« AnteriorContinuar »
in hastening the arrival of the millennium, or in aiming at the highest honours of the celestial kingdom. Let the promises of your God and Redeemer, the pleasure of beholding the gradual progress of the world's regeneration, and the glorious prospects presented to your faith, animate and encourage you to come forth as a Christian hero in the cause of universal benevolence; and although you should be sneered at by the men of the world, “ great shall be your reward,” in that kingdom where they who have been instrumental in turning many to righteousness, "shall shine as the brightness of the firmament, and as the stars forever and ever." *
* It is not a little unaccountable, on Christian principles, that so many wealthy professors of religion leave the world, without bequeathing any portion of their substance for religious and philanthropic purposes. An aged gentleman, a professor of religion, who had for many years attended a respectable dissenting place of worship, died a few weeks ago, leaving money and property to the amount of £20,000. But, although he was unmarried, and had no children, nor brothers nor sisters, not a single pound of it was devoted to the public, charitable, or religious objects—while the one half of this sum might have been appropriated to such objects, without the least injury to surviving relatives, most of whom stood in no need of it. Ahout a month ago, a lady informed me, that a gentleman in one of our populous cities had died worth £300,000. I replied, in the words of the late J. B. Wilson, Esq., "He has died wickedly rich." She was startled at the reply, and said " that he was a respectable character, and had acquired his wealth in an honourable way.” I asked, how much of it he had left for the purposes of religion and philanthropy? She replied, " that she had heard of nothing being left for such purposes, but he had, no doubt, given during his life, something for charitable objects; and that it was very proper and dutiful for a man to provide for his family, that they may move in their proper station; for we are told, that he who provideth not for his household, hath denied the faith, and is worse than an infidel,” &c. I replied, such a man ought to have left at least, £20,000, for rational and religious purposes, without in the least injuring his family, in whatever station they were brought up, and I could not but entertain a very low opinion of that man's Christianity, who could accumulate so much wealth, and leave none of it to promote the cause of religion and the best interests of mankind. But my worthy female friend could not be persuaded but that a man might lawfully do with his own as he pleased, and that his family were entitled to the whole of what he possessed. This is a fallacy which ought to be removed from the minds of professed religionists, as it implies a virtual denial of our dependence upon God, and of our obligations to consecrate our wealth and talents to the accomplishment of his benevolent designs.
3. Consider the import of the words of your Redeemer, “ It is more blessed (or happy) to give than to receive.”
The disposition to communicate happiness to fellowintelligences, is one of the characteristic traits of the true Christian, by which he is distinguished from the selfish and avaricious soul, and from the world that lieth in wickedness. It is the source of all natural and moral good, the spring of all public and private happiness, and the only real excellence of moral and intelligent beings. A disposition to receive happiness from others, but never to be instrumental in imparting it, would create a vast blank throughout the universe; and its countless tribes of inhabitants would remain forever destitute of enjoyment. Creation might present a scene of beauty and fertility to the eye, but the affection of moral beings would be cold and chill as the frosts of winter, and their hearts would never thrill with joy amidst surrounding associates. But from the voluntary and benevolent agency of intelligent beings, beginning at the great first cause of all enjoyment, and descending through every subordinate rank of intellectual existence, flows all that happiness which is enjoyed, either in earth or heaven, by every rank of moral agents, whether men or angels, cherubim or seraphim. This is the plain import of the maxim of our Saviour: “ It is more happy to give than to receive," namely, that the communication of good ought to be the great object of every Christian, and that it is more desirable and honourable to impart enjoyment to others than to receive it from them.
I cannot conceive a source of greater happiness on earth, than that which would flow to a Christian, whom God had blessed with abundance of wealth, in distributing at least the one-half of his substance, in works of piety and beneficence. He might soon behold, every where around him, the young trained up in knowledge and virtue, the gospel preached to the poor and to every class, the ignorant instructed, the industrious labourer supplied with employment, the afflicted relieved, the wants of the destitute supplied, schools, churches, and commodious dwellings with garden plots, rising on every side; the desert cultivated, and the wilderness made to bud and blossom as the rose. Such a character would be as eyes to the blind, and feet to the lame, and would cause the widow's heart to leap for joy. Wherever he appeared misery would smile, and his presence would be hailed with gratitude and joy. How many improvements of this description might be effected, and how much happiness diffused, by judiciously distributing in every district five thousand, or even one thousand pounds annually, on such objects? But where is the man or the Christian to be found who pants for such celestial enjoyment?
