Imatges de pàgina

in scripture as “the end of the commandments," and the perfection of Christian obedience. For what purpose are all the injunctions delivered by Moses and the Prophets, by Christ and his Apostles, unless to enforce the observance of this amiable virtue? All the precepts of the second table of the law are designed to teach men to love one another; all the moral directions which are interspersed through the old testament aim at inculcating mutual good will; and our Lord's discourses have all a tendency to subdue the unnatural passions of men, and teach them “to be kindly affectioned one toward another, with brotherly love in honour preferring one another.” Nay, every Christian grace is declared to be useless without this concomitant; for, says an Apostle, “ though I speak with the tongue of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass or a tinkling cymhal. And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith so that I could remove mountains; and have not charity, I am nothing. And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned and have not charity; it profiteth me nothing."

And it is no wonder that it is reckoned so indispensa. ble a qualification ; since without it men will indulge many tempers, which are unsuitable to the character of Christians. Thus, one who is destitute of brotherly love, may be so proud as to regard his fellow-creatures with contempt; whereas by possessing this affection, he will be led to esteem and value them as they deserve, which is surely more becoming than to despise them. Another may be so envious, as to look with an evil eye on the prosperity of his neighbour ; but if he loved him as himself he would rejoice in his welfare, which is a disposition more consonant to human nature, than ill-will and malignity. A third may be so malevolent as to be displeased at the reputation which another may acquire, and thereby induced to detract from his credit; whereas if he loved him as himself, he would consider his fame as justly earned by superior merit. In short if brotherly love prevailed more in the hearts of men, they would live in peace, con

cord and happiness; but where it is wanting, there strife and contention disturb social intercourse, which render men uneasy in themselves, and injurious to one another.

And as this kindness of affection is necessary for promoting agreeable intercourse among men; it is no less requisite, if we would have our persons and services acceptable in the sight of God. Accordingly, we are taught, that if we bring our gift to the altar, and there remember that our brother hath ought against us; we must “ leave our gift before the altar, and be reconciled to our brother, and then come and offer our gift.” Indeed, if we live in hatred, and envy, and malice, we are not proper objects of God's acceptance; for he requireth us to love our neighbours, as a condition for partaking of his lovingkindness; “if ye forgive men their trespasses, so shall your Father in heaven forgive your trespasses.”

Having thus shewn the importance of cherishing brotherly love for the improvement of the Christian temper. I proceed to inculcate,

IV. The obligations arising from reason and scripture, for the exercise of this benevolent affection.

The constitution of our nature is such, as powerfully to excite to the cultivation of kindness and good-will to our fellow-creatures. We have feelings which incline us to wish and to promote the happiness of others, when we have opportunity. These are various, according to the relations which we bear to those with whom we are connected. The parental affection excites us to nourish and provide for our children; the filial principle to make a return of love and gratitude; the attachments of kindred to unite the hearts of brothers and sisters; the regard which we cherish for neighbours and acqaintances, to promote their comfort ; the sympathy which we experience for the distressed, to succour and relieve them; and the general feeling of benevolence, to do good to all men as we have opportunity. These are instinctive affections of human nature, which we should cherish, if we would act according to the dictates of reason, and cultivate the natural dispositions of our minds.-And in order to encourage

their growth, God, who hath bestowed them, hath annex. ed a certain degree of pleasurable sensation to the exercise of our benevolent principles; so that we enjoy greater satisfaction in ministering to the comfort and happiness of others, than almost from any other actions in which we can engage. Let us then pursue the course of conduct, which our nature directs for loving our neighbour as ourselves.

Another source of obligation for brotherly love, arises from the condition in which we are placed in civil society. In this world we find ourselves in such circumstances, as render mutual endearments and friendly offices necessary for transacting the business of life; and dwelling together with any degree of comfort. We are dependent on one another for various conveniences, requisite in our earthly condition. Some are placed in stations of authority, others born in a low estate. Therefore, mutual regard to each other is indispensable for rendering their intercourse agreeable; condescension in superiors, and submission in inferiors. In whatever rank of life we find ourselves situated, the kindness and ministration of others will be requisite for our accommodation; and therefore we must endeavour to secure the good-will of those on whom we depend for so great a share of our happiness. If we expect others to manifest kindness to us; it is reasonable that we should make some return, whenever they require, and can be benefited by our friendly offices.

