DEARLY BELOVED BRETHREN:
In this letter we would direct your attention to CHRISTIAN CHARITY, as the most important Christian grace.
As Charity. without piety, is no more than natural virtue, and may be the effect of Pharisaical or diabolical pride, so devotion, without brotherly love, is to be considered as a species of hypocrisy. This our Lord himself teaches in the following passage "If thou bring thy gift to the altar, and there rememberest that thy brother hath aught against thee, leave there thy gift before the altar, and go thy way, first be reconciled to thy brother, and then come and offer thy gift." True charity embraces all men, because being made of one blood, they compose one vast family, of which God himself is the great Parent. And we are not permitted to except even our most cruel enemy. "Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them that despitefully use and persecute you, that ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven."
Charity consists of two parts, patience and benevolence. By the one, we suffer every kind of indignity, without entertaining a thought or revenge. And by the other, we heap upon our enemies unsolicited favors. Our Divine Master, whose conflict has furnished us with to [sic] examples of the most perfect charity, discovers us the extent of this virtue, in the following passages. "The world hath hated both me and my Father." God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life."
Too many professing Christians we fear, think that charity consists in giving alms to the poor. Although the Pharisees, were regarded by our Lord as "serpents and vipers," through their want of unfeigned charity, they were yet remarkable for their generosity in almsgiving.
The Apostle Paul declares that it is possible for a man to "give all his goods to feed the poor," and yet be destitute of charity. The New Testament teaches that evangelical charity is the image of God. And that eternal and infinite charity is nothing less than God himself. One Apostle says that "God is love" and another assures us, that we are called to he made "partakers of the Divine nature." When a man is filled with charity, he is then born of God. Christ is then formed in his heart. The Holy Spirit rests upon him, and he is "filled with the fullness of God." He makes a full surrender of his heart to God, from a consciousness that he is in himself the sovereign God; but he loves him particularly in the person of Christ, through whom the Father is pleased, peculiarly to shine forth as a God of love. In a secondary sense, he loves the works of God in all their wonderful variety, as they shadow forth his matchless perfections, and place them within the reach of man's understanding. The souls of men are peculiarly dear to the Christian. As the souls of the poor and the rich are equally immortal, he is never meanly prejudiced in favor of the latter, but on the contrary, is ever ready to prefer a poor and pious beggar, before a sensual rich man.
Faith, unspeakably excellent as it is, would he void of any real worth, unless it produced this happy disposition. "In Christ," saith the Apostle, "the whole body fitly joined together, and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love." "In Jesus Christ neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision, but faith worketh by love." "And though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing." This celestial grace runs through the whole circle of Christian virtues. Thus, when Paul enumerates the fruits of the Spirit, he points to charity, as the foremost of the train. And when Peter recounts the virtues which a Christian should add to his faith, he concludes with the finishing graces of "brotherly kindness and charity." Both these ideas are united by the great Apostle, where he exhorts the Colossians "to put on charity, as that bond of perfectness." "Charity' never faileth," inasmuch as it is the source of heavenly joy.
Finally brethren, follow out the sublime example of Christ, whose life is worthy of our imitation. Remember the benevolent objects of the day, such as Missions, and particularly the Indian Mission, in this, its time of need. By contributing to these benevolent interests, you will exhibit this most powerful Christian grace - Charity.
[From The Long Run Baptist Association Minutes (KY), 1843, p. 2; via SBTS digital documents. Scanned and formatted by Jim Duvall.]
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