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SERMON III.

CHARITY.

1 Cor. 13. 2.

And though I have all faith, (Note VII.) so that I

could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing.

THE question of nonconformity to the world, as it affects the conduct of a Christian in the present times, is closely connected with a right apprehension of that evangelical charity, which is described by the apostle in the beautiful chapter now to be considered. He seems to express himself with the utmost excitement of feeling, and to have every sentiment of his own heart in unison with the doctrine he inculcates on others. He commences with comparing this heavenly quality with the several gifts about which the Corinthians were contending, and pronounces it far more important than them all. He concludes with a further topic of praise, declaring that whilst there abide in this state of trial three great Christian virtues, whilst faith is the foundation of our efforts, and hope their abiding support, yet the greatest of these is charity, or that genuine love of our fellow creatures and fellow Christians, which is founded on the love of Almighty God and of his Son Jesus Christ. In examining then how far our own hearts are modelled after the picture here drawn by St. Paul, it must be allowed on all hands that a great portion of society called Christian is totally destitute of this eminent grace.

There are many, very many, whose notions of charity extend no farther than to occasional almsgiving, and who have used the word in that confined sense till they have become ignorant that it has any larger meaning

Leaving however for the present the case of these inconsiderate persons, who for the most part are in great ignorance, often unacquainted with the Bible, and not unfrequently themselves sorry for their own neglect, and indulging in feeble purposes of reform; I pass on to consider the case of another description of persons, namely those who continually study the Bible, who profess a peculiar degree of respect for its precepts, and who in that profession go near to censure all who do not come up to their own standard of excellence. And I am prepared to shew that the spirit and the very letter of St. Paul's description of charity, and what is the same thing, the spirit and the letter of Christ's Gospel, are most directly violated in the daily practice of this deluded class of persons. I say deluded, rather than hypocritical, because I would fain avoid a breach of that charity which I am now recommending; and because I believe that the whole class of persons taken separately will be found, like any other class of persons, to contain individuals of very distinct characters; some perhaps seeking in the outward form of godliness a cloak for inward depravity, or for spiritual pride; whilst others are beguiled by the sophistry of false arguments, or drawn aside by that unhappy tendency of the human mind to run from one extreme into the other, from the barren coldness of a lukewarm faith, into the no less barren fervour of fanaticism. How far soever you may have adopted the view of religion here objected to, and from whatever cause you may have adopted it, of this you may be well assured, that if it be found incompatible with charity, it is proved inconsistent with the Gospel. Though you speak with the tongues of men and angels, though you were able to argue most unanswerably and to judge most righteously, and have not charity, you are nothing. Though you have a better understanding of the doctrine of the Gospel, a more enlightened perception of its duties, and a deeper sense of its importance than all around you; yet if you have not charity, you are nothing worth. Yea though you bestow all your goods to feed the poor, and give your body to be burned, though

you devote your

whole fortune time and talents to promoting the happiness of your poor neighbours, and were ready to become a martyr for your faith ; yet if you have not the living principle of charity in your heart, you are nothing worth. Your words are but as sounding brass, a noise without a meaning, your actions but the outward form of duties which without that soul are dead.

It might I think afford matter of deep consideration for many, to be told, as we here are, that it is possible for a man to give all his goods to the poor, and even yield his body to martyrdom, and yet be destitute of Christian charity. It might help mainly to inculcate, what all parties need much to learn, that the Christian virtues are not formal but spiritual, and that outward actions are only valuable as they proceed from inward dispositions. To explain what those inward dispositions are, the apostle goes on with a recital of the principal points in the character of Christian charity. From whence we may clearly ascertain for ourselves to

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