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DELIVERED AT HOXTON ACADEMY CHAPEL, FEBRUARY 6, 1825.
REGARD TO THE AFFAIRS OF OTHERS.
PHILIPPIANS, II. 4.
"Look not every one on his own things, but every one also on the things of others."
THIS sentence of St. Paul's letter to the Christians at Philippi, I consider as a precept addressed to those only, whose hearts are imbued with a principle of love to God and man; for if addressed to an unregenerated heart, or a mind destitute of a principle of piety and benevolence, it would produce nothing but mischief. A selfish creature's looking on the things or affairs of others, and intermeddling with them, can effect no good to that other person: but, contrariwise, may do him much harm. The looker-on, if he sees wants, does not relieve them, if he sees imperfections, he exposes them, instead of endeavouring to hide and remove them; if he sees inconsistencies and follies, he ridicules them and pours forth his contempt; if he sees weaknesses, he endeavours to avail himself of them, to benefit and aggrandize himself: therefore it is only he who loves God with all his heart, and his neighbour as himself, that can look on the things of others, and attend to them, in a manner that is beneficial to those other persons. But all sincere Christians profess to love God and their neigh
bour; therefore I shall feel justified, in addressing Christians on this occasion, to exhort them, individually and collectively, not only to look to their own affairs, but also to the affairs of others. And in the way in which I have guarded the application of this principle, I shall not feel myself justly chargeable with an endeavour to inculcate a spirit of improper interference; the spirit of a meddlesome person; a troubleseme busy-body: nor yet shall I feel justly charged with calling upon persons to neglect their own affairs, and officiously interfere with the affairs of others; or, as the Chinese express it, neglect their own field, and affect to cultivate their neighbour's;-leave their own door choked up with snow, and run to sweep the snow off their neighbour's house-top. There are such persons in the world, but Scripture and reason condemn them; and although selfishness, and a hard-hearted indifference to the cause of God and man, may caricature, and with such allegations calumniate an enlarged benevolence; we maintain that it is not difficult to distinguish a pernicious busybody, from an ever active and benevolent good man. Religion must not be neglected and set aside, because there are hypocrites; nor must a Christian draw back and retire within himself, because there are ambitious, bustling, noisy, and would-be philanthropists.
Our text says, "Look not every man on his own things," and a caviller may say, it teaches a man to overlook his own affairs and neglect them, in order that he may attend to the affairs of others, which is a proceeding altogether unreasonable. But those acquainted with the idiom of the original language, know that the meaning of the passage is not thus; but that it directs every man to look at, or regard, in all he says and does, not his own welfare only or solely, but also to have a regard (at the same time that he studies his own welfare) to the temporal and spiritual welfare of others. It is well known that the New Testament teaches Christians to be sober, to be vigilant, to be watchful, to be industrious in all that concerns their own hearts, their personal and domestic interests, and to seek the good of the land they live in; and therefore every
candid reader will interpret the expression in our text, in the way which has now been done, and consider it as directed against the demon or idol of self, which regards not the discomfort, the ignorance, the want, the misery of others; but which is wholly absorbed about its own things. Self-gratification, which is totally regardless of the misery occasioned to others, is the cruel idol worshipped by the man of pleasure; self-interest is the idol of the covetous, a false god, much worshipped in Christendom, as well as in pagan lands; self-aggrandizement is the idol of the ambitious; and self-ease, self-comfort, and self-edification constitute a sort of household god, secretly worshipped by many a pious Christian.
But "charity seeketh not her own" exclusively; a spirit of heaven-derived benevolence loves her neighbour as herself, regards not only her own gratification, interest, aggradizement, ease, comfort, edification, and happiness; but also desires and labours to promote all these in reference to other persons, families, districts, and nations. The idol of self is thrown down, and God and his creatures are restored to that place in our affections and regards, which is their just right.
