Funding from the University Library of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill supported the electronic publication of this title.
Text transcribed by
Apex Data Services, Inc.
Images scanned by Risa Mulligan
Text encoded by Apex Data Services, Inc., Amanda Page, and Elizabeth S. Wright
First edition, 2005
University Library, UNC-Chapel Hill
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill,
(title page) A Charity Sermon. First Delivered in Salisbury, July 28; And Afterwards in Other Places in Rowan, and the Counties Adjoining; Particularly at Sugar's Creek, in Mecklenburg County, at the Opening of the Synod of the Carolinas, October 2: And Last, at the Meeting of the Hon. the General Assembly of North Carolina in Fayetteville, December, 1793. By the Rev. Samuel E. M'Corkle, D. D. Pastor of the Church at Thyatira and Salisbury in Rowan County, North-Carolina
Samuel E. McCorkle
Printed by Abraham Hodge.
Call number VC252 M13c (North Carolina Collection, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill)
LC Subject Headings:
[Title Page Image]
THE author first composed and delivered the following Sermon with a design to solicit Benefactions for the University of North-Carolina; although, to give it more general utility and acceptance, he has extended it to religious and political as well as literary subjects. His object is to cultivate a liberal and manly manner of thinking in general.
Some of his good friends have told him, and he himself hopes, that the publication may gain the objects proposed, at least in some degree. His heart would reproach him should he refuse. He is not conscious that he has neglected any pains to render it useful. Imperfect in may be; but imperfection is written on all human performances. As it is, therefore, he commits it first to the patronage of the Great Father of All--the patron of literature, liberty, and religion. In the next place, he commits it to the candour of the Legislators and other officers of the state--the Trustees of the University--and the Clergy and people of all denominations.
As to himself, he trusts that he has a good conscience--a good conscience in preaching and publishing the sermon. He trusts that he has done it from a sense of duty, and for the public good, his own not excluded. He does not pretend to be disinterested. Such a pretence would, with men of sense, mark him either as a knave or a fool.
He therefore closes the preface, by honestly declaring, that this sermon is published with all the feelings of the man, and of
THE AUTHOR.NOTE. The Sermon was first delivered on two different parts of the same day. It was divided at the break and may be there divided in the reading. It is longer than was at first intended. Several thoughts occurring in the transcribing. It is in fact the substance of two sermons.
i. Cor. xiii. 13.
And now abideth Faith, Hope, Charity; these three,
but the greatest of these is Charity.
VARIOUS, my brethren, and important are the relations and duties of man: To God, his Creator, he owes worship and reverence--to himself sobriety, self-denial, and self-government--and to men, all men, righteousness and mercy, or justice and charity.
To some men the last class of duties are redoubled; they are called forth by their God, not only to exercise mercy and justice themselves, but to take order that they be exercised by others. As justice and mercy comprehend all social duty, so ministers of justice and ministers of mercy, comprehend all the public offices of society. The minister of justice, or of the state, is called into the centre of the circle of justice, and there is he to serve mankind, by making and executing righteous laws. The minister of mercy, or of religion, steps forth into the other circle, persuades men to love God, and to be charitable, kind, and tender hearted to men.
These relations and offices, though distinct, are not independent; they reciprocally need each-other's assistance; and happy, thrice happy their union. Justice raises her voice, draws forth the
sword, and commands obedience; but how far can the command be extended? Not more than a fifth part of the duties of society are enforced by civil laws. Hence the necessity of religion, and of the ministers of religion, in order to persuade men to obedience for conscience sake.
Justice commonly expresses the duties of perfect obligation--duties which may be the subject of legislation--duties to which we can be compelled, and for which we receive some specific or equivalent return: And charity comprehends all the rest. Now, though a wise government might extend the duties of justice a little farther into the regions of charity, yet above two thirds of the social duties must still remain unimbraced but by charity.
There is one point where all these ministers should meet; and human literature is that point. It demands the mutual assistance of both, and to both it promises an equal return. While the minister of state is publicly employed in making this a matter of legislation, the minister of religion should be no less assiduous in holding it out in public as an object of charity; for their united efforts will be no more than adequate to the grand design.
Passing over the other duties that have been suggested, I do most cheerfully embrace the present public, important, and, I hope, favourable opportunity, to call your attention to the duty of charity; pointing it, as often as occasion may serve, at an object common both to the statesman and the churchman--this great and glorious object is learning, and the new founded temple now rising up, and solemnly dedicated to learning, on Chappel-Hill. Let us take a view of charity--it will lead us there.
"And now abideth faith, hope, charity; these three, but the greatest of these is charity."
* Prov. x. 12.
† I Pet, iv. 8.
* Col. iii. 14.
"Of firm societies love formed the plan,
"And creature link'd to creature, man to man."
Charity, or as it might have been rendered, Love, has a distinguished place in the divine character and conduct. God is love,‡ and does love. He is good, and does good.¶ It also stands conspicuous among the duties and graces of the christian. It is greater than faith and hope; and even justice itself is not half so great.
‡ i John iv. 16.
¶ Ps. cxix. 68.
In no place are more excellent things said of charity than in this chapter. Charity excels those things that are excellent. The gift of prophecy and even the giving of my body to be burned, are not to be compared to charity.
Charity is here praised for what she endures and for what she enjoys--for her pains and for her pleasures. Charity suffereth long, and is kind all the time. Charity rejoiceth not in iniquity--in the iniquity of others--mocketh not at sin--but rejoiceth in the truth, or when the sinner comes to know the truth.
Charity is here also praised for what she does, and for what she does not. Charity envieth not the happiness of others, thinketh not evil toward others, vaunteth not with boasting words, is not puffed up with pride. Charity doth not behave unseemly, for though she stoops down to the lowest offices of humanity, yet she always supports the dignity of her character; and she seeketh not renown.
Charity is praised for what she does. Charity believeth all things; not that, as the simple man,¶
she believeth every word; but she puts the best construction on actions past, and is cautious in pronouncing on men's final state. Charity beareth, perhaps it should be read see v. 7,†covereth all things, all infirmities, and even sins, when there is hope of amendment. And while charity seeketh not her own, she seeketh the things of others.
¶ Prov. xiv. 15.
† Stegei is the Greek word which signifies to cover, to bear or endure, is mentioned in the same verse.
Charity not only has, but holds, and will hold these excellencies for ever. Prophecy and tongues, and the imperfect knowledge of things here, shall vanish as that of children when they become men. Faith, and repentance, and hope, will vanish when Heaven shall be gained, sin banished from the soul, and no more need of that faith which now receives the pardon.
This is the grace that lives and sings,
When faith and hope shall cease;
'Tis this shall strike our Heav'nly strings
In the sweet realms of bliss.
Dr. Watts, B. ii. Hymn 28.
These are the general properties of charity. Let us take a more intimate view of its nature and comparative excellence.
We have already seen that charity is, in this place, another word for love--love to God, and love to men. Indeed it may include the whole rational and sensitive creation. The charitable man is merciful to his beast; and to his feeling, sympathising soul, the life and littlepeasures of an infect are precious. He embraces every thing around him that can think, or err, or feel, or suffer pain; but more especially he embraces man.
Were I required to give a comprehensive definition of charity, I would define it thus--I would call it an instinctive disposition, instantaneously impressed
on the mind of the first man in innocence, and to be transmitted to all men--a disposition prompting to act from a regard to duty and happiness on a large extensive scale--a disposition to prevent, by all means and on all occasions, or if not prevented, to commiserate, alleviate, and remove all evil, natural and moral; and in fine--a disposition to do every kind of good that can be done, both to the souls and bodies of men.
This definition, illustrated and explained, will distinguish it from other graces and other duties of the christian life; and shew, in its origin, extent, and duration, the superior and comparative excellence of charity.
We have now before us two things----1. The nature, and 2. The excellence of charity.
1. Its nature.--In this we have its principles, its objects, and the manner in which it embraces them.
We begin with the principles of charity. With these the Apostle has begun, and to the individual they are very important. For though I give all my goods to feed the poor, and my body to be burned, and have not right principles or motives, I am a sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal, however others may be profited by me.
I have said that charity is instinctive, because its dictates are previous to reasoning. This is confirmed by experience and fact, and therefore as a principle it was instantaneously impressed. It was created with Adam in innocence, and excited but not treated when the proper exciting object was presented.
I know that this will be denied by men who are nursed up in romantic ideas of Paradise, as if it was a kind of fairy-land, and its inhabitants above the condition of human creatures, especially at their first existence.
I know the feelings of such men, because I have been one of them. I have been early taught those notions which have never satisfied and can never satisfy rational investigation and free enquiry on this subject.
I believe that man was created in† knowledge, righteousness, and holiness. I believe that he was formed without positive evil. I believe this, not only from the Christian scriptures, but from the Pagan belief of a golden age, and from a belief that God never created a sinner But I believe that man, as all other rational creatures, was formed negatively good. He was formed with a few native original ideas, and therefore was formed in the image‡ of the original source of all knowledge. But I believe that these original ideas were very few; not one more than was absolutely necessary for his first existence. What these were, may be conjectured from the divine conduct that has never done any thing in vain, and from the condition and circumstances of Adam in the garden; of the best kind of knowledge and strength, he was certainly destitute. I mean the knowledge of experience and the strength of habit. For before he existed he could not act, and before he acted he could neither have experience nor habits. On the whole, I had rather be possessed of the knowledge and strength of Paul, when he was ready to be offered, than of all the knowledge and strength of the first man, when he could first say, "Father, I thank thee that I am."
† Col. iii, 10. Epn. iv. 24.
‡ Gen. i. 26.
Such was the intellectual state of the first Adam. He was created with only a small portion of knowledge, but with a capacity of acquiring more, as the growing exigencies of his condition would demand. This is farther confirmed, because it was
precisely the condition of Adam the second. He grew in wisdom and knowledge. He learned obedience from the things that he suffered, and to Calvery he was not led until he was so perfect in the knowledge of experience, and so strong in the habits of patience, fortitude, resignation, charity, &c. &c. that he was absolutely assured of victory. He had also the Holy Ghost above the measure that is given to men.
On the whole, the first Adam and the second, I speak of his humanity, and all the Angels, at their first formation, must, in the nature of the thing, be made without sin, without experience, without habits.
Whatever might have been the intellectual state of the first man, it will be asked, "What need for a charitable disposition when misery was neither felt nor feared!"
The proper answer is, that the objection stands on another romantic notion we have entertained of Paradise.
For myself, I believe that the passions or affections were in Adam as in us, yet without sin. In innocence he possessed all the principles of desires and aversions, hopes and fears, anger and indignation. This I believe, because such affections were in Jesus Christ, who was and is the perfection of human nature. And I am not alone in believing that Angels, "pure and created spirits may be susceptible of emotions similar to human passions." See Beattie's Elem. of Mor. Sci. Sect. 295.
