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touch your hearts, there will be a harmony | wickedness. But rather,' rather than put on between love and charity, between the Crea- all these airs of piety, rather than affect an tor and the creature. The heavens will hear ignorant zeal, rather than practise exactness the earth, and the earth will hear the hea- in trifles, give alms of such things as you vens,' Hos. ii. 22. Heaven will say to the have.' Charity is the centre where all virfaithful soul, Behold the Lamb of God, tues meet. O man, what doth the Lord rewhich taketh away the sins of the world,' quire of thee, but to do justly, to love mercy, John i. 29, and the faithful soul, properly and to walk humbly with thy God? Though affected with gratitude, will reply, O God, I speak with the tongue of men and angels, my goodness extendeth not to thee, but to the though I give my body to be burned, though saints that are in the earth,' Ps. xvi. 23, and I have all faith so that I could remove mounwill pour upon the feet of Jesus Christ that thins,' and, we may add, though I should reointment which cannot be put upon the head ceive the communion every day of my life, of Christ himself. My brethren assist our fee- though I fast every week, though I burn with ble efforts. And thou, O God, who art love the zeal of a seraph, yet if I have not chariitself, animate every part, every period, eve- ty, I am become as sounding brass, or a ry expression of this discourse, so that all tinkling cymbal! Micah vi 8; 1 Cor. xiii. our hearers may become disciples of love! 1, &c. Amen.
But these reflections are too vague, let us be more particular. We will divide this discourse into two parts. In the first, we will recommend alms-giving by making an eulogium on benevolence, which ought to be the principle of it. In the second part we will make some particular observations on almsgiving itself.
I. An eulogium on benevolence shall be our first part. We consider this virtue in several different views. 1. As it regards society. 2. As it respects religion. 3. As it influences death. 4. As it regards judgment. 5. As it respects heaven. And, lastly, as it regards God himself. Benevolence is the happiness of society, and the essence of religion. It triumphs over the horrors of death, and pleads for us before that terrible tribunal at which we must be judged. Benevolence is the bond of celestial intelligences, the brightest ray of their glory, and the chief article of their felicity. Benevolence is the image of God himself, and the expression of his essence. So that to practice the duty of charity, to give alms from this principle, is to be a worthy citizen, a good Christian, cheerful in death, absolved from guilt, and a member of the church triumphant. To give alms is to return to our centre, to resemble God,irom whom our souls derived their existence. Let us examine each of these articles.
'Give alms of such things as you have;' these are the words of our text, the gospel of this day. We will not detain you in comparing the words of our translation with those of the original, in order to justify our interpreters. Some expositors think the text is not an exhortation to charity, but a censure on the Pharisees for their notion of it. After the Pharisees had obtained great sums by rapine and extortion, they endeavoured to conceal, yea, to embellish their crimes by almsdeeds. According to these interpreters, Jesus Christ only intended to condemn these infamous practices, so that instead of reading the words, as we do, give alms of such things as ye have,' we ought to read them, Ye give alms of such things as ye have, and ye suppose all things are clean to you.
But this interpretation, which is in itself a striking truth, ought, however, to be rejected, as neither being agreeable to the scope of the place, nor the literal sense of the words, which are followed by a precept, nor to ancient versions, nor to the following words, all things shall be clean to you,' which carries in it the nature of a promise, and which must therefore be naturally joined to a precept.
