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The command delivered in the text, implies, that we wish every good to others, and that in their several capacities and relations of life; in the same manner as Justice compels us to wish no harm to them: and, as faith is to shew itself by its works, so our love must not only have a willing mind, but hold out an helping hand, to promote their welfare, and contribute to their comfort. It is the loving, not in word, but in deed, which must “approve our hearts before God.” The great and eternal Being designed the happiness of mankind; and He has enjoined his moral creation, as the emblem of His authority, and the evidence of their allegiance, to love one another. It behoves us then to enquire, by what means we are to fulfil the precept, at once obeying the command of God, and conducing to the benefit of man. Is the credit and reputation of our neighbor wantonly attacked, or injuriously sullied ? Is his property insecure, or his person endangered It is our duty to acquaint him, should he be ignorant of it, with his situation; and to contribute our advice and assistance —if he require them—as far as prudence admits, and expedience warrants. Do we know him to be guilty of acts, which would, if divulged, occasion him personal loss, or disparage him in general estimation ? Instead of, maliciously, displaying, we are, industriously, to conceal them. But this caution is to be received with certain limitations. His misconduct may threaten the peace, or involve the ruin, of others. The concealment of his fault might, in such case, be injustice in us. Where, however, things are dubious, charity will dispose us to speak with reserve, and to judge with partiality, it being a property of evangelical love, “to “ think
* think no evil.” Need I add, that the words of the text comprize an absolute prohibition of all slander and detraction, of all harsh surmizes, and false reports ? We a re to consider ourselves as placed, in our several stations, for the very purpose of extending general good, and of promoting each others' comfort. When we meet, as the Samaritan did, with a fellow-creature oppressed by calamity, and incapable of exertion, we are to pour oil into his wounds, and restore him, as far as we have the power, to that state, from wbich he can der ive credit to himself and support to his family. If we see an unfortunate being, bereft of the necessaries oflife, exposed to bunger, nakedness, and cold, instead of cc shutting up our bowels of compassion from him," we are to make bis situation ours--not knowing how soon it may be so-and supply him with those comforts which his necessities claim, and our means allow.
There is a stronger expression of love implied in the evangelical precept of our Saviour, and that is, the loving of the soul of our neighbor, it being of as much more consequence, as the one is more valuable than the other. What is in itself of the most intrinsic worth, men, usually, take the greatest pains to secure, and preserve in safety. Now, our love to the soul of our neighbor is to be shewn in a higher degree, and in a different manner; inasmuch as one is of greater value than the other, and the wants of each are different. The soul being capable of, and subject to, grief and sorrow, such comfort is to be administered, as will assuage and remove them.“ A word,” says the Wiseman, “ spoken in due season, how good is it!" To suggest, with feeling and compassion, to a man, when she hand of God is heavy upon him, that " whom the
« Lord loveth He chasteneth, and scourgeth every one 56 whom He receiveth,” may, by God s blessing, blunt the sharpness of the arrow, and extract the venom from the wound. To set before him the declaration of the Psalmist, “ that it was good for him that he had been “ in trouble, because he, thereby, learned God's “ commandments,” may, through the concurrence of divine Grace, impart support in difficulties, and resignation in afflictions. To urge to the desponding, God's mercy and compassion, and to the impenitent, His patience and long-suffering, accompanied with His own declaration, that “ He will repay them that hate 6. Him to their face, to destroy them," may administer consolation to the one, and awaken repentance in the other. To shew him, who satisfies himself with a mere attendance on the ordinances of Religion, without amendment of life, and sanctification of heart, that it is not the offering of the lips, but the “ worshipping of “ God in spirit and in truth," which is alone an ac, ceptable service; may lead him to represent the Al mighty to his mind as a Being, who exacts of all that draw nigh unto Him, clean hands, and pure hearts. To encourage us all to fulfil, in this sense, the commandment delivered unto us; let us remember the de claration of an Apostle, that " he that convertech a " sinner from the error of his way, shall save a soul 66 from death, and shall hide a multitude of sins."
“ This is my commandment, that ye love one anby other, as I have loved you."
Christian charity extends itself further than to the Church, even to the whole race of mankind; not merely to Christians, but to the very enemies of Chriszianity. Every man bears the image of God, and par
ticipates, with us, the common nature of humanity. Our Lord, therefore, gave this express command to His disciples—6 love your enemies; bless them that ** curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray 56 for them that, despitefully, use you, and persecute s you.” Descended, as we are, from the same conmon parent, we should, therefore, “ be kindly affec56 tioned one towards another," as branches nourished all by the same sap, and proceeding all from the same root. It was the will of our Blessed Lord, that " none s shculd perish, but that all should have everlasting “ life;" He loved His enemies, He prayed for their conversion, and died for their sins : teaching us, hereby, to cultivate, in our hearts, benevolent affections ; to suppress wrath, to extirpate hatred; to establish a principle of love towards all men, and to live, invariably, under the influence of it. We receive, it may be, insults from one man, and injuries from another, But they profess the same faith, participate the same Sacraments, believe in the same God, and rely on the same Redeemer, We meet in the house of God, if not as personal friends, yet, as fellow Christians; we offer our joint prayers and praises at the throne of Grace; we walk in the same path to heaven ; it, therefore, becomes our bounden duty to encourage, assist, and support each other in the way." We are mem65 bers one of another,” being united in the mystical body of Christ. Are we, further of the same commu. nion? We have, then, the same common religious interests; we pray for the same common mercies; we return thanks for the same common blessings; and have, therefore, additional arguments to plead for the exercise of our love towards those who may have in
jured us, besides their being men by nature, and Christians by Adoption.
The necessity, and the use, of this doctrine will, further, appear, when we consider the example of our Saviour's love to us. “ This is my commandment, 6 that ye love one another, as I have loved you."
Our Blessed Redeemer, in these words, not only enjoins His disciples to love one another, because He loved them; but He, further, instructs them how, and in what degree, they should love one another; and then proposes His love towards them as their measure of duty, and standard of excellence. How great His love was towards them, they could not, possibly, be ignorant: He, therefore, impressed upon them “ His os own example, that they should follow His steps." Instructive was that example, and cogent must have been the arguments, which occurred to their minds, to persuade them to treasure it up in their hearts, and pursue it in their conduct. Should they be exalted 10 high stations, and endowed with worldly riches and dis tinguished honors, and their brethren stand in need of their assistance, they were not to overlook the necessities of the unfortunate with indifference, or treat thiem with contempt, but were to be, strictly, observant of the glorious pattern, which their Master had set before them. He was God from all eternity, “ far above all 66 dominions, or principalities, or powers.” But, for the sake of man, “ He emptied Himself of His glory, « was made of no reputation, and took upon Him the “ form of a servant, being made in the likeness of 6 men.” Such was His love; healing, thereby the diseases of our souls, redeeming us from sin and death, and revealing to us the whole will of his Father.--Thou