by thought and sorrow. It has been that of one who has known temptations, and has been out in rough weather, not the least of one who has kept himself from contact with evil lest it should spoil his innocence.

I make these remarks here for two reasons. One is that we are coming to that portion of his Epistle in which he does dwell with great particularity upon the love of men for each other and upon the love of God for man; to that portion of it therefore which has won for him this special reputation. I could not enter upon the passages on this subject without warning you that in them, quite as little as in those we have gone through, shall we hear of anything answering to that sentimental love which the artists suppose that he wished to glorify. Love of the brethren, we shall find, is with him a habit or state of mind which leads directly to practice, and is treated as utterly worthless apart from practice. The love of God to man is manifested not in any tenderness to his evil ways, but in bringing him into the right way. The two indications of the offspring of the evil spirit he gives us here are, (1) he doeth not righteousness, (2) he loveth not his brother. We shall find that the two are never separated. Love does not interfere with the strictness of right, but establishes it. Right does not make love less deep, or less universal; apart from right it would be superficial and partial.

These principles are some of the most vital and essential in Christian ethics, and there are none which we are in greater danger of forgetting. If you say to me, 'But what “ do you mean by Right, and Love? how do you distinguish

one from another ? how do you determine when one or ' another is outraged?' I reply, These are, indeed, the



[ocr errors]



most needful of all inquiries ; I hope that I shall not-I ' am sure that the Apostle St. John will not—evade them, even if they take the most searching form.' They do not take the most searching form, as I have tried to shew you before, when you crave for definitions of Right and Love. These it is easy enough to give ; different schoolmen could provide twenty or a hundred at a short notice. What we want is some help for discerning right from wrong in the business of every day and hour. What we want is to know when love or hatred has possession of us and is ruling us. When you hear great words like these, words that are wrought into the heart of every language under heaven, you know, you positively know, that there are realities corresponding to them. You cannot take a step without that assumption; if you try to do it, you will find that you are unawares thrusting in a notion of right, a notion of love, which you have framed for yourselves, and are making that the reality. These notions are, indeed, poor things; we must try to get clear of them in moral studies as we do in physical, by a steady experimental pursuit of the truths which are hidden beneath them. I hope we have gained some help from this Epistle in learning what that method is, and in applying it; I hope we shall gain still more hereafter.

I can testify for myself, that no part of it has been of more use to me, than that of which I have spoken to-day. And this was my second reason for alluding to the supposed fondness of St. John, for the softer and tenderer side of morality and of the Gospel. His teaching about the devil is not at all agreeable to those who dwell exclusively on the sunny aspects of the world and of life, and would

shut their eyes to whatever is dark and terrible. They like to hear of a Being who is all-gracious and loving; the vision of one who is the enemy of all that is gracious and loving shocks them: they wish to suppose that it belongs to the world's infancy, and that it disappears as we know more of optics, and can distinguish between real forms and the shadows that are thrown from ourselves. Now, I am quite sure that men in other days did confound shadows which were cast from themselves with objects in Nature; that they saw spectres coming towards them which their own fancy-generally their own guilty fancy -had raised; that they feared where no fear was. I am thankful to any natural philosopher who assists in dispelling any of these phantoms; I believe that, in doing so, he is a useful fellow labourer with the moralist and the theologian. For the moralist and the theologian, if he understands his own business, if he follows St. Paul and St. John, asserts, what all these natural discoveries confirm, that it is not among God's works one is to look for shapes and forms of evil; that they are very good; that the sorrow and death which have mingled with them and overshadowed them, come from some other source than themselves; that they are groaning to be delivered from these; that their day of emancipation is coming. Moralists and theologians therefore are driven to account for the evil which they see—and which natural philosophers seeaffecting the world and affecting themselves by spiritual not material agencies. I must think of evil as spiritual, as present, as appealing to my spirit, as appealing to me. I cannot deny its presence, or its influence. But if I believe that the spirit who tempts me to be unrighteous

[ocr errors]



is a deceiver and a liar; that he seeks to make me deny a truth which has been manifested, to distrust a goodness which has come forth to redeem and to unite my race, then I can maintain, hour by hour, the good fight of faith ; I can say to the accuser, Get thee behind me. I know that the Son of God has appeared to destroy thy works. I know that He will appear to make Good and Truth triumphant for ever.'



1 JOHN III. 11--23.

For this is the message that ye heard from the beginning, that we should love

one another. Not as Cain, who was of that wicked one, and slew his brother. And wherefore slew he him? Because his own works were evil, and his brother's righteous. Marvel not, my brethren, if the world hate you. We know that we have passed from death unto life, because we love the brethren. He that loveth not his brother abideth in death. Whosoever hateth his brother is a murderer : and ye know that no murderer hath eternal life abiding in him. Hereby perceive we the love of God, because He laid down His life for us : and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren. But whoso hath this world's good, and seeth his brother have need, and shutteth up his bowels of compassion from him, how dwelleth the love of God in him? My little children, let us not love in word, neither in tongue ; but in deed and in truth. And hereby we know that we are of the truth, and shall assure our hearts before him. For if our heart condemn us, God is greater than our heart, and knoweth all things. Beloved, if our heart condemn us not, then have we confidence toward God. And whatsoever we ask, we receive of Him, because we keep His commandments, and do those things that are pleasing in His sight. And this is His commandment, That we should believe on the name of His Son Jesus Christ, and love one another, as He gave us commandment.

I HAVE taken more verses to-day than I am wont to take for the subject of a single Lecture, not certainly because I think any of them unimportant, but because I do not know how to separate them without injuring their sense. The passage may seem at first sight to include many different topics which might be easily considered apart. But

« ForrigeFortsett »