Let us then retain the sense of our version, and let us take the words for an order of our Master prescribing charity. He addressed this order to the Pharisees, and in them to all Christians. The Pharisees were a class of men, who loved showy virtues, and who thought by discharging small duties to make amends for the omission of great and important ones. Jesus Christ reproves them in this chapter; Ye Pharisees make clean the outside of the cup and the platter; but your inward part is full of ravening and wickedness.' They tithed mint and rue, and all manner of herbs, but they neglected charity. On another occasion we have observed, that they resembled some modern Christians, who put on the air of piety, lift their eyes to heaven, besprinkle our churches with tears, utter their souls in perpetual sighs and complaints, and incessantly cry religion! religion! but who know charity only by the pain they feel when it is,mentioned to them. Ye Pharisees make clean the outside of the cup and the platter; but your inward part is full of ravening and
1. Benevolence constitutes the happiness of society; to give alms is to perform the duty of a good citizen. In order to comprehend this, it will be only necessary to examine the principle of action in him who refuses to assist the poor according to his ability, and the miseries to which society would be reduced were each member of it to act on the same principle. The principle of a man, who does not contribute to assist the poor according to his power, is, that he who possesses temporal benefits, ought to hold them only for himself, and that he ought never to impart them to others except when his own interest requires him to do so; and that when his own inte. rest is unconnected with the condition of his neighbour, he ought not to be affected with his misfortunes. Now it is certain no princi ple can be more contrary to public good. What would become of society were all the members of it to reason in this manner? Should
the statesman say, I will make use of my knowledge and experience to arrive at the pinnacle of honour, and to conduct my family thither; but, when the interest of my country is unconnected with mine, I will abandon the helm, and give myself no concern to procure advantages for other people! What if a general should say, I will employ all my courage and strength, to surmount every obstacle in the way of my fortune; but should the enemy offer me advantages greater than I can procure of my country, I will turn my hand, and destroy the country which I now defend! What if the minister should say, I will endeavour only to save myself, or I will study only to display my talents; but when this end cannot be obtained, I will harden my heart against perplexed minds,distressed consciences, people dying in despair, and I will neglect every duty, which has only God and a miserable wretch for spectators!
Extend this principle of self-interest. Apply it to different conditions of life, and you will perceive it leads from absurdity to absurdity, and from crime to crime. You will see, that he who makes it the rule of his actions, violates all the laws which mankind made for one another, when they built cities and formed states. In such establishments men make tacit conditions, that they will succour one another, that they will reward some services by other services, and that when any are rendered incapable of serving others, or of maintaining themselves, they should not be left to perish, but that each should furnish such relief as he himself would wish to receive in the same case.
If a rich man, therefore, refuse to assist the poor, he violates this primitive law, and consequently saps the foundation of society. As good politicians, we ought to proceed rigorously against a miser, he should be lodged among animals of another species, and such pleasures as arise from a society of men should be refused to him, because he refuses to contribute to them, and lives only for himself. For want of human laws, there is I know not what maledictions affixed to those who are destitute of charity. They are considered with horror. Their insensibility is a subject of public conversation. People give one another notice to be upon their guard with such men, and to use caution in dealing with people of principles so odious. For do not deceive yourselves; do not think to impose long on the public; do not imagine your turpitude can be long hid, there is nothing covered that shall not be revealed,' Matt. x. 26. We know well enough how to distinguish a haritable man from a miser. A note of infamy is set upon the last, and people say to one another, See, observe that old man, who alone possesses a fortune sufficient for ten families, see how avariciously he accumulates money, and how cruelly he refuses to assist the poor with the least particle of what death is just going to take from him! See that proud ambitious woman, who displays her vanity with so much parade in the sight of the whole world, see how she makes the poor expiate
the guilt of her pride, by feeding her vanity with what ought to buy them bread. Thus people talk. They do more, they reckon, they calculate, they talk the matter over at large in public company, one relates the history of the miser, and another makes quaint remarks, and all together form an odious portrait, which every man abhors.
2. Consider benevolence in regard to religion, and particularly in regard to the Christian religion, of which we affirm it was the essence. In what light soever you view Jesus Christ, the teacher of the gospel, you will find him displaying this virtue. Consider him as appointed to save you, observe his birth, his preaching, his actions, his preparation for death, his death itself; in all these different views he recommends charity to you.
Consider Jesus as appointed for salvation. What inclined God to form the design of saving the world? Was it any eminent quality in man? Were we not children of wrath,' execrable objects in the eyes of the Lord? Was it any service rendered to God? Alas! we were enemies in our minds by wicked works,' Col. i. 21. Was it any prospect of retribution? But our goodness extendeth not unto him,' Ps. xvi. 2. Is not all-sufficiency one of his attributes? What then inclined God to forın a plan of redemption? Ask Jesus Christ. He will inform you,' God so loved the world that he gave his Son,' John iii. 16. Ask the apostle Paul. He will tell you, 'It was for his great love wherewith he loved us,' Eph. ii. 4.
