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15. Whosoever hateth his brother, is a murderer : and je know that no murderer bath eternal life abiding in him.
16. Hereby, perceive we the love of God, because be laid down his life for us : and we ought to lay down our kves for the brethren.
17. But whoso bath this world's good, and feeth his brother have need, and shutteth up his bowels of compassion from him, how dwelleth the love of God in bìm ?
18. My little children, let us not love in word, neither in tongue, but in deed and in truth.
The MORAL REFLECTION.
CARCE did the Christian religion appear in
the world, but it was attack'd on all sides. Its professors were ridiculed by some, scorned by others, and persecuted by all. St. John exhorts them, neither to be discouraged, nor dismayed ; but to bear up against the stream with resolution: Marvel not, my brethren, if the world hate you. Our blessed Saviour foretold this animosity to his disciples, and his prophecy was accomplished in himself, who fell a vičtim to hatred ; and in all his followers, who have met with the same treatment. And St. Paul has set it down as an infallible truth: All that will live godly in Christ Jesus, Mall suffer perfea cution, 2 Tim. iii. 12. And what wonder the flaves of the world declare war against Jesus Christ, who condemns the world with its principles and practice, and commands his followers never to make peace with this mortal and dangerous enemy ; ten times more pernicious when it fawns, than when it frowns upon us ; when it loves, than when it hates ?
But, blesed be God! we cannot receive any harm from its hatred, unless we will ourselves. G2
us to abandon Christ. It may employ both threats and allurements, to engage us to take part with it; but it can overcome only those, who voluntarily fubinit to its slavery.
Let then, dear Christians, men of the world laugh at your piety : Pity their stupidity; but blush not at your duty. Vice indeed is shameful, but not virtue : and even those, who hate it, cannot hinder themselves from esteeming it. So that when they slander and persecute you, 'tis not because they think you worse, but better than themselves. The regularity of your life lays before their eyes the hor. ror of theirs. This tacit reproach makes them uneasy; and they love not to be reproved for those -criines, they have no resolution to amend.
Go on therefore with courage in the happy car, reer you have begun ; and be no less bold in the practice of virtue, than they in that of vice. If they endeavour to fright you with fatire and farcasm from your duty, you may with better reason deter them from their enormitjes with a prospect of hell, which will be their eternal habitation, unless they turn penitent, and wash out with tears those fins, that, unrepented, will cast them into
everlasting despair. One mark of a disciple of Jesus Christ is perfecution, the other is patience : that comes from malice, this is a Christian virtue and the exercise of it being hard, the reward will bear proportion to the difficulty.
God will avow, and praise, in the presence of men and angels, the conduct of those who have confess’d his name, and embraced his morals in spight of rage
and railery. And he will as openly condemn theirs, who have endeavoured to laugh and persecute their brethren out of their piety and religion. Oh! the fatisfaction, to be praised of God, who neither errs in his judgment, nor Aatters in his
expression! Oh! the misfortune, to be condemned by him, from whose sentence there is no appeal !
Tho' the world hates the followers of Christ, his disciples are forbid to hate them. They must indeed hate their vices, but, at the same time, love their persons. And St. John declares all those to be murderers, who hate their brethren : Whosoever bateth his brother, is a murtherer, and liable to the pains of homicides : And ye know that no murtherer hath eterenal life abiding in him, i. e. hatred has cut off his title to heaven, by destroying fanctifying grace, which gives us a right to eternal life.
But of what hatred speaks the Apostle? Not of antipathies of nature, or disputes which arise from a contrariety of humours and interests. God forbid, such small misunderstandings should make us guilty of homicide, and turn us over to the punishment of murtherers and adulterers: but he speaks of those, who cannot endure the sight of a brother ; whose presence they cannot support with Christian temper, nor even hear of his prosperity with common decency ; who envy his happiness, and rejoice at his ruin ; such people have not eternal life abiding in them. Their hatred is mortal ; and, if they desire their brother's death, they stand at God's tribunal guilty of homicide. Our Saviour has declared this in very clear terms in another case. Whosoever, says he, looketh on a woman to lust after her, has already committed adultery with. her in his heart, Matth. v. 28. And consequently he, who wishes his brother's death, tho' he does not procure it, is guilty of the malice, tho' not of the exterior act of murther.
What shall we say of those, who, in fits of anger and passion, with their brother dead, and sometimes fend him to hell. Nothing but want of reAlection can excuse them from a deadly sin, from
homicide, and a crime of a deeper dye. For as the death of the soul is a greater evil than that of the body ; so to wish it seriously, must be a sin of a blacker nature.
People are wont to excuse themselves with the pretext, they were in a passion: I believe it ; for what Christian in cold blood would break out into such an unseemly language ? But the question is, whether your tongue prevented reason, whether you reflected on what you did : if your heart agreed with your tongue, you fall within the compass of murder. Paffion, 'tis true, has a strange ascendant over reason ; and therefore Seneca calls it a short madness : but after all, 'tis hard to extinguish it, and therefore I am of opinion, that not one of a hundred continues in these unchristian imprecations without a mortal offence; for it is almost impossible, for a passion to be so intense, for a con, siderable space, as to leave no room for reflection, no place for the exercise of reason. These passionate expressions (to give them the softest name) often come even from those, who make profession of piety; but custom cannot render thein innocent, nor any pretended devotion, warrantable. They are commonly extremely sinful, and always marks of a depraved heart, and of an ungovernable passion.
Hate therefore no body, but yourselves : this is lawful, nay even commanded: there is no danger of excess. It is more to be feared, we shall still love ourselves to our ruin. He that loveth his life, Joall lose it, John xii. 25. And he who hatethit, Thall find it. Oh happy hatred, that saves our soul ! and hateful love, that damn it!
It is not sufficient to abstain from hatred; but we must carry our love of our brother so far, as even to facrifice our lives for his spiritual good. This in plain terms is the apostle's doctrine, and drawn from the
example of our Saviour: Because he hath laid down his life for us; and we ought to lay down our lives for our brethren. Pastors, in time of plagues, or other epidemical distempers, must not abandon their flocks, but take care of their fouls, and fupply them with those helps Christ has instituted for their falvation. They must administer the facraments, comfort the distressed, and apply those spiritual remedies charity suggests, and their circumstances require : the danger of death doth not dispense with the obligation. They lie not only under the precept of charity, but of justice allo, and sin grievously, if they neglect their duty in a point so effential: and divines teach, that even feculars are obliged to expose their lives for the falvation of their brother's soul, if they are in imminent danger of perdition, and cannot be rescued, but by such a sacrifice of charity.
Oh the perfection of the Christian religion ! Who could preach a doctrine so pure, fo sublime, but you, my God, and my Redeemer? Who could persuade the world to embrace a law so disinterested, so contrary to the perverse Inclination of nature, but you? And who is able to fulfill it without your powerful assistance ? Give me this help, that I may lay down my life (if necessity requires) not only for thee, but for my brother, for whom thou hast laid down thine. Thy charity has saved me : I, in return, offer my life to save a brother.
To conclude with St. John: Let us not love in word, neither in tongue, but in deed and in truth. Nothing is more ordinary, than love in ceremony, and friendship in expression : And if the heart vaa ried not from the tongue, we might say of the Christians of our age, what the the evangelist writes of those of the first ; They were of one heart, and of one foul, Acts iv. 32. But this is a mere language of course ; a set of words; a love that fits G