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them to others; as, for instance, that law which our LORD especially brought out of the Old Testament: “ What else does the LORD thy God require of thee, but to do judgment and love mercy ?” Such again is St. James's description : "True religion and undefiled before God and the FATHER is this, to visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world.”
And perhaps one great reason for all this may be, that these works are in the power of all; every one can show compassionate attention to the temporal wants of others. But as to any thing more than this, “it cost more to redeem their souls, so that he must let that alone for ever.” And besides which, it is, as I said before, probably the way of God by which He wins and converts souls. A good man must, as our Lord has told us, be hated by the world, for he is a witness against it; he must be hated excepting for his works of meekness, kindness, and mercy. But these works of charity drew to him especially the love of others ; and by these means their natural hatred of what is good is overcome; and when they love a man who is kind and merciful to them, they begin also to love that goodness which is the source of his actions. Thus unawares and, as it were, against their wills, they are won over to the truth : they love good men because they are kind to them, and then they come to love goodness itself. This is perhaps very much the case now in whatever good is done in the world, as it was the case in our Lord's history; for those who were most of all gained over to His teaching, were those who witnessed His works of mercy, or derived benefit from them. While others reviled and hated Him, those whom He had saved from distress or death, could not surely but look with love and reverence on their Deliverer ; their hearts were opened by His works of mercy to receive His words.
In conclusion, it may be observed, that as the day of Judgment will take in the whole of our lives, therefore we must not think that one or two acts of mercy in our past lives will be enough to stand the trial of that awful day ; but it must be the work of our whole lives. Every day should be considered as lost in which we do not do some act of mercy : and therefore perhaps it is, that our LORD has specified acts of mercy of every kind, so that none may be omitted; that if one falls not in our way, we may
do another. And for the same reason, He has mentioned actions the most small and trifling ; saying of them, that they " verily shall receive a reward.” And when He added to this parable, “ Go and do thou likewise,” He did not surely mean once only, as if it were a great matter ; but that it was the rule of His religion, that it may be practised at all times.
Let us therefore not hear in vain, but labour so to act, that we may have comfort in the hour of death and in the day of Judgment.
TRUE LOVE EXEMPLIFIED.
Matt. xxii. 37, 38.
" Jesus saith unto him, Thou shalt love the LORD thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment."
WHATEVER great doctrine, great principle, or duty, Holy Scripture requires of us, is generally found in various shapes throughout the whole of it: in precepts, in prophecies, in parables, and also in living examples. And such we find to be the case with this great duty of love or charity; and I would consider it to-day as set before us in an example of a man like ourselves; for so shall we combine two great subjects which are suitable to this day.
Love of God is the very perfection of man, it is the crown of all goodness, containing within it every duty and every blessing. We may, therefore, have well expected to find it set before us in that person who seems to hold the highest place in God's favour; and such, surely, was St. John, the beloved disciple. For if love is the highest and best of ll things, we may reasonably suppose it will be seen in him who is most perfect.
And now, I think, it is the case, that although we know but little of St. John's life and history, yet in what we do know, we shall find, that almost all the descriptions of Divine love, which are scattered throughout Holy Scripture, may be perceived to be applicable to some point in his life and character.
Now the first thing required before we can attain unto Divine
love is repentance. This St. John himself repeatedly assures us ;
Whosoever abideth in Him sinneth not; whosoever sinneth hath not seen Him, neither known Him." Every one, therefore, who would love God, must put away all sin, and be recovered by repentance. This is the first step towards the love of God. Now the first place where we meet with the beloved St. John in Holy Scripture is as a disciple of John the Baptist. He appears to be one of those two disciples to whom the Baptist pointed out the Lamb of God. The whole teaching of the Baptist was contained in one word, repentance; to be a disciple, therefore, of St. John the Baptist was to be a disciple of repentance: and these two disciples, to whom St. John the Baptist pointed out Christ, must have been highly favoured disciples, must have been remarkable for their repentance above all His disciples; and, therefore, most meet and fitted to behold CHRIST. Such was St. John the Evangelist on the first mention that occurs of him.
The next thing requisite for Divine love is to renounce the love of all other things, in order to love God alone ; as our LORD HIMSELF said, “ he that loveth father or mother more than ME is not worthy of Me; and he that loveth son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me:” and “ whosoever he be that forsaketh not all that he hath, he cannot be My disciple.” All these things were fulfilled in the next act which we read in St. John's life, when he was called upon to be a disciple, of which we have the following account. “ JESUS saw two brethren, James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother, in a ship with Zebedee their father, mending their nets, and He called them. And they immediately left the ship and their father, and followed Him." Here St. John, at Christ's bidding, leaves his father and the comforts of a home, and “all that he hath,” for he gives up the very means of his livelihood; and those who do these things Christ had promised to love, and to be to them as a near relative: and when he wished to prove the rich young man recorded in the Gospels, He told him to sell all that he had, and give to the poor, and to follow Him. St. John, therefore, had now put himself in the place of one who would attain Divine love: he had now taken those two great steps which are the most difficult of all, first of all by repentance, then by giving up all that he had. He had already passed through the narrow gate, which leads to the
attainment of Divine love. And as our Lord had also spoken of “ hating wife and children" in comparison with the love of Him, this also was fulfilled in St. John, for he lived unmarried all his days; and this we may reasonably suppose was, because his whole soul had become so entirely absorbed in the love of God; and that he abstained, as much as he could, from too strong earthly affection, in order that he might give himself up more entirely to the love of CHRIST.
Now the general proofs of the love of God which Holy Scripture always sets before us, are such as indicate the love of our neighbour : s he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen ?" And it is very evident that St. John had in a very pre-eminent and remarkable degree the love of mankind. Every thing that he has written breathes of this love; his ways of speaking are marked with a simple and tender affection : his mode of addressing all Christians shows this, calling them “ little children,” or loved,” or fathers," and the like. And, indeed, he was so well known for this love of Christians, that his character is thought to be well shown in that saying which is recorded of him, that when too old and infirm to say anything else, he kept repeating the words, “ little children, love one another.” And as from the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh, we may be sure that St. John had in a very pre-eminent degree that love of our neighbour, without which there cannot be the love of God.
But besides this general account contained in the love of our neighbour, St. Paul has given us a particular description of many things in which this Divine love shows itself, in that account which he has given us of Charity. Now even in the little which is recorded of St. John's history we shall find sufficient indications on all these points.
“ Love envieth not,” or hath no emulation. Now this we find was exactly the case with St. John; so much so, that though our LORD loved him most of all his disciples, in return, we may suppose, for his love of his LORD, yet we may observe that St. John gave up the chief place and authority to his own friend, the great and good St. Peter. For it would appear that St. Peter was first in authority among the disciples ; St. John first in the love of his Master. And yet his own relations,