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ftle has told us, If any man provide not for his own, especially those of his own household, he is worse than an heathen, and hath already denied the faith. Nor must their present maintenance be yoár only care, but likewise their future well-being: for the same reasons which oblige you to lay up in store for yourself against future calamities, oblige you to do the same for your family. But what is the measure, you will say, of this provision for futurity ? Who can guess how much himself or his family may want hereafter ?. And when shall we satisfy this duty, so as to be able to begin the other of being charitable to our poorer brethren? Our own present wants must be supplied ; and therefore he who can get no more than is necessary for the present maintenance of himself and family, is under no obligation to give to charity: but when we get beyond this necessity, we are then obliged to provide for our own future wants, and the present wants of the poor ; so that I reckon to lay up in store for ourselves, and to give in charity to others, are concurrent duties.
But it must be allowed, that charity is naturally the duty rather of the rich than the poor. And if it be the duty of the poor to give to charity out of the little their hands can earn; how much more will it be expected from such, to whom God has given more than enough! who are appointed stewards over his household, and are entrusted with the good things of the world, that they may use them to the honour and glory of his name, and to the comfort and relief of their poor brethren ! He has given you plentifully, and made the things you shew your
enjoy to be your own; he has secured to you your poffeffions, and commanded that no man rob or steal from you, on purpose that you may love by the freedom of your offering. Look down and behold the toil and labour of mankind, how in the sweat of their brow they eat their bread; how their hands are galled with work, and their shoulders with burdens : and then look up to Him, who has exempted you, and given you a life full of cafe and comfort ; and reflect what it is you owe to this kind, to this bountiful God. The time will come when you must quit your lands and your houses ;
; when you shall be suitors for mercy and favour : make to yourselves therefore friends of the mammon of unrighteousness, that when all shall leave and forsake you, you may be received into the habitations of righteousness, where there is mercy, and peace, and joy for evermore.
I Peter iv. 8.
And above all things have fervent charity among your
selves; for charity shall cover the multitude of hins, THE exhortation in the text being joined with other exhortations to fobriety and watchfulness in prayer, to hospitality, and to a faithful use and exercise of the gifts and graces of God bestowed on the several members of the church ; and yet, being introduced in this distinguishing manner, Above all things have fervent charity among yourselves, plainly shews how highly the Apostle esteemed this great virtue of charity; and that it is the perfection of a Chriftian, the very life and soul of all other duties, which without this are empty performances, and of no value in the fight of God.
This excellency of charity, which we collect from the peculiar manner in which St. Peter recommends it to the practice of Christians, is fully and exprefsly set forth by St. Paul in the i Cor. xiii. where speaking in his own person, he says, Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as founding brass, or a,
tinkling cymbal. And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing. And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not cha. rity, it profiteth me nothing. It is to be observed, that St. Paul does not merely compare and prefer charity before all spiritual gifts and attainments, before liberality and almsgiving; but he declares, that these without charity are nothing, of no value in the fight of God, of no profit to the falvation of
Is it not therefore of great consequence to us rightly to understand this great virtue, that we may use proper methods to attain it; since it is that only which can sanctify our offerings to God, and make either our prayers or praises, or our alms and oblations, acceptable in his fight; since it is that only which can make the gifts and abilities bestowed on us of any use, or render them a proper means to save ourselves and others
It is 'nceessary to enter into the confideration of the nature of this great virtue, that we may rightly apprehend the meaning of the text. St. Peter affirms, that charity shall cover a multitude of fins. Whatever we are to understand by this expression, it is evident that this great promise or effect must be ascribed to that virtue only, which the Apostle had in his mind, and which he meant to express in the words of the text ; and if we apply it to any thing else, we abuse his authority, and deceive our. felves. I shall therefore confine this discourse to two inquiries:
First, What that fervent charity is, which the Apostle in the text so earnestly recommends ; and,
Secondly, What is the true meaning of the Apostle's affirmation concerning this charity, that it shall cover the multitude of sins.
As to the first inquiry, it will appear by the language made use of by St. Peter, that he is not recommending any particular duty, much less any particular acts of duty. (The words in the original, rendered by our translators fervent charity, are αγάπην εκτενή, continual or uninterrupted love.) Love is a principle, or a good habit of mind, from which many
duties flow, but does not denote any one kind of duty more than another; and therefore the charity spoken of in the text has no more immediate relation to alm/giving (as the use of the word in our language often leads people to think it has) than it has to patience, forgiveness of injuries, or any other natural effect of love or charity. It is therefore the principle of charity, or a general beneficence of mind towards one another, which the Apostle recommends. And this must be constant and regular, not subject to the efforts of passion or resentment; it must preside with a superiority over all the desires of our heart, that neither wantonness and luft, nor anger and revenge, nor covetousness and ambition, may carry us aside from the ways of righteousness and equity in our dealings. one with another.
This description distinguishes the virtue of the Gospel from what the world means by good-nature, which seems to be a quality resulting rather from the conftitution, than from the reason of a man,