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AN ESSAY ON THE IMPORTANCE OF
the truest satisfaction, it shed a genial ray, a sort of consolatory light, in the most
stormy scenes through which he traversed, The duty of charity is repeatedly enforced and in the darkest day in which he lived. in the writings of the Old, and no less fre From those who possess opulent resources, quently urged in the records of the New either transmitted by their ancestors, or Testament. It is there held up to our accumulated by their own industry, it is attention, as a command involving many urgently required, and especially comimportant sanctions and awful denounce manded by the Almighty; hence, of them ments, to be daily practised; and not “to whom much is given, much certainly merely occasionally dispensed, as caprice will be required.” Parsimony in such may dictate, or passion control.
cases is highly detestable in the sight of In every age of the world, and under all God, and is injustice the most palpable to forms of government, whether rude or those of their species who are less abuncivilized, if their opinions were diverse, or dantly favoured with earthly gifts. their practices were in other respects re It ought to be their highest ambition to pugnant to each other, they all agree in imitate in some degree the undistinguishing assigning to the virtue of benevolence the munificence of Him“ who giveth to all most exalted rank; in celebrating its rights, men liberally, and upbraideth not." Whatand abstaining from the least violation of its ever superfluity of blessings He has given laws, as displaying the most amiable dis us to enjoy, we ought consequently to positions of the heart. In accordance with employ them in the laudable endeavour the primary dictates of nature, and the self of contribiting to the happiness of the evident suggestions of reason, it will be wretched, in cheering the abodes of poverty, found that men are, in general, loved and in softening the miseries of disease, in honoured in proportion to the gifts they lightening the pains of decrepitude, and in have bestowed upon mankind. If we re easing the agonies of death.
These are fer to the opinion of the wise and illustrious natural evils to which all are exposed, men of the heathen world on this subject, though it is very apparent there is a great we shall find that their suffrages all tend to difference in the degrees of distress; yet it assert the necessity of beneficence ; and to must be considerably aggravated, when consolidate the prevalent truth, that charity even the most absolute necessaries for the is at once amiable in its appearance, as well support of mere animal life can be but as beneficial in its tendency.
precariously obtained. Such cases pathetiBut to Christians, the importance of cally appeal to our humanity, and loudly. this duty is materially enhanced, from the call for our speedy commiseration and variety of incitements to its practice, con- ready succour. tained in the injunctions of scripture ; which It would be difficult to imagine, were it are solemnly reiterated and confirmed by not for instances of this miserable selfishthe highest authority, even the declarations ness, that come too often under our obof inspiration. For every part of that servation, that any one would be unwilling sacred volume abounds either with precepts
to offer assistance in such emergencies, that direct us to obey its admonitions, or even as a trivial acknowledgment of his with examples that inculcate it as patterns daily dependence on the never-failing supfor our serious imitation. The most venera plies of the universal Benefactor. If we ble patriarchs, whose characters are por- allude merely to the instability of human trayed with the truest fidelity and the most enjoyments, and the fluctuations to which beautiful simplicity, in the luminous pages prosperity is ever liable, (for no man can of holy writ, were particularly distinguished be absolutely certain that what he possesses for their uniform observance of the rights of to-day, he may not be deprived of before hospitality. Amidst the numerous afflic- the return of to-morrow,) that he could tions by which Job was at one time sur deny pecuniary aid, and even human symrounded, he found the remembrance of his pathy, to a fellow-creature, a sharer of the former charity a source of unspeakable same nature, and a denizen of the earth ; comfort to his troubled spirit. The pleas- upon the consideration, founded solely on ing recollection that he had attended to secular wisdom, that what he refuses to the cries of the miserable, dispensed food to the needy suppliant at the present juncture, the hungry, and clothed the naked—that he may, by a sudden reverse in the ceaseless he had aided the widow, and protected the ` rotation of human affairs, have, at no very orphan-that he had relieved a portion of distant period, occasion to solicit from the the calamities of life, and mitigated the bounty of another, and have to encounter sorrows of the oppressed; this afforded him a chilling repulse, alike impenetrable to his 2D. SERIES, NO. 14.- VOL. 11.
