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mere curiosity, or vanity of mind; or in order to furnish materials for the tongue, which, as the Scriptures say, “ walketh through the earth.” If this be not absolutely a vice, it is a great vexation, and a great impertinence : and it is found to prevail principally among advanced spinsters, and women who have no families, and men who have no business, and all those who have nothing to do: for, as Dr. Watts observes,
" Satan finds some mischief still,
For idle hands to do."
6 For we
And Bishop Watson says, that “our idle days are always Satan's busiest ones." Paul, therefore, says to the Thessalonians: “ For yourselves know how ye ought to fullow us : for we behaved not ourselves disorderly among you, neither did we eat any man's bread for nought, but wrought with labour and travail night and day, that we might not be chargeable to any of you." hear that there are some among you who walk disorderly, working not
all, but are busy bodies.” If persons will render themselves obnoxious, if they will draw upon themselves reproach by meddling with the concerns of others, rather than their own, let them bear the consequences; but let it not be supposed that it is religion that makes them thus obnoxious; but the want of it. Let them remember the language of the Apostle Peter: “ Let, none of you suffer as a murderer, or as a thief, or as an evil doer, or as a busy body in other men's matters."
Again, you are not to look upon them enviously. “ Be not thou afraid," says David, “ when one is made rich, when the glory of his house is increased; for when he dieth he shall carry nothing away: his glory shall not descend after him. Though while he lived he blessed his soul; and men will praise thee, when thou doest well to thyself. He shall go to the generation of his fathers; they shall never see light. Man that is in honour, and understandeth not, is like the beasts that perish.” It is as if he should say, “ The distinctions, and the acquisitions, and the cares, which make others so uneasy around you, are not worthy you. What is a man the better for them ?" But O what evil is there in the temper itself! It is earthly, sensual, and devilish. Milton describes Satan as looking on the happiness of Adam and Eve in Paradise, and then turning away with a malignant leer. What a wretched, cursed disposition is this, for a man to be uneasy just because another is at ease; to be miserable because another is happy; and to dislike him, just in proportion as by his excellency and success he should love him, and rejoice in him! And yet this principle is so common, so powerful, it is so subtle in its various workings, that Solomon says, “ Who can stand before envy ?”
You are not to look upon the things of others unconcernedly; but so as to feel for them ; so as to have an interest in them by sympathy; so as to make them, in a sense, your own; so as that if the subjects of them rejoice, you may “ rejoice with them that do rejoice, and weep with them that weep.” Thus it was with Job : “ Did not,” says he,“ I weep for him that was in trouble? Was not my soul grieved for the poor?” Thus it was with David: though, you will remember, they of whom he spoke were his bitter enemies, yet says he, for me, when they were sick, my clothing was sackcloth ; 1 humbled my
soul with fasting, and my prayer returned into mine own bosom. I behaved myself
as though he had been my friend or brother ; I bowed down heavily, as one that inourneth for his mother." Common sense tells us, that this must be the meaning of the Apostle here; for when he says, “ Look on the things of others,” he cannot mean with such a look as the priest and Lerit: gave to the poor, wounded, bloody traveller, and then went by on the other side: but he means such a look as that the eye shall affect the heart; such a look as should awaken commiseration, and produce corresponding emotions and exertions. Every thing else will be found vain, and despicable too; mere pretence. As the Apostle James says, “ For if a brother or sister be 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?"
We must, secondly, inquire, Why we should thus “ look every man also on the things of others." For it is a reasonable service; and we wish you to be able to give a reason of your practice always in religion, as well as your hope. There are five things to which I must here refer you.
The first of which is, the authority of God. I need not, I think, take up any of your time in endeavouring to prove that God has a right to command you. A king has no such right to the obedience of his subjects; a master has no such title to the duty of his servants; a father has no such claims to the regards of his children—as God has to all your homage. The reason is this: they have not, and never can have, an absolute property in you; but God has: for God “ made you, and not you yourselves." You derive from hin your being, your powers, your possessions, all your enjoyments, and all your hopes : you are therefore bis by infinite ties, and bound to serve him. And you cannot complain that
you do not know what his demands are upon you: he has shewn you what is good; he has told you what he requires of you: he has given you his Word, and in his Word you have his will; and to this you may repair, unawed by every authority in the universe, unless his own, to know what he enjoins upon you. And can you peruse that Book without reading, “ To do good and to communicate forget not, for with such sacrifices God is well pleased." “ As we have opportunity, let us do good unto all men, especially unto them who are of the household of faith." “ If a man love not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen?" “ And this commandment have we from him, That he who loveth God, loveth his brother also." You, therefore, know his will, and “ To him that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin." “ The servant which knoweth his Lord's will, and doeth it not, shall be beaten with many stripes."
