Love Your Neighbor
“You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”
Our Savior very often preached upon the moral precepts of the Law. Many of the sermons of Christ–and what sermons shall compare with them?–have not what is now currently called “the Gospel” in them at all. Our Savior did not every time He stood up to preach declare the depravity of man or the doctrine of election, or of limited atonement, or of effectual calling, or of final perseverance. No, He just as frequently spoke upon the duties of human life and upon those precious fruits of the Spirit which are begotten in us by the grace of God.
Mark what I have just uttered. You may have started at it at first but upon diligent reading of the four Evangelists you will find I am correct in stating that very much of our Savior’s time was occupied in telling the people what they ought to do towards one another. And many of His sermons are not what our precise critics would in these times call sermons full of unction and savor. For certainly they would be far from savory to the sickly sentimental Christians who do not care about the practical parts of religion.
Beloved, it is as much the business of God’s minister to preach man’s duty as it is to preach Christ’s atonement and unless he does preach man’s duty he will never be blessed of God to bring man into the proper state to see the beauty of the atonement. Unless he sometimes thunders out the Law and claims for his Master the right of obedience to it, he will never be very likely to produce conviction–certainly not that conviction which afterwards leads to conversion.
This morning I am aware my sermon will not be very unctuous and savory to you that are always wanting the same round of doctrines–but of this I have but little care. This rough world sometimes needs to be rebuked and if we can get at the ears of the people it is our business to reprove them. I think if ever there was a time when this text needed to be enlarged upon it is just now. It is so often forgotten, so seldom remembered, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”
I shall notice, first of all the command. Secondly, I shall try and bring some reasons for your obedience to it. And afterwards I shall draw some suggestions from the Law itself.
- First then, THE COMMAND. It is the second great Commandment. The first is, “You shall love the Lord, your God,” and there the proper standard is, “you shall love your God more than yourself.” The second Commandment is, “You shall love your neighbor,” and the standard there is a little lower but still pre-eminently high, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” There is the command. We can split it into three parts. Whom am I to love? “My neighbor.” What am I to do? I am to love him. How am I to do it? I am to love him as myself.
First, whom am I to love? I am to love my neighbor. By the word “neighbor” we are to understand any person who is near us. It comes from two old words, nae or near, (near) and buer, (to dwell) persons residing, or being near us and if anyone in the world is near us he is our neighbor. The Samaritan, when he saw the wounded man on the road to Jericho, felt that he was in his neighborhood and that therefore he was his neighbor and he was bound to love him. “Love your neighbor.” Perhaps he is in riches and you are poor and you live in your little cottage side-by-side with his lordly mansion.
You see his estates, you mark his fine linen and his sumptuous raiment. God has given him these gifts and if He has not given them to you, covet not his wealth and think no hard thoughts concerning him. There will ever be differences in the circumstances of man, so let it be. Be content with your own lot if you can not better it but do not look upon your neighbor and wish that he were poor as yourself. And do not aid or abet any who would rid him of his wealth to make you rich. Love him and then you can not envy him. Perhaps, on the other hand, you are rich and near you reside the poor.
Do not scorn to call them neighbors. Do not scorn to own that you are bound to love even them. The world calls them your inferiors. In what are they inferior? They are your equals really, though not so in station. “God has made of one blood all people that dwell on the face of the earth.” You are by no means better then they. They are men and what are you more than that? They may be men in rags, but men in rags are men and if you are a man arrayed in scarlet you are no more than a man. Take heed that you love your neighbor even though he is in rags and scorn him not, though sunken in the depths of poverty.
Love your neighbor, too, albeit that is of a different religion. You think yourself to be of that sect which is the nearest to the truth and you have hope that you and your compeers who think so well shall certainly be saved. Your neighbor thinks differently. His religion, you say, is unsound and untrue. Love him for all that. Let not your differences separate him from you. Perhaps he may be right, or he may be wrong. He shall be the right in practice who loves the most. Possibly he has no religion at all. He disregards your God, he breaks the Sabbath. He is confessedly an atheist–love him still. Hard words will not convert him, hard deeds will not make him a Christian. Love him straight on. His sin is not against you but against your God.
Your God takes vengeance for sins committed against Himself and you leave him in God’s hands. But if you can do him a kind turn, if you can find anything whereby you can serve him, do it–be it day or night. And if you make any distinction make it thus–“Because you are not of my religion, I will serve you the more, that you may be converted to the right. Whereas you are a heretic Samaritan and I an orthodox Jew, you are still my neighbor and I will love you with the hope that you may give up your temple in Gerizim and come to bow in the temple of God in Jerusalem.” Love your neighbor, despite differences in religion.
Love your neighbor, although he oppose you in trade. It will be a motto hard to introduce upon the exchange, or in trade. But nevertheless, it is one I am bound to preach to you that are merchants and tradesmen. A young man has lately started a shop which you are afraid will damage you. You must not hurt him, you must neither think nor say anything to injure him. Your business is to love him, for though he opposes you in your business, he is your neighbor. There is another one residing near you who is indebted to you. If you should take from him all that he owes you, you will ruin him. But if you let him keep your money for a little, he may weather the storm and succeed in his endeavors.
