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PHILIPPIANS, ii. 20.—I have no man like minded, who will naturally care for your state.
THE rare and exalted character, which St. Paul here sketches at a single. stroke, belongs to Timothy. The passage which contains it appears to have been written at a time when the apostle was particularly solicitous to obtain correct information respecting the state of the Philippian church. He was unable to visit Philippi himself. He could not immediately send Timothy; and among the persons then around him, there was no other on whose concern for the welfare of the church he could rely.
This passage suggests several remarks which have a direct and important bearing upon the object of the present discourse.
I. The first remark suggested by the passage is, That the situation of mankind, in a moral and religious view, is such as ought to awaken the unaffected concern of good men.
This proposition is, I conceive, fairly deducible from our text. The apostle evidently supposed it to be necessary that some one should care for the state of the Philippian church. Yet neither in this epistle, nor elsewhere, does he intimate that there was any thing peculiar in their situation, which rendered it more necessary to care for them than for others. On the contrary, that church appears to have been at this time in a remarkably flourishing state. It was furnished, as we learn from the introduction to the epistle, with pastors and subordinate officers. Of course, it enjoyed all the means of grace. Its members had recently given the apostle proofs of their affectionate remembrance, and their liberality, by sending him peeuniary supplies; and he expresses a strong persuasion, that God had begun a good work in them, and that he would perform it unto the day of Christ Jesus. Now if such a church, if persons professedly and hopefully pious, favoured with the enjoyment of Christian privileges, and disposed to improve them, still needed some one to care for their state, how imperiously does the situation of a very large proportion of our fellow-beings call for attention and concern? If it were necessary to corroborate this remark, it might easily be done. From the immense mass of information which has been collected and embodied by a zealous few, who care for the state of
* This Sermon, preached in behalf of the American Education Society, was furnished för publication in this Work, a short time previous to the Author's triumphant death.
perishing men, it would be easy to select a multitude of the most alarming facts, illustrative of the moral and religious situation of the world;-facts sufficient to convince insensibility itself, of the necessity of vigorous exertion, and to rouse the most torpid into activity.
But, can it be necessary to do this, after such a flood of light has been poured upon the situation of the dark places of the earth; bringing afresh to our view the fact long known, but little regarded, that they are filled, not with the habitations only, but with the temples and altars of cruelty and lust? Must we again lead you through the recently explored, and almost immeasurable wilds of paganism; again measure the length and breadth of this Arabian Desert of the moral world; again show you six hundred millions of immortal beings sitting in the darkness and shadow of death; and place before you the new-born infant sacrificed, or exposed by its parents; the widow's funeral pile; the blood-stained car of Juggernaut; with other sickening scenes from which even unsanctified nature recoils? Or, escaping from those regions of moral death to the shores of our own comparatively favoured land, must we repeat the calls which have so often summoned you to survey the waste places of her Zion, and to explore her moral wildernesses? Must we repeat the melancholy truth, that a large proportion of our countrymen are destitute of stated religious instruction, and that in consequence of the unexampled increase of our population, this deficiency is annually increasing, notwithstanding all the exertions which are made to supply it?
With these facts, and with the Bible before us, can any thing farther be requisite to prove that the religious state of a very large proportion of mankind is such as demands the most active, unremitting concern? If this be not the case, why has the all-wise God lavished such a profusion of care upon us? Why did he send his Son into the world? Why did his Son send forth disciples? Why direct them to pray the Lord of the harvest, that labourers might be sent forth into his harvest? Why was it his last command;" Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature?" Why did his first gift, after his ascension to heaven, consist of apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers, sent expressly to care, to watch for the souls of men? Why did those apostles ordain elders in every city? Why charge those to whom they left the care of the churches to commit the things which they had received to faithful men, who should be able to teach others also?
Has all this provision for the spiritual wants of men ceased to be necessary? Has such a change taken place in their character and condition, that watchmen are no longer needed? Are the enemies which once opposed their salvation dead, or asleep, or converted to friends? Does the broad road no longer lead to destruction? Are the fires of hell extinguished? Are the glories of heaven departed? Or, has the long expected day arrived in which it is no longer necessary to "teach every man his neighBour, and every man his brother, saying, know the Lord?"
