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I. The spirit we should possess
In my text we see a spirit of liberality, and a spirit of benevolence; the one constituting an internal principle in the soul, the other displaying itself in active exertions towards all within our sphere. Let me call your attention, then, to, 1. A spirit of liberality
(The liberal hand is good; but the liberal soul is far better: and this it is which every Christian should possess. We should consider all that we have as so many talents committed to us by our heavenly Master, to be improved for him. Our time, our property, our influence, should all be considered his; and nothing as really ours, but the honour and happiness of employing all for God. We can easily conceive what the feelings of an angel would be, if he were sent from heaven to dispense blessings of any kind: there would be no grudging of his time and labour, nor would there be any pride and self-complacency in his mind on account of his fidelity in the execution of his office. He would consider himself simply as God's servant; and find all his delight in doing the will of Him who sent him, and in being instrumental to the welfare of mankind. If this appear too strong an image, I must say, Instead of being too strong, it falls far short of the example which our blessed Lord has set before us: “Ye know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, who, though he was rich, yet for your sakes became poor, that ye through his poverty might be richa.” This is the true standard at which we should aim; even such a delight in advancing the welfare of others, as disposes us to encounter whatever self-denial may be requisite for the attainment of our end. This may properly be called “a liberal soul."] 2. A spirit of benevolence
Principles in the heart must shew themselves by actions in the life. To “ water others” should be the employment of us all. The whole world is the garden of the Lord. All of us are his plants; and all of us his husbandmen, that should be occupied in watering the plants around us. Whether our capacity for exertion be greater or less, we should endeavour to improve it for God and man. If we have but one talent, we should not hide it in a napkin, but employ it for the Lord. We should consider what it is that every plant around us wants, in order that we may minister, as far as we are able, to its necessities. Does any need instruction, or comfort, or temporal relief? We should adapt our labours to his
a 2 Cor. viii. 9.
necessities, and look to God for his blessing on our endeavours. Day by day the earthly husbandman is so occupied; and it is an employment in which we should daily engage, and of which we never should be weary. At the close of every day we should have the same testimony from conscience as holy Job enjoyed : “ When the ear heard me, then it blessed me; and when the eye saw me, it gave witness to me : because I delivered the poor that cried, and the fatherless, and him that had none to help him. The blessing of him that was ready to perish came upon me; and I caused the widow's heart to sing for joy. I put on righteousness, and it clothed me: my judgment was as a robe and a diadem. I was eyes to the blind, and feet was I to the lame. I was a father to the poor; and the cause which I knew not, I searched out b."]
Such being the proper spirit of a Christian, let us consider, II. The benefits that will accrue to the possessor of it
However great may be the good which a person of this spirit may do, I hesitate not to say, that he will receive far greater benefits than he imparts: he will receive them,
1. From the very exercise of the principle itself
[The high-priest within the vail, whilst offering incense before his God, was regaled with the odours of his own offering; a privilege which no other individual was permitted to enjoy. So the person who exercises love will derive from that very employment a blessedness of which no one else can form any just conception. Well is it said, in a foregoing verse of this chapter, “ A merciful man doeth good to his own soule.” The exercise of liberality and benevolence tends exceedingly to the suppression of evil in the soul, and to the cultivation and establishment of every holy disposition d --- And is it not a sweet evidence to the soul, that God has wrought a good work within it? No doubt it is: for if we “ love, not in word and in tongue, but in deed and in truth," we may, from that very circumstance,“ know that we are of the truth, and may assure our hearts before Gode." Indeed this is no small part of the recompence which God will bestow on those who serve him with fidelity: he would even consider himself as unrighteous and unjust if he did not thus remember our work and labour of love, which we have shewed toward his name in ministering to his saints:” and on this very ground the Apostle • Job xxix. 11–16.
c ver. 17. Mark the contrast which is drawn, 1 Tim. vi. 10, 11. e 1 John iii. 18, 19. ..