In the exercise of this disposition we become imitators of God, and are assimilated to his character. When he brought creation into existence, he could have no possible view, in lanching innumerable worlds into the depths of space, but to display the glories of his nature, and to confer benefits on their inhabitants. Could we wing our flight through the regions of immensity, and survey the various ranks of the population of the universe-could we mingle with the hosts of angels and archangels, and witness their enjoyments, we should find that all the arrangements of the Almighty, in reference to their situation and activities, have a tendency to contribute to their felicity—that his benevolence is displayed wherever matter exists, and wherever there are sentient and intellectual beings to participate of his bounty. He is not adored by the heavenly host, or by any of his creatures, “as if he needed any thing" to augment his glory,“
seeing he giveth to all, life and breath, and all things." He is declared in scripture to be “abundant in goodness," “ good to all," continually “ doing good," and that “ his tender mercies are over all his works.” Now, we are commanded to be imitators of God in his universal beneficence. merciful, as your Father in heaven is merciful; love your enemies, and do good to them that hate you; that ye
6 Be ye
may be the children of your Father who is in heaven; for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just, and on the unjust.” By acting in this character, we are likewise imitators of the blessed Redeemer," who went about doing good" to all classes of men, without distinction of rank or nation. Though he was “the brightness of the Father's glory," yet, " for our sakes he became poor, and took upon him the form of a servant.” His whole life was an uninterrupted series of beneficent actions. He had compassion on the ignorant and the distressed; he fed the hungry multitudes in a desert; he opened the eyes of the blind, unstopped the ears of the deaf, made the lame man to leap as an hart, and the tongue of the dumb to sing. stored to disconsolate parents the children whom death had snatched from their embrace; he healed all manner of sickness and disease among the people, and none ever applied to him for relief, who was refused assistance or spurned from his presence.
And now that “ he has entered into heaven to appear in the presence of God for us,” he is engaged in similar benevolent services. For, we are told, that “the Lamb in the midst of the throne feeds” the redeemed inhabitants, "and leads them to living fountains of water, and wipes away tears from every eye." We are, therefore, exhorted to be followers of Christ as dear children, and to walk in love; for he hath set us an example that we should walk in his steps.'
Again, in the exercise of the disposition to communicate happiness, we imitate the angelic tribes, who are incessantly engaged in similar services. Those glorious beings not only contribute to the happiness of each other, but rejoice to wing their downward flight to communicate messages of mercy to mankind. Although they dwell amidst the splendours of eternal day, they refuse not to descend for a season to our wretched world. They entered the lowly cot of the Virgin Mary, with a message of joy; they flew swiftly to Daniel, to explain his vision; they unbarred the prison gates to rescue Peter from his enemies; they comforted Paul with the assurance of divine protection, wbile tossing on the raging billows; and, in
Vol. VI. -25
numerous ways with which we are unacquainted, “they encamp around those who fear the Lord,” and are “ministering spirits to the heirs of salvation.” In short, heaven, whither we profess to be journeying, is a scene of pure beneficence. In that happy world, the spirits of the just will spend an immensity of duration, in an endless diffusion of benefits among countless orders of holy intelligences; and while they derive enjoyment from blessings conferred by kindred spirits, they will stilt find, that "it is more blessed to give than to receive.” For in so doing, we most nearly resemble the original source of felicity, who is “the blessed and only potentate," suprerne in happiness, yet incessantly diffusing benefits among unnumbered beings, throughout the whole extent of his universal empire.
Were such dispositions to be generally prevalent among men, what a happy world should we look upon, compared with that which we now behold! Were it universally prevalent, into what a glorious scene would society be transformed! Heaven would descend to earth, and an image would be presented of the intercourses and the joys of the blessed above. And, what should hinder such a disposition from being universally displayed, but the selfishness and depravity of man? Why may not our world be filled with intelligent beings, devoted to such noble and god-like aims, as well as with tribes of selfish demons? There is no physical impossibility to prevent such a blessed transformation. But the will of man stands as a barrier; he perceives not in what his true happiness consists; “ he loves darkness rather than light,” and misery more than happiness, and will not bend his ears to the instructions of heavenly wisdom. No man, however, ought to assume the name of a Christian in whom this benevolent and godlike disposition does not exist. Were Christianity universally diffused, and its holy principles recognised as the basis of human action, we should, ere long, behold such displays of beneficence in all the regions of the globe, and among every kindred and tribe and people; and the sighs of the disconsolate, the groans of the oppressed, and the shouts of the warrior would be heard no more.