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CHARITY is a found acceptable to all; and all contending parties are ready to reproach each other with the want of it. But perhaps no expreffion is more constantly used in opposition to the apostolic sense of it than this.
Paul gives us the moft particular description of it in his first Epistle to the Corinthians, chapter 13. After having shewn, that all gifts and virtues wherein a man may excel without it, are of no real benefit to him, he proceeds to set before us the general tendency of it in these words : Charity suffereth long, and is kind : fo imitates the divine long-suffering andi kindnefs toward men. Then he declares what it is opposed to: Charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up, doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, (or is not provoked to revenge), thinketh (or deviseth) no evil.
Thus far we fee charity opposed to pride, and the various ways wherein men are influenced and conducted thereby. Then he comes to fhew positively, wherein the peculiar nature of charity confifts, what is the hinge on which it turns, or what is the center of its delight. He says, It rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth with the truth (for thus the original should be rendered). The great truth, that God is well pleased in his beloved Son, proved by his resurrection from the dead, is the center of the joy of charity. The apostle amplifies this description, by giving us to underftand, that charity beareth all things reported in the truth, or all inspired descriptions of it, how
ever opposite to the corruption of human nature, so counts none of them hard sayings, or unfit to be borne; that it believeth all things imported in the great truth, or all the inferences which the apostles have deduced from it, as being well affected to the amiable source from whence they flow; that it hopeth for all things promised in it, and endureth all things, or patiently suffers all the afflictions that can attend a steady attachment to it: and he crowns the description, by declaring, that charity never faileth, so is greater than its temporary companions, faith, and hope.
The blessedness of God consists in the conscicusness of his own boundless perfections. These are fully ạisplayed only in the atonement. The fulness of the divine good-pleasure and delight, then, can only be manifested there. If we speak then of God as made manifest to his creatures, we must say that the atonement is the center of his delight. This is also the center of the joy of charity. Charity then is fellowship with the true God in his blessedness.
Yea, if we take in the notion of Deity which the scripture is writ to exhibit, we must say, that the love manifested in the atonement, is the only true God; and that there is no God besides that love. Thus only can we perceive the propriety of the apostle John's words, He that loveth not, knoweth net God; for God is love. He that dwelleth in love, dwelleth in God, and God in him. And he sums up all that he hath to say of love and happiness, in one idea, in the close of his Epistle, This is the true God and eternal life.
The sufferings of Christ, with the glory by which they were crowned, are known to us only by report. Charity then, on this side the grave, is the love of that report. So PETER, speaking :
of Christ, fays, Whom having not seen, ye love ; in whom, though now ye see him not, yet believing, je rejoice with joy, unspeakable and full of glory.
Charity delights in the character of the true God drawn in the truth, and has no regard for any other, though drawn by the wiseft men, and applauded by multitudes.-Charity does not respect men
any of those things, on account of which one man glories over another; but it delights in all who are of the truth, for the truth's fake dwelling in them.-Charity has a sacred regard for all the institutions of worship delivered in the New Testament, as baptism, the Lord's day, and the several ordinances wherein the first Christians continued stedfastly on that day; as all these have the truth evidently stamped upon them, and serve to bring it to remembrance, and so promote the happiness resulting from it. But it has no regard to any institutions of worship founded on traditions or commandments of men, though authorised by the grandest assemblies on earth.-Charity is well affected to the great commandment of Jesus Christ, Love one another, as I have loved you ; and to all the services and expressions of that love appointed in the New Testament, however ridiculous in the eyes of the world.-In a word, charity despises all the little fingularities of parties, but it has a high veneration for the public statutes of the kingdom of heaven, which all serve to promote righteousness and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghoft. Charity bears GOODWILL to all men, and is ready to do them good as opportunity presents; but its joy is confined to those in whom the truth dwells. We may
fee in Paul, who was an eminent pattern of charity, how it rejoices with the truth. Speaking of his felf-denial and condescension toward all sorts of men, to recommend the gospel to their attention, as well as for the benefit of them who believed, he says, And this I do for the gospel's fake, that I may be partaker thereof with you, or (to translate it more accurately) its partaker. He chose to join in partnership with the gospel, and to run all risks with it for the salvation of mankind, in hopes of partaking of the glory promised in it. So he says in another place, I endure all things for the elect's fake, that they may also obtain the falvation, which is in Christ Jesus, with eternal glory. Charity, then, is benevolence toward all men for the elect's fake, as knowing none but whom God may save by bringing them to the knowledge of the truth. So its BENEVOLENCE toward all men, proceeds from the joy it has in the truth. But the COMPLACENCE of charity, can be mutually exercised only among them who love the truth. Charity, then, is the imitation of the divine goodness. God shews kindness to all, making his jun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sending his rain on the just and on the unjust : but he taketh pleasure in them that fear him, in them that hope in his mercy.
Charity contains the sum of all holiness of heart and life. No action, however highly commendable, no character, however highly efteemed, that is not formed upon the love of the truth, can be well-pleasing to God. All love to the truth is influenced by the Holy Ghost, the Spirit of the truth, who is therefore likewise called the Spirit of love. And thus we see the true difference betwixt the Spirit of God, and the spirit of the world, or the spirit of pride, by which men fortify themselves in their disobedience to God, and flatter one another down to eternal perdition,
In Paul's description of charity, iniquity stands opposed to the truth; as all iniquity proceeds upon falsehood, or the truth of God changed into a lie, according to which men are emboldened to fin with hopes of impunity. In the profesfion of Christianity, all iniquity is promoted by some perversion of the gospel. Thus Jesus Chrift foretold, Many false prophets shall arise, and shall deceive many; and because iniquity frall abound, the love of many fall wax. cold. And Paul speaking of the great apoftacy, as prefigured by ancient idolatry, calls it the mystery of iniquity, and says it comes with all deceivableness of unrighteousness. And he declares, that it comes as a judgment on them who received not the love of the truth;—but had pleajiire in unrighteoufness. Thus, we have an extensive view of his account of charity, as it rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth with the truth.
As charity then always holds pace with the truth, and keeps company with it wherever it goes ; so it is very jealous in its behalf, as finding all its joy. in it. No injury can be done to the truth, but charity feels the wound. Christian zeal is nothing else but the fervency of charity; and as there are many counterfeits of the truth, fo are there likewise of charity. We may easily know then what sort of charity any man has, by enquiring what does he hold for truth, or what is his justifying faith. The faith of fome is nothing else but a good opinion of themselves, as helped to excel others by something that they call grace; and they maintain, that this faith is the only true principle of holiness. Whatever charity then such people pretend to be influenced by, we have good ground to say, that they are influenced by the spirit of pride, and all their works of holiness are indeed the works of pride. The spirit