CHARITY THE CHARACTERISTIC OF CHRISTIA S. BY JOH BIRD SUM ER, D.D.

John xiii. 35. By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another. IT cannot surprise us that our blessed Lord should make this the rule by which his disciples should be governed, that they have love one to another. There is something in charity and benevolence so suitable to man's condition in the world, that it is approved at once by our reason. The very description of it is captivating. " Let love be without dissimulation. Be kindly affectioned one to another with brotherly love ; in honour preferring one another ; distributing to the necessity of saints ; given to hospitality. Bless them which persecute you : bless, and curse not. Rejoice G

S'2 CHARITY THE with them that do rejoice, and weep with them that weep." * These words have the effect of a delightful picture upon the mind. They represent a scene which it is pleasing to look upon, and which it would be far more pleasing to belong to. And therefore we cannot be surprised that He, who for us men, and for our salvation, came down from heaven, should leave it in charge to his disciples,

that they cherish this love in their hearts, and exhibit it in their lives. There is something, however, arising out of these words, which may well surprise us. How is it, that in reading this description of philanthropy, it strikes us as the description of a world which is not ours? of some scene which is as foreign to our experience, as it is captivating to our imagination ? Why was it left as the characteristic of the disciples of Christ Jesus, that they have love one towards another ? Is not the belonging to one common nature ; is not the being creatures of the same God ; is not the being exposed to the same wants, the being oppressed with the same infirmities, the being inhabitants of the same trying and uncertain world, a sufficient bond of union among mankind ? Must they need to be commanded so 1 Rom. xii. 9 15.

CHARACTERISTIC OF CHRISTIA S. 83 to act, as we might expect them to act spontaneously ? Did it require the teaching of the Son of God to bring men to have love one towards another ? If we consult the testimony of facts and experience, we shall find it too true that it did, and that it does, require such teaching to instruct man in this lesson. Too truly is it the case, that the heirs of this common frailty, the inhabitants of this common world, are by nature far indeed removed from loving one another. If we turn, for example, to those countries which are nearest to what is called a state of nature but which, as we know, is not the state in which man

was created, but that to which he has been reduced by sin ; if we turn to these, we find that life there, instead of a life of love, is a state of enmity and warfare. We find that men, instead of being objects of the affectionate interest of their fellows, are objects of their hostility, their malice, their revenge, their cruelty. The Scripture faithfully describes them, when it says that they are without natural affection, implacable, unmerciful. But we leave these degraded beings, fallen so low beneath the state for which God designed them. We should rather seek our specimens of human nature from countries which have been G2

84 CHARITY THE more happily circumstanced ; which have made progress in the arts which adorn humanity, and in the knowledge which ennobles it ; and have realised all that could be done for them by prosperity, and cultivation, and philosophy. And here, undoubtedly, we discover much that is interesting and admirable ; we see that verily " there is a spirit in man, and the inspiration of the Almighty giveth him understanding :" 2 we admire the exercise of his reason, the vivacity of his imagination, the extent of his intellectual powers ; we acknowledge the traces of the image of God. But still we perceive that these powers of reason and of intellect never brought those who possessed them to the exercise of practical benevolence. The public history of the civilised nations of antiquity is a history of rapine, and of oppression, and of hostility ; and the private history is little better. They

form a striking contrast to the state of a Christian land. They raised no infirmaries to relieve their sick. They built no hospitals to receive the aged and the orphan. They established no asylums to reclaim the wicked, and no schools to educate the young. After all that experience had taught, or philosophy had discussed, it still remained for the Son of God to " redeem to himself a holy nation, - Job xxxii. 8.

