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and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing."* A stronger statement cannot be conceived:-I may part with all I possess, and even life itself—the most precious boon of earth, and yet perform no act of Christian charity. The donation of my property to the necessitous, and the sacrifice of my existence to my country's welfare, may be done from other motives than love to God, or compassion to man.
A question, therefore, of importance may be asked.-By what rule can we satisfactorily and safely determine whether our mercy be the fruit of the Holy Spirit ? To this I reply by the purity of your motives. When you act, "Not with eye service as men pleasers, but with singleness of heart, as unto God;" when it is exercised for the sake of him that requires it; when its display depends not on the excitement of the passions by external circumstances, but springs from a sense of obligation for the mercy you have obtained; when you regard the dangers and diseases of man as they affect his welfare, and not for the unworthy purpose of promoting any secular advantage or party interests of your own, then I deem your mercy and compassion acceptable to God, and such as he will acknowledge at the last day. Let us, therefore, try the quality of our pity and kindness towards one another by this rule. We should never hesitate to come to the balance of the sanctuary. If our's be genuine Christian mercy and benevolence, it will be distinguished by cheerfulness, "For God loveth a cheerful giver." Of this kind was the liberality of the Corinthians of which the Apostle makes such honourable and grateful mention, "As touching the ministering to the saints, it is superfluous for me to write to you: For I know the forwardness of your mind, for which I boast of you to them of Macedonia, that
1 Cor. xiii. 3.
Achaia was ready a year ago; and your zeal hath provoked very many.' It will be also modest and retiringunlike the alms deeds of the Pharisees; and it will be disinterested, free from selfishness, and the hope of reward. "For if ye love them which love you? what thank have ye? for sinners also love those that love them. And if ye do good to them which do good to you, what thank have ye? for sinners also do even the same. And if ye lend to them of whom ye hope to receive, what thank have ye? for sinners also lend to sinners, to receive as much again. But love ye your enemies, and do good, and lend, hoping for nothing again; and your reward shall be great, and ye shall be the children of the Highest: for he is kind unto the unthankful and to the evil. Be ye therefore merciful, as your Father also is merciful."+ That is, act in the same pure and disinterested manner--not measuring your kindness by the bounds of their gratitude; or the continuance of your benevolence by the success of your charitable labours. We are to do good for its own sake: and for the sake of Him who has commanded it.
III. I SHALL NOW ADDUCE A FEW CONSIDERATIONS TO ENGAGE YOU IN THE EXERCISE OF THIS BLESSED
That such a disposition of mercy and kindness is truly admirable and attractive, you will, my hearers, doubtless admit. It is a virtue that commends itself to every man's heart and judgment in the sight of God: but how often it happens, that we "approve the better, and follow the worse." At least, how small the number, even of the professors of christianity, who show forth the praises of Him, so fully as they ought, in this respect. It becomes, therefore, a duty which I owe unto you, to enforce the exem
plification of christian mercy on your attention. And this I will attempt, by reminding you,
First. That it is a most divine and godlike virtue. "God is love; and he that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God, and God in him."* His boundless mercy to us, is set forth in the gospel for our pattern, that we should be imitators of him as dear children. He is described as "the Father of mercies" "rich in mercy," "full of compassion," “merciful and gracious," "plenteous in mercy." The beneficence of providence, and the stupendous wonders of redemption join to demonstrate the propriety of these appellations. Our wants are daily supplied, our humble entreaties are readily heard, and our desires are liberally satisfied. He remembered us in the low estate of our apostacy and rebellion; and when no eye pitied or hand saved us, he sent his Son, "that we might live through him." "I beseech you then, by the mercies of God," "that ye be kind one to another, tender hearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ's sake hath forgiven you."†
Secondly. Consider the example and mind of Christ. "In all their affliction he was afflicted." His heart was never hardened, by the deceitfulness of sin, against another's sorrows. When he was on earth and saw the multitude as sheep having no shepherd to guide and feed them, he was moved with compassion. Under the influence of this generous benevolence, he "went about doing good," healing the sick and giving sight to the blind. This led him to groan in spirit at the grave of Lazarus, and to restore the only son of a widowed mother to life and vigour. And still he is touched with the feeling of their infirmities, and bears the sorrows of his afflicted people. "Shouldest not thou also have compassion on thy fellow" creature, O Christian," even as he hath pity on thee." +
* 1 John iv. 16.
+ Ephes. iv. 32.
Matt. xviii. 33.
Thirdly. I will remind you of the divine precepts on this point. Think not the exercise of this mercy is optional-such as may or may not be practised by the followers of Christ. It is of frequent and unequivocal inculcation in the sacred book which ye profess to believe. Hear these solemn commands,-" Be ye merciful,”—“ Be of one mind, having compassion one of another, love as brethren, be pitiful." "He hath shewed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the Lord require of thee, but to do justly and love mercy?" An unmerciful and hardhearted Christian, is as great an anomaly as an adulterous or drunken one. A disciple of Christ without bowels of mercy, without a heart to pity a sufferer's distress, is an utter impossibility. There are many things in which sophistry may deceive, and in which ignorance may mislead us, but we cannot be mistaken here. Be your mind stored with all that is profound in philosophy, all that is elegant in taste, sublime in sentiment, or useful in science, if it be not consecrated to the work of Christian mercy, it is destitute of the most essential good. How can you "come boldly to the throne of grace to obtain mercy," if ye show no mercy to the offending, the miserable, and the dying? How can ye pray "forgive us our trespasses as we forgive them that trespass against us," if ye are yourselves resentful, vindictive, unmerciful? On what authority do ye presume for eternal life from the mercy of God, if ye have not the moral feeling of his children in your hearts? By what process of calculation do ye reckon the value of faith, without the evidence which demonstrates its existence and its truth? "What doth it profit, my brethren, though a man say he hath faith, and have not works? Can faith save him? If a brother or sister be naked, and 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 necdful to the body; what doth it
profit? Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone."
And, finally, I enforce the possession and exercise of this disposition, by reminding you of the transactions of the judgment day. The light in which our Lord places this subject, is full of solemn admonition. It is a most mistaken and dangerous idea that only great and actual sins are to be guarded against; whereas, the sins of omitted duty-the duty of benevolence and mercy, will constitute the ground of condemnation to thousands, at that decisive tribunal. These sins, it is to be feared, are the most numerous, and supply in number what they want in appearance. Alarming is the denunciation which the gospel pronounces against them. It is no less against
negative than positive evil, that the serious remonstrance and the tremendous threatnings of the divine pages are directed. It is against the tree that bore no fruit, the lamp that had no oil, the servant that made no use of his talent, that the significant parables of the New Testament are pointed. In short, a very awful part of the transactions of that "day in which God will judge the world in righteousness," seems reserved for omissions and negatives. “For I was an hungred, and ye gave me no meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me no drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me not in: naked, and ye clothed me not: sick, and in prison, and ye visited me not. And these shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal."+ Let these important considerations suffice.
IV. OBSERVE THE PROMISE ANNEXED TO THE EXERCISE OF CHRISTIAN MERCY.
"Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy.” Doubtless, my brethren, this promise is true as it respects
James ii. 14-17.
+ Matt. xxv. 42, 43, 46.