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Christ. These persons are ready to put the worst con1 struction upon the views and conduct of faithful christians, who are active and zealous, in watching over, reproving, and censuring the erroneous, corrupt, or disorderly. They will, if they can, make themselves and others believe, that this is a false zeal, which ought to be hated and condemned. But the sincere friends of Christ, who express their zeal for his glory and the purity of his sacred ordinances, deserve universal approbation and esteem, instead of reproach and contempt. A zeal according to knowledge in the exercise of church discipline is one of the most rare and amiable traits in the christian character. It is a signal expression of true self-denial, to take up the cross, and suffer reproach for the cause of Christ, and for the saving benefit of those, who are wandering in the paths of fatal error and delusion. Christians never act more in character, and give better evidence of the sincerity of their hearts, than while they are displaying a fervent zeal to purge out errors and corruptions from the church of Christ.
7. If christians should be zealous in maintaining gospel discipline; then those who are the subjects of it, ought to be unfeignedly thankful to their brethren for their labour of love. It is in them an expression of pure self-denial to pursue the steps which Christ has appointed to reclaim offenders, who are injuring themselves, their best friends, and the cause which they have solemnly engaged to promote. And if they are true penitents, they will hear the friendly admonition of their brethren, confess their offences, and heal, as far as possible, the wounds which they have given to Christ in the house of his friends. Instead of complaining of the zeal and fidelity of their fellow christians, they will return them their grateful acknowledg
ments for their benevolent exertions to save them from the path of the destroyer. This will give the most satisfaction to their own minds, and be the best method they can take to regain the charity and confidence of the church, who will rejoice to see the happy issue of their fidelity and zeal. But if they are obstinate and incorrigible under the mild means of gospel discipline, they will throw themselves into the power of the great adversary of souls, and take the direct course to ruin themselves forever.
To conclude; let the professors of religion be urged to fulfil the important trusts reposed in them. Christ has given them the charge of his word, of his ordinances, and of the discipline of his house. He still walks in the midst of his golden candlesticks, and keeps his eye fixed upon his professed friends, to see whether they are faithful to him, to themselves, and to one another. He has given them power and opportunity of doing much for him, and bound them not only by his authority, but by his love, to be faithful and zealous in his cause. They have put their hand to the plough, and must never look back. It will be highly displeasing to Christ, and extremely injurious to the souls of men, if they suffer corruptions in doctrine, and practice to prevail, and let christianity languish and die in their hands. But if they are constant, faithful, and zealous in promoting piety, and maintaining the purity of divine ordinances, they will meet the final approbation of Christ, and a glorious recompense of reward. Amen.
SELFISHNESS THE ESSENCE OF MORAL
LUKE Vi, 32.
For if ye love them which love you, what thank have ye? for sinners also love those that love them.
WHEN Christ first appeared in his publick character he displayed so much kindness, compassion, and benevolence in healing the sick, relieving the distressed, and preaching the gospel to the poor, that he was almost universally beloved as well as admired. The high and low, the learned and unlearned, the teachers and those that were taught, flocked after him, to hear his doctrines, and to see and experience his miracles. He appeared to be what it was foretold that he should be, "the desire of all nations." At least, the Scribes and Pharisees and Sadducees, though disunited among themselves agreed to admire and to follow the long-expected Messiah. And to any one, less acquainted with the human heart than Christ was, they would have appeared to be his real friends. But he knew what was in man, and was never deceived by any false appearances of love and esteem. As he perfectly knew the characters of all who followed him, so in his addresses to the mixed multitudes, he directed his discourses to the hearts and consciences of both the sincere and insincere. And as he had occasion, while his real enemies wore the mask of love, to point out the distinction between true love and false, so he dwelt much upon this subject in both his publick and
private discourses. An instance of this we have in the context, where we find a description of his followers, and a summary of his discourse, which he delivered to them. "He came down and stood in the plain; and the company of his disciples, and a great multitude of people out of all Judea and Jerusalem, and from the sea coast of Tyre and Sidon, which came to hear him, and to be healed of their diseases; and that were vex. ed with unclean spirits: and they were healed. And the whole multitude sought to touch him: for there went virtue out of him, and healed them all. And he lifted up his eyes on his disciples, and said, Blessed be ye poor: for yours is the kingdom of God. are ye that hunger now: for ye shall be filled. are ye that weep now: for ye shall laugh. Blessed are ye when men shall hate you, and when they shall separate you from their company, and shall reproach you, and cast out your name as evil, for the Son of man's sake. Rejoice ye in that day, and leap for joy: for behold your reward is great in heaven." He now turns from his disciples to the multitude, and says, "But wo unto you that are rich! for ye have received your consolation. Wo unto you that are full! for ye shall hunger. Wo unto you that laugh now! for ye shall mourn and weep. Wo unto you when all men shall speak well of you! for so did their fathers to the false prophets. But I say unto you that hear, Love your enemies, do good to them that hate you. Bless them that curse you, and pray for them that despitefully use you. And unto him that smiteth thee on the cheek offer also the other; and him that taketh away thy cloak forbid not to take thy coat also. Give to every one that asketh of thee, and of him that taketh away thy goods ask them not again. And as ye would that men should do to you, do ye to them like
wise. For if ye love them which love you, what thank have ye? for sinners also love those that love them." What could have been more pertinent than this discourse to the multitudes, who united with his disciples in following him, and who practically expressed so much regard for him? It was suited to make them all see and feel that essential distinction, which there is between true love and false, and between saints and sinners. He first describes that pure, disinterested love, which forms the character of saints, and then contrasts it with that selfishness, which forms th character of sinners; and finally appeals to sinners themselves, whether they deserve the character of saints, while they love only those that love them. There is now, perhaps, as much need as ever there was, to set this subject in a just and intelligible light. And in order to this, it is proposed to consider why sinners love themselves; why they love others; and why there is no moral goodness in their loving themselves and others.
1. Let us consider why sinners love themselves. It is plainly supposed in the text, that sinners love themselves, for they are said to love those that love them, which could not be accounted for, if they were wholly destitute of love to themselves. In other passages of scripture, they are said to be lovers of their ownselves, and to seek their own things, and not the things of others. But this is too evident from experience and observation to need any proof. Sinners certainly love themselves. But why? Not for the same reason that saints love themselves: if they did, they would be saints. Nor do they love themselves from mere instinct, as the lower species of animals do. But they love themselves because they are themselves, which is neither true love, nor a mere animal affection, but