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worthiest and the best, there may be dark moments in which some feeling of this nature may be apt to intrude upon their minds. But with them they are only moments of occasional and passing gloom. They soon recall the vigour of their minds; and return with satisfaction to the discharge of the duties, and to a participation of the enjoyments of life.
One great cause of men's becoming weary of life is grounded on the mistaken views of it which they have formed, and the false hopes which they have entertained from it. They have expected a scene of enjoyment; and when they meet with disappointments and distresses, they complain of life as if it had cheated and betrayed them. God ordained no such possession for man on earth as continued pleasure. For the wisest purposes he designed our state to be chequered with pleasure and pain. As such let us receive it, and make the best of what is doomed to be our lot. Let us remain persuaded, that simple and moderate pleasures are always the best ; that virtue and a good conscience are the surest foundations of enjoyment; that he who serves his God and his Saviour with the purest intentions, and governs his passions with the greatest care, is likely to lead the happiest life. Following these principles, we shall meet with fewer occasions of being weary of life; we shall always find some satisfactions mixed with its crosses; and shall be enabled to wait with a humble and contented mind till the Almighty, in his appointed time, finish our state of trial, and remove us to a more blessed abode.
On CHARITY as the End of the COMMANDMENT.
1 TIMOTHY, i. 5.
Now the end of the commandment is charity, out of a
pure heart, and of a good conscience, and of faith unfeigned.
IT appears from this chapter, that one design of
the Apostle, in writing to Timothy, was to guard him against certain corrupters of Christian doctrine, who had already arisen in the church. To their false representations of religion, he opposes that general view of it which is given in the text. Such summaries of religion frequently occur in the sacred writings; and are extremely useful. By the comprehensive energy with which they express the great lines of our duty, they both imprint them on our memory, and bring them home to our conscience with force. In the progress of this discourse, I hope to make it appear, that the words of the text afford a most enlarged and instructive view of religion in all its chief parts.
The Apostle pronounces charity to be the end or scope of the commandment, that is, of the law of God. At the same time, in order to prevent mistakes on this most important subject, he subjoins to charity certain adjuncts, as necessary to qualify it, and to
render the Christian character complete. These are the pure heart, the good conscience, and faith unfeigned. In treating of these, I shall show the nature of their connection with charity, and the importance of their being always united with it.
The end of the commandment is charity. Charity is the same with benevolence or love; and is the term uniformly employed, in the New Testament, to denote all the good affections which we ought to bear towards one another. It consists not in speculative ideas of general benevolence floating in the head, and leaving the heart, as speculators too often do, untouched and cold. Neither is it confined to that indolent good-nature, which makes us rest satisfied with being free from inveterate malice, or ill-will to our fellow-creatures, without prompting us to be of service to any. True charity is an active principle. It is not properly a single virtue, but a disposition residing in the heart; as a fountain whence all the virtues of benignity, candour, forbearance, generosity, compassion, and liberality flow, as so many native streams. From general good-will to all, it extends its influence particularly to those with whom we stand in nearest connection, and who are directly within the sphere of our good offices. From the country or community to which we belong, it descends to the smaller associations of neighbourhood, relations, and friends; and spreads itself over the whole circle of social and domestic life. I mean not that it imports a promiscuous undistinguishing affection, which gives every man an equal title to our love. Charity, if we should endeavour to carry it so far, would be rendered an impracticable virtue, and would resolve itself into mere words, without, affecting the heart. True charity attempts not to shut our eyes to the distinction between good and bad men ; nor to warm our hearts equally to those who befriend and those who injure us. It reserves our esteem for good men, and our complacency for our friends.
Towards our enemies it inspires forgiveness and humanity. It breathes universal candour, and liberality of sentiment. It forms gentleness of temper, and dictates affability of manners. It prompts corresponding sympathies with them who rejoice and them who weep. It teaches us to slight and despise no man. Charity is the comforter of the afflicted, the protector of the oppressed, the reconciler of differences, the intercessor for offenders. It is faithfulness in the friend, public spirit in the magistrate, equity and patience in the judge, moderation in the sovereign, and loyalty in the subject. In parents it is care and attention ; in children it is reverence and submission. In a word, it is the soul of social life. It is the sun that enlivens and cheers the abodes of men. It is like the dew of Hermon, says the Psalmist, and the dew that descendeth on the mountains of Zion, where the Lord commanded the blessing, even life for evermore. *
Such charity, says the text, is the end of the commandment. This assertion of the Apostle is undoubtedly consonant to all that reason can suggest on the subject of religion. For on considering the nature of the Supreme Being, reason gives us much ground to believe, that the chief design of all the commandments which he has given to men, is to promote their happiness. Independent and self-sufficient, that
* Psalm cxxxiii. 3.
Supreme Being has nothing to exact from us for his own interest or felicity. By our services he cannot be benefited, nor by our offences injured. When he created the world, it was benevolence that moved him to confer existence. When he made liimself known to his creatures, benevolence in like manner moved him to give them laws for their conduct. Benevolence is the spring of legislation in the Deity, as much as it was the motive of creation. He issued his commands on earth on purpose that, by obedience to them, his creatures might be rendered happy among themselves in this life, and be prepared for greater happiness in another. Charity, especially when joined with purity, good conscience, and faith, is obviously the great instrument for this purpose ; and therefore must needs possess the chief and primary place in the laws of God.
Accordingly, throughout the New Testament, it is uniformly presented to us in the same light in which it is placed by the text. This is known to all who have any acquaintance with the sacred books. Charity is termed the fulfilling of the law, and the bond of perfectness. It was assumed by our Blessed Lord as the characteristical distinction of his disciples; and in that magnificent eulogium which the apostle Paul pronounces upon it, in the thirteenth chapter of the first epistle to the Corinthians, it is expressly preferred by him to faith and hope. This deserves to be seriously considered by those who are apt to undervalue charity as an appendage of what they contemptuously call Morality; while they confine true religion to some favourite tenets and observances of their own, which they consider as comprehending the sum of what is acceptable to God.