Page images
PDF
EPUB

our neighbours; as is manifest from the nature of the thing, and from universal experience. Solomon observes, that as a man thinketh, so is he, and it is as true, that as a man is, so he thinketh ; for out of the heart, the temper and disposition of the man, proceed his thoughts of, and feelings towards, both persons and things, according to our Saviour. Mat. xii. 33, 34, 35. An upright, therefore impartial, candid, benevolent temper, to perfection, without the least tincture of any thing to the contrary, is pre-supposed and implied, in the love required, as being, in the nature of things, absolutely necessary thereto. We must have a right temper, and, under the influence thereof, be perfectly in a disposition to view our neighbours in a right light, and think and judge of them, and be affected towards them as we ought ; i. e. To love them as ourselves. Particularly, 1. There is a certain esteem and value for our fellow-men, which, upon sundry accounts, is their due, that is implied in this love. There are valuable things in mankind: some have one thing, and some another; some have gifts, and some have grace; some have five talents, and some two, and some one; some are worthy of a greater esteem, and some less, considered merely as they are in themselves: and then some are by God set in a higher station, and some in a lower, sustaining various characters, and standing in various relations; as magistrates and subjects, ministers and people, parents and children, masters and servants, &c. And there is a certain esteem and respect due to every one in his station. Now, with a disinterested impartiality, and with a perfect candour, and a hearty good-will, ought we to view the various excellencies of our neighbours, and consider their various stations, characters, and relations; and, in our hearts, we ought to give every one his due honour, and his proper place, being perfectly content, for our parts, to be and to act in our own sphere, where God has placed us; and, by our fellow-mortals, to be considered as being just what we are: and indeed, this, for substance, is the duty of every one in the whole system of intelligent creatures. As for God most high, the throne is his proper place, and all his intelligent creatures have their proper places, both with respect to God, and with respect to one another; which places they are bound to take, and to acquiesce in with all their hearts. We have an instance of this temper, to a good degree, in David: He was sensible that Saul was the Lord's anoiated, and that it became him to render honour to whom honour is due, and fear to whom fear, and his heart was tender: hence David's heart smote him, because he had cut off Saul’s skirt. 1 Sam. xxiv. 5. This temper will naturally dispose us to feel and conduct right towards our superiors, inferiors, and equals; and so lay a solid foundation for the performance of all relative duties. The contrary to all this is a proud and conceited temper, attended with a disposition to despise superiors, scorn equals, and trample upon inferiors; a temper in which men over-value themselves, their friends, and party, and under-value and despise all others. Such do not consider persons and things as being what they are, and think, and judge, and be affected, and act accordingly: Nor do they consider, or regard the different stations in which men are set by God, or the characters they sustain by divine appointment. They are not governed by the reason of things, and the sense of what is right and fit; but by their own corruptions. This was the case with Korah and his company, when they rose up against Moses and Aaron, and said, Ye take too much upon you, seeing all the congregation are hody, every one of them, and the Lord is among them. Num. xvi. 3.- Pride makes superiors scornful in their temper, and tyrannical in their government; and pride makes inferiors envious in their temper, and ungovernable in their lives; and it makes equals jealous, unfriendly, contentious. In a word, it lays a foundation for the neglect of all relative duties, and for a general discord and confusion among mankind. 2. We ought not only to consider, esteem, and respect our fellow-men, as being what they are, and, with a perfect impartiality, give them their due, in our very hearts, according to what they are, and to the stations they stand in, being perfectly content, for our own parts, with the place which God has allotted to us in the system, and to be and act in our own proper sphere, and willing to be considered by others as being just what we are ; but it is further implied in the love required, that we be perfectly benevolent towards them; i.e. that we consider their happiness as to body and soul, as to time and eternity, as being what it really is, and are, (according to the measure of our natural capacities,) thoroughly sensible of its value and worth, and are disposed to be affected, and act accordingly, i. e. to be tender of it, value and promote it, as being what it is; to long, and labour, and pray for it, and to rejoice in their prosperity, and be grieved for their adversity; and all from a cordial love and genuine good-will; the contrary to which is a selfish spirit, whereby we are inclined only to value, and seek, and rejoice in our own welfare, and not care for our neighbour's, any further than we are influenced by self-love and self-interest; which selfish spirit also lays a foundation for envy at our neighbour's prosperity, and hard-heartedness in the time of his adversity, and inclines us to hurt his interest to promote our own. To love our neighbour as ourselves, makes it natural to do as we would be done by; but a selfish spirit makes it unnatural. Malevolence, malice, and spite, make it even natural to delight in our neighbour's misery. And hence it is, that revenge is so sweet, and backbiting and detraction so agreeable in this fallen, sinful world. 3. I may add, that so far as our fellow-men are proper objects of delight and complacency, so far ought we to take delight and complacency in them. And hence it is that the godly man feels such a peculiar love to the children of God, for that image of God which he sees in them. The saints are, in his account, the excellent of the earth, in whom is all his delight. Psal. xvi. 8. The godly man is of Christ's temper, who said, Whosoever shall do the will of my Father which is in heaven, the same is my brother, and sister, and mother. Mat. xii. 50. But wicked men are of another taste; and the things, the tempers, and dispositions in their neighbours, which to them appear excellent, and upon the account of which they delight in them, are odious in God’s sight. Luke xvi. 15. For that which is highly esteemed amongst men is abomination in the sight of God; for it is the temper of wicked men not only to do wickedly themselves, but also to have pleasure in others that do so too. Rom. i. 32. Those who are vain, or unclean, or intemperate, suit each other, and take delight in one another's company; while, at the same time, they distaste and disrelish those things among mankind which are truly most worthy of our delight. In a word, we ought so to esteem others as to be heartily disposed . to treat them with all that respect which is their due ; and to have such a tender regard for their welfare as to be perfectly disposed, in every instance, and in every respect, to do as we would be done by ; and to take notice of all their good properties with that entire friendliness and perfect candour, as may dispose us to take all that delight and complacency in them which is fit. In order unto all which, it is requisite that we be perfectly free from any tincture of pride, selfishness, &c. and have our hearts full of humility, benevolence, candour, and goodness. And now, SEco NDLY. The motives by which we are to be influenced thus to love our neigbours as ourselves, are such as these : 1. It is right and fit in itself. As the apostle, exhorting children to obey their parents in the Lord, uses this motive, For this is right. Eph. vi. 1. The reason of God's requiring of us to love our neighbours as ourselves, is because it is, in its own nature, right that we should; and this ought therefore to move and influence us to do so. There is the same general reason why I should love my neighbour, as why I should love myself. Lovely things are as worthy of being loved in him as in me; and, therefore, by me, ought, in all reason, to be loved as much. There is the same reason why my neighbour should be esteemed as being what he is, and according to the station he stands in, as that I should. To esteem myself above my neighbour merely because I am myself, without any other reason, is unfit and wrong, at first sight: So to admire my children, my friends, my party, as if there were none such, merely because they are mine, is unreasonable and absurd. My very worst enemy ought, by me, to be considered and esteemed as being what he is, with an impartiality perfectly disinterested, as well as my very best friend. Good properties are not at all the better, merely for belonging to me, or to my friends; or the worse, for belonging to my neighbour, or my enemy. But it is right I should view things as they are, and be affected towards them accordingly; indeed, I ought to be so far from a disposition to esteem myself above