most urgent entreaties, But we may be uniform course of our benevolence. We readily convinced, if we look around us must rather, solely and habitually act, not with an observing eye, that there are those from temporal views, but from the proper in whose minds depravity has gained such motives to charity, from higher dictates a powerful ascendancy, that they can look and a nobler philanthropy, which arise with insensibility and comparative indif- from a steady faith in the validity of the ference, on every gradation of misery, and promises of God, and the firm expectation variety of cruelty, without rendering the of an adequate rewa only to be obtained least assistance, or proffering the slightest in a future state. For, as a great writer on alleviation.
this subject has appositely remarked, “to It may with truth be said, that avarice hope for recompense in this life, is not beis the predominant and unalterable. passion neficence, but usury." of base minds, and likewise a decisive One of the principal arguments that can mark of a shallow, if not an illiterate, un be adduced, to enforce this great and moderstanding. It is to be feared, that those mentous duty, in its widest latitude of whose feelings are thus warped, whose pas- meaning, is drawn from the brevity of life, sions are disordered, whose reason is per- and the uncertainty of our continuance verted, and who have received this fatal here. If we reflect for a moment-howbias, perhaps first induced by an errone ever large our treasures may be, or extenous education, and afterwards confirmed sive our domains, we know that we cannot into an inveterate habit ; nothing will retain them but for a very short time, at the awaken to the pure sentiments of disinter most. Then, as stewards entrusted, by the ested benevolence, short of the meliorating Lord of all, with a superior portion of his operation and expanding influence of goods, ought we not to dispense his bounty
and scatter his gifts with a liberal hand to There are various causes which produce the poor and needy, while we have the a flow of liberality, and instigate the dis means in our power; for the employment tribution of bounty; some proceed from of the talents now committed to our care ostentatious and ignoble motives, others will eventually determine our eternal desarise from pure and virtuous principles. tiny. There are those, whose chief aim in distri Annexed to the proper use and the buting their donations is, to secure the right distribution of the blessings we posfavour of the multitude, and gain the sess, as all are exposed to numerous evils applause of their contemporaries ; to see and various troubles, is the promise of the their name blazoned in the gazette of the Omnipotent, to deliver such in the day of day, or inserted in some of the popular trouble, and the hour of necessity; even at records appropriated for the acknowledg- that time, when all are obliged to confess ment of charitable subscriptions. Others their extreme impotence and utter imbegive, from an expectation that they shall cility; “when both heart and strength fail;" ultimately receive a liberal compensation “ when the shadow of death compasseth for what they may be thus induced to ad- them about;" of such it is said, “their vance, and regulate the extent of their righteousness shall go before them, and the bounty according to the probability there glory of the Lord shall be their rere-ward." is that it is likely to be reimbursed with an Farther than this, what stronger incitement advantageous increase. But whatever sinis can be offered, what motive more powerful ter design may have prompted them to can be urged, what argument more conacts of charity, and with whatever degree vincing can be employed, than to discharge of success they may have imposed upon this great duty from the sole conviction that mankind, whether they have acted from a it is to obtain the approbation of Him, genuine or a fictitious principle, whether 6 whom to know is life eternal ?" from a pure heart fervently, or not, will be But these incomparable rewards are far distinguished by Him alone who shall pre- from being inseparably connected with side as judge amidst the stupendous dis- those who are in affluent circumstances. closures of the last day.
