« PreviousContinue »
one individual bosom for repose. The relative duties here acquire consistency and strength. The husband looks kindly on his selected partner, and their mutual feelings yearn upon their children. The reasoning youth finds within his parent's arms, his joyful, his well-accustomed shelter. The mature descendants of virtuous ancestors unite in all the happiness of fraternal love. Joy and sorrow are equally distributed around the circle, whilst mutual pleasure and delight sparkle in the eye and animate the breast :
Where heart meets heart, reciprocally soft ;
But what is the link which connects this pleasing chain of beings? What is the electric spark which runs along it, and at the same moment warms every bosom? Is it the secret charm of natural affection springing from congenial breasts? It is,--but it is something more; it is nature cleansed from all her feculence; it is nature refined by religion. The revelation of Christ makes no exceptions in our love of men. On the contrary, they are directed to love one another on motives unknown to every former age; and for this reason, the precept which enjoins it, is called a new commandment. When, therefore, we find that so amiable a principle becomes a characteristic duty of the religion of Christ, does it not impel us still more to unite our fortunes and our happiness with those on whom our eyes first opened at our entrance into life, or those, by whose friendly intercourse we first discovered the meltings, of humanity ?
When we reflect on this sacred origin of friendship, shall we hesitate to pronounce that it springs from religion, and that its fairest fruit is virtue ? " Though not, perhaps, itself a virtue, yet it is something
like a virtue, that no one who has ever tasted the genuine satisfaction it “ affords, can willingly consent to part " with it*."
To descant on brotherly love, according to the principles of the gospel, would be
Bishop of London's Disc. Vol. I, S. 18.
only to recite what every Christian knows. Study our Lord's character, and you will behold it realized. It is the neglect of this study which tends to destroy the practice of all religion, and renders man a barbarian.
The professor of christianity, while the gospel lies open before his eyes, is in no want of an instructor. If he reads faithfully, what is written, he will find a friend both here and hereafter. Amongst his earthly connections it is hard if he possesses
ot one confidential bosom. If that should unfortunately be the case, he is directed where to apply for the tender care of one, who will “ never leave him nor forsake
him; who is a strength to the poor, a “ strength to the needy in his distress, a
refuge from the storm, a shadow from 66 the heat:"-" Come unto me,” says our Saviour, "all ye that travel, and are heavy " laden, and I will give you rest."-" Ye
are my friends,” he adds, if ye do “ whatsoever I command you."
The terms of religious friendship are here displayed; and he who is without a friend, must be first without a God, without a
Saviour, Saviour, without an heart-inspiring Comforter; a situation in the highest degree dreadful and deplorable. But our merciful and kind Creator never designed so hopeless a state for the children of men. He chears them under every difficulty, and if they do pot wilfully degrade themselves," he will “ guide them with his counsel, and after“ wards receive them to glory."
A good Christian, in every condition of human life, must be a faithful friend; the reason is, because this affection of his heart is founded upon prínciple. He considers Christ as the head, and mankind as the members of his body. The allusion is St. Paul's, to shew' the intimate connection which ought to subsist among members of the same communion.
« We being many, are one body in Christ, and every one members one of another." . He looks upon every human creature, therefore, as bearing the image of God, and, on that account, entitled to his most cordial affection. He knows the extent of that love which brought Christ from heaven, and endeavours, by every friendly action,
to repay it, however inferior in degree, to all his fellow men. “ Beloved, if God so “ loved us (in sending his only begotten - Son into the world that we might live
through him) we ought also to love one “ another.” This then may be allowed to be a delineation of religious friendship; as superior to, and as different from, that which animated a Pylades, or an Orestes, as a christian grace surpasses a momentary impulse of heroic virtue.
Wherever compassion can be shewn, there the attention of the Christian is at hand; but mark ! it is not for pity's sake only that he lends his assistance, for that, considered in itself, is often merely a selfish and insufficient motive; but for the sake of that Saviour who is his greatest, his best, and, through the goodness of God, who sent him into the worļd, his only benefactor. Here is a settled principle of true compassion. It fluctuates not with temper, it subsides not through want, or through fatigue, Like a profluent stream it is always full, and always ready to enrich the country through which it flows. “ The poor,” says our