The birth of Jesus Christ preaches love to us; for why this flesh? why this blood? why this incarnation? In general it was for our salvation. My brethren, have you ever weighed these words of St. Paul? As the children are partakers of flesh and blood,'(the scripture contains elevated sentiments which can never be studied enough. Divines distinguish senses of Scripture into literal and mystical; we add a third, a sublime sense, and this passage is an example),-As the children are partakers of flesh and blood, he also himself took part of the same, that he might be a merciful and faithful high-priest. For in that he himself hath suffered being tempted, he is able to succour them that are tempted,' Heb. ii 14, &c. Observe these words, he took part of flesh and blood that he might be merciful.' What! could he not be merciful without flesh and blood? 'In that he hath suffered being tempted, he is able to succour them that are tempted.' How! Is not Jesus Christ, as Lord of the universe, able to deliver us from temptations? True, he is almighty. His compassion inclines him to succour us. Yet, it should seem, according to St. Paul, that something was wanting to his omnipotence. It seems as if universal knowledge was not sufficient to inform him fully of the excess of our miseries. What was wanting was to know our ills by experimental feeling. This knowledge is incompatible with deity, deity is impassible; and it was to supply this, and to acquire this knowledge, that God made known to the world the unheard-of mystery of God manifest in the flesh,'
so that the Saviour might be inclined to relieve miseries which he himself had felt. 'He also himself took part of flesh and blood, that he might be merciful. For in that he himself hath suffered being tempted, he is able to succour them that are tempted.'
lence. His love supported him against the fears of death, the terrors of divine justice, and the rage of hell. His love extended even to his executioners; and, less affected with his own pains than with the miseries to which their crimes exposed them, he fetched Jesus Christ in his doctrine has taught us (it was one of his last sighs), a sigh of love, benevolence, for to what but love does all his and ready to expire, said, Father forgive doctrine tend? What is the new command-them, they know not what they do.' Luke ment he gave us? That we should love one another,' John xiii. 24. What is pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father? Is it not to visit the fatherless and the widows?' James i. 27. What one thing was lacking to the young man who had not committed adultery, had not killed, had not defrauded? Was it not to sell his goods, and give to the poor? Matt. xix 21. The whole system of Christianity tends to charity; the doctrines to charity; the duties to charity; the promises to charity; the ordinances which assemble us in one house, as members of one family, where we eat at one table, as children of one father, all tend to establish the dominion of charity.
Such is the gospel. Such is your religion. Now I ask, My brethren, can a man imagine himself a disciple of such a master, can he aspire at such noble promises, can he admit such truths, in one word, can he be a Christian and not be charitable? Have we not reason to affirm, that benevolence is the essence of Christianity, the centre to which the lines of all Christian virt es tend?
3. A third reflection, that is, that benevolence triumphs over the horrors of death, ought to have great weight with us. A meditation of death is one of the most powerful of all motives to guard us against temptations, ag eeably to a fine saying of the son of Sirach, Whatsoever thou takest in hand, remember the end, and thou shalt never do amiss,' Ecclus. vii. 36. This thought has a peculiar influ
The actions of Jesus Christ preach charity to us, for all his life was employed in exercises of benevolence. What zeal for the salvation of his neighbours! Witness his pow-ence in regard to charity. erful exhortations, his tender prayers, his earnest entreaties. What compassion for the miseries of others! Witness his emotions, when he saw the multitudes fainted, and were scattered abroad, as sheep having no shepherd,' Matt. ix. 36, witness the tears he shed at the grave of Lazarus, and over ungrateful Jerusalem. We have, in a few words, an abridgment of the most amiable life that ever was: 'He went about doing good,' Acts x. 38.