Although each person cannot make his or her individual exertions universally beneficial to others, still a spirit of universal benevolence can be cherished, and be productive of the greatest benefit, by disposing the heart to do good to others, whenever or wherever, on every possible occasion, an opportunity is presented. Those who cherish this spirit never say, when it is in the power of their hand to do good, "This is not my concern; that man is not a Jew, but a Samaritan; or he is a Jew, and not a Samaritan, and I will pass by on the other side, and leave him in his distress, and will turn my attention home, for charity begins at home." No; the principle we advocate would prevent this selfish pretext; and I do maintain, (although the sentiment be in opposition perhaps to the opinions of some good men,) that the idea of universal benevolence is not a useless visionary notion; but it is a rational, scriptural, christian idea; and my reason is this:-Christians are in
scripture taught to imitate the universal benignity of the Deity, whose tender mercies are over all his works, and who causes his sun to rise and shine on all the nations, and on all classes of persons, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust. And Christians are further taught in that very Letter of St. Paul, in which our text lies, to imitate not only the extent, but the degree of the Saviour's benevolence; if we can apply the word benevolence to the inexpressible and utterly inconceivable charity, which induced him to look upon our lost and ruined world, and interfere to effect our eternal salvation. Let the same mind, says St. Paul to the Christians at Philippi, be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus, who, (although in the form of God-and incomprehensibly glorious and blessed-and equal with God-still, although thus rich in glory and blessedness ;) for our sakes emptied himself, and became poor, and made himself of no reputation; and assumed the form of a servant, and the likeness of men; and laid himself low, and submitted to death, even the ignominious and cruel death of the cross. Now it was in pity to all ranks and conditions of men, and for polluted, guilty, wretched, creatures in all nations, and amongst all peoples and languages, that he thus humbled himself and shed his blood; and never can benevolence so disinterested, or to such a degree, or to such an extent, be equalled, any more than the infinite beneficence of the Deity can be equalled by the puny efforts of feeble man: but still, you perceive the Bible commands Christians to imitate the one as well as the other; to cherish the same mind that was in Christ Jesus, when he looked on the affairs and died for the re
demption of the world. Universal benevolence, then, is a scriptural idea; and to cherish such a sentiment, a christian duty.
And how wonderfully comprehensive is the precept that requires this duty-Be ye imitators of God and of the Saviour! The natural perfections of the Deity are indeed inimitable; we cannot imitate omnipotence and create a world; nor can we imitate omniscience, and therefore should not affect to judge the world: but we are commanded to
imitate the moral perfections of God Almighty, Father, Son, and Spirit ;-to be just as God is just; to be holy as he is holy; pure as he is pure; merciful as he is merciful; and in benignity and charity to resemble him; to forgive as he forgives us; to be patient as he is patient to us; and every one of us to look on the affairs of others, as Christ Jesus looked upon ours ;-with similar mercy, and with similar exertions; to bear with others; to labour for others; to suffer deprivations and insults; and, if necessary, death for the sake of others.
Be ye imitators of God, and like-minded with Christ.Oh, what a rule of Christian ethics is this! and how gloriously peculiar is our holy religion in this! Neither ancient nor modern Pagans could say to the people, "Be ye imitators of your gods," without saying with the same breath, "Be ye vicious, or impure, or cruel;" nor can the priests of Mahommed tell the Musselmen to imitate their prophet, without implying the same absurdity.
Did that principle of benevolent concern for others generally prevail, it would prevent, and in every instance in which it does exist, it does prevent injustice and injuries, and the withholding of rights, and it insures the bestowment of positive good. If the people of Europe called Christians, had looked with a benevolent eye on the affairs of the sons of Africa, how could the abominable Slave-trade ever have been suffered to grow to that horridly cruel and malignant height that it did? If the people of this land called Christians, had looked with a benevolent eye on the poor families around them, how could their children have remained, generation after generation, growing up, and living, and dying in gross ignorance and vice; whilst those who had it in their power to instruct gratuitously, and those whom the funds of the country maintained for the purpose of instructing the people, very generally stood by unconcerned? If at this day the christian churches cherished the principle of henevolent concern for others, to the degree which comes at all near to an imitation of the Saviour, would they view with that, apathy which they still do, the situation of hundreds of millions of