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would lead him to do, certainly is not possessed of them. The Christian scheme is so spiritual, as not to admit the acts of mercy for virtue, without the disposition ; but it is so just and consistent as not to leave room for a pretence to the disposition, when the life and actions proclaim the contrary.

Now, a compassionate and merciful temper to our neighbour, may be considered as leading to be affected and to act differently, according to several particular views we may take of the case of others; that is, in reference to their souls, and their spiritual miseries and dangers, or in reference to their outward afflictions and sufferings, wherein we have no imme. diate concern of our own; or, lastly, in relation to any particular injuries they have done to ourselves, by means of which they may lie at our mercy. By this way of considering mercy, the nature of it will, as I apprehend, be most plainly and practically explained.

1. It is to be exercised in reference to the souls of men, and their spiritual miseries and dangers. Here a Christian has abundant reason for bowels of mercy and compassion to his fellow-creatures, much more than he can have from

any outward calamities that may befal them.

The sins of men, and the danger of their everlasting ruin by them, will awaken a lively concern and grief in the mercifül mind of a Christian. He has the truest and justest compassion for his neighbour, who cannot, without a tender sorrow, see him provoking the great God to jealousy, throwing away his immortal soul, living under the power of a mortal distemper, and laying up in store for a dreadful account. Whoever believes a reality in religion, must be much more affected with such a melancholy sight, than with seeing the bodily wants or consuming diseases of men, or with hearing their dismal groans and mournful complaints upon any worldly account, because he knows that the danger of their souls is infinitely greater. Such was the temper of the holy psalmist, Psal. cxix. 158. “I beheld the transgressors, and was grieved because they kept not thy law.” He was grieved for the dishonour to God; that was piety: and for the risk they run of their own ruin; that was charity and compassion to them.

But if this inward concern be sincere and genuine, it will shew itself in all proper endeavours, according to our ability

and opportunity, to save them from sin and ruin. If we truly pity the ignorance of others, we shall be ready to instruct them, if we are able to do it, and they are willing to receive it, or take pleasure in supporting others in such a work, who are more capable of helping them. If we are deeply affected with their danger, we shall gladly embrace any opportunity to give them faithful warning, and to “pull them out of the fire,” if we can, Jude 23. Where our own influence cannot reach, we shall rejoice if, by any means within our power, we can engage others in so beneficial a design; who may be more capable and likely to succeed. This compassion for the souls of men, would give life to any project for supporting and propagating the gospel, either by our immediate influence, or by our purses, or by any other way we can come at, it would make us immediate actors, or fond of bearing any part in any reforming design set on foot : and if we can have no farther influence, we should help all such designs by frequent and fervent prayer for the propagation of the gospel to the darkest and most distant corners of the earth, that it may “have free course and be glorified ;" for our worst enemies, that they be recovered to repentance; and even for such, of whose recovery we may have very low hopes at present. O that there were more such merciful men to the souls of their fellow-creatures! that more were inspired with this persuasion, that “if a man err, and one convert him, he who converteth a sinner from the error of his way shall save a soul from death, and hide a multitude of sins," James v. 19, 20.

2. It is to be exercised in relation to the outward afflictions and sufferings of others, even where we may have no imme

Any of the calamities and evils of life, to which men are liable, give opportunity for bowels of mercy ; their pains and diseases of body, their troubles and perplexities of mind, their necessitous circumstances of life either in their ordinary course, or as reduced to them by disasters and disappointments, their unjust sufferings from other men, either for their consciences, or by common oppression and injustice, and even the sufferings and miseries which men bring upon themselves by their own fault and folly. A merciful man will not think himself altogether unconcerned in any of these ; though some of them, and in some cases, and with some particular views, may justly touch him more tenderly than others.

diate concern.


Here, as in the former case of the souls of others, mercifulness begins in the frame and temper of the mind. There should be an affecting sense of the distresses of others, a sympathy with them, and a charitable good will to them. He who is wrapped up in himself, and regards not what calamities befal other people, as long as his own circumstances remain easy, is not humane, much less acts like a Christian. Christianity teaches us to “ look not only at our own things, but every man also on the things of others,” Phil. ii. 4. It is true, we are called to a more special sympathy with some than with others. The bonds of nature are not cancelled by Christianity, but strengthened ; and, therefore, without doubt, we are not only allowed, but obliged, to a more particular sympathy with our relations, our acquaintance, and our friends. “ To him 'that is afflicted, pity should be shewed from his friend,” from him especially, Job vi. 14. And ordinarily we are called to interest ourselves in the sufferings of our fellow Christians with more tenderness, than in the sufferings of the world at large ; that “if one member (of the Christian body,) suffer, all the members suffer with it," 1 Cor. xii. 26.


and Heb. xiii. 3. “ Remember them that are in bonds, (that is, for righteousness' sake,) as bound with them, and them which suffer adversity (upon that account,) as being yourselves also in the body," that is, as belonging to the same body of Christ to which they belong. But there is a general compassion and sympathy due to all men, as they come within our notice and reach, even to the worst of men. To rejoice in the miseries of any as such, is most unchristian, and to have no manner of concern for them, is certainly, at least, a great defect in Christianity; for we are taught "weep with them that weep, ' without excluding any, Rom. xii. 15.

