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claim, in humble hope, to those blessed privileges and expectations; to which, as I have shewn, in my former sermon, the lover of God and man is heir.
It now remains, that I should add some short directions, as to the best manner of producing, by God's help, this heavenly flame in our hearts; and of preserving it against the many temptations, to which, in a mortal state, it must be liable.
And here, in the first place, no means are so powerful, to make us really benevolent towards our fellow creatures, as a frequent contemplation of the goodness and mercy of God,—as exhibited towards all His creatures in their creation and nourishment; and to men, more particularly, in His inestimable love, through His Son Jesus Christ, and in the means of grace, and in the hopes of glory, which He has thus bestowed on
This will operate, in two ways, to make us loving and charitable. In the first place, it is almost impossible to contemplate, for any long time together, a pattern of matchless goodness and beauty, without both desiring and endeavouring, in some degree, to resemble it ; -and secondly, when we consider, that the only way in our power of shewing our thankfulness to God, and the only way in which God has commanded us to shew it, is by acts of kindness and mercy to our fellow creatures, it will be almost
impossible for us to cherish any harsh or unchristian feelings towards those, whom our Great Benefactor has valued so highly, and loved so tenderly.
Another practice, which is highly necessary to guard us against want of charity, either in thought, word, or deed, is, to examine, frequently, our own hearts in private ; and to possess our souls with a due consideration of our own manifold offences against God, and against our neighbour ; and of the many circumstances, which lessen the merit of those, which seem our best actions. We shall thus be led, by an almost natural process, to apply to the conduct of other men the same candid and favourable judgement, which we desire, in our own case, to be employed : and the very habit of self-examination, which is naturally produced by self-accusation, will make us more thoroughly aware of the palliative circumstances which may be urged for every human error.
And thus will our charity be guarded against those two greatest temptations, to which it is liable ;-a knowledge of the wretchedness of men, and an experience of their ingratitude. By keeping our attention fixed on the ten thousand talents, which we owe to God, we shall leave ourselves no time to be too mindful of the trifling offences of our brethren against us; and as we shall be ready to do good, not hoping for any earthly return, so we shall not be disappointed, when no earthly return is made
Thirdly, however, all these good feelings, and good principles, will soon perish and fade away within us; unless we bring them, into constant application, by acts of daily kindness; by acquainting ourselves with the wants, and distresses, of our neighbours ; and, above all, by denying ourselves some portion of our own comforts and pleasures, for their sake, and in order to their assistance. Not only, are services produced by love ; but love itself is yet more certainly produced by acts of kindness and attention. We are always, for the time, well disposed towards those whom we assist. Our interest becomes joined to theirs; and we rejoice in their happiness, because it is, in some measure, our own work and contrivance. And, accordingly, the more we labour in doing good, the more really kind will our tempers become, and we shall do good, with the greater readiness.
But, lastly, since the practice of charity, as we have seen, contains within itself so wide a range of duty and behaviour; since it requires, to be perfect, so entire a conquest of some of our strongest natural passions, of our pride, our anger, our idleness, our love of money, and our love of pleasure, how necessary is it to begin, and to accompany, all these endeavours, with unfeigned and earnest prayer to the Almighty author of all good gifts,—that His grace may strengthen our weakness, to those acts of selfdenial which surpass our powers; and that He would pour into our hearts, not only that faith which is the foundation of all other virtues, but that love, which is their ornament, and crown,that blessed gift of charity, without which whosoever liveth, is counted dead before Him!
ROMANS, viii. 14.
As many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of
In the earlier days of Christ's kingdom upon earth, and while the gifts of the Holy Ghost were visible and miraculous, the descent of that Almighty Spirit, under the likeness of a flame of fire, upon the heads of the newly baptized, together with the power of speaking in strange tongues, which followed this sacred unction, was a common and unanswerable argument, both with Jews, and with Heathens, in proof of the truth of our Christian religion ; and of the acceptance, and admission, of the Gentiles to the same peace and pardon, which our Saviour had, during His abode on earth, proclaimed to the lost sheep of the House of Israel.
After baptism, the new convert was conducted to some one of the apostles; or, during their absence, to some one of the bishops whom