صور الصفحة
النشر الإلكتروني

it is connected as by a vital bond of influence with this first principle of all true religion, it springs from its proper root, and becomes itself the fulfilment of the second great command. The Christian philanthropist therefore is the man whose benevolent actions are emphatically “ works of faith and labours of love." He looks to Calvary, and sees there the grand incentive to all virtue. The influence under which he acts is not the temporary excitement of sympathetic feeling, nor the sentimental emotion of a poetic generosity, nor the feverish thirst for distinction and applause, nor the mere mechanical habit of doing as others have done ; but it is a divine influence-a motive which comes fresh into his bosom from the fount of all purity and grace, and which instigates not to a fitful, but to a persevering—not to an indolent, but to an indefatigable -not to a self-complacent, but to a self-denying exercise of that “pure religion which is to visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world.” He who from such a principle engages in offices of brotherly kindness and charity never arrogates to himself the glory, but ascribes it all to God. So the chiefest of the Apostles, he who laboured more abundantly than they all, says with inimitable humility, “ Yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me;" and “so likewise ye when ye shall have done all these things which are commanded you, say, We are unprofitable servants ; we have done that which was our duty to do."


I come now, in the second place, to speak of THE BENEVOLENT MAN'S

“ His righteousness endureth for ever; his horn shall be exalted with honour."

The reward consequent upon the exercise of sanctified affections and Christian conduct, follows partly in the order of natural results, and partly of gracious recompense. Yet what we are accustomed to consider as taking place naturally, or according to the established ordination of moral causes and effects, is in fact no less the result of divine beneficence, than the immediate bestowment in any particular instance of a recompense by God. Hence the whole reward is to be resolved into the favour and gratuitous kindness of the Divine Being. He has graciously determined that the poor and imperfect imitations of his own most blessed example which distinguish any of his fallen creatures shall lead to an honourable distinction among their fellow-men, and be held in condescending and everlasting remembrance by himself.

It is not therefore to be inferred, that the alms-giving of the benevolent man constitutes, in a judicial sense, bis righteousness or justification, and so entitles him as a matter of right to the rewards of a glorious immortality ; for such a sentiment would subvert the entire fabric of a sinner's hope, and transfer the dependence of guilty creatures, from the sure basis of the great atonement, to the sandy foundation of human works. No, beloved brethren, we hold by the

Our righteousness is of faith in God's incarnate Son. We count all things but loss for the knowledge of him. Utterly do we repudiate, and abandon with loathing, every righteousness of man's device. Our best deeds need for giveness ; our holiest services are polluted. O let not vain, presumptuous, human nature lift up itself to be on righteous ternis with God. Rather in the dust should we hide our guilty heads, while blushes suffuse our face, and the prayer of penitential sorrow is breathed from our broken hearts. · In deep



prostration let us lie before the mercy-seat. There is the place for sinners. The blood of propitiation is sprinkled there. Jesus, the Lamb of God, presents his once offered sacrifice, and pardons flow thence to the contrite. Not with corruptible things, as silver and gold, were we redeemed, but with his precious blood; and not with thousands of silver and gold can salvation be procured. No wealth can purchase heaven ; no charity can scale the lofty battlements of the eternal city ; but the redeemed of the Lord walk there, “ who have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.”

T'he doctrine of a free justification by an imputed righteousness, the righteousness of the crucified Son of God, is then dear to our hearts. We hold it as the pledge of our brightest hopes, and the charter of our best inheritance; and we hold it therefore in no qualified sense, or circumscribed degree, but in its scriptural plenitude and glory. It is not upon his charities that the Christian reposes with an imagined, though a falsely imagined security, but upon an allsufficient and accepted atonement. His soul clings to nothing short of that. There he rests like the guiltiest of his race; and resting there, he thinks no demonstration too costly, to show his sense of gratitude for a lively participation by faith of God's unspeakable gift.

But piety and benevolence nevertheless enjoy their reward. Though every notion of meritoriousness be discarded, the Great Rewarder has bound together the cultivation of the Christian graces with a recompense of honour in this life, and of everlasting felicity in the world to come. Thus while he lives the benevolent man is held in honourable estimation among his fellow-men: the remembrance of his piety survives when he is gone ; and in the future world God bestows upon him an imperishable recompense and exalts him to dignity among the spirits of the just.

