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and more able to do deeds of charity and benevolence. It is the will of God that every one should " labor, working with his hands the thing which is good, that he may have to give to him that needeth." This is the virtuous and laudable motive which ought above all to govern men, in all their desires and exertions to abound in wealth and affluence.
5. If it be more blessed to give than to receive, then none have any reason to think that they are real christians, who have never experienced this peculiar blessedness. All who have been partakers of the divine nature, have felt and expressed the spirit of beneficence, and enjoyed the pure pleasure of doing good. This is an infallible criterion, by which all ought to try and determine their spiritual state.
The apostle Paul, after describing the marks of apostacy, in the sixth of Hebrews, represents acts of beneficence as good evidence of Christian sincerity. “ But, beloved, we are persuaded better things of you, and things that accompany salvation, though we thus speak. For God is not unrighteous, to forget your work and labor of love which ye have showed toward his name, in that ye have ministered to the saints, and do minister." The apostle James will not allow any person to have the least spark of grace, who is destitute of kindness and compas
, sion to the objects of charity. “What doth it profit, my brethren, though a man say he hath faith, and have not works ? can faith save him? If a brother or sister be naked and destitute of daily food; and one of you say unto them, Depart in peace, be ye warmed, and filled, notwithstanding ye give them not those things which are needful to the body; what doth it profit?" Pure religion and undefiled before God and the
“ Father is this: To visit the fatherless and the widows in their affliction,” &c. The benevolent apostle John makes beneficence essential to the Christian character, without which no person has any ground to view himself as possessed of the love of God. "But whoso hath this world's good, and seeth his brother have need, and shutteth up his bowels of compassion from him ; how dwelleth the love of God in him ?” - For he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen?” By this same criterion our Saviour tried the amiable young man in the gospel, and proved him to be entirely destitute of grace, notwithstanding his high pretensions to piety. “Then Jesus beholding him, loved him, and said unto him, One thing thou lackest: go thy way, sell whatsoever thou hast, and give to the poor; and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come, take up cross,
and follow me. And he was sad at that saying, and went away grieved; for he had great possessions. And Jesus looked round about,
and saith unto his disciples, How hardly shall they that have riches enter into the kingdom of God!" Beneficence is the most infallible rule, by which the professors of religion ought to try their own sincerity, and by which others ought to regulate their opinion of their piety. This method of trial is founded on the well known principle, that a good tree will yield good fruit, and a pure fountain will send forth pure streams, and a benevolent heart will produce beneficent actions. If those who profess to be better than others, would do more than others in acts of kindness and charity, they would exhibit that evidence of the reality, the beauty, and the importance of the Christian religion, which none of the ungodly world can gainsay or resist.
6. If it be more blessed to give than to receive, then the covetous and parsimonious defeat their own design, and take the direct method to diminish rather than to increase their temporal interest. There is not a few among men of easy and assluent circumstances, who endeavor to increase their fortunes and lay up goods for many years, not only by shutting their eyes and ears and hearts and hands against the objects of charity, but even by defrauding and oppressing the poor and necessitous. This course of conduct is extremely unwise, and may prove as injurious to themselves as it is unkind and unjust to others. If they would duly consult the dictates of their own reason and observation, and, especially, what God has said upon this subject, they would be fully convinced, that this their way is their folly; which directly tends to deprive them of the good they are seeking after, and to bring upon them the evil which they so greatly dread and labor to avoid." There is that scattereth, and yet increaseth; and there is that withholdeth more than is meet, but it tendeth to poverty."
“ He that withholdeth corn, the people shall curse him; but blessing shall be upon the head of him that selleih it." “ Whoso stoppeth his ears at the cry
of the poor, he also shall cry himself, but shall not be heard." that oppresseth the poor to increase his riches, and he that giveth to the rich, shall surely come to want." « Hear this, O ye that swallow up the needy, even to make the poor of the land to fail, saying, When will the new moon be gone, that we may sell corn? and the Sabbath, that we may set forth wheat; making the ephah small, and the shekel great, and falsifying the balances by deceit? That we may buy the poor for silver, and the needy for a pair of shoes; yea, and sell the refuse of the wheat? The Lord hath sworn by the excellency of Jacob, Surely I will never forget any of their works.” It is easy for God to blast the hopes and destroy the interests of such selfish, parsimonious, and hard hearted men, and they have great reason to
fear, that, while they are shutting up their bowels of compassion from the proper objects of compassion, God will either take away the property which he has given them, or turn it into a curse both to themselves and their posterity.
