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S EIR M O N XIV.
THE EVANGELICAL CHARITY.
1 Cor. xiii. 5, 6. Charity seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil; rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth.
HOW excellent is the spirit of that religion which enlarges and exalts the mind; that teaches the social affections to expand; and, banishing all that is sordid or selfish from the heart, inspires it with the most diffusive benevolence, and the most unbounded love of human kind. . Such is the religion of a Christian. In the first dawn of its publication, its professors were distinguished by a degree of moral excellence which philosophy had contemplated, but had never practised. Who can read without admiration, without catching something of a divine enthusiasm, the account which the writer of the Acts has X
given us of the first little united band of Christians ? o All that believed, says he, were together, and had all things common. And sold their possessions and goods, and parted them to all men, as every man had need. And they continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, did eat their meat with GLADNEss and SINGLENESS OF HEART. Praising God, and having favour with all the people. However simple this narrative may appear, it exhibits a most lively picture of THE EvanGELICAL CHARITY, in its various effects. All that believed were together. It was natural for a newly established sect to associate; but the union of the Christians was rendered dear and indissoluble by that charity which was originally inspired from above. By the precepts of their divine Master the disciples had been taught to unite in affection, to love and to serve one another; but from the influences of that Comforter which he had promised, they now experienced a new attachment, and a tenderness towards each other, which was derived from the spirit of infinite benevolence. The promise which the deceiver made to
our first parents, that by eating of the forbidden fruit they should be as gods, the disciples of Christianity effectually experienced. Their hearts are refined from human depravity, and they appeared actuated only by that social and indiscriminate kindness, which we apprehend to be the distinguishing attribute of the Deity. I say, indiscriminate kindness; for the inspired writer informs us, they were not only dear to each other, but that they had favour of ALL the people—a proof that their benevolence was universal; for, when the unimproved, state of human nature is considered, there can be no doubt but that they had amply merited this popular favour by their extensive kindness, and their open liberality. VI. Charity seeketh not her own. . No sooner were the Christians united by this principle of love, than all thoughts of private interest or property were overborne. They had all things common ; and sold their possessions and goods, and parted them to all men, as every man had need. It is impossible to consider these overflowings of an amiable and enthusiastic generosity without pleasure and admiration; but impartiality must acknowledge that it was too great to be lasting, and too diffusive to be long supported. Had this spirit of unbounded benevolence and liberality been universal, and had the world been carried away by the same happy enthusiasm, the consequences would not have been so inconvenient; but it was necessary that the votaries of Christianity should subsist by a commerce with men of different persuasions, who would avail themselves of the unbounded generosity of the former, without relieving the distresses which that generosity would produce. Hence we find that the members of the infant church were frequently in the most necessitous circumstances, and that the apostles had many times occasion to solicit contributions to the household of faith. But however inconvenient this large liberality, this total disregard of private property, might, in some respect, be found, it was certainly preferable to that unfeeling selfishness, which has disgraced the later ages of the Christian world. Long, alas ! hath been fled the liberal spirit of that charity which seeketh not her own. Its general influence, at least, hath long been lost; for, though we see some glorious instances of the most pure and disinterested benevolence, how 'deeply sunk in selfishness are the bulk of mankind how destitute of every principle that centres not in private