CHRISTIAN BENEVOLENCE. BY Rev. WILLIAM ANDERSON, LL.
** Because toe love the brethren." — 1 John in. 14. " The houseJiold of faith.** — Galatians vl 10.
There are these three subjects, brethren, on which we have need of careful examination of our conduct : first, if we be not indulging in some practice which is positively a transgression of the divine law ; secondly, if we be not living in neglect of that which is peremptorily enjoined and thirdly, if those actions on the performance of which we may be felicitating ourselves be not, on account of the state of the motives from which they proceed, not only worthless, but positively sinful, and injurious to our eternal interests. It is the last of these subjects to which I design at present more especially to direct your attention.
At the commencement of the Reformation one of the favourite points on which Luther disputed was, that "to say that works without Christ are dead, but not mortal, seems a perilous disregard of the fear of God." That was the doctrine of the Church of Rome, that good works, in which no respect is had to Christ, are dead and worthless, but that they are not positively sinful, so as to
increase the unregenerated man s guilt. Against this the Reformer testified, as a perilous disregard of the fear of God. This sentiment was adopted very generally by the Churches of the Reformation. Thus the Church of
England, in the ISth Article of its Confession, declares its belief to be, " That works done before the grace of Christy and the inspiration of his Spirit, are not pleasant to Qod, forasmuch as they spring not from faith in Christ .... yea, rather, for that they are not done as God hath willed and commanded them to be done, we doubt not but they have the nature of sin." And the Westminster divines, in the 16th Chapter of their Confession, announce their decision as follows : " Works done by unregenerate men,
although for the matter of them they may be things which Qod commands, and of good use both to themselves and others, yet because they proceed not from a heart purified by faith, nor are done in a right manner according to the Word, nor to a right end, the glory of God, they are therefore sinful, and cannot please God, or make a man meet to receive grace from God ; and yet their neglect of them is more sinful and displeasing to God." Such is the state of opinion on this subject among the most eminent Protestant divines; and it amounts to this, that supposing one who is fiunk-hearted and generous, but who is destitute of religious principle, should, under the impulse of natural sympathy, contribute liberally to the relief of the widow and the orphan, his act would not only find no acceptance with God, but be marked against him as positively criminal.
But neither Luther, nor the fathers of the Church of England, nor the Westminster divines are such authorities for us that we are bound implicitly to receive their decisions. Let us therefore inquire for ourselves, what is the true state of the matter. Observe, then, that all evangelical Christians are agreed without a dissentient voice, that the works of an unregenerate mind which has no respect to the authority of God are morally worthless.
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being destitute of the enlivening principle of faith. Even the Church of Rome, as we have seen, pronounces them dead. The only question on which there is any dispute is, Are they positively sinful ? When an unregenerated man, moved by the sympathies of a heart constitutionally compassionate, performs, an act of kindness, is that act entered against him as a crime in the judgment books of God ? To doubt that it is, says Luther, is " a perilous disregard of the fear of God." And to the same effect speak the other authorities I have quoted.
Now, to say the least of it, I regai'd this as being most extravagant theology. The case of unregenerate men is deplorable enough, without our loading it with supersti-
tious horrors. We have already seen that these charities of the unregenerated mind are worthless in the sight of God ; and it is further evident that in respect of the honour of his law, time and opportunity have been lost. The Lord waited for service performed in a right spirit, but did not receive it, so that the man has been guilty of a sin of omission. It is the same as if he had not performed it at all; but to say that there is sin of commission also — that the actings of a constitutionally tender heart swell the account of an unregenerated man's iniquities — is violatory of every feeling of our moral nature. On this principle it would be a sin for an unregenerated mother to suckle her child. She should indeed nurse it with a devout respect to that God from whom she received it ; and, in so far as she is destitute of such feeling, is she convicted of a want of duty ; but to teach the dogma that every time she takes her infant to her bosom, it is recorded against her as an act of wickedness, is to load religion with a horror, for the repulsiveness of which the
Scriptures are in no respect responsible. These Scriptures
do, indeed, frequently represent the ritual observances, and prayers, and alms of the hypocrite, as being offensive in the sight of God; and the reason is obvious — ^the hypocrite profanes and desecrates divine institutions, but there is nothing of this nature in the actings of natural affection, unregenerated though the heart of the actor be.
