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passes, your heavenly Father will also forgive
And in that blessed and heaven-taught prayer, we are encouraged actually to plead that our imperfect and feeble love, as an argument for mercy from the bountiful Father of all men ; - when we cry out, in the words of His son :-
Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive them, that trespass against us.”
Charity, then, or love towards our neighbour, as expressive of our love towards God, and as an appointed means of applying for His promised mercies, may be said with sufficient accuracy to cover, or hide, our sins from God's wrath : inasmuch as He is by this means induced to overlook, and to pardon them. Nor can a more blessed and comfortable doctrine be conceived,
[to all those who, while they hunger and thirst after righteousness, are weighed down by the sense of their manifold imperfections,] than the assurance, that the love, which they feel within themselves, is an argument of God's presence with them : that His strength will be made perfect in their utter weakness; that, however they may fall short of that glorious pattern, whom they strive to imitate ; — yet, if they love the brethren, they may be assured - by that token -- that they have passed from death unto life; and that where fervent charity abounds,
1 St. Matthew, vi. 14.
though many faults, and failings, may cling to the soul, and defile it ; - yet shall those faults be covered from the eyes of Him, who forgives all things to those, that love Him much; and who receives, and requires, at our hands no other testimony of our love to Himself, than that we shew kindness to these His little ones.- Well are they, who feel, within their hearts, this holy flame; which shall shine forth, at last, into perfect brightness, and everlasting glory.—Well is it with him, who shews forth, by his charity to his brethren, the faith which worketh by love; and that power of God, of which the strength and blessedness is displayed, in this world, by the softening of his heart, and by the conquest of his unruly passions ; — and will be displayed, in the world to come, by the crown of glory given to him. — But, let him beware of self-deceit.--There are many counterfeits of these gracious feelings; and many have made shipwreck of their souls, by not rightly understanding the whole meaning of the word, charity : — and by neglecting to form the habit of brotherly affection in their hearts, by the only process, through which the genuine habit can be formed there, - namely, a love of God, which springs, as from a root, from faith in Jesus Christ; and which brings forth, as its natural fruit, the principle, and the consequent actions, of love for all God's children.
These cautions, however, will require a longer time to set them forth, at the length which their exceeding importance requires; and I must defer them to another occasion. Let it be sufficient, in the mean time, to warn you, that, nothing, which does not spring from faith in Jesus Christ, can be accepted, as charity before God: that, where pride enters in, no genuine love of God, or of man, can be found : that, as charity is a grace which comes from God, it must be sought of Him, like all His other gifts, by fervent prayer, and by a diligent use of the sacraments : and that to whatever degree of warmth or activity our benevolence is carried, we must refer it all to the Giver of every good and perfect gift ; who maketh men to be of one mind in a house; and hath appointed His creatures to be mutually helpful one to another, even as Christ His Son helped all; when all things were, without Him, helpless.
SUNDAY AFTER ASCENSION DAY.
1 ST. PETER, iv. 8.
In my last sermon, on these words of Scripture, I endeavoured to explain the manner, in which the grace of charity is said to cover sin ; — namely, that our love for our neighbour, as expressive of our love towards God, and as an appointed means of applying for His mercies promised in Jesus Christ, may be said, with truth, to hide our sins from God's wrath : inasmuch as He is, by this means, induced to overlook and pardon them.- Not that this love, however manifested, can itself merit any thing from God; but that God accepts it from us, as a token of our acceptance of that covenant of grace, through which alone our pardon is obtained and sealed in Heaven. And as, where charity is wanting, this pardon will not be given ; so, where true charity is found, we are sure, it will not be withheld; but that the single fact of our love for our fellow creatures is, of itself, a sign, that we are in a state of grace with the Almighty. “ Hereby,” saith St. John, “hereby we know, that we have passed from death unto life, because we love the brethren." I
But, though by thus insisting on the plain and literal meaning of the text, I set forth, in the strongest manner, the inestimable value of that charity which covereth sin; I do not conceal from you the danger of mistaking the nature of real charity, and the dreadful consequences, to which such a mistake
lead. I now, in pursuance of my promise, shall proceed to shew the nature of these mistakes, and the causes from which they spring. And this may be done, most effectually, by shewing, first, wherein true charity consists ;
as it is plainly set forth in Holy Scripture.
Charity, then, is nothing else than a Latin word which means love, or fondness: and the habit of charity, or love, as applied to all God's creatures, and above all, to our fellow Christians, must consist of two parts, an inward good will to them; and such outward actions, as are suitable to this inward feeling, and expressive of it. Both these are necessary parts of charity; and unless both are found together, our charity can by no
11 St. John, iii. 14.