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LIBERAL CHARITY STATED AND RECOMMENDED
ON THE PRINCIPLES OF THE GOSPEL.
2 COR. IX. 6.-LAST CLAUSL,
He which soweth bountifully shall reap bountifully.
THE Scriptures abound in a great variety of the most beautiful images, and figurative allusions. These are sometimes employed as the only fit conveyance of spiritual truths to our minds; some. times as apt and affecting illustrations of known truths; and sometimes to press them more forcibly upon our attention, and allure us into a more cheerful compliance with their design. In this and the preceding chapter the apostle urges the Corinthians to be charitable to the poor saints. By the most insinuating address he takes possession of every avenue to their hearts, and puts them under the pleasing necessity of yielding to
bis generous design. However, lest covetousness should exert a secret counteracting influence, and suggest that the required liberality would subject them. to a great and unproductive expence, he fully obviates the objection, without formally stating it, for he reprobates the gift bestowed with reluctance, and promises ample returns to the cheerful giver. The instruction thus given, needed not the assistance of metaphor, to render it intelligible: But it is admirably illustrated and enforced by the choice of a similitude, perfectly expressive of his intention. “ He that soweth “bountifully shall reap bountifully." As well might the husbandman look upon the seed, unspar. ingly scattered in his field, to be for ever lost, as the truly bountiful man suppose, that the riches, which, with a liberal hand he hath expended upon the poor, are thrown away. The expectations and returns in the one case, are not more reasonable and certain, than in the other. The general sentiment then is, that liberal charity shall receive a rich and full reward. I leave the metaphor to illustrate this sentiment. Such a subject cannot be unsuitable, when met to give our countenance and support to a charitable institution, great in its designs, and extensive in its operation. We pay a just, respectful, and grateful tribute to the memory of its first founders, and to the present members of the very respectable society, whose unceasing exertions and influence have been so honourably and successfully employed in following out the original scheme, when we assemble at their desire, to worship that God, who alone can crown their labours of love, and our co-operating charity with a rich and effectual blessing. To direct and animate our prosecution of this important object, I shall endeavour, through divine grace, First, To delineate the character represented in the text; and Secondly, To illustrate the meaning and design of the promise annexed.
Let us begin with calling your attention to the character here represented,
" He that soweth “ bountifully,” in other words, the man of liberal charity.
And I observe, First, That this is a character formed and perfected under the influence of su. preme regard to God and the Redeemer. No character can acquire any established distinction by a single action, or a few occasional exertions. These must be uniformly called forth by some
fixed corresponding principle, otherwise the fea. tures will daily change, and a variable character appear. Indeed, our decisions upon character can seldom be true, when founded on transient evidence. But higher evidence we cannot expect, unless men act upon principle, and no principle can be so powerful and extensive in its influence as the love of God and the Redeemer. Wherever this prevails, the mind aspires to every degree of moral excellence, and there is perhaps no branch of that excellence, in which its operation is more certain, and apparent, than that of charity. Hence we read, “ That love is of God, and every one " that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God. “ He that loveth not, knoweth not God, for God " is love. He that dwelleth in love, dwelleth in 6. God, and God in him. But whoso hath this “ world's goods, and seeth his brother have need, “ and shutteth up his bowels of compassion from “ him, how dwelleth the love of God in him ? Wherefore adds the apostle, addressing himself to professing Christians, “My little children, let us “ not love in word, neither in tongue, but in deed.” Thus it appears, that beneficent love to men is at once a natural consequence and proof of knowing the love of God, and loving him.
Men, destitute of this principle, and who do not pretend to act under its influence, may exhibit remarkable instances of charity. These, it is not my business at present to trace to their various sources, far less, to reprobate the beneficial actions to which they give rise. In as far as they are useful to society, they merit public praise. I cheerfully offer my tribute of grateful acknowledg. ment, while I regret their want of that noblest and most operative principle, which would render them completely amiable and praise-worthy. If, while strangers to its influence, they do so much good, what would they not do, how much more extensively useful would they not be, were love to God, and his son, the ruling passion in their minds? Without derogating from their liberality, permit me to say, that in their state of alienation from the life and love of God, we can have little dependance on their continuing or abounding in that sort of goodness. Nay, their circumstances, and views, in this condition, rather tend to blunt their sensibilities, to put restraints upon their generous exertions, and to give them a confined, partial, or capricious direction. Ignorant of, or inattentive to the divine character, they can have no perfect standard of excellence. Self, or the