On the contrary, I hesitate not to affirm, that though in a moral respect they are of no account in the reckoning of the divine government, yet is the Creator pleased with them, as He is pleased to behold the manifestations of that instinct with which He has inspired the mother-ewe for the nursing of her lamb. We find that one of these characters of amiable constitution once came in the way of our Lord, and, although he was destitute of sound moral principle, yet did the Saviour love him. And I would
appeal to these metaphysical theologians, if, notwith* standing all their grave doctrine, they do not feel in the same manner. Who of them, when he sees an unregenerated mother caressing her child, or a tenderhearted, though unregenerated man venturing his life to save a. fellow-creature from a watery grave — who of them, I ask, shall contemplate the act with feelings of displeasure and condemnation ? And yet he should feel displeased and condemn it, if it be a crime, as his theology says it is. But his common-sense rebukes his theology.
Accordingly, it is observable that all the three authorities whom I have adduced as teaching that unnatural doctrine express themselves with hesitancy. Luther only says that it seems a perilous disregard of the fear of Qod, to say that such acts of kindness of the unrenewed heart are not positive mortal sins. The English reformers say, ** We doubt not but they have the nature of sin," a form of expression which indicates that if they have no doubt.
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they have as little certainty. But the deliverance of the Westminster divines is the most singular of alL After having expatiated on the positive sinfulness of the kindest and most generous acts of unrenewed men, how do they conclude? "Yet," say they, "their neglect of them is more sinful and displeasing to God;" that is, unregenerate men sin by doing them, but would sin still more if they did not do them. I regard this as being the most singular specimen of metaphysical theology on record; and, in opposition to it, I give my adherence in this matter to the doctrine which Luther combated, as held by the Romish doctors, that works of charity done by a humane, but unbelieving heart, are dead — have no moral worth in them in the sight of God — ^but that they are not mortal ; that they are not reckoned to the man's account as positive sins for the increase of his condemnation ; that in the estimation of the divine government they affect his character neither for good nor evil.
You may be sure, brethren, that in making this defence
of the unregenerated heart against the unwarrantable severity of human theology, I have had some profitable end in view. It is this, that having demonstrated my candour, I may obtain a more favourable hearing when I proceed to the work of censure.
Mark, therefore, how short a length I have been able to carry the defence of an unregenerated heart. All I have felt warranted to do is to contend that its acts of kindness, proceeding from constitutional generosity, should not be imputed to it as mortal sins. I have not dared to claim for them any character of righteousness which would render them acceptable as the actions of a moral agent in the sight of the Divine Lawgiver. Though I should have gained my plea, how small is the gain ! — only,
though a criminal, thy criminality is not so great as some severe theologians would represent it — that thy desert is not so many as the thousand stripes, though a himdred are lawfully thy due. At the very best, all I have been able to say for thee is, that when on these few occasions thy hand performed a kindness under the impulse of a generous feeling, these acts are not to be reckoned to the account of thy crimes, and that all that can be justly charged against thee was the losing of opportunities to serve God, who was not in all thy thoughts. Is this a gain for which thou hast much reason to felicitate thyself?
I therefore proceed with the view of reaching with conviction the hearts both of those who do not confess Christ at all, and of those who confess Him spuriously — to expose the guiltiness of unregenerated men — ^limiting my examination to the state of their morals in respect of benevolence towards their fellow-creatures. Afterwards, I shall treat of that peculiar benevolence to which our text refers.
In the first place, then, I charge many of them as being guilty of deeds of injustice and cruelty, of fraudulent transactions in business, of imposition, of violation of
promises and engagements, of breach of trust and confidence, of unfaithfulness as servants, of tyranny as masters, of cruelly taking advantage of a neighbour's necessities and saying it was a bargain, of cruel extortion, of cruel law-suits, of cruel insult and bruising of feelings in a thousand ways, of treachery and betrayals. Is not the craft of the devil marvellous — ^that when the sleek and corrupt discipline of the visible Church permits some such characters to remain within its pale, they will be deluded with the imagination that it is possible that after all they may be Christian men, " For it is no easy matter,"
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say they, "to decide who are Christians"? No> it is not; but it is a very easy matter to decide in many cases
who are not Christians, as is plain in the case of every firaudulent and cruel man.
