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the last judgment, bestowed upon this self-denying but sublime virtue, which brings our poor, imperfect nature into closest likeness to Him, who dwelt among men and shared their sorrows, who healed the sick and the crippled, the deaf, the dumb and the blind, who groaned in sympathy with the bereaved and wept with them over their dead, and who at last, although entitled to universal homage, laid down His life in agony and shame to redeem His enemies from sin and death and hell!
But we have only touched the skirts of this subject. We must, in the next place, inquire what is the nature of this charity, and what the character of these works which will receive mention so conspicuous in the day of final accounts. Let us not deceive ourselves. Men are cheated by the merely superficial and phenomenal circumstances of actions their tinsel and paint and varnish, but the divine Judge, with his omniscient eye, looks down into the profound recesses of the soul in which lurk hidden from human inspection those springs of thought and feeling, those intentions, motives and governing principles, that impart a real and permanent value to our deeds. Many are the acts emblazoned with the beautiful name of charity which can lay but a hollow claim to the illustrious title; many the deeds of splendid beneficence that extort the encomiums of the world, but which will be reduced to nothing by the solvent of the last fire.
Here, however, we are obliged to distinguish. There is the distinction between an act as it appears to man, and as it appears to God; and there is the distinction between an act materially considered that is, as to the thing itself which is done, and the same act formally considered that is, as to the motive which led to its
performance. Generally, that which alone appears to the eye of the human observer is the outward act itself. When we witness the performance of an act of charity, we see the material benefit which is conferred, the pecuniary alms, the food, the drink, the raiment, the visit to the sick and the imprisoned, the entertainment of the strangers; and we may be able to notice the joy of the beneficiary and the material relief he experiences. And with this we should ordinarily be satisfied. It is not our province to hunt for the latent motive, which lies back of the external act and veiled from our perception. It may be a good one, it may be a bad one, but we are neither qualified nor authorized to discharge the function of judges. In most cases, we ought to infer from the material goodness of the deed the worthiness of the motive which prompted it. But there may be cases, in which the informing motive emerges from latency, and is so obtrusively thrust upon our observation, that it is impossible that it should elude our knowledge. In such cases we are compelled to take the seat of the judge, and pronounce upon the formal value of the acts. If, for example, we see alms extended to the poor, manifestly for the purpose of securing votes for office, or of eliciting applause from spectators, while we approve the material results of the benefaction, we are obliged to regard the act as possessed of no formal value as a fruit of principle and a test of character. On the contrary, contemplating it from the point of view of its internal relations, we are under the necessity of disapproving it. We feel that the outward and material benefit conferred, although it be good and deserving of applause, furnishes no evidence that the principle of charity
exists as an element of character, and a spring of action.
Now, those instances, in which our knowledge is limited to the merely material and outward features of acts, afford no analogy whatever to the mode in which they are estimated by the divine judgment. "For the Lord seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the Lord looketh on the heart." He cannot be deceived as to the subtle relation which subsists between the outward action and the inward principle. To him there is no distinction, as with us, between the apparent and the real-the visible and the invisible. All is phenomenal and visible to his omniscient eye. The soul is more intimately known by Him than by its own consciousness. Its fundamental laws, its most secret thoughts, its most fugitive phases of feeling, are intuitively apprehended by Him whose knowledge has no limitations, but like His being is infinite. "Thou hast set our iniquities before thee, our secret sins in the light of thy countenance." The morning sun does not as clearly reveal the features of a landscape which had been veiled by the darkness of night, as does the blazing light of God's face the obscurest emotions and purposes of the human heart.
But those cases, in which we at once possess a knowledge of outward acts and of the motives which inspired them, are a shadow-an imperfect illustration, of the mode in which the moral qualities of actions are weighed in the unerring balances of the divine judgment. It should, however, not be forgotten that, as to degree, God's knowledge is infinitely clearer than ours can be, and that as to mode, he is never dependent upon inference, as we often are, for insight into the secret condition of the creature. He gazes in one undivided
intuition upon the material and the formal qualities of actions, upon the outward deed itself and the intention which impresses its moral type.
Let us now apply these distinctions to the office which, Christ tells us, will be discharged by works of charity in the day of judgment. Their material and outward qualities will be, as we have already seen, recognized and mentioned by the Judge-feeding the hungry, giving drink to the thirsty, lodging the stranger, clothing the naked, visiting the sick and prisoners. But this is by no means all. He will uncover and bring out into light and distinctly state the principle from which these acts proceeded, the motive which dictated them and fixed their moral value. Addressing the righteous He will say: "I was an hungered, and ye gave me meat; I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink; I was a stranger, and ye took me in; naked, and ye clothed me; I was sick, and ye visited me; I was in prison, and ye came unto me." "Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me." Wonderful words! Let us pause and mark their significance. There are at least two things which they enforce upon our attention:
In the first place, they shed the light of the last judgment upon the nature of that charity which the Judge himself will approve, and the kind of charitable offices which he will adduce as evidences of a justified state and a holy character. The charity which will pass inspection, and will play so distinguished a part in that judicial day, is not one which was a mere complement a mechanically united bundle of outward acts of beneficence. It is a deep-seated principle of the soul, a permanent habitude, which expressed itself in
benefactions to the poor. But what sort of principle? what kind of habitude? The answer is and it is furnished by the Judge himself-love for Christ. It was for my sake ye did your charitable works; they sprang from the love ye bore for me. And, therefore, I cite them from my book of remembrance, to evidence and prove your possession of the principle of love to me. This, then, is the nature of that charity which will retain its name and read its title in the revealing light of the judgment-day: it is love for Christ, a principle, a grace, an all-informing motive, which originated, characterized and transfigured mere outward and material benefactions to the poor. But love to Christ will prove the existence of faith in Christ, for "faith worketh by love"; and faith in Christ will prove the possession of his righteousness, which is the sole ground. of justification and acceptance with God. Still more, love to Christ proves the existence of love to God, and love to God is "the fulfilling of the law," and the fulfilling of the law proves the possession of the temper of universal obedience to all the divine requirements— a condition of the soul which renders it meet for the society of the Trinity, the fellowship of angels and “the inheritance of the saints in light." Grand sorities! beginning with offices of charity to the poor, and running back by an irrefragable chain of evidence, on the one hand, to a justified relation of the person to God, and, on the other, to à character of holiness which qualifies its possessors for endless communion with God and the blissful enjoyment of His presence.
It ought not to be supposed, that the words of the Judge impose the obligation of relieving only those who are followers of Christ and members of His body. We cannot know whether one who now makes no pro