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SERMON IV.

ST. MATT. XXII. 39.

THOU SHALT LOVE THY NEIGHBOUR AS

THYSELF.

HAVING shown you in what your Duty towards God consists, and how you can perform it with the greatest honour and advantage to yourselves, I come to the consideration of your Duty towards your Neighbour.

* - Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself,” said God to the children of Israel. p Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself,” said our Saviour to his Disciples. † “ Ye are taught of God," wrote the Apostle, “ to love one another.” Hence we find, that the obligation of mutual love is imposed upon us by the command of Heaven. If, therefore, we do not show forth this love in our conduct, we infringe a positive divine law.

* Lev. xix. 18.

+ Matt. xix. 19. I 1 Thess. iv. 9.

We have likewise a strong inducement and exhortation to love one another in the example of God himself,

6 Herein,” says St. John, “ is love; not thąt we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we ought also to love one another.” We love God, because he first loved us, in showering upon us innumerable benefits, and in sending his only-begotten Son to save us from our sins. But it is not sufficient to say we love him ; we must prove our af. fection by our actions. It is one of the vainest things in the world to profess that we love God, if we do not love our neighbour. For, 7" if a man say, I love God, some similarity in his disposition and habits to our own, we think that we are in full possession of Christian love, we are greatly mistaken; for this is a parti. cular affection for a particular person, and not that comprehensive feeling of Charity, which, although it considers first those who are of the household of faith, embraces enemies as well as friends, and extends to the whole human race. It is a regard, which the common sympathies of our nature excite, and which is awakened within us without

t and hateth his brother, he is a liar ; for he that loveth not his brother, whom he hath seen, how can he love God, whom he hath not seen ?" If, when we feel a regard for another on account of some quality which we admire in him, or of

4

* 1 John, iv. 10.

+ 1 John, iy. 20.

any

reference to the divine will. It is a natural impulse, and not a religious feeling. I do not say, that this affection is wrong, nor would I in the least condemn it, except when fixed upon improper objects. But, although connected with it, it is not that comprehensive love taught by our Saviour. We may love our neighbour in the way just mentioned, and may render him very essential service; and yet we may not obey the command. “ Love thy neighbour as thyself ;” and for this reason, because we do not love him, we do not render him service, from a principle of duty to God. No act, how charitable and benevolent soever it may appear, can be really praise-worthy, which is not an act of obedience; and every act, in order to be a proof of obedience, must be done through faith in Christ, and with a view to please our heavenly Father.

If we follow the impulse of our inclinations only, we inay love our friends, and love them to such a degree, as to risk, not only our property, but even our lives, for their benefit and in their defence; but how, if urged solely by this motive, can we love those who have done us wrong? How can we * love our ene

* All must allow, that it is manifestly impossible for us to love our enemies, as we love our friends, or those who have done us wrong, as those who have done us none.

It is necessary that this matter be rightly understood, as some, carrying the precept beyond its intent, are apt to be offended at it. The injunction, “ Love your enemies,” though it does not exact from us an affection that takes delight in its object, nor an obligation to make them partakers of our confidence and fellowship, comprehends an absence of all hostile feeling and intention towards them, a readiness to forgive their trespasses, an anxiety, by mildness and conciliation, to convince them of their injustice, a resolution not to proceed to extremities against them till a superior duty renders forbearance criminal, a benevolent wish and forwardness to seize every opportunity to do them good, and the daily use of prayer for their conversion and welfare. I cannot press a man to my bosom, and give him my heart, whoin I know to be my enemy; yet surely I can so far love him, as to intend him no ill, as to treat him with gentleness and lenity, as to pray for him, as to speak well of him as far as truth will permit, and as to rescue him from an evil, and render him a service, whenever it is in my power.

mies? how can we love those who have no other connexion with us, than that of being of the same nature with our. selves ?

In order to possess that love enjoined in the Gospel, we must first love God, and then do good, and avoid doing harm, to our fellow-creatures, because we feel, that such conduct to them is an indispensable service of obedience to him. Take this, therefore, as a certain truth, that you are commanded to love your neighbour, but that you never will love him to any effect profitable to yourselves, nor to the extent required of you, unless you act to

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