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OF THE LOVE OF OUR NEIGHBOUR.
MATT. xxii. 39.
And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.
THE essential goodness of God, and his special be- SERM. nignity toward mankind, are to a considering mind divers ways very apparent; the frame of the world, and the natural course of things, do with a thousand voices loudly and clearly proclaim them to us; every sense doth yield us affidavit to that speech of the holy Psalmist, The earth is full of the goodness of Psal.xxxiii. the Lord: we see it in the glorious brightness of cxix. 564. the skies, and in the pleasant verdure of the fields; we taste it in the various delicacies of food, supplied by land and sea; we smell it in the fragrances of herbs and flowers; we hear it in the natural music of the woods; we feel it in the comfortable warmth of heaven, and in the cheering freshness of the air; we continually do possess and enjoy it in the numberless accommodations of life, presented to us by the bountiful hand of nature.
Of the same goodness we may be well assured by that common providence which continually doth uphold us in our being, doth opportunely relieve our needs, doth protect us in dangers, and rescue us from imminent mischiefs, doth comport with our infirm
BARROW, VOL. II.
SERM. ities and misdemeanours; the which, in the divine
The dispensations of grace, in the revelation of heavenly truth, in the overtures of mercy, in the succours of our weakness, in the proposal of glorious rewards, in all the methods and means conducing to our salvation, do afford most admirable proofs and pledges of the same immense benignity.
But in nothing is the divine goodness toward us more illustriously conspicuous, than in the nature and tendency of those laws which God hath been pleased, for the regulation of our lives, to prescribe unto us, all which do palpably evidence his serious desire and provident care of our welfare; so that, in imposing them, he plainly doth not so much exercise his sovereignty over us, as express his kindness toward us; neither do they more clearly declare his will, than demonstrate his good-will to us.
And among all divine precepts this especially, contained in my text, doth argue the wonderful goodness of our heavenly Lawgiver, appearing both in the manner of the proposal, and in the substance of it. Luke x. 27.
The second, saith our Lord, is like to it; that is, to the precept of loving the Lord our God with all our heart and is not this a mighty argument of immense goodness in God, that he doth in such a manner commend this duty to us, coupling it with our main duty toward him, and requiring us with like earnestness to love our neighbour as to love himself?
He is transcendently amiable for the excellency of
his nature; he, by innumerable and inestimable bene- SERM. fits graciously conferred on us, hath deserved our utmost affection; so that naturally there can be no obligation bearing any proportion or considerable semblance to that of loving him yet hath he in goodness been pleased to create one, and to endue it with that privilege; making the love of a man (whom we cannot value but for his gifts, to whom we can owe nothing but what properly we owe to him) no less obligatory, to declare it near as acceptable as the love of himself, to whom we owe all. To him, as the sole author and free donor of all our good, by just correspondence, all our mind and heart, all our strength and endeavour, are due: and reasonably might he engross them to himself, excluding all other beings from any share in them; so that we might be obliged only to fix our thoughts and set our affections on him, only to act directly for his honour and interest; saying with the holy Psalmist, Whom have Psal. Ixxiii. I in heaven but thee? and there is none on earth that I desire beside thee: yet doth he freely please to impart a share of these performances on mankind; yet doth he charge us to place our affection on one another; to place it there, indeed, in a measure so large, that we can hardly imagine a greater; according to a rule, than which none can be devised more complete or certain.
O marvellous condescension, O goodness truly divine, which surpasseth the nature of things, which dispenseth with the highest right, and foregoeth the greatest interest that can be! Doth not God in a sort debase himself, that he might advance us? Doth he not appear to wave his own due, and neglect his own honour for our advantage? How otherwise could the
SERM. love of man be capable of any resemblance to the love of God, and not stand at an infinite distance, or in an extreme disparity from it? How otherwise could we be obliged to affect or regard any thing beside the sovereign, the only goodness? How otherMatt. xix. wise could there be any second or like to that first, Matt. xxii. that great, that peerless command, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart?
Rom. xiii. 8,9.
This indeed is the highest commendation whereof any law is capable: for as to be like God is the highest praise that can be given to a person; so to resemble the divinest law of love to God is the fairest character that can be assigned of a law: the which indeed representeth it to be voμos Baoiλikos, as St.James Jam. ii. 8. calleth it; that is, a royal and sovereign law; exalted above all others, and bearing a sway on them. St. Tim. i. 5. Paul telleth us, that the end of the commandment (or, the main scope of the evangelical doctrine) is charity out of a pure heart, and a good conscience, and faith unfeigned; that charity is the sum and Gal. v. 14. substance of all other duties, and that he that loveth another hath fulfilled the whole law; that charity is the chief of the theological virtues, and the prime fruit of the divine Spirit; and the band of perfection, which combineth and consummateth all other graces, and the general principle of all our doings. St. Peter enjoineth us that to all other virtues we 2 Pet. i. 7. add charity, as the top and crown of them; and, 1 Pet. iv. 8. Above all things, saith he, have fervent charity among yourselves. St. John calleth this law, in way
I Cor. xiii.
13. Gal. v. 22. Col. iii. 14. 1 Cor. xvi.
1 John iii. of excellence, the commandment of God: and our 23. 11. iv. Lord himself claimeth it as his peculiar precept,
John xv.12. This, saith he, is my commandment, that ye love one
another, as I have loved you: A new command