Secondly, observe, the need you have of each other. There is no such thing as independence in our world; it is only ignorance and pride that leads people to affect any thing like it It is in the social body as it is in the natural body; there are many members, but there is only one body. “ Ye,” as the Apostle says, are all members one of another; so that the eye cannot say unto the hand, I have no need of thee; nor again the head to the feet, I have no need of you." “ The very king is fed," says Solomon, " by the labour of the field.” And upon how many more does he depend than you! Indeed the higher men rise the more dependent do they become. The rich owe much more to the poor than the pour owe to them; the foundation of the building is the lowest
part, but then it sustains the whole. Were you obliged to make your own bread, to prepare your own food, to dig your own fuel, to make your own apparel, and to attend in every thing upon yourselves, you would soon learn how dependent you are, and how much more others have done for you, than ever you will be able to do for them while you live.
So we turn, thirdly, to the pleasures of beneficence. He who leaves his neighbour in hunger and wretchedness, while he is surrounded with the means and opportunities of doing good, is just like a man who dies of thirst with a cup of nectar in his hand. Do you ever feel any thing like ingratitude and discontent? Do you ever begin to murmur and repine ? Go and visit immediately the widow, the fatherless, the sick and the afflicted; and then with what fcelings will you return! We are aware of an objection here ; but it is one of no force. You do not deny that there are pleasures in music : though some leather-eared people can hear even Handel without ecstasy and emotion : and so it is here; the selfish and unkind are not able to enjoy the pleasure of doing good; but they ought to be able, and it is their disgrace that they are not : the disposition would increase with the practice; and in the same proportion that you are really benevolent will be your happiness. This is the meaning of our Saviour when he said, “ It is more blessed to give than to receive.” Some of you do not enter into this, because your benevolence is not real and disinterested. If a benefit be conferred by you in the true spirit of kindness, it will yield a thousand times more blessing to the giver than to the receiver. I wish you would try it. Did you ever give way to a pure, generous emotion, without looking askance, and expecting any kind of remuneration? What were your sensations ? What luxury ever equalled that of Job when he said, “When the ear beard me then it blessed me, and when the eye saw me it gave witness to me; because I delivered the poor that cried, and the fatherless, and him that had none to help him. The blessing of him that was ready to perish came upon me: and I caused the widow's heart to sing for joy." Here is pure pleasure; durable pleasure; pleasure that will bear examination, bear review; pleasure that, like the rose, will yield perfume even after it is dead. Mr. Howard, (and n a sermon upon charity who can help, somewhere or other, referring to that great philanthropist?) presented his wife one day with a purse, with one hundred guineas in it, in order to enable her to take an excursion of pleasure in the summer : “My dear,” said she, “what a pretty cottage this would build How soon the pleasures of a summer excursion will have dropped from the mind, and faded away from the feelings : but to see a little cottage rising, to see a simple, worthy couple entering it ; to see the flowers in the front garden, and behind to see a number of chubby boys and girls playing about–0 what a perpetuation, what a multiplication of pleasure is here!" I one day read--and I believe the relation is substantially true—of a person who was going to drown himself under an intolerable oppression of melancholy; (and where is the person that does not sometimes feel a weight upon his spirits, a burden that presses his very life down to the ground ?) but as he was going, a little girl inet him, who piteously implored relief, not only for herself, but her poor starving mother ind sisters. What was money to a man in such a condition as he was in? And so we gave her several pieces of silver. She received them with unutterable
surprise and delight, and darted away immediately toward home. struck, and though the would follow her; and just as he had arrived at the door of the abode of misery, they were all in tears of ecstacy; and soon they were all kneeling at the feet of their benefactor, as if he had been a god to them. He was much struck with the sight, and said, “ Can life, by one single act, produce such pleasure, and shall I throw away the blessing ? Lord, forgive my guilty intentions ; and may I in future enjoy the happiness of others, if I am to have none of my own." May those tears become yours. Enjoy them for a moment, while I proceed,
Fourthly, to remind you, that benevolence will not lose its reward. If a Christian serves God disinterestedly, yet he cannot serve God for nought. I know there are some foolish people, who condemn in a Christian any reference to his own advantages. They are much wiser than God who made them: wiser than their Teacher. How often, in his Word, does God press this as a motive upon us : and is it wrong for us thus to regard it? We should, indeed, consider, that there are motives of a higher and a purer kind, as you will in a moment see: but still these may be proper to a certain distance. He deals with us as with children; and there are motives which will influence them in their infancy, which may be spared as they grow up. You should consider Christians as sanctified only in part, and therefore as liable to temptation. When they are called upon, as they are to be this morning, to give, they will be ready to say, “ I cannot afford it; I shall be a loser by it.” When this is the case, how appropriate to bring forward such declarations as these : “ Cast thy bread upon the waters, and thou shalt find it after many days." “ He that soweth sparingly shall
reap also sparingly; and he who soweth bountifully shall reap also bountifully." “ The liberal soul deviseth liberal things; and by liberal things he shall stand :" and so on. These are the declarations, the assurances of God, who is faithful, and able to perform what he has promised; for all events are under his control, and all creatures are at his disposal.