In the second place, I charge many, who are not characterized by cruelty and injustice, with being destitute even of the form of benevolence. Here, again, are we constrained to admire the craft of the Tempter in deluding men with the imagination that they are possibly safe. There is nothing strange in the fact that a genuine Christian of tender conscience, though he abounds in good works, should yet be jealous of himself, lest his motives be corrupt or insuflScient, and thus be perplexed about his spiritual state, not knowing what to think of himself, whether he be in the faith or not. But it is passing strange that men, having ability to do good, but who do it not — who, on looking back for whole twelvemonths, are unable to discover one generous thing they have done, on account of which either orphan or widow might bless them in their prayers — ^is it not passing strange that such men should feel any difficulty in pronouncing a judgment on themselves, when the evidence is so clear that they are utterly destitute of the character ?
To what religion belong you ? I am sure it is not that of the Son of God, if you are a man whom the distresses of the wretched do not rouse to activity for
their relief. Call thyself by the name of some other god, but desecrate not his, by surreptitiously applying it to anything so hard-hearted as thyself Christ's law commands mercy; his example enforces mercy; his Spirit inspires mercy, and his heaven is open only for the merciful. Dismiss, then, all perplexing doubts, wondering if thou art a saved man and in a state of grace. No
doubt hangs over the case. Being a selfish man, doin^ nothing for the indigent brethren of mankind, or, if anything, doing it with a grudge and by compulsion, it is as clear as the Word of God can make any proposition, that thou art in the gall of bitterness and bond of iniquity. O miserable man! why, by selfish-
ness and covetousness, wilt thou thus destroy thyself eternally ? Haste thee and make friends of the Mammon of Unrighteousness, that they may receive thee into everlasting habitations !
In the third place, there are many whom we charge with performing only a part of their duty — whom it would be uncandid to rank with the immediately preceding class and to address in the same language of rebuke and warning ; but who, nevertheless, need serious admonition, in consequence of their benevolence being exercised on so limited a scale — whose brass should be silver — ^whose silver should be gold — whose one piece of gold should be five — whose five should be fifty or a hundred — ^who satisfy themselves with relieving one or a few cases of distress, when they are competent to the relief of many — ^whose benevolence is a mere convenience, never costing them a sacrifice, nor stinting them in respect of one luxury or one acquisition which ministers to their pride, paid out of their superfluity after they themselves have been gratified to the full — who were as liberal twenty years ago as they are now — who, under fear of death, prayed, ** Save us for our children's sake," but were as liberal then as they are now, when their children are married or doing business for themselves, and their fortune is much increased beyond its former amount
O ungrateful men! how ashamed ye should be before the Lord, that ye should have thus dealt with Him
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after all his liberal dealing towards you I But there is more than shame needful; is there not reason for apprehending apostasy as the end of such lukewarmness i At all events I am sure of this, that the heavenly glory will be in proportion to the earthly well-doing — that five talents here shall secure only five cities there.
But even this is not the chief argument by which I would awaken benevolence out of its lethargy. Bemember the grace of ChrLst, meditate on his example, and ask yourself where is your conformity to it ? Yea, meditate
on his sacrifices and self-denial for yourselves, and try if your almsgiving to his poor, and your contributions to his cause, be such that you could appear before his cross with them and say: — ^*'Here,0 Lord,is my acknowledgment of the mercy which Thou hast shown me!" Ah, brethren ! think of the appearance which the paltry shillings of some would make if presented before the cross at Calvary, or, which is the same, if, as an ofiertory, laid on the communion table of the supper, as their acknowledgment of that cross's mercy. Well, there are pence, there are halfpence contributed, respecting which I feel as if the Lord might say, "Where, O faithful woman, didst thou in thy widowhood find so much ? What comfort of thine could spare the withdrawment of so large a sumT' But oh, think of the contributions of some others ! How difficult it is, brethren, even for charity to believe of them that they have ever had a sight of that cross's love, when they have not been moved to make a better acknowledgment of it I
In the fourth place, there are many whose acts of beneficence are ample, but who are chargeable with being actuated by perverse motives, or at least by such as are thoroughly selfish. There is need of careful discrimination here. I do not refer, you will observe, to those who
have good motives mingled with others which are bad or de6cient. That is almost universally the case even with the saints. If there are any, there are but few instances^ in which even the most pious men will not find, on careful inspection, that their motives of piety and benevolence were to some extent adulterated by an admixture of vain-glory, or designs of promoting their own advantage, or perhaps something worse; so that there are many tender consciences which, instead of being guarded against self-delusion, need to be guarded against an undue measure of self-condemnation, which both causes themselves unnecessary distress, and reflects a degree of dishonour on the government of God, as repulsively severe. Finding that their motives are not perfectly pure, and that vainglory or some such insufficient principle mingles with
their benevolence, they are ready to conclude, that the union of that which is worthless with that which is worthy vitiates the whole of the work, so that none of it can find acceptance with the Lord. This is a great mistake. Your work is accepted to the whole of the extent that it proceeded from a good principle. If the half of it was produced by vanity, that half is no doubt lost; it is but as chafi^; but if the other half was the product of genuine benevolence, it is as good wheat accepted of by the Master, and stored in his garner against the day of reward.
