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proof that you repent, and abhor the falsehood and licentiousness of your tongue."

CHAPTER XXIV.

THE SAME SUBJECT CONTINUED-MERCY-MEEKNESS.

Of sincerity and justice, as essentially requisite to the character of a Christian, we have already spoken. These virtues, when practised in the degree in which they have been here explained, are too often thought to comprehend all that can be required of man. It must however be remembered that these are but the least considerable of the branches which spring from the root of faith in Christ. Where this root is fixed in the heart, such negative righteousness towards men will in no wise be deemed sufficient, nor will you rest satisfied with bare freedom from wilfully injuring, or deceiving any of your fellow-creatures; on the contrary, to the conscientious observance of truth and justice, you will add,

III. The love and practice of Mercy. Whenever the providence of God places the miserable before your eyes, as it did of old the wounded traveller before the priest and Levite, you will be moved to compassion. Their pains and diseases of body, their troubles and distresses of mind, their necessitous circumstances, their unjust sufferings from others, and even the miseries brought upon themselves by their own iniquity, will excite in you a fellowfeeling for them. So that if you have wealth, such objects will receive liberal relief from your bounty. After the example of Job, because actuated by the same spirit, you will become, in the distribution of your alms, "eyes to the blind, feet to the lame, and a father to the afflicted poor. The blessing of him that was ready to perish will daily come upon you, and you will make the widow's heart to leap for joy.” But if you are not in circumstances to give plenteously,

* See Prayer the 10th.

still the temper of your heart will be no less friendly and charitable than if you were. Though poor, your bowels will yearn towards the distressed ; and though you have neither bread of your own, to deal to the hungry, nor know where to make application for their relief, there still remains one way in which your merciful disposition will evidence itself; a way pleasing to God, and profitable to men ;—you will make your intercession to the Father of all mercies and the God of all consolation, to put an end to their afflictions, or to support them under the pressure.

Further, you will exercise mercy, if you are a follower of the Lord Jesus Christ, towards those, whom either the injuries they have done you, or the debts for which they stand answerable, have put in your power to punish. In such cases, where

mercy to the wretched individual will not prove a barbarous lenity to the community in general, you will relax in your demands, and wave the rigorous execution of the law. More especially, and without exception, where the appointments of God's providence have disabled those indebted to you from answering your legal demands, you will abhor the thought of afflicting him “ whom God hath wounded." You will reject with indignation the worldly maxim of seeking some sort of satisfaction in lieu of your debt, by causing the man by whom you suffer to lie in gaol. For the same reason, you

will in all cases where the innocent must suffer with the guilty, choose rather to be a sufferer in some degree yourself, than bring many, for the fault of one, into misery, by taking away the support of a whole family.

Besides these cases, there is one in which a Christian's merciful temper shines with the greatest lustre; I mean in tenderly regarding the spiritual miseries and dangers of the human race. It is, I confess, generous and noble to alleviate and remove the sufferings of the body, and to take a pleasure in doing good to them who are in adversity, by liberal gifts. Yet how limited, how partial, how transient are the benefits! What can alms avail to comfort, where every distemper of the mind still rages? Pride, envy, hatred, wrath, malice, strife, or filthy lewdness destroy all good, all enjoyment of comfort in families. You relieve the family day by day, but the husband abuses his wife, beats and terrifies his children; or the proud imperious wife vexes her husband, drives him into drunkenness as a refuge from her unworthy conduct; or the children, after the bad examples they see at home, grow in wickedness as in stature, and are trained to mischief, and to increase the guilt and wretchedness of the world by their evil tempers. In every station and walk of life, immortal souls are provoking their adorable Maker and Benefactor to jealousy; spurning at his counsel and his salvation, and heaping up wrath against the day of wrath. These are the great objects which, louder than even widows or orphans, call

for mercy, and the most active exertions of our pity. These things will awaken a lively pity in your heart, if you are a Christian in truth. You cannot without a tender sorrow, see immortal souls provoking the great God to jealousy, spurning the offers of his salvation, and heaping up wrath against the day of wrath. As you firmly believe all the realities of the invisible world, you must be much affected with such a melancholy spectacle; “I beheld,” you will say, “the transgressors, and I was grieved because men kept not thy law."

