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hail shewed him, that he should not call any man common or unclean," Acts x. 28. Not common, because he was an alien from the commonwealth of Israel; nor unclean, merely because he submitted not to the law of Moses. Now, this common proposal of a way of salvation to all men, should cement affection and inclination to one another.
Especially when we consider, also, that we are taught hereby to look upon all men as such who may possibly, at least, share with us in the heavenly happiness. Suppose them ever so bad at present, yet by the grace of God this may be their case. Which certainly should invigorate our endeavours that it may be so, and dispose us to every other friendly office by the way.
Upon such principles as these, Christianity most expressly commands universal love, and the proper expressions of it. That we should "abound in love one toward another, and toward all men," 1 Thess. iii. 12. "Be patient toward all men," chap. v. 14. And "shew meekness to all men," Tit. iii. 2. That we should " do good to all men," Gal. vL 10. And "make supplications, and prayers, and intercessions, and giving of thanks, for all men," 1 Tim. ii. 1.
2. The gospel lays the greatest stress upon this duty. Christ emphatically calls it " his new commandment, by which all men should know his disciples." John xiii. 34, 35. It is represented as the very design of the gospel dispensation, 1 Tim. i. 5. ** The end of the commandment is charity, out of a pure heart, and of a good conscience, and of faith unfeigned." St. Peter puts a very special mark of distinction upon it, among his practical exhortations, and that in prospect of the end of all things as at hand: "Above all things, have fervent charity among yourselves," 1 Peter iv. 7, 8. The want of it is declared to be a sure evidence of a state of death, 1 John iii. 14, 15. "We know that we have passed from death unto life, because we love the brethren; he that loveth not his brother, abideth in death. Whosoever hateth his brother, is a murderer; and ye know, that no murderer hath eternal life abiding in him." What an honour is put upon this command in the text, when our Lord declares it to be like the first," of loving God! He condescends, as it were, to place it upon a level with the other, at least to make it as indispensably necessary: and no wonder, when true love to God will cer• tainly produce thi9, 1 John iv. 20. ** If a man say I love God, 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?" Our Saviour plainly intimates, that God will not accept our solemn sacrifices to himself, while we are under the power of an uncharitable spirit, by directing us to go and seek reconciliation with our brother, before we offer our gift, Matt. v. 23, 24.
S. A general love is recommended to us by the greatest and noblest examples. Not to insist now upon those of the best men,
God himself is our pattern herein. How extensive is his goodness to all creatures, especially to all his intelligent creatures! How illustrious and sensible the fruits of it! How free and disinterested are all the expressions of his grace! All he does for mankind, is contrary to their deserts. Yet he "does not willingly afflict the children of men; but his mercies are new every morning, and fresh every moment." He is daily protecting and providing for the wants of our bodies; and most condescending and constant in his compassion for our souls. He "found out a ransom for us; spared not his own Son, but freely gave him up for us all," unasked; and is ever ready to give good things, even his good Spirit himself, "to them that ask him."—Should not this inspire us with such a godly temper in our measure? He is directly proposed to us as an example herein. In his common bounty to good and bad, Matt. v. 44, 45. ** Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you: that ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven," may shew by your resembling him herein, that you are his genuine offspring; "for he maketh his sun to rise upon the evil and on the good, and sendeth his rain on the just and on the unjust." In like manner his grace in giving his Son is set before us in the way of an example, 1 John iv. 10, 11. "Herein is love, not that we loved Gotl, 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." And St Paul calls us to "be kind one to another, tender-hearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ's sake hath forgiven us :" herein "being followers of God as dear children," Eph. iv. 82. chap. v. 1. 1
The blessed Jesus, or the Son in our nature, is often in like manner recommended as our example herein. The gospelhistory is one continued account of his benignity and grace to mankind. This brought him down from his throne of glory into our nature and world. His life was one continued course of action for the good of men's souls and bodies. He "went about doing good," Acts x. 38.; was full of compassion to people in their various afflictions; and thought nothing too mean, nothing too much, to do for the benefit of those who applied to him, and often sought out occasions of doing good offices. And his death was entirely designed to be an expression of his unparalleled love to a sinful world, in conjunction with his love to his Father. And both in life and death, he shewed amazing tenderness to his worst enemies. And as this his conduct is in itself most tit to be a moving example to us, so the gospel often calls us to attend to it as such. The beneficent mind he shewed in condescending to assume our nature, to be so surprisingly humbled in it, and to become obedient unto death, is elegantly described by the apostle in Phil. ii. on purpose to excite us to have "the same mind in us as was in Christ." And to dispose Christians to charity in distress, the apostle puts them in mind of "the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ," 2 Cor. viii. 9. And so in Eph. v. 2. we are exhorted to "walk in love, as Christ loved us, and hath given himself for us."
