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Bible Dictionaries

Charles Buck Theological Dictionary


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One of the three grand theological graces, consisting in the love of God and our neighbour, or the habit or disposition of loving God with all our heart, and our neighbour as ourselves. "Charity, " says an able writer, "consists not in speculative ideas of general benevolence floating in the head, and leaving the heart, as speculations often do, untouched and cold: neither is it confined to that indolent good nature which makes us rest satisfied with being free from inveterate malice, or ill will to our fellow creatures, without prompting us to be of service to any. True charity is an active principle. It is not properly a single virtue; but a disposition residing in the heart as a fountain; whence all the virtues of benignity, candour, forbearance, generosity, compassion, and liberality flow as so many native streams. From general good will to all, it extends its influence particularly to those with whom we stand in nearest connection, and who are directly within the sphere of our good offices. From the country or community to which we belong, it descends to the smaller associates of neighbourhood, relations, and friends; and spreads itself over the whole circle of social and domestic life. I mean not that it imports a promiscuous undistinguishing affection which gives every man an equal title to our love.

Charity, if we should endeavour to carry it so rare, would be rendered an impracticable virtue, and would resolve itself into mere words, without affecting the heart. True charity attempts not to shut our eyes to the distinction between good and bad men; nor to warm our hearts equally to those who befriend and those who injure us. It reserves our esteem for good men, and our complacency for our friends. Towards our enemies, it inspires forgiveness and humanity. It breathes universal candour and liberality of sentiment. It forms gentleness of temper, and dictates affability of manners. It prompts corresponding sympathics with them who rejoice, and them who weep. It teaches us to slight and despise no man. Charity is the comforter of the afflicted, the protector of the oppressed, the reconciler of differences, the intercessor for offenders. It is faithfulness in the friend, public spirit in the magistrate, equity and patience in the judge, moderation in the sovereign, and loyalty in the subject. In parents it is care and attention; in children it is reverence and submission. In a word, it is the soul of social life. It is the sun that enlivens and cheers the abodes of men; not a meteor which occasionally glares, but a luminary, which in its orderly and regular course dispenses a benignant influence."

See Barrow's Works, vol. 1: ser. 27, 28. Blair's Ser. vol. 4: ser. 2; Scott's Ser. ser. 14; Tillotson's Ser. ser. 158; Paley's Mor. Phil. vol. 1: p. 231; and articles BENEVOLENCE, LOVE.

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Bibliography Information
Buck, Charles. Entry for 'Charity'. Charles Buck Theological Dictionary. 1802.

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