« PoprzedniaDalej »
this world's good, neglects the occasion thus afforded him, of serving his necessitous brethren, by so much smaller an exertion of his benevolence; if with the example of the all-merciful Redeemer before his
he refuses to shew compassion to his suffering fellowChristian, how can it be pretended that the love of God dwelleth in him? Conduct so much at variance with the spirit of his religion, decides at once that he must be destitute of that principle, the love of God, which ought to influence all his thoughts, and to be the main spring of every action.
In the very earliest formation of a Christian society at Jerusalem, which was the primitive model of an Apostolical Church, we observe, that the practice of mutual benevolence, and the charity of the richer, unsparingly exerted in support of the poorer brethren, constituted a marked and distinguishing feature. The blessed precept which they had received from the lips of their crucified Master, was still fresh in their memories: A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved
also love one another : By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another*. The injunction was indeed of a new and original nature. Perfect benevolence, and sincere devotion to promote the happi
• John xiii. 34.
ness of others, is thus made the characteristic of our religion. No principle so extensive and having so perfect a tendency both to advance the welfare of the species, and to purify the heart of man, had ever before that period existed in human society: neither is it likely to prevail in other than in Christian communities, or to operate with its full force upon any, except the faithful and obedient servant of his Redeemer.
In the exhortations of St. Paul, addressed to the Churches newly founded in the name of the Lord Jesus, there breathes a similar spirit. Thus, in his Epistle to the Galatians, having encouraged them to an unwearied perseverance in well-doing, the Apostle adds, As we have therefore opportunity, let us do good to all men, and especially unto them who are of the household of Faith*. This passage is one of great importance, inasmuch as it describes, with perfect distinctness, the line of Christian benevolence, and defines the obligation too clearly to admit of misconstruction or evasion. It is our duty to lay hold of opportunities which may occur of doing good to all men; not only our friends, our fellows, or our countrymen; but even our enemies and our persecutors : for such are the express commands of our Lord, which constitutes one distinguishing cha
Gal. vi. 10.
racter of his dispensation. But in a special and peculiar manner are we bound to seek occasions of doing service to our fellow-Christians;—to those who are of the household of the true faith. While we are ready to confer such benefits as are in our power upon every individual of our species; we must not suffer this feeling so to expand itself in schemes of universal benevolence, as to lose its essence and its virtue. The disposition to relieve the wants and miseries of others, in order to produce practical effects, must have definite objects : and these objects are distinctly pointed out to be, first, and in an especial degree, those who belong to the Church of Christ.
From what has been already urged, it must follow, that the persons in whose behalf this day's solemnity is established, possess a claim to our benevolence upon the grounds pointed out both by our Saviour and by his Apostles. They are especially and peculiarly the household of Faith, being the families of those ministers of the Gospel, who having devoted their lives to the discharge of their sacred functions, at their deaths bequeathed to their offspring no other property but the genuine faith in their Redeemer. To contribute to the establishment of such orphan children in respectable stations in society, is the purport and scope of this truly Christian charity; by promoting this object, they who have this world's good will find an opportunity of obeying the
solemn injunctions of the Gospel, at the same time that they indulge the most gratifying feelings which the Creator has implanted in the human heart.
In the appeal which these fatherless children now make to your protection and benevolence, there are some considerations regarding their lot in life which
appear peculiarly to solicit your attention. In the first place, the slender provision assigned to many of the valuable and efficient ministers of our Church is scarcely adequate to maintain a decent though humble rank in society; in some cases it can barely preserve them from poverty and unseemly degradation; much less does it enable them to make a provision for their families in the event of their decease. That a considerable proportion of the benefices do not possess endowments sufficient to support their incumbents in the situation of life which their education and their profession entitles them to fill, is a fact which cannot be too deeply deplored. Its cause is to be found in the alienation of large portions of the patrimony of the Church, in distant periods of our history, whereby much of the revenues originally destined to the support of ministers of the Gospel, is diverted into different channels. But to enquire into the origin of this state of things is at the present day rather a matter of curiosity than of any practical utility. The result is one which no friend of the Establishment, no lover of Religion, no disciple of our blessed Saviour can consider without sincere regret. The Apostles have distinctly prescribed that the teacher shall live by the discharge of his spiritual duties; and accordingly in the first ages of the Church the support of the Christian ministers arose from the contribution of their flocks. But since the Church has been under the protection of the civil power, and has been connected with and united to the State, a fixed maintenance has been awarded to her, agreeably to the divine ordinance, that they which preach the Gospel, should live by the Gospel*. To this point, as it appears to me, our attention is particularly demanded. In many cases where impropriations have been severed from a Church, the remaining pittance is so small as not to supply the preacher with means of living by the Gospel ; in opposition alike to the claims of natural justice, and to the express commands of our religion. To remedy or alleviate this evil, much has been effected by public and by private benevolence—particularly by the royal munificence of our monarchs, by the prelates and other superior clergy after the Restoration, and in later times by the bounty of Parliament. But much more remains to be done before every parish can supply a competent though humble maintenance for its pastor. In the mean time the poorer class of our brethren in the ministry must struggle with different and serious hardships, from