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But is the essential truth of the whole matter therefore really so, that we have no concern, or interest, in one another's conduct, or in one another's welfare ? that we are justified in caring only for ourselves, or that any avowal of regard expressed before positive experience or proof of others, is, on such ground, to be at once suspected, disbelieved, or set down to the score of mere profession, or dissembling ? No, Christians ; let us learn better.
If God had given us our lot, and limited our knowledge and our hope, within and by this world alone ; if we had all our treasure, and our rest, here; and all our powers of body and of mind-our strength, our understandings, memories, and all our faculties—were given for no other end, that we could see, but to enable us to fight our way through the contentions of the life that now is; there might be some excuse set up—at any rate, there might some explanation be afforded, of our caring little except for present things.
But this is not our calling and condition here ; and this is not the will of God concerning us. What follows ?—Why, that to limit our concern and our affections thus narrowly, is not the view, nor rule, by which we ought to regulate our conduct; such scanty line is not the measure after which we should enlarge our love, and bestow our concern, if we with any sort of reason would expect to have reward bountifully measured to ourselves again, by Jesus Christ, in heaven.
The word of God, declared by Jesus Christ his Son, has taught us quite another, and a larger, and a truer lesson, concerning our whole state and calling in the present life, our nature, and our obligations. That word has taught us, Christian brethren, that we are all but strangers upon earth, and pilgrims moving to another country. That word has taught us, and we feel the truth of it, that we have souls, as well as bodies. It has made known to us, that these our souls shall live for ever; and that, either in happiness or misery unspeakable, according to our conduct here. Now—as one part and point of that same conduct—we can either assist to corrupt and to destroy these precious souls, one for another; or, by the help of God's grace, we may so cultivate and so improve them, as that we may assist others, and others may assist us, “ when we shall fail, to be received into ever“ lasting habitations.” Which help or hindrance, (please to notice well,) it is within our power to
afford, without harm done, or negligence, in the familiar works and duties of our daily calling : so far from that being the case, it will be through a better and more vigilant discharge of our own regular and necessary duties, that we shall find our care for others on the increase, as we win our way to blessedness'.
Here, therefore, our whole view becomes widely altered. Here we may begin to perceive, there is a common cause and work before us all, in which we may be all of much more consequence and benefit, one to another, than we are apt at common times, and in our more prevailing carelessness of spirit, to have any notion of. We may assist each other toward heaven; or we may help to cast down one another into HELL. It is not therefore possible, that creatures standing in a posture and connexion such as this toward each other can be without good ground of carefulness and of concern, one for another—at all times, and in all places. I do not mean to say that all will feel it. It has been said already, all do not feel it: the fact is, that but few are properly alive to it, among the multitudes who
See, by and by, in Sermon VIII, the example of St. Paul.
ought to be so. But what I say is, there is ground for feeling it ; and therefore that it may be felt, truly and honestly. And felt it will be by all those who shall most worthily and fully see and understand the tenour of their Christian calling; the union of all faithful Christians under one Head: the fellowship of all in the same common means of grace, and hope of glory!
It is enough, however, for our present purpose to repeat—what is indisputably true that there is ground, and good ground too, for mutual affection and concern among us, one toward another; and that these feelings may be entertained in full sincerity and truth. If then such proper love be found in any hearts, surely we may well suppose it should, and will, be felt by ministers of Jesus Christ, whose very work it is to care for souls, and to bring back the spirits that have gone astray, out of the wilderness of sin unto the healing waters of salvation ; who must by consequence be led to think, much and often, of the great price and worth of souls; and who can never possibly approve themselves to their great Master, who is Head of all, without caring for them! It needs no more than that a Christian hearer should give credit to his Christian minister for some concern about his own
soul, to lead on to a just belief, that such a servant of his Lord both may, and will, feel an abiding care and a sincere anxiety for the true good of others.
From whence it comes to pass, that the precise thing which, to a mere outside and worldly view, seems so unlikely-namely, that the ministers of Christ, one following another, should all be able really to care for strangers in the very outset, and to take earnest interest at once in persons whom they have never known before—becomes a thing not only conceivable, but, if those servants rightly feel their duty, even necessary. It is not a profession of mere words of course, nor a pretence of insincerity. No such thing. In every servant of the Lord who thinks at heart about the mercies, and the manner, of REDEMPTION; of its necessity, and its effects; of the surpassing love which led to and accomplished it ; of what man's state would be without it; of what it has done for us, and of what it calls on us to do ;-in every one, I say, who thinks of these things, such interest as we are speaking of, and true concern for all who bear the name of Christ, grows of itself into a settled habit and a continual impression. For, “ the love of Christ " constraineth him; because he thus judges,