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who, by no stretch of charity, can be supposed to care seriously for God, who yet are not insensible to the calls of kindness and of pity, and not unwilling to dispense some portion of their superfluities for the relief of their necessitous brethren. But of that charity which is self-denying as well as kind; of that charity which is solicitous for the souls as well as for the bodies of men; of that charity which can labour long and suffer much, as well as contribute largely; of that charity which " is not puffed up; doth not behave itself unseemly,―hopeth all things, believeth all things, endureth all things'." I wish to God the instances were more frequent than my experience leads me to believe them; and I am sure, so far forth as that experience extends, that no single instance has been found in which the philanthropy was not engrafted on some species of religious feeling.
The truth is, that our practice of the two great commandments can only be effectual and progressive where they reciprocally foster and increase one another. The more we grow in love to God, the more love we shall feel for His children; and the greater real kindness we cherish and practise towards mankind, the greater and warmer thankfulness we shall be inspired with towards Him, by whom the world has been created, preserved and pardoned; to whose goodness we owe the comforts of society, the endearments of kindred and the blessings of
1 1 Cor. xiii. 4, 5. 7.
friendship; who hath in His mercy ordained men to be helpful one to another, and who has graciously made the discharge of this most necessary duty a source of the purest earthly happiness.
But of these two commandments, the love of God stands first; first in order, first in object, first in dignity; where this is really found, the other parts of holiness will, almost of necessity, follow; but where this is not sought after, their progress must be small who stumble on the threshold of religion.
Be it then your endeavour, brethren, to acquaint yourselves with all which God has done for you, with your own undeservings and His great and unfailing mercies. Be it your business to wait on Him in prayer, to converse with Him in the Scriptures, to renounce in your thoughts and actions whatever is displeasing to Him, and to practice towards His creatures, and for His sake, that mercy and meekness, that forgiveness and bounty which you hope yourselves to find from Him.
Nor fear, if you act thus, but that you will soon begin to love; fear not, if you love thus, but that you will be surely loved in return by Him who is the centre of your hopes, your imitation, and your affection. Yea, if you love thus, be sure that God already loves you; that the seed which He has sown in your heart is the first pledge and promise of His affection; and that He has already taken possession of that temple wherein, unless we cast Him forth, He hath purposed to dwell for ever.
"If a man love me," said the Son of God, will keep my words, and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him 1."
Amen, Amen! Even so, come Lord Jesus. Even so, Father of all, for Thy Son's sake descend on us, and by Thy Spirit sanctify our hearts, that they may be filled with Thy invisible presence in this dark and evil world, so that, in the world to come, we may see Thee as Thou art, and be in Thee and with Thee everlastingly.
1 1 John xiv. 23.
[Preached at Calcutta, Christmas Day, 1825.]
ST. LUKE ii. 14.
Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good-will towards men.
THIS is the hymn with which the angels celebrated the incarnation of our Blessed Saviour, and to us, whom the authority of our national Church, the precedent of early antiquity, and the example of the great majority of believers in every age and country invite, as at this time, to give thanks for the same illustrious display of Divine mercy, no fitter subject of devout meditation can be found than the words in which the spirits of Heaven announced that mercy to mankind.
And of the topics of reflection which the words in question offer to the mind, the following are among the most striking. In the first place, the fact itself of that sympathizing joy which the angels are represented as feeling in the event which they announced with so much celestial pomp and splen
dour, must needs excite in us a powerful apprehension of the greatness and illustrious nature of the benefit thus extended to our race, and may convince us both that those evils are very grievous from which the coming of the Son of God was to free mankind, and those blessings are even greater than our familiarity with them leaves us always able to estimate, which could move beings, so much superior to ourselves, to express such a lively and unusual interest in them. And the inference, I think, will follow both that, in the birth of the Messiah, the spirits of Heaven recognised something far more remarkable than the birth of a mere earthly prophet, and that something far more valuable than a new and more perfect revelation of God's will was anticipated by them in their song of peace and good will to the sons of Adam.
Of earthly prophets and earthly heroes the birth had been announced, and announced by angels, in former and well-known instances. Isaac and Ishmael had each had his Heavenly harbinger, and the mother of Sampson was comforted in her lonely prayers by the promise of a distinguished offspring 1. But in none of these instances was there the like promise displayed, in none of them was the like ardour of exultation and congratulation manifested which now brake the slumbers of the shepherds on the hill of Bethlehem; and which chaunted, this one time, in mortal ears, that harmony which swells
1 Gen. xvii. 16. xvi. 11. Judges xiii. 5.