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that we can, not objecting Unkindness or Unworthiness in any; for he loved us without any Merit, or any other Motive but his own Goodness j he is kind to the Evil and the Unthankful, and causes the Sun to shine upon the Just and the Unjust: and we are bid to be merciful, as our heavenly Father is merciful; that is, to imitate him in the undistinguish'd Acts of his Love and Bounty: but much more are we to express our Affection to such as either need, desire or deserve our Kindness.
AH the Requital that God expects for his Bounty and Goodness, is the Return of Acts of Love and Kindness to the Brethren : as for himself, he is above our Beneficence; our Goodness extendeth not to him, we can present him wfth nothing, but what was his own before: all that we can do, is to express our Love, and extend our Kindness to one another; which if done for God's fake, and in obedience to his Command, will be an acceptable Oblation.
Beside, as we are not capable of giving any thing unto God, so neither is he capable of receiving any thing from us - , for no Man (faith our Apostle) hath seen God at any time. All Acts of Love and Kindness pass among such as fee and converse with each other; and the Objects of our Senses are commonly the Objects of our Compassion and Charity: whereas God is invisible, and above the Reach of our Eye or Converse; and so no good Office of ours is able to come at him.
But tho we cannot see God in his Person, yet we may daily behold him in his Members; and what we do to any of these, he reckons as done to himself: yea, if we love one another-, he is not far from any of us-, for he then dwe/leth in M, and his Love is perfected in us: He takes up his Abode in a Heart that is fill'd with Love ., he resides in it by his Holy Spirit, and raises its Love to the highest Perfection.
But by what Mark or Token may we know this dwelling of God in us, and we in him? Why, that we are told in the next Verse: Hereby we know, that we dwell in him, and he in us, because he hath given us of his Spirit,. If we find the InHuence of the Holy Spirit moving in us by the Fruits of Love, Joy, Peace, Long-suffering, and the like, we may conclude that God is in us of a truth 1 for if God be Love, as he frequently stiles himself then where Love is, there is God; he is an Inhabitant in the Bosom where Love resides, and he is a Stranger to th« Breast wher« that is wanting.
VoUV. Partfc H By By this Spirit (foith our Apostle) we have seen and do-testify, that the Father sent the Son to be the Saviour os the World: which is such an Instance of the Divine Love, as cannot but inflame our Hearts with Love to God, and to one another. Hereby know we the Spirit of Truth and the Spirit of Error Whosoever shall confess that Jesus is the Soft of God, God dwelleth in him, and he in God. Such a Faith in the Son of God, working by Love, can proceed only from the Spirit of God dwelling in us-, ana by that wehave known and believed the Love that God hath to us, that God is Love; and he that dwelleth in Love, dwelleth in God% and God in him. This is the Mark here given of our Relation to God, and his Residence with us, viz.. the Love we bear both to him and the Brethren ; which the Apostle here doubles and repeats, that we may the better know and try our selves by it.
Now the Perfection of this Love consists in a bold owning and confessing of these Truths in times of greatest Danger; for so the next words tell us, Herein is out Love made perfeft, that we may have Boldness in the Day of Judgment, because as he is, so are we in this World : meaning, that when our Love edmes to the Trial of the last Day, it may be found constant and sincere, that as Christ is true and constant to us, so may we be to him in this World. The Love that Christ bore to us did set him above the Fear of Death, or any manner of Discouragement that might hinder the Es-sects of his Kindness to us; and the Love we bear to him should not softer us to shrink from our Faith and Confidence in him, for the Fear or Frowns of any.
There is no Fear in Love (faith the beloved Disciple) true Love is not daunted with the Appearance of any Difficulties, but rather gladly embraces the Opportunity of surmounting them. Perfell Love casteth out Fear, it banisheth all Fear of Danger, yea, even of Death it self, and declinesnot the hardest Proof or Trial of its Sincerity: it inspires Men with Courage enough to despise Difficulties, and delights in what may best express its Constancy. Fear hath Torment, and is evermore attended with Anxiety and Trouble: that weak Passion creates Pain upon the least Prospect of Danger, and will not suffer Men to go on in any Enterprize, that hath any Shew of it, but is apt to draw back upon every light Occasion ., and therefore he that feareth, w not made perfett in Love: such a one will forfake his Friend upon the least Temptation, and refuse to own or
stand stand by him, when any Danger appears - , and consequently hath never arriv'd to the Perfection of Love, nor will . ever find the Comfort and Reward of it.
