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hope. Their ignorance calls irresistibly for instruction ; their afflictions, for sympathy; and their dangers, for deliverance. They are slothful; and must be quickened. They are diffident; and must be encouraged. They love the world ; and must be withdrawn from it. They are lukewarm; and must be animated. They backslide; and must be recalled to their duty.
What a field is here spread before the Christian for the exercise of his brotherly love! To labour in this field is the proper business, the professional employment, of every disciple of Christ. In this field what disciple will not labour willingly, vigorously, and without ceasing. Should any one find himself slothful, reluctant, discouraged, or weary ; let him call to mind, that the service, which is proposed at any time, and in danger of being declined by him, beside being an act of brotherly love to a fellow-christian, is a service done to Christ himself. Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these, my brethren, ye have done it unto me;" is the definitive sentence, pronounced by himself on every effort of this nature. Let every Christian call to mind, that every such effort, is intended to requite, so far as in his power, this divine benefactor for the immense blessing of eternal life: life, too, purchased by the death of the cross. Let him remember, that it is one of those works, according to which he will be judged; and that, therefore, it will be the means of superior glory to him in heaven, and of superior enjoyment throughout his immortal existence. If these considerations do not move him, his Religion has gone from home, or is buried in sleep.
IV. By the same considerations we are strongly urged to love all
" I say unto you,” saith our Saviour in his sermon on the mount, “ Love your enemies; bless them, that curse you ; do good to them, that hate you; and pray for them, who despitefully use you, and persecute you ; That ye may be the children of your
Father, who is in heaven : for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil, and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just, and on the unjust."
There is no example in the providence of God, in which his kindness to the evil and unthankful, or to those who ultimately hecome grateful and good, is shown with such intenseness and
splendour, as in the mediation of Christ, and the consequent mission of his Spirit. Here the example, the rule, and the motive, are all spread before us with a glory which is supreme, and an efficacy which will be eternal. The example and the rule are commensurate, and comprise men of all ages, countries and characters, so far as it may be in our power to render them any service. Where they lie beyond the reach of our active beneficence, we are bound to wish their prosperity, and to pray fervently for their welfare. The same good wishes, and the same fervent prayers, we are obliged to extend, also, to those who are included within this pale; and additionally to impart to them of our substance, to furnish them with our kind offices, and to set before them a blameless and beneficial example. These, therefore, are constituted by God the peculiar objects of vur beneficence. Among them the first place belongs to the household of farth; the second, to all others. to whom we have opportunities of doing good. The ways, in which this is to be done, are both in number and variety endless ; and occur every day, and at every turn in the journey of life. Who the objects are, to whom it may be done, scarcely demands an inquiry. Should the question, however, be asked ; the first answer is, “ Those, to whom it can be done;" and the second, “Those, who most need it." Whether they be friends or enemies, neighbours or strangers, is of no moment. that we are under the same obligation to do the same good to all men, who are within our reach. We are bound. especially, to do good to our families, and frien's; because God has placed this peculiarly in our power, and made it peculiarly our duty. But I mean, that, when an object of our beneficence is set before us in his providence, the good, which is in our power, is then to be done, so far as may consist with other duties of life; and that, whoever, and whatever, this object may be. Should it be asked, What are the good offices, which we are especially bound to perform? I answer, Those, which are most needed; and those, which we can render, consistently with superior duties. The providence of God will ordinarily point out both the duty, and the object of it; and that, in language, which, if we open our hearts, can scarcely be misconstrued : language, easily intelligible to him, who is willing to understand.
I do not mean,
There is, however, one work of Christian charity, which is of pre-eminent importance; and always claims a superior place in our labours of benevolence. This is the great work, which Christ came to accomplish : the conversion of sinners.
- Brethren," says St. James, “ if any of you do err from the truth, and one convert him; let him know, that he, who converteth a sinner from the error of his way, shall save a soul from death, and shall hide a multitude of sins.” Who would not willingly labour in such an employment as this?
David, contemplating the greatness and all sufficiency of God, and his own absolute insufficiency, and moved at the same time by an ardent spirit of piety and beneficence, exclaimed, “. My goodness," that is, my kindness, "extendeth not to thee, but to the saints, that are in the earth, and the excellent, in whom is all my delight.” This eminent saint, under the influence of all his piety, and directed by Inspiration itself, perceived, that the important attribute of Kindness, forming so great a part of the sanctified character, could not reach heaven, but was to find its objects on earth. Christ has taught us, that these objects are all men. This he has taught in his instructions, and in his example; and in both, with the most vivid language, and the most constraining motives. To find these very objects, he came from Heaven. To teach this duty, and exert this beneficence, he preached the Gospel; wrought his glorious miracles; and ascended the Cross. In his miracles and in his preaching, in his life and in his death, he calls with infinite authority, and unlimited persuasion, to every one of his followers: “Go thou; and do likewise."
ECCLESIASTES iii. 12.
I know, that there is no good in them, but for a man to rejoice, and
to do good in his life.
The word them, in this verse, appears to refer to the works, spoken of in the preceding verse: the works of creation; or the creatures, which God maketh from the beginning to the end. In these, it is said, "there is no good, but for a man to rejoice, and to do good in his life.” The joy, which is here spoken of, is unquestionably joy in God, his works and his designs, sufficiently explained in Jeremiah ix. 23, 24. “Thus saith the Lord, Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom; neither let the mighty man glory in his might; let not the rich man glory in his riches: But let him that glorieth, glory in this ; that he understandeth, and knoweth, me; that I am the LORD, which exercise loving-kindness, judgment, and righteousness, in the earth : for in these things I delight,' saith the Lord.”
To do good may denote,
3. To glorify our Creator, and to advance the prosperity of his kingdom.
The declaration, made in the text, then, amounts to this :
That there is nothing good, i. e. useful, or valuable, in the Creation, so far as we are concerned, but that we rejoice in it; and in God the Author of it; and that we do good.
This, then, is implicitly asserted to be the end of our being : for if all the good, or profit, resulting from our connection with the Creation, be placed in this ; then this is the real purpose, the sole end, for which we were made. The following doctrine is, therefore, evidently contained in the words of the text: To rejoice in God, and to do good, is the End, for which man was created.
By the End, for which man was created, I intend the purpose, for which his life, faculties, and advantages, were given to him by his Maker.
The former of these subjects I shall not consider at the present time. Fruitful, interesting, and noble, as this theme of instruction is, it is impossible for me to do justice to it, even imperfectly, without consuming the time, which I have intentionally allotted to the latter. I shall, therefore, dismiss it with two or three summary observations.
1. Rejoicing in God supposes a diligent contemplation of both his works, and his word.
2. It supposes, also, that we derive from this contemplation a real knowledge of his true character.
3. That we delight in this character, so far as we understand it; and, where we do not, that we regard it with a sincere and virtuous confidence.
4. Rejoicing in God, therefore, involves, either immediately or consequentially, all those affections, which are included under the general name of Piety.
All this is plainly but one way of doing good. Yet, as this phrase usually denotes that train of virtuous conduct, which immediately respects ourselves and our fellow-men ; particularly the latter; I have separated these efforts of a virtuous mind, in order to make the subject more clearly understood.
Most men will probably confess, without much reluctance, or difficulty, that to do good to mankind is a primary end of our being. So many loose, general observations are continually made on this subject, which are favourable to the doctrine, that few per. sons would probably hesitate to join the train of those, by whom it seems to be both believed, and respected. It is to be feared, however, that the number of those, who realize either its truth, or importance, is much smaller, than of those, who adopt this