“AND we believe,” says the Christian Watchman, “the time is not far distant when a man’s standing as a christian and a good citizen will be measured by the amount of his charities.” The Cross and Journal enquires, “Is it correct?”
WE are mistaken if these learned editors, in their use of the word charity, do not wish to be understood in a popular and not scriptural sense. The bible connects charity with faith and hope, and ascribes to it the pre-eminence; and as the less important are the fruits of the Spirit of God, and utterly beyond the command or control of mortals, so of course the greatest can only be possessed and enjoyed by such as receive in as a sovereign favor from God, who is the giver of every perfect gift. By charity, in a bible sense, we understand the love of God, and in this view of the subject it is easy for the christian to conceive the comparative superiority it holds over faith and hope, the former being the cause, and the latter being but effects. And again, God’s love in its nature possesses a superior excellency; it is eternal, immutable, almighty and sovereign; eternal, it had no beginning, and can never terminate; immutable, fixed from the ancients of eternity upon its objects. “Neither life nor death, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate them from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” - Rom. vii. 38-39. it is invincible; nothing can withstand the power of the love of God, many waters cannot quench it, floods cannot drown it, sin, death and hell combined could not subdue it. It is omnipotent in its operations; the stoutest hearts in all Adam’s wretched family have bowed in subjection to it; yea, we are told it is stronger than death. It is sovereign, who can command it? Who can produce it? Surely no one. Jehovah has set his mercy on whom he would, for he has mercy on whom he will have mercy, and whom he will he hardeneth. He says, “Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated.” View the love of God in any other light than sovereign, and where would be the obligation of gratitude to God for it? If the possession of it in our hearts does not depend exclusively on the sovereign pleasure of God, then we must possess and enjoy it, if at all, independently of God, and who would not tremble at such an idea.
This charity or love of God is communicated by the Holy Ghost to the redeemed of the Lord in their new birth, and in its operation on their hearts produces love to God. “We love him because he first loved us.” It produces love to his truth, love to his ordinances, his laws, and to his people, and makes them kind and affectionate one towards another. This charity, or love of God, when shed abroad in the hearts of God’s people; gives them bowels of compassion and mercy one towards another; it is not productive of ostentations shows which are common among the Gentiles; it does not blazon the liberality of its possessor through the press to earth’s remotest bounds, but rather teaches and enforces the command of Jesus, not to let the left hand know what the right has performed. It leads its possessor to visit the widow and the fatherless, and to do good as much as in them lies unto all men, but especially to the household of faith. The love of God does this and more; hence in answer to Mr. Stevens, of the Cross, we answer: The christian is to be measured by the charity he possesses, but we see no connection between his christianity and his qualification for good citizenship in this world.
But we are led to conclude that the editor of the Watchman intends popular or modern charity. This is altogether another thing, very different in nature and in effects. It is any principle that will lead men to appropriate their money, wealth and influence to the service of the institutions of modem benevolence. If a man would in a popular sense be charitable, let him join all the fashionable religious societies of the day; let him patronize every scheme which men have devised and still are devising to convert the world, and if he has funds he can become very charitable. This kind of charity is very splendid in the eyes of an adulterous generation; it is sounded far and wide; it rings from the pulpit; it is echoed through the press. This charity regards no other qualification on the part of its patrons than a well-filled purse, and an open hand to deal it out at the call of the clergy. This charity will also visit the widow and the fatherless, not to relieve their pressing wants, but to extort for professedly pious purposes the “widow’s mite,” and the hard-earned dollar of the orphan boy. If the widow or the fatherless are in distress, and pinched with hunger, or chilled for want of clothing, modern charity will perhaps send her agents to the sick haunts of wretchedness, commissioned to say unto them, “Be ye warm, and be ye clothed,” and perhaps in the plenitude of their kindness they will give the despairing widow or the starving orphan - what? A loaf of bread, a bushel of grain, a suit of comfortable apparel? Oh no! They will give them a tract, from which they may learn’ that these pious agents are about evangelizing the world, and are in want of money to carry on the enterprise. Yes, verily, this popular charity will creep into widow’s houses, and lead captive silly women, as saith the scriptures of truth.
If we understand him, this is the kind of charity the editor of the Watchman intends, and there is perhaps more truth in what he says than his brother editor is willing to admit; indeed the time has already arrived in which “the vile person is called liberal, and the churl said to be bounteful,” while every one who refuses to acknowledge or patronize their schemes are denounced as illiberal and covetous. it is considered charitable in these days to be in fellowship with all denominations of professors of christianity, who will unite in the common cause of modern mendicancy, to persecute nonconformists, to brand with infamy, if possible, the latter, sad measure the christianity of’ the former by the amount of his charity measured in dollars and cents.
NEW VERNON, N. Y.,
January 7, 1835.
Elder Gilbert Beebe
Editorials Volume 1
Pages 194 – 197