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creatures, even of his incorrigible foes. " As I live, saith the Lord, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked ; but that the wicked turn from his way and live.” But still, God regards the interests of beings, collectively considered, as of more importance than the good of a single individual. Nothing can be more suitable, than that we should put the same estimate upon our interest, that God puts upon it, and with him, regard the good of the intelligent system, with a deeper solicitude, than our own happiness. With such impartiality should we love ourselves.
2. How should we love our neighbors ?
All our fellow creatures are our neighbors; and the manner, in which we should regard them, will be easily seen from what has been said respecting the affection we should cherish for ourselves. Ought we to seek our own good, because, as rational creatures, we are capable of happiness and misery ? then we ought to love others in the same manner. Ought we to love ourselves according to our apparent worth in the scale of being ? in the same manner should we love our neighbors. It is the dictate of reason, that we should feel as impartially towards them, as towards ourselves. And it is also the dictate of reason, that we should regard the eternal welfare, both of ourselves, and others, with a deeper, and more permanent solicitude, than we are accustomed to feel.
Contemplate the value of a soul. It is a sensitive, intelligent being ; capable of endless progression in knowledge, and holiness, and happiness. In proportion as it is capable of contemplating the character of God, the principles and ends of his government, is it capable of rational and holy enjoyment.
The soul is immortal. Look onward, as far as numbers can compute, or the · mind conceive. The soul will then exist, will be suscep
tible of joy, or grief unutterable ; and will be no nearer a termination than at this moment. When these heavens shall have passed away, and this world been destroyed, the soul will pursue its endless course, and contemplate the scenes that are before it, with songs of joy, or wailings of despair. And is it so, that such a destination awaits every individual ? In heaven, all the truly benevolent will find a permanent habitation. There will they see him, who, by his blood, has redeemed them, be filled with his love, and enraptured with ever brightening visions of his glory. But oh! those who are his enemies, and who shall be found such, on the day of final account, will be driven away into everlasting punishment, wholly unreconciled to that justice, which they will see glorified in their destruction.
It is in the light of eternity alone, that we can see the value of a soul—the real worth of an immortal being. Not till we stand at the judgment seat of Christ, and hear him announce to countless myriads, fearfully and forever separated, “ Come, ye blessed, and depart, ye cursed,” shall we adequately estimate the worth of a soul.
Every rational creature is capable of being the voluntary instrument of promoting the declarative glory of God, and of advancing the good of beings around him, and is destined to an endless state of happiness or misery beyond the grave. In such a point of view should we contemplate our fellow-men. They should be the objects of a solicitude, proportionate to their worth. I can see no reason why we should not as sincerely, and as impartially, seek their good as our own. Every rational being on the globe, whether learned or ignorant, civilized or savage, is a proper object of our regard. And no reason can be assigned, why we should not as sincerely desire his good as our own; why we should consider our particular connections as being more properly the objects of our solicitude, than those immortal beings that dwell in the most distant part of the world. A truly benevolent person will as really desire the present, and future happiness of a soul in India, as he will desire his own happi. ness, or the happiness of his most intimate connections. I do not say that he will feel as strong desires for the salvation of that soul, as for that of his own, or of his more immediate associates; but the only reason I can see, why he should not, is, he is not capable of so lively a view of the worth of that soul, as of his own, and of those with whom he is more nearly connected. Nor would I suggest, that we are to employ no more means to secure our own salvation, and the salvation of our particular connections, than we are to employ to save persons in a distant land. Peculiar duties devolve upon us
with regard to ourselves, and with regard to those with whom we are associated-duties which result from the peculiar situation in which Providence has placed us, and not from the consideration that our souls, or the souls of our friends, are of more importance than the souls of other immortal beings. If we are to labor more for our own good, than for the good of another, it does not follow that we are to regard our interest as of more importance than his.
It is because he possesses more real excellence, than all other beings united, that Jesus Christ has declared, " He that loveth father or mother, son or daughter, more than me, is not worthy of me;" and that he has enjoined on us, unlimited self-denial, with a view to promote the greater interests of his kingdom, as indispensable to membership in his family. It is solely on account of his infinite natural and moral perfection, that we are under obligation to subordinate all things to his glory. The divine law, which binds us in all our affections to be impartial, is founded in the nature of things, and is most reasonable.