First: The exercise of benevolence naturally conciliates esteem. God has so constituted the human mind, that it instinctively pays its deference to moral worth. All virtue is impressed with a certain majesty and beauty which compel the admiration of the observer. As the senses are regaled by what is pleasant to the eye, and sweet to the taste, and melodious to the ear, so the soul is delighted by what is excellent and worthy. All virtuous conduct is deemed honourable ; but men ever reserve their best eulogiums for the disinterested benefactors of their kind. Not that the unthinking multitude either discern the worth or appreciate the unobtrusive charities of the man who spends his active toils and his pecuniary resources amidst the dwellings of widowed loneliness, and the receptacles of the miserable, the infirm, and the diseased. It is not the noisy and undistinguishing voice of popular applause, that such a man would either covet or obtain. But he will assuredly acquire what next to the testimony of an enlightened conscience is with just reason to be valued-the estimation of the wise and good. And though the thirst after human commendation is a motive which the Christian preacher admits not among his scripturally accredited principles of action, it is doubtless an honour to any man that he is held in distinction by the excellent of the earth, and worthily esteemed by the saints of the Most High. Hence in the judgment of the wise man : “A good name is rather to be chosen than riches, and loving favour rather than ulver and gold."

Besides which, it seems to result to the bountiful man as a fulfilment of the


divine proinise, that “ his horn is exalted with honour." For there is no instance of practical piety by which God is more glorified than this. It is an imitation of Him who is the Universal Benefactor; a treading in His footsteps who will have it celebrated among his loftiest attributes that " he giveth food to the hungry, executeth judgment for the oppressed, preserveth the strangers, and relieveth the fatherless and widow." By such good works it is when men behold them, that our Heavenly Father is glorified. The partakers of your pious a.ms are moved to a devout admiration of lim who disposes your hearts to a compassionate consideration of their distresses, and wary tears and sorrowful lamentations are transferred into hymns of grateful praise. Thus St. Paul speaks of that charitable contribution which was raised in the Church at Corinth, for the poor saints at Jerusalem : “For the administration of this service not only supplieth the wants of the saints, but is abundant also by many thanksgivings unto God : while by the experiment of this ministration they glorify God for your professed subjection unto the Gospel of Christ, and for your liberal distribution unto them and unto all men." Since then God is thus glorified by the generosities of his people, he is “ not unrighteous to forget their work and labour of love." His infinite goodness will return in honour what they obediently render in duty. From him all true dignity proceeds. He is the Fountain of honour and truth. The disposition of all things is with him, and in his hands are the hearts of all. In fulfilment therefore of his own divine promise, he will prefer and dignify the man who advances his praise, for he hath said, “ Them that honour me, I will honour." While parsimony and prodigality are alike held in contempt; “ the liberal deviseth liberal things, and by liberal things shall he stand.”

Secondly: Next to the honour they receive while they live, it is both inti. mated in the text, and more definitely expressed in other parts of Scripture, that the benefactors of mankind shall be remembered with affectionate veneration when they cease to be the inhabitants of the present world. Of little consequence indeed can it be to a soul which has already stood in the presence of the Eternal, and from his sentence received its unchangeable destination, whether to the regions of the lost, or to the mansions of the blessed, what judgment may be formed of its actions by posterity. The great anxiety should doubtless be not to acquire posthumous reputation among men, but to approve ourselves to God; and such will be the solicitude of every philanthropist who acts on Christian principles. Yet we ought not to undervalue a consideration to which importance is evidently attached in the Oracles of truth. The inspired writers in repeated instances speak of it as part at least of a good man's singular felicity that his name shall be followed with blessings, and the remembrance of his piety be cherished when he has entered upon his everlasting rest. Thus in contrast with the contemptuous oblivion into which the wicked shall fall it is said, “ The memory of the just is blessed ; but the name of the wicked shall rot." So in a verse preceding my text, the Psalmist declares that, “ The righteous shall be in everlasting remembrance;" while of the wicked it is said in the book of Job, “ His remembrance shall perish from the earth.”

Experience confirms the declarations of Scripture. The names of holy men of former generations are still fragrant in the Church, and their deeds of beneficence will never be forgotten. The alms of Cornelius, the garments of



Dorcas, and the hospitality of Gaius to the brethren and to strangers, have found an imperishable record in the sacred page; while our own age has already given to posterity the names of Howard, of Wilberforce, and of Carey, to be enrolled among the most illustrious lovers of mankind. Their deeds of disinterested and self-denying niety will he told through all future times, and men will pronounce their names with admiration, when the monuments of heroes ang ine mausoleums of kings shall have mouldered into dust. No spices can enbalm, no marble perpetuate the memory like virtuous and beneficent actions. The very grave of the good man is venerable, and his dust fragrant as the breath of the morning, and sweet as the fowers of spring.

