Charity and Its Fruits - love is kind, part two

Charity and Its Fruits
Lecture V, part two

(This week we continue our discussion of the Jonathan Edwards' classic, Charity and Its Fruits. We have just concluded reading the "Application" portion of Lecture Five. We will continue with the "Doctrine" portion of Lecture Six in next week's reading. The notes below follow Edwards' outline directly, with all direct quotes from the text in italics. My goal is to make each post edifying on its own, even for those who are not reading along with us. I will welcome your questions or comments in the form below.)

"Charity suffereth long, and is kind." 1 Cor. 13:4

In last week's reading we learned that "a truly Christian spirit will dispose us freely to do good to others". What this means is that a truly Christian spirit will seek to do good to the souls of others and will look to their temporal well-being as well. It will do kindness to the good and the bad, to friends and enemies, and to the thankful and the unthankful. And it will do all this freely, without compulsion, and with a generous heart.

According to Edwards, this understanding is useful for reproof  and for exhortation. This week's reading expounds on those two uses.

1.  Reproof - "If a truly Christian spirit disposes persons freely to do good to others, then all those that are of a contrary spirit and practice may by it be reproved."

There are several traits we may find in ourselves for which we should accept Edwards' reproof:
  • A malignant and malicious disposes men to do evil to others, and not good
  • A close and selfish spirit...bent wholly on their own interest...unwilling in anything to forgo their own ends for the sake of others. (By "close" here, Edwards means stingy or tight-fisted)
  • A grasping and avaricious spirit...who take every opportunity to get all they possibly can from their neighbors in their dealing with them.
"Such...are the very opposite of a Christian spirit, and are severely reproved by the great law of love, viz. That we do to others as we would have them do to us."

2. Exhortation - to the duty of freely doing good to others
"let us seek, as we have opportunity, to do good to the souls and bodies of others, endeavoring to be a blessing to them for time and eternity. Let us, to this end, be willing to do, or give, or suffer, that we may do good alike to friends and enemies, to the evil and the good, to the thankful and the unthankful. Let our benevolence and beneficence be universal, constant, free, habitual, and according to our opportunities and ability; for this is essential to true piety, and required by the commands of God." (emphasis mine)
To encourage us along in this, Edwards gives us four points to consider:

First, What a great honor it is to be made an instrument of good in the world.

Those who do good in this manner Edwards likens to Abraham, who God honored with these words: "I will bless thee, and make thy name great; and thou shalt be a blessing." (Gen 12:2) He likens them again to the sun and moon, which shed their light on the world blessing both good and evil, to the angels who minister selflessly for the good of others, and, finally, to God Himself "the great fountain of all good, who is for ever pouring down his blessings on mankind."

Second, Thus freely to do good to others, is but to do to them as we would have them do to us.

We approve of and commend those who treat us well, "who have a hearty good-will to us, and show us a great deal of kindness, and are ready to help us when we stand in need, and...are free to do, or give, or suffer for us, and to bear our burdens, and feel for us in our calamities, and are warm-hearted and liberal in all this..." When people treat us in this manner, we think it is good and right. Therefore, Edwards concludes "if it is so noble and so much to be commended in others when we are its objects, then we ought to do the same to them, and to all about us. What we thus approve we should exemplify in our own conduct." (emphasis mine)

Third, Let us consider how kind God and Christ have been to us and how much good we have received from them...
"Their kindness in things pertaining to this world has been very great. The divine mercies are new to us every morning, and fresh every evening: they are as ceaseless as our being....He has given us what is of more value than all the kingdoms of the earth. He has given his only begotten and well-beloved Son - the greatest gift he could bestow. And Christ has not only done, but he has suffered, great things, and given himself to die for us; and all freely, and without grudging, or hope of reward....and what great things hath God done for those of us who are converted, and have been brought home to Christ; delivering us from sin, justifying and sanctifying us, making us kings and priest unto God...and all this, when we are not good, but evil and unthankful, and in ourselves deserving only of wrath." (emphasis mine)
Fourth, Let us consider what great rewards are promised to those that freely do good to others.

In Scripture God has promised mercy to the merciful (Ps. 18:25), and blessing to those who give (Acts 20:35). "He that gives bountifully, is more blessed in the bountiful gifts that he parts with than he that receives the bounty. What is bestowed in doing good to others is not lost, as if it were thrown into the ocean....What is so given is loaned to the Lord. (Prov. 19:17)...It is easy for God to make up, and more than make up, to us, all that we thus give for the good of others....though the poor whom we benefit cannot recompense us, 'we shall be recompensed at the resurrection of the just' (Luke 14: 13,14)."
 "When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. And he will place the sheep on his right, but the goats on the left. Then the King will say to those on his right, 'Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me,  I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.' Then the righteous will answer him, saying, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?' And the King will answer them, 'Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.'

"Then he will say to those on his left, 'Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not clothe me, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.' Then they also will answer, saying, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to you?' Then he will answer them, saying, 'Truly, I say to you, as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.' And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life." (Mt. 25:31-46)
(For those reading along, we will be taking a break next week as some of our Chico group will be traveling down south to the Shepherds' Conference.  My posts will resume in two weeks from today.)


Lisa notes... said…
Hope that the Shepherds' Conference is a blessing to you all!

And it gave me time to get caught up with you. I'd sum up this chapter as "The proof is in the pudding." If my actions aren't showing kindness as I have opportunity, then I am not kind.

My post is here on the second part of Lecture V.

post is here:

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