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charitable without charity, though he may
without love. The Apostle was not therefore guilty of such a direct incongruity as to say, that if a man be charitable without charity it will profit him nothing; but that if a man be charitable without love, which is by no means the same thing, it will produce no spiritual efficacy in him ;-for though he should give all his goods to feed the poor, nevertheless, if he do not love those for whom he makes such a sacrifice, he will perhaps do much more harm than good; since what he gives may be mischievously appropriated, if his love does not induce him to see that it is properly distributed, and thus the evil may so greatly preponderate, through his indifference to the real welfare of those for whom he bestows so great a benefaction, as to render it a vain oblation, and therefore avail him nothing to the saving of his soul.
The interpretation now given to the latter words of the text will apply also to those with which the general epistle of St. James concludes, “he which converteth a sinner from the error of his way shall save a soul from death, and shall hide a multitude of sins." That is he shall save the offender from spiritual death by converting him, and hide his transgressions by procuring God's pardon for them, so that upon the sinner's repentance,“ his sins and his iniquities shall be remembered no more.” Thus will the converted,
and the converter receive their respective rewards ; the one in the remission of his sins; the other in the transporting reflection of having done God service by “ saving a soul alive,” through his especial grace.
To take the words of the text in their literal sense is giving them an interpretation at variance with the general tenor of the gospel ; since it is evident that if, as St. James declares, a single breach of any one part of the divine law renders the transgressor guilty of an infraction of the whole, the mere exercise of charity, apart from other spiritual graces, cannot so entirely cancel such a breach of it, as to render us no longer hearers but doers of the whole law by performing a mere outward act of the law: or if it can, salvation is in truth an object of the cheapest possible purchase. But so far is this from being the case, that salvation is a blessing too great to be obtained otherwise than by being “worked out with fear and trembling."
Real charity, which consists not in the benevolence of the purse but of the heart, is the result of that fervent love, which the Apostle exhorts us to entertain among ourselves. “ Love is the fulfilling of the law," and why? Because whereever it operates within us, “pure and undefiled," it is the invariable incentive to good, the invariable opponent of evil. Where it slumbers in the soul, the former immediately languishes, while
arm can rescue us.
the latter starts into vigorous vitality, and becomes a hydra pouring from its hundred mouths mischiefs from which nothing but an omnipotent
“ Love worketh no ill to his neighbour : this is the declaration of an inspired pen,“ therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.” The premises can support no other conclusion; since to do no evil is to do good ; and the very moment we cease to do the one we are guilty of the other. The absence of good at once, and of itself, establishes the presence of evil.
We shall further see the propriety of the interpretation, which I have been endeavouring to confirm, if we only consider the following particulars. St. Peter, in the chapter before us, is recommending the communication of mutual benefit among Christians ; for the words which immediately follow the text are, use hospitality one towards another.” Let us pause a moment to enquire, why this duty is so strongly insisted on.
As love shall induce us to pardon each other's sins, so the exercise of hospitality shall excite and strengthen our love towards each other, and this will make us doers of the law, and in fact fulfillers of the law, because it will ensure the fulfilling of our duty towards our neighbour, which must be the fulfilling of our duty towards God; since as every sin is an offence towards man, either relatively or positively, were our duty towards our neighbour
complete and perfect, we should be altogether without sin; for our human condition being one of social dependency and reciprocal obligation, and all the laws which the Deity has promulgated for our observance, having a reference either remote or direct to that condition, it is morally impossible that were we never to fail in our obligations towards man, we could ever fail in our obligations towards God. A breach of duty to the former, and a fulfilment of duty to the latter, are at once incompatible and impossible, because our duty to the one is as imperative as our duty to the other, in fact they both merge in one ; for it is through the creature that we do service to the Creator: a violation therefore of our obligations to man is a direct act of rebellion against God. Love of our kind then, as I have endeavoured to show, is the principle inculcated in the text.
If we only consider the influence which this principle has upon human societies, and the mischiefs which result from the absence of it, we shall readily perceive the importance of the divine teacher's precept. He inculcates love as the germ from which every virtue grows into life, and expands into maturity. There is not a good deed we perform that does not proceed from this great moral element. Even what we do for our own benefit, whether spiritual or temporal, has its origin in love. Love constitutes the essence of every good action. It is the assay-mark of its purity and value. If then love be the source of every thing good within us, and it is only the cause of evil where it is misdirected or unduly applied, where its energies are suffered to become morbid for want of application, or its pruriency is excited by criminal encouragement, it will be clear that we ought to promote its influence upon our hearts with all the power we possess. If we are righteous, it is for the love of God; if we are benevolent, it is for the love of man; if we are industrious, it is for the love of ourselves. And thus all our actions are directed by this principle in some shape or other.
Let us not however mistake the mere passion for the virtue recommended by the Apostle ; the former is the feverish aggravation of moral disease, not the quiet uniform action of a sound moral temperament. Let us remember that the inspired teacher does not recommend the passion, but the principle. This begets in us the exercise of charity, which is a secondary feeling generated by love and proceeding from it, as the stream from the fountain. So that charity is placed for love in the text, because it is the paramount effect of this principle,- because, in short, it is the great cardinal virtue which love excites.
Only consider a moment to what the assumption leads which interprets the words