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do good unto all men; but the love of complacence prompts us to acts of kindness towards the household of faith, because of their faith and moral excellence. To love Christians as such, and because they are such. And this is a love which is not confined to names, nor parties, nor sects, nor is it hemmed in by ecclesiastical rules and forms, but extends as far as the spirit and image and principles of Christ are found.
3. It is of paramount importance. Our Saviour enforced the duty of brotherly love in a new commandment; and enjoined upon mankind the love even of their enemies. He mentions it as the highest qualification of those who shall stand on his right hand, and the want of it as the reason of the dreadful curse that shall be denounced against those on his left, in the day of judgment. Paul declares love to be the fulfilling of the law, and places it first among the fruits of the Spirit. He gives it the preeminence above all other gifts and graces,-above the tongues of men and angels,-above prophecy and mysteries and knowledge, --and even faith and hope. "Now abideth faith, hope, charity; but the greatest of these is charity." The beloved disciple who lay in the bosom of his Lord, and seemed to partake largely of his spirit, tells us that God is love. All his other attributes are but the varied modifications of his love. Love presides over all his counsels, and directs all his acts. The same apostle asserts that this attribute is an evidence of our being born of God; and its absence of our still abiding in death. He calls him a murderer who hates another; and him a liar who says that he loves God whom he hath not seen, and hates his brother whom he hath seen. Thus Christ and his disciples exhort and teach that love may continue and abound.
Now, it is not easy to conceive how any honest man can misapprehend and evade these precepts. He can as readily shuffle any other duty enjoined in the Bible. And he who fancies himself a Christian, while he manifests habitually a spirit in direct opposition to true evangelical charity, is willing to lie under a fatal delusion. He takes upon himself the name of Christ and comes under the obligations of discipleship, while he knows nothing of Christianity. For, the duty of Christian charity is not taught in doubtful phrases, in fancied analogies, and far-fetched interpretations, but in plain commands, in frequent earnest en. treaties and expostulations. And those who are proof against all these will not be urged to duty by considerations of a moral kind. Hence, however much heat and zeal a man may show in defense of his religious opinions, if they be not kindled by the fire of Christian love, they are fruitless of any good. Men may die martyrs to their opinions, and they may be styled Christian martyrs, and yet be totally destitute of charity. The apostle declares, "Though I give my body to be burned, and have not
charity, I am nothing." It cannot be doubted that the charity of the gospel is absolutely essential to the Christian character. It is the very soul of true piety: the element of heaven.
4. Consider the moral excellence of Christian charity. It is the atmosphere which angels, and glorified saints, and all holy beings breathe. It is the virtue which distinguishes them from all other beings. The fallen angels may possess knowledge and power equal to the unfallen, but they are wholly destitute of love and moral excellence. They have the natural, but are destitute of the moral perfections. The celestial inhabitants, on the contrary, live in the enjoyment and exercise of unmingled, uninterrupted love and felicity. Nor is their love confined to the society of the blessed in heaven, but sheds its beams upon this lower world, for they are ministering spirits to the heirs of salvation. If there is joy among the angels over the repentance of a sinner, there is complacent love for the saints, and pity for all the rest of the human family. The spirits of the just, as they depart this life, leave behind all their censorious, ungenerous, selfish propensities. Their souls are enlarged, their vision of Divine things is greatly extended, and their love, like a flowing stream, will evermore deepen and widen it rolls down through eternity.
But this heaven-born charity, although its range is as wide as the universe, and its aim is the highest good of all the race, still is by no means blind to error, nor indifferent to immoral conduct. It weeps when men make void the law of God, and rejoices when truth triumphs, holiness is exalted, and God is honored. What exalted benevolence in Moses that should make him willing to be blotted out of God's book rather than that the sin of Israel should not be erased! How disinterested the benevolence of Paul, who wished himself accursed from Christ, or in other words, separated from Christian communion as a vile and worthless thing, for the sake of his brethren and kindred according to the flesh! None but souls enlarged and elevated by Divine inspirations of benevolence can make such approaches to the character of the Redeemer who died for his enemies.
But it should be observed that there are gifts and graces which appear very much like the spiritual, but are really destitute of divine life and love. Reference is had to those whose gifts are rather intellectual than spiritual, that possess the glare with the coldness of the iceberg; who are endowed, perhaps, with a wonderful volubility, pray with great fluency, speak with the tongues of men and angels, seem to possess all knowledge and all faith, and yet they are as sounding brass and a tinkling cymbal. Many, eminent in these traits, have proved themselves vile and worthless. Genuine Christian charity, on the contrary, is a modest virtue; it vaunteth not itself; is not puffed up; doth not behave
itself unseemly, and yet is always intent on doing good. Like Christ, who was himself the perfect embodiment and highest expression of charity, it accomplishes its benevolent purpose, and then shrinks from the world's observation and praise.
Again, love is the great bond of Christian communion. The church is a body composed of many members, yet so united by spiritual ties, that if one member suffer, the whole body suffers with it. Now love is the cure of all those evils which may disease the members and threaten the body. It will restore health and beauty to the whole system, and preserve it in the vigor and activity of immortal life.
The vast and complicated machinery of nature is kept in motion and made to work out its stupendous results by the force of laws which act harmoniously. These laws are the constant uniform pressure of the hand of the Almighty. Now, should anything interrupt the harmony of their action-any disturbing force be introduced which should cause them to act and react upon each other-universal confusion would follow, and the whole material superstructure would be shattered and hurled into ruin. So the greatest evils that ever have, or ever can happen to the church, originate in the violation of the great law of love. We aver it as our settled conviction, that the Christian church has suffered more from this source, than from all the opposition and persecution received from the world without. The flames of passion, envy, jealousy, and recriminations within, have consumed, as it were, her life and power, while those from without have only singed her garments.