And where there is really such a disposition of mind, it will express itself in the proper instances and fruits of mercy. The bowels of mercy we are to put on, must not be “ shut up, as they are, if we satisfy ourselves with a mere tenderness of mind, when we have it in our power to contribute to their relief and help. The merciful will not think it too much to undergo some pain and labour, in order to soften the cares, or divert the pains, or remove the distempers, or solve the doubts and perplexities of their neighbours. They will cheerfully encounter with some difficulties for righting the injured and oppressed, if they can have a reasonable prospect of success; and, especially, in proportion to their circumstances, they will be ready to “ draw out their soul to the hungry," as the expression is, Isa. lviii. 10. that is, to draw out their inward compassion by “ dealing their bread to the hungry,” ver. 7. and by “satisfying the afflicted soul,” as far as they can, ver. 10. The apostle James represents the absurdity of pretending to sympathy and coinpassion without this, James ï. 15, 16. “ If a brother or sister be naked, and destitute of daily food, and one of you say unto them, Depart in peace, be ye warmed and filled, notwithstanding ye give them not those things which are needful to the body, what doth it profit ?” And St John exhorts us to shew the sincerity of our love by the feeling expressions of it, 1 John iii. 17, 18. “ Whoso hath this world's goods, and seeth his brother have need, and shutteth up his bowels of compassion from him, how dwelleth the love of God in him? My little children, let us not love in word, or in tongue (only) but in deed and in truth.”

Where people are not in a capacity for relieving the necessities of others themselves, they may exercise their compassion as acceptably to God, by applying to those who are more capable, if they have an interest in them ; whereby, indeed, they may serve three good purposes at once, pursue their own charitable temper, excite others to their duty, and help the distressed. Or if they should not know where to make application with prospect of success, yet all have one way left to express their disposition to mercy, which will be pleasing to God, and may be profitable to men; and that is, by prayer to the Father of mercies, on behalf of the distressed.

3. This temper should be exercised with respect to particular injuries done by others to ourselves, upon account of which we may have them at our mercy: as suppose, by injurious reflections upon our reputations, or by oceasioning some damage to our substance, or in other ways of using

This is a peculiar province for mercy to display itself.

Governors are not, indeed, obliged to shew mercy to such offenders, as endeavour to overturn the state, or disturb the public peace, by forbearing to punish them according to their deserts. It is the duty of their office to be “terrors to

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evil-doers," as well as “a praise to them that do well.” It is one of the greatest blessings of the present world, that there is such a power lodged somewhere in every society, to restrain those, by the terror of punishment, from evil actions, who will not forbear them upon principle. And if there were not actual executions of punishment upon bold offenders, laws would soon lose all their force, and be mere scare-crows; societies must be dissolved, and there could be no living in the world. Mercy to great offenders would, in some case, entail guilt upon a land, as in the case of murder, where the law of God and nature require blood for blood. And, in cases, it would be the greatest cruelty to the community, by continuing it in danger from “ roaring lions and raging bears, who neither fear God nor regard man,” and by encouraging others to offend upon hope of impunity. It must

, therefore, always be left to the wisdom and judgment of those in power, to determine how far, at any time, there may be a relaxation of the severity of laws, in particular instances, without danger or prejudice to the community.

My view is, to consider private and personal injuries. And here,

I am far from saying that Christianity, in all cases, obliges us to put them up, without any endeavour to right themselves, either in our reputation or our property. Our usefulness depends upon our reputation ; and, therefore, when that is remarkably attacked, and we cannot vindicate ourselves without the prosecution and punishment of those who unrighteously strike at it, it is past doubt that we may and ought to do ourselves justice that way; merey to others, in such circumstances, would be injustice to ourselves. And in case of injury done us in our property, religion does not forbid us to take advantage of the laws of our country against lawless men. We should give an ill example of mischievous consequence to the public, if, out of a foolish lenity, we should give up our own rights, when they are not merely our own, but stand connected with the rights of the society; which is the case when the crime is of a very pernicious tendency, and the person who commits it appears to be accustomed to it, and in no likely disposition to leave it.

But a merciful temper, when injuries are offered, should shew itself in such instances as these.


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