Misery existed before man, and at his creation was hovering all around him. He was formed in the midst of dangers, devils, and death. He possessed but a scanty stock of knowledge. No more than was absolutely necessary; and he was "left to the freedom of his own will." Thus circumstanced,
misery was probable, some have said unavoidable.
Be the last as it may, was it not wise in Heaven to accommodate him to that probable state, without the necessity of forming him over again, with a new set of natural affections? For had he been first formed without a principle of charity, it must have been implanted on his fall. That is, he must have sinned himself into the possession of an excellent disposition, of which he was entirely destitute before. This would be to become better by being made worse.
Supposing him to be in danger, how wise and how gracious the Creator, to implant on his heart the idea and the fear of death! and indignation or anger at any object that might bring on death!--Again, supposing sin and misery to make their inroads notwithstanding these excellent guards, how wise and gracious to give a previous principle of charity or compassion, to embrace and commiserate the object in distress.
Hence in Paradise was the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Hence in innocence that threatening was denounced, in the day that thou eatest thereof, thou shalt surely die. How could all this have been understood without the idea and the fear of death! Without this idea and this fear, what were evil and death, but unintelligible jargon? If we admit a principle of fear, why not of anger and pity in the innocent state? Why not admit one as well as the other? May not the principle exist previous to its object? Man was social ere Eve was made.
Jesus Christ was holy, harmless, undefiled, and yet in his nature were all these principles implanted.† For when in the days of his flesh, he had offered up prayers and supplications, with strong
† Heb. v. 7.
† Heb. v. 7.
cries and tears, unto him that was able to save him from death, he was heared in that he feared. He was also filled with indignation or anger,† at the hardness of their hearts when they would have prevented his acts of charity on the sabbath. Again, he had ‡compassion on the multitude, because they fainted and were scattered abroad, as sheep having no shepherd.
† Mark iii. 5.
‡ Had compassion because they fainted. See Matt. ix. 36. literally were loosed, loosed from their teachers, who had not bound them by the bands of affection or esteem, consequently they were scattered abroad.
With respect to Angels, why not "susceptible of emotions" like the passions of men? We know that they rejoice when a sinner repents; why not then pity the sinner who refuses to repent? We also know that Michael, the Archangel, when contending with the Devil (he disputed about the body of Moses) durst not bring against him a railing accusation, but said, with a noble indignation, the Lord rebuke thee.
Angels neither marry nor are given in marriage: But men proceed in a line of succession from each other. Just as many original ideas and instinctive impressions as were possessed by Adam the first moment he existed, just so many and not more, are transmitted, and at mature age, even without education, possessed by all. This, with a traditionary revelation, of which none are altogether destitute, aided by our reasoning and the reasoning of others, on the whole, is what I understand to be the light of nature. But of this by the way.
I do not say that the knowledge of experience, or the strength of habit, is transmitted; but even on this subject, a predilection or a pre-disposition to one line of conduct rather than another, may be
transmitted: And in this line the knowledge of experience and the strength of habit may be acquired. These observations are founded on facts.
Now as Adam's continuance in the innocent state, was of a duration too short to gain the knowledge of experience, or habits of the several virtues in innocence, it was not to be expected that he could transmit to posterity a predilection in favour of these virtues, or of that course of conduct which would have led to the experience and habits of them. But it was to be expected that all the native ideas and instinctive principles of his nature should be transmitted, and transmitted accordingly they are. This constitutes what we call human nature.
Should this divine constitution of things need to be vindicated, it is vindicated on these principles--First, that the advantages promised by such a constitution are more than the inconveniences; and this is all that can be expected from the imperfect condition of creatures beginning their existence, as we do, in a line of succession. Again, this predilection was originally in favour of religion, justice, charity, &c. and is still not irresistible on the side of vice. Children are not laid under any natural or external necessity of being profane, unjust, uncharitable, &c. in consequence of any previous conduct of their parents. Children may be predisposed to one way rather than another, and that way may be crooked; but for even this a remedy has been provided in the gospel.
Again I observe, that in innocence, and even now, as far as human nature is restored, an extensive regard for duty and happiness, were and are the motives or principles of charity.
A sense of duty or of conscience, a regard for God, as our great creator, law-giver, and judge, who will be honoured by the observance of all his
laws, and dishonoured by the violation of any of them. Hence, honour the Lord with thy substance. And again, he that oppresseth the poor reproacheth his Maker. See Prov. iii. 9. 5. xvii. 5.
All the divine commands respect the worship and reverence of God, and justice and charity to men, ourselves included among them. Both the commands and their objects are thus summed up by the great teacher--Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, &c. This is the first and great command; and the second is like unto it: Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. That is, whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them, for this is the law and the prophets. Here are all the objects, order, and proportion of the divine law.
The only other motive to charity, or to any other good action is a sense of happiness, on the same large scale. In the proper exercise of this last principle, man regards God, not only as a superior, but as a kind superior--as a generous sovereign, who has annexed a promise to every command--as a good law-giver and judge, who will reward them that diligently seek him, and punish them who only seck themselves. On this principle is charity often recommended, and on this principle is it true that "Charity begins at home." For the merciful man doth good to his own soul; but he that is cruel troubleth his own flesh.† The liberal soul shall be made fat; and he that watereth shall be also watered himself.‡ The liberal soul deviseth liberal things, and by liberal things shall he stand.*
† Prov. xii. 17.
* ls. xxxii 8.
A regard for happiness is expressly called up as a motive to charity, in these words, "Cast thy bread on the waters,"¶--give to the poor and needy, for
¶ Ecc. xi. 1--3.
¶ Ecc. xi. 1--3.
for though it now seem like casting bread on the stream that may wash it away, yet "thou shalt find it after many days." "Give therefore a portion to six and also to seven, for thou knowest not what evil may yet be on the earth," and what need you may have of the charity of others. I know that the whole passage has another construction, but I have taken that which is most commonly known.
Again,† sell what you have and can spare, and distribute in charity. Provide yourselves purses which do not grow old; a never failing treasure in Heaven, where no thief approaches, nor doth the moth spoil. Though there might be something in this command peculiar to the primitive Christians, who in consequence sold their possessions,‡ yet it is true that at all times we should make to ourselves friends of the * mammon of unrighteousness, that when we die, they (the persons relieved) or the Angels may come and receive us into everlasting habitations, that there we may receive our reward.
† Luke xii. 21.
‡ Acts ii. 45.
* Luke xvi. 9.--Mammon, deceitful uncertain riches. Doddridge.
The happiness we are to regard in our deeds of charity, is as extensive as the duty. It is ¶ either sensitive or rational, of the mind or of the animal nature.None of these classes of happiness were ever prohibited, but the one should be subservient to the other. They are intimately connected, and to those who believe the resurrection and immortality, the prospect of both may be absolutely unbounded.
¶ I know that happiness has been divided into many other kinds. I am not fond of multiplying distinctions. I would rather recur to principles. Sensitive and rational happiness, or if you would rather, say spiritual or religious, to me include all. Happiness truly rational, is religious, for religion is the truest reason.
These two motives, a regard for duty and happiness,
were the motives (and perhaps all the motives) that first actuated the first man. All the divine communications to him may be summed up in this--a covenant whose condition was duty, and whose promise was happiness.
All his mental powers have been comprehended in these--the intellectual and the active; or the powers of understanding and volition. One reflects the perception of duty, the other the pursuit of happiness. To this may be added, that all that good which these powers can embrace, is natural and moral.
I know that there is natural and moral evil, and that a fear of them may be considered as another motive. I also know that the passions and the appetites, instinct, habit, the moral principle, a sense of honour, of disgrace, and of gratitude, &c. have all been considered as the principles or motives of action.†
† See Reid's Essays on the intellectual and Active Powers of Man.
Natural philosophers have admitted no more principles than are necessary and sufficient to explain the phænomenon. Why should more be admitted by the moralist or divine?
I have acknowledged that a fear of sin and misery existed in Paradise; but I have not acknowledged that a sense of them was implanted on the human heart as a sense of duty and happiness was implanted. A sense of duty and happiness prompted to avoid misery and sin; they were therefore the prime motives, if they were not the only motives of action.
They are perhaps the only principles that actuated the Saviour of men. He was made under the law. Some call it a ‡ mediatorial law. He came
‡ President Edwards's History of Redemption.
‡ President Edwards's History of Redemption.
to execute the business of a mediator, and to finish the work which his father gave him to do. He also had respect to his own happiness, his personal happiness. For, for the joy that was set before him, he endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.
Moses, in like manner, though as a servant, was faithful to him that appointed him; that is, he had respect to the duty and the command. Yet here he rested not, for though he refused to be called the son of Pharoah's daughter; though he despised the honours and treasures of Egypt, yet he had respect to the recompence of reward; not that reward which is temporal only, but that which is eternal.
No man will suppose that sin and misery are sought for themselves; but on some pretence either of duty or happiness. Nor are they ever, in reality or in appearance avoided, but with some view, either partially or wholly to duty or happiness.
To commit sin, is not to lose sight of all the objects of duty; our Maker, our neighbour, and ourselves; it is to lose sight of some of them--our Maker and our neighbour, for no man ever hated his own flesh, the suicide not excepted. To be miserable is not to lose sight of all the objects of happiness, but only some of them. The truly rational or religious, disappear; but not the sensitive. Jonah, on losing the pleasure of his gourd, does well to be angry. It is the nature of all causeless or excessive passion, to think itself right.
When men commit a crime, they either, in the moment of committing it, banish reflection on every other object but the object before them, or if they reflect, they flatter themselves, as Jonah did, that they are doing well; or if they cannot do this, they think it best to gratify their lusts for the present, in hope of future repentance. Thus, however inconsistent,
they seek happiness as it seems best on the whole.
With regard to the passions, they may be all traced up to a sense of happiness, either partial or total, as their source.
What is fear but an apprehension of losing happiness? What is hope but the expectation of gaining it? Joy supposes it in possession, and sorrow implies that it is fled, at least in some degree.
The passions have been thus arranged in pairs,† desire and aversion--hope and fear--joy and sorrow--gratitude and anger. Gratitude to him who makes me happy--anger at him who deprives me of it. All have respect to happiness.
† See Beattie's Elements. Sec. 321.
The sensitive or instinctive appetites express that sense of happiness which was implanted in our nature until we came to understand or have a sense of our duty: And as they have been implanted by our Maker, unless perverted, they will not lead from our happiness.
Habit, as it denotes a facility of action, is no principle at all; as it expresses a desire of action, it seeks for happiness, either in whole or in part: sometimes indeed, on a narrow scale. The drunkard does this when he incurs the pain of to-morrow for the pleasure of to-day. This is moral depravity.