Be thankful, therefore, for the grace bestowed if even in the half of thy good works thou canst discern that even so much as a half of the motive power was virtuous. Alas, how many, whose charities are munificent, would be unable on the most diligent search to discover that either one-half, or one-fourth, or any, even the least, fraction, of their motives was of a genuine character — the whole of
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whose beneficence is a hypocrisy — some of them acting it voluntarily for the gaining of some selfish end of honour or of mercantile profit, without one sentiment of regard to the aflliction of the destitute, so that it is no rare thing to find that the munificent public subscription is made amid the neglect of poor relatives, the stinting and oppression of servants and workmen, extortion and fraudulent merchandise ! Others subscribe and contribute with a grudge, being forced to it by the fear of loss of character or business. When neighbours around are contributing liberally, these are characterii^ed by their censures at home of the dissipation, the want of economy and industry among the poor, and their praises of former times, when men were not oppressed with subscriptions, but allowed peaceably to retain all that they had won for themselves and their families. A third party act with the design of mortifying or discrediting a rival bj'^ a larger subscription — ^making beneficence an engine of malice.
Some may suppose that the men who compose these
three parties need not be warned against self-delusion — that though they may impose on others, they cannot possibly impose on themselves, being so palpably conscious that their hearts are strangers to the benevolent principle. But those who think so are in a mistake, not knowing the extent and depth of the deceitfulness of the heart. The man who has for a while pursued a course of hypocritical action for the deception of his neighbours, will not seldom succeed in deceiving himself; and especially when neighbours commend and praise him, he will begin to argue with himself that there must surely be some good in him — a measure of virtue howsoever small. It is therefore that 1 raise my warning against any man concluding from any external acts of beneficence that he
fulfils the law of love, until he have carried the examination much deeper. Under that external action there may be couched a heart which is not only destitute of benevolence, but which is filled with bitterness and malice. One of the best tests, perhaps, by which we can try ourselves is a consideration of the state of our domestic kindness, and of our private charities, of which we never speak, and of which the world does not know.
" Strait is the gate, and narrow is the way." I observe, in the fifth place, that the beneficence of many, though it proceed from a warm and tender heart which can honestly resent the imputation of selfishness, is yet chargeable with the want of piety, and is consequently of no account in the estimation of the moral government of Qod. Having on the former occasion discussed dogmatically the character of a good work, in the production of which regard to the Lord has had no influence, it is the less necessary that I prolong my observations on the subject at present.
Granting that it is all true when you say of yourself that you have a heart constitutionally sympathetic, which cannot resist the cries of indigence for relief, no one mocks at you on that account ; on the contrary, all right-hearted men love you for it, and are glad for you as a blessing to
the world. But this we say, and you are unjust if you resent our saying it, that so long a& there is nothing in the motives of your beneficence and almsgiving but the impulses of a constitutional and instinctive kindness — 80 long as there is not to be found in it any regard to the will and commandment of the Lord — so long as you are found only obeying your own heart, and never obeying Him — ^his government cannot reckon that almsgiving to your account, as the well-doing of a loyal subject ; and on that judgment day, when a reckoning
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shall be made of the state of your obedience, although your life should have been characterized by kindness and charity, your page will be found blank without the record
of one action performed in his service, and you will be dealt with as one of the rebellious. Where will be the unfairness of this 1 It is you who feel unfairly, expecting that Gk>d will acknowledge you when you make no acknowledgment of Him.
