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if he knows it experimentally, and if he rejoices in it as the message of divine grace and of spiritual redemption to perishing sinners, he will not regard it as a paramount duty, and feel an irresistible inclination, in the exercise of that mercy which it equally displays and inculcates, to send it into every land, and into every cottage, and, if possible, into every heart which providence has placed within the reach of his beneficence.
But we go farther, and deny that the effect really is what it is thought or pretended to be. We maintain, on the contrary, that it is a just estimate of the spiritual necessities of mankind, and this alone, which leads to correct notions, tender sentiments, and benevolent conduct respecting their temporal necessities—that doing good to their souls is the best and only security for doing good to their bodies. And in proof of this we appeal to speculative argument, and especially to incontrovertible fact.
It is not difficult to see, that if we really believe man to be a moral being, and a being destined to endless existence, and are accustomed to regard him with lively interest, as capable either of unceasing misery, or of unceasing bliss, we cannot be indifferent to any thing which affects his feelings, his conduct, or his situation in the world. impulse which constrains us to attend to the welfare and safety of his spiritual state, will determine us to care for the relief and the comfort of his animal frame. It is the same great principle which operates upon both objects—the principle of love. And though it cannot consistently neglect either of them,
but must pay to each a proportionate regard, yet, being chiefly concerned and chiefly employed with the former, which is the most important, it acquires such warmth, and vigour, and expansion, by its exercise there, that it will not rest satisfied without doing all that it can for the latter, and extending its labours to every department where there is one evil to remove, or one blessing to confer. The doctrine which teaches us to give instruction to the ignorant, and warning to the wicked, and consolation to the agitated or the downcast spirit, teaches us with the same tenderness, and the same authority, to supply the wants of the poor, and to heal the victims of disease, and to cause “the widow's heart to sing for joy.” To all such deeds of beneficence we will give ourselves, as the natural and necessary result of that principle, which, though it carries our eye beyond the horizon of mortality, is intended to regulate all our affections and all our conduct in this lower world, and to make us meet for heaven, by the cultivation of those charities of our renewed nature, which link us to man and assimilate us to God. And while we must, along with all our attention to the higher and more durable interests of our fellow-creatures, attend with equal certainty to their present
passing necessities, our obligation to do the one being derived from the same source as our obligation to do the other, and while we will devote our anxieties and our activities to both, for the purpose fecting our own personal character, we will also, in the more generous and disinterested expressions of our love to them, recognise, in a practical concern for the latter, a most excellent and efficacious means
of advancing the former; and thus, so far as we occupy ourselves in doing good, we will strive to make men comfortable in time, just in proportion to the zeal with which we strive to make them fit for eternity.
With this argument the history of benevolence exactly corresponds. Human calamities were never properly cared for till Christianity appeared; nor are they properly cared for in any quarter of the globe into which Christianity has not been introduced. And what is Christianity? It is a system which directs its principal, we had almost said its sole, attention to our spiritual circumstances; which shows the value of the human soul, by showing the price that has been paid for its redemption; which, by representing man as the object of saving mercy, gives him a nobler place in the universe than he could otherwise have held, and creates for him a far deeper interest than he could otherwise have excited; and which, while it inculcates the great duties of benevolence with the voice of divine majesty, enforces and recommends them by motives that are connected with the love of God, with the faith of Christ, with the influence of the Spirit, with the experience of heavenly comfort, and with the hope of life and immortality. Christianity, possessed of this peculiar character, distinguished by doctrines which refer to the deliverance of our race from guilt and the fears of hell, and their restoration to holiness and the expectations of heaven-distinguished by precepts of charity, which derive their chief beauty, and their most persuasive charm from the influence of these very doctrines distinguished by examples of philanthropy, whose language and whose doings
have an almost exclusive reference to the final destiny of their objects—distinguished by the awakening views which it gives of man's fallen state, and by the earnestness with which it presses this on our fear and our pity;—Christianity distinguished by these broad and over-spreading features of spirituality, has done more in one day to alleviate the temporal distresses of our species, than has been achieved by the philosophy, and the policy, and the humanity of the heathen, from their first beginnings down to the
And surely it may be considered as a settled point, that so long as Christianity prevails or exercises any influence, it will not cease to cherish, in those who have embraced it so cordially, as to be zealous for its propagation, the same sympathies for suffering mortals which it has awakened in all past ages, and to produce the same affectionate treatment of them by which it has uniformly characterised the true disciples of Jesus, from the very first moment of its establishment in the world.
We may also refer to the history of those extraordinary exertions that have been recently made, for relieving the distresses and ameliorating the condition of man.
Were the notion at all correct, that exertions for the advancement of religion in the world are hostile to almsgiving, and similar exercises of charity, the sums that have been expended on spiritual objects, must have been withdrawn from the promotion of those that are temporal. The revenues of associations instituted in behalf of the latter must have been diminished, and the revenues drawn for the support of the former must have been increased, in a ratio somewhat proportional,
so far as they were derived from the generosity of Christians. And, in short, considering what has been done for disseminating the Scriptures, supporting missions, establishing Sabbath schools, circulating tracts, (to mention no more), we should have expected to find that little or nothing was done for the sick, and the poor, and the unfortunate; that institutions for the purpose of administering to the wants of these afflicted ones, were abandoned or neglected; that no means were employed to provide bread for the hungry, and clothing for the naked, and a refuge for the orphan and the outcast. But what is the fact? Why, the broad and undeniable fact is this, that there never was a period during which so much was attempted, and so much accomplished, for the temporal welfare of mankind; so many societies formed; such personal labours undergone; such minute attention paid to the multifarious distresses of human life; and such general and liberal contributions of money for their alleviation and relief. And this unquestionably proves, that the two schemes, and the objects that they have in view, and the means by which their several ends are to be attained, are perfectly compatible and harmonious; or rather, that the one serves to give the other greater vigour, greater perfection, and greater success. · This is the obvious and unavoidable inference ;-unless it be maintained that the supporters of spiritual charity, and the supporters of secular charity, are two distinct and separate classes of men; and that these two different species of charity are not promoted chiefly by the same individuals; and that, as scarcely any of the latter are to be found among