Jesus preached charity in his preparation for death. You know what troubles agitated his mind at the approach of this terrible period. You know what difference there is between his death and our death. As we draw near to death we approach a throne of grace; but Christ went to a tribunal of vengeance. We go to our father; he went to his judge. We are responsible for our own sins; but upon the head of this victim lay all the crimes of the people of God. Amidst so many formidable objects, what filled the mind of Jesus Christ? Love. Now holy Father, I am no more in the world,' said he, but these are in the world, keep through thine own name those whom thou hast given me, that they may be one as we are,' John xvii. 11. As if he had said, Father take me for the victim of thy displeasure, let me feel all its strokes, give me the dregs of the cup of thine indignation to drink; provided my beloved disciples be saved, my joy will be full.
In fine, Jesus Christ taught us benevolence by his death; for 'greater love than this hath no man, that a man lay down his life for his friends,' John xv. 13. There was neither a wound in his body, nor an incision in his hands or his feet, nor a drop of his blood that was shed, which did not publish benevo
In effect, what is death? I consider it principally in two views, first as a general shipwreck, in which our fortunes, titles, and dignities are lost. We brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out,' I Tim. vi. 7. Next, I consider it as the time of examination and judgment, for it is appointed to all men once to dic, and after that the judgment,' Heb. ix. 27. The moment of death is a fatal period, in which are united the excesses of our youth, the distractions of our manhood, the avarice of our old age, our pride, our ambition, our impurity, our covetousness, our treacheries, our perjuries, our calmnies, our blasphemies, our lukewarmness, our profanations; all these crimes will form one black cloud, heavy, and hanging ready to burst on our heads.
These are two just views of death, and ideas of these make, if i may be allowed to say so. the two most formidable weapons of the king of terrors,' the most terrible of all terrible things. But the benevolent man is covered from these attacks,
The charitable man need not fear a deprivation of his fortune, for in this respect he does not die. He has prevented the ravages of death by disburdening himself of his riches. He has eradicated the love of the world. He has given to the poor what would otherwise have fed avarice. Yet, let me recollect myself, the charitable man does not impoverish himself by his benevolence. He has sent his fortune before him. These are Scriptural ideas. He that hath pity upon the poor, lendeth unto the Lord, and that which he hath given, will he pay him again. Make to yourselves friends of the mammon of unrightcousness, that when ye fail, they may receive you into everlasting habitations,' Prov. xix 17; Luke xvi. 9. At death the Christian
beholds these friends opening their arms to re-think yourselves ready to expire, you implore ceive him. I recollect here an epitaph said our assistance, and require us to comfort you. to be engraven on the tomb of Atolus of We seldom succeed much on these occasions. Rheims. He exported his fortune before him Miserable comforters are we all. Religion into heaven, he is gone thither to enjoy it. with all its evidences, grace with all its What a fine epitaph, my brethren! Happy charms, the promises of the gospel with all he who, instead of such pompous titles as the their magnificence, are generally insufficient vanity of the living puts on the tombs of the to administer consolation. Christians, you dead, under pretence of honouring the merit must certainly die: arm us then to-day against of the deceased, instead of such nauseous in- yourselves. Put into our hands to-day an arscriptions as feed pride among bones, worms, gument against that fear of death which will and putrefactions, objects so proper to teach shortly seize you. Give weight to our minisus humility, happy he who has a right to such try, and by disarming death by your charities, an epitaph as that just now mentioned! He put us into a condition to show you death disexported his fortune before him into heaven by armed at the end of your life. his charities, he is gone thither to enjoy it. Happy he who, instead of splendid funeral processions, and a long train of hired attendants, who seem less disposed to lament death than to increase the numbers of the dead, happy he whose funeral is attended and lament-When the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, he shall say unto them on his right hand, Come ye blessed of my father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was an hungered, and ye gave me meat; I was thirsty and ye gave me drink. Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me,' ver. 32, &c.
4. Charity provides against the terrors with which an apprehension of the last judgment ought to inspire us. Jesus Christ has furnished us with this idea, for thus he speaks in the twenty-fifth chapter of St. Matthew,
ed by the poor! Happy he whose funeral oration is spoken by the wretched in sobs and sighs and expressions like these, I was naked, and he clothed me, I was hungry, and he fed me, I lived a dying life, and he was the hap. py instrument of Providence to support me!
