( Originally Published 1879 )
CHARITY is one of those amiable qualities of the human breast that imparts pleasure to its possessor, and those who receive it. It is of a modest and retiring nature. Charity, like the dew from heaven, falls gently on the drooping flower in the stillness of night. Its refreshing and reviving effects are felt, seen, and admired. It flows from a good heart, and looks beyond the skies for approval and reward. It never opens, but seeks to heal the wounds inflicted by misfortune—it never harrows up, but strives to calm the troubled mind. Like their Lord and Master, the truly benevolent man and woman go about doing good for the sake of goodness. No parade, no trumpet to
sound their charities, no press to chronicle their acts. The gratitude of the donee is a rich recompense to the donor—purity of motive heightens and refines the joys of each. Angels smile on such benevolence. It is the attribute of Deity, the moving cause of every blessing we enjoy.
Fair Charity, be thou my guest,
Charity is the golden chain that reaches from heaven to earth. It is another name for disinterested, lofty, unadulterated love. It is the substratum of philanthropy, the brightest star in the Christian's diadem. It spurns the scrofula of jealousy, the canker of tormenting envy, the tortures of burning malice, the typhoid of foaming revenge. It is an impartial mirror, set in the frame of love, resting on equity and justice. It is the foundation and cap stone of the climax of all the Christian graces; without it, our religion is like a body without a soul; our friendships, shadows of a shadow; our alms, the offsprings of pride, or, what is more detestable, the offerings of hypocrisy; our humanity, a mere iceberg on the ocean of time—we are unfit to discharge the duties of life, and derange the design of our creation. Was this heaven-born, soul-cheering principle the mainspring of human action, the all-pervading motive-power that impelled mankind in their onward course to eternity, the polar star to guide them through this world of sin and wo—the ills that flesh is heir to, would be softened in its melting sunbeams, a new and blissful era would dawn auspiciously upon our race, and Satan would become a bankrupt for want of business. Wars and rumors of wars would cease; envy, jealousy, and revenge would hide their diminished heads; falsehood, slander, and persecution would be unknown; sectarian walls, in matters of religion, would crumble in dust; the household of faith would become, what it should be, one united, harmonious family in Christ; infidelity, vice, and immorality would recede, and happiness, before unknown, would become the crowning glory of man. Pure and undefiled religion would then be honored and glorified—primitive Christianity would stand forth, divested of the inventions of men, in all the majesty of its native loveliness. Oh, could an angel bear a balm of such charity into our hearts, then would earth become a heaven and hell a fable.
When we take the history of one poor heart that has sinned and suffered, and represent to ourself the struggles and temptations it passed through—the brief pulsation of joy, the tears of regret, the feebleness of purpose, the scorn of the world that has little charity; the desolation of the soul's sanctuary, and threatening voices within; health gone; happiness gone—we would fain leave the erring soul of our fellow-man with Him from whose hands it came. It is then that the words of Prior show their truth and beauty :
"Soft peace it brings wherever it arrives,
Is any man fallen into disgrace? Charity holds down its head, is abashed and out of countenance, partaking of his shame. Is any man disappointed of his hopes or endeavors? Charity cries out, alas! as if it were itself defeated. Is any man afflicted with pain or sickness? Charity looks sadly, it sigheth and groans, it faints and languishes with him. Is any man pinched with hard want? Charity, if it cannot succor, will condole. Does ill news arrive? Charity hears it with an unwilling ear and a sad heart, although not particularly concerned in it. The sight of a wreck at sea, of a field spread with carcasses, of a country desolated, of houses burned and cities ruined, and of the like calamities incident to mankind, would touch the bowels of any man; but the very report of them would affect the heart of charity.