The moral principle, or the conscience, directs to duty, or rather is a sense of it in some degree. Glory and honour is, says the Apostle, eternal life. We glory in the approbation of our Law-giver. That approbation is, "Well done good and faithful servant, enter thou on the joys of thy Lord." Reverse all this, and it is disgrace. They that honour God, he will honour; but they that despise him shall be lightly esteemed. This is disobedience and death.
What shall I render to the Lord for all his benefits? This is the language of gratitude, and it includes a sense both of duty and happiness. Ingratitude is just the reverse. The whole appears reducible to duty and happiness, and why need we call for any other principles.
The subject will lead to see moral depravity. It is not the infusion of positive pollution. It is not the taking away of the original principles. It is not the diminution of their native force; but it is the contraction of their objects, and perversion of their course.
First, it is the contraction of their objects, rather of the view of them, and regard for them. God is not in all the wicked man's thoughts. His judgments are far removed out of his fight. Hence no sense of the happiness that God can give, that is, the happiness of hereafter. The drunkard's sense of duty and happiness, at last terminates in the present moment, and terminates on himself.
But the rage for the happiness of the moment and of the man, that is the power of the principle is just as great as if it extended to all the happiness of eternity, and to all the duties owed both to God and man.
Let a fountain send forth two thirds of its stream through a larger channel, and one third through a less; stop the larger channel, and you do not diminish the force of the fountain, but the whole current rushes into the less.
Thus the powers are perverted. The first command is "Love the Lord with all thy heart." The second, "Love thy neighbour as thyself." Here are the objects, order, and measure, or proportion. God first and most--man last and least. Now should I lose my regard for God, the whole power of the principle will fall down on men. Should I lose my
regard for men, the whole power will recoil on myself, and I shall be a poor, sordid, solitary, unkind, uncharitable wretch.
That this is moral depravity is the decision of Heaven. A † partial regard for duty or happiness, is no regard at all. Infidelity, superstition, hypocrisy, and enthusiasm, are but other words for partial duty; and pleasure, prodigality, debauchery, and dissipation, for partial happiness. For he that said "Do not commit adultery," said also "Do not kill." Now if thou commit no adultery, yet if thou kill, thou art become a transgressor of the law. Again, they who hate wisdom, though they be the very men that love pleasure, yet are they the men who, in the nervous language of Heaven, are pronounced, with a dreadful emphasis, to love death.
† Moltæ bonæ arres--quas omnis avaritia praepediebat. Sal. de Bell, Jug.
On the other hand,‡ all the graces and duties are united to constitute the character and blessedness of the good man. Devotion and morality, faith and works, justice, and especially charity. Not prayers without alms. Not religion without morality: This is hypocrisy, enthusiasm, and superstition. Not morality without religion: This is the religion of the higher ranks of life. It will not avail before God: For however it may indicate charity, or a warm affection to men, it discovers ingratitude; it discovers a heart cold and careless to a heavenly benefactor, a father, and a friend.
‡ Inter omnes philosophos constar, qui unam haberet, omnes habere virtutes. Cis.
Ministers of justice and state! will you not reason thus? That nation which has surrendered every fortress but one, in consequence of a treaty to surrender all, has violated all the treaty, and disturbed
all that peace and public tranquility which ought to have been expected from it. If you would thus reason in your own political line, why will you not, on the same principles, reason in matters of religion?
We have seen what moral depravity is; and we have seen why charity is treated so coldly by men. They have fallen down, down into themselves. They have not those great extensive views they ought to have. Man in honour did not continue--did not continue to have these extensive regards for his duty and his bliss--did not continue to carry these extensive regards into strong and confirmed habits--did not continue to transmit to the next race, a predilection, a pre-disposition to similar habits of strength and vigour, but the reverse.
This is the deplorable state of man. This is the deplorable state of charity. Is there no remedy? Yes, my friends, there is a divine power that can enlarge our souls and arrange their powers, and bring us back to the love of God and the love of men.
This is regeneration; not the creation of new native principles or powers, but the enlargement and arrangement of the old ones. No physical or natural, but a moral change. It consists first in their enlargement or in their more extensive view of objects. Before, God was not in all the sinner's thoughts; now, he cannot be out of any of them. Before they saw him no where; now they see him every where, in his works and in his word. Before they preferred their own private happiness to the happiness of the whole; now they regard the happiness of the whole, of which themselves are but a part. Before they sought the sensitive pleasures of the moment; now they seek for the rational or religious pleasures of eternity. Before they were unkind,
or if charitable, it was but for the pleasure of a name; now they are charitable for conscience sake.
The soul had been turned upside down. The sensitive and selfish desires, once subordinate, became supreme; and the once higher powers of reason and religion, which regarded all the law, and sat enthroned in the empire of the mind, were cast down to the foot-stool. The regenerating spirit of God begins to reduce all to order again. The sensitive and selfish desires are not destroyed, but cast down from the throne, and reason and religion raised up in their room. Neither new principles nor new objects are created; but a new range of objects before undiscerned, are brought up, proportioned, and arranged; and the sight is enlarged to behold, and desires excited to embrace them. It is thus that old things pass away, and all things become new.
Thus are men brought to acts of charity, and to all other acts, from a regard for duty and happiness on a very large extensive scale.
I shall only add, that these two principles can never be separated. Ministers of mercy and charity, beware of the attempt. Sadok, the father of the Saducees, long ago taught his disciples that they should so love virtue as not to be influenced by a view to the reward. What was their conclusion? A fair conclusion from a false principle. "There are no rewards at all, nor an Angel, nor spirit, nor future state." Why indeed, should there be rewards, if we are not to regard them? The truth is, there are rewards; rewards both of our just and charitable deeds. God has joined them; he will reward; and to attempt to separate them, is dangerous and absurd.
Because I have once taught that a good man would
love virtue were there no heaven, no hell, no reward, no punishment--because I have once marked this as the grand characteristic of a good man, I do now candidly acknowledge the error; to me too early taught, and by me too late investigated.
Should any of you, my brethren in the ministry, still think proper thus to reach, bring this thing, I beseech you, home to your own hearts: Banish, if you can, all ideas of happiness, and absorb yourselves in duty--what notion must you form of the God you serve--a God unjust--a God unkind--a God who will not reward you.
Were it possible to persist in duty, a sense of happiness could never be banished. For to what kind of feeling--to what course of conduct would duty lead? It would, in spite of all your efforts, force up a sense of happiness, your own and others, on the large scale aforesaid. A universal regard for duty, would prompt you to that very line of conduct which would diffuse universal bliss.
Suppose again, that you lose sight of duty, and absorb yourselves in bliss; What is the God you adore? A God who will make you happy without a universal regard to duty--a God who will make you happy in rapine and cruelty, in rioting and gaming, in malice and murder.
Suppose you aim at bliss on the largest scale, this would infallibly lead you to the law, and to all the law of God. It would force up a view of the divine commands, for in keeping them, and only in keeping them, is a great reward.
I may be told of Moses, who wished his name blotted out of God's book; and of Paul, who wished himself accursed from Christ for his brethren and kinsmen, according to the flesh.
But neither of these wishes can be rationally extended farther than some temporal ills. Moses we
have seen had respect to both duty and reward; and so had Paul. Mark his own words: I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith. Hence there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me.
The truth is this: Moses alludes to the custom of writing the names of living citizens in a list for civil purposes, and of blotting out their names after death; so that the most we can suppose, is that he wished for death, to avoid the perplexity of his public charge.
Paul says--I could wish, would it avail (net I do wish) that myself were accursed from Christ--after Christ's† example, who first finished the painful work, at last gained the reward. Others, by accursed from Christ, understand excommunication from the church, which is sometimes called Christ.
Duty and happiness are not only connected, but keep measure together. The Israelites gradually lost sight of the commands, until at last they had none but the law of the sacrifices. Their happiness gradually disappeared with their laws; and God at last pronounced their sacrifices abominable.
† See Doddridge.
A convincing proof that partial obedience is moral depravity. Devils are no exceptions. They obey the law of self-love, but hate God and man.
To close this part of the subject, hear the words of God. Whoso offereth praise glorifieth me; and to him that ordereth his conversation aright will I shew my salvation. Here is duty and bliss, and with this corresponds the words of wise men. They are these, "Man's chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him for ever."
Enough has been said on the principles, we proceed
in the next place, to consider the objects of charity.
Charity's first aim was to prevent and the next to alleviate distress. This was the design in innocence, and is still the design, as far as charity may be restored to her pristine state.
In both these views charity has a variety of names. Considered as prevenient, or as preventive of misery, and as diffusive of happiness, charity is called benevolence, good will, public spirit, and patriotism.
The existing ills of life, or the objects of charity have respect to the bodies or the minds of men.
Charity as she bears the present prejudices, or judges of the future state of men, is called candour, as opposed to censorious judging.
Charity, as she bears the ill nature or injuries of men, is called gentleness, meekness, forbearance, forgiveness, generosity, &c.
Charity, as she respects mens bodily wants, is called mercy, pity, compassion, hospitality, or properly charity.
We begin with prevenient charity. Charity aims at the prevention of bodily wants, by the prevention of ignorance, error, and prejudice; and the promotion of knowledge human and divine.
This kind of charity begins at home, and diffuses itself through all the circles of social life. The little garden of the mind will produce something. "There is a natural preparation for supernatural belief."† Hence the monstrous growth of superstition or enthusiasm; a growth favourable to designing men, but ruinous to society and the individual.
good seed. By implanting good principles. Let no man say that principles are not connected with practice. What powerful influence have the corrupt principles of paganism and infidelity had on the world? And what a more powerful influence have the principles of christianity had in maintaining their ground, nay even gaining it, in spite of opposition.
The universal diffusion of the knowledge of christianity, can never astonish us more than the progress it has already made, and the influence it has already had in preventing enthusiasm, error, and superstition; in ennobling and invigorating the mind conversant about its objects; and in affording the greatest consolations in life and in death.
The Apostles and primitive christians saw the necessity of spreading the gospel, in order to prevent the miseries of men. They also saw the necessity of erecting schools to qualify teachers for so charitable a purpose. Age after age has followed their exam
The effects will extend to religious and civil society. Charity promotes, or rather is that religion which has softened the rude manners, and subdued the fierce passions of the multitude. Even a false religion has had its effects in associating the first tribes of men. True religion has done much more. It gives just conceptions of God. It shews us our subjection to God, and associates us with good men.
It teaches that God is our superior, but it brings us nearer to a level with our fellow-worshippers. In this view it prevents tyranny and licentiousness, while it cultivates the friendly feelings among those who, at the set time, attend the place of public instruction. Of such importance is the christian sabbath and christian assemblies!
