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CHARITY DESCRIBED IN ITS FOUNTAIN, IN
CHANNEL, AND IN ITS STREAMS.
COLOSSIANS iii. 14, “ And above all these things put on charity, which is the bond
ALL that I have ever read upon this mysterious subject of charity, both in ancient and in modern productions, and all that I have ever heard upon it from the pulpit, or among the saints of God, served only to leave me just where I was; I never could come to a right understanding of it, so as to be satisfied about it, and settled in it. I found many that were in the possession of it, and in the enjoyment of it, but they could give no consistent account of it. I once went to a prayermeeting where a company of young men met to pray and expound the Scriptures, and charity, with the properties of it, so fully set forth in 1 Cor. 13th chapter, was the subject that was to be expounded that night; and several spoke upon it, but they knew nothing of it, either in heart or in head.
Many glorious things are spoken of this gospel grace in the holy Scriptures; and, as liberality to the poor is strongly enforced and highly commended in the word of God, many have mistaken this grace, and imagined that it signifies almsgiving; and to such Paul, in his account of charity, has proved a stumblingblock, when he sets charity above all ministerial and miraculous gifts and operations, and even above all the liberality of men, saying; “ Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal. And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing. And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor,
and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, . it profiteth me nothing.” Then they ask, If giving all one's goods to feed the poor be not charity, what is? Charity is a gift from God: “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning.” Charity is one of God's good and perfect gifts, as appears from Paul's advice and counsel to the Corinthians: “But covet earnestly the best gifts: and yet show I unto you a more excellent way. Follow after charity.” The best gift that ever was or ever will be given to men is the Lord Jesus Christ; and the next is the most holy and everblessed Spirit of God. The next gift is eternal life, which is God's gift to us in Christ, and comes to us by the Spirit. The gift of an everlasting righteous
ness is a most invaluable and wonderful gift; and so is charity. These are the best gifts.
The fountain of charity is God; he is the fountain of living waters, and charity is the river of pleasures that flows from that fountain, and is no less than the self-moving, free, sovereign, discriminating, and everlasting love of God to the sons of men, set upon us in Christ Jesus. This the Son of God saw in eternity; this the Son of God highly approved; with this he closed, and that with all the love of his deity, and undertook for us, which secured this love to us in him for evermore. And of this our celebrated poet sings; and in this he sings truth, when God speaks of Adam's fall and of Christ's undertaking:
He with his whole posterity must die;
This is the fountain of charity; here it began. God the Father's love, and the love of the Son, met together, as mercy and truth have done since; and the love of both were displayed in the gift of God, which is Christ, and in the death of Christ: “ God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him
should not perish, but have everlasting life.” Our Redeemer's love also is displayed in his dying for us: “Greater love hath no man than this, that a. man lay down his life for his friends.” This is the real fountain of charity; and the Mediator and his mediation is the only channel through which charity flows to men; and the Holy Spirit, with his grace, is the river of life in which charity flows; and it is one of the streams of the river of pleasure which makes glad the city of God. “Hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost, which is given unto us."
But then it may be asked, If this charity be the love of God to us, and the love of God in us, why does it bear two names, first, charity, and then, love? That matter has puzzled a good many. And, as charity seems to be peculiar to the New Testament, it may be asked, Was there no love under the old dispensation: for we read of God's shewing mercy to thousands of them that love him, even in the law itself? All this is true. There is much said about the love of God in the Old Testament: and many under that dispensation did know it, enjoy it, exercised it, and confessed it; but it ever was, and ever will be, a gift, a grace, a blessing, of the new and better covenant; and all the ancient saints that enjoyed it, enjoyed it by being in covenant with God, and by virtue of union with the covenant Head; it never came
from the law, nor by the law; for the lay worketh wrath, not love.
Charity, as considered in God, and in the fullest sense, never was clearly revealed till the Son of God appeared in human nature. In the fulness of time, and at the manifestation of Christ in the flesh, God's charity appeared in all its glory: He so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son. This love was promised long before, but the manifestation of it was at the appearing of Christ: “ In this was manifested the love of God towards us, because that God sent his only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through him," 1 John iv. 9. Nor was the charity of Christ fully manifested till his death took place: “ Hereby perceive we the love of God, because he laid down his life for us.” Here is the charity of the Father and the Son both made manifest, and that in the fullest sense.
Moreover, the Messiah was to be king mediator; but he was to obtain his kingdom by conquest; he was to vanquish and spoil principalities and
powers, and to lead captivity captive, before he was to ascend his mediatorial throne. Upon his resurrection from the dead all power in heaven and earth was given to him; and upon his ascension he was crowned with glory and honour. This Christ calls going into a far country to receive for himself a kingdom, Luke xix. 12. Upon this ex, altation of our king Messiah new laws were given