CHARACTERISTIC OF CHRISTIA S. 85 a peculiar people/' whose distinction should be, that they had love one towards another. Yes, my brethren, and even still this distinction remains, and those who have it are still " a peculiar people." Even in this Christian country it remains the distinction of those who are personally influenced by Christian truth. I have no desire to undervalue even the indirect effects of the Gospel of Christ Jesus. I have been this moment allowing them; and if we refused to allow them, we must be ignorant of the annals of the world. Even the infidel historian acknowledges the change which he vainly and feebly endeavours to explain. We do confess, with gratitude as well as with admiration, that the diffusive influence of Christianity has cast a general face of benevolence over our land. But still I am warranted in stating, in a general manner, that where the Gospel does not personally govern the character, where, though Christianity gives the name, the world supplies the motives and directs the conduct, it is not true of men, though they profess and call themselves Christians, that they have love one towards another. They do not see in one another those whom they are to honour, to assist, to benefit ; but those whom

in some way or other they are to make subservient to their interests or their pleasures. As an ob-

86 CHARITY THE server of mankind, I cannot help remarking this : as a Christian teacher, I am bound to declare it. Yet I would not pronounce it dogmatically. I urge it no further than may agree with your own knowledge and experience. Consult, however, your own knowledge. Reflect on what falls within your experience ; and so judge to what extent CHARITY prevails. Think of those who are constantly on the watch to devour, nay to destroy ; those who entrap the unwary for their fortunes; of those who seduce the young to their ruin ; of of those who, in all cases of mutual intercourse, consider only how their neighbours may be made useful to their private interests ; think, in short, of the daily transactions of life, as they are commonly carried on in the world, and then judge whether He who sees the heart, sees that it is glowing with social affection, or actuated by Christian love. o ; rather is it true, that " all men seek their own," disregarding the welfare of others. They value others in proportion as they may be benefited by them, may have their own comfort and convenience promoted by them ; further than this, they are callous and indifferent ; thinking little of their present good, thinking still less of their eternal welfare ; nay, too often, as far as in them lies, precluding it : so ordering their families

CHARACTERISTIC OF CHRISTIA S. 87 so inconsiderate of those dependent on them, that

the cultivation of the heart, the growth of divine grace, and even the public worship of God, become practically impossible. Therefore I am justified in saying, that however reasonable it might seem, and however probably it might be expected, that they who inhabit in common this our world, should universally be actuated with mutual love; it is not really true that they are so. Such love must be engrafted upon them. aturally, men love themselves, not others ; look to their own, not others' good ; nay, scruple not to injure others, to injure them in their present, to ruin them in their everlasting interests, when their own profit, their own ease, their own pleasure, is concerned. And this is not love : these are not the signs or the effects of love. But our Lord has said of those who are indeed his people, By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, that ye have love one towards another. If so, there must be some principle in the religion of Christ Jesus, which governs, in this respect, the conduct of those who believe in him ; which places it in contrast with those who believe not. And a little consideration will prove that it is so ; will prove that there are causes in continual action, which will make it always the distinguishing

88 CHARITY THE character of Christians as they were distinguished by the heathen in the early ages that they love one another. First, the very fact which is the basis of christian faith, places mankind in a new and different light. They are those whom " God so loved, that

he gave his only Son, that all that believe in him might not perish." They are those whom Christ so loved, that he left the bosom of his Father, and the glory which he had enjoyed from the beginning with the Father, " to seek and to save that which was lost," to " give his life a ransom for many." Therefore when the Scripture enjoins us to " honour all men,'' it contains a reason why they should be honoured. For He has honoured them, who is the source and fountain of all honour. He has valued them, who knows what is really precious ; and he has taught us to value them, by a practical argument which can never be confuted. Can I make that being the object of my private interests and selfish gratifications, who has been the object of my heavenly Father's everlasting love? Can I injure, nay, can I neglect or disregard, that soul which is so precious in his sight that for it Christ's blood was shed ? Can I treat one as the victim of my ambition, my covetous-