Charity is an universal duty, incumbent on Some are desirous, when they distribute all ranks, and therefore undoubtedly is, in their favours, that there should be a cor some way or another, in every man's power responding sense of gratitude evinced by to practise. The least mite, when accomthe party benefited, which is certainly both panied with the proper motives, and given just and equitable, as the only equivalent with a sincere attempt to do good, cannot in their power to offer; but this must not fail to be equally acceptable to God as be regarded, though it is lamentably to be the most elaborate design or costly sacri. deplored, or at least so as to obstruct the fices: He that is incapable of benefiting
his neighbour by a pecuniary donation, has “known to our Father which seeth in probably the means in his power to dis. secret." pense instruction to minds more ignorant By this precept it is not to be underthan his own; he can pay many little offices stood, that all public acts of charity should of kindness in the chamber of sickness, and be entirely superseded; for we are comgive assistance to the langours of decay; manded to “let our light so shine before or, he can protect unguardianed innocence men, that they may see our good works, from the insults of the proud, and help and so be led to glorify our Father which it to avoid the snares of the cruel. So is in heaven.” The right and legitimate that all are allowed to participate in the de- meaning of which declaration evidently lights which never fail to accompany bene- implies, that the desire to be seen and advolent deeds; and even in giving a cup of mired should not be the ruling motive of cold water to the thirsty traveller, from the our actions, but that our paramount object limpid stream, our Saviour has said, “it in all such transactions should be, the shall not lose its reward.”
honour of God, and the glory of his holy Some there are who delight to dwell on name.” the general excellence of charity, if it could
T. Royce. be always administered to worthy objects, Leicester, Oct. 3, 1831. and pretend to admire the propriety of the precepts which emphatically inculcate it as an essential part of christian duty. But they discover so many instances in which [“ The words 'no more,' have a singular pathos ; charity has been perverted, and such very
reminding us at once of past pleasure, and the future exclusion of it.")
Shenstone. ill effects have proceeded from undistinguishing liberality, that the most fervent In observing the operations of nature, wheappeal to their generosity is seldom requited, ther in the animal, vegetable, or mineral and the best-accredited recital of a tale of kingdoms, we cannot help perceiving a calamity is repelled, from a too scrupulous beautiful analogy. One class so insensibly fear they should be the dupes of imposture, unites with another, that it is often difficult and the encouragers of idleness in any of to decide where the one terminates and its forms. Those who adopt such excuses, the other begins. In the animal creation and raise numerous objections to every this is more particularly manifest, where method of charity as soon as ever the plan creatures of a totally distinct genus are found is devised, or the statement proposed, too to possess such a propinquity in some of generally make them a subterfuge for the their species, that we cannot but admire purpose of being exempt altogether from the uniformity as well as the variety disthe practice of alms-giving.
played in their formation. It is with such But surely all further proof is rendered reflections as these, that we observe the nugatory, when our blessed Redeemer has analogy still carried on in man, as regards expressly declared, that those, and those his mental capacity. The different powers only, who have shown mercy to their fellow- of the human mind, though distinct from creatures, “shall finally obtain mercy from each other, often unite so insensibly, that bim, and be numbered amongst the blessed they are lost in one. Thus, by means of of his Father.” Our Saviour, in his own the words no more,' is a union formed in upblemished conduct, has set us a perfect the mind, between the memory of the past example of unwearied and disinterested and the anticipations of the future. Here, benevolence ; the distinguishing charac- the analogy still continues between the teristic of his life was, that he continually thoughts and feelings of man; and in re" went about doing good.” Besides con- viewing his pains and pleasures, we often descending to inform us of the necessity see these involuntary exercises of the inteland importance of charity, he has likewise lect and the heart connected by links, taught us, in the most explicit manner, how which, though delicate as the thread of the our services may be rendered acceptable to fates, can never be broken till time shall Him. He has told us they must be per- cease to be.
not with a vain desire to gain ap- There is something within that attaches plause ; 'that we must divest ourselves of us to every thing around, even to inanimate all pride, abhor all notions of self-conceit, objects, except where painful associations and not imagine that, in executing our duty, exist. There is generally a great repugwe are accomplishing works of superero- nance in man to leave those spots in which gation, or as a succedaneum for the vital he has been accustomed to dwell. His spirit of true piety; but conduct our charity imagination, though it may rove very in such a manner as to be principally widely, generally rests on these as the most
legitimate objects of his love. The hardy remembrance of past pleasure, and give a Norwegian, whose only music, during the subtler edge to misery in itself almost long wintry night, in the wild regions of insupportable. We know that when the snow, is the creaking of the ice-crusted pine, mournful heart looks forward to brighter or the blustering storm, would not leave his hours, and imagination paints the scene of dreary home without a pang, when he felt gladness returning, more vividly tinctured he should see it no more. And thus it is with the colours of hope, there is some congenerally; a parting for ever, calls up emo solation even in grief. We have also sometions within the breast, that seem interwoven times felt that the bitterness of sorrow is by nature.