I will, therefore, only, fifthly, refer you to the example of Christ. And I have reserved this motive for the last, because it is the best. I have preached sermons enough of this kind, not to know, that it is far preferable to address a Christian's hope than his fear; and to address his love, even rather than his hope ; and because the Scripture tells us, that “ Whatsoever we do, in word or deed, we are to do all in the name of the Lord Jesus.” Our arguments, therefore, and your practice, must be Christian and evangelical ; because the Apostle even mentions this motive here; for as soon as ever he had said, “ Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others," what does he say by way of enforcement ? “ Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus : who being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: but made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men : and being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.” And, therefore, says the Apostle to the Philippians, “ Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others." We had no claims upon him ; we were unworthy of the least of all his mercies, illdeserving, hell-deserving creatures, and must have perished for ever.
With pitying eyes the Prince of Grace,
He saw, and O, amazing love!
And what did his interposition cost him? He made peace; out it was by the blood of his cross. He redeemed us from the curse of the law; but it was by being made a curse for us. He obtained eternal redemption for us; but he gave his life a ransom. Therefore if you be selfish, beloved, remember, "If God so loved us, we ought also to love one another."
1 must, therefore, hasten towards a conclusion: and I may ask, brethren, upon the ground which I have endeavoured to clear, Is there not cause for reproof? It is remarkable that the Apostle, in speaking of the last days, says, "Perilous times shall come." And in characterizing them he begins by observing, that "Men shall be lovers of their own selves." Where, however, this principle is not avowed, it is found men act upon it: there are enough of these. "Yes," says the Apostle, "All seek their own, and not the things that are Jesus Christ's." How few men are there to be found who are concerned to obtain the approving sentence which the Saviour pronounced on Mary, "She hath done what she could."
And is there not here a call also for prayer? Prayer for what? Prayer for pardon as to the past; and "there is forgiveness with God that he may be feared." Prayer for grace as to the future; that we may be enabled more to exemplify our principles, and to adorn the doctrine of God our Saviour in all things; and that his grace may be sufficient for us.
Surely here is also need, lastly, for exhortation. Let me beseech you, my dear hearers, that in future you will look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others." Begin with their spiritual concerns. O what a thing it is to turn a sinner from the error of his ways; to save a soul from death, and hide a multitude of sins; to create an ecstacy in heaven! for "there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner that repenteth." Who would not deem himself infinitely honoured, feel himself infinitely delighted, to be thus employed? But overlook not their temporal concerns. Look upon the things which concern their welfare, as well as the things which concern your welfare: be as tender of their reputation as you are of your own. Instead of encouraging scandal, therefore, always crush it; which is very much in your power. Never throw down, and never, as David says, "take up a reproach against your neighbour." There are persons who will not throw down a reproach, but who still are always ready enough to take up a reproach, against their neighbour. Never hear any thing related against an absent fellow-creature, or fellow-professor, without saying to the relater, “But will you allow me to mention you as the authority?" This would stop one-half at least of the evil speaking that abounds; for a tale-hearer, is nearly as bad as a tale-bearer.
And so again with their outward necessities remember "whoso hath this world's goods, and seeth his brother hath need, and shutteth up his bowels of compassion from him, how dwelleth the love of God in that man?" Jesus went about doing good; but he did good to the bodies, as well as to the souls of