others, and to be prejudiced in my own favour, (since I am capable of a much more full and intimate acquaintance with my own sins and follies, than with the sins and follies of others,) that lought rather to be habitually disposed to prefer others in honour above myself. Rom. xii. 10. Phil. ii. 3. And so, as to my neighbour's welfare and happiness, there is the same general reason why it should be dear to me, as that my own should. His welfare is worth as much, in itself, as mine; it is as worthy, therefore, to be valued, esteemed, sought after, and rejoiced in, as mine. It is true, my welfare is more immediately put under my care by God Almighty, and so it is fit it should by me be more especially taken care of; not that it is of greater worth for being mine, for it is not; but only because it is more immediately put under my care by God Almighty. The same may be said of the welfare of my family, &c.; but still my neighbours' welfare is, in itself, as precious and dear as mine, and he is my neighbour, he is flesh and blood as well as I, and wants to be happy as well as I, and is my brother by Adam; we are all but one great fa

mily, the offspring of the same common parents; we should,

therefore, all be affected as brethren toward one another, love as brethren, and seek each other's welfare most tenderly and affectionately, as being sensible how dear and precious the welfare of each other is; this is perfectly right. And so we should bear one another's burthens; mourn with them that mourn, and rejoice with then that rejoice, as being tenderhearted, cordial friends to every body; and this from a real sight and sense that such a temper and conduct is perfectly right and fit, in the nature of things. And whereas there may be several things in my neighbour truly agreeable, it is evidently right I should delight in those good properties according to their real worth; it is a duty I owe to my neighbour, the possessor, and to God, the giver of those good gifts. 2. But that I should thus love my neighbour as myself, is not only, in its own nature, right, but is also enjoined upon me by the law and authority of God, the supreme Governor of the world. So that, from love to God, and from a sense of his right to me, and authority over me, I ought out of obedience to him to love my neighbour as myself, and always, and in

« PreviousContinue »