Again, this charity is political and national. It extends its effects to the largest societies of men. Political or national charity, if it do not erect churches for the public worship of God; if it do not on a general and equal establishment support public instruction--will raise and bestow immunities and privileges on schools, colleges, and universities, for the purposes of public education. Hence, with proper cultivation; the charitable physician, who kindly aims at preserving the health of his neighbour--hence the charitable attorney who accommodates law-suits, and prevents litigation--hence the charitable preacher, who labours to prevent error and prejudice, and to diffuse
† Some times literature, as well as religion, has been established on the general and equal principles of justice, and sometimes again on the principles of charity.
The schools erected by the Apostles, to support and propagate christianity, were raised on private charity. For government was against them. They were afterwards placed on legislative establishment.
In the Universities in England, the Colleges are endowed, in the halls the students support themselves. Guth Geo.
The wise framers of our state constitution, have made literature an object of legislation, and our Legislators have acted accordingly. Whether the prejudices of the people will permit them to continue, or require them to retract, I cannot determine.
Though literature may be viewed either as an object of justice or of charity; to me it appears rather an object of justice, because every individual has value received. I know that this has been said of religion, but, as a clergyman, I wave that subject, and only observe that in this case the advantages can be made obvious.
The most ignorant parent in our country, who puts into the hands of his child, a common unvalued English primer, or almanack, puts into its hands a book which himself could never have composed. And the most pious parent, who reads in his family a portion of the scriptures, reads them in a language into which literature has brought them, and without which he could not have read at all.
Where will these reflections lead! It is easy to see, and ungrateful not to acknowledge. I own that a degree of liberal professional knowledge has been gained by some, without a liberal professional education. But how has it been gained! either by reading those books they could never have written, or by conversing with those who have written or read them. Many of the enemies of the University have this day little more than that smattering knowledge which they have picked up occasionally from its friends. Where will these plain truths lead? I repeat it again, it is easy to see, and ungrateful not to acknowledge.
Again, this charity extends farther than the nation to which we belong. The genuine uncorrupted dictates of christian charity, tend to prevent war among the nations of the earth, and to stop the effusion of human blood--and whenever the true knowledge of God which christianity gives--whenever this knowledge shall cover the earth as the waters cover the sea--then shall the nations learn war no more--for then shall there be nothing to hurt or destroy in all God's holy mountain.
These glorious times are approaching. How unlike to the past! The Jews, mistaking a permission to destroy the devoted inhabitants of Canaan, for a command to destroy all other nations, were willing not only to banish them from this world, but the next. Mistaking christians have not been more charitable. I forbear to mention the cruelty of seizing lands and lives too, in consequence of discovering them. But I beg leave to enquire whether
some relics of this Popish uncharitableness do not still remain in sentiment, among us?
It is a common opinion among christians, of all denominations, that heathens cannot be saved by the light of nature, if they have not heard of the name of Jesus of Nazareth, nor ever read the scriptures of truth.
On this subject I ask, what is the light of nature? To me it appears to be that natural knowledge possessed by Adam at his first existence, and transmitted to and possessed in some degree by all, at mature age, aided by the lights of traditionary revelation, of which no nation under Heaven is totally destitute, and aided by our own reasoning and the reasoning of others on the whole.
I beg leave to ask again, whether all this may not be a sufficient ground on which the spirit of God may operate the salvation of a heathen who has never read the scriptures, nor heard of the name of Jesus of Nazareth? Why should such mighty stress be laid on the mere article of writing or reading the law. How know we that Adam could either write or read? Was Adam without a revelation? The Apostle has said, that Gentiles having not the law, that is the written law, are a law unto themselves. Some there are among us who can neither write nor read: Are they without revelation?
I ask again, is there magic in the letters or the syllables that compose the words Jesus of Nazareth? Is it the name, or he who bears it, the substance, the sacrifice, the seed of the woman, that effects the salvation? How know we that Adam or Moses ever heard of the name Jesus of Nazareth? Is it the word Jehovah, Jove, or Lord, or is it the eternal Mind we adore?
"Father of all, in every age,
"In every clime ador'd,
"By saint, by savage, and by sage,
"Jehovah, Jove, or Lord."
The light of nature has certainly suggested to the heathens what a written revelation declares to us--that there is some deep and dark malignity in guilt, which mere sorrow will not remove--that suffering is the proper atonement for sin, for heathens as well as others have punished offenders--that some atonement has been or may be made by suffering; for all nations have offered suffering victims on their altars--and finally, that the efficacy or benefits of suffering may be transferred, for the language of the heathen was---- "Life for life, and body for body, do I lay on the altar."† See Blair's Serm. on the Power of Conscience.
† Anima pro anima, corpus pro corpore, ponam.
Who can tell whether, on these principles, the prayers and alms of Cornelius did not ascend before God as a memorial, before Peter was sent to tell him of Jesus of Nazareth? And who can tell whether, on the same principles, the prayers and alms of a western savage may not ascend up before God as a memorial? Certainly Peter has told Cornelius that in every nation he that fears God and works righteousness is accepted. And as certainly John has beheld a great multitude which no man could number, of all nations, and kindreds, and people, and tongues, standing before the throne, and before the Lamb, cloathed with white robes, and palms in their hands; yet the church has shut all these out of Heaven, and what is a little more uncharitable, she has shut her own doors against those who have, in sentiment, admitted them. I bless the great Father of all, that I live where I dare ever doubt her authority in this matter.
These sentiments respecting the salvation of the heathen nations, are intended to prevent a censorious and unprofitable judging, not to depreciate the use of a written revelation, nor to discourage public exertions to spread religious knowledge among mankind. I have only plead for the possibility or probability of a heathen's salvation. In doing of this, I have honoured the scriptures, for I have supposed the use of their light, however traditionary and obscure. It is very plain, both from the pagan mythology and from the christian scriptures, that the heathens were in great darkness and doubt, and that life and immortality is brought to light in the gospel.
Hence, in past ages, the exertions of charity to diffuse the knowledge of the gospel. Hence religious societies in various parts of Europe, to spread in foreign parts the knowledge of christianity. And we hope that America will not be wanting on her part, to promote the same charitable design. What a boundless range for these godlike efforts of charity in our western world?
This design has never been gained without the aid of human knowledge. The Apostles were Disciples at the first, and at last they presided over schools which promoted christianity, and which were promoted by it. They have risen and fallen together. The popish clouds that obscured christianity, obscured human science; and at the reformation, the revival of christianity was connected with the revival of learning. In this view, it were not strange if the enemies of christianity should be enemies to the University; but why should professed friends to one, be foes to the other. "Father, forgive them, they know not what they do."
Enough has been said of that kind of charity which aims at the prevention of ignorance, error,
and censoriousness; and the promotion of knowledge human and divine.
In spite of all the efforts of preventing charity, misery will find its way among men. Hence the need of that charity which alleviates distress.
This kind of charity bears error and injury, and relieves the poor and oppressed. It also begins at home, and spreads through social life. Some men are ignorant, some learned; some rich and some poor; some masters and some servants.
First then, this charity is domestic. The good master will pity ignorance and error; will without force attempt to remove them; will not deny harmless pleasures; not enjoin useless labour; not insult natural defects. Is a servant sick, he will say, "Lord, speak the word, and thy servant shall be whole." Is he oppressed by a fellow servant whom he has forgiven, he will say, "Thou wicked servant, oughtest thou not to have forgiven thy fellow-servant, even as I forgave thee." Is he called to shew mercy, he will say, "I am the Almoner of Heaven, my domestics enable me to shew mercy, I must therefore first shew it to them."
Again, this charity respects society, religious and civil, and in this view bears the errors and injuries of men. God has not equally distributed understanding nor the means of obtaining knowledge, witness christians and heathens. In this life we all see through a glass darkly, or in an ænigma, and some more darkly than others. Hence an ample field for the exercise of charity, in practice as well as in sentiment. For him that is weak in the faith, receive ye that are strong. But if thy brother be grieved with thy meat, now walkest thou not charitably.
Charity, while she bears the weak man's prejudices
will honestly declare that they are prejudices. I know, says charity, and am persuaded by the Lord Jesus, that there is nothing, no meat unclean in itself. How amiable are honesty and charity in union!
Here occurs this question, useful and important to all: How far should charity bear error and prejudice without public judicial notice or censure?
I reply, in civil matters they are then only censurable when they would destroy the foundation of civil government; and in ecclesiastical, when they would subvert the christian religion. In the first case they may be punished with civil pains, in the last, only with exclusion from baptism and the communion.
I know that the Jewish magistrate punished idolatry with death; but the government was theocratic. God was their King, and idolatry was treason. It is not so with us; yet inattention to this distinction has shed oceans of human blood.
The terms of communion have been plain in the patriarchal and Jewish ages; and so would they have been in the present dispensation, had charity been permitted to find them. For in the treasury of Christ's word they certainly are, and out of that treasury, like many other new things, they will one day be brought.†
† Were I required to enumerate the doctrines that ought to be made terms, I would not pretend to a perfect enumeration, but I would say that perhaps they are as follows: 1. A belief that there is a God. Heb. ix. 6.--2. That the scriptures are the word of God. Gal. i. 8. 1 John v. 10.--3. That there is a Father, Son and Divine Spirit. Luke xii. 10. Rom. viii. 9. 1 John ii. 22.--4, That Jesus Christ is a saviour necessary and sufficient. Acts iv. 12. 1 Cor. iii. 11.--5. That the agency of the Divine Spirit is necessary and sufficient to recover men from sin. 1 Cor. xii. 3. Rom. viii. 9.--6. That all have sinned and are sinners. 1 John i. 8. 10. 7.--That we must be born again. John iii. 3.--8. That the soul is immortal. And 9. That the body will be raised by Christ. 1 Cor. xv. 16--18. Compare 1 Tim. i. 19, 20. with 2 Tim. ii. 18, 19.--10. That there will be a future judgment. 2 Cor. v. 10.--11. A future state of rewards. Heb. xi. 6.--And 12. A future state of punishments. Compare 1 Cor. xv. 1--3. with Mark xvi. 15.
I believe that no other doctrines are marked with such emphasis, they appear essential to christianity, and are believed by all denominations of christians, and by all true christians. How much would charity be promoted by making these, and these only, the doctrinal terms of communion! I say doctrinal, because I am only speaking of doctrines, not precepts or practice.
These thoughts are abridged from a larger performance, which room will not permit me to insert. I shall only add, that they are all comprehended in the scriptural doctrinal term of communion.
If thou believest with all thine heart that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, thou mayest be baptized. See Acts viii. 36, 37. This is emphatically called The Truth in many a place in the New Testament.
Should it still be objected that these are general doctrines, and that particular opinions may be couched under each of them. I reply, it is general not particular doctrines or opinions that must be made terms; whenever we descend to particular, there is no end to the terms of communion. Scarcely two men can be found who are agreed in every particular.
