abundantly inculcated this duty in both his public and private discourses. He said at one time,“ Give to him that asketh thee.” He said at another time, “ Give alms of such things as ye have.” He said to his apostles in particular, “ Freely ye have received, freely give.” Being invited to a certain house, he said to the master of it, “ When thou makest a feast, call the poor, the maimed, the lame, the blind, and thou shalt be blessed; for they cannot recompense thee; for thou shalt be recompensed at the resurrection of the just.” He publicly applauded the poor widow, who cast her two mites into the treasury. He also spake the parable of the good Samaritan, to illustrate the beauty and excellence of a beneficent spirit; to which he subjoined this perpetual precept, “Go and do thou likewise."
, " These sayings of Christ are alone sufficient to justify the exhortation in the text, “ Remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he said, It is more blessed to give than to receive.”_But since we do not find these identical words in any of the Evangelists, we are led to conjecture, that the writer of the Acts refers to a certain expression which Christ often used in free and familiar conversation with his disciples, and which they were still able to recollect. It is certain, however, that Christ taught the sentiment in the text, whether he ever did or did not expressly say, “ It is more blessed to give than to receive.” This expression needs no comment, though it seems to contain a paradox. Many perhaps are ready to think that Christ might have said with more propriety, “It is more blessed to receive than to give." But it will be the business of this discourse to make it appear, that his declaration is strictly true, " It is more blessed to give than to receive." To illustrate this practical truth, and impress it upon every mind, I would observe,
I. There is more real pleasure in giving than in receiving.
Solomon says, " Every man is a friend to him that giveth gifts.”
There is always a pleasure in receiving a gift from the hands of a benefactor; and this pleasure is sometimes greatly heightened by the circumstances of the receiver, or the disposition of the giver. A seasonable gift is acceptable, because it is immediately beneficial to the receiver. · A necessary gift is still more acceptable, because it comes in a time of want, and removes some pressing calamity or distress. A great gist excites greater joy, because it not only gratifies the natural desire of property, but throws the mind into a state of pleasing surprise and admiration. Indeed, any gist, whether great or small, never fails to afford a sensible pleasure to the receiver, when it comes as a mark of affection and esteem from the giver. But in these and all other cases, the giver is more blessed than the receiver. There is a higher and purer happiness in rejoicing in the good of others, than in rejoicing in our own good. The receiver rejoices in his own happiness; and let his joy rise ever so high, it still terminates in himself. But the giver has a nobler pleasure, which arises from a nobler source. Instead of rejoicing in his own good, he rejoices in the good of others. As he regards their good in giving, so he enjoys their happiness in receiving; and this is the purest affection and finest feeling of the human heart. It bears the nearest resemblance to the felicity of Him, who delighteth in mercy. Though giving and receiving may flow from the same benevolent spirit
, yet the pleasure of giving as far surpasses the pleasure of receiving, as godly joy surpasses godly submission. In receiving gratefully, there is a mixture of submission to our state of dependence; but in giving freely, there is a mixture of joy in being able to give. There is no deduction from the pleasure of giving; but there is a deduction from the pleasure of receiving. The receiver is laid under obligation to the giver; but the giver is laid under no obligation to the receiver. And who can doubt whether it be not more blessed to give, than to receive an obligation? All the circumstances also, which have
been mentioned, 'as enhancing the pleasure of receiving, equally enhance the pleasure of giving. The giver is gratified when he finds the receiver benefited. The giver is more gralified, when he finds the receiver is relieved from a burden or calamity. The giver feels a satisfaction in proportion to the magnitude and importance of the bounty he bestows. And he who gives to express his love and esteem of the receiver, gratifies the noblest feeling of his heart. In a word, let the giver's and the receiver's feelings be compared, and every one must acknowledge the truth of our Saviour's maxim : « It is more blessed to give than to receive."
II. There is more virtue in giving, than in receiving; and therefore the giver is more happy than the receiver.
The receiver may, indeed, exercise virtue in accepting a favor from the hand and heart of his benefactor. He may feel true gratitude to the person who places his own happiness in doing him good. And as such gratitude is a branch of pure benevolence, so it is a virtuous exercise of heart. Hence the receiver may exercise virtue in some proportion to the kindness of the giver. But nevertheless there is more virtue in giving than in receiving. The virtue of the receiver principally consists in a suitable regard to himself; but the virtue of the giver altogether consists in a proper regard to others. And surely there is more virtue in regarding the good of others, than in regarding merely our own good. There are many circumstances which augment the virtue of giving, that do not enhance the virtue of receiving. The poverty, the distress, and even the unworthiness of the receiver, augment the virtue of the giver. The generality of mankind are more disposed to give to the rich than to the poor. This our Saviour remarked and condemned. But it is truly Godlike to bestow favors upon the evil and unthankful. Besides, the virtue of the giver is always equal to his design in giving. A man may give a Bible or some other good book to a poor and vicious person, with a sincere design to promote his spiritual and eternal benefit; but he may have a mean or wicked design in receiving it. And it is generally true, that the giver has much more noble and extensive views than the receiver. This our Saviour intimated in his observation upon the conduct of the poor widow. Her virtue was in proportion to her good intention in giving. She might have had a much greater good in view, than those who cast in of their abundance. The giver of two mites to promote the spread of the gospel and the salvation of sinners may be far more virtuous, than one who gives a thousand dollars for the promotion of a less benevolent and important design. The intention of the giver fixes the degree of his virtue, whether the design for which he gives be eventually obtained or defeated, or whatever be the consequence of his giving to an individual or to the public.
But there is another thing, which principally magnifies the virtue of the giver, and that is, his self denial. There is more self denial in giving than in receiving. He that gives diminishes his interest, but he that receives increases his property. The true giver never gives with a design or expectation of Feceiving. This our Saviour says is totally inconsistent with real charity. And the wise man suggests the same idea, when he compares giving to one's casting his bread upon the waters,
, without any present prospect of ever seeing it again. Real giving, in all cases, implies the parting with so much of our property, as we bestow upon others; and for this reason it is an act of self denial, which is the essence of virtue and the infallible measure of it. Men always have just as much virtue as they have self denial. And those who give, may exercise more or less self denial, according to their wealth or poverty. The poor widow exercised great self denial, because she gave all her living, or the whole of her temporal interest. The Israelites who contributed so largely for the erecting of the tabernacle in the wilderness, probably spared the most of the property which they brought out of Egypt. The Jews, in the days of Ezra and Nehemiah, spent a large portion of their treasure in repairing the walls of Jerusalem, and in rebuilding and furnishing the Temple. The famous Howard of England, who died a few years ago, expended vast sums for the relief of the poor and distressed in his own, and other countries, besides all his labor, danger and pains in finding out objects of charity. It appears from these and innumerable other instances of liberality, that those who give may exercise very high degrees of self denial, and of course very high degrees of true virtue. But we never read in the Bible, nor any where else, of the self denial of receiving. The receiver has no natural bias, habit, or inclination to counteract; but the giver has all these natural obstacles to overcome. So that the giver stands far superior to the receiver in point of virtue, and consequently in point of blessedness. For virtue and happiness are naturally connected, and bear the intimate relation of cause and effect. Virtue always affords happiness, unless some incidental cause intervenes to prevent it, and therefore where no such cause occurs to obstruct the natural tendency of virtue, the giver is always more blessed than the receiver.
III. God promises to reward the giver, but not the receiver. This remarkable distinction plainly intimates that it is more blessed to give than to receive. God promises to reward men