No, my Brethren, we have around us but too many proofs that this is not the case. You well know that the moral state of our race is still essen
tially the same as in the days of the apostles: that the dangers to which they are exposed are still as great, and the enemies that oppose their salvation as numerous, as artful, and as powerful as ever; and that, therefore, they still need faithful watchmen to care for their souls. Has not experience taught you, my brethren, that such watchmen are necessary for yourselves? If so, remember, they are no less necessary to others. And if they are thus necessary, then care and exertion are requisite to provide them. By whom shall this care be exercised, this exertion made? Will you reply, By those whose necessities require them? And is it, then, needful to remind you, that by them it will never be done? Have not observation and experience taught you, that men are never more insensible to their spiritual wants, than when those wants are most numerous and pressWing? This, this is the circumstance, which, above all others, renders it necessary to care for the spiritual state of mankind. They will not; no, they will not care for themselves. When would the Son of God have made his appearance in our world, had he waited till its prayers drew him down? When would he have sent his apostles to the heathen, had he waited till they solicited such a favour? And when, O Christian, would the Spirit of God have visited your heart, had he waited till it became i spontaneously desirous of his presence? Why then should we expect the * present inhabitants of the world to be more spiritually wise, more concerned for their eternal interests, than former generations, or than we ourselves have been? Like the merciful God, we must have compassion on those who have no compassion on themselves, and listen to the speechless cry of their necessities.
But why do I insist on this obvious truth? From many of the destitute an imploring cry is already heard. Wakened by the still small voice of God, or by the occasional warning of some transient messenger of the cross, they are becoming sensible of their wants, and beseech us to care for them. Hundreds and thousands would at this moment receive with gratitude and joy the fragments, the crumbs of your spiritual repasts. They cry for the bread of life, but there is none to break it to them. To provide a supply for themselves is beyond their power. And even if it were not so-if all the destitute in our own country and in the world possessed the disposition and the ability to care effectually for themselves, who is to care for posterity-for your posterity? Who is to make the present exertions which are necessary to preserve them from suffering a famine of the word of God? Of this, chimerical as the apprehension may appear, there is no small nor doubtful danger. Only suffer things to pursue their present course, and it is certain that your descendants, at no very distant day, will experience the fulfilment of that awful threatening; "Behold the days come, saith the Lord, that I will send a famine upon the land; not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water, but a famine of hearing the word of the Lord." You can, in some faint degree, conceive of the miseries attendant upon a famine of bread, though the unmerited goodness of God has never permitted you to witness them. But what are these in comparison with the evils occasioned by a famine of the bread of life? As far inferior, as is
corporeal pain to mental anguish; as is the death of the body, to that of the soul; as are a few days of suffering to an eternity of wretchedness. To witness these evils, is to see the moral wilderness, with all its briars and thorns, its wild beasts and noxious reptiles, rapidly encroaching upon the vineyard of God. It is to see our golden candlesticks successively removed out of their places, and one burning and shining light after another extinguished; while none are set up in their room to dispel the hourly increasing darkness. It is to see the ways of Zion mourn because few come to her solemn feasts; the houses of God decaying, shut up, or desecrated; the temples of vice multiplying; the barriers which.protect the sanctity of the sabbath prostrated; the Bible cast aside and forgotten as a useless book; the exertions of religious and charitable institutions suspended, and even their existence terminated; the few remaining disciples of Jesus destitute of strength, of activity, and almost of life, constantly diminishing in number; the rising generation growing up without God and without hope; and darkness which may be felt overspreading the land; while an insulted God, looking down from above, commands the clouds to rain no rain upon it, and pronounces it a spot rejected, and nigh unto cursing, whose end is to be burned. Such are some of the effects which result from a famine of the word of God; such the evils under which a large proportion of our own country and of the world now groans. If we wish either to remove this most terrible of God's judgments from those who are now suffering it, or to avert it from our posterity, immediate and vigorous exertion is indispensably necessary.
