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Now, the individual who follows, in his measure, this bright example, evinces his relation to Him. Thus, it is said, "Blesssd are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the children of God." The same test is applicable to the wicked. If you indulge the desire of revenge; meditate the scheme of malice, and cherish the disposition of ill-will to your brother, then saith the Saviour, "Ye are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do."* "Whosoever hateth his brother is a murderer: and ye know that no murderer hath eternal life abiding in him."+ On the other hand, he who loves his enemies as he is here commanded, is a child of God, and bears evident tokens of the honourable and indissoluble relation.
And is not this a powerful motive to obey the sacred precept? Earthly names, for the most part, are nothing more than unmeaning appellations; but it is far otherwise with the sacred name of the children of such a Parent. It imparts the most dignified connection with the Majesty of Heaven, and the possession of the spirit of adoption in the heart. And is not this a privilege? To be the descendants of the great and powerful may be accounted honourable; but how much more so to be the sons and daughters of the Almighty? To possess the highest titles of noble, and kingly, and priestly rank, may be enviable in the esteem of many; but how much more desirable to be the heirs of Him who giveth all his children “an inheritance that fadeth not away?"
But I will detain you no longer. Let one remark be added, and I have done; reserving the application principally for the close of the succeeding lecture, which will be the continuation and conclusion of the present. It was said of the ancient people of God, "they are not all Israel that are of Israel." The same may be observed, I
fear, of multitudes who call God their "Father which is in heaven." It is no outrage on the charity of the gospel to affirm that the life and conversation of thousands is altogether at variance with the profession they make, and the relationship they claim. My brethren, be you never of this guilty number. Guard against a harsh, and narrow, and selfish, and unforgiving, temper. Let the sun of your compassion arise from day to day on the "unthankful" creatures by whom you are sure to be surrounded. It becomes us, who have so ill-deserved, and so ill-requited, the tender mercy of God, to pity, and pardon, and love, with the sincerest benevolence, the suffering members of the human family. May we strive, anxiously, to wrest from our adversaries, not only the testimony borne to the early church of the Redeemer,-"See how these Christians love one another," but the still nobler commendation," See how these Christians love all the world."*
MATTHEW v. 46-48.
FOR IF YE LOVE THEM WHICH LOVE YOU, WHAT REWARD HAVE YE? DO NOT EVEN THE PUBLICANS THE SAME? AND IF YE SALUTE YOUR BRETHREN ONLY, WHAT DO YE MORE THAN OTHERS? DO NOT EVEN THE PUBLICANS SO BE YE THEREFORE PERFECT, EVEN AS YOUR FATHER WHICH IS IN HEAVEN IS PERFECT."
THE revelation of mercy was coeval with the entrance of sin into the world. The promise delivered to our guilty and distressed progenitors, on the day of their defection from God, “that the seed of the woman should bruise the head of the serpent," by whom they had been beguiled, was a declaration " full of grace," and eminently suited to the painful forebodings which had just been awakened in their minds. By a deep laid scheme of artful insinuation, the prime apostate had robbed them of their innocence, covered them with shame, and exposed them to the awful indignation of their offended Maker. It must, therefore, have been as life to the dead, and like the accents of a messenger of mercy from the celestial world, to have heard the obscure intimation, that they were not irretrievably lost; but that the overruling providence of their Creator,
would raise up one of their own seed who should completely defeat the malicious purpose of their deceiver, by the voluntary oblation of himself on the cross.
In order to the accomplishment of this divine promise, one nation was, in due time, selected from among the kindreds of the earth, in which to set forth a typical representation of the blessings to be enjoyed under the gospel. To the Jews, who were the highly favoured race," pertained the adoption, and the glory, and the covenants, and the giving of the law, and the service of God, and the promises; whose are the fathers, and of whom, as concerning the flesh Christ came, who is over all, God blessed for ever."* Under the present dispensation there is, however, nothing national or exclusive. Religion becomes a personal matter: the followers of Christ are not to be distinguished by political aggrandisement and civil privilege, but by high, and holy, and spiritual conformity to the moral image of the Lord their God. They are, according to the language of the text, to evince their piety and religion by "doing more than others." Nature dictates the love of friends, but Christianity requires the love of foes. "For if ye love them which love you, what reward have ye? do not even the publicans the same? And if ye salute your brethren only, what do ye more than others? do not even the publicans so? Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect."
The two first verses of this text contain,
A SECOND ARGUMENT FOR THE LOVE OF ENEMIES; AND THE LAST VERSE SHOWS US, THE PERFECT MODEL OF CHRISTIAN CHARITY WHICH WE ARE TO IMITATE.
Rom. ix. 4, 5.
Let us consider these two topics, and close the exercise by a few reflections.
I. THE ARGUMENT WHICH OUR LORD EMPLOYS FOR CHRISTIAN LOVE.
He has already adduced the powerful example of “our Father who is in heaven;" and now he refers to the conduct of certain men, who were by general consent, the most profligate of their species. Having stated the higher degrees of duty, in which it was necessary that the righteousness of his disciples should "exceed the righteousness of the Scribes and Pharisees," He now establishes the necessity of attaining to eminence also in the exercise of kindness and benevolence towards men of every nation and character, by reminding the audience of the disposition of a class of persons, whom the Jews "hated with perfect hatred." The publicans were accounted the worst men in Judea, and the Pharisees the best; but our Lord tells the assembly, that by following the maxims of the latter on this particular precept, their conduct was no better than that of the former.
That we may see the force of this reasoning, let us briefly glance at the character of the publicans mentioned in Scripture. They were, by office, the collectors of certain taxes which were levied on the inhabitants of Judea, when it became a province of the Roman empire. There were men among them of considerable authority and affluence, who generally employed others to do their work. It seems probable that Zaccheus was one of this number, and that he was a farmer of these taxes to a considerable amount. Matthew appears to have been one of the receivers of these contributions. He tells us, that he " sat at the receipt of custom;" or as we should express it, he was a custom-house clerk; whose office it was, to take the imposts which were required by law of all articles of commerce brought up