I before observed, that charity bears the ill nature and injuries of men, and in this view is called meekness, gentleness, &c.
Here another question occurs: How far should charity bear the injuries of men? If charity has no limitation, the injurious are encouraged, and there is no refuge for the injured. I reply that, of the injury charity will consider both the motive and matter.
The charitable man will ask, is it generous to pass severe sentence on the motive which cannot be easily seen by the accuser, and against which it is difficult for the accused to set up a defence? Have not all men their appetites and passions to lead them
to different occupations and professions; and may there not therefore be expected, at sometimes, an interfering of interest and opinion, and of consequence an injury? May not the injury be done from ignorance, inattention, prejudice, or passion; and may not the injurious yet see his error? How often will the charitable man say, how often have I injured others, owned my error, asked forgiveness, and obtained it? Let me do to others as I would that they should do to me.
Again, charity will consider the injury itself, and while tolerable, will bear it. The tolerable injuries are proverbially expressed by our Lord, in his sermon on the Mount,† and are the lesser matters mentioned afterwards by his Apostle. The intolerable, are such as affect one's life, character, and usefulness to men, or the support and education of a family. This distinction may be applied to injuries done by families, or even nations, to each other.
† See Matt. v.
It has been said that there are three cases in which I may till my cause to my country, and I add, there are just as many in which I may till it to the church.
Consistent with christian charity, I may take refuge in the law, 1. To establish some important right, the yielding of which would encourage despotism, and be injurious to the nation. Of this kind was the celebrated suit of Hambden‡ against the British Crown--2. To procure compensation for some considerable damage, or for an intolerable injury--3. To guard against such an injury threatened or expected. So Paul plead the privilege of a Roman Citizen to save him from scourging, and afterwards
‡ After writing the above. I recollected the dignified opposition made by General McDougall, of New-York, to British domination, Anno 1770. See Gord. Hist. Vol. 1. page 211.
‡ After writing the above. I recollected the dignified opposition made by General McDougall, of New-York, to British domination, Anno 1770. See Gord. Hist. Vol. 1. page 211.
availed himself of a military force to prevent a horrid conspiracy to assassinate him.
Again, I may tell it to the church--1. when some essential truth, some doctrine that should be made a term, is denied by a fellow-member--2. when some† precept or prohibition is publicly or profanely
† Respecting terms, there is more difficulty about precepts or laws, than about doctrines, and charity finds herself more perplexed--For. 1st. There can be no distinction between precept or laws that may, or may not be made terms. For he that saith, I know him, and keepeth not his commandments, that is all of them, is a liar, and the truth is not in him. 2d. There have been disputes about the existing of precepts, either express or implied. Exists there any thing tantamount to the making of daneing a term? A question this, which has perplexed the churches, and is not yet decided. For wise and good men, all members of the church, are on this question, almost equally divided. 3d. Supposing the precept to have existed, disputes have been about its continuation. Some have supposed that baptism and the eucharist, passed away with the ceremonial laws. 4th. Supposing the continuation to be admitted, the meaning of the law or precept has been disputed. This is my body. This do in remembrance of me. Go baptize all nations, &c. &c. 5th. Granting the sense of the law to be ascertained. It is not easy to ascertain the fact, nor the motive of action, nor the degree of punishment. Shall antenuptial fornication, for example, be punished with as much public severity as that which is not followed by marriage? Now in all these and similar cases, what must charity do? I answer, In the 1st case--she will distinguish the precepts. She will find that they are moral or positive--that some stand on this principle, namely, that a creature is bound to worship and revere a Creator with all his heart; and again, that he worship him in what external mode he, the Creator, pleases. To the first of these charity will always give the preference, whenever they interfere. See ii. Chron. xxx. 18. 19. In the 2d case--that is, wherever wise and good men are divided in opinion, charity will not allow us to be positive or dogmatic; and only in one case will the admit of a precept by consequence or construction, that is from the example of her divine master--See i. John ii 6. In the 3d case--that is, in the denial of baptism or the eucharist, there is no difficulty; for the very things are denied in which communion consists. Neither Jews nor Christians have excluded from the moral social duties of prayer and praise. The disorderly Jews were cast out of the synagogue, not deprived of the worship of the temple. In the 4th case--or when the sense of the precept is disputed. As This do. This is my body, &c &c.--should the debate produce a practice apparently inconsistent with the character or conduct of a christian; a schism must follow. Charity cannot prevent it, until the precept be better understood. And for the better understanding of the precept, charity will labour and pray. In the last case--that is when there are doubts about the ascertaining of the facts, the assigning of the motives, or the proportioning of the punishment, in all these cases charity will chuse the most favourable side. As the doctrines, so also are the precepts compendized for us. The compend of laws, is that law of our divine master--Follow me. Learn of me. His conduct will teach to detest that doctrine that makes error worse than vice. What! Is an error about infant baptism worse than rioting and drunkenness, tale-bearing, malice, and murder! Would to God that half the zeal which has been levelled at supposed error, had been levelled at known transgression!
† Respecting terms, there is more difficulty about precepts or laws, than about doctrines, and charity finds herself more perplexed--For.
1st. There can be no distinction between precept or laws that may, or may not be made terms. For he that saith, I know him, and keepeth not his commandments, that is all of them, is a liar, and the truth is not in him.
2d. There have been disputes about the existing of precepts, either express or implied. Exists there any thing tantamount to the making of daneing a term? A question this, which has perplexed the churches, and is not yet decided. For wise and good men, all members of the church, are on this question, almost equally divided.
3d. Supposing the precept to have existed, disputes have been about its continuation. Some have supposed that baptism and the eucharist, passed away with the ceremonial laws.
4th. Supposing the continuation to be admitted, the meaning of the law or precept has been disputed. This is my body. This do in remembrance of me. Go baptize all nations, &c. &c.
5th. Granting the sense of the law to be ascertained. It is not easy to ascertain the fact, nor the motive of action, nor the degree of punishment. Shall antenuptial fornication, for example, be punished with as much public severity as that which is not followed by marriage?
Now in all these and similar cases, what must charity do? I answer,
In the 1st case--she will distinguish the precepts. She will find that they are moral or positive--that some stand on this principle, namely, that a creature is bound to worship and revere a Creator with all his heart; and again, that he worship him in what external mode he, the Creator, pleases. To the first of these charity will always give the preference, whenever they interfere. See ii. Chron. xxx. 18. 19.
In the 2d case--that is, wherever wise and good men are divided in opinion, charity will not allow us to be positive or dogmatic; and only in one case will the admit of a precept by consequence or construction, that is from the example of her divine master--See i. John ii 6.
In the 3d case--that is, in the denial of baptism or the eucharist, there is no difficulty; for the very things are denied in which communion consists. Neither Jews nor Christians have excluded from the moral social duties of prayer and praise. The disorderly Jews were cast out of the synagogue, not deprived of the worship of the temple.
In the 4th case--or when the sense of the precept is disputed. As This do. This is my body, &c &c.--should the debate produce a practice apparently inconsistent with the character or conduct of a christian; a schism must follow. Charity cannot prevent it, until the precept be better understood. And for the better understanding of the precept, charity will labour and pray.
In the last case--that is when there are doubts about the ascertaining of the facts, the assigning of the motives, or the proportioning of the punishment, in all these cases charity will chuse the most favourable side.
As the doctrines, so also are the precepts compendized for us. The compend of laws, is that law of our divine master--Follow me. Learn of me.
His conduct will teach to detest that doctrine that makes error worse than vice. What! Is an error about infant baptism worse than rioting and drunkenness, tale-bearing, malice, and murder!
Would to God that half the zeal which has been levelled at supposed error, had been levelled at known transgression!
violated--3. when my own character is so traduced as to injure my usefulness to civil or religious society.
In all these cases the charitable man will seek redress, not indulge anger or revenge: Forgiving the private injury not till seven times only, but till seventy times seven: he will proceed in all cases as an officer of public justice, and as far as injuries respect himself, he will, at every stage of the procedure, hearken to the terms of accommodation. He will in no case intimidate or suppress witness, nor protract suits by appeal, to injure his less wealthy neighbour. For a private injury--See Matt. xvii.
I have already observed that charity respects mens bodily wants, feeds the hungry, cloaths the naked, heals the sick, lodges the homeless, and relieves the oppressed.
God has not equally distributed neither property nor power. Hence another extensive range for the exercise of alleviating charity.
The objects of charity have, in this view, been divided into three classes. The 1st class is made up of those who have been reduced to poverty and distress by misfortunes unforeseen and unavoidable. The next class consists of those who have been made wretched by the cruelty, avarice, and oppression of men. To come forth in their defence, to oppose riches to riches, and power to power, to break the jaws of the wicked, and pluck the spoil out of his teeth, is a noble charity indeed. The last class are they who have made themselves wretched by their own crimes, their cruelty, drunkenness, gaming, luxury, and lust.
Some, without cause, would exclude these from the list of charity. Certainly Christ wept over the crimes as well as calamities of Jerusalem. O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets. Charity will not indeed give them the love of approbation or esteem, but of benevolence and good will.
Can there be a greater object of pity and prayer, than a poor, blinded, obstinate sinner!
To relieve all these objects charity will prompt us, whether we be in the private or public departments of life.
The physician is charitable to the poor, who freely bestows them medicine and advice. The attorney who, without reward, pleads the cause of the poor widow, the fatherless, and oppressed. The preacher too, bestows an alms when he prevents
litigation and restores peace. His profession, above all other, calls him to be charitable and to recommend charity.
The wealthy merchant, farmer, manufacturer, and mechanic, may all in their several occupations, and without much inconvenience, extend charity to the needy around them.
Again, in the higher departments, charity has called legislators to levy a tax for the support of the poor; to erect infirmaries, hospitals, lazarettos, &c. and to provide for their support. This legislative charity might proceed a little farther, and provide for poor orphans, especially whose parents have fallen for their country. Surely their children should be children of the state. To christian charity we owe the above institutions, and hope it will not forget the needy orphan.
This charity will be extended to all nations, as far as we have opportunity, whether friends or foes. The charitable man will not suffer the stranger (of any nation) to lodge in the streets, but will open his door to the traveller. Is he himself a Samaritan, is he going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, does he find a man fallen among thieves, stripped, wounded, and half dead, he will not pass by on the other side, but will have mercy upon him, and give him every necessary assistance.
Does this good Samaritan proceed on to Jericho, does he there see in a straitened condition a school of the prophets, does he see the young men taking up every man his axe, and going to Jordan for his beam for the building, he will go and help them: and should an axe slip off from its handle, and fall into Jordan, he will rejoice at the miracle Heaven has wrought by the hand of the prophet, in causing the iron to swim. Methinks I hear him crying out in a rapture, God forbid that I should be uncharitable
to these instructions. Draw nigh all ye enemies of learning, and behold a miracle of omnipotence wrought in its favour.
