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faith is calculated to direct its progress, and secure the great end proposed. For the whole system of our divine religion, which hath its foundation in grace ; its precepts, which breathe nothing but love and amity ; its doctrines, which only present to us, under different views, the transcendant goodness of God in the great work of redemption ; its history, which records the most engaging instances of active benevolence; all this cannot but exceedingly inspirit our affections, and carry them out in a vigorous and uniform prosecution of the subordinate means, which are to produce that last perfection of our nature, a pure and
permanent love of mankind. For at every step we cannot but see the end of the commandment, so perpetually held out to us, and derive a fresh inducement from faith, to accomplish and obtain it.
Indeed, to produce this effect, our faith, as the Apostle adds, must be UNFEIGNED : that is, it must be nourished and intimately rooted in the heart; we must not only yield a general assent to the sacred truths of our religion, we must embrace them with earnestness and zeal, we must rely upon them with an unshaken confidence and resolution. But all this will be no difficulty to those who derive their faith from its proper source, that is, who make a diligent study of the holy scriptures : where only we learn what the true faith (which will ever be most friendly to virtue) is ; and whence we shall best derive those motives and considerations, which are proper to excite and fortify this principle in us.
And thus, that Charity, which a pure mind gives the liberty of exerting, and which a good conscience manifests and at the same time improves, will, further, be so sublimed and perfected by the influence of divine faith, as will render it the sovereign guide of life, and the pride and ornament of humanity.
Or, to place the descent of Charity, in its true and natural order, it must spring, first, from an unfeigned faith in the Gospel of Jesus : that faith must then produce, and shew itself in, a good conscience: and that conscience must be thoroughly purged from all selfish and disorderly affections ; whence, lastly, the celestial offspring of Charity has its birth, and comes forth in all the purity and integrity of its nature.
FROM THIS lineage of Christian Charity, thus: deduced, many instructive lessons may be drawn. We may learn to distinguish the true and genuine, from pretended Charity : we have, hence, the surest way of discerning the spirits of other men, and of trying our own: we may correct some popular mistakes concerning the virtue of charity ; and shall best comprehend the force and significancy of the several commendations, which the inspired writers, in many places, and in very general terms, bestow
Let me conclude this discourse with an instance of such instruction, respecting each of those heads, which the order of the text hath afforded the opportunity of considering.
And, first, from the necessity of a PURE HEART, we are instructed what to think of the benevolence of those men, who, though enslaved to their own selfish passions, are seldom the most backward to make large pretences to this virtue. But, be their pretences what they will; we know with certainty, that, if the heart be impure, its charity must be defective. It must, of course, be weak and partial ; confined in its views, and languid in its operations; in a word, a faint and powerless quality, and not that generous, diffusive, universal principle, which alone deserves the exalted name of Charity.
* We conclude, also, on the same grounds, that the hatred of vice is no breach of Christian charity. This charity is required to flow from a pure heart. But there is not in nature a stronger antipathy, than between purity, and impurity. So that we might as well expect light and darkness, heat and cold, to associate, as spotless virtue not to take offence at its opposite. I know, indeed, that the hatred due to the vices of men, is too easily transferred to their per
But that charity, which is lineally descended from faith, will see to make a difference between them; and while it feels a quick resentment against sin, will conceive, nay will, by that very resentment, demonstrate, a tender concern for sinners, for whom Christ died.
Secondly, from the rank, which a GOOD CONSCIENCE holds in this family of love, we are admonished to avoid the mistake of those, who are inclined to rest in negative virtue, as the end of the commandment ; and who account their charity full and complete, when it keeps them only from intending, or doing mischief to others. The Apostle, on the contrary, gives us to understand, that its descent is irregular, if it be not allied to active positive virtue ; such as takes a pleasure in kind offices, is zealous to promote the welfare of others, and is fertile in good works. And this conclusion is the more necessary to be inforced upon us, since, in a world like this, where vice is sure to be active enough, the interests of society will not permit that Charity should be idle.
Lastly, from the lineal descent of Charity from FAITH, we must needs infer, that infidelity is not a matter of that indifference to social life, which
persons suppose it to be. It is the glory of our faith, that it terminates in charity. Every article of our creed is a fresh incitement to good works : in so much that, he who understands his religion most perfectly, and is most firmly persuaded of it, can scarce fail of approving himself the best man, as well as the best Christian. And this, again, is a consideration, which should affect all those who profess to have any concern for the interests of society and moral virtue.
Thus it appears, how instructive the doctrine of the text is, and how usefully, as well as elegantly, the Apostle sets before us, in this short genealogical table, the proper ancestry of Charity: in which Faith, as the ultimate
progenitor, begets an active virtue; and that,