Page images


child to cling to the embrace, the support, the comfort and provident kindness of a tender and most dear parent. It is any thing but painful to unbosom our griefs, our trials, and our difficulties to a kind and experienced and powerful friend, who shares our thoughts, who sympathizes with our sorrows, and whose hand we trace in all the more conspicuous comforts and advantages of our situation. By the favours of those whom we love and venerate we are elated, not humiliated. are proud, not ashamed, of the obligations laid on us by a gracious sovereign, or a wise and discriminating patron, because we delight in his benefits as evidences of his regard, and identify ourselves, in a certain degree, with the excellencies of him who honours us with such a friendship. And even so in the child-like leaning of a Christian on his God, not only is fear in a great measure cast out as knowing on whom we depend, but enjoyment is enhanced for His sake, by whom all our enjoyments are bestowed; and all which we love becomes more lovely in our eyes when we say in our hearts, "And this also is my Father's bounty!"

If, on the other hand, He who hath given should take away, however we may feel the smart (and there is certainly no charm in religion which can make us impassive or insensible) a real love for God will be our best and most efficacious comfort. It will recall to our minds all the blessings which we have received, and all the far greater blessings we look for; it will silence complaint by the recol

lection of past kindness; and withdraw our attention from present suffering by the anticipation of future and more abundant mercy. We shall deduce from our own love for God a confidence that this love is mutual, an assurance that His chastisements are mercies in disguise, and that the clouds under which our nature shudders, will, ere long, burst over our heads in blessing. "Perfect love," said he who of all men most loved Christ, and whom more than all other men, Christ in the time of His humiliation loved. "Perfect love casteth out fear;" or if this painful but wholesome and necessary intruder must yet at times return, and be our occasional companion through our earthly pilgrimage, it will be a distrust of ourselves, not a doubt of God; it will be mingled with a trembling joy for the continued sense of His mercy and forbearance; by the recollection of our weakness it will bind us closer to His strength, and make the blessing of His presence more precious in our eyes, by the possibility that we may, hereafter, by our own faults, deprive ourselves of that blessing.

Such lives as these are, in themselves, a continued act of prayer and thanksgiving; yet even such a life as this would not excuse us from that which is another evidence of the love, for whose good all things are made to work together, "a frequency and regularity of private and public prayer, and a diligent perusal of the Holy Scriptures." It is in

1 St. John iv. 18.

such acts as these that the soul draws nearer to its Maker; it is then that we speak to Him and hear His voice again; and that love would be a mere mockery of the name which should shun the conversation and neglect the correspondence of the person whom we most affected to esteem and honour. As the practice then of prayer, of praise, and the study of the Scriptures is the most availing and necessary course to kindle a love of God in our hearts; so is, on the other hand, a cheerful continuance in the same habitual piety the certain effect and the necessary evidence that the flame thus excited is alive and yet glowing within us.

Another necessary proof of this love is the light in which we look on sin. I need not repeat what I have already urged against the incompatibility of any gross and habitual transgression with the existence of genuine love for the Almighty. But if we take pleasure in the recollection of foregone, or the imagination of future or possible evil; if we feed our fancies with acts which we dare not perform, and witness with indifference or with unholy pleasure the transgressions of those who live around us; if we feel a regret for the indulgences which we are, by our situation in life, compelled to forego, and condemn as fanatical or enthusiastic all endeavours after a more rigid and excellent piety, a moment's consideration will show how little the love of God can dwell in us! It is a necessary part of affection to like and dislike the same objects with the person to whom we are united; and in truth, in that

particular species of affection which I am now discussing, it is scarcely possible for any one, with a true conception of the causes which led to Christ's death, to read once attentively the details of that aweful sacrifice, without experiencing, for the time at least, a loathing and horrour of those sins which it was necessary to visit so severely on the guiltless; and something like a bitter indignation against himself as one whose offences, amid the great mass of the foreseen offences of mankind, added sharpness to the thorny crown of Him who died to save us!

The last, however, and of all others the most decisive symptom of God's love residing in our hearts is, that the love of our neighbour also holds its dwelling there. It would occupy too much time (indeed I feel that I have already encroached too largely on your patience) were I to go through all the different bearings and details of this second great commandment: I would therefore merely direct your thoughts to the close connection which exists between the two, and to the utter impossibility of keeping the one while we transgress or neglect the other.

Though it were possible, (and it is a possibility which can only be supposed for the sake of argument) though it were possible, that all the other proofs of loving God should be found apart from this last and greatest, yet would this one deficiency give all the rest the lie: "He that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God

whom he hath not seen 1?" Where our affections are so selfish and so cold as not to throw a kindly warmth around the little circle of our friends and neighbours, the kindred of our blood, and the poor who are always with us, how can their feeble rays extend to the depth and heighth and breadth of invisible and infinite existence, of Him who is seen by the eye of faith alone, and who reveals Himself only to the pure in heart and to the merciful? How can we love our Father while we hate His children? How can we love our Redeemer, while we are indifferent to the welfare of those whom He died to save, and lives again to intercede for?

He then who loveth not his neighbour as himself is never, whatever may be his other pretensions to sanctity, a sincere and genuine lover of God. But the opposite assertion is also strictly true, and he who loveth not God most of all, will never love his neighbour as he ought to do. He wants, as we have seen, the only motive of action which is either acceptable with God, or availing against the snares of our mortal condition, the only principle which can encourage us to look for the further gracious assistance of that Spirit through whom we are conquerors.

It is, indeed, no difficult task to be liberal of fair words to others. It is, thank God, no uncommon thing where wealth is abundant, and avarice despised, and liberality held in honour, to find men

11 St. John iv. 20.

« PreviousContinue »