4. The blessed world we have in view should raise our souls to this lovely temper. That is a world of perfect love. While the use of faith and hope will be superceded there, "charity never faileth," but arrives at its consummation there; and, therefore, is the greatest of the three, 1 Cor. xiii. 8—13.
I shall put .a period to this discourse with three exhortations upon what has been said.
1. Carefully regulate your love to yourselves. To press you to wish well to yourselves in general, would be superfluous; for it is impossible you should do otherwise. But to press you to the due regulation of this principle, is one main design of the gospel. Let not your self-love exert itself under the government of ill-placed affections, or tumultuous passions, or unreasonable humour; but let reason and consid•
eration direct you in the choice of your true happiness, and then let your pursuit or refusal of other things be subordinated to that. This is a necessary point of conduct for your own interest and advantage; and it is as necessary to conduct you in your duty to your neighbour also.
2. Be on your guard against selfishness, or such an addictedness to yourselves, as shall confine your regards within the narrow circle of self. Such a self-love is the main principle of all the evils and disorders in the world ; it makes men undutiful to God, and useless, if not pernicious, to those about them.
It would go a great way to the cure of this, if men would entertain a humble sense of their own post in the universe: how small it is in that comparative view, and yet that it is as a link in the chain, which, if out of order, or separated from the rest, may occasion many disorders. We should think of the dependence we have upon others, and our frequent need of them; and how ill an aspect selfishness has in them, even in our own account. But especially, we should often consider ourselves as, in common with others, the subjects of the Majesty in the heavens, who assigns every man his post in life, and will call him to an account for his behaviour in it.
3. If we have learned a rectified love and affection to ourselves, let us carry the same temper into our behaviour to others. Then we shall "serve our generation," and, at the same time do it f* according to the will of God," without prejudice to ourselves in any of our truest interests, and, indeed, with the greatest pleasure to ourselves.
Ever remember the importance and weight of this duty. I should be sorry any Christian should call it dry morality, when it is so essential a branch of Christianity, inculcated by our Lord and Master, and all his apostles, explained or hinted at in most pages of the gospel, made necessary to our final acceptance, and frequently urged upon us on the foot of the greatest and most distinguishing doctrines of the gospel.
DOING UNTO OTHERS, AS WE WOULD BE
Matt. Vii. 12.
Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them; for this is the lav: and the prophets.
OUR blessed Master hath given us two short summaries of our duty to our neighbour. One is that already insisted upon, "Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself;" and the other is contained in the passage now read. Both of them are near akin, and yet in some respects different. An appeal is made in both to every man's own self; and the principle of self-love is supposed to be lawful, natural, and necessary, when men are pointed to it as the measure of their temper and conduct to other people. But there is this difference: in the former, we are directly referred to our $elfilow itself, as the measure of our love to others, on the score of the relation wherein, on many accounts, we are to consider them as standing to us: in this summary, the expectations we have from others in reference to ourselves, are offered as the measure of our acting toward them. The former is most properly a rule of cfiarity, but this of righteousness and equity.
In the prosecution of this maxim, I would,
I. Offer some things for explaining and stating it.
H. Shew the strong obligations we are under to it. And,