A charitable man need not fear death considered as a time of account. What says the Scriptures concerning charity in regard to our sins? It covereth a multitude,' 1 Pet. iv. 8. Daniel gives this counsel to a guilty king, 'Break off thine iniquities by showing mercy to the poor, chap. iv. 27. Not that our Scriptures authorize a sacrilegious commentary, such as some sinners make upon these passages. Under pretence that it is said, charity covereth a multitude of sins,' or that it puts away our sins (the sense of the first is disputed, and we will not now explain it), under this pretence, I say, some Christians pretend to make a tacit compact with God. The import of this contract is, that the sinner should be allowed by God, for the sake of his almsdeeds, to persist in sin. An unjust man, who retains the property of others, will give a trifle to the poor, and, under pretence that charity covereth a multitude of sins,' will hold himself free from the law of restitution. A debauchee will give alms, and, under pretence that charity covereth a multitude of sins,' will think himself authorized to lead an unclean life. Great God! is this the idea we form of thy majesty? If these be the motives of our virtues whence do our vices spring? Shall we pretend with presents to blind thine eyes, eyes of purity itself? Would we make thee, O God! an accomplice in our crimes? and have we forgot that prohibition so remark able in thy law, thou shalt not bring the hire of a whore, or the price of a dog, into the house of the Lord!' Deut. xxiii. 18. It is, however, very certain that charity disarms death, in regard to that account which we are about to give of the manner in which we have disposed our property, for charity is the least equivocal mark of our Christianity, and the least suspicious evidence of our faith.
I do not know whether in the perfect enjoy ment of health, and the pleasures of life, you enter into these reflections; but when you
There is another of the passages of which we just now spoke, and which ought to be understood in a sense altogether sublime. Jesus Christ personates the poor, and takes upon himself, if I may speak so, all their obligations. What is the reason of this conduct? If the poor be so dear to him, why does he leave them to suffer, and if he leave them to suffer, why does he say they are so dear to him? My brethren, this is intended to exercise our faith, and to purify our love. Should Christ come to us in pomp and glory, surrounded with devouring fire, with all the ensigns of his majesty, attended by seraphim, and by thousand thousands ministering unto him; should he come in this manner to ask of us a cup of water, a piece of bread, a little money, which of us would refuse to grant his request? But this mark of our love would be suspicious. It would proceed from emotions excited by the splendour of his majesty, rather than from genuine love. No wonder a king is respected in his court, and upon his throne; majesty dazzles, and ensigns of supreme dignity excite emotions in all the powers of our souls. But should this king survive some disgrace, should he be banished from his kingdom, and abandoned by his subjects, then his real friends would be discovered, and be would prepare them a thousand rewards. This is an image of Jesus Christ. In vain prostrating ourselves at the foot of his throne, we say to him a thousand times over, Lord, thou knowest that we love thee.' Perhaps this profession of esteem may proceed more from a love of the benefits, than of the benefactor who bestows them. Banished from his heavenly court in the persons of his members, forsaken by his subjects, covered with rags, and lodged in a hospital, he comes to try his real friends, solicits their compassion, presents his
miseries to them, and tells them at the same time, that his condition will not be always thus despicable, that he shall be soon re-established on his throne, and that he will then recompense their care with eternal felicity; this is the meaning of the words just now read, I was an hungered, and ye gave me meat, I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink.' Grand motive to charity! Immense weight with a soul the least animated with ingenuousness and fervour! I am not surprised, however, that motives so strong in themselves are frequently ineffectual with us. Always confined in a sphere of sensible objects, taken up with the present moment, contracted within the limits of our own small circle, we never look forward to futurity, never think of that great day in which God will judge the world in righteous ness, and fix our eternal doom. But who is there, who is there, that in the presence of all mankind, in the presence of all the angels of heaven, in the presence of the whole universe, and in the presence of God himself, can bear this reproof from the mouth of the Son of God, 'I was an hungered, and ye gave me no meat, I was thirsty, and ye gave me no drink.'
of this love, and the more he communicates the delights of it to them, the more the saints approach God by a return of love; and the nearer they draw to the source of happiness, the happier they render themselves and one another by such communications.