But is Love then accompanied with no kind of Fear? Are we not bid to fear God, as well as to love him? And may not these well enough consist together? Is not Perfection ascrib'd as much to the Fear as to the Love of God? And why then must these cast out or exclude each other? In answer to this we may note, that there is, ;-,-s , ijt, A base cowardly Fear, that shrinks from all Trouble, and will run no hazards for the beloved Object: and such a Fear as thaf^ is void of all true Love, and is utterly inconsistent with it. And there isj. . i 'n .. zdly, A prudent and cautious Fear, that prevents needlels Trouble, and preserves from unnecessary Dangers : and this may very well consist with true Loye, and indeed ought to go with it; for we are bid to be wife as Serpents, to avoid all unnecessary Danger and Trouble and also harmless As Doves, which are Emblems of Love and Innocence. Beside, we may observe farther a servile Fear, which is the Fear of Slaves and Vassals, who do nothing but from a Dread of Punishment, or Fear of the Lash: and this likewise is void of all true Love, and is cast out by it. As also a filial Fear, which,-is the Fear of Sons or Children towards ; their Parents, who' are afraid of offending them, and watchful against all Occasions of it; and this is not only consistent with Love, but is a good Sign and Effect of it.
This is the Love that we owe unto God, and is indeed the mere Duty of Gratitude; for he began with us, and when we were Enemies to him, that deserv'd nothing but Wrath and Vengeance, he sent his Son to die for us, and reconcile us to himself: for which reason (as St. John tells us in the next words) we may well enough love him, because he first loved us. Love, we fay, is the Loadstone of Love, that draws very strongly, and by an invisible Influence constrains us to return it ., but the unparallel'd Instances of the Divine Love mould powerfully move and excite our Affections, and kindle the warmest Flames of Love in Our breasts towards God. And this, as we have before seen, is to be express'd by our Love to the Brethren; insomuch (as the Apostle here adds) If a Man fay, I love God and hateth his Brother, he is a Lyar: for he that loveth not his Brother, whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen? The Love of God and our Neigh
H x bour bour are inseparable, being the two great Commandments^ that are often link'd and join'd together, as we read, Mat. 22.38,39. And he that would put them asunder by pretending to love the one without the other, doth but falsify and deceive both himself and others: for 'tis impossible truly to love God, and not to do as he bids; especially in so reasonable a Command, as shewing Kindness to those who are so nearly ally'd both to him and us. He that loves another, will shew some Regard to his Children, and friends, and such as appertain to him, for his fake: And if we love God as we ought, we shall express it to those that bear his Image and belong to him. Likeness is a usual Cause and Motive of Love, and God having made Man in his own Likeness, and in the fame Likeness to each other, we should be thereby mov'd to love God and one another.
Moreover, Sight and Converfation are apt to breed Love and Friendship j it being much easier to love one, whom we daily behold and converse with, than one that we never faw. And hence the Apostle argues, that if a Man loves not his Brother, whom he daily fees, he cannot love God, whom he never saw.
From all which the beloved Disciple concludes with these words, And this Commandment have voe from him, that he who loveth God, loves his Brother also. Both of them are enjoin'd by the fame Authority, and he that violates the one, is guilty of the Breach of the other.
This is briefly the Sense and Sum of this Day's Epistle, which breathes out nothing but Love to God in the first place i whose transcendent Greatness in himself, and Goodness to his Creatures, may justly challenge and exact it from us. To our Brethren and Neighbours, in the' next place, whose Affinity in Nature and Blood doth likewise require it. There is implanted in us a natural Disposition to love those of the fame kind: we see something of it among brute Beasts, who agree well enough among themselves • , and we must be more favage than they, if we hate Mid prey upon one another. Again,
There is a great deal of solid and substantial Pleasure in loving and doing good to one another• , 'tis a Divine and God-like thing, and nothing makes us more like, or more acceptable to him, it chears the Mind with such an inward Peace and Tranquillity, as far exceed all sensual Pleasures and Delights.
Finally, Love will be attended at last, with an ample and everlasting Reward, and fill the Soul with Joy unspeakable and full of Glory: It will draw the Affections of God to us, and fix them so, that we shall live for ever in the unquenchable Flames of the Divine Love, Indeed the Love of God and our Brother, is the best Qualification for those heavenly Mansions, where Love reigns, and isadvanc'd to its highest Perfection ., to which if we ever hope to come, we must, as Christ hath given commandment, love one another : for there no Hatred, Malice, or Discord enter ; nothing but perfect Love and Amity can inhabit in those pure and happy Regions. For which therefore let us prepare our selves by an unfeign'd Love to God and the Brethren.
The G o s p E i, for the First Sunday after Trinityf
St. Luke xvi. 19, to the end.
There was a certain rich Man, who was clothed in Purple and fine Linen, and fared sumptuously every Day. And there was a certain Beggar, nairPd Lazarus, who was laid at his Gate full of Sores, and desiring to be fed with the Crumbs that fell from the rich Man's Table: Moreover, the Dogs came and lick'd his Sores, &C.
IN the Epistle for this Day, St. John had been pressing by sundry Arguments, taken from the Nature, the Precepts, and the Example of God himself, the great Duty of brotherly Love, to be express'd in all Acts of Humanity and Charity. And here in the Gospel for the Day, St. Luke sets forth the extreme Danger of neglecting this Duty, or casting it off by Hardheartednefs and Inhumanity. And this, he doth here in these words; Tnere Was a ccr~ tain rich Man, &c. The Words are understood by some