« PreviousContinue »
countrymen, and last of all our fellow-christians and fellowcreatures in every quarter of the globe. This is the natural general order ; but true charity makes no nice distinctions when she sees a helpless object imploring present aid ; she considers not to which of these classes that petitioner belongs, who must perish without her assistance: nay, Christianity advances a step further; when she sees an enemy in distress, she regards and treats him as a brother.
Charity to kinsmen, friends and neighbours, we, then, readily allow to be tbe most incumbent duty, and at the same time it cannot be disguised and must be freely acknowledged, that it is more easy in performance, and less frequently omitted. Few there are, who, possessing the ability, do not in a greater or less degree cultivate this branch of Christianity. In the more difficult and extraordinary cases to do anything deserves praise ; but in this natural and every day call, of the be-friending and relieving necessitous neighbours and relations, not to do our utmost is disgraceful. It is, as it were, the first step, the essential and fundamental stage, and of course, least difficult of ascent and most accessible. The others rise in merit in the very proportion of the efforts and struggles that are called for in such an undertaking. But though general munificence be more sublime and uncommon, it is never seen to advantagenor merits our admiration, except when its foundation is laid in genuine charity; and ascends to its highest elevation by the
r regular degrees of brotherly love.
It is indeed the very pinnacle of the Temple of Charity, but without a good foundationstone it will want firmness and stability, and without a due attention to the magnitude and disposition of the materials, the structure cannot rise to any altitude, worthy of admiration.
If he who loves not his brother, whom he hath seen, cannot love God whom he hath not seen, much less can he love those of his fellow-creatures, whom he hath neither known, nor seen.
But some man may here object, that I am infatuated and have abandoned the cause, of which I professed myself to advocate :—that is by no means the case. Yet my duty, as much at least as that of an evidence in our justiciary courts, requires that I should act with sincerity and declare the whole truth. Dissimulation is improper, and sincerity cannot injure a good cause. The truth then is, that your first attention is due to your nearest connexions; and a forgetfulness of them would not be atoned for, by the building of a temple. But you are not thence to conclude that an observance of this more binding and fundamental duty, is a general discharge of all your obligations to God. Good men in all nations and ages have not been grossly deficient in cases of so evident a nature : but instances of universal philanthropy, such as the one, which now forms the subject of my appeal to you, have rarely, if ever, occurred before.
There is indeed something which fills the soul with awful wonder, when we reflect upon a public charity of this nature. We here see a retired and obscure inhabitant of this little Isle, itself a mere speck in the universe, an inconsiderable part even of this globe, enabled thus to contribute his mite to the necessitous as far as the sun extends his beams :-he may be said to be a component member, and to contribute a portion of strength, in working a machine, of which the agency is felt throughout the earth, and for the benefit of the whole.
Nor can I here pass over without notice another species of charity, for which our countrymen have long been eminently
distinguished above the inhabitants of any other nation ;-I mean by an a appropriation of their superfluous wealth to the foundation of establishments for the benefit of the generations
How truly to be revered, how deserving of the blessings of mankind are the Founders of our Schools, our Colleges, our Hospitals, and Asylums. For many of these we have been indebted to private bounty. God-like indeed is that Charity, which can confine itself to no limits of space or time, and which extends its cheering influence not only throughout all nations, but also throughout all ages.
Were I to make a comparison between these two august species of charity, I should be at a loss how to decide : but certainly whatever is employed in the reformation of the present generation will be an inestimable advantage to those which are to come; and perhaps if our whole energy was exerted in the improvement of our contemporaries, we should contribute in the most effectual manner to progressive reformation,
Such, my fellow Christians, is the call which I am now making upon all those, who have even a mite to bestow. It is a cause of the most extensive beneficence, nor am I aware of any excuse that can be made, save that only of inability. All those pleas which are sometimes so readily brought forward by those who are not at the bottom charitably disposed, can have no place here. None can doubt, that their donations will thus be well employed, as they are devoted to the truly Christian object of the general propagation of the true religion.
There may be, in the number of my hearers, some, who are not aware, that this admirable Institution has already existed upwards of a hundred years; and when I inform them that
such is the fact, they will think it very unaccountable that no previous applications have been made to them for their charitable co-operation.
It may fairly be demanded, whether the occasions of the Society, or its activity and zeal, have been lately augmented. Both these questions may be answered in the affirmative. The zeal and exertions of the Society have not only been redoubled, within their former sphere of action, but also a new and extensive field has been opened to them in the East.
From this cause their funds have proved insufficient, and hence it is, that this general appeal is made to the generosity of the nation.
Need I say more? Can one word of exhortation be wanted to further such a cause? We are assured on the highest authority that it is more blessed to give than receive : And why ? Because by means of an earthly treasure, we may purchase an estate in heaven, an abiding place of perfect and endless security. We read too, that God loveth the cheerful giver. Give not then grudingly and with reluctance. Consider that you are pouring oil into that lamp which is to lighten the Gentiles and bring them into the Fold of Christ.
Be then, my dear brethren, liberal according to your power : ye that have much, give plenteously; ye that have little, use your diligence gladly to give of that little,—thus laying up for yourselves a good foundation against the time to come, that you may attain eternal life ;—which God of his infinite mercy grant; and to Him, with the Son, and Holy Ghost, be all honour and glory for ever and ever.
(PREACHED AT LORTON IN 1823, IN AID OF THE FUNDS OF THE NATIONAL SOCIETY FOR PROMOTING THE EDUCATION OF THE POOR
IN THE PRINCIPLES OF THE ESTABLISHED CHURCH.]
Mark XXV. 40.
“ INASMUCH AS YE HAVE DONE IT UNTO ONE OF THE LEAST OF THESE MY BRETHREN, YE HAVE
DONE IT UNTO ME.”
To the least of our brethren we are thus most forcibly directed, on them we must bestow our Christian care. On them, if we do bestow our care, the text assures us we bestow it upon Christ himself, or in other words are Christians indeed. But who are the least of these his brethren ? One will tell you the poor and indigent of every age, the infant in its helplessness of one kind, and the decrepitude of age no less alike pitiable in another. If the strongest plea be required, the two must be united, and this is frequently the case, if we substitute