says, “ We desire that every one of you do shew the same diligence unto the full assurance of hope unto the end"."] 2. From the immediate agency of Almighty God
(God has said, that " what we give to the poor, we lend unto him, and he will repay it again 8.” And this he will do both in this life and in the life to come. Very remarkable is his promise in relation to the present life: “ Give, and it shall be given unto you: good measure, pressed down, and shaken together, and running over, shall men give into your bosom. For with what measure ye mete withal, it shall be measured to you againh.” In a spiritual view, more especially, will God recompense his faithful people. Hear the words of the Prophet Isaiah, which remarkably accord with the expressions of our text: “ If thou draw out thy soul (not thy purse, but thy soul) to the hungry, and satisfy the afflicted soul, then shall thy light rise in obscurity, and thy darkness be as the noon-day; and the Lord shall guide thee continually, and make fat thy bones; and thou shalt be like a watered garden, and like a spring of water, whose waters fail noti.” Nor shall our labours of love be forgotten of Him in the eternal world. He holds forth this as an encouragement to us to exert ourselves in all the offices of love: “ Charge them that are rich in this world, that they be rich in good works, ready to distribute, willing to communicate, laying up in store for themselves a good foundation against the time to come, that they may lay hold on eternal lifek." And that no doubt may remain on this head, he tells us expressly, that such persons shall “ be recompensed at the resurrection of the just;" and that to those who have administered to the relief of the poor and the distressed, he will say, “ Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.” Thus freely and thus richly shall “ he who watereth be watered also himself;" yea, as the prophet says, “with showers of blessings shall he be blessed'. We may clearly see from hence,
1. From whence proceeds that leanness, of which so many complain
[Many complain, that, notwithstanding the Gospel is so rich in its blessings, they are not happy. But I believe it will be generally found, that they who complain thus live only for themselves. I think it almost impossible that they who live for God and for their fellow-creatures should not be happy. Such circumstances as Job's may exist, but they are rare; and
even he himself endured them but for a time. Examine, then, your state as before God, and see whether you possess the dispositions of which my text speaks : for, if you do not, how is it possible that you should have any blessing from the Lord ? Hear what Job would have thought of such a state as yours : “ If I have withheld the poor from their desire, or have caused the eyes of the widow to fail; or have eaten my morsel alone, and the fatherless have not eaten thereof; if I have seen any perish for want of clothing, or any poor without covering; if his loins have not blessed me, and if he were not warmed with the fleece of my sheep; then let mine arm fall from the shoulderblade, and mine arm be broken from the bonem." What you sow, you inust expect to reap: and if you “sow but sparingly,” in the way of love and mercy, “ you shall reap but sparingly" of those blessings which the God of love and mercy will bestow.]
2. What encouragement we have to proceed in the work before us
[The charity which I would propose to your support is worthy of all the aid which you can afford to give it --And for your encouragement, I will appeal to all: Who amongst you ever abounded in liberality, without finding it a source of joy? or who ever watered others, without being himself watered of the Lord? --- If I considered only the charity before us, I should urge you to be liberal : but I chiefly urge it because “I desire fruit that may abound to your accounto."]
m Job xxxi. 16–22.
n Here enter into a description of the particular charity : and if it be a Benevolent Society, address separately the Contributors who “ give," and the Visitors who “ water.” • Phil. iv. 17.
DCCLXXVIII. the WISDOM OF WINNING SOULS. Prov. xi. 30. He that winneth souls, is wise. REAL piety is operative, and influential on the whole life; and discovers itself very principally in labours of love to those around us. “ The fruit of the righteous is” very fitly compared to “a tree of life,” which administers to the welfare of all who come under its benignant shade. True, indeed, such persons are often regarded only as weak enthusiasts ; and are despised in proportion as they exert themselves for the benefit of their fellow-creatures. But they have a good report from God himself, who says. concerning them, “ He that winneth souls, is wise.”
This sentence it shall be my endeavour to confirm: and confirmed it will be beyond all doubt, if we consider what may be justly said in vindication of every one who engages in this good work. I. The object he proposes to himself is most ex
[What in the universe is there worthy to be compared with an immortal soul? --- And what work can be compared with that which is done for the soul, in its conversion to God?
--- Think of its being plucked as a brand out of the fire of hell itself ---Think of its being restored to the favour of its offended God --- Think of its being transformed into the divine image---Think of its being exalted to a participation of all the glory and felicity of heaven ---- Is there any object that can stand in competition with this? What is the acquisition of crowns and kingdoms in comparison of this? ---]
Further, II. The labour he bestows upon it is most beneficial, 1. To the soul he wins
[Let the foregoing hints be duly contemplated; and then say what a benefactor he is, " who turns a man from the error of his ways, and saves a soul alivea”---] 2. To the world around him
Man, in his unconverted state, is a snare to all around him. By his example at least, if not by any avowed declarations, he teaches men to think that the concerns of this world are most worthy of their attention, and that the concerns of the soul are only of secondary importance --- But, when once he is truly turned to God, the honour of God is dear unto him, and the welfare of immortal souls lies near his heart --For the extension of the Redeemer's kingdom he prays in secret, and labours according to his ability in the sphere wherein he moves. “Thy kingdom come,” is the language, not of his lips only, but of his heart also. He now lives, not for himself, as heretofore, but for God, for his Saviour, for his fellow-men; and whatever he possesses he considers as a talent to be improved for them --- Now, therefore, he becomes “ a light in the world;" and, from being an agent of Satan to advance the kingdom of darkness, he is a favoured instrument of Jehovah, to promote in every way the happiness and salvation
a Jam. v. 19, 20.