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feelings may be supposed to be so acute as not to be capable of being transfused into the bosom of one who is not exposed to such perils, conceive of persons immured in dungeons, or racked with pains and destitute of all needful succour; or contemplate the widow bereaved of all that she held dear in this world, and of all that she relied on for the support of herself and her helpless offspring ; I say, conceive of sorrows as brought home to your own bosom, and as experienced in your own soul; and then you will see how you ought to realize in your minds the miseries of others, and to pant for an opportunity to relieve them.] 2. Fervent prayer
[“ Intercession,” we are told, “ should be made for all men;" but more especially should it be so in behalf of those, whose troubles render them objects of more than ordinary compassion. St. James says, " Is
among you, let him call for the elders of the Church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord: and the prayer of faith shall save the sick: and, if he have committed sins, they shall be forgiven himb." You well know how a man will plead with God for the wife of his bosom, or for his beloved child, whose dissolution he apprehends to be fast approaching: Thus should we enter into the distresses of others also, and should plead with God in their behalf. David did thus even in behalf of his very enemies: “ When they were sick, my clothing was sackcloth, and I humbled my soul with fasting: and in this way should we also make our prayer unto God, in the hope that he will interpose effectually in their behalf, and bestow on them the blessings, which it is not within the power of any finite creature to impart.] 3. Active services
[We are not to say, “Be ye warmed, and be ye filled, and at the same time withhold” from our brethren the aid which we are able to bestowd: such compassion as that is mere hypocrisy. Our Lord tells us in what way our sympathy should display itself; " I was an hungered, and ye gave me meat; I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink; I was a stranger, and ye took me in; naked, and ye clothed me; I was sick, and ye visited me; I was in prison, and ye came unto mee." All indeed have it not in their power to exert themselves to the same extent: some have more leisure, and more ability, than others : but all can do something for their poor neighbours : some friendly service they can render; some word of comfort they can speak : and what they cannot administer in their own persons, they may procure through the instrumentality of others
b Jam. v. 14, 15.
c Ps. xxxv. 13.
At all events, if it be only a cup of cold water that we can bestow, it should be given with a zeal and tenderness that shall evince the strength of an internal principle, and the wish that our means were more adequate to the occasion.
The proper example for us to follow, is that of the Macedonians, of whom the Apostle testifies, that, notwithstanding they were themselves “ in a great trial of affliction, and in deep poverty, yet abounded unto the riches of liberality: and that to their power, yea, and beyond their power, they were willing of themselves; and prayed the Apostle with much entreaty to take upon himself the ministration of their bounty to the saints.” This is the point to be aimed at: there must first be a willing mind: and, where that is, God will accept the offering, however smallh.]
Such is the duty here inculcated. Let us now attend to, II. The consideration with which it is enforced
When the Apostle says, “Do this,” as being yourselves also in the body, he must be understood as intimating,
1. That we ourselves are exposed to the same afflictions as others
[And this is true respecting every living man. No one is exempt from trouble. If any man was ever justified in saying, “I shall die in my nest,” it was Job: yet behold he, with all his wealth and power, was in a few days reduced to the most abject state that can be imagined. There are ten thousand sources of affliction which God may open, and cause our souls to be deluged with it in an instant. Our bodies may be racked with disease, or our spirits be overwhelmed with domestic troubles: or, whilst all external things are prospering, our souls may
be bowed down with a sense of sin, and so agitated with a dread of God's judgments, that we may hate our very existence, and “ choose strangling rather than life.” Indeed whoever he be that thinks with David, “My mountain stands strong, I shall not be moved;" he may expect, that God will speedily “ hide his face from him; and that trouble shall ere long come upon him," as the punishment of his iniquity.]
If this were in aid of a Benevolent Society, or any other Charity, the particular benefits of the Institution, as imparting what no mere individual could impart, may be stated here. 8 2 Cor. viii. 1-4.
h 2 Cor. viii. 12.
