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against which this inference is drawn, seems to adhere to the old tradition, "Thou shalt love thy neighbor and hate thine enemy," against which our Saviour labored in the place where our text is found. "If ye love them that 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?" Those who pay no attention to religion, whose thoughts are wholly engrossed by the things of a temporal concern, who lay up their treasures upon the earth, love those who love them, do good to those who do good to them, and courteously salute their brethren. Now if God love none but such as love him, if he be kind to none but such as are friendly to him, what does he more than publicans? What reward hath he? Most surely Jesus never would have inculcated the duty of loving our enemies on the principle that God hated his. But he seemed to come directly to the understanding of the people through the medium of the rising sun and falling rain, and presented them with the real character of our heavenly Father as a perfect pattern for our imitation. Suppose some of the disciples of Jesus, on this occasion, had asked him whether he meant to be understood, that our Father in heaven did really love the evil and the good, the just and the unjust, as impartially as he granted them the light of the sun and the rain from heaven? What answer may we believe the divine teacher would have returned? Would he have said, I solemly charge you not to be deceived by these temporal things? You see that the sun makes no distinction in bestowing its influence on the nations of the earth, it bounds not its blessings by any distinctions in the characters of men, it is prodigal of its innumerable blessings on the evil and on the good; so is the rain, likewise as entirely impartial; it sheds its generous favors on all without partiality; but you are not to suppose that these are true indications of the real mind and disposition of your heavenly Father. In temporal things God is "good unto all and his tender mercies are over all his works;" but in
respect to the spiritual and eternal concerns of men he has made an infinite difference. Those who love him and keep his commandments, he really loves; but his enemies are the objects of his burning wrath, and on them will his vengeance be poured forth forever. In reply to such an answer, might not the questions which Jesus asked be returned? them that love you what reward have ye? do not If ye love even the publicans the same? But the divine teacher would not have been so absurdly inconsistent with himself; he would have answered the supposed question in the affirmative. We have full liberty to believe this and ample authority to support it. The contrary is the very thing that he was dissuading the people from; but the affirmative of the supposed question is what he endeavored to impress on their minds.
This inference will be found to be greatly strengthened by a careful application of our text to the subject, "Be ye, therefore, perfect, even as your Father, which is in heaven is perfect." We are here required to have the same quality of perfection as our Father in heaven has. If his perfection is qualified with hatred and unmerciful wrath towards his enemies, then our perfection must be qualified by the same temper and disposition towards our enemies. But if the perfection of our heavenly Father is rendered gloriously bright by a constant display of unchangeable love and mercy towards his enemies, then it is plainly our duty to strive to the utmost to qualify our christian profession and discipleship of Jesus, with this blessed temper and good will to those who are our enemies, Jesus said to his disciples, "The disciple is not above his master, nor the servant above his Lord. It is enough for the disciple to be as his master, and the servant as his Lord." Those, therefore, who profess to love all mankind, who pray for all men, who say they fervently desire the everlasting happiness of the whole human race, and yet contend that their divine Lord and Master loves but a few, and has determined the everlasting instruction of all the rest, are guilty of supererogation. So far from being contented to stop at
the bounds by which they limit the holy one, they profess to love those who are held by their creed to be the objects of the divine indignation. But here let us pauseAre these pretensions all real? Cast aside all prejudice, and examine and answer the following question: Have professors generally, who have maintained limited views of the grace of God, and yet pretended to love all men themselves, accompanied those pretensions with that spirit and temper of love and compassion toward those who have differed from them in opinion, which seem necessary to prove the sincerity of their professions? If this should be allowed, how can we account for all the persecutions which have characterised the christian churches for ages? How shall we account for that mutual bitterness, coldness and deeply rooted prejudice visible among different denominations, and by which they have so much disturbed the peace of society and of the world? There is nothing of importance ever maintained in the religious creeds of men, that does not either tend to make them better, or worse; and that character which we attribute to the divine Being, will more or less mingle itself in our own characters. Hence we account for the endeavors of the Saviour to present our Father in heaven, in a character which he would have his disciples acquire for themselves. He knew if men entertain an opinion that the divine Being loves those who love him and hates those who hate him, they would be likely to imitate what they attribute to God. He very well knew that this was the case with the people of his day, he knew it had been the case in past ages, and he knew that like causes would produce like effects; and therefore as long as men should religiously believe that God loves some and hates others, he knew that bitterness and strife would continue. From this thick cioud of darkness, from this deadly error the doctrine of divine love to the enemies of God, is the only deliverance. It makes not the least difference whether we profess to be Christians, Jews, Pagans or Mahometans, if we believe that God is an enemy to those who are enemies to him, we shall be likely to
exercise the same spirit and disposition which we believe our Father in heaven possesses; and we shall justify ourselves in so doing by the divine authority. Those who have and maintain this erroneous belief, are seldom if ever at a loss to know who the friends of God are, and who are his enemies. They are persuaded that they have the true faith, that they are the friends of God, and of course God is their friend; loves them, and will do good to them; but those who subscribe not to the same particular creed, are enemies to God, are the objects of his wrath and of their most bitter enmity. Such people will effect great concern for those whom they esteem as the enemies of the true faith, and will frequently exhort them to make God their friend, to delay no time in bringing themselves to those terms and to that condition which will secure the good will of our Father who is in heaven. But the only way that this can be done, is to become conformed to the particular creed and formalities of those who stile themselves the friends of God. Why did not our blessed Redeemer in the room of teaching men that their Father in heaven loves his enemies, and that they must love their enemies in order to be like him, exhort them, as we are frequently exhorted, to make our Father in heaven our friend? Answer, because such an exhortation implies that God is no better than the publicans, who love those that love them, and is calculated to maintain all the partiality in faith and practice from which Jesus came to save the world.
To conclude; Let us, my brethren, endeavor to seek to the foundation of our religion, learn the true character of our Father in heaven, and be cautious that we never consent to any belief, which in any way involves the notion that God ever was or ever can be an enemy to any of the works of his hands. And on the immoveable rock of God's impartial love to all men, let our faith and our hope rest; but not forgetting that the benefits of this heavenly doctrine of love divine can never be realised until it works in us a conformity to its requirements, and brings us into that heavenly tem
per and spirit by which we shall love our enemies, do good to them that hate us, and pray in faith, nothing doubting, for those who despitefully use us and persecute us. Let us open our eyes to the visible signs of the love and goodness of God, and read the instructive lectures, which are delivered by a beneficent providence every day and every hour, and by them learn that wisdom which is from above, which "is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, and easy to be entreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality and without hypocrisy.'