Charity commends Christianity to the unbelieving world. Nothing does it so effectually. Hence, the prayer of our Saviour for his disciples: That they all inay be one: as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us that the world may believe that thou hast sent me. The apostasy first separated mankind from their Maker, and this prepared the way for disunion among themselves. And the farther they separated from God, the common centre, the wider,-like concentric waves. have they parted one from another. The object of Christ's mission was to unite them, first to their Maker, and having thus a common centre of attraction—a common object of love and reverence-they would of necessity be united to one another. It is an axiom in mathematics, that things equal to the same thing are equal to one another. So it is an axiom in morals that all created intelligences who love the same glorious God, will love one another. Drawn to a common centre, they are influenced by the same laws of attraction. Christ knew this, and therefore prays to his Father that they all may be one in us, as the first thing absolutely essential to union among themselves. And this harmony among Christians is equally essential to the
world's faith in Christianity. It wipes from her garments all unseemly spots, and presents her to the world as she truly is, the most lovely and beautiful object that ever engaged the attention of immortal minds. As a system of religion it is perfect and complete, whether you regard its spirit or its principles, its ordinances or its institutions, its hopes or its eternal realizations. But most men judge of religion by the character of its professed friends. This is natural. The tree is known by its fruit. When we contemplate the obscenity and moral debasement of the most devout worshipers of idols, we cannot avoid the conviction that their religion is a system of gross falsehoods in its principles, and of the most loathsome impurity in its practice. Investigating the philosophy of Paganism, such is found to be the fact. Christianity, on the contrary, as seen in its legitimate effects, breathes a spirit the most kind, gentle, and loving, and inculcates principles the most pure, ennobling and sanctifying. Let its principles be transcribed into the lives of mankind, let all who are Christians in name be living epistles read and known of all men, and it would fill them with wonder, if not with admiration. So heavenly would it appear that it could not fail to convince the mind of its Divine origin, if it proved ineffectual to win over the heart. Its love and benevolence will prevail where nothing else can, to captivate the heart and subdue the soul. And how much more permanent and noble are such conquests, than those achieved by physical force! That religion which cuts its way by the sword, or depends for its progress upon human power or civil policy, is from any other source than from Heaven. But that which opens for itself a passage by its own intrinsic excellence and loveliness, shows its Divine origin, and is sure to make glorious conquests over sin and error.
Hence, let the lives of Christians generally, reflect the lovely spirit and the unsullied purity of our religion, and it would lend wings to the gospel and bid it fly through the world, scattering its blessings wide as the ruins of the apostasy. O, when shall all feuds and divisions come to an end? When shall the bow of peace span Protestant Christendom, and sweetly smiling charity sit like a dove upon all hearts?
Antichrist looks with a malignant pleasure upon all the bickerings, contentions, and schisms which occur in the Protestant world. He raises his bloody crest and surveys with a keen eye our fair heritage, and rattles around the very porches of our sanctuaries. We anticipate glorious times when the Man of Sin is destroyed; but this glory will not consist so much in the external rule or dominion of the church, as in the universal restoration of her primitive purity and simplicity. When Christians shall waive disputes about minor things, and unite upon the plat
form of fundamental truths; when they shall make real moral excellence the ground of union and mutual affection, and things unessential the objects of mutual forbearance; when such times. shall come, then will the lion and the lamb lie down together, and there shall be none to hurt or destroy in all God's holy mountain. This, this is the long wished for millennium.
But this joyful period will not come till the professed friends of the Redeemer unitedly and earnestly engage in eradicating whatever is anti-Christian in themselves. The Man of Sin will not be overthrown by mere physical force, nor by hurling the thunderbolts of invective at the infallible Chair. More, by far, will be accomplished by slaying what remains of the Man of Sin within ourselves. While rancorous, uncharitable, schismatical feelings. exist in the Protestant world, and the spirit of Christianity is supplanted by its forms, Antichrist will sit undisturbed upon his throne; the great red dragon will continue to pursue the woman. and cast from his mouth floods of wrath.
The Evangelical Alliance, if it has done nothing more, has brought out to the observation of the world one glorious truth that may be made of paramount practical utility, namely. that there is "an invisible but essential, a hidden but a real unity in the Church of Christ." That while in the external there have been differences, in the internal there has been unity. The regenerating, sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit is in all hearts one and the same in its essential characteristics. And hence all who are born of God exhibit the lineaments of a common paternity, love substantially the same truths, breathe the same spirit, and are destined to the same home in heaven. We must carry the Alliance with us into all our several spheres of action, and work out the grand idea which has been presented here. We have collected round the waters of charity, and we have washed the name 'sectarian' from our brow; we have placed the name of 'Christian' there; we have abjured bigotry; we have espoused and adopted love. We will catch from the page of history what as yet has been an aphorism to decorate or garnish a speech: we will place it on our banners: it is our own motto: it seems in a spirit of prophecy to have been made on purpose for us: In fundamentals, unity; in circumstantials, liberty; in all things, charity. Let the maintenance and the working out of such noble sentiments become general in Christendom, and soon will the anthem of the church's jubilee be shouted from the heavens, and caught up by hill and mountain, will roll its choral strains up every vale and along every shore of this lower world.
II. Let us inquire what can be done to promote Christian charity.
* Rev. J. Angel James before the Evangelical Alliance, London.