And this compassion to the souls of men will inspire you with activity and zeal to save them from ruin. You will labour to turn sinners from the error of their

ways; by private intreaties and winning persuasions, by faithful and strong declarations of their danger, where there is any opportunity of speaking, any ear to hear, or lucid interval of reflection ;-by distributing heart-searching books, and by assisting those who are engaged in the important work of spreading the knowledge of the Lord."

If you ask, What is there peculiar to the real Christian, by which a disposition so extensively merciful is excited and maintained? I answer, the reverence he pays

1

* There are two venerable societies in London, engaged in the glorious work of distributing Bibles, Testaments, and other good books. These societies are supported by subscription, and a guinea or two annually contributed, is often, in the long chain of causes and effects, productive of present peace, and eternal salvation to the souls of many :-One of these excellent societies is the incorporated Society for promoting Christian Knowledge; the other, the Society for promoting religious knowledge amongst the Poor.

[The Religious Tract Society was instituted in 1799, and the British and Foreign Bible Society in 1804; the author died in 1797. The extensive operations of these institutions are well known, and the Divine blessing has been largely vouchsafed on their efforts.]

to the command of God, and the full persuasion he enjoys of the truth of his promises; but still more, the sense he has of his own redemption by Christ, and the agency of the Holy Ghost on his heart.

The command of God to be merciful, is most express and frequent: “If there be among you a poor man of one of thy brethren,—thou shalt not harden thy heart, nor shut thine hand from thy poor brother; but thou shalt

open thine hand wide unto him.-Beware that thine eye be not evil against thy poor brother, and thou givest him nought, and he cry unto the Lord against thee, and it be sin unto thee. Thou shalt surely give him.” Deut. xv. 7–10. In every description of the tempers which God enjoins us to shew to our fellow-creatures, the merciful temper bears a very distinguished part.

• He hath shewn thee, O man, what is good : and what doth the Lord require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?” Micah vi. 8. În his estimate, Pure and undefiled religion," as it respects our fellow-creatures, ót is to visit the widow and the fatherless in their affliction.” No duty is more frequently urged than this: “Be ye therefore merciful, as your heavenly Father also is merciful,” Luke vi. 36. Be ye all of one mind, having compassion one of another," 1 Pet. iii. 8.

And as these commands of God prove the necessity of a merciful temper in all who are approved by him, so do his repeated promises invite and encourage the Christian to the practice of it. For though none of these promises imply any worth in a merciful temper where it subsists together with love of sin, or enmity to the cross of Christ; though they are not to be construed as if mercy would be rewarded independently of faith in the Redeemer: yet are they of great efficacy to remove the objections which are generally made by our worldly hearts against the exercise of love and bounty: since they so fully assure us, that all acts of beneficence which spring from faith, from love to God, and an obedient heart, are well-pleasing to him, and shall be honoured through his grace with an immense reward. “ Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy.” Matt. v. 7. " He which converteth a sinner from the error of his way, shall save a soul from death,

and hide a multitude of sins." James v. 20. “A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another. By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.” John xiii. 34, 35. Add to this, that astonishing declaration of the Redeemer's regard to this excellent temper, even from his throne of judgment, and in the presence of the whole universe. He will then reward every exercise of mercy, as if it had been conferred immediately on himself; as if the afflictions it relieved had been sustained in his own person; as if he alone had received benefit and consolation from it;“ In as much as ye have done it unto one of the least of these

my
brethren,

, ye

have done it unto me,” Matt.

xxv, 40.

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But still even beyond the force of these powerful precepts and promises, your own sense of redemption by the blood of the cross, will excite and maintain in

you a

readiness and delight in every kind of mercy. You remember your apostacy from God to have been such, by natural disposition, and to have been so confirmed by practice, that it would have been just had God destroyed you, both body and soul, in hell. But, instead of this insupportable doom, you, O Christian! know that God “ mended his love towards us, in that whilst we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” An instance of mercy absolutely without a parallel, both in itself and its beneficial efficacy to the church of God. This, you know, is the only foundation of your peace and hope; this is all your salvation and all your desire. In consequence of your living under affecting views of such transcendent grace, by which you are reconciled to God and made his heir, the love of Christ will constrain you; with a pleasing energy it will urge you to all the various exercises of brotherly kindness and charity. A delightful emotion of mind, resulting from these views, peculiar to the faithful, will lead you, even without an immediate regard either to the command or promises of God, to this practical conclusion," Beloved, if God so loved us, we ought also to love one another," 1 John iv, 11.

Further, Besides these awful commands, and these inviting promises, beside the warmth and strength of God's

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