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THE NATURE OF CHARITY.
In the discussion of every subject, it is of great importance to ascertain, and to fix with precision, the meaning of the terms by which it is expressed; more especially in those cases where, as in the present instance, the principal word has acquired, by the changes of time and usages of society, more senses than one. Formerly, the English word charity signified good-will or benevolence: when restricted to this meaning, it was significant enough of the Greek term employed by the Apostle in this chapter; but in modern times the word charity is often employed to signify almsgiving—a circumstance which has thrown a partial obscurity over many passages of Scripture, and has led, indeed, to the most gross perversion of Divine truth, and the circulation of the most dangerous errors. That the charity which is the subject of the present treatise cannot mean almsgiving, is evident from the assertion of the Apostle, where he says—“ Though I give all my goods to feed the poor, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing." The meaning of
the term is Love, and so it is rendered in many other passages of the New Testament; such, for instance, as the following :—" Love worketh no ill to its neighbour." "The fruit of the Spirit is love." "Love is the fulfilling of the law." "Faith which worketh by love." It is the same word in all these texts, which in the present chapter, and in the following passages, is rendered charity. "The end of the commandment is charity." "Charity covereth a multitude of sins." The employment of the term charity, instead of love, in the last quoted passage, is peculiarly to be regretted, as, in consequence of the modern meaning attached to it, many have taken up the false and dangerous notion, that pecuniary liberality to the poor will make an atonement for human guilt; an error which could have had no countenance from Scripture, had the word heen rendered as it is in other places. "Love covereth a multitude of sins." This is not the only case in which our translators, by the capricious employment in different places of two English words for the same Greek term, have helped to confuse the English reader of the Holy Scriptures.
We shall in this treatise substitute for charity the word LOVE, which is a correct translation of the original. If, however, the word charity should be occasionally used to avoid a too frequent repetition of love, we beg that it may be understood as synonymous with that term.
Of what kind of love does the Apostle treat? Not of love to God, as is evident from the whole chapter; for the properties which are here enumerated have no direct reference to Jehovah, but
relate in every instance to man. It is a disposition founded, no doubt, upon love to God, but it is not the same.
Nor is it, as many have represented, the love of the brethren. Without all question, we are under special obligations to love those who are the children of God, and joint heirs with us in Christ. "This is my commandment," says Christ, "that ye love one another." "By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye love one another." Our brethren in Christ should be the first and dearest objects of our regard. Love to them is the badge of discipleship-the proof, both to ourselves and to the world, that we have passed from death unto life. And although we are " to do good to all men," yet we are especially to regard "the household of faith." But still, brotherly love, or the love of the brethren as such, is not the disposition, any otherwise than as included in it, which is here enjoined.
A far more comprehensive duty is laid down, which is LOVE TO MANKIND IN GENERAL.* As a proof of this I refer to the nature of its exercises. Do they not as much respect the unconverted as the converted; the unbeliever as the believer? Are we
"This benevolence does not stop at intelligent beings, but goes forth, with entire good will, to the sensitive creation-to all that are capable of pleasure or pain. Surely in the love which is the fulfilling of the law, must be comprehended that mercy which causeth a righteous man to regard the life and comfort of his beast, since this is a part of moral goodness which God has seen fit to approve." But in this chapter the Apostle limits the objects of our benevolence to man.
not as much bound to be meek and kind, humble, forgiving, and patient, towards all men, as we are towards our brethren? Or, may we be envious, passionate, proud, and revengeful, towards "those that are without," though not towards those "that are within ?" We have only to consider the operations and effects of love as here described, and to recollect that they are as much required in our intercourse with the world, as with the Church, to perceive at once, that it is love to man, as such, that is the subject of this chapter. Nor is this the only place where universal philanthropy is enjoined. The Apostle Peter, in his chain of graces, makes this the last link, and distinguishes it from "brotherly kindness," to which, says he, add "charity," or, as it should be rendered, "love." The disposition inculcated in this chapter is, that love which Peter commands us to add to brotherly kindness; it is, in fact, the very state of mind which is the compendium of the second table of the moral law, "Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself."
The temper so beautifully set forth by Paul, is a most lively, luminous, and eloquent exposition of this summary of duty to our neighbour, which is given us by our Lord.
Strange, indeed, would it be, if Christianity, the most perfect system, of duty as well as of doctrine, that God ever gave to the world, should contain no injunction to cultivate a spirit of general good-will. Strange, indeed, if that system, which rises upon the earth with the smiling aspect of universal benevolence, did not breathe its own spirit into the hearts of its believers. Strange, indeed, if, while
God loved the world, and Christ died for it, the world in no sense was to be an object of a Christian's regard. Strange, indeed, if the energies, the exercises, and propensities of true piety, were to be confined within the narrow boundaries of the Church, and to be allowed no excursions into the widelyextended regions that lie beyond, and have no sympathies for the countless millions by which these regions are peopled. It would have been regarded as a blank in Christianity, as a deep wide chasm, had philanthropy gained no place, or but a small one, amidst its duties; and such an omission must ever have presented a want of harmony between its doctrines and its precepts; a point of dissimilarity between the perfection of the divine, and the required completeness of the human, character. Here, then, is the disposition inculcated: a spirit of universal love; good will to man; a delight in human happiness; a carefulness to avoid whatever would lessen, and to do whatever would increase, the amount of the felicity of mankind: a love that is limited to no circle; that is restricted by no partialities, no friendships, no relationships; around which neither prejudices nor aversions are allowed to draw a boundary; which realizes, as its proper objects, friends, strangers, and enemies; which requires no recommendation of any one but that he is a man, and which searches after man wherever he is to be found. It is an affection which binds its possessor to all of his kind, and makes him a good citizen of the universe. We must possess domestic affections, to render us good members of a family; we must have the more extended principles