Such, my friends, are the objects of charity.--These objects will not all be treated in the same manner. Charity's first aim will be to relieve†them that are ready to be slain, for delay may here be fatal; after this she will relieve the unfortunate; and last of all, those who are wretched by their own crimes. To these, her first aid will be council and reproof, and her last, pecuniary bounty.
† Prov. xxiv. 11.
Again, charity will do good especially to the household of faith. She will forgive foes, but distinguish friends. Even among these she may make distinctions. Jesus had his favourite John.
WE proceed to consider, in the next place, the manner in which charity embraces her objects; for it was observed that, by all means and on all occasions, she aims at preventing or alleviating misery.
She is previously prepared to embrace these objects. The charitable man will be industrious and frugal to lay up in store, that he may have where-with to give. This thought is suggested by Paul, who thus addresses the Corinthian churches: Upon the first day of the week, let every one of you lay by him in store as God hath prospered him.† Some churches, on this plan, give every individual, on every Sabbath, an opportunity of being charitable as God hath prospered him.
† Cor. xvi. 2.
Again, charity gives cheerfully, she therefore instantly
embraces her object. The charitable man will not stay, nor linger long as those that are slothful. Like Abraham, he hastes to meet his guest; or as the father of the prodigal, he beholds the object when it is yet a great way off, and runs to embrace it. Charity scarcely waits to reason. She feels or is that instinctive principle we described before, a powerful principle previous to all reasoning. Too slow were reasoning for the emergencies of life, the author of our nature has therefore implanted these instinctive principles to act on the spur of the occasion.
These instinctive principles are to be cultivated and directed to their proper objects, but not suppressed; for by suppression they may be contracted or perverted until they become almost extinct, and even habits of cruelty succeed. I will therefore be charitable, I will obey the first impulse, I will scarcely wait to reason, not only to gain the present pleasure, but the habit of charity; and I will believe that this pleasure and this habit will do more good to society than an occasional misguided act of charity can do harm.
I will not ask, shall I give or shall I not give; for every thing that presents itself as an object, is in some view, an object of charity. The impostor himself is, as all other transgressors, an object of pity, compassion, instruction, and reproof. I will therefore accommodate my beneficence to the feelings, the temper, and the wants of the object. I will not gratify the vitiated appetite of that man who has by drunkenness rendered himself an object of charity; but notwithstanding. I will reprimand and pity him, I will feed and cloath him, and aid his indigent family.
To the unfortunate feeling mind, I will study so to bestow the assistance as to prevent, if possible, the
feeling of inferiority. How amiable, on this subject, was the behaviour of Boaz to the Moabitish stranger! When she was risen up to glean, he commanded his young men saying, let her glean among the sheaves and reproach her not; and let felt some of the handfuls on purpose for her, that she may glean them, and rebuke her not. Was not this more gracious than had he directly bestowed her half his harvest?
Again, the charitable man gives according to his ability. Give alms of such things as ye have--See Luke xi. 41. which some have rendered thus: Give alms according or in proportion to your substance. Certainly God demands this, and he demands no more. His demands are according to what a man hath, not according to what he hath not. In this view the widow's two mites is as much as the abundant gifts of the wealthy.
I farther observe, that charity gives in public. Charity gives, not to be seen of men, but she gives that men may see--see her good works, and glorify her father by doing likewise. Our Lord Jesus condemns the sinister motive, not the public deed, when he says, in giving alms let not thy right hand know what thy left hand doth. In one case indeed, and I know not another, our alms may be concealed, and that is when our own charity alone will be adequate to the object. Some put another case, and that is when I design an extraordinary charity; but it may be necessary to excite another to do the same, and therefore I will not admit that this charity should be in secret, when others should be excited to follow the example.†
† The following thought occurred after the last transcribing, I have therefore marked it in a note:
Christ has sometimes concealed his charitable deeds; but it was done either because he needed not the assistance of friends; or because he did not with to rouse the envy of enemies to hasten his death.
Again, true christian charity will be accompanied with prayer. When these are separated, they are both unacceptable unto God. Of thine own O God have we given thee, was the language of holy David. To give another's bounty, without a due sense of it, is ingratitude; to give away the property of another, without asking direction, is injustice.
Even a cold wish, without giving, will not avail. If a brother or sister be naked and destitute of daily food, and ye say unto them, depart in peace, be ye warmed and filled, notwithstanding ye give not those things that are needful for the body, what doth it profit?
May I, my friends, be permitted to add, that if a seminary of statesmen and a school of the prophets too, if it call for a charity, and ye say, depart in peace, be thy foundations laid, thy walls reared, thy teachers provided for, notwithstanding ye give not those things that are needful--in the language and name of Heaven, what doth it profit?
In the last place, true christian charity will embrace her objects in spite of opposition. The obstacles are not a few. They are commonly ignorance, prejudice, or to say all at once, the want of religion.
The charitable man feareth the Lord;† the uncharitable fears him not. The charitable man has a sense of his dignity as the almoner of Heaven. Revere thyself, so demean thyself as to be respected, is an excellent maxim, and will produce a charity. The want of a due sense of our dignity in the great scale of being, is inimical to charity and every other virtue.
† Ps. cxii. See also a Cor. viii. 5. and Luke xix. 2.
Idleness and prodigality are also unfriendly, and
avarice the most unfriendly of all. I have heard of a rich miser who was so delighted with a charity sermon, that he declared his resolution to go forth and beg.
This, whether fact or fiction, tells us the temper of avarice. It thinks of nothing but to receive. It forgets that giver and receiver are co-relative terms. It forgets the divine apothegm, "It is more blessed to give than to receive." This is the voice of charity.
I proceed to the 2d general division of the discourse, which was to shew the comparative excellence of charity.--The greatest of these is charity.
The grand principle on which stands the excellence of charity, is that, in its highest and most refined sense, it has existed and may exist, without evil natural or moral. The man, said a wise heathen, who has fewest wants, is most like the Gods.
On this principle, "It is more blessed to give than to receive"--more blessed to remove prejudices than to have them--more blessed to give instruction than to need instruction--and to relieve poverty than to be poor or opprest.
On this principle, preventing charity, the child of paradise, excels alleviating charity, which has been occasioned by sin. On this principle it is greater than hope, or repentance, or faith, or even the exercise of justice among men, because they all pre-suppose the existence of evil.
Preventing charity existed in paradise where no sin was; and will exist in paradise again when Christ, made perfect through sufferings, shall by a course of experience and discipline, bring his people to heaven.
Whatever disputes there may be respecting the ceasing or continuing of sin in the universe, or in the
individual, there is no doubt that it has ceased in heaven where it first began; and some have thought, from the prophecies, that it will in future ages cease from the earth.
In whatever part of the universe, or from whatever individual, sin shall cease, there will be the exercise of that charity that never faileth--that charity which has been made perfect through suffering--that charity which has, from past scenes, gained the wisdom of experience, and the habits of religion--that charity which ardently loves God, and sincerely loves men--and vigilantly guards against error, misery and sin forever.
This charity excels that which gives a boon to a beggar as far as a state without sin excels a state of sin. Indeed the lowest and least refined charity, is that which bestows pecuniary bounty on the poor;† and here is the principle that explains it: The uncultivated clown will stop to lift a poor drunkard from a ditch, and will give him an alms if he ask it--though he would not have previously bestowed one mite to have given him a better education--an education that might have prevented his fall, and elevated his mind above the low company and vices of the vulgar.
† Paley's Moral Philosophy.
I mean no otetpreciate this charity, but to shew another that excels, because it supposes more prudence--more foresight--a more extensive and liberal view of things. It supposes that the mind is farther advanced in the discipline of experience, and in the cultivation of the finer sensibilities of the soul. It therefore supposes a greater promptitude to relieve as well as prevent distress. Indeed in proportion as mens minds are refined and enlarged by religion and a good education, in that proportion do they attend to every kind of charity.
This is a rational way of accounting for its being so much neglected among men.
Again, preventing charity excels in the scope it affords for greater numbers to be virtuously employed. How often might one travel from Jerusalem to Jericho, and not find a wounded man by the way. The school of the prophets was always there. But supposing the presence of an object in distress, the wisdom or wealth of one man may remove, in some degree, the prejudice or poverty of another. The parent who educates a merchant or mechanic, to supply existing wants, needs only the aid of a single master for the instruction of his son.
But he who would prevent the ills of life--who would anticipate prejudice--who would qualify a public teacher--who would aim at a complete, liberal, professional education, will need all the assistance his †country can afford.
† Here it is necessary to calculate the great expence of buildings and repairs--of an apparatus and library--and of supporting a President and Professors for life; otherwise education cannot be complete.
This charity supposes more extensive happiness as well as virtue. Existing prejudice, rags, and wretchedness, wounds and groans, give pain to the very mind that attempts to relieve them: But the charity that would prevent--the charity that would promote public education--the charity that turns her eyes towards Chappel-Hill, sees me sights of woe, hears not the voice of the oppressor; but exults in the pleasure of preventing ills, of teaching the young rising race, of preventing folly and vice, and of diffusing happiness through the church and nation.
Charity, as a grace, excels all the graces in extent and duration.
Faith is said by some, to be a firm persuasion, produced by divine power, that Jesus is the author of salvation. We believe and are persuaded that thou art Christ, the Son of the living God--See John vi. 69. ii. Tim. iii. 5. They who thus define faith, refer it to the understanding illuminated by the spirit and word of God. But charity extends farther. It includes choice. It is love, that love by which faith works, for faith works by love, and involves obedience, but is not therefore, strictly speaking, obedience or love. They are the fruits, not nature of faith.
Let faith, in its very nature, be supposed to include love, it will be confined to a particular view, and love of a particular object, for a particular time. It regards a Redeemer for daily pardon, and in that precise view, must cease when pardon is needed no more. Not so that charity which extends to all, and even to this Redeemer in all other views, forever.
Charity is more excellent than repentance, whose object is sin. Repentance will cease with its object, in the heart, but charity abideth forever.
The hope of gaining Heaven will cease with the enjoyment; for what a man seeth why doth he yet hope for?
Charity, as a duty, is more excellent than justice--is more extensive--more disinterested--more ingenuous--more unconstrained.
Justice has respect to, and provides laws for, the acquiring, exchanging, defending, and distributing of property. In all these respects charity is equal or pre-eminent.
Charity joins with justice in the acquisition of property. She is equally industrious and frugal, and equally inimical to idleness and waste.
But instead of exchanging, charity gives, instead
of defending, she forgives, and instead of distributing, like justice, to her own, she seeketh not her own; but seeks for the widow and fatherless, the poor, the needy, and oppressed.
