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the present world. The merciful man never falls unpitied. If the hand of adversity should press upon him, there are those whose hearts the Lord opens to afford him succour. He shall obtain mercy of men.
Let us hear the scriptures on this point. “ If thou draw out thy soul to the hungry, and satisfy the afflicted soul; then shall thy light rise in obscurity.”* “ Blessed is he that considereth the poor : the Lord will deliver him in time of trouble." + He that hath pity upon the poor lendeth unto the Lord; and that which he hath given will he pay him again." # If affliction be his portion, the comforts of his heavenly Father are afforded him. “The Lord will strengthen him upon the bed of languishing : thou wilt make all his bed in his sickness.” §
Now, in addition to these promises, I remark, that the compassionate feelings which the merciful cherish, and the benevolent employments in which they engage, are of the most exalting and improving nature.
“ It is better to go to the house of mourning, than to go to the house of feasting.”|| In their visits to such an abode, and in witnessing the miseries of the unhappy, the heart is softened; the affections are purified; the mind is instructed, and the soul is directed to contemplate that better world, where “ the inhabitant shall not say, I am sick; the people that dwell therein shall be forgiven their iniquity.” In soothing the grief, and mitigating the pain of the afflicted, there is real blessedness. When thus engaged, the Christian enjoys a pleasure of the purest kind : he tastes the felicity of the angels of heaven. But the promise has a more extended and decisive fulfilment in reference to the final state of the soul. “God is not unrighteous, to forget your work and labour of love, which ye have
• Isaiah lviii. 10.
Psalm xli. 3.
+ Psalm xli, 1.
| Prov. xix. 17.
Isaiah xxxiii. 24.
showed toward his name, in that ye have ministered to the saints, and do minister." * The promise is, as we shall have to show you, in another part of our reflections on this sermon, that "if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you.” Eternal life is the gift of God through Jesus Christ our Lord, and our title to his mercy is purchased by his obedience unto death, and not by any good works we perform, or any holy disposition which even his grace may have wrought within us, yet such a divine temper is necessary as an evidence of our being born again of the spirit of God. In exercising this benevolent virtue, from a regard to divine authority, and under a grateful sense of personal forgiveness, we possess a valuable proof of the reality of our interest in the mercy of “God, the judge of all.” By this disposition we are also capable of ascertaining our spiritual condition. “ We know that we have passed from death unto life, because we love the brethren.” + Hence the gracious salutation of our Lord to his people, “Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world : for I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink : I was a stranger, and ye took me in: naked, and ye clothed me : I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came’unto me.” # To this conduct may be applied the maxim of the apostle. “He which soweth sparingly shall reap also sparingly; and he which soweth bountifully shall reap also bountifully." S In this field of beneficence, a plentiful harvest will follow a plentiful seed-time. This is the good measure pressed down and running over, which shall be measured to you again, not as a debt due to any merit—but as mercy to the merciful. After
• Heb. vi. 10. + 1 John iii. 14. Matt. xxv. 34–36. § 2 Cor. ix. 6.
all our best deeds we shall need mercy; and that mercy the Lord has promised to give us.
In the conclusion of this practical discourse, let us remark-First, The superior excellence of Christianity to every other professed religion. Yes; your divine morality, my brethren, will bear inspection, and stand a proud comparison with all the systems of religion which existed previous to its introduction into the world by Jesus Christ and his apostles, or that have been since introduced. Mercy to man was, indeed, enjoined under the Levitical dispensation; and the promise of future happiness was not wholly unknown to the Israelites ; but how much more mild and benign is the aspect of the Christian economy, which has succeeded the abolition of the Jewish. The prominent feature of that religion, was the commanding authority and awful justice of the divine character, in which men were taught the danger of transgressing His law, and their utter need of His mercy: but, in the gospel, “ the kindness and love of God, our Saviour, have appeared.” And all who are the recipients of that gospel, in truth, “are baptized into the same spirit” of benignity and compassion. While the infidel sneers at the efforts of Christian mercy to save the guilty, and while the cold and calculating professor derides, as perfect enthusiasm, that pure benevolence which stretches forth the hand of relief to the inhabitants of the shadow of death, still that is the truest patriotism and the best philanthropy, which strives to lessen the sorrows and alleviate the moral woes of mankind. “Charge the disciples of Christ with fanaticism, O ye infidels, if ye please ; but to their pious zeal must be ascribed both the institution and support of missions of mercy and grace to the heathen world. And believe it, my brethren, the more we go forth personally, or by our representatives, in labours like these, the more will primitive Christianity, as it was in the days of the apostles,
be restored to the church of Christ, and the more shall we act in unison with the spirit of our religion.
Lastly. Let me affectionately intreat you to carry out into life, the temper which has now been set before you. It claims your attention as suffering creatures. You are “born unto trouble as the sparks fly upward.” You are still in the body, and have yet, probably, much to endure. You may soon be among the number of the afflicted, and stand in need of sympathy and support. This blessed disposition becomes you also as sinful beings, who are ever dependent on the long-suffering and tender mercy of God. And, above all, I ask it at your hands, as the professing disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ ;-. What is the test of relation to him? “A new commandment I give unto
ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye
also love one another. By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another."* what will be the end of such Christians as see the anguish of their brother's soul, but will not hear! “O my soul, come not thou into their secret; unto their assembly, mine honour, be not thou united.”+ But “ye know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, that ye through his poverty might be rich.”! And with this affecting consideration I leave the subject. Amen.
• John. xiii. 34, 35.
^ Gen, xlix. 6.
2 Cor. viii.9.
MATTHEW v. 8.
“ BLESSED ARE THE PURE IN HEART, FOR THEY SHALL
“ Keep thine heart with all diligence, for out of it are the issues of life.” “ Man looketh at the outward appearance, but the Lord looketh to the heart.”
“ As a man thinketh in his heart, so is be.” These sentiments are in perfect accordance with the doctrine of this passage ; which contains a truth, that lies at the root of vital godliness and eternal bliss ; for the Scriptures affirm, “ that without holiness no man shall see the Lord.”
Again, the Saviour strikes a blow at the mistakes of the world in general, and of the Pharisees in particular. The preceding beatitude was designed to break down the selfishness of man; this is intended to overthrow all hypocrisy, and insincerity in his devotions. The professions which the Jews made of ceremonial and moral purity were proverbial, and the multitude were carried away with the belief that their piety was as real as it was ostentatious. Our Lord, however, saw through their artful disguise. He detected these “whited sepulchres,” and exhibited the nauseous rottenness and impurity that rankled within. Their flowing robes, their demure countenances, their long