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ed, or the generous motive employed to enforce it's observance.
Jesus and his small society of friends were now assembled in expectation of that fatal event which was to smite the shepherd, and to scatter the sheep. For the last time, he was now to address them : His instructions would, therefore, be such as he deemed most important and useful; and his hearers would listen to them with that attention, and obey them with that alacrity, which are due to the discourse and advice of a dying man. In this interesting situation, what language did he hold to his afflicted followers ? “ commandment,” said he, “ my peculiar “ commandment, about the observance of “ which I am most anxious : my last and • dying commandment, which therefore ought “ to sink deepest into your hearts : my most “ important commandment, which will be “ most useful to you when, by my departure, “ you are left as sheep without a shepherd in " the midst of wolves—THAT YE LOVE ONE
This is the request of one who “ loves you, and who is now about to give the “ most convincing proof of his affection, even “ to lay down his life for you.
I cannot sup
- This is my
pose you so ungrateful as to disregard my « commandment, or so insensible to every
generous sentiment as to feel no emotion of “ love and regard for him whose life has been “ dedicated to your service, and the good of " mankind. But all the return I require for “ this kindness, is, that ye love one another. “ Let the regard which you owe to me be “ transferred to your brethren; and whatever " affection and kindness you show unto them, " I will consider as done unto myself.”
And is it possible, O generous and disinterested Saviour ! that thy commandments are still disregarded by those who bear thy name, and thy blessed example productive of so little effect? Is it possible, while the wild beasts of the desert delight to associate with those of their kind, while the monsters of prey withhold their ravening jaws from their own species, that man should become the enemy of man, should burn with resentment, malice and revenge against his brother, and should
go forth in hostile array to exterminate his race? Yes truly so it is. Though nature teaches, and the gospel coinmands us to love one another, how often do we see this noble and expanding principle confined and fettered by the narrow
and contracted one of self-love. Even where men break not out into open violence and discord, how little brotherly love or sincere goodwill actuates their conduct! What is modern politeness, but selfishness in disguise ? What is modern honour, but a refined species of revenge
? What avail those phrases of compliment which custom has sanctioned, but to cloak the inward malevolence, or at least indifference of the heart?
In such a situation of things, when there is so little love without dissimulation, it is not an unnecessary, however common, attempt to illustrate the nature, and enforce the cultivation of this divine principle.
I. The love of our neighbour is that principle of our nature which leads us to wish well to all mankind, and to do good to as many as are within our reach. It is, therefore, an inward feeling, and not an outward act; a disposition of soul, and not a qualification of conduct. It is not, however, an useless and inactive principle ; on the contrary, it is the foundation of a virtuous character, and is, in truth, the fulfilling of the law. For where it exists in full force, it secures a complete discharge of all the social duties. To this prin
ciple, however diversified by circumstances and situation, every species of active virtue may be traced. Where it meets with suffering and distress, it shines forth in the exercise of compassion.
Where it meets with poverty and want, it appears in works of charity and mercy When it is called to judge of the actions of others, it decides with candour and impartiality. In cases of insult and injury, love becomes meekness, and leads to the forgiveness of wrongs. Where discord and divisions prevail, love cultivates a quiet and
peaceable behaviour. When our friends are interested, it performs, with alacrity, the kind offices of friendship. When our country is in danger, it shines forth under the name of patriotism and publick spirit. To superiours, it shows respect; to equals, kindness and affec
to inferiours, gentleness and condescension,
In like manner, it is an effectual barrier against the commission of sin. If we sincerely love one another, we can be guilty of no manner of injustice, for love workcth no ill to his neighbour. In that breast where dwells brotherly love, envy can find no place, for charity envieth not. Love is an enemy to all
pride and vain-glory, for charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up, and doth not behave itself unseemly. It stops the mouth of the censorious, for love thinketh no evil and covereth all sins. It destroys every spark of covetousness, for love seeketh not her own. In short he that loveth another hath fulfilled the law. For this, Thou shalt not commit adultery, Thou shalt not kill, Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not bear false witness, Thou shall not covet, and if there be any
other commandment, it is briefly comprehended in this saying, namely, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.
Hitherto we have spoken only of the principle itself and the mode of its operation ; let us now inquire into its object. I am to love my neighbour; but who is my neighbour? This question was formerly proposed to our Lord, by one who imagined that no body was his neighbour but one of the same faith and country with himself. Our Lord's reply, which is contained in one of the most beautiful and affecting histories recorded in any language, plainly shows the fallacy of this idea, gives energy to the voice of naiure which vicious customs and prejudices had so long silenced, and teaches us that our love ought not to be