If my happiness is not of greater worth than yours, it must be selfish, in me, to love myself more than I love you. If you love yourself more intensely than you love a fellow creature, whose worth is evidently equal to your own, you do not love him as you love yourself, nor, as in an exchange of circumstances, you would wish him to love you. In describing the wisdom that is from above, the apostle James says, " It is without partiality.” But how does it appear that you are impartial in your affections, if you do not love your neighbor as intensely as you love yourself, when his happiness appears to be worth as much as your own. To that impartial, universal good will, which seeks the happiness of all sensitive beings in proportion to their apparent worth, I can see no objection which is not reducible to selfishness. The sentiment, that we are under obligation to cherish, and to express the same impartial affection for others, that we should feel for ourselves, must approve itself to every unprejudiced mind. He that possesses true benevolence, will feel a supreme regard for God, on account of his supreme worth, and will commit all creatures into his hands, to be 60 disposed of as will best promote the general good, This subject suggests several reflections.
1. The religion inculcated in the gospel is disinterested.
Love to universal being is the fulfilling of the law of God. It comprehends, in its various operations, all true Christian obedience. All the duties that we owe to God, to our fellow men, and to ourselves, are comprised in love. And this love is disinterested. By disinterested love, it is not meant that the subject of it has no regard for his own interest; but that he regards the good of others, as impartially as he does his own.
In the exercise of holy love, he does not contemplate himself, as self merely, but as a creature of God, capable of happiness and misery; and as such he contemplates others. Does he desire to be conformed to God, and prepared for the holy employments and happiness of heaven? He has the same desires in reference to others. Does he feel willing that all his fellow creatures should be placed in such circumstances, as will best subserve the
of Him who made them? Does he regard the happiness of creatures, collectively considered, with a deeper solicitude than the good of a single individual ? He feels the same impartiality with respect to the disposal of his own interest. To estimate personal good, according to its value; to rejoice that all creatures are at the disposal of infinite wisdom and goodness; to feel stronger desires for the general interests of the universe, than for personal interest,-is to be disinterested. The general good, comprehending the fullest exhibition of the divine glory, and the highest possible sum of holiness and happiness among rational beings, is the object of holy love. And to this object, a person truly disinterested, will hold all things in subordination. He considers himself but an atom in the scale of being, and cordially desires that God would make such use of him as will be most for the glory of his name. He rejoices that the allotment of every creature depends on the will of God. He contemplates the penalty of the divine law, in its application to himself, with the same feelings of approbation, as in its application to his neighbor. It is the very nature of impartiality to be willing to place ourselves, where we should be willing to place our neighbors, other things being equal. This is what I .
mean by disinterestedness; and if the sentiment is not true, I see not how it is possible to obey the command, “ Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.”
2. True love forms an amiable character.
It is the pure, impartial benevolence of Moses, of Abraham, and of the apostle Paul, that attaches such a loveliness to their characters. It is the disinterested love which the Lord Jesus Christ expressed in coming into this sinful world to suffer, and die on the cross for his enemies, which gives such a beauty to his character, and presents him to our view, as a pattern so worthy of imitation. A man, in the exercise of true love, gives up all those interests which lay nearest the selfish heart, that the highest good of the universe may be secured. The spontaneous language of his heart, when his eye catches a view of the glory of God, is, “ Father, glorify thy name.” He feels the same kindly affection for his fellow creatures which he feels for himself. Hence, in the exercise of holy love, a man neglects no duty to God, or his fellow beings. He will yield universal obedience to the divine commands. Such love would lead ministers and people, rulers and subjects, parents and children, masters and servants, to a conscientious discharge of all the duties involved in the several relations which they sustain. It would lead the rich, so far as is practicable, to relieve the poor; and dispose those who enjoy the gospel, civil government, rational liberty, and social happiness, to extend these invaluable blessings as far as possible. It would be morally impossible, that, in the exercise of true love, one portion of the human race should oppress and enslave another portion, or should neglect any practicable measure, by which the amount of human happiness might be augmented. Those, whose bosoms have been warmed with disinterested love, have, in all ages, been the salt of the earth and the light of the world. The characters of Brainerd, of Howard, of Buchanan, and of Martyn, will live in the recollection of the church, and will be contemplated with admiring gratitude to the latest age.
3. As far as the gospel prevails, its influence upon the best interests of mankind must be salutary.
When we consider the nature of selfishness, we cease to wonder that the history of this world, in all ages, is