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and even Trinitarians and Calvinists, are essentially right in religious matters; this may be owing to loose notions, to cursory, superficial thinking, or to extreme carelessness and indifference, about all religion. Nor is it to be wondered at, that some are ready to believe all men will be saved; since, perhaps, on no other ground, can they have any comfortable hope concerning themselves.
It is certain, however, that the author and finisher of our faith, was far from being eminent for this kind of charity. His doctrine was, "Strait is the gate, and narrow is the way which leadeth unto life; and few there be that find it." He testified of the world, that the works thereof were evil; and therefore the world hated him. Though he came into the world, not finally to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved: and though he went about doing good; feeding thousands, restoring sight to the blind, and hearing to the deaf, and healing all manner of diseases; yet he was thought, no doubt, exceedingly uncharitable. And so, I believe, would any preacher now be thought, who should teach the laws of God, and give the character of man, with the same truth and freedom that he did. We read of a people of old, that " said to the seers, See not and to the prophets, Prophesy not unto us right things; speak unto us smooth things, prophesy deceits." And we read of teachers in those times, who daubed liberally with untempered morter. Who were so charitable and tender-hearted, as to heal the hurt of sinners slightly; "saying, Peace, peace, when there was no peace." Certainly, thinking that the most of mankind, and all men by nature, are very virtuous and good; and telling them that the broad way, will never lead to destruction; is not the charity of the law of God, or the gospel of Christ. The Greek word for charity, in the New-Testament, is often translated, and always properly signifies love-a love of benevolence. It is the same that is
rendered love in Rom. v. 8, "God commendeth his love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us." In Rom. xiii. 10, "Love worketh no ill to his neighbor." And in 1 John iv. 8, "God is love." And that love-this kind of love, is meant, where our translators have given the word charity, is evident from what is said of it in many places. See particularly, 1 Cor. xiii. 4-7,
Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up, doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own," &c. All these, any one may easily see, are the natural fruits, and proper characteristics, of a benevolent dispositon.
But it is not enough to show what charity is not, or what are no certain evidences of it; nor to say, in a word, what it is: that it is benevolence; good will; kind affection. Because all men wish well, and are disposed to do good, to some of their fellow-creatures, from some principle or other and there may be many instances of particular friendships, which are not at all of the nature of christian charity. True benevolence, it must therefore be observed, hath these three properties essential to it, whereby it may be distinguished. It is universal-it is impartialand it is disinterested.
1. That charity which is the bond of perfectness, or the end of the commandment, must be universal benevolence. It extends, or is ready to be extended, to all proper objects of good will: that is, to all beings capable of enjoying good, or of suffering evil.
Not that the charitable man actually exercises kind affection, toward every such being in the universe. This is naturally impossible. There are doubtless many beings in the creation, of whose existence we have no knowledge; and towards whom therefore, we can have no particular feelings, either of love or hatred. But when we say, true benevo
lence is universal, our meaning is, that it implies a disposition universally benevolent. The charitable man is of such a temper of mind, that he wishes well to all beings capable of enjoyment or suffering, as far as he knows any thing of them; and would do so, had he particular information of every individual in actual existence. We will begin with the lowest of such beings.
(1.) The various species of inferior animals, are regarded with some kindness, by all who have any true benevolence. Solomon says, "A righteous man regardeth the life of his beast." And so he does of any beast, though not bis. The Psalmist says of God," He giveth to the beast his food, and to the young ravens which cry." And to the Most High he says, "The eyes of all wait upon thee, and thou givest them their meat in due season. openest thine hand, and satisfiest the desire of every living thing." If therefore we have been created after God in true holiness-in universal goodness, we shall be tender-hearted towards the lowest creatures that have animal life. We shall not torture any of them out of mere wantonness; nor shall we destroy them, unless some good end so requires. We shall not starve them, nor work them unmercifully; but shall provide, as far as we conveniently can for their ease and comfort; and shall take pleasure in seeing them partake of that portion of good, which their bountiful Creator hath provided for them, and given them capacities to enjoy. But,
(2.) Towards our fellow-men, in a more especial manner, we shall be kindly affectioned, if we have any thing of that charity which is intended in our
All mankind, of every sect, of every condition, and of every character, are proper objects of benevolent affection. A virtuous love of complacency, is more
limited. That is exercised only towards the good. David speaks of the saints in the earth and the excellent, as those in whom was all his delight. In In opposition to this kind of love, he says. "Do not I hate them, O Lord, that hate thee?-I hate them with perfect hatred; I count them mine enemies." But in opposition to a love of benevolence, we should hate no man, let him be of ever so hateful a character, or ever so bitter an enemy to God, or to ourselves. Our Saviour hath enjoined upon his disciples to pray for them who hate and persecute them. And the apostle Paul says, "As we have opportunity, let us do good unto all men." He adds, indeed, "especially unto them who are of the household of faith." The better any are, the more are they entitled to our good wishes and kind offices: but if we have any true benevolence of temper, we shall desire the happiness, and be ready in all proper ways to promote the interest, of even the very worst of men : nor shall we confine our friendship to those near to us--those of our kindred or vicinity; but shall regard all mankind as our neighbors and brethren.
(3.) Superior orders of created beings, particularly the holy angels, are proper objects of our benevolent affection. When the foundations of this our world were laid, these morning stars sang together, we are told, and all these elder sons of God shouted for joy. We also read of great joy in the presence of the angels, over one sinner that repenteth. And if we have any thing of the like extensive generosity of spirit, though we cannot minister to them, as they do to us, yet we shall feel interested in their felicity, and rejoice in their joy. Notwithstanding our distance from them, and the little knowledge we have of them, it ought surely to be a pleasing thought to us, that there are multitudes of such exalted intelligences who have never fallen from their original rectitude, and who are confirmed in everlasting holiness and happiness.
· Here a question may arise respecting the fallen angels, and wicked men in hell. Are not these an exception, it may be asked, to the absolute universality of the law of kindness? Is it not lawful and right to feel the opposite disposition to that of friendliness, towards creatures so irrecoverably depraved so confirmed in enmity to God and to all that are good, and so fixed in a state of eternal reprobation?
To this, I think, it is the true answer; We ought not to wish for the release and happiness of those abandoned out-casts, when we believe that God, for good reasons, hath determined the contrary. Nevertheless, we ought to be far from feeling any malevolence towards them; or from rejoicing in their wretchedness, as a thing in itself desirable. If the torments of the damned were not thought necessary, for purposes of such importance as to over-balance all the pains which these miserable sinners are doomed to suffer, the benevolent mind must feel an aversion to their sufferings, however justly merited, and be ardently desirous of their salvation. The pleasure which God, and saints, and the holy angels take, in the eternal, righteous punishment of even the devil and his angels, is not from ill-will, or any want of benevolence towards them; but merely from a regard to the great and glorious ends of moral government thereby to be obtained, and to the good of the universe which will thereby be promoted. Just as we may rojoice in the execution of a murderer, while at the same time we feel a tenderness for him; and should be heartily glad to have his life spared, and his freedom restored, if it were consistent with the support of salutary law, and with the public safety. In this view, the infliction of never-ending tribulation and anguish on rebel angels, and on the reprobate part of fallen men, is no exception to the saying of David, "The Lord is good to all :" nor will the joyful alleluias in heaven, when the smoke of their torments in hell shall ascend for ever and ever, be