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compassion, which it is impossible to explain on any other supposition. Pity identifies us with others: those who have attempted to resolve it into a selfish pleasure as its origin, forget that this pleasure itself must be traced to a previous concern for distress as its cause.
It is absurd to suppose we must first feel the pleasure, and then exercise the pity; this is to mistake the effect for the cause, and to leave no basis for the emotion. In all our social affections, supposing them genuine and not merely pretended, we act on the ground of a disinterested benevolence; we make our happiness out of that of others; it is their happiness, not our own, that we primarily seek.
2. Further : this enlargement agrees with the genius of christianity,—of that divine system under which we profess to be forming our character. For what is christianity? It is to believe in the redemption of the world by Christ the Son of God. This is the simplest view of revelation; but this is the grand display of the divine benevolence: “ Herein is love ; not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and gave his Son a ransom for us.” “God so loved the world, that he gave his only-begotten Son,” &c. It is this fact to which your attention is directed; the fact alone is stated: those who are not moved by such a fact as this, no conceptions of thought, no eloquence of words, nothing that can be added, can reach their hearts! Such a gift of God-such a condescension of Christspeaks for itself, or none can speak for it. Hence the apostle declares, “ The love of Christ constrains
us,” bears us along with itself in the same direction, impels us towards the same objects, identifies us with the love of Christ to sinners, and the glory of God in their salvation. Such an example of compassionate benevolence,-of enlargement in heart,-once perceived and felt, absorbs the soul. In the spectacle of “God manifested in the flesh," the greatest extremes and contrarieties are united ; majesty and meanness the most distant; the highest excellence and the lowest degradation ! And the natural effect is to assimilate our hearts; the first fruit of the Spirit of Christ on his apostles was union. The earliest disciples began at once to organize themselves into a body, all standing fast in one fellowship, all minding the same thing, all drinking of the same Spirit : they gave themselves first to the Lord, and then to each other; they loved one another as brethren in Christ Jesus.
In the communion of the saints, such as theirs, the rich blessings of the gospel are most deeply enjoyed. At first the apostles, not sufficiently illuminated, retained some remains of their exclusive prejudices, some lingering of that selfishness which is the old plague and epidemical malady of human nature. They aimed at narrowing and monopolizing the gospel within the circle of Jewish proselytes. But, as the Sun of Righteousness rose with increasing brightness upon their minds, they purged off their prejudices, and came early to a perfect compliance with the injunction—"Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature :" they understood and proclaimed that there was “neither
Greek, nor Jew, barbarian, Scythian, bond, nor free.” And the same spirit is realised in proportion as men are christianized: they live “kindly affectioned one toward another ; forbearing and forgiving, even as God for Christ's sake hath forgiven themselves :" they feel that “none of us liveth to himself, and none dieth to himself.” The most eminent saints have been shining examples of this : Moses prayed that he might be blotted out of God's book, rather than all the people. The apostle Paul, perhaps, above the whole apostolic college, exhibited the love of his Master imparted to his mind : he could even wish himself accursed for the sake of his brethren; he sympathized with every member of the christian body: “ Who is weak, and I am not weak ? who is offended, and I burn not ?" &c.; “ beside that which cometh upon me daily, the care of all the churches.”
3. This enlarged benevolence may be farther enforced by its aspect on our own happiness. This, indeed, is a secondary motive,-secondary to the glory of God, the ultimate end of all things, and to the precepts of Christ, the authoritative rule of conduct. We are not to seek our own happiness in any other way than that which is consistent with these: but here it may be truly said, “He that loves his life shall lose it, and he that loses his life for the gospel shall find it.” The more we embody ourselves and our happiness with the interest of others,—the interests of the whole, the more in reality we consult our own happiness. In the pursuit of any merely solitary schemes, we shall reap only disappointment: if we attempt to detach ourselves from the general mass, to individualize ourselves from the community of our species, we shall be imprisoned and pent in. When the barriers of selfishness are broken down, and the current of benevolence is suffered to flow
generously abroad, and circulate far and near around, then we are in a capacity of the greatest and best enjoyment. Happiness must be sought, not so much in a direct as in an indirect way,—the way which has been marked by God and by Jesus Christ. In order to be happy in any high degree, we must abandon ourselves, according to his will, and after the pattern of his Son, to the temporal and spiritual benefit of mankind.
The apostle was a bright illustration of this: he laid himself out in body and soul,-he spent and was spent for others : filled with the most enlarged views of the glory of God as displayed in the salvation of men,-ravished with the ineffable beauty of redemption,-he was ready to do and suffer all things that might be required in the promotion of such an end ; and the prisoner at Philippi and Rome was infinitely happier than Nero on the throne.
Some may suppose an exception must be made in favour of the private exercises of devotion. Devotional pleasures may be enjoyed, perhaps, in the highest degree, in retirement; but we may err in extremes even here: we must not be epicures even in devotion. It is possible to be so intent upon meditative duties, as to go out of the appointed path of social usefulness, as it stands embodied in the character of Jesus Christ and his apostles.
Would you escape the corrosions of domestic affliction, beware of concentring your affections within too confined a circle of beloved objects, lest, like Micah, when deprived of his images of worship, you be constrained to cry, “ Ye have taken away my gods.” Be assured, my brethren, the more you diffuse and multiply yourselves upon a wide surface of benevolence, the better you will be guarded against the afflictions and bereavements of life. The Christian, whose heart is enlarged in love to his brethren, sows a soil that cannot but yield him an abundant produce.
4. Lastly, this expanded benevolence is intimately connected with the promotion of all public good. It would be trifling with your attention to shew that its influence on our usefulness is yet more direct than that which it exerts on our happiness. There is nothing on which the present age may be more justly congratulated than its attention to public good. In the duties of private devotion, in abstinence, and deadness to the world, our ancestors have often greatly exceeded us: but, from various causes, they manifested much less of this enlarged christian benevolence; they pursued salvation too much as an insulated and a selfish Great care
was taken to explain the most vital principles of religion,--to lay well the foundations of the sinner's peace with God,—to build up the believer in all the highest views of Christ and holiness : but a zealous activity in the