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on punctilious distinctions of ceremony, like that of the Pharisees; or on the esoteric pride of human wisdom, like the ethics of the Greeks. It was based on a principle of holy benevolence, which was designed to communicate warmth and life to the world.

One of the first acts of Jesus, after he had commenced his public ministry, was to announce to the woman of Samaria the breaking down of the distinction between her nation and that of the Jews, and between both and the Gentiles. On a subsequent occasion, he taught the doctrine of universal benevolence, as opposed to all geographical and exclusive predilections, in the beautiful parable of the good Samaritan. He was thus preparing the way for a religion whose main principle was to be charity; and he fortified his doctrine by his own perfect example. He taught, that by the remarkable spectacle of zeal and love which his disciples should exhibit before men, and for their good, they were to be the benefactors of the world, when He himself should have quitted it. 'Ye are the salt of the earth. 'Ye are the light of the world.'*

The life, and the discourses of Jesus, were one great lesson of charity. He declared that all gifts and sacrifices presented to God, are vain, unless he who offers them be first reconciled to his

Matt. v. 13, 14.

brother;' but that a 'cup of cold water' given to one of his disciples, as such, shall not pass unrewarded. He pronounced the most humble and childlike to be the greatest in the kingdom of heaven ;' adding, that whoever received such, received Himself. And in order that the Gospel might be universally known as a system of benevolence, he commanded that the threshold of every house which was entered by its first messengers, should bear witness to the announcement, * Peace be to this house.'

But it was when the closing scenes of his life drew nigh, and there were none but friends to hear, that the Saviour more fully revealed the mystery of his love; and seemed to draw down to earth a portion of that heaven to which he was so soon to ascend. Retired from the gaze of the world, Jesus developed, in full, his sublime design of establishing an empire of benevolence, in a world which had already been divided and distracted for four thousand years. How mighty the force of selfishness, when, under its influence, the disciples, even in the presence of their meek and lowly Master, began to strive for precedency! And from that day to this hour, what mischiefs have arisen to the church from the unholy debate, now of eighteen hundred years' continuancem' which should be accounted the greatest ?' where all are brethren!'

As an antidote to this antichristian ambition, Jesus not only inculcated a spirit of humility and fraternal love, but illustrated it in a most affecting manner by his own example; and not before he had stooped down to wash his disciples' feet, did he say to them, “A new commandment I give unto you, that ye love one another, as I have loved you.'* Such a command enjoined what was little practised by mankind; for at the advent of Christ, the world had reached its climax of selfishness and sin. Men were without natural affection; hateful and hating one another. The true religion was represented by the Pharisees; but they substituted forms and rites and ceremonies for purity and benevolence of heart, and, in their practice, dispensed equally with love to God and



But the commandment itself, was less novel than the motive by which it was enforced. This love was not to be a common benevolence, dictated by nature,—a mere neighbourly feeling, or the tie of

or party. It was not simply another name for the reciprocation of benefits ; nor was it the mere attraction of generous spirits, feeling complacency in each other, on account of similarity of mental temperament, education, or taste. Much less was it the offspring of sentimentalism or romance. It was distinguished from all natural affec

John xii. 34.

tions, both by its source and by its end. It was not an earthly friendship, derived from earth, and terminating on earth ; its principle was divine, and divinely implanted in every heart that felt it: and as it came from heaven, it tended thither, and anticipated its perfection there.

This love was not a casual ornament of charac. ter, but an indestructible element in the new creation, inseparable from the relations which will subsist between all holy beings for ever. It was to be the sign of a divine nature—the very breath of new-born souls. It was a love for Christ's sake. This was a designation of it which spoke volumes to him who had known it; and to him in whose breast it had never dwelt, no description could render it intelligible. It was the free-masonry, so to speak, of the true religion ; by which its genuine adherents might know each other. This mutual and singular affection—this congeniality of spiritual perceptions and interests, made visible to all men by outward manifestations, was also destined to be the image of heaven on earth—the peculiar mark of the followers of Christ, at once distinguishing them from the world.

The circumstances under which the 'new commandment' was enforced, were such as to render it not less impressive to the disciples, than the giving of the moral law was to Israel. It was not

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for the church

Judas was

indeed, proclaimed in thunders, but it was the dying injunction of their Lord. The hour was near when Jesus was to bear the burden of human guilt. Gethsemane was before Him, with its deathly sorrow, and sore amazement-its agony and sweat of blood. The cup of wrath which could not pass away,' was in prospect, and

at hand to betray Him. He was about to endure indignities and insults, the still more cruel denial of Peter, and the desertion of the rest of his disciples. All this was the prelude to the cross, with its corporal tortures, and the more intolerable sense of being 'forsaken' of God. But these awful anticipations, instead of causing him to think less of his own' whom he had loved,' did but seem the occasion of his manifesting towards them a more intense solicitude. In a discourse which breathed inimitable tenderness, he urged them to cultivate unanimity as their strength and welfare ; introduced every topic which might console them when he was gone; and summed up the design of the whole, by declaring that he had spoken these things,' that in Him they might have peace.'

In this exquisite fragment,* a oneness of affection and of interest between Christ and his disciples, is supposed throughout. They are his “ friends, his 'brethren,' his children ;' and

* John xiv. xv. xvi.

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