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The most excellent doctrine contained in these words is not only highly suitable to the purpose of those at whose instance I now appear here, but likewise to every man among us of whatsoever denomi. nation or degree. And this, I confess, was my chief inducement to the choice of them. It was reasonably apprehended that the nature of this occasion would draw together a very large and mixt assembly; and therefore I thought it my duty to select a subject, which might equally interest us all, both as men and as Christians, especially in the present dangerous state of our affairs.
In things of inferior moment, I doubt not, our sentiments may differ; but in those principles which are the foundation of the text, 'tis to be hoped we all agree, namely, in believing—That there is one God, the supreme Lord of the universe; that our whole species is one brotherhood, being one flesh, and the work of his hand; and that we were designed for social life, being by nature both fitted and disposed to increase each other's happiness, and incapable of any tolerable happiness in a solitary state. These principles partly constitute a kind of universal religion, of eternal and immutable obligation; and whatever associations we may form for particular purposes, the great end proposed upon the whole, should be to enable us the more effectually to act in conformity to this obligation, which no power on earth can release us from.
As long, therefore, as we believe these principles --and we cannot help believing them, as long as we continue to be constituted as we are-it must, at all
times, and in all circumstances, be our indispensable duty, to love this brotherhood who are our own flesh; to fear this God who made us for social happiness; and to honour those who, in a more eminent manner, concur with the benevolent purposes of heaven, to promote the good of the social system.
Having thus said what seemed necessary by way of introduction, and having established the duties commanded in the text, by a brief deduction of them from first principles; I shall now'lay before you some considerations to enforce the practice of them, taking them singly in their order.
First, we are to love the brotherhood. This fundamental precept has been so often recommended as the firmest link in the golden chain of all societies, that scarce any thing remains to be added upon it. “ Change not a faithful brother, says the wise man*, for the gold of Ophir.” And one still wiser lays such stress on brotherly love, that he requires it as the test of our Christianity. Hereby shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to anothert.”
The whole Gospel breathes the spirit of love. Its divine author is all love, and his true followers must be love. Love is the happiness of the saints in glory, and love only can render the christian life an imitation of theirs. Few motives, therefore, one would think, might suffice, to enforce the practice of such a godlike virtue.
• Eccles. vii. 18.
^ John, xiii. 35.
When we calmly consider whence we came, and what we are; when we find that the same goodness called us forth from dust “to bear our brow aloft," and glory in rational existence; and when we reflect that we depend on the same paternal kindness for all we have, and all we hope to have, and that we are connected by the same wants and the same dangers, the same common salvation and the same christian privileges; one would imagine it scarce possible for our hearts to be unaffected towards each other! But when we inquire farther what is our destination, and whither we are going; when we extend the prospect beyond the grave, and stretch it down through vast eternity; how greatly does it endear the tie?
Our hearts would venerate those who were to be the faithful companions of our good and bad fortune through some strange country; and shall not our very souls burn within us towards the whole human race, who, as well as we, are to pass through all the untried scenes of endless being?
Good heaven! what a prospect does this thought present to us? Eternity all before us! How great, how important does man appear! how little and how trifling the ordinary causes of contention ! Party differences, and the vulgar distinctions between small and great, noble and ignoble, are here entirely lost; or, if they are seen, they are seen but as feathers dancing on the mighty ocean, utterly incapable to toss it into tumult.
In this grand view, we forget to inquire whether a man is of this or that denomination! We forget to inquire whether he is rich or poor, learned or un
learned! These are but trivial considerations; and, to entitle him to our love, 'tis enough that he wears the human form! 'Tis enough that he is our fellowtraveller through this valley of tears! And surely 'tis more than enough, that when the whole world shall tumble from its place, “ and the heavens be rolled together as a scroll,” he is to stand the last shock with us; to launch out into the shoreless ocean beyond; to share the fortunes of the endless voyage, and, for what we know, to be our inseparable companion through those regions, over which clouds and darkness hang, and from whose confines no traveller has returned with tidings!
Another motive to brotherly love is its tendency to soften and improve the temper. When a reigning humanity has shed its divine influences on our hearts, and impregnated them with every good disposition, we shall be all harmony within, and kindly affected towards every thing around us. Charity, in all its golden branches, shall illuminate our souls, and banish every dark and illiberal sentiment. We shall be open to the fair impressions of beauty, order and goodness; and shall strive to transcribe them into our own breasts. We shall rejoice in the divine admi. nistration; and imitate it by diffusing the most extensive happiness in our power. Such a heavenly temper will give us the inexpressible meltings of joy at seeing others joyful. It will lead us down into the house of mourning to surprise the lonely heart with unexpected kindness; to bid the cheerless widow sing for gladness, and to call forth modest merit from its obscur retreats.
To act thus is the delight of God, and must be the highest honour and most exalted enjoyment of man. It yields a satisfaction which neither time, nor chance, nor any thing besides, can rob us of; a satisfaction which will accompany us through life, and at our death will not forsake us. For then we shall have the well-grounded hopes of receiving that mercy which we have shewn to others.
The last motive to brotherly love, which I shall mention, is its being the joint command of him who made, and him who redeemed us. Seeing, therefore, a man can neither be“ profitable to his Creator,” nor make any immediate return for redeeming love, all that we can do for such unspeakable kindness, is to honour the divine will, and co-operate with it in promoting the glorious scheme of human felicity. To be insensible to those emanations of goodness to which we are so wonderfully indebted, or not to be charmed to the imitation of it, would argue the total absence of every thing noble or ingenuous in our nature,
As long, therefore, as the Almighty source of all love continues to beam down his love, in such exuberance, upon us; let us, like so many burning and shining luminaries, in a pure unclouded sky, reflect it back upon each other, mingling flame with flame, and blaze with blaze!
Secondly, we are exhorted to fear God; by which is generally understood the whole of our duties towards him. Having already pointed out the foundation of these duties, I shall just observe farther, that if the fear of God was set aside, it would be impossible