Let us be on our guard then, brethren ; there are few subjects on which we have more need of watchfulness, and I am glad that there is among us an opportunity for exercising such watchfulness. Where all hands are close and all hearts are cold, it would be preposterous to issue a warning against mistaking a constitutionally tender heart for an obedient one. But among you there are both warm hearts and liberal hands, and there is good opportunity for the counsel, that such of you reflect whether that natural sympathy be sanctified, if its emotions be regulated and controlled, and If its languor be roused and stimulated by the divine commandment. There is no combination more blessed than when natural amiableness and the fear of Qod have united possession of the spirit.
Even yet, I have not done with the illustration of the straitness of the gate and the narrowness of the way which lead unto life. I remark, in the sixth place, that there is a beneficence inspired and regulated by a certain kind of
respect for God which is unprofitable for eternity, because in that respect no acknowledgment is made of the mediation of Christ, and the authority with which his Father has invested Him. I question if there are to be found many who are actuated by a reverent fear of God so as to offer Him any service, who do not belong to the
disciplesliip of his Son. There seem to be now only two classes of men — ^Atheists and Christians. The middle class of Deists, which consisted of those who believed or affected to believe in a God, when yet they did not believe in Christ, seems to have nearly expired. But lest there should be any remnants of it among us, let them be assured that their labour is lost if they attempt to evince their
obedience to God by any service, however costly, so long as they disobey Him in respect of that command for compliance with which, above all others He waits, namely, the loyal honouring of his Son. Yea, this is properly the only command He gives us. He has delivered us over to the vice-royalty of Christ, with this announcement, "As ye would serve Me, serve my Son." " Not without law to God, but under the law to Christ," is, in the expressive language of the apostle (1 Cor. ix. 21), the motto of Christian loyalty ; so that our beneficence and charities, in order to their being of a character to meet with full acceptance, must be performed from a regard to the royal authority of Christ, whom God has constituted and anointed our King.
It is astonishing to what extent this, one of the most important and plainest elements of our faith, is overlooked. The Royalty of the Redeemer, in its aspect of his being the only Head of the Church, in opposition to all claims of kings, bishops, presbyters, and pastors who may presume to interfere with his legislation — this aspect, I say, of Christ's royalty has obtained a commendable share of attention in our ecclesiastical disputations; but in its aspect of his being the King of men individually, for their government in the whole of their conduct, is not only most deficiently realised in feeling, but as a doctrine is
most deficiently inculcated as a point of faith. " Whose
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subject are you? What king do you serve?" "I serve God," says the Socinian. "I serve Christ," says the New Testament believer; " for so hath God ordained ; and thus I serve Them both — I serve God, through serving Christ/*
When, then, as loyal subjects of this mediatorial King, we proceed to the study of his law on the subject of benevolence, we find that when we are commanded to love all men and to do them good, we are enjoined to make a distinction and cherish with special affection the household of faith ; and it is not until we manifest plainly a differ-
ence in favour of that brotherhood, that we are warranted to judge hopefully of our spiritual condition. A general indiscriminating charity which makes no preference of the Christian for its object, instead of being an evidence in fSELvour of a man's religious state, indicates the very opposite.
Lest any one, however, should pervert the representation, so as to make it an apology for neglecting the interests of the vicious and irreligious poor, I shall make a few observations in their favour, before illustrating the special claims of the saints. There is not a little need for this. It is lamentable to find that so manymakethe vic^s of many of the poor an apology for turning away from their solicitation for help. It is all right that you should refuse them that which, you are persuaded, they would expend only on drunkenness and dissipation; but beware of exposing yourself to the charge that you are cruelly insensible to their hunger, their nakedness and houselessness. Generally it is imperative law that we ** do good unto all men as we have opportunity." " If thou meet thine enemy's ox or his ass going astray, thou shalt surely bring it back to him again."
