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of cold water but in the name of disciples;”. walking towards them in love, as Christ also hath loved them, and given himself for them ?”
The advantages of that interpretation of “ doing good,” which we have given, are manifold. Were it generally received and acted upon, what a different scene would the world present to our contemplation! By setting ourselves, in all the movements that we make concerning our fellow men, to deliver them from sin, what a vast multitude of temporal evils would be swept away from the face of the earth!—for it is evidently the prevalence of sin which occasions so much individual suffering, so much domestic misery, so much public calamity. By diffusing the knowledge and influence of the Gospel, which is no less calculated, than it is intended by its great Author, to make those who embrace it, wise, and good, and happy, how greatly should we stimulate the industry of the poor, and call forth the humanity of the rich, and cherish among all classes of the people, those dispositions of mind, and those habits of life, which, being agreeable to the law of God, are the certain sources of prosperity, and peace, and joy, both to those by whom they are cultivated, and to those towards whom they are exercised! By thus cutting off the most copious fountain of worldly sorrow, and opening up the very well-springs of comfort and gladness in the hearts and the habitations of afflicted mortals, we would secure more effectually, than could be done by any of those plans which are usually put in operation, all that is attainable in the work of lessening the troubles and increasing the happiness of our species. And while in this way
we at once diminished the sum of human wretchedness, and added to the stock of human enjoyment, by means of the mightiest engine of beneficence that can be employed in behalf of mankind, considered merely as to their existence in this present fugitive state, we should be accomplishing what must be held by the feeblest and most reluctant believer in revelation, to be the richest boon that can be conferred on them as beings who are destined for a future and never-ending state; we should be accomplishing what must be regarded as far more than a full compensation for all the pains and grievances, of a temporal kind, which we might leave unallayed or unredressed, and as infinitely transcending all the best and most worthy gifts, of a temporal kind, that their keenest desires could imagine; we should be accomplishing the eternal salvation of their souls, their escape from the penalties of God's broken law, and their admission into the glories of God's heavenly presence. Animated by a well-informed and unquenchable zeal for their spiritual and final redemption, every the minutest effort that we made in their behalf would have a twofold direction—the one which is of most importance commanding, of course, our paramount regard—the other, which is of least importance, being kept in subordination and made subservient to it—and both combining to raise those who are the objects of our concern, to the highest possible degree of excellence, of comfort, and felicity. Not only would all criminal pursuits and indulgences be banished from their system of life, as the robbers of its peace, and the authors of its woes, but there would be equally excluded those pursuits and
indulgences, which, though free from any intrinsic immorality, are yet perfectly frivolous in themselves, and perfectly evanescent in their effects,—which have not the remotest connection with the improvement of the understanding, the purification of the heart, the virtue of the conduct, the health of the body, or the prosperity of the outward conditionwhich may charm, for the moment, such as are immersed in them, but are, in fact, illusory as the dreams of the night, and to the inanity of their own inherent character, add the demerit of absolutely wasting and throwing away the energies, and the resources, and the advantages of an immortal nature. And in this manner divesting their situation of whatever is silly, or useless, or hurtful, we should make no encroachment on any thing that is in the least essential or conducive to the prosperity of their earthly portion; but, on the contrary, would shed a brighter light on all their goings, and add a greater value to all their possessions, and impart a keener relish to all their gratifications, and render them just as delighted as the highest wisdom, and the strongest faith, and the purest virtue, and the widest command of God's works and bounties, could be supposed to make them.
Such we conceive to be the sound definition of doing good, and the advantages attending it.
Its advantages must, of course, be liable to many short
ings, and we never can expect to see it carried to its full issues. But it appears to us that, on the one hand, in proportion as we approach it in the actings of our philanthropy, in that proportion will we succeed in removing the consequences of the
curse that has been entailed by the fall on our unhappy race; and that in proportion as we disregard it, in that proportion will we be instrumental in perpetuating the reign of all those evils which it so much annoys us to feel and to behold, and which it has baffled the wisest of unchristian sages either to alleviate or to cure. These things may sound strange in the ear of the worldling and the unbeliever; but the principle which pervades them must be familiar to the minds of all who know the Gospel in its sanctifying, and enlightening, and consoling power. And though they may be despised as idle or enthusiastic speculations, when considered amidst the fascinations, and corruptions, and errors of a world lying in ignorance and in wickedness, yet we doubt not, the time is coming when their justness and their truth will be universally acknowledged, because it will be seen in the experience of reclaimed and solaced humanity: and certainly, in the eternal state, it will be a demonstration as clear and unclouded as the light of heaven itself, that a vast majority of those acts of kindness which are now thought to constitute the benevolent character, are nothing else than vanity—and that they, and none but they, received “good” from us, who by the good that was bestowed, had the means of safety afforded them as moral and responsible agents, and were enabled, when they departed from their earthly probation, to carry with them a purer and a higher meetness for the realms of everlasting bliss.
II. There are many, who so far from going along with us in the past part of our argument, have a
strong aversion to the exercise of spiritual charity altogether, on account of its supposed interference with the exercise of secular charity. They allege that our efforts for the religious prosperity of mankind necessarily impair the efforts which we ought to make, and which would otherwise be made, for applying a remedy to the common ills and distresses of our brethren: and it is even believed by not a few, that every sum of money which we expend, and every degree of exertion which we put forth, in sending Bibles, for instance, or missionaries, or other instruments of sacred instruction, to those who need them, are literally subtracted from the relief and comfort of ordinary indigence. It may be proper to employ a few paragraphs in exposing the groundlessness and futility of this allegation.
In reply to it we have to state, in the very outset, that whatever the effect is in point of fact, or whatever the most unreasonable hypothesis may suppose it to be, that cannot annul our obligation, and must not interdict our endeavours to “ do good” to the souls of men. If compassion be a duty at all, that compassion must be important and requisite above all others, which goes to rescue from the pressure of everlasting evils, and to secure the attainment of everlasting benefits. Either we must allow that the inward comfort and the eternal peace of men are supremely entitled to our attention and solicitude, or we must hold that there is no truth in Christianity, no moment in its doctrines, and no authority in its precepts. And we put it to the judgment of any individual whatever, whether, if he believes the Bible firmly, if he loves it dearly,