assuaged by the remembrance of the past, We will take another step, even to the when the eye, by a fascinating charm, reverts attachment that often exists between man to “ dreams of former days," and hours of and the brute creation. And there is no one fleeting, yet delicious happiness. But he who will deny, that the death of an affec- who was born in misery, who has never tionate, though mute companion, or sepa. been relieved from pain, and anticipates ration from it for ever, excites some feelings no change, cannot feel the anguish of him of sorrow. But with respect to that close who has enjoyed pleasures he never can union of mind with mind in friendship, the enjoy again. The dreariness of a winter shock is much greater. Deeply mournful never visited by the rays of the sun seems are those sensations, when they, who have less insupportable, than when its chilling been united by every sentiment of esteem gloom closes upon the lovely beauty of and affection, part to meet 'no more.' spring for ever. Then indeed do these words possess an
In addition to individual separation, influence over the mind, which no human there is also that sympathy which man feels aid can alleviate; and, as the rude tearing when contemplating the wrecks of time, of the woodbine from the sweet-briar, the when musing upon the departed glory of closer they are united, the more painful the nations, and the total subversion of empires. separation.
As history unfolds her instructive scroll, A finer instance of this kind cannot per- how may we observe the rise and fall of haps be given than the parting of the elders human grandeur ! How often may the of Ephesus from St. Paul. This, which is mute page mournfully break its silence, and one of the most affecting interviews on sing with the Mantuan bard, scripture record, displays the christian and
“Fuimus Troes, fuit Ilium, et ingens the man. It beautifully shews how chris
Æneid, Lib. ii. tianity, instead of deadening to apathy, refines the feelings, while it prepares its and say, these have been, and great was own balm. Here, not merely the recipro. their glory, but now they are no more.' city of sentiment and affection-of isolated Few cities rivalled Babylon in magnifiopinion and party affection--but the pure cence and importance, and of few has the esteem, and love which springs from destruction been so complete. Rescued deep insight of character, was displayed in from a flat morass occasioned by the overthese holy men. The apostle was to the flowings of the Tigris and Euphrates, at a elders as a messenger of light, even the very early period in history, by Semiramis, pure light of the gospel; the elders were to it rapidly rose to the highest importance. the apostle as children brought by himself According to ancient historians, it formed to his Redeemer, as a “crown of rejoicing” a regular square, forty-five miles in comamidst the hottest persecution. Here they pass, enclosed by a wall two hundred feet metấto part for ever. After an exceed- high and fifty broad. To this vast city ingly affectionate and earnest address, he there were a hundred gates of brass, five kneeled down, and prayed with them all. and twenty on each side, and streets that And they all wept sore, and fell on Paul's ran from gate to gate; and its strength and neck and kissed him, sorrowing most of all size such, that it could never have been for the words which he spake, that they taken by siege, but in the manner menshould see his face no more.''
tioned in scripture. When we read of But it may be some speculation, whether these, and dwell on its magnificent palaces, the melancholy anticipation of the future is its colossal temple, and the pensile garat all cheered by the retrospect of thought; dens,* erected on an artificial mountain, or whether that wretch is less miserable, who, never having tasted happiness, cannot
* Eusebius relates, that Nabuchodonosor built be liable to have it withheld from him. this extraordinary garden on the new palace, There is something so agonizing in eternal
which he had erected for his queen Nitocris, who
was brought up in Media, to delight herself with separation, that it cannot but blot out the
the prospect of the mountainous country.