CHARACTERISTIC OF CHRISTIA S. 89 ness, my caprice, who is " a member of Christ, a child of God, an inheritor of the kingdom of heaven ?" Surely not, if I have any real sense of the meaning of these words. So St. Paul argued, for so he felt, " from the time that the kindness and love of God our Saviour toward man appeared" to him. Before, he had acted even as others. " We ourselves also," he says, " were sometimes foolish and disobedient, deceived, serving divers lusts and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful, and hating one another." 3 Such did the habit of his own mind appear to him, when he looked back upon it from the station to which he had been raised by the Gospel. For from the time when he believed in Christ Jesus, all things

were seen under a new aspect : and his language is, " We ought not to please ourselves, but every one of us to please his neighbour for his good to edification : for even Christ pleased not himself." 4 " Destroy not the work of God." " Destroy not him, for whom Christ died." 5 " When ye sin against the brethren, and wound their weak consciences, ye sin against Christ." " Through (thee) shall the weak brother perish, for whom Christ died?" 6 Thus naturally did he draw the inference for him3 Tit. iii. 3. * R om . xv . 2. 5 Rom. xiv. 1520. 6 2 Cor. viii. 11, 12.

90 CHARITY THE self, which his brother apostle has left for our instruction : " Brethren, if God so loved us, we ought also to love one another." T Secondly, he who believes in Christ Jesus, takes his precepts for his rule, and his example for his model. And his example is the practice of that brotherly love, of which his precepts are the code. He sums up all the law and the prophets in this, that we love our neighbour as ourselves ; that whatsoever we would that they should do unto us, we do also unto them. 8 He says to his disciples, " Ye are my friends, if ye do whatsoever I command you. This is my commandment, that ye love one another, as I have loved you." 9 And truly he has shown us by his own conduct, what the will of God is in this matter ; that men should manifest their principles and employ their means in relieving those evils, which, partly perhaps for this very reason, he has permitted to disturb our world. He might have exercised his power by works of osten-

tation or of judgment. But he did employ it in works of mercy and benevolence. The proofs of his Messiahship were works of mercy. The blind received their sight ; the lame walked ; the lepers 7 John iv. 11. 8 Matt. vii. 12. 9 John xv. 1214.

CHARACTERISTIC OF CHRISTIA S. 91 were cleansed ; the deaf heard. Was there a widow more destitute than another ? That widow's son he raised. Were there sisters, to whom a brother was unusually dear? That brother he recalled from the tomb. And in so doing, he has taught us, and he has shown us, the will of God ; which is, that men should feel for one another should remedy the evil which admits of remedy, and alleviate what they cannot cure. As he " went about doing good," so must his disciples. They must not pass by on the other side, when a fellowcreature is overwhelmed with temporal distress, or is perishing for lack of spiritual knowledge. And if this requires, as we know it does require, pains, and patience, and self-denial, this mind, too, was in Christ Jesus ; for he was patient, and he was self-denying, when, that he might make propitiation for our sins, he " endured the cross, despising the shame." A third reason why the disciples of Christ are known by their active charity, is this : that, if they are his disciples, they have learnt of him a just sense of earthly things, and of heavenly things ; a moderation in present gratifications, and a desire of a crown of glory. And this removes a great impediment out of the way of charity. For

92 CHARITY THE all charity costs something. And the truest charity, that which is employed upon the soul, costs not money only, but time and pains. So that a person who is devoted to this present world, has no more the means of being charitable, than he has the inclination. His fortune is forestalled to meet the luxury, the ostentation, the extravagance, which characterises our age. His time is so occupied in business, or dissipated in amusement, that he has no leisure to spare for his fellowcreatures. But it is not so with him who believes in Christ Jesus. For he has said, " What shall it profit a man, if he gain the whole world, and lose his own soul ?" When words like these are not merely heard with the ear, but received into the heart, they have a practical effect. They regulate the habits. They take the affections from earthly things, and raise them to things above. The course of life is so ordered, that our fellow-creatures are considered in it. Expenses are so regulated, that a man " has to give to him that needeth." Time is redeemed from engagements which are unprofitable and vain, and may be spared for needful duties. The whole life takes its tint from that eternity for which it is a preparation ; it is employed in " seeking for glory, and

CHARACTKRISTIC OF CHRISTIA S. 93 honour, and immortality, by patient continuance in well-doing." The main object is, not to heap

up treasure on earth, but to " lay a good foundation for the time to come ;" to " make to ourselves friends out of the mammon of unrighteousness;" such friends as, when this world fails, may " receive us into everlasting habitations." These, then, are the reasons why our Lord has left this as an unalterable test by which his disciples may be known, that they have love one towards another. There is a provision in his Gospel to produce this effect ; a provision which cannot fail to produce it, whenever the Spirit of God has conveyed the truths of the Gospel to the heart. These truths have not reached the heart, unless the heart is affected by brotherly kindness ; unless it is set on things above ; unless it is guided by the precepts which Christ has left for our instruction. So that we are taught to examine ourselves, whether we be in the faith ; and to make our works the standard of that examination : we are taught that as surely as a tree is known by its fruit, the disciples of Christ will be distinguished by this mark, that they have love one towards another.

