« PreviousContinue »
beggary his trade, that neglect of those real sufferers, in whose persons Christ himself vouchsafes to ask our charity; all these things help to form that disposition towards the poor in after life, from which our country is at this moment so fearfully suffering. It is not hard-heartedness,-much less is it wilful oppression,-but it is an absence of that true feeling of Christian brotherhood which Christ's words in my text inculcate: "Ye call me Master and Lord, and you say well, for so I am. If I then your Lord and Master have washed your feet, you ought also to wash one another's feet." It is those little words, "one another," which express so much, and which we are so apt to lose sight of. These words show, that the rich and the poor are members one of another, not two distinct castes,-I had almost said two distinct races. These words ought to take away that feeling of merit which we are but too apt to attach to our charity. No man is proud of being kind to his brother or his near friend; he would only be ashamed of himself if he were not kind. So, if we felt aright to the poor, that they are, in the highest of all relations, our brethren-children of the same heavenly Father, called all alike brethren by Him who,
having taken part of our flesh and blood, was not ashamed to call all God's earthly children by that name; if we so felt, should we not, indeed, think that the words, "one another," might well describe the relations of the rich and the poor; should we not fully enter into the spirit of the Apostle's words: "Beloved, if God so loved us, we ought also to love one another?"
But, in conclusion, I must remember that after hearing all that I have said, the practical question may yet be asked, "What must we do?" How can we, each of us, bring home to ourselves the lesson which Christ teaches us? You can do it by leaving off what is contrary to it, at any rate; by ceasing from words which are contemptuous and insulting to the poor; by breaking off familiarity, by forbearing to encourage that unworthy portion of the poor, who are likely to give you a most unjust and hard impression of the whole body. But I am sure many amongst you, to say the least, must have opportunities of doing much more. Many amongst you must have poor neighbours around you at home, from whom you may learn what poverty is, how great, how awful a claim it has upon all, and much more than all that we can do for it. Many amongst you must have
friends who would be delighted to encourage you in the disposition to know the poor, and to love them; and whose experience would teach you how to avoid all extravagance and folly, which an ignorant zeal will naturally fall into. But it were foolish, in this case, to dread the effects of over zeal; much more is it to be dreaded, that there should be no zeal at all; that your holydays should be devoted only to your own pleasure; that, amidst the joyousness and festivities with which wealth surrounds itself at this coming Christmas season, you should bestow no thought on that large body of your neighbours to whom Christmas is only a season of suffering, a season of cold, and darkness, and dreariness. If such be the case, it is most awful to think that a curse is on all our enjoyments; that our mirth and our festivity are but those of the rich man in the parable, who, when he died and was buried, found himself instantly in eternal torments, and was told that all the good things which he could expect throughout eternity, he had already received: all good was gone, and all evil was in store for him for ever. May God give us a better mind,— better for the worldly comfort of others, much more, infinitely better for the eternal welfare of our own souls.
REV. XXII. 10-12.
And he saith unto me, Seal not the sayings of the prophecy of this book: for the time is at hand. He that is unjust, let him be unjust still: and he which is filthy, let him be filthy still: and he that is righteous, let him be righteous still: and he that is holy, let him be holy still. And behold, I come quickly, and my reward is with me, to give every man according as his work shall be.
So much presses upon the mind in reading these verses, that I hardly know how to put in order, or how to limit within any fit bounds, the various thoughts which they suggest. There is so much in the separate parts of them, and so much in them when taken together; there is so much in the particular time at which they were written, and in the very place which they hold in the volume of the Scriptures, that they seem better fitted to be the subject of a course of sermons, than to furnish matter for one only.
The place which they hold in the volume of the New Testament must strike the most careless observer. If you open your Bibles, you will find them in the last page of the last book of the whole Scriptures. All the books in the Bible are by no means placed in the order in which they were written; but it happens that the Book of the Revelation, as it stands the last, so was it written the last since that time, the book of the Holy Scriptures has received no other addition. And further, this Book of the Revelation was written in the last years of the life of the last Apostle who had received the Holy Ghost, in a special manner, for teaching with authority the things of the kingdom of God. Christianity had received its appointed signs, and no more were to be vouchsafed to it: all truth necessary to salvation had been once taught by men speaking what the Holy Ghost inspired, and such infallible teaching was from henceforth to be no more repeated. When Christ ascended into heaven, the Comforter descended in his place; and although God was no longer personally visible, yet the mighty works which the Apostles wrought through his aid, and the knowledge of things kept secret from the foundation of the world,