« AnteriorContinuar »
there nothing in the celestial sanctuary to disturb the repose of "saints made perfect?" Because there the dominion of love is universal; for if it were not, Heaven would no longer be a paradise, but the scene of greater disorders than now degrade this world, since the power to do evil must be great in proportion to the power to do good, and if love were absent the disposition to do evil would be equal to the power. Love is the atmosphere in which angels dwell, and the more ardently our hearts are open to receive it, the nearer shall we approach upon earth to their blessed condition in Heaven. Let us then unite together in that bond of peace which is cemented by love. Let us believe that the most acceptable incense which can ascend as a memorial to God is that aspiration of christian benevolence which is breathed for the whole human race. Let us consider the benefits which will redound to us from a mutual interchange of sympathy and good will, and do our best to fulfil the Saviour's injunction to "love our neighbour as ourselves."
ON CHRISTIAN BENEVOLENCE.
1 PETER, CHAP. IV. VERSE 8.
And above all things have fervent Charity among yourselves; for Charity shall cover the multitude of sins.
ON a former occasion, I observed to you that the word translated charity in this passage signifies love, and I now recur to the subject in order that I may embrace the opportunity of correcting a mistake which too commonly prevails upon the right interpretation of this important passage. In the first place we shall recollect that the epistle in which these words occur, was a pastoral letter addressed by an inspired Apostle to the Christian churches, and contains certain directions for their spiritual guidance. In the chapter before us, the writer commences with an exhortation to the Christian converts to arm themselves with resolution in the gospel cause, and though the dangers which
surround them be great, to suffer death rather than relinquish the blessings which it extends to all who implicitly follow its directions. He further exhorts them, as the best means of success in this holy undertaking, to comfort one another by mutual love, which would lead them to overlook each other's faults, for Charity, that is love, which is in fact the only sure bond of union between man and man, "shall cover the multitude of sins."
The import of the precept conveyed in the text clearly indicates the interchange of love, or the reciprocation of a higher and more definite feeling, than that which we commonly characterize under the somewhat vague designation of charity; for if we take the original term in the usual sense of charity, according to the common acceptation of that term, and the context in its most obvious construction, they would evidently imply a doctrine positively contradicted by Apostolic authority-that the exercise of charity will cover or expiate all sin. Now although charity, in its literal sense, evidently cannot produce this effect upon the person exercising it, yet love, though it does not expiate, certainly covers or conceals the sins of the person upon whom it is exercised; so that reciprocal love is inculcated among christian communities because it leads to active benevolence as well as to social communion, and is in fact the root of all
other virtues. Where we love a person, we shall not only pardon his faults, but we shall likewise conceal them from the insidious scrutiny of others, even at the very moment that we are endeavouring to correct them.
Covering sin is a form of expression frequently used in the Old Testament, but invariably in the sense of pardoning sin, as in the tenth chapter of Proverbs, " hatred stirreth up strifes, but love covereth all sins :" where it is manifest that the effects of hatred and love are placed in contradistinction, and those effects evidently refer, not to the persons under the influence of those passions, but to the objects against whom those passions are directed; hatred exciting dissensions and love subduing them, by covering or pardoning all sins which are in fact the primitive cause of those dissentions.
Nothing can be a stronger evidence of the truth of this interpretation than St. Paul's declaration, that though he should bestow all his goods to feed the poor, and even though he should give his body to be burned, and yet not have charity or love, it would profit him nothing for surely a man who should make such a sacrifice of worldly advantages, and even of life itself for the benefit of his fellow creatures, cannot be denied to have performed an act of practical charity, in the common understanding of the term. But it is clear that a man cannot be