Page images

ed from the body of humanity, they are dead, and devoid of feeling. “ A thousand may fall at their side, 6 and ten thousand at their right hand;" they are satisfied if it does not come nigh them.” An attention to their own indulgence regulates all their actions. They pass by the poor traveller wounded, bleeding, half-dead, left their feelings should be shocked at the spectacle. If they ever give of their abundance, or distribute any thing that remains after every passion and appetite is gratified to excess; they avoid every facrifice of charity; all expense of trouble and of feeling; they do not “ visit the fatherless and the widows « in their affliction.” The eye would affect the heart ; and the heart must not be affected ; it is their plan to live 6 at ease.” And forry am I to be compelled to say, that there is not a few florid professors of the gofpel, who expose themselves to this censure; persons who are zealous for orthodox sentiments, but cold in generous affections ; “ having a name to live," while they “ are dead” to all those fine and tender feelings, which render us social and useful; which constitute the glory of the man, and of the christian—“ This

66 man's religion is vain.” : Our difpofitions, my brethren, are always to corref- .

pond with the providence of God, and the purposes for which he placed us in the world. He continues the poor always with you, and encompasses you with diversified scenes of distress, to awaken your attention ; to increase your benevolence; to discover your excellencies; and to form you into a resemblance of Himself, that " you “may be merciful, even as your Fatherwhich is in heav“ en is merciful.” The Stoics indeed placed all mercy in

beneficence, as distinguished from sympathy and com.' miseration. Weeping with another, was a littleness of foul unbecoming a wise man. Their doctrine required this; for if they were to be insensible to their own afflictions, they were surely forbidden to feel the calamities of others. But it is obviously the design of God, that we should lay the miseries of others to heart, and that the kindness we shew them should flow from compassion, and so necessary is the exercise of this tenderness to the condition of mankind, which is a state of misery and dependence, that He has bound it upon us by a natural, as well as by a moral law. Such is the very frame and organization of the body, such the motion and direction of the animal fpirits on the sight of distress, that we cannot help being moved and pained, and therefore before we can be unmerciful, we must become unnatural; and before we offer a violence to morality, we must offer one to nature. And we may observe also, that the strength of the social instinct is in proportion to the importance of its exercise in human life; the degree of emotion which excites us to weep with the miserable, is stronger than the degree of fenfation which urges us to rejoice with the prosperous; because the former stand more in need of our sympathy and assistance than the latter. God has clearly expreffed his will in the Scriptures. There he requires us to “mind every man also the things of others;" to “ be pitiful;" to 6 put on bowels of mercies.” Society is placed before us, both civil and religious, as a body, where - if one member suffers, all the members “fuffer with it.” The gospel, we are assured, not only illuminates but softens ; it takes away " the heart “ of stone," and gives us - hearts, of flesh.”

This in

look in those characters which are held forth as worthy of our imitation. View David; what think you of a man who could say even of them who had “ rewarded “ him evil for good, to the spoiling of his soul”-“ But « as for me, when they were fick, my clothing was « fackcloth, I humbled my soul with fasting ; I behaved “ myself as though he had been my friend or brother ; “I bowed down heavily, as one that mourneth for his “ mother.” Nehemiah, though high in office, the favourite of the king, and enjoying every personal satisfaction, is distressed because his “ brethren are in af“ fiction, and the city of his God lies waste.” Jeremiah cries, “ for the hurt of the daughter of my people am C6 I hurt, I am black; astonishment has taken hold son me; O that my head were waters, and mine eyes “ a fountain of tears, that I might weep day and night “ for the slain of the daughter of my people.” Paul could " ask who is weak, and I am not weak; who is < offended, and I burn not?” But, Oh! contemplate Him who “ went about doing good ;” who when exhausted with fatigue suffered the moments allotted to needful repose to be invaded without murmuring ; who “ in all our afflictions was afflicted;" who by an exquisite sensibility made the forrows he beheld his own; who “ took our infirmities, and bare our fick“ nesses ;" whowhen he saw the multitude fainting, and having nothing to eat, “ had compassion on them ;" who wept with friends around the grave of Lazarus, and over enemies as “ he drew near the city.” Was He ever at “ease in Zion ?"

ver a

Woe to such as have no claim to the honour of clas. sing with these men of mercy, headed by the God of love. You may perhaps be ready to congratulate your selves; you may imagine that you escape much anguish; and that you would only increase your sufferings by sharing in the grief of others. Now acknowledging this, would it not be virtuous, and peculiarly praiseworthy; would it not resemble Him, who "pleased not “ himself;" and who, “though he was rich, yet for our “ fakes became poor?” But we are not going to applaud insensibility; the tenderness we recommend is accompanied with sensations far superior to any the selfish and the unfeeling ever experience. If it is a source of pain, it is also a source of pleasure. This sensibility gives another degree of life, adds a new sense, enlarges the sphere of satisfaction, and increases the relish of enjoyment.

For the unfeeling wretch conscience has no kind office to perform ; it has no pleasing recollections or prospects, with which to refresh him ; no delicious entertainments with which to feast him. It never careffes, but it often smites. “Neither do they which go by “ say, the blessing of the Lord be upon you; we bless “ you in the name of the Lord.” For him no orphan prays, no widow fings. To all the luxury of a Job he is a stranger : “ 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 when he cried, the 66 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.” For him the evil day comes on charged with every

horror. He has no afylum in the feelings of the community, the happiness of whose members he never sought. When he fails, there is none to receive him ; every application is rejected ; homeless and destitute, he hears from many a merciless lip,“ his mischief is “returned upon his own head, and his violent dealing cis. come down upon his own pate." Seized with affliction, he is led into his chamber, but hears from no inspired voice as he enters, “the Lord will deliver him “ in time of trouble; the Lord will strengthen him ups on the bed of languishing; he will make all his bed in “ his sickness." His offspring appear; he beholds " the desire of his eyes, on whose defolate hours he « should have entailed mercy ; but not to him belongs & the promise, his feed is blessed ;" no divine Comforter says, “ leave thy fatherless children, I will preto serve them alive, and let thy widow trust in me." 66 The memory of the just is blessed; but the name of < the wicked shall rot.” To a dying man there is something in the thought that he shall not be missed, that his character is more perishable than his body, that the door of life will be shut upon him, and bolted, before he is scarcely out, that sinks the wretch lower than the grave. But “after death, the judgment ;" and his 'rolling eyes read inscribed on the wall," he < shall have judgment without mercy, who shewed no “ mercy." Have you courage to pursue him further? See him at the bar of God'; there to answer for crimes, which" at no tribunal here are punishable; he is tried for being close-fisted and hard-hearted; and what fellowship can there be between an unfeeling wretch, and'a Saviour full of " tender mercy ? Then shall the ori Lib

. 2.

« PreviousContinue »