« הקודםהמשך »
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 warfts 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 unlearned! 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 to. gether 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 administration; 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 obscure 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 na. ture.
As long, therefore, as the Almighty source of all love continues to beam down his love, in such exube. rance, upon us; let us, like so many burning and shining luminaries, in a pure unclouded sky, reflect it back upon each other, mingling fame 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
to form any scheme either of private or public happiness.
With regard to individuals, where shall they find consolation under the various pressures of life, if they look for no God to rest upon? Whither shall they wander in search of happiness, if, in all the universe, they know not an object adequate to their most generous and elevated affections? How shall they fill up the mighty void within, if those everactive powers of the soul, which are soon cloyed with the things of this diurnal scene, and still hankering after the great, the fair, and the wonderful in objects, do not center in him who is the first great, the first fair, and the first wonderful; in the contemp. lation of whom the mind may dwell, with astonish. ment and delight, through an unfailing duration?
With regard to the public, the magistrate may fright vice into a corner, and secure the being of societies; but their well-being depends entirely on the universal practice of those silent virtues, which fall not under the sanction of human laws. Nothing but the fear of God, and religious sanctions, can take cognizance of the heart, and make us“ subject for con: science sake.” Nothing else can secure the practice of private veracity, fidelity, mutual trust, gratitude, and all the deep-felt offices of humanity, which are the main sources of public happiness.
It appears, then, to use the words of an ingenious divine, that in order to secure human happiness," and make the whole chain of duties hold firm and indis, soluble, the first link must be fastened to the throne VOL. II.
of God, the consummate standard of perfection*, " with whom there is no variableness, nor shadow of turning?"
Thirdly, we are commanded to honour the king; that is, all those in general, who are lawfully vested with authority for the public good, as appears from the thirteenth verse. “ Submit yourselves, says the apostle, to every ordinance of man, for the Lord's sake; whether it be to the king as supreme, or unto governors as sent by him, for the punishment of evildoers, and the praise of such as do well.” This duty is founded on the former ones.
For if we believe that God made us for happiness, and that our great happiness lies in friendly communion, we must think society, and whatever is essential to its subsistence, of divine original. Government, therefore, in some form or other, must be the will and appointment of God. But government, without honouring and regarding lawful governors, is impracticable. Hence, whatever the form may be, provided it is founded on consent, and a view to public good, the submission of individuals must be a most sacred duty.
Nay, though wicked men bear sway, as cannot fail sometimes to happen, yet still it must be a duty to honour them on account of their station, because through them we honour that constitution we have chosen to live under. This is clear from the apostle's injunction to the Christians, not to molest the government under which they were born, but to honour
• Seed on the fear of God.