5. If it be more blessed to give than to receive, then those who are able to give, should esteem it a favor when Providence presents them with opportunities of giving. Our Lord told his disciples, “ Ye have the poor always with you.” God has wisely ordained, that there should always be objects of charity in this world, and fair opportunities of trying the hearts of the selfish, and of gratifying the hearts of the pious and beneficent. This is the reason God gave to his own peculiar people, why there should be always some poor and needy ones among them, and why they should cheerfully contribute to their comfort and relief. “ If there be among you a poor man of one of thy brethren, within any of thy gates in thy land which the Lord thy God giveth thee, thou shalt not harden thine heart, nor shut thine hand from thy poor brother; but thou shalt open thine hand wide unto him, and shalt surely lend him sufficient for his need, in that which he wanteth. Beware that
. there be not a thought in thy wicked heart, saying, The seventh year, the year of release is at hand; and thine eye be evil against thy poor brother, and thou givest him nought, and he cry unto the Lord against thee, and it be sin unto thee. Thou shalt surely give him, and thine heart shall not be grieved when thou givest unto him; because that for this thing the Lord thy God shall bless thee in all thy works, and in all thou puttest thine hand unto. For the poor shall never cease out of the land; therefore I command thee, saying, Thou shalt open thine hand wide unto thy brother, to thy poor, and to thy needy in the land.” The rich and the affluent have always had opportunities of giving, but they were never more highly favored with such opportunities, than at the present day. The great and interesting revolutions among both Christian and heathen nations, have opened a wide door for the ample display of general benevolence and private charity. There never have been in any age
of Christianity, perhaps, so many benevolent designs formed, to diffuse temporal and spiritual blessings among mankind, as at the present time. The Missionary Societies, the Tract Societies, the Bible Societies, the Theological Societies, and the various species of humane Societies, have greatly multiplied within these very few years. All these societies not only present opportunities of doing good, but loudly call upon all classes of men to contribute, in some mode or other, to the temporal and spiritual benefit of those who are suffering by a famine of bread, or a famine of knowledge, or a famine of hear
ing the word of the Lord. Let the rich, and all who enjoy a competency of the good things of life, improve these precious opportunities of giving from the purest motives and for the noblest ends. Let them every where contribute according to their abilities, for the comfort and relief of the poor, for the private and public instruction of youth, for the maintenance of ministers at home, for the support of missionaries abroad, and for the propagation of the gospel to the ends of the earth.
Let them cheerfully and unanimously enter into the wide field of benevolence and charity, which is now open before them. Let them not think nor say, There are yet four months, and then cometh the harvest; but lift up their eyes and look on the fields, which are white already to harvest. The time is come, the time that the Lord's house should be built. The time is come when christians of all denominations are praying for the prosperity of Zion, and expending their property for the enlargement of the Redeemer's kingdom. If you either refuse or neg. lect to open your hearts and your hands in aid to this most benevolent design of saving precious and immortal souls from endless misery, you will incur the highest displeasure of your final Judge. If thou forbear to deliver them that are drawn
66 unto death, and those that are ready to be slain; if thou sayest, Behold, we knew it not; doth not he that pondereth the heart consider it? and he that keepeth thy soul, doth not he know it? and shall not he render to every man according to his works ?” We do, therefore, agreeably to the apostle's directions, “charge them that are rich in this world, that they be not high minded, nor trust in uncertain riches, but in the living God, who giveth us all things richly to enjoy. That they do good, that they be rich in good works, ready to distribute, 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.” A mere pang of compassion, or a solitary act of beneficence, will not fulfil your Christian obligations, nor establish your Christian characters, nor afford you the blessedness of the bountiful giver. You must devise and pursue liberal things, and keep your hearts and hands continually open to deeds of charity. You must, in a word, live up to the spirit of our Saviour's command to all his followers: "Sell that ye have, and give alms : provide for yourselves bags which wax not old, a treasure in the heavens that faileth not.”
SERMON X X XIV.
THE EXHIBITION OF CHRIST TRIES THE HUMAN
AND Simeon blessed them, and said urto Mary his mother, Behold, this child is set for the fall and rising again of many in Israel, and for a sign that shall be spo. ken against; (yea, a sword shail pierce through thy own soul also, that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed. - LUKE, ii. 34, 35.
Though Christ was born in a low and obscure condition, yet never, perhaps, did two parents in Israel perform the rite of dedication with such emotions of heart, as Joseph and Mary felt, when they appeared in the temple, and publicly consecrated to God their child, their Saviour, and their Sovereign. At the same time, good old Simeon came in, and raised the tide of their affections. After praising God for the long expected Messiah, and for the opportunity of seeing the young Redeemer, he addressed the mother of our Lord in the words I have read.
Behold, this child is set for the fall and rising again of many in Israel, and for a sign which shall be spoken against; that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.” It appears from this declaration, which was made under a divine impulse, that it was the design of God, in exhibiting the Son of his love before his people Israel, to try their hearts and fix their final state. And we must suppose that he means to answer the same important purpose, from age to age, by exhibiting the character and conduct of the blessed Saviour before the minds of men, through the medium of the gospel. This, therefore, is the truth to be illustrated in the present discourse :
That God exhibits Christ before the minds of men, in order to try their hearts and fix their future state.