In defending, justice judges, and demands †four or †seven fold. The judgments of charity are unnecessary, therefore she says, judge not, that ye he not judged. Charity advises, counsels, admonishes, and reproves, but judges no farther than judgment may be implied in these friendly acts.
† Exod. xxii, I. Prov. vi, 31. Either the seven-fold was a change made on the law of Moses, as David changed several things in that law. See Edwards's Hist. Redemption. or it was a proverbial expression for maniford, or full restitution.
Justice demands the lesser matters. Charity forbears them. Charity suffers long and is kind, and applies not even to justice until injuries become intolerable; and then she seeks not to revenge, but redress them.
Should you say that justice extends farther than to matters of property--so does charity. Does justice extend to the lives, reputations, and characters of men--so does charity. And even here she is pre-eminent. Justice says, thou shalt not take away life; charity says, thou shalt nourish it. Justice demands that I fairly represent the opinions and sentiments of men. Charity calls me to correct and reprove them if wrong; and bear them if they cannot be corrected. Justice says, compel no man to go with you a mile; charity says, if any man compel you to go with him one mile, go with him twain.
Possibly justice might proceed a little farther, and take into her own circle, some of those objects that are now classed among the objects of charity. Surely charity will ask, can nothing be done for the
indigent unhappy youth whose parent has sacrificed his property and his life in defence of his country!
This, indeed, seems to be the voice of justice; but after all that can be done, there will be no more proportion in their great outlines, between justice and charity, on the map of the human heart, than between a little island and a large continent on the map of the world.
I shall close the whole with the Apostle's observation, which is directly in point, and expresses the general sense of mankind about the excellence of charity. Scarcely for a righteous or just man will one die: Yet, peradventure, for a good or charitable man, would some even dare to die.
SUCH is the excellence of charity. Who are her friends? Who will rally around her standard? Who have been rallying around it already? This is a question the world can answer. Who has done this on proper principles, is a question we should answer ourselves.
Sons of Levi! ministers of mercy! Have you not already felt the motives to charity--a sense of duty and happiness? Has not the world already enrolled your names among the friends of charity--of literature--of liberty--and religion? Your master, my brethren, and mine, has placed us in the centre of the duties of charity. Were charity banished from the hearts of every other profession and class of men on earth, she ought, among us, to find an asylum. How should this make us feel the peculiar obligations of our office!
Our office is to promote charity, by preventing ignorance, prejudice, and error; and by attempting to diffuse knowledge human and divine. Our office is to alleviate the calamities that cannot be prevented,
and to persuade men to be kind and tende [ink spot] hearted. Not that we are exempted from the duties of justice. We are to be just as well as charitable, and owe no man any thing but to love one another.
One part of our office is to extend, as far as we can, the whole circle of human science. I shall not pretend to mention the advantages of each part; moral philosophy, geometry, language, &c. but only make one plain, obvious, and yet surprising observation--that the very reading of our bibles has presupposed the knowledge of no less than three languages, and of almost every science and art known among men. Ye aged! consider this, when your very sight is restored you by the united efforts of science and art.
Our office calls us to prevent all prejudices, and attempt to make men religious and liberal, by declaring to them the whole counsel of God. This counsel is very extensive. It comprehends the explication of doctrine, and the subjects of reasoning and argument. It comprehends a delineation of the religious exercises--the experience and feelings of the minds of good men. And it comprehends the whole christian practice or system of moral duties. They are all to be enforced and explained.
Now should we dwell altogether on speculation and argument, we might shew ourselves mere scholars, we might make our hearers vain janglers, Pharisees, and formalists; but we would act like the foolish physician, who would attempt to direct all the nutriment of the body to the head only. In this case the head might be swoln to an enormous size, and the man would be a monster, without heart or hands.
Again, should we dwell altogether, as some do, on religious experiences, inward frames and feelings,
some of our hearers would begin to suspect that we either wanted application, education or good sense, or perhaps all three; while others among them would be made mere visionaries and enthusiasts in religion. In a word, we would act like the foolish physician, who would attempt to direct all the nutriment in the human body, to the heart, which would have its faintings and flutterings because altogether disproportioned to the body and its members.
No less improper would it be to dwell altogether, or more than their proper proportion, on practice or moral duties. It would resemble the physician, equally foolish, who would consult only the active members--the feet and the hands, and thus render them disproportioned to the heart and head.
The truth is, religion is a great extensive whole, made up of a number of beautiful and well-proportioned parts, none of which can be wanted without injuring the whole.
Our office calls to the preaching and practice of charity--to the alleviating of the evils which cannot be prevented.
Now should any of us be going down with the Friest or Levite from Jerusalem to Jericho, should we see a poor man that had fallen among thieves, was wounded and half dead, should we pass by on the other side, leave the poor man wallowing in his blood, and harden our hearts against him. How are we the ministers of charity? How dwelleth the love of God in us?
Should we pass on to Jericho, and there see a School of prophets that called for our aid, should we see the sons of the prophets going forth with their axes to cut down timber for the building, should we refuse to go with them, or give them countenance and aid. How are we the ministers of mercy, or the
friends of that human knowledge without which religion can never be supported!
There is a connection in things that superficial observers do not discern. Christianity demands, and promotes a state of civilization. It cannot flourish in the savage wandering hunting-state. It both demands and introduces the settled, wealthy, respectable state of agriculture.† For it brings honour and wealth to a nation--righteousness exalteth a nation. It brings men into a state favourable to religious assemblies, and public worship. Hence the necessity of a regular well-educated ministry to preside in these assemblies, and hence again the necessity of public places to educate them.
† A comparison is often made between the morals of christians and heathens, to the disadvantage of christianity. The comparison would be fair, were both possessed of equal property, and had equal temptations to be intemperate and unjust.
I know that some denominations of christians do exist without a regular educated ministry; but it has been well observed, that they exist among such a ministry, and avail themselves of their labours: Just as a few individuals, who refuse to take arms, may be defended by those who take them. To state the matter fairly, we should suppose that both were separated from the rest of men, and were left to form a nation or a church by themselves. In that situation we would see how they would exist without education and without arms.
These ideas, in their connection, may shew the use of public seats of learning to religion and the church, in a general view. It is just to own, that some public teachers have gained liberal knowledge without a liberal education: But it is also just to ask, how have they gained it? When? And in what degree? They have gained it by reading
books which they could not write. They have gained it late in life, and therefore in a scanty portion. They can never add to the stock of human knowledge, for they can never reach as far as others have gone before them.
I might add, in their connection, that the national wealth and glory which christianity requires and promotes, the religious assemblies and worship it introduces, the regular well educated ministry it forms, and the seats of science at which they are formed, together with teachers in such seats, all demand liberty and good laws; otherwise the seats of literature shall be demolished, the ministers of the gospel persecuted, the wealth of the church and nation wasted, and their glory tarnished by the despotism of a tyrant, and the servility of slaves.
How, it will be asked, shall liberty be preserved? I reply again, in this connection of ideas, by raising up regular well educated ministers of state, who shall protect and favour religion, and form and execute righteous laws. How, and where, and when shall these ministers be thus qualified? I reply, by a well conducted, liberal, university education, begun in early life, at a place furnished with every possible convenience for the early and extensive acquisition of all useful knowledge, human and divine.
The two English Universities have been called the eyes of the nation, the lights of church and state, and prodigious have been their influence both in politics and religion. They have arrived at mature age. Ours is the infant of a day. It is just raising its feeble hands, and stretching them our. The one it holds out to the church, and the other to the nation. Let the ministers both of justice and mercy take it by the hand. It will one day, with the patronage of Heaven, reward us all.
To you, my brethren in the ministry, do I beg
leave to close this address, with this observation: I have not laid these things before you because I suspect your charity or zeal on the subject before us. I will say with the Reverend and worthy Mr. Bostwick, on a similar *occasion, there is but one preacher in this assembly that I suspect, but one heart that I distrust; and that preacher is myself, that heart is my own. God grant that I may never be diverted from the preaching and practice of charity, with a pure heart fervently.
* In a sermon of his preached many years ago before the Synod of New York and Philadelphia.
Let us suspiciously investigate our own motives; for here is, as to ourselves, the essence of the duty; and here is the danger of deception. Let us be charitable indeed. Our master calls by precept and example. Angels call. Our people call. They look for our example. Our office calls us to be ensamples to the flock, in all good things.
That the effort may be as universal as the call, let us banish prejudice, let us labour to possess and to impress a sense of happiness eternal in the heavens. This will lead to every duty.--I only add, be propitious Thou Father of all.†
† Since the time of delivering this sermon at the Synod, some have complained of seeming coldness in the clergy. If so great an object has been omitted in their public prayers. I hope it has been through inadvertence. I have the same hope if they have been otherwise inattentive.
Ministers‡ of justice and state! I am happy in seeing so many of you before me: I hope I have before me a fertile soil--good ground on which to sow the good seed of charity. For you are not exempted
‡ The preceding part of the Improvement was delivered before the Synod of the Carolinas; but most of it was omitted before the General Assembly; and the following was prepared and delivered in its room. This has added to the length of the sermon.
‡ The preceding part of the Improvement was delivered before the Synod of the Carolinas; but most of it was omitted before the General Assembly; and the following was prepared and delivered in its room. This has added to the length of the sermon.
from the duties of charity, though immediately called to exercise legislative justice.
God forbid that I should be so arrogant as to dictate to you on matters of legislation; but let me beg leave to remind you of the duties of charity.
Your office calls you to aim at the preventing of crimes, and the promoting of virtue, and thus to ward off calamities and diffuse happiness--while thus employed you are aiding charity. "Happiness is the great object of all. Happiness is the centre to which states as well as men are universally and powerfully attracted."† To diffuse the greatest possible degree of happiness in a given territory, is the aim of a good government, and therefore I hope will be your aim.
How you are to effect this, is a question of importance, and leads to observe,
That a state or nation cannot be happy without glory and wealth. "Ease without indolence, and plenty without luxury or want."‡ ‡ Vattel.
Nor can a people be happy without glory, that is without courage and clemency, without justice and generosity, without temperance, industry, frugality, charity, &c. For let these be reversed, and the nation is disgraced and destroyed.
Again, you can never promote the happiness of the state, without liberty and good laws. These are to check luxury, encourage industry, protect our persons, property and honest earned fame, and save from the infamous and arbitrary punishment of the bowstring* or Bastile.
* Eastern mode of punishment.
Again, how can you effect this without public general knowledge? "¶When the clouds of ignorance are dispelled by the radiance of knowledge, power
¶ Marquis de Beccaria.
¶ Marquis de Beccaria.
trembles, but the authority of the laws remains inviolable." Knowledge is the guardian of laws.