2. That what measure we mete to others, we may expect to have meted to ourselves
(Mankind at large feel a far greater disposition to exert themselves in behalf of a man of active benevolence, than they do for one whose regards have terminated on himself alone. But it is not on the good dispositions of men that we are called to rely. God himself has engaged, that what we do for others, he will accept as done to himself; and “ that what we lend to him, he will repay us again." Very remarkable are his promises to this effect: “Blessed is he that considereth the poor: the Lord will deliver him in time of trouble. The Lord will preserve him, and keep him alive: and he shall be blessed upon the earth: and thou wilt not deliver him unto the will of his enemies. The Lord will strengthen him upon the bed of languishing; and make all his bed in his sickness'." The language of the Prophet Isaiah is yet stronger still: “If thou draw out thy soul to the hungry, (observe, it is not our money only, but our soul, with all its tenderest emotions, that is to be drawn forth,) and if thou satisfy the afflicted soul; then shall thy light rise in obscurity, and thy darkness be as the noon-day: and the Lord shall guide thee continually, and satisfy thy soul in drought, and make fat thy bones: and thou shalt be like a watered garden, and like a spring of water, whose waters fail notk. Here Almighty God himself is pledged to recompense into our bosom the kindness which we shew to others : and “ he will recompense it in full measure, pressed down, and running over.” If then we would have consolations ministered to us in our troubles, let us labour to impart them to our afflicted brethren: for “what we sow, we shall reap;" if we supply the wants of others, God will supply ours'; and if “ we cast our bread upon the waters, we shall be sure to find it after many days."] For your direction in reference to this duty, we beg
leave to offer the following hints : 1. Do not undervalue the grace of charity
[It is too often overlooked, not only by the world at large, but also by many who profess godliness; who imagine, that faith in the Lord Jesus Christ is all that is needful for their best interests. But let me say, that, whatever faith a man may have, “ if he have not love also, real, active, selfdenying love, he is no better than sounding brass or a tinkling cymbal.” Only recollect how great a stress St. James lays on “ visiting the fatherless and widows in their affliction," when he declares, that “pure and undefiled religion” mainly consists in such offices; and you will never be satisfied till you
i Ps. xli. 1-3.
k Isai. lviï. 10, 11.
1 Phil. iv. 14, 19.
attain this heavenly disposition, nor ever think that you can exercise it too much.] 2. Do not overvalue it
[If you put your own benevolence in the place of Christ, and rely on that to purchase the remission of your sins, you will then indeed build on a foundation of sand. Know, that however much you may abound in acts of benevolence," you are still unprofitable servants, who have done only what it was your duty to do.” If you really seek the glory of God in what you do, your services will come up with acceptance before him, and they will be to him as an odour of a sweet smell. But you must never forget that “your goodness extendeth not to God," nor can confer any obligation upon him. On the contrary, the more you do for him, the more you are indebted to him; because all
either to will or do what is good, is from him alone.” “It is not you that do it, but the grace of God that is with you.”] 3. Endeavour to abound in it more and more
[See the character of holy Job: “When the ear heard me, then it blessed me; and when the eye saw me, it gave witness to me: because I delivered the poor that cried, and the fatherless, and him that had none to help him: the blessing of him that was ready to perish came upon me; and I caused the widow's heart to sing for joym.” O what a lovely character was that! What a bright resemblance of the Saviour, “who went about doing good!”. Dear brethren, set this example before you,
and strive to imitate it to the utmost of your power. Thus will you shine as lights in the world; and thus “ fulfilling the law of Christ”," you will ensure his approbation in the day of judgmento.] m Job xxix. 11–13.
n Gal. vi. 3. • Heb. vi. 10. 1 Tim. vi. 17-19.
MMCCCXLIII. GOD'S PROMISED PRESENCE AN ENCOURAGEMENT TO DUTY. Heb. xiii. 5, 6. Let your conversation be without covetous
ness, and be content with such things as ye have : for he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee. So that we may boldly say, The Lord is my helper, and I will not fear what man shall do unto me.
THE end of knowledge is practice: and hence the Apostle closes all his epistles with practical exhortations. The argumentative part of this epistle terminated at the close of the preceding chapter. This chapter begins with some particular exhortations suited to the Hebrews at that time. The advice contained in our text is suited to the Church in every state and every age : and the encouragement with which it is enforced, gives it a more than common interest. In truth, it is the promised presence and assistance of God, which is our great incentive to every duty; since without his aid we can do nothing, but with it can effect whatsoever God himself requires of us.
Let us consider,
The promise was originally given to Joshua : but in our text it is represented as spoken to each of us. And in this light it ought to be viewed: for it was not given to Joshua as a mere insulated individual, but as the head of God's people, whom he was conducting into Canaan: and between them and us there is a close resemblance: they were about to conflict with many enemies, whom they must destroy, before they could possess the promised land : and we also must sustain many conflicts before we can attain the full enjoyment of the heavenly Canaan. To us therefore there is the same need of the promise, as to him; and to us also is there the same right and title; seeing that it was spoken for the encouragement of all God's Israel to the end of time.
The promise that God “will not leave us nor forsake us,” imports that he will be ever with us, 1. By the operations of his providence
[There is not any thing in the whole universe which is not under his controul. “ Not even a sparrow falls to the ground" without his special appointment: and “the very hairs of our head are all numbered.” Circumstances indeed may occur which may cause us to tremble for the issue of them : but he will so overrule them all, as to “ make them eventually work together for our good a.” We may be reduced almost to
a Rom. viii. 28.