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regard, the very complement of all holy acts. The philosopher, who had contemptuously banished it from the category of moral virtues, will be dismayed to see it signally emphasized and magnificently crowned in that day when all human speculations, principles and actions will pass under searching and final review.
In the second place, these wonderful words of the Lord Jesus, “Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me," enforce upon our attention His identification of himself with His poor and needy members on earth. This is almost incredible to us circumstanced as we now are. Even though we may have reason to feel that we have renounced every other ground of dependence, and have heartily embraced Christ, freely offered to us in the Gospel, as the only hope of our souls, it is a tax upon our faith to admit the oneness of so glorious a Savior with ourselves. It requires the assuming witness of His Spirit to scatter our doubts and convince us that He acknowledges us as His brethren, the adopted children of His Father, and joint-heirs with Him to all the riches of His Father's house, the boundless inheritance of God. Conscious of sin, of backsliding, of treachery, as we are, we are often ashamed to lift up our faces before Him, and would fain, like Peter under the remembrance of His fall, bow our heads and weep in the bitterness of our souls. We feel that we are unworthy of a look of recognition, of a single token of His love, and are surprised, like the dejected and penitent apostle, when we receive some reassuring message from our risen Lord, which lifts us from dust and ashes and thrills us with gratitude and joy.
We limit the merits of Jesus' righteousness, we apply the poor measure of our sympathies to those which throb in a Savior's heart, we bound the fulness, and circumscribe the out-goings, of infinite love. Exalted as He now is, far above all principality and power and might and dominion, and every name that is named not only in this world, but in that which is to come, He identifies himself with the meanest of His people, and makes common cause with them as they wrestle with the world, the flesh and the Devil. From the throne of glory, as once He did from the mount of transfiguration, He comes down to the low plane of their conflicts, difficulties and woes, and takes their part and bears a hand with them in their hopeless struggle against odds. As old John Owen in effect says, He appears upon the scene, plants himself on their side, and challenges their adversaries with the demand, “What question ye with them?” Hands off! These are my brethren, these are my Father's children. I am their Savior and their Advocate. If ye have anything against them, deal with me; I am here to answer for them. What is done to them is done to me.
Nor is this all. He declares the wants of His brethren, of the least of His brethren, to be His wants. It is not only that He, the compassionate minister to the necessities of afflicted human beings during His sojourn with them in this vale of tears, still remembers and commiserates them, although He sits on the right hand of the Majesty on high and listens to the chorus of heaven as it rolls its billows of praise to His feet. We need not be surprised that the great heart which beat on earth with sympathy for human sufferers and broke at length in a sacrificial death for their redemption, is not alienated from them by the possession of heav
enly glory and universal dominion, but unchanged and unchangeable pours out upon them its wealth of love and pity from the mediatorial throne. This does not put our faith to the strain; but this is not the whole
The ascended and glorified Redeemer identifies himself with His poor brethren on earth. In all their affliction He is afflicted. “They fill up that which is behind of the afflictions of Christ” in their flesh. They are His exponents and representatives, in whom He still, so to speak, lingers in this world and walks among men, not now imparting blessings to the needy, but asking succor in His need. The hand which gave mercy is now extended to receive it; the mouth which spoke healing to soul and body now asks for bread and water; He who clothes us with the wedding-garment of righteousness now solicits raiment to cover His nakedness; and the great Physician who cured all manner of sickness now lies stretched on the pallet of suffering and the bed of death. Is this hard to believe? Hear, how He will, in the great day, prove the meetness of His people for His welcome of them to everlasting joy: when, in yonder scene of suffering, ye fed the hungry, it was mè ye gave meat to; when ye gave drink to the thirsty, it was me whose thirst ye slaked; when ye lodged the stranger, it was me ye entertained; when ye clothed the naked, it was me to whom ye furnished raiment; when ye visited the sick, it was me ye nursed; when ye came to the prisoner, it was me of whose chain ye were not ashamed. Lord, they will exclaim, when was that? We never saw thee in the body on earth. Yea, the King will answer, yea, ye did. Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.
“These, my brethren," he affectionally calls them, as with the
royal sceptre in His grasp and the royal diadem upon His head, he effects the irreparable division of the human race and pronounces the changeless sentences of doom.
There is but one other thought which I shall notice as suggested by these wonderful words of Jesus. It is that no office of charity, however slight it may be, which springs from the motive of love to Christ, will ever be forgotten or overlooked by Him. It may have been lost sight of by him who did it, but it will be sure to reappear in the last day, and will not fail of meeting a gracious and everlasting reward. There are many reasons which tend to produce forgetfulness of these acts of charity by those who performed them. In a world so full as this is of suffering and want appeals for help follow each other in rapid succession, and one benefaction coming close upon another obliterates its trace from memory, as tracks imprinted upon the ocean beach are washed out by every bursting wave. Moreover, the same sense of sinfulness and unworthiness which renders His people slow to apprehend the intimate union between their exalted Savior and themselves, blunts their perception of His fellowship in want with their poor and needy neighbors, and of the fact that they minister to His necessities when they communicate to theirs. And further, the fear of inflaming spiritual pride prevents that determinate attention to the acts which is necessary to fix their impression upon the memory. They are felt not to be worthy of registration or even of mention, no account is kept of them by their performers, and so, for one reason or another, the recollection of these deeds of beneficence fades away into what seems an irrecoverable past.
But vanished though they be from the records of our memory, these acts of charity are not forgotten, not one of them. Oh, no! That loaf of bread given to the hungry, that cup of cold water handed to the thirsty, that garment thrown around the emaciated form to protect it from the wintry blast, that dose of medicine administered to the parched lips of the sufferer on his couch of sickness, that cooling of the fevered brow, that gentle smoothing of the dying pillow,-lo! they appear again. The tattered pauper whose timid knock once brought us to the door, the poor needle-woman who worked her fingers sore to get bread for herself and her children, and whose eyes glistened at the sight of the plate of food, the friendļess stranger who lay on a cot under our roof, the widow who would have shivered over a cheerless hearth but for the fuel sent to her desolate home,-behold, they appear again. When? Where? In that great day of doom, before yon flaming bar, in the presence of angels, men and devils, assembled to hear the sentences of destiny, as they fall from the lips of the eternal Judge. Summoned by Him who forgets nothing done for His sake, they will appear as witnesses, to prove that the love of Christ was a moving and operative principle in sinful men, which made them meet for the plaudits of the Judge, and the rewards of the blest.
Where is our faith? Where is our love to Jesus? Who of us, in view of results so transcendent, would not share His earthly means with the suffering, the sick, the poor? I say not, let us give that we may receive; but, let us give, and we will receive good measure, pressed down and shaken together, and running over, poured into our bosoms by a hand which has the bliss of immortality at its disposal. The sacri