Immagini della pagina

“ The

Spirit; to another, the working of miracles ; to another, prophecy ; to another, discerning of spirits ; to another, divers kinds of tongues ; to another, the interpretation of tongues. But all these worketh that one and the selfsame Spirit, dividing to every man severally as he will." Thus each hath his distinct office and use, that, as it is expressed, ver. 25. “ there should be no schism in the body, but that the several members should have the same care one for another,” and maintain mutual love, whilst all in their way contribute to the good of the whole.

eye cannot say unto the hand, I have no need of thee: nor again the head to the feet, I have no need of you.” To every one something is given, to recommend him to the respect of others; and from every one something is withheld, to keep him modest and humble ; for God hath so ordered the distribution of his benefits, that each may feel his need of that excellence which he hath not in possession, and at the same time have the aid of those gifts, by the ministry of others, which he himself wants.

“ The rich and the poor meet together," saith Solomon; “ the Lord is the Maker of them both.” Hence, * he that mocketh the poor,” is said “ to reproach his Maker;" that is, he throws an injurious reflection upon the wisdom and goodness of divine providence, which hath appointed this inequality of conditions among men, for exercising, on the one hand, the patience and resignation of the poor; and that the rich, on the other hand, may be furnished with constant opportunities of acknowledging their obligations to God, and their dependence opon him for all they possess, by distributing what they can spare from their own necessary uses, for the relief and comfort of their needy brethren. That this is the proper improvement of wealth, and the purpose for which it is bestowed, appears from Paul's direction to Timothy, (1 Tim. vi. 17.) “Charge then that are rich in this world, that they be not high-minded, nor trust in uncertain riches, but in the living God, who giveth us all things richly to enjoy : that they do good, that they be rich in good works, ready to distribute, willing to communicate; laying up in store for themselves a good foundation against the time to come, that they may lay hold on eternal life.” And how provoking it is to God, when men abuse the gifts of his providence, we learn from that complaint and threatening, Hos. ii. 8, 9. “ She did not know that I gave her corn, and wine, and oil, and multiplied her silver and gold, which they prepared for Baal. Therefore will I return, and take away my corn in the time thereof, and my wine in the season thereof, and will recover my wool and my flax, given to cover her naked. ness.”

The application of these truths to the purpose for which we are at present assembled, is so obvious, that I am confident it must already have occurred to the most inattentive of my hearers. Were we to consider the good things we possess, merely as gifts freely bestowed, and left entirely to our own disposal, yet gratitude should prompt us to employ them in such a way as might be most acceptable to our kind and generous Benefactor, But I am furnished, you now see, with a more persuasive argument: the plea of gratitude comes enforced with the claim of justice, while regard to our own interest solicits our compliance with their united demands : “ For we must all appear before the judgment-seat of Christ, that every one may receive the deeds done in his body, accord,

, ing to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad.” In that day, “unto whomsoever much hath been given, of him also much will be required;" and the unprofitable ser. vant, who did not improve the talent committed to him, but buried it under ground, or wrapt it in a napkin, shall be cast “ into outer darkness: there shall be weeping, and gnashing of teeth."

Seeing then these things are so, ought we not to reckon ít an additional ground of thankfulness to God, when

[ocr errors]

besides the favours conferred upon us, he is at any time pleased to afford us an opportunity of employing the fruits of his liberality in such a manner as, contributes most effectually to answer the highest and most important purposes for which they were bestowed ? An oppor. tunity of this kind is just now presented to you, by the much to be respected Managers of the Orphan Hospital, at whose desire I address you this day. The objects of their care are there placed in your view; and surely, to provide for the Christian education of so many helpless children, and for their decent clothing and maintenance, till they be trained up to earn a subsistence for themselves, as it is an exercise of the truest mercy to them, so it cannot fail to be highly acceptable to that God who disdains not to style himself the Father of the fatherless.

The peculiar excellencies of this species of charity, were fully illustrated, on a former occasion of this kind, from that prayer of the Psalmist, in behalf of the Jew, ish nation, Psal. cxliy. 12. “That our sons may be as plants grown up in their youth ; that our daughters may be as corner-stones, polished after the similitude of a palace*.". Then, it was shewn, that a permanent provision for the Christian education of desti: ute children, is a charity which tends to prevent misery, and must therefore be preferable to that which only alleviates present distress, or procures it a short and uncertain relief. This is charity to the souls of our fellow-creatures, and the noblest imitation of Ilim who came from heaven to earth, to seek and to save that which was lost. Besides, it is a charity, which, of all others, is in least danger of being misapplied or defeated. This renders the prospect of doing good by it in the highest degree probable. And then its influence is of the largest extent ; for while it serves ta advance the glory of God, and the interests of pure and un

* Dr Erskine's Sermon, preached before the Managers of the Orphan Hospital at Edinburgh, May 18.1774.

defiled religion in the world, it promotes, at the same time, in the most effectual manner, the spiritual improvement and happiness of individuals, and even the tempo, ral prosperity of the nation to which we belong.

To such powerful recommendations, any addition would be superfluous. And they who, influenced by these motives, contribute according to their ability for the support of an institution so pious and salutary, may be assured that what they give, is, in the most proper sense of Solomon's words, “ Jent to the Lord, and that which they give will he pay them again.”

Upon the whole, then, let it be our first care to have our own hearts filled with love to God, as the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, and our Father in Christ; for unless this be the source of our charity to others, our beneficence may be profitable to them, but cannot avail ourselves. And if once this principle be deeply rooted in our hearts, then it will become easy and delightful to us, , to communicate good to our fellow-men, in obedience to the command of God, and in imitation of his example, Let us always bear in mind the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, who, though he was rich, yet for our sakes became poor, that we, through his poverty, might be rich.” Let us consider the uncertainty of all earthly things, and this will dispose us to employ them with greater cheerfulness for the relief and comfort of our needy brethren, before they be taken from us, or we by death be divorced from them. Above all, let us beg of God the influences of his Spirit, which alone can vanquish that selfishness which is the great opposer of charity, and incline our hearts to all those acts of compassion and kindness which adorn our Christian profession, and by their beauty and usefulness engage others to glorify our heavenly Father



John X. 11.

I am the good Shepherd : the good Shepherd giveth his life

for the sheep

Though Christ is in every view precious to them that believe, yet some of the characters which he sustains, present him to us in a milder light than others, and render him comparatively more lovely and estimable. And amidst the variety of titles given him in Scripture, there is perhaps none more expressive of condescension and grace, than that which he is pleased to assume in my text.

As many of the Jews were shepherds by occupation, the language of this description would be obvious to them all. And they who were enlightened by the Spirit of God, would not only perceive the propriety, but likewise relish all the sweetness of this endearing designation.

To us, indeed, an allusion to the pastoral life can hardly appear with equal beauty and strength. Many circumstances of resemblance, would strike those who were acquainted with rural affairs, which must necessarily be supposed to escape our observation. But though we cannot trace them all with a critical exactness, yet by the light which the Scriptures afford us, I hope I shall be able to bring as many proofs of our Lord's care and tenderness, as may suffice to illustrate the propriety of the ak

« IndietroContinua »