This law for unexcepting philanthropy is enforced by these considerations : first, that all men are the children of Qod, created and sustained by Him, on the whole of whom, evil as well as good, He maketh the sun to rise and his rain to fall, and in this gives us at once a command and an example. Secondly, all are the kindred of Christ. In his incarnation He entered into brotherhood with all. For all He died — all He earnestly invites to come unto Him for salvation. And howsoever depraved a man may be, if you turn away from him when he cries for help in his misery, he is a brother of Christ whom you thus despitefully use, at the very time too when Christ looks on Him with compassion. Oh, that both of you would think of it, yourself as well the poor man ! Reflect^ thirdly, that depraved though he be, he may yet think and turn to the Lord and be saved ; and should you meet
him in the heavenly kingdom, I see not how even there you will escape being painfully ashamed should you have occasion for remembering that you hardened your heart against his supplication for help. Prevent the possibility, then : help him.
Having thus briefly vindicated the claims even of the vricked on our beneficent attentions, I turn to enforce the special claims of Christian brethren.
Observe then, generally, that it is as being of that character — Christian brethren — that they demand our special regard ; and that it is only when we show them kindness because we are persuaded that they are such, that our special attention to their interests affords evidence of the satisfactory state of our own profession. They may be possessed of other amiable qualities, which it is right to notice, and which it would be wrong to overlook ; but that which particularly recommends them in
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our estimation must be that they have the Christian qualification. It is only when the cup of cold water is given to a disciple, in a disciple's name, that it shall have a disciple's reward; and it is only inasmuch as the poor are fed, and clothed, and visited, and cheered, in the character of Christ's brethren that as the Judge He shall say, " I take it all, and reward it aU as having been done for Myself." When an irreligious man relieves a poor Christian, merely as moved by natural sympathy, it is impossible that Christ should acknowledge the kindness as done to Himself; for very possibly, were the poor man, in acknowledgment of the kindness, to say, " May the Lord Jesus reward you!" the worldling would mock at the blessing. On the other hand, the Christian benefactor may see many things repulsive in the applicant for his charity — rudeness of manners and fretfulness of temper — but the discovery of that grand qualification, Christian discipleship, will cause him to prefer the individual as an object of help or more liberal help, to another who may be both more necessitous and more courteous, but who wants the gracious
Having made this explanation, I shall now state the reasons why it is incumbent on us to bestow on the household of faith the larger proportion of our benevolent regards.
Observe, then, first, that God loves tl\em as his children, and Christ loves them as his brethren, with peculiar afiection, demanding of us the same. As already noticed, all are God's offspring, and all are the kindred of Christ, so that all are regarded by Them with a measure of love. And, on the principle that he that loveth Him that begat, loveth them that are begotten of Him, and that he that loveth the Elder Brother will love the younger for his
sake — on this principle the devout man will be a universal philanthropist. But equally is it his duty to love with the greater affection those whom God and his Son prefer. When you profess to love a father, he expects that you show that love by being helpful even to his prodigal son ; but he expects that you will be especially helpful to that faithful son in whom he himself especially delights. So is it with the divine family: the Christian portion is faithful, when all the rest are prodigal ; and the Christian will proportion his love to the love of God and Christ, loving most those whom he sees Them loving most. Independently of his loving them for their own sakes, he will treat them with peculiar favour because they are the favourite children of his heavenly Father, and the favourite brethren of his heavenly Saviour.
Secondly, a Christian loVes the household of faith with special and prefening affection, because they love his God and Redeemer. This is the inverse of the fore-mentioned principle. I love him whom my friend loves ; but it is equally, if not more strongly, a principle of attachment that I love him who loves my friend. I feel that I am in a manner his debtor, when I find him admiring and speaking approvingly of my father and brother. This
the Christian finds only in the household of faith. Everywhere else he finds neglect or despite of his heavenly friends. Those who are guilfcy of this, he is not warranted either to hate or neglect when they are afflicted, for prodigal though they be, they are still his Father's children ; but it is a cold charity which he either owes them, or can exercise towards them, compared with that which he cherishes for those whom he finds admiring and honouring that God and that Redeemer in whose glory his own soul delights.
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Thirdly. He loves them especially because they bear the image of God and his Son. We love that which resembles the object of our love, and by its resemblance
suggests it and brings it before our minds. Such resemblances does the Christian find to the great objects of his love in the household of faith. In others he may perceive qualities of courtesy and natural afiection and honour which give him a degree of satisfaction, but in the regenerated alone can he discover that holiness which distinguishes the divine nature, and which assists him in his meditation on the character of their Father. He loves the saints because the sight of them aids him to a sight of that God in whose image they have been re-created.