Public knowledge is public glory. Seats of science give dignity to the nation. They form her illustrious and dignified characters. Eritons glory in the name of Newton, and have given him a place among the sepulchres of her kings. Americans glory in the name of Franklin. Every nation boasts of her Literati who has them. Savage nations cannot have--rather cannot educate them; for many a Newton has been born and buried among savages.
Public knowledge, or knowledge diffused through all departments, is public wealth. The knowledge of agriculture, manufacture and commerce lays a foundation for the wealth of the state. It is the civilized nation that is rich--ignorant savage nations are always in poverty.
Ministers of state! I beg leave to ask, How can you preserve public knowledge without seats of literature? The experience of all ages has pronounced it impossible. Our own experience through the late war, proves it to be impossible.
The plain farmer or mechanic, may be amazed when they are told of advantages they have ever derived from a University. They are ignorant of the secret connection of things. They are ignorant of the improvement that human science has introduced into their own departments--as ignorant as they seem to be of the advantage of reading the scriptures in the vulgar tongue.
I beg leave to ask once more, Can you make laws and execute them without the assistance of religion? You may lay what plans you please for the happiness of your country, but you can never execute them without religion. What hold can you take of each other, or of your constituents, without the religion
of an oath? Without this, what can all your courts of justice do? Perjury they may punish, but cannot prevent.
How can the principles of religion be explained and inculcated without ministers of religion? You may as well make laws without law-makers, and hold courts without judges. If religion be necessary to the nation, so are its ministers. I say this not as a minister of religion, but as a member of the state--as a member of civil society.
If the ministers of religion be necessary or useful to the nation, enough has been said to show that they cannot be properly qualified but at seats of public education. If you with your teachers to be more useful, take the proper means to qualify them for usefulness.
To close the address.--Be charitable. Let charity insinuate itself into all your laws. Extend them as far as possible into the regions of charity. Do not irritate the prejudices of the weakest citizen, but honestly tell him your own opinion. This is the conduct of christian charity, which farther calls you to bear the prejudices you cannot remove.
Attempt to remove the prejudices against learning. Reflect on the importance of literature to religion--and of religion to the state. Attend public worship. Do you consider the ill consequences of your absence on the lower ranks of life? What are your reasons?--Perhaps that the preacher is without education--a noisy brawler. In the name of God then take the proper measures to give him a better education, and then come and hear him.
My hearers of all classes, ages and characters! View yourselves as citizens, and as christians by profession. And adore the King of saints and nations for the privileges you have both in prospect and possession. I have only time to observe, what you will
find on reflection to be true, that God has done more great and good things for you than he has ever done for any nation under heaven.†
† To draw out a parallel between ancient Israel and modern America, would both entertain and instruct. All that we have time to observe is, that Israel, at their first existence as a nation, were but half a million in number--in the wilderness at Sinai--not one nation their ally--forty years before they reached the land of promise--and seven before their wars ended w [no imprint] th the Canaanites.
We are more than six times their number--already in the promised land--not come to the mount that might not be touched, but to Mount Zion--almost all nations our friends--no wilderness to pass through or perish in--and a war that continued no longer than the war of Canaan.
"But miracles were wrought in their favour." I reply, "Those miracles which were once wrought for his chosen people, are renewed in our favour." (a) To give national laws in thunder and lightning to half a million of people, around the foot of a mountain, incapable of making laws for themselves, is doubtless a miracle: But to permit more than six times the said number of people, spread over a whole continent, different in manner, interests, politics, and religion--to permit them to make laws for themselves--to preside over their passions and prejudices while they are making them--and to effect all this without shedding one drop of human blood, is a greater miracle and a greater mercy.
(a) Mons. de Bandola. Gordon's Amer. War. Vol. iii, p. 264.
"A nation without laws, is an awful spectacle." (b) Such lately were we. Often has my heart trembled for my loved country. It is alarming to look back on the progress of our federal government. My soul, never reflect thou on the happy issue, without a most devout aspiration to Heaven.
For the sun to stand still, or the walls of a city to fall down at a given signal, are miracles; and when has "The interposition of Providence appeared more remarkably conspicuous than in the rescue of the post and garrison of West-Point." (c) "Or in the falling of the walls of another Jericho before another Joshua? When he whose voice commands the winds, the seas, and seasons, formed a junction of the same day, in the same hour between a formidable fleet from the south, and an army rushing like an impetuous torrent, from the north." (d)
(c) Words of General Washington.
(d) Monsieur de Bandola, Chaplain to the French embassy, on the reduction of Cornwallis, 1781.
I am as far from being a visionary or an enthusiast, as perhaps any man on earth; and yet I must join with many others in supposing that the preceding, and many other events not named, cannot be rationally accounted for on human principles. I therefore conclude, with the Psalmist, that these are the Lord's doing, and marvellous in our eyes.
And now what doth the Lord require of thee O my country! but to break off thy sins by repentance, and thine iniquities by Shewing mercy to the poor--to do justly, and love mercy, and walk humbly with thy God.
View yourselves again, for I hope you all wish to be viewed as christian professors, and thank God for the best religion that was ever given to men. The religion of Jesus, is the religion of charity. Cultivate this religion in your own hearts, and take the proper measures to promote it in the hearts of others.
Beware of prejudices against this religion; for great pains have been taken to do this. The books that have appeared against christianity have served to clear away the rubbish that has been heaped on it by its weak friends. They have driven in the clergy from their out-works--their earth-redoubts raised on untenable ground. After serving this purpose, they have disappeared--"Disappeared like comets that have a little while spread consternation: while the sacred writings, like the fixt stars, have shone with a steady lustre, though sometimes obscured by a passing cloud.["]†
† Seed's sermons.
Beware of prejudices against different denominations of religion. Designing men have availed
themselves of this. You have here‡ an excellent opportunity of detecting the fraud. You have here‡ an opportunity to see that there are as many different opinions about politicks as religion, and that statesmen are as much divided as churchmen.
The man, whose soul, like Solomon's, is as the sand that is on the sea-shore for largeness, will see the necessity of different opinions to preserve knowledge of every kind.
Behold the use of that charity which both gives and demands the liberty of thought!
Beware of prejudices against human science, and the seats of human science. The crafty foes of christianity have sometimes prejudiced its weak undesigning friends against them. Christianity, literature and liberty have all been exposed to similar objections, and they all admit of a similar defence. The good attending all of them has been greater than the evil. Of the good they have been the cause, and of the evil they have been only the occasion. They have caused good by diffusing knowledge and virtue; and they have occasioned evil by opposing ignorance and vice, or by being perverted by them.
The truth is, human science has promoted religion, liberty, national wealth and national glory.
Promote her then, O my country, and she will promote thee. Exalt her, and she will bring thee to honour. Every thing invites. Make the effort, and let it be the effort of all.†
† A solitary struggle can effect nothing. The effect will be in proportion to number. An effort in society will avail more than an effort in solitude. It has been demonstrated, that a single guinea given to the support of an hospital, will effect as much to relieve ten sick, as the same guinea to relieve one to whom it was entirely given. (a)
(a) Paley's Moral Philos.
To our young rising temple of science may this be applied. A guinea now given to promote education there, will effect more, on a large scale, than ten to forward the education of an indigent individual. In one case your charity can reach but a single object, in the other it may reach a thousand; for in the funds it will be continually accumulating. In the one case you do but relieve, in the other you prevent distress.
I say now given, because now is the accepted time. An aid now, is like an and which parents give their children when they begin to keep house. It is of more importance than twice the same aid afterwards given.
Let us not be discouraged by past disappointment. Our academic efforts have failed because they were partial. The present prospect is flattering, because on a large scale. The object is godlike, it is to prevent the evil and promote the good.
Let us not roll over the business on each other. Let not private charity altogether depend on legislative justice, nor vice versa. Our Legislators, we must say, have done well. Let us ask no more, but make a vigorous exertion on the principles of charity. This, in such cases, has been the most common way of proceeding. Should it fail, which is not probable, the charity of the Legislature will doubtless interpose and prevent.
Let us not, as individuals, think that others only are interested. Some say, "Let those be charitable who have children, or at least children to be educated for public life." They are, if any, the men that might be exempted. They who are without children have no such pretence. To give to the public a well educated, useful, professional member of society, is a grand and expensive donation indeed. It greatly surpasses, both in expence and importance, the education of a farmer or mechanic, and it is a donation frequently more useful to others than to the original donor.
Let us not excuse ourselves because we are poor. The story of the poor widow and her two mites, should never be forgotten. Let the poor join with the wealthy, and avail themselves of their abundance. Education can always be made easy to the poor, when teachers can be supported from generous funds.
As a state, let us view our standing in the Union--and as a continent or nation, among the nations of the world. Let us be roused by the exertions that have been made by others to promote science human and divine.
God will be with us. The object is his own. He prevents us with his loving kindness. It is true God has not prevented all misery; but has he done any thing as if on purpose to introduce it? It has been asked, "What member of the body, what power of the mind is formed to give pain!" It deserves then to be considered how far misery may arise from the very condition of our being, creatures at first without experience or habits; and also how far this misery may be prevented by the exertions of foresight, experience, and preventive charity. Let us then hope that God will be with us: For we are in this case, workers together with him. The holy angels who excel in knowledge, and I add in charity, who preside over nations and men, and perhaps seats of science, will be with us.
The spirits of the prophets, who have presided over the schools of the prophets--the spirits of the Apostles, who in the school of Christ were taught all the useful learning of the times, and who afterwards presided over the christian schools, will be with us.†
† Learning is the useful knowledge of the age we live in. The useful knowledge of that age, was the knowledge of the Jewish and Chaldee languages, Jewish music, Jewish laws and 'prophecies, or the knowledge of the Old; Testament. With all these the disciples were acquainted. Geography, astronomy, &c. were not known in their academies.
The friends of charity and literature are in good company. They are with the wife and blest, and their reward they will not lose. Heaven may realize their prospects here, and shew them the happiness of a nation whose God is the Lord.
However this be, ye friends of charity, you shall not lose your reward. While you live you shall be honoured by God, angels and good men. When you are sick, God will turn your bed in your sickness; when you die, they shall receive you into everlasting habitations; when you are judged you shall be acquitted, and your deeds of charity proclaimed before all.
Who would not be charitable, and who would not begin early to be so! Young men be charitable, and great will be your reward, should your life be long. Ye aged be charitable, your reward is at hand.
Foes to charity and learning! you are in bad company, and in the way to be in worse. Change sides. Come over to the other party. They open their arms to receive you. They now call you. They say come. Your Creator and Redeemer say come. The spirit and the bride--the church above and the church below, say come. Your country and your conscience, say come. Your Judge says, behold I come quickly and my reward is with me. Even so, come Lord Jesus. AMEN.
Return to Menu Page for A Charity Sermon... by Samuel Eusebius McCorkle
Return to The North Carolina Experience Home PageReturn to Documenting the American South Home Page