Billeder på siden

hearts melt, our hard hearts soften, and all the cruel selfishness of our nature relaxes into gentleness ;


we must make all the doctrines of the Gospel, with all the motives they contain, bear upon our nature: · the example of the meek and lowly Jesus must be contemplated, and admired, and copied; and especially, after all, must we breathe forth internal longings for the influence of the Holy Ghost, without whose aid our souls will no more yield to the influence of motives than the polar ice will melt by the feeble beams of the great northern constellation. We must pray for the Spirit; long for the Spirit; expect the Spirit; live, walk, struggle, in the Spirit. Thus must we set ourselves to work to obtain more of that love, which alone can subdue our evil temper.

2. The properties here enumerated are ALL included in love, and must ALL be sought by every real Christian.

The general disposition includes all these particular and distinct operations, and opposes all these separate evils: it is as much opposed to envy as to revenge, and is as humble as it is kind. Consequently, we are not to select for ourselves such modes of its operation as we may think most adapted to our taste and to our circumstances-giving to these all our attention, and neglecting the rest. One is not to say, "I am most inclined to kindness, and I shall cherish this property, which I find to be more easy and pleasant than to cultivate humility and meekness." Another is not to say, "I find no great difficulty in forgiving injuries, and I shall practise this; but as for envy, I am so propense to it, that I shall give up all attempts to eradicate this

weed from my heart." This parcelling out of the disposition, and selecting that part which is most congenial to our constitutional tendency, will not do. Yet is the attempt made by many, who, to appease, in some measure, the clamorous importunity of their conscience, and at the same time to avoid the obligations of benevolence as a whole, thus impose upon themselves with a supposed attention to some partial view of the subject. They carry on a wretched and useless attempt to balance those points in which they succeed against those in which they fail; their excellences against their defects. It may be said, in reference to this law of our duty, as well as to the still more comprehensive one, that " He that offendeth but in one point is guilty of all;" for that authority which saith, "Be ye kind," saith also, "Thou shalt not think evil of thy neighbour." These amiable properties must go together; the general principle which comprises them must be taken as a whole. It is one and indivisible, and as such must be received by us. "Charity is the bond of perfectness." Like the band round the sheaf, it holds all the separate ears together. Instead, therefore, of allowing ourselves to select, we must open our hearts to its whole and undivided influence; and if, indeed, there be any one of its properties in which we are more than ordinarily deficient, to that one we must direct a still greater portion of our attention.

3. These properties are perfectly homogeneous. They are of the same nature, and are, therefore, helpful to each other. In reality, if we cultivate one, we are preparing the way for others. There is no contrariety of influence, no discordant operation,

no clashing demands. When we are rooting up one evil by love, we drag up others with it: when we subdue pride, we weaken our susceptibility of offence: when we cherish kindness, we impoverish selfishness. This is an immense advantage in the cultivation of the Christian temper; and it shows us that if there be one besetting sinful propensity in the heart, it draws all the energy of the mind to itself, and throws a dark and chilling shadow over the whole soul. The subjugation of this one bad temper will weaken many others that depend for existence upon its support; and make way for an opposite excellence, which is as extensively beneficial as the other was injurious. This is a powerful incentive to the arduous and necessary duty of self-improvement: an evil disposition eradicated, is a good one implanted; and one good one implanted, is a way made for others to follow.

4. As these properties, while they are separate as to their nature, all unite in a common and generic disposition, our first and chief attention must be to that which is the common principle These tempers are so many modes in which love operates-so many streams from a common fountain, --so many branches from the same root. While, therefore, we seek to guide the separate streams, and trim the different branches aright, our care must be exercised chiefly in reference to the parent source. We must aim steadily, and labour constantly, at the increase of love itself. We must do every thing we can to strengthen the principle of benevolence to man. In every step of our progress through the treatise before us, we must constantly


keep in mind its connexion with this great master principle. The way to abound in the effects is to increase the power of the cause.

5. We are to recollect, that these properties are to be expected only in proportion to the degree in which love itself exists in the heart.

On reading this chapter, and seeing what is required of the Christian, and comparing it with the usual conduct of religious people, we feel almost involuntarily led to say, "If this be love, where then, except in heaven, is it to be found?" To this I reply, the apostle does not say that every man who pretends to this virtue acts thus; nor does he say that every one who possesses it acts thus in all instances, but that love itself does it. This is the way in which it acts, when allowed to exert its own energies; if it were suffered to have its full scope, and to bear sway in us without any check, this would be the invariable effect: our not seeing, therefore, a perfect exemplification of this principle, is no proof that it does not possess these properties, but only that we are imperfectly under its influence, This branch of piety, like every other, may be possessed in various degrees; and, of course, it is only in proportion as we possess the disposition that we shall manifest its operations. This should prepare us to distinguish between the utter want and the weakness of love; a distinction necessary from our proneness to despondency in reference to ourselves, and to censoriousness in reference to our neighbours.



"Charity suffereth long-is not easily provoked."

I CLASS these two together, because they bear a near affinity to each other. The word in the original translated "suffereth long," signifies "to have a long mind," to the end of whose patience, provocations cannot easily reach. It does not mean patience in reference to the afflictions which come from God, but to the injuries and provocations which come from man-perhaps the most correct idea which we can attach to it is, forbearance; a disposition which, under long continued offences, holds back anger, and is not hasty to punish or to revenge. Its kindred property, here classed with it, is nearly allied to it, "is not easily provoked," or "is not exasperated." The word signifies a violent emotion of the mind, a paroxysm of anger; so that the distinction between the two terms appears to be this, the property intended by the latter seems to be the power of love to curb our wrath, and that intended by the former its ability to repress revenge.

There are three things which Christian love, in reference to the irascible passions, will prevent.

« ForrigeFortsæt »