planted with trees of the largest and most pile, which marks some spot renowned in beautiful kind, and laid out with
chivalry. How delightful are those pensive Orange groves, and citron, myrtle walks, feelings with which we contemplate these Alleys of roses, beds of sweetest tlowers, ruins, venerable with “the mantling ivy's Their riches incense to the dewy breeze, Breathing profusely:"
verdant wreath !" Deserted and lonely,
they seem to mourn as the fitful breezes when we dwell on these, and on its con- wandering near, fluence of the wealth, wit, and beauty of “Wake such faint sighs, as feebly might express the whole world, our sympathy is greatly Some unseen spirit's woe for their lost loveliness," excited at its utter destruction. With a
though now deep sense of awe, we behold the fulfilment of the prophecy, “She that was the beauty*
“To voice of praise or prayer, or solemn sound
Of sacred music, once familiar here, of kingdoms shall not be inhabited for Their walls are echoless." ever;" and, in beholding its complete fulfilment, we may take up the song of the
But to return to our subject, as connected prophet, whose vision alone extended to
with individual separation, since it is here futurity, “How art thou fallen from heaven,
that we more peculiarly feel its force. When O Lucifer, son of the morning !"
the first pangs are over, and the mind reThe subversion of the empire. by Cyrus, tiring into itself is left for reflection, then gave Babylon its first and terrible blow, do these words not only present the remem. when, by the turning of the Euphrates, its brance of past happiness in conjunction ancient character as a morass returned with the anticipation of future misery, but The Persian monarchs made no use of it they invest with an indescribable charm all as a royal city, preferring Ecbatana and those objects with which we were once surPersepolis; while the Macedonians, who rounded. Beings whom we have loved succeeded the Persians, suffered it to fall rise in the memory more beautiful than the into decay for want of repair. The city of reality found them. Minds and sympathies Ctesiphon being built near it, the inhabitants once bound by silken ties, become doubly of Babylon migrated thither, till nothing was
endeared, now they are eternally separated. left of the ancient city but its walls. Though Scenes that have witnessed our mutual joy Alexander, in his mighty projects, resolved breathe an imaginary pleasure. Rocks, to restore its importance, his plans were
groves, and streams, to which we have given arrested by death. The kings of Persia,
our last farewell, receive the mournful shade by converting it into a park for the diver. that melancholy throws over them, when we sion of hunting, completely fulfilled the feel we shall see them ‘no more.'
We prophecy, rendering its pavilions and pa pass through life, our days chequered laces the dens of wild beasts. The walls,
“ with gleams of joy and clouds of woe." being built of earth dried on the spot, upon
We are called upon, as time wings his the inundation of the country, soon dis. rapid career, to bid adieu to friends whose solved into a quagmire; and hence, among memory we revere,' and to leave objects, other causes, not a vestige is left to tell of hopes, and dreams of bliss for ever. But the situation of Babylon, and its magnifi. then there is a brighter scene unveiled to cence and importance are left only on the
man. Though he often reflects with mepage of history. Silence unbroken by the lancholy on past pleasures, he is comhuman voice reigns where once
manded to fix his mind with stedfast ear.
nestness on the future. Such is his destiny, "The distant and unceasing hum they heard Of that magniticent city, on all sides
such his situation under an all-wise proviSurrounding them,”
dence, that vain must be the hope of passand “wolves howl to one another,” where ing through life, without tasting that bitteronce the flute and dulcimer “flooded the ness which is the lot of sinful humanity. air with beauty of sweet sounds." Yes :
Few indeed can pass through, even a short Babylon is fallen; its glory has passed period of their lives, while none can hope away for ever; Babylon is ‘no more.'
to finish their pilgrimage, without suffering Other cities and nations have there been, estrangement or separation from what is which may transmit, though in a more
dear, or the dissolution of those they love, limited degree, the sympathy of mankind But the Christian, whose hope is in God, from one generation to another; but time
has one object, and it is his bosom's dearest would fail to number them. Even in our
one, which neither misfortune, time, nor own native land are scattered the wrecks death can estrange, and from the love of of old magnificence," and the mouldering whom, nothing shall separate.*
Lowth's Translation of Isaiah.
Romans viji. 35.