This will appear still more evident, if we consider, as another source of obligation to brotherly-love, that many of those within the reach of our influence may be so wretched, as to stand in need of things needful for the body; or so ignorant and wicked, as to require our compassion to their immortal souls. These are various cases of distress which come within our observation, that might be alleviated by our means. There are multitudes whom sickness or poverty renders objects of compassion to every beneficent man. We may indeed excuse ourselves from taking any interest in their condition; because we have no intimate connection with them. But, are they not all equally our brethren according to the flesh; partakers of

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the same nature; descended from the same father; redeemed by the same Saviour; and heirs together with us of the grace of life? If it has pleased God, in the distribution of his providence, to place them in distressful circumstances, are they not thereby rendered objects of commiseration, and justly entitled to our support? Would we in a like situation be unconcerned, if we were overlooked by those who might afford us succour? No surely let us therefore "minister to those who are in trouble, considering that we ourselves also are in the body."-In like manner, let our love to others display itself in soothing the sorrows which overwhelm their spirits; or imparting instruction which may enlighten their minds. Let us improve such opportunities as may occur, for giving advice, direction, and counsel to the ignorant and those that are out of the way; let us do good and communicate, for with such sacrifices God is well-pleased. If such be the considerations which reason suggests to engage us to brotherly-love, scripture enforces them by other motives no less obligatory. It teaches us, that we should hereby imitate the loving-kindness of our heavenly Father, who is continually doing good to all men, even to the unthankful and evil. "He maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good; and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust." He daily loadeth us with his benefits; conducts us by his providence; redeems us by his grace; and gives us all things richly to enjoy, pertaining both to life and to godliness. And though we are daily offending him by our transgressions: yet "he is long suffering and merciful;" forgiving the past, when we endeavour to walk more circumspectly for the future. Now, we are required to imitate the divine perfections, and to love our brethren of mankind as God hath loved us. We are required to resemble him in his moral character, and to be perfect in some measure as God is perfect. This we can only do by brotherly love. We cannot imitate him in his powerful superintedence, or wise arrangements; but we may be fellow-workers with him in doing good. We may manifest our kindness to all with whom we are connected, as he visits them with his loving



kindness, we may forgive others the injuries which they commit against us, as he pardons us the offences of which we are guilty against him; and we may extend our benevolence to all within our reach; as his tender mercies are over all his works. Thus shall we be the children of our father who is in heaven.

Moreover the example of Christ should oblige us to brotherly-love. He loved us with such regard, as to undertake our redemption, by submitting to the most grie. vous sufferings for our sakes. “ If he therefore loved us," so are we required,“ to love one another.” Besides, during his continuance in the world, he exhibited the most tender compassion for every one who could be benefited by his assistance. And as he hath left us an example that we should follow his steps, we are called upon to imitate him in loving the brethren, and doing good to them as he did, when we have opportunity.

Not only the example, but the command of Christ enforces the exercise of benevolent affections. When he was about to leave the world, he delivered this special injunction to his disciples; “ a new commandment I give unto you, that ye love one another, as I have loved ,

you, ye also love one another.” And we find the Apostles every where declaring, that universal love and charity is the temper of mind which Christianity is designed to inspire; and that we ought to cherish it, as the peculiar characteristic of a truly religious character.

"By this," says St. John, “we know that we have passed from death unto life, because we love the brethren. He that loveth not his brother abideth in death."

Finally, we are obliged to exercise brotherly-love, if we would be rendered meet for the inheritance of the saints in light. Into that blessed place, no wrathful nor contentious spirit shall ever enter; for there the saints love one another with pure hearts fervently; there no feuds nor animosities, no clamour nor evil speaking shall be permitted to interrupt their social intercourse; but their hearts shall be united in the bonds of mutual affection, and their love shall be perfected by constant exercise through the ages of eternity. If then we would be admitted into the


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