“God is love.” Perfectly blessed in Himself, he desired that other intelligences should participate in his own holy felicity. This was his primary motive in creating moral beings. They were made in his own image—framed to resemble him in their intellectual and moral capacities, and to imitate him in the spirit of their deportment. Whatever good they enjoyed, like him, they were to desire that others might enjoy it with them; and thus all were to be bound together by mutual sympathy,—linked to Himself, and to one another; otherwise, they would not resemble their Great Original, either in feeling or conduct. But intelligent beings, unlike Himself, Jehovah, in consistency with his holy character, could never purpose to create. He thus must eternally abhor the covetous; and hence, with all the strength of his infinite nature, threaten them with everlasting death.
How glorious this idea of creation, and how beautiful the universe produced!—the whole mantled in the effulgence of the eternal throne; the Sovereign Creator upholding all ranks of intelligences in the hollow of his hand, and pouring into their bosoms the fullness of his own fruition; while their hearts, in turn, rise to the Source of their being in sweetest incense of joy and praise; each burning with a seraph’s love to communicate his own overflowing enjoyments to those around him. Well might the morning stars have sung together when such a universe awoke to being.
The greatest good, the richest possession, then, of an intelligent being, is a soul in harmony with this original design of creation—a oneness of principle, of feeling, and interest, with God; in other words, disinterested benevolence. Truly, “It is more blessed to give than to receive;” for without the good will the generous deed implies, whatever else we have, we must have sorrow.
But how little of this spirit is evinced by man in his fallen state. Those ties of love, that bound us to our Creator and to one another, are sundered; as a race, severed from the governing Centre of all, each has chosen a centre for himself, and is moving on in darkness and ruin; selfishness the rule, self-interest the end.
Benevolence is not, therefore, natural to man. To practise it requires the greatest effort; it is reascending to that lofty height whence we have fallen. Hence the importance of System in the great work of beneficence.
System in action implies a principle from which it proceeds. Fluctuating opinions and feelings produce fickleness of conduct; while settled convictions, stability of affections, and fixedness of purpose, give birth to persevering and methodical action. A system of beneficence must be founded on abiding principles and dispositions.
I proceed to show in the first place, the Duty of Systematic Beneficence thus founded.