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friends, and gratitude to benefactors should be so exercised, as to coincide with our general duty: all excessive attachments, as generally understood and celebrated, are partial, exclusive, and idolatrous affections; the love of a man's own image in another is person, 'self-love reflected, or the creature substituted in the place of the Creator. Love of our country likewise, while it consists with love to mankind at large, is love to our neighbour according to the degree of proximity, and may be expressed in seeking the real good of our own nation by every fair and equitable endeavour. But Roman and Grecian patriotism is downright selfishness, a bigotry in benevolence, instead of philanthropy. It is good-will to a few, foolishly seeking their prejudicial aggrandizement, at the expence of the ruin or misery of all the world besides. It is therefore the honour of Christianity, that it makes no mention of so proud, rapacious, and malignant a disposition.
Love to our neighbours as ourselves is also shewn by benevolence and compassion for men of no religion, of false religions, or even of the vilest characters. It forbids us to do them any injury, or to persecute them for their sentiments or practices; or any way to molest them, except as they become obnoxious to punishment for disturbing the peace of the community. We must not needlessly propagate reports to their disadvantage, even if true; much less may we slander and misrepresent them.
We ought to watch opportunities of doing them good, and conciliating them by kind usage; not disdaining, or despairing of, them; but praying and hoping that they may be converted from the evil of their ways, and saved from destruction. And this consists very well with separating from their company, "" not bidding them God speed, "lest we partake of their evil deeds;" and all other protests, which we are commanded to enter against their principles and conduct.
We are even required to love our most virulent and injurious enemies and persecutors; after the example of the Lord's love to us, when rebels against him. Not that we ought to love them more than our friends and brethren; as some have misinterpreted these precepts, that they might expose them to contempt. But we should still bear good-will to our foes, wish them well and pray for them, watch against all resentment, and not suffer ourselves to be overcome with evil, but still strive to overcome evil with good. We ought to keep our hearts diligently, that we may not rejoice either in their crimes, disgrace, or misery; to cultivate compassion for them, especially in respect of their souls; to shew a forbearing, forgiving, and reconcileable disposition; to spare no pains, and grudge no expence or self-denial, in attempting to do them good; and to seize on every opportunity of relieving their temporal distresses, in order to make way for seeking their more important
advantage. "If thine enemy hunger, feed him: "if he thirst, give him drink; for in so doing, "thou shalt heap coals of fire on his head." In these cases, we should be ready to relieve the most wicked and ungrateful: but in ordinary circumstances our brethren and friends have a prior claim to our special kindness; even as our heavenly Father causes "his sun to shine and his rain to de"scend on the wicked and ungrateful," but reserves his peculiar blessings for his children.
The example of the Lord's love to us when enemies, every part of the plan of redemption, the ministry of reconciliation, and the past and present kindness of our God to his believing servants, furnish motives and arguments, for the constant practice of all those loving dispositions, and that peaceable and affectionate conduct; which are indispensably required of Christ's disciples, as the only sure evidences that they are true believers, and that their sins are forgiven for his name's sake.
Let us compare these things with the apostle's description of love, as stated in the context. "Love," says he, "suffereth long and is kind;
love envieth not: love vaunteth not itself; is not
"puffed up; does not behave itself unseemly; "sceketh not her own, is not easily provoked; "thinketh no evil; rejoiceth not in iniquity; but rejoiceth in the truth: beareth all things, be
lieveth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all
"things." St. Paul doubtless spake of love to men for the Lord's sake: love expressed both by doing and suffering; love to both their bodies and souls: a patient, long-suffering, unostentatious, disinterested, prudent, modest, unsuspicious, condescending, self-denying, forgiving, and fervent affection to our neighbours and brethren; expressed in the persevering use of every means suited to do them good; and unwearied, by suffering or illusage, in seeking to accomplish this benevolent and compassionate object. Next to the example of Christ; the conduct of the apostle himself forms undoubtedly the best exposition of his language, that was ever yet given.
II. Then we proceed, very briefly to shew, in what respects love is greater than faith and hope; and how this consists with the doctrine of salvation by grace, justification by faith alone.
Love is greater than faith and hope; because it constitutes the end for which faith and hope are appointed and rendered effectual. "The end of "the commandment," or the message of the gospel, “is love, out of a pure heart, and of a good "conscience, and of faith unfeigned."" It is the design of the whole gospel to recover men from a state of apostacy, enmity, selfishness, and malig
I 1 Tim. i. 5.
nity, to that love of God and man which the law commands; and to induce them, by obligations of inestimable value, and by new principles implanted in the heart, to express that love in all their tempers and conduct. This salvation, through the blood of Christ, can only be perceived and applied by faith: and the completion of it is the object of hope: but love is the disposition, health, and felicity, to which man must be restored, in connexion with forgiveness of sin and reconciliation to God. It is the prize itself, of which faith and hope must gradually put us in possession. In proportion as we love, we "dwell in God, and "God in us;" we anticipate heaven, and possess the blessing: for God is Love, and heaven is love. A magnificent edifice cannot be erected without scaffolding; yet the building is greater than the scaffolding, being the sole end for which that is necessary and when it is finished the scaffolding is removed as an useless encumbrance.
Love will endure for ever; but faith and hope will soon be swallowed up in sight and enjoyment. In heaven they will be no longer wanted: but love will there be perfected; and every alloy of envy, selfishness, prejudice, or aversion removed; every uneasy, self-denying exercise changed for such as are more delightful; and all coldness and deficiency remedied. The blessed inhabitants will love God with their whole souls, and each other as themselves;