Fourthly. He loves the household of faith with a distinguishing and preferring affection, because he finds there a cherishing and helpful sympathy in feelings and works of the greatest interest to him, which he cannot find among the unconverted out in the world who either mock at his sentiments or treat them with indifference, yea, who cannot comprehend him, as if he belonged to some other country and spoke a foreign language. This sympathy will cause the Christian nobleman to prize the intimate companionship of the humble Christian cottager above association with all the state, and fashion, and learning, and accomplishments of a world which lives without God; and where, instead of a cherishing of his faith, he meets with a contempt of it ; instead of help in his heavenward journey, a hindrance and obstruction of
Observe, finally, that the Christian prefers the friendship of the household of faith, because it will be permanent. There is no loss like the loss of affection — ^to squander the
love of your heart on an object from which you are soon
to be separated. Let your best, your most intimate, your most cherished friendships, be formed with members of the Christian household. Such friendships death will not dissolve, but only shortly interrupt, soon to be renewed
in the immortality of the kingdom of God. True, there is immortality for ungodly friends also ; but it will be a resurrection only to bitter mutual recrimination, that by their cruel negligence, or worse, they contributed to bring one another into that region of woe. The more they loved once, the worse is it for them now ; and they flee from one another deploring that they had ever seen one another's faces. How different with the righteous when met together before the throne! Amid all their other thanksgivings, they shall bless God especially for this, that He had bestowed them on one another for their help in their pilgrimage.
There are other considerations which might be noticed influencing the Christian's preference of the household of fiuth as the objects of his afi'ection, but for the present the illustration already offered must suffice, and now let us look at our own individual position in relation to this subject, and learn to discriminate in our ministrations of charity.
To be assured of being saved, or, in other words, to " know that we have passed from death unto life," is at once a most important question, and one which it is difficult to determine satisfactorily. Unhappily it is easy in many cases to determine it negatively, either by the men
themselves or their neighbours — the necessary evidence of a gracious state being entirely wanting, and, among others, love of the Christian brotherhood. " Well may you say so concerning many professors," observes some poor man. "See," he says, "in what penury they allow me to pass
CHRISTIAN BENEVOLENCE. 395
my afflicted life, doling out to me the merest pittance of help." Some have, no doubt, good reason for making this complaint, but not all who make it. To some of the complainers it may be justly said, "You have no right to the plea of Christian brotherhood. You do not furnish the requisite evidence in your conversation, manners, and conduct of being a disciple of Christ; and though you may have crept into the membership of the visible
Church, you must be content with a common measure of charity, as not being entitled to that peculiar tenderness and sympathy which are due to the household of faith, until you have greatly amended your ways."
In applying this test of Christianity, namely, the evidence of a regenerated state to be found in love to the brethren, we observe, first, that there are some who conclude favourably of themselves on insufficient evidence — who love only their own church, or the members of their own denomination. Even when our preference is made on legitimate grounds, it will be blamed by the undiscerning as partaking of this odious exclusiveness. Let us therefore take care that our grounds be always legitimate, so that the charge made against us be unjust; especially let us beware of a bigotry which excludes not only the unbelieving and ungodly, but many of the household of faith, limiting them to the members of its own particular sect. Wherever the love is genuine, wherever it is of that character which gives evidence of a regenerated state, and of having passed from death unto life, it will pass over all these minor distinctions, and give the benefit of a disciple's preference, wherever it discovers the love of the Redeemer, amid whatever denominational imperfections and errors, according to its judgment, the profession may be made. It takes little
account of the thorns, and is concerned about the lily which grows among them — ^the thorns of denominational error, the lily of faith.
Secondly: there are some who in the opposite direction are doubtful of their state, from mistaken views of the law of love. They at times feel angrily towards, and express themselves bitterly to or concerning, those whom they cannot but acknowledge as Christians, and therefore begin to question their own regenerated state. But it is not meant that in recognizing in any one the image of Christ, we thereby sympathize with all his other peculiarities of character, or that we are necessarily bound to
hold intimate fellowship with him. The test is in our having spiritual affinity with them in their relation to Ood and their interest in the Christian brotherhood. *
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