5. Let us consider charity in regard to heaven itself. We say benevolence is a celestial virtue, and we propose this fifth reflection to you, in order to enforce the necessity, and to display the excellence of charity. Understand, my brethren, all the other virtues which the gospel prescribes to us are characterized by a mortification, which obliges us to enter into our nothingness, and reminds us of our turpitude and misery. They are not absolute positive excellences, they are remedies for our ills. For example, faith supposes our ignorance; hope supposes our poverty; patience implies afflictions; repentance supposes sin. All public worship, prayer, humilation, fasting, sacraments, all imply that we are gross and carnal. All this will have no place in heaven. In heaven there will be no faith, no hope, no prayer, no patience. In heaven there will be neither humiliation, nor fasting, nor sacraments. Charity, rising out of love, is superior to all other exercises, it has an excellence proper to itself: love will follow us to heaven, and heaven is the abode of love. There God, who is love, establishes his empire, there perfect love reigns; there is seen the ineffable love which the Father has for his son; there is found that incomprehensible union which unites the three Divine Persons who are the object of our worship; there Jesus Christ, our mystical head, unites himself with his members; there is displayed the love of God to glorified saints, with whom he shares his fe licity and glory; there the love of glorified saints to God is made manifest; there are seen those tender ties which unite the inhabitants of heaven to each other, hearts aiming at the same end, burning with the same fire, enlivened with the same zeal, and joining in one voice to celebrate the author of their existence; there, then, benevolence is a heavenly virtue; it constitutes the felicity of the place. Love is the most perfect of all pleasures. The more the Deity approaches his saints by an effusion
Let us not lightly pass over this reflection. It is good to be here. He that hath ears to hear let him hear,' Matt. xi. 15. He that has the most refined sense, the quickest invention, the most noble imagination, let him conceive a society united by the purest principles, and cemented by the firmest virtue. This is paradise, this is love. This is charity; charity that gives no alms, because none in heaven are indigent, but charity which goes so far as to give all, to give up happiness, to give self, to sacrifice self for other objects of love; witness the presents which came from heaven; witness the description of this holy place; witness God, who gave us his Son, his only Son, the tenderest object of his love; witness the Son, who gave himself; witness the blessed angels, who encamp round about us to protect and defend us; witness the triumphs of glorified saints, who rejoice over one sinnner that repents, as if more interested in his happiness than in their own; witness the crowns which the saints cast before the throne of the Lamb, resigning, as it were, in his favour their felicity and glory; witness these expressions of love, which we shall one day understand by an experimental enjoyment of them, 'his banner over me is love. Turn away thine eyes from me, for they have overcome me. Set me as a seal upon thine heart, as a seal upon thine arm; for love is strong as death, jealousy is cruel as the grave; the coals thereof are coals of fire, which have a most vehement flame. Many waters cannot quench love, neither can the floods drown it,' Cant. ii. 4, and vi. 5.
After having elevated our meditation to heaven, we return to you, my brethren. We blush at what we are doing to-day. We are ashamed to preach, complain, and exhort. Why? are we endeavouring to engage you to sacrifice your fortunes, to renounce your lives, to become accursed for your brethren? Are we trying to induce you to perform some heroical and uncommon act of love? No. Alas! Alas! We are obliged to exhort, and complain, and preach, to obtain of you a little bit of bread, a few tattered clothes, a little small share of what you give with great prolusion to the world. Good God! What Christians are you! Is this the church? Are you the household of faith? Are we preaching to citizens of heaven? Are we knocking at the doors of hearts that believe a life eternal? But how will you enter into that abode with such unfeeling souls? Would you go to interrupt the communion of saints? Would you go to disorder heaven, and to disconcert angels? And do you not perceive, that if you do not put on bowels of mercies, you banish yourselves from an abode in which all breathe charity and love?
In fine, we consider charity in regard to God himself. Love is the essence of Deity. God is love. So an apostle has defined it.