94 CHARITY THE I need hardly point out, in conclusion, the bearing of this argument upon the object which is before us this morning. 1 That object is the support of the schools in your parish and neighbourhood ; schools in which the rising generation, the children of your poorer brethren, are tended with Christian care, and educated in Christian truth. ow the disciple of Christ Jesus will promote this object, because there is no way in which some part of that fund, which he devotes to charity, may

be more usefully employed. The disciple of Christ will promote this object, because in so doing he follows the example and the command of his Divine Master. And still further, the disciple of Christ Jesus will contribute to promote Christian education, because he desires the highest welfare of these children. The worldly man will argue, why should I educate my neighbour's child ? And perhaps he will find a reason : that he may prove a more useful member of the community. But the disciple of Christ sees in these children those for whom Christ has purchased by his blood an everlasting kingdom. He sees those who have been early dedicated to him ; who are called to 1 This sermon was preached on behalf of the Charity Schools of St. Giles, Bloomsbury.

CHARACTERISTIC OF CHRISTIA S. 95 his service here, that they may hereafter inherit his glory. But still he sees the danger to which they are exposed. He looks forward to the world which they must enter, to the temptations by which they will be surrounded. These children, for whom we desire your aid, are now in a safe and happy state ; so comparatively safe and happy, that it is most affecting to reflect upon the change which must soon be made in their condition. For these, as they advance in life, must leave the school in which they are protected, and the care by which they are guarded, and be thrown among strangers, who, too probably, may feel little interest except in their labour. They will not be watched, as in other conditions of life, by a parent's anxious

eye ; they are not even defended by those external decencies of conduct which, in the higher ranks, protect the morals, and though they must not he mistaken for Christian obedience, still happily restrain flagrant wickedness. o, it is too likely that these children, at the age which most requires control, will be removed from any whose opinion they might respect ; when passion is strongest, will be mingled among those by whom passion is habitually indulged ; and will be exposed to all those evils which it is in the power of evil practice to engraft upon corrupt nature.

90 CHARITY THE This, brethren, you foresee, but you cannot prevent; for you cannot alter the course of the world, or change the constitution of mankind. But if you foresee this with a Christian's eye, you will secure what is in your power ; you will " train up the child in the way in which he should go," and in which you desire him to go, that he may be able to resist the temptations which await him. You will offer him the shield of Christian faith, by which he may repel " the fiery darts of the evil one." You will furnish him with " the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God." You will bring him up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord, who is more powerful to save than Satan to destroy ; and who will enable those to overcome the world who put their trust in him. They must go into the midst of enemies ; for where is the bright spot in this our wilderness, in which the soul does not find enemies ? But they need not go unarmed, unwarned, or unprepared. Christian education supplies them with preparation, and with armour, and with warning. It nurtures the child in the discipline of Christ ; and it provides

as far as we can provide, that he shall not depart from it. On these grounds, then, I ask your assistance for the schools which your bounty must contribute to

CHARACTERISTIC OF CHRISTIA S. 97 support. I ask it as a proof of your being disciples of Christ. I " desire fruit that may abound to your account." 2 ot that by this or any other exercise of benevolence you are to purchase salvation ; but that you may have in your favour a test that you have " received" 3 Him, and are received by Him, who has purchased it for you. I have shown that if your faith in him is real, it will certainly prove itself by the spirit of charity. And where can charity be more usefully employed, than in taking children out of the way that leadeth to destruction, and placing them in the road that leadeth unto life, even unto life eternal ? 2 Phil. iv. 17. John i. 12.

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