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greatest injustice to the aggrieved party, and rendering the calumniator deservedly odious in the eyes of all men.
OF THE EXERCISE OF CHARITY, AND COMPASSION TO THE SOULS AND BODIES OF MEN.
1 Pet. iii. 8. Having compassion one of another, love as brethren; be pitiful, be courteous.
No Christian will ever content himself with a negative goodness, which preserves him from wilfully injuring or deceiving his fellow-creatures. Influenced by the love of God, he will shew kindness to men in their afflictions, knowing, that whilst he is in the flesh, he is as liable to suffer as others".
In this world of sorrow, truly benevolent minds can never want opportunities of doing good to mankind; whose spiritual and temporal necessities are so numerous, as to require every assistance which well-disposed persons are able to afford.
1. Since the soul as much surpasses the body in value, as eternity exceeds the short duration of time, it is evident that the spiritual necessities of men claim our first and greatest consideration. And if it be justly deemed an act of inhumanity to refuse bread to the hungry, and clothes to the naked, when it is in our power to relieve their wants, how much more criminal must it be, in the eye of our Maker, to withhold instruction from the souls of men, and thus suffer them to "perish eternally, for lack of knowledge!" Now, when we reflect that we are surrounded with immortal beings "who are alienated
from God, and enemies to him by wicked works," their lost condition calls aloud for compassion and the tenderest exertions of Christian pity and love. Where, then, is our brotherly affection, if we decline doing what we can to save those who are sunk in ignorance and vice from the bitter sufferings of endless death?
2. Our compassion to the souls of men must inspire us with holy zeal, to attempt, with the Divine, blessing, to rescue them from destruction. We must instruct them, as well as we are able, in the truths of religion; and try to persuade them, in the most affectionate manner, to embrace the Saviour, and seek an interest in his everlasting kingdom. We should watch for suitable occasions to set before them the evil of sin, and the ruin which it will bring on them without a speedy repentance'.
3. Nor should we be backward, to the best of our means, to furnish the poor and the ignorant with such religious helps as they need; particularly by distributing amongst them the Scriptures, and serious books; which may be instrumental in turning them "from darkness to light," and in making them heirs of a blissful immortality.
Nor let us forget to add, to our endeavours to convert inen's souls, the irresistible force of a pious life; which will sooner convince them of the general importance of religion, than the strongest arguments we can advance in its behalf.
4. As it is important to preserve the rising generation from the infection of evil examples, and to form their minds on the principles of God's holy. word, it is our duty, both by our pecuniary and personal assistance, to favour the establishment of b2 Tim. ii. 25, 26.
schools for the religious and moral instruction of the children of the poor; that, instead of being brought up in ignorance, and drinking in the poison of infidelity, and disaffection to Government, they may understand their duty to God and man, and thus prove a blessing, and not a curse, to society.
So far, we have been considering the compassion which is due to the spiritual state of the community, and the neighbourhood in which we live.
5. If, however, we would practise mercy to the full extent required by the Gospel, we must not confine its operation to the comparatively little circle of our own nation or neighbourhood; but give full scope to the philanthropy of the heart, by permitting it to expand with generous affections towards every individual of the human race. Related, as we are, to every man, who is a partaker with us of the same sinful nature, and liable to the same infirmities and sorrows, we should esteem him as our brother, whatever may be his complexion and circumstances, or however he may be separated from us by rivers and seas and continents. That God expects from us the exercise of this Christian affection towards all our fellow-creatures, is evident, from that principle of benevolence which he has implanted in our hearts, and which, if not cramped by prejudice, or excessive self-love, will lead us to seek, according to our means, the happiness of all mankind bb.
It is evident, then, that there are certain offices of humanity, charity, and justice, which we owe unto all men, in their collective capacity; and which we are able to perform, without injury to ourselves, or to those who have an immediate claim on our support. 6. There are countless myriads, who are bone of bb Matt. xxii. 39.
our bone, and flesh of our flesh, whose wretched condition demands our sympathy. The whole of the Heathen world is sunk in the grossest ignorance and idolatry.
"Out of eight or ten hundred millions of men, which are supposed to people the world, nearly three-fourths of that number are still enveloped in Pagan darkness the abject slaves of cruelty, vice, and the most degrading superstitions. Many millions are blinded by the wretched delusions of the false prophet Mahomet. And of the rest, not above one hundred millions even profess the Christian faith in its purity, but only as it is debased with the errors of the Greek and Roman churches."
What mind, possessed of any right ideas of its responsibility to God, can contemplate this picture of Heathen misery, without the deepest emotions of pity; and, at the same time, without feeling an ardent wish to rescue so large a portion of our fellowcreatures from their perishing condition? If it be inquired, What can we do to relieve their wants, and render them more happy? the answer is easy:
7. The means of obviating their misery is in our own hands. By an annual subscription of a guinea, or half-a-guinea, to the Bible and Church Missionary Societies, we may send forth, among the Heathen, the Heralds of Salvation, with the Word of God in their hands, and the love of God in their hearts, to invite and to persuade them to renounce their idols, and turn to the Living God; and to believe in, and wait for, his Son Jesus Christ from heaven, who hath de livered us from the wrath to come. In this way, we can contribute our assistance for the conversion of millions, who, at the last day, may have cause 1 Thess. i. 9, 10.
to rise up, and bless our labours of love in their behalf.
. Our duty to propagate Divine truth, and to encourage Missions to every part of the world, where our charity is required, is founded on the benefits which they are capable of conferring, as well as on the command of God himself cc.
8. We need no other proof of the benign effects of Missions, than the civil, moral, and religious reformation produced by the Word of God, and the pious labours of Missionaries, in our own country. Instead of altars polluted with the blood of human victims, we have temples devoted to the service of the True God, whose name and perfections are honoured amongst us. Instead of the ignorance and vices which Pagan darkness generates, all the virtues and graces of the Spirit, in some degree, flourish and abound amongst us. Barbarous customs have been exploded, and have given place to the benevolent genius of Christianity; which provides hospitals for the sick, asylums for the wretched and the needy, and schools for the instruction of the poor.
Now, the general distribution of the Scriptures throughout the world, and Missions properly conducted, are means which are capable of effecting the same blessed change amongst the unenlightened Heathen. They have been already attended, in nu◄ merous instances, with the most happy success; as may be learnt from a perusal of the Annual Reports, which detail the operations of the aforementioned Societies.
9. Not only is our humanity and charitable assistance solicited in behalf of the ignorant Heathen; but justice, grounding her claims on the injunction ce Mark xvi. 15.