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2 cok. v. 14, 15.
For the love of Christ constraineth us; because we thus judge, that if one died for all, they were all dead; and that he died for all, that they which live, should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto him, which died for them, and rose again.
THE character of the apostle Paul exhibits so many excellencies, that most professed christians have admired, or affected to admire it. His piety, zeal, philanthropy, disinterestedness, patience, meekness, and fortitude, have perhaps never been equalled by any mere man: yet his principles were by no means fully understood by his contemporaries; and there appeared such singularities in his conduct, that he was sometimes compelled to apologize for himself, and for the exuberance of his zeal, even to christians, nay, to those who had been converted by his ministry. Thus, in the verse preceding the text, he says, “Whether “we be beside ourselves, it is to God; or whether we “be sober, it is for your cause:” and then he adds, "Ferthe kweof Cbrigt ouustiainethos,r he. Here then be informs us, tint the whole drift and tenour of his conduct, whether it appeared to them wise and excellent, or whether they deemed it strange and extravagant, proceeded from this single principle, "The "lore of Christ," which even "constrained him to "live no longer to himself, but to him who died for "him, and rose again."
The death and resurrection of Christ, with the benefits and instructions which he thence derived, gave a new direction to his conduct, and this extraordinary turn to his whole character.
The consideration of his former lost condition, the assurance of his deliverance, the astonishing price that the Saviour had paid for his redemption, and the joyful hope of everlasting life, produced admiring love and ardent gratitude, in some measure proportionate to his obligations, and impelled him with invincible energy to devote himself and all his powers to the active service of his divine Benefactor. And his judgment concerning the ruined condition of his fellow creatures, and the privileges and obligations of his christian brethren; his zeal for the honour of the Saviour, and his love to the souls of men, rendered him superior to all concern about the effects which his conduct might have on his interest, reputation, ease, liberty, or even life itself.
Such was St. Paul: "the love of Christ constrain"ed him," and this ruling principle animated him to abound and persevere in every good work, to face every danger, and to surmount every obstacle, which he met w;,w ;" his course.
It is not, however, the design of this Discourse to enter more fully into the principles from which St. Paul acted, or to treat directly on the doctrines contained in the text: but rather thence to take occasion to make some observations on the character of a person, eminent in the religious world, who is lately deceased. The situation indeed, which the character referred to filled in society, was very different from that of the apostle; so that in this and many other circumstances no parallel can be drawn between them: yet we may confidently say that, like St. Paul, the habitual tenour of his conduct, during a great part of life, was actuated by the constraining love of Christ.
In prosecuting this design, I purpose,
I. To point out some of the most striking peculiarities in the character to be considered;
II. To advert to some of those religious principles, that gave rise to this peculiarity of character and conduct; and
III. To shew that the same principles, wherever they really exist, must of course produce the same effects according to a man's situation and circumstances.
In treating of the character of him, whose lamented death and honoured memory gave occasion to this Discourse, it is peculiarly proper that we should mention, what we are sure no man will dispute, namely,
I. That lie was distinguished by his great liberality: that he disposed of very large sums in various charitable designs, with an unremitting constancy, during a long course of years: and that his charities were much larger, than what is common with wealthy persons of reputation for beneficence; insomuch, that he was rather regarded as a prodigy, which might excite astonishment, than as an example, that other men of equal affluence were in duty bound to imitate: and yet it is apprehended, that his character hath not been in this respect over-stated, and that few persons were acquainted with the full extent of his charities. In respect to this leading circumstance, we must advert to several particulars. 1. In dispensing his bounty it is well known, that he constantly aimed to promote the knowledge and practice of the religion contained in the Bible, and to bring the careless, the ignorant, the profane, and the profligate, to attend to the concerns of their souls, “to repent and turn to God, and to do works meet “for repentance.” For this purpose also he was the general patron of pious, exemplary, and laborious ministers of the gospel; frequently educating young men, whom he found to be religiously disposed; and purchasing many livings, not so much with a view of bencfiting the individuals to whom he gave them, as for the sake of planting useful ministers of the gospel in those parts, where he supposed the people to be “perishing for lack of knowledge.” He also dispersed a very great number of Bibles, in different languages, in distant countries, perhaps even in all the four quarters of the globe; and with them vast quantities of such books as he thought most suited to awaken the conscience, to affect the heart with a sense of the importance of eternal things, and to lead men to repentance, faith in Christ, and heliness of life; thus labouring to render those, whom
he never saw, wise unto salvation: and no doubt numbers will for ever bless God for these his pious and charitable endeavours.
But though his liberality had this for its grand object, yet it was by no means conducted on an exclusive principle. He aimed to adorn and recommend, as well as to spread, the religion which he professed, and to shew its genuine tendency in his own conduct towards all men. In subserviency to this design, and from the most enlarged and expanded philanthropy, he supported and patronized every undertaking, which was suited to supply the wants, to relieve the distresses, or to increase the comforts of any of the human species, in whatever climate, or of whatever description; provided it properly fell within his sphere of action. Indeed, there was scarcely any publick or private charity, qf evident utility, to which he was not, at one time or other, in some measure a benefactor. So that he plainly observed the command, "to ** do good to all men, especially to them that are of * the household of faith."
And here it should especially be noted, that his beneficence was not always withheld, even on account of the extreme wickedness of those, who were to receive the advantage of it: but that he was guided, in this respect, by the prospect of doing them good, cither in respect of their temporal or eternal welfare; as might be abundantly proved, were it necessanr, by many striking instances. This, with kindness to enemies, forms a distinguishing feature in the christian character, and can only be produced by those principles, which we shall hereafter consider. And