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proceeded from the apprehension of that corruption into which their charge was in danger of falling after their own departure : and the object of their most anxious concern has been to prevent this. Behold Moses approaching the last closing scene of Life: Take this book of the law, says he to the Levites, and put it in the side of the ark of the covenant of the Lord your God, that it may be there for a witness against thee : for I know thy rebellion and thy stiff-neck : behold, while I am yet alive with you this day, ye have been rebellious against the Lord ; and how much more after my death? Deut. xxxi. 26, 27. Behold St. Paul: Consider the terrors which he feels as he prepares to go up to Jerusalem : it is not that of being made a partaker of his Master's sufferings : no, says he, the Holy Ghost witnesseth in every city, saying, that bonds and afflictions abide me at Jerusalem. But none of these things move me, neither count I my life dear unto myself, so that I might finish my course with joy, and the ministry which I have received of the Lord Jesus, to testify the gospel of the grace of God, Acts xx. 23, 24. But that which tills him with painful apprehension, is the danger of apostarizing, to which his beloved Ephesians, among whom he has been so successful, were going to be exposed after he had left them: for this reason it is that in bidding them a final adieu, he expresses an ardent wish that a last effort should indelibly impress on their hearts the great truths which had been the subject of his ministry among them: I take you to record this day, that I am pure from the blood of all men : for I have not shunned to declare unto you all the counsel of God. Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock over which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which .
he hath purchased with his own blood. For I know this, that after my departing, shall grievous wolves enter in among you, nat sparing the pock, Acts XX. 26-29.
Jesus Christ, in like manner, is ready to finish the work which his heavenly Father has given him to do: he shrinks from it no longer : he advances forward, braving the cross, being now ready to be offered, 2 Tim. iv. 6. Arise, says he to them, arise ; (he was still in the house where he had just eaten the passover, when he pronounced the discourse which we are endeavoring to explain) let us go hence, ch. xiv. 31. I must pass no more time with my beloved disciples; I am going to be de livered
up to my executioners : I must no more drink with you of the fruit of the vine, Luke xxii. 18. in a feast of love; it is time for me to go and drink to the very dregs the cup which the justice of my Father is putting into my hands : let us go hence : let us go to Gethsemane : let us ascend to Golgotha. But, Simon, Simon, behold Satan hath desired to kave you, that he may sift you as wheat, Luke xxii. 31. But, all ye shall be offended because of me this night, Matt. xxvi. 31. But, the Devil, and the world, and all hell, are going to unite their efforts to dissolve your communion with me. What does he oppose to danger so threatening ? What means does he employ to prevent it? What ought to be done by a good pastor when stretched on a death-bed: not only earnest prayers addressed to heaven, but also tender exhortations addressed to men. He gives them an abridgement of the sermons which, during the period of his intercourse with them, had been the subject of his ministrations: if ye love me, keep my commandments, ch. xiv. 16.
But what merits special attention in the last ad
dress of Jesus Christ to his apostles, is the precept on which he particularly insists: and the subject of that precept is charity : by this shall all m 'n know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another, ch. xiii. 35. A new commandment I give unto you, that you love one another; as I have
you, that ye also love one another, ver. 34. . a precept which they were bound to observe as Christians, and more especially as ministers of his gospel.
1. As Christians." Without charity Christianity cannot possibly subsist. A society, the individuals of which do not love each other, cannot be a society of the disciples of Jesus Christ. Tell me not of your passing whole days and nights in meditation and reading the scriptures; of your uninterrupted assiduity in exercises of devotion; of your fervor and frequency of attendance at the table of the Lord. : The question still recurs, Where is thy charity ? Lovest thou thy neighbor? Makest thou his interests thy own ? Is his prosperity a source of satisfaction to thee? Canst thou bear with and overlook his infirmities? Respectest thou, recommendest thou his excellencies? Defendest thou his reputation ? Laborest thou to promote his salvation? Such questions are so many touchstones to assist us in attaining the knowledge of ourselves : so many articles of condemnation to multitudes who bear the Christian name. Of charity, alas, little more is known than the name : and the whole amount of the practice of it, is reduced to a few of the functions altogether inseparable from mere humanity: when a man has given away a small portion of his superfluity to relieve the poor: when he bas bestowed a morsel of bread to feed that starving wretch : when he has covered those shi. vering limbs from the inclemency of the air, he
considers himself as having satisfied the demands of charity: he founds, shall. I venture to say it ? he founds on this system of love a title to warrant his indifference, his vengeance, his hatred : he backbites without control, he calumniates without hesitation : he plunges the dagger without remorse: he pines at the prosperity of another, and his neighbor's glory clothes him with shame.
2. But if the disciples of Jesus Christ are engaged as Christians to love one another, they more especially are so as ministers of the gospel. Where are we to look for charity, if not in the heart of those who are the heralds of charity? What monster so detestable as a minister destitute of charity? The more that charity is inculcated by the religion which he professes to teach, the more it must expose him as a most unnatural being, if he is capable of resisting the power of motives so tender. The more venerable that his ministry is, the more liable must it be to suspicion and contempt, when exercised by a man who is himself a stranger to charity. He will wrap the truths of religion according to seasons and circumstances: he will accommodate his preaching to his interest: he will carry his passions with him into the pulpit : he will conceal the heart of a wolf under the clothing of a sheep, and will avail himself of the law of charity itself to diffuse through the whole church the pestilential air of that hatred, animosity, envy, which torment and prey upon his own mind.
It was, in a peculiar manner, the desire of Jesus Christ, that charity should be the reigning principle in the college of the apostles : that united together in bands of the tenderest affection, they might lend each other effectual support in the great work of publishing the gospel. Never does the Devil labor with more success against a church, than when he
acquires the power of disuniting the ministers who have the oversight of it. Call to the pastoral charge of a flock, persons of the greatest celebrity, preachers the most eloquent, geniuses the most transcendent, unless they are closely united in the bands of charity, small will be their progress: they will separate the hearts which they were bound to unite: they will foster the spirit of party : they will encourage the fomenters of discord: they will instruct one to say, I am of Paul; and another, I am of Cephas ; and another, I am of Apollos, 1 Cor. ii. 4. They will be in constant mutual opposition. Apollos will do his utmost to pull down what Cephas has built: Cephas will attempt to rear what Paul had demolished. Discover the art, on the contrary, of uniting the hearts of those who have the care of a flock, and you ensure their success : they will strengthen each other's hands : they will attack the common enemy with concentrated force: they will concur in pursuing the same object. A nero commandment I give unto you, that you love one another. By this shall all men knore that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another. O Charity! the livery of the disciples of Jesus Christ, must it needs be that thou shouldst be as rare as thou art indispensable ! Banished from the rest of the universe, flee for refuge to the church. Exert thy sovereign power at least in the sanctuary. Bind together, in bands of indissoluble affection, the shepherds of this flock. Let all animosity, let discord, let envy, be for ever banished from the midst of us, my beloved companions in the work of the ministry, Eph. iv. 12. Amen.