Thirdly: but the chief part of that reward which it pleases God to bestow upon Christian beneficence is reserved for another world. Little as we know of that future state of being upon which we enter at death, we are left in no doubt of the fact that it will be to every man a state of misery or of happiness, according to the manner in which he shall have spent this present probationary season on earth. They, consequently, who, “by patient continuance in well-doing, are seeking for glory, honour, and immortality," shall not find themselves disappointed at last. That divine and adorable Person, who at the last day will be our Judge, has already made us acquainted with the principle of discrimination upon which the judgment will proceed. When all nations shall be gathered before him, and he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats, placing the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on the left, the great elements of character, which will furnish the rule of distinction, will consist of acts of kindness done to the poor or the persecuted disciples of our Lord. “I was an hungered, and ye gave me meat; I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink; I was a stranger, and ye took me in; naked, and ye clothed me : I was sick, and ye visited me; I was in prison, and ye came unto me; for inasmuch as ye did it unto one of the least of these, my brethren, ye did it unto me." Wherefore, to them who are thus applauded will he add, “Come ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you before the founda. tion of the world."

Then shall be brought to light every secret visit to the abodes of porerty, every prayer offered up by the bed of affliction, every alms bestowed upon the indigent. Incomparably better will it be, in that day, to be known as one who sheltered the outcast, vindicated the oppressed, dried the tear of the sorrowful, southed the couch of the dying parent, and then became the protector of the widow, and the orphan's friend ; than to rank among the most distinguished by birth, by talents, or by this world's renown. Over all those whose titles to distinction stand on no better conditions than these, will God lift up the head of the Christian philanthropist. Him will he exalt with honour, and give him a dignified rank among the spirits of the just. 0, with what indescribable surprise and rapture will he find that his poor imperfect services, his little, and as he would deem them, insignificant offices of charity, are all set down in the annals of hearen, and judged worthy of an imperishable recompense! With what amazement will it fill him, and with what ecstacy, to hear bis Judge pronounce his encomium before the universe—“Well done, good and faithful serrant; thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make the ruler over many things, enter thou into the joy of thy Lord."

The Institution, whose claims upon your liberal support I ant now to present to your attention, is, on many accounts, worthy of the continued and increased patronage of the friends of the Redeemer. And it is, certainly, not amongst the least considerable circumstances which may be spoken to its praise, that it was founded by the piety of our ancestors, and has flourished for more than a century has thus stood the test of time: and while many other designs, even of a benevolent nature, have either been superseded, or, finding no adequate encouragement, have expired; this has shewn itself to possess a vigorous constitution, and continues to this day dispensing its benefits according to the original intention of its founders. Its “hoary head is a crown of glory, for it is found in the way of righteousness." Those charitable persons who set it on foot, and most of their immediate successors in its management, have gone to their eternal reward. The early recipients of its bounty also have entered into rest. And

may it not be permitted us to imagine with what holy joy they have met in the presence of their gracious Lord; the one not having a benevolent desire ungratified, nor the other a want unsupplied? I cannot but feel that antiquity invests this excellent institution with more than ordinary claims upon the consideration of the present times. Since its youth and its manhood were spent in works of beneficence, its old age is rendered peculiarly venerable. As our forefathers witnessed its infant efforts, and saw it take its first steps in the career of pious benevolence, and their children fostered its maturing years ; it

may surely appeal to us, descendants of the third generation, to cherish its still remaining strength, nor suffer it to fall into decrepitude and neglect.

True it is that during the hundred years that have rolled over it, many other societies for charitable purposes have risen into existence, and the demands formerly made upon the pecuniary resources of the Church of Christ have multiplied to an almost indefinite extent: nor in pleading for this charity, valuable as it is, would I wish to divert the supplies of any other; yet I may be allowed to urge that if what is given to them is given at the expence of this nothing is gained to the general ca se of philanthropy. It is at the best but a transfer; and the possibility at least may be suggested, that it may not in every case be a transfer considerately and wisely made. It will, I am sure, be acknowledged, that, amidst the numerous, novel, and constantly increasing modes of doing good by which the present age is distinguished, there is a danger lest our more ancient, and on that account, perhaps, less known, and more unobtrusive institutions should be suffered to decay. Happy will the advocate of The Widows' Fund,” who now addresses you, deem himself, if his feeble, though well-intentioned plea, may attract to its proceedings and its claims your friendly regard.

It may, I apprehend, with truth be urged, that, of all the societies to which advertance has been made, there is not one prepared to step into the place of that, for which I plead, should it unhappily lose the public support. Were the means withholden by which this venerable institution fultils its truly Christian design, it is difficult to conceive in what way so serious a calamity could be repaired as would then overtake its annual pensioners. None will question, I will not say the desirableness, but the imperative duty of providing for them; and since no more recent method of meeting their necessities has been proposed, this society must persevere in its laudable and unsuperseded labours. And it

« السابقةمتابعة »