Will any one reply, These apprehensions are groundless? It is impossible that in our country, or at least in the most highly favoured parts of it, the gloomy scenes which have been portrayed should ever be realized? My brethren, let no one be too confident of this. Must I remind you that every spot occupied by the Church on earth is a spot which, like the territory of Holland, has been won from an ocean; and that nothing but an adequate mound can prevent that ocean from reclaiming what it has lost! This mound consists, under God, in a faithful and well educated Christian ministry. Remove this, or neglect to repair the breaches which are constantly making in it, and you will soon see the billows, whose rage it even now scarcely restrains, bursting upon you with irresistible violence, and sweeping away the labours of ages in a day. Where are now the seven churches of Asia, which rose and smiled like so many verdant islands amié the surrounding waves? Go to Asia, or take up the glass of history, and see. II. A second remark, suggested by our text, is this: Men who properly care for the spiritual state of their fellow-beings are rarely to be found. This was the case in the days of St. Paul. It has been so ever since; and, we are constrained to add, it is so still; though, blessed be God, in a less degree than formerly. Will any one attempt to disprove this assertion by referring to the numerous societies which have been formed, to the sums which are collected, to the zeal and activity which are displayed for the promotion of almost every religious object? To every thing which can be urged of this nature, I would allow its full weight. That much has been
done, that much is now doing to meliorate the moral condition of man, is readily acknowledged. Still there exists, I conceive, ample foundation for the remark, that men who are suitably concerned for the spiritual condition of their fellow-beings are very rarely to be found. It must be recollected that warmth and coldness are relative terms, no less in the spiritual than in the natural world. Our climate might be thought warm by a visiter from Nova Zembla; but how would it appear to a native of the torrid zone? So to us, natives of this frozen world, the present temperature of our spiritual climate may appear sufficiently high. But how would it appear to an
inhabitant of heaven, were he condemned to reside among us? How would it appear to our benevolent Saviour, should he revisit the earth? Would he not find it intolerably chilling? Would he not regard the warmest love, the most fervent zeal, which are to be found among us, as comparatively cold? Would he not tell us that in comparison with what ought to have been done, almost nothing has been done?
And, to allude to a term employed by our translators in the text, how small a portion of that which is done appears to be done naturally? How much of the concern displayed for the destitute is artificial; how much of it is forced into action; what exertions, what importunities, what appeals to every principle of our nature are required to procure even the most scanty supply for their necessities? Alas, my Brethren, were the fervent apostle of the Gentiles now on earth, labouring, as he was wont for their salvation, would he not too often have occasion to address them in the language before us—“ I have no man who will naturally care for your state?"
III. It will not perhaps be departing from our subject, certainly not from our object, to notice some of the principal causes of this unconcern: For a knowledge of the causes of existing evils is often necessary to their removal. Of these causes, one is an inordinate and criminal self-love. To this cause the apostle ascribed the deficiency of which he complained. says he," seek their own, not the things which are Jesus Christ's." is needless to remark, that this cause still operates with undiminished force. It is frost in the heart, and a palsy in the hand. It draws around us a magic circle, beyond which our affections and exertions with difficulty pass. It presents to our eye a false glass, through which our own interests appear immeasurably important, and the interests of others comparatively trifling. It is ever suggesting some scheme of self-gratification, or self-aggrandizement, which engrosses, and exhausts the vigour of the soul, and leaves nothing but spiritless languor for plans of benevolence. In a word, it prompts us to care so much for ourselves, that we find little leisure or disposition to care for others.
This cause, however, prevalent and operative as it is, does not alone appear sufficient to produce all the evils of which we complain. It does not, except in some few instances, prevent us from relieving the wants of the body. Why then should it prevent us from relieving the far more pressing wants of the soul? The most selfish individual among us would scarcely suffer a beggar to famish and expire at his gate. Yet how many, who arc by no means slaves to avarice, suffer their immortal fellow-beings, while