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our love, therefore, as much due to our neighbour as it is to ourselves, however much his external circumstances may be different from ours? In the judgment of an impartial spectator, he may appear, in regard to all that is imperishable in man, the endowments of virtue and knowledge, not less entitled to love than we. If our love to ourselves is just and equitable only as it is proportioned to our worth, on what ground can we withhold it from others who are possessed of an equal, if not of a superior degree of excellency?
Laying aside every claim to regard on the ground of moral worth, we are bound to entertain and to shew kindness and good will to all human beings,to take pleasure in their happiness, just as we do in our own, and to do all in our power to promote it. We must be sensible that thus much is due to them as fellow-creatures, since we should expect, however wretched might be our condition, this degree of benevolence from others.
ON THE NATURE AND PROPERTIES OF THE LOVE WE OWE
The love which is due from us to God comprehends, as has been shewn, delight or complacency in God, good-will towards him, and gratitude for his mercies. Wherever a fellow-creature is possessed of virtue,
and is, at the same time, our benefactor, our love to him, in order to come up to the requirement of the law, must be that of complacency and gratitude, as well as of benevolence. These feelings are closely allied to each other.
I. The love which we owe to our fellow-creatures is pre-eminently characterized by delight in their happi
Its essence is a benevolent, heartfelt desire to promote their real welfare. The mind in which it dwells glows with good-will to the whole creation ; and in regard to all mankind, sincerely wishes that their health, virtue, quiet, and prosperity, may be increased, and continued.
Love will lead us to extend kindness and forgiveness to our enemies; compassion to those who are even void of all moral excellency; and to do good to every creature to the extent of our power of benefiting them. Its object is happiness, happiness suited to the nature and faculties of sentient and intelligent beings; and, therefore, it must necessarily desire the weal of every human creature, as well as use suitable means for securing and promoting it.
II. Love to our neighbour implies that we duly value those who are included under this term. that is void of wisdom," saith the wise man, “despiseth his neighbour*.” The folly of this conduct consists in treating that as despicable which is not really so; and which, however faulty, is, by the divine law, the object of our good-will and compassion. Are not all mankind alike, not only the creatures of God, but formed in his image? Are they not all endued
* Prov. ii. 12.
with an immortal spirit, and physically capable of everlasting happiness ? Are they not all the objects of His care and bounty, whose tender mercies are over all his works? Why dost thou set at nought thy brother? For we shall all stand before the judgmentseat of Christ t.”
If we value man according to what he is, even though fallen, and to what he is capable of becoming ; -and still more, if we value him in any proportionable measure to the love which God has shewn him, we shall never think that any fellow-creature is too low, or too guilty, to be the object of our benevolence. We shall honour that nature of which we ourselves are partakers, by feeling and acting aright as to its happiness, by relieving its distresses, and adorning it with virtue, if it be in our power to do so.
III. Love to our fellow-creatures implies suitable activity in promoting their happiness. It will lead us to shew it, not by words only, but by actions. It will pervade and regulate the whole conduct, and operate as a constant and powerful principle of beneficence. It will produce in our character a resemblance to Him who went about doing good; and to our Father in heaven, whose overflowing goodness maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust.
This is a characteristic of love known and felt by all. This affection directly seeks the happiness of its object; and prompts, of course, to the use of those means by which this may be secured. It is on this ground we may affirm that its possessor will invariably be a benefactor, that he will do good in all the ways in which he has opportunity. His diffusive and substantial beneficence is well described in these words:—“I delivered the poor that cried, and the fatherless, and him that had none to help him; the blessing of him that was ready to perish came upon me, and I caused the widow's heart to sing for joy, I was eyes to the blind, and feet was I to the lame; I was a father to the poor, and the cause which I knew not I searched out *.”
* Rom. xiv. 10.
“ Love,” says the Apostle Paul, “ worketh no ill to his neighbour; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.” To refrain from voluntarily injuring our fellowcreatures is only a negative fruit of this affection ; and, yet, of what importance is even this to the happiness of mankind. Love will prevent us from saying or doing any thing to the injury of our neighbour's reputation, person, property, peace, and privileges; and in proportion as it operates, will the evils by which these are assailed cease and disappear from the world. « This is the will of God, that no man go beyond, and defraud his brother in any matter; because that the Lord is the avenger of all sucht."
But love is not satisfied by abstaining from doing injury; it seeks the happiness of its objects, and therefore prompts to the performance of every office of kindness. How touchingly is its influence, in this respect, illustrated by the condescension and generous interposition of Him who made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the
* Job xxix. 12-16.
of 1 Thess. iv. 6.
cross! The glorified inhabitants of heaven, animated by love, are the willing ministers of those who shall be heirs of salvation. To the same operative and influential principle, we trace the self-denial, and sufferings, and sacrifices of those great and holy men, who, in the service of mankind, counted not their own lives dear unto themselves. It was love that animated their zeal, their prayers, their unwearied labours, in promoting the real and eternal welfare of those who rewarded them with stripes, and bonds, and im. prisonments.
In proportion as we are under its control, will the law of kindness prompt and regulate every part of our conduct. We shall be ready with our countenance, our advice, our prayers, our assistance, and our sympathy; happy in being the instruments of doing good to those whom the Great Lord of all has rendered capable of receiving it. tial is this affection to the right discharge of the duties we owe our fellow-creatures, that no duty can be performed well without it.-—" Though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not love, it profiteth me nothing. Love suffereth long, and is kind; love envieth not; love vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up, doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil; rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth; beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things. Love never faileth ; but whether there be prophecies, they shall fail; whether there be tongues,