It is your business to love him as you love yourself. Let him have your money, let him try again and perhaps you shall have your own and he shall be helped, too. With whomsoever you have dealings in your business, he is your neighbor. With whomsoever you trade, be he greater or less than you, he is your neighbor and the Christian Law commands that you shall love your neighbor. It does not merely say that you are not to hate him but it tells you to love him. And though he should thwart your projects, though he should prevent your obtaining wealth, though he should rob you of your custom–yes, though he should obscure your fame–you are bound to love him as yourself. This Law makes no exception. Is he near you and have you any dealings with him? Thus says the Law, “You shall love him.”
Again–you are bound to love your neighbor though he offend you with his sin. Sometimes our spirits are overwhelmed and our hearts are grieved when we see the wickedness of our streets. The common reaction with the harlot or the profligate is to drive them out of society as a curse. It is not right. It is not Christian. We are bound to love even sinners and not to drive them from the land of hope but seek to reclaim even these. Is a man a rogue, a thief, or a liar? I cannot love his roguery, or I should be a rogue myself. I cannot love his lying, or I should be untrue–but I am bound to love him still and even though I am wronged by him–yet I must not harbor one vindictive feeling.
As I would desire God to forgive me, so I must forgive him. And if he so sins against the Law of the land that he is to be punished (and rightly so), I am to love him in the punishment. For I am not to condemn him to imprisonment vindictively but I am to do it for his good, that he may be led to repent through the punishment. I am to give him such a measure of punishment as shall be adequate, not as an atonement for his crime but to teach him the evil of it and induce him to forsake it. But let me condemn him with a tear in my eye because I love him still. And let me, when he is thrust into prison, take care that all his keepers attend to him with kindness.
And although there is a necessity for sternness and severity in prison discipline, let it not go too far, lest it merge into cruelty and become wanton instead of useful. I am bound to love him though he is sunken in vice and degraded. The Law knows of no exception. It claims my love for him. I must love him. I am not bound to take him to my house. I am not bound to treat him as one of my family. There may be some acts of kindness which would be imprudent, seeing that by doing them I might ruin others and reward vice. I am bound to set my face against him as I am just but I feel I ought not to set my heart against him for he is my Brother.
And though the devil has besmeared his face and spits his venom in his mouth, so that when he speaks he speaks in oaths and when he walks, his feet are swift to shed blood–yet he is a man. And as a man he is my Brother and as a Brother I am bound to love him. And if by stooping I can lift him up to something like moral dignity, I am wrong if I do not do it. I am bound to love him as I love myself. Oh, I would to God that this great Law were fully carried out. Ah, my Hearers, you do not love your neighbors, you know you do not. You do not hardly love all the people who go to the same Chapel. Certainly, you would not think of loving those who differ from you in opinion–would you? That would be too strange a charity.
Why, you hardly love your own brothers and sisters. Some of you today have daggers drawn against them that hung on the same breast. Oh, how can I expect you to love your enemies if you do not love your friends? Some of you have come here angered at your parents and here is a brother who is angry with his sister for a word she said before he left home. Oh, if you cannot love your brothers and sisters you are worse than heathen men and publicans. How can I expect you to obey this high and mighty command, “Love your neighbors”? But whether you obey it or not, it is mine to preach it and not shift it to a gainsaying generation’s taste.
First, we are bound to love and honor all men, simply because they are men. And we are to love, next, all those who dwell near us, not for their goodness or serviceableness towards us but simply because the Law demands it and they are our neighbors. “Love your neighbor as yourself.”
But, now, what am I to do to my neighbor? Love him–it is a hard word–love him. “Well I believe,” says one, “I never speak an unkind word of any of my neighbors. I do not know that I have ever hurt a person’s reputation in my life. I am very careful to do my neighbor no damage. When I start in business I do not let my spirit of competition overthrow my spirit of charity. I try not to hurt anybody.” My dear Friend, that is right as far as it goes–but it does not go the whole way. It is not enough for you to say you do not hate your neighbor–you are to love him. When you see him in the street it is not sufficient that you keep out of his way and do not knock him down. It is not sufficient that you do not molest him by night, nor disturb his quiet.
It is not a negative, it is a positive command. It is not the not doing, it is the doing. You must not injure him, it is true, but you have not done all when you have not done that. You ought to love him. “Well,” says one, “When my neighbors are sick round about. If they are poor, I take a piece from the meat for dinner and send it to them, that they may have a little food and be refreshed. And if they are exceedingly poor, I lay out my money and see that they are taken care of.” Yes, but you may do this and not love them. I have seen charity thrown to a poor man as a bone is thrown to a dog and there was no love in it. I have seen money given to those who needed it with not one-half the politeness with which hay is given to a horse.
“There it is, you want it. I suppose I must give it to you, or people will not think me liberal. Take it, I am sorry you came here. Why don’t you go to somebody else’s house? I am always having paupers hanging on me.” Oh, this is not loving our neighbor and this is not making him love us. If we had spoken a kind word to him and refused him he would have loved us better than when we gave to him in an unkind manner. No, though you feed the poor and visit the sick you have not obeyed the command. Only when your heart goes with your hand and the kindness of your life bespeaks the kindness of your soul, “You shall love your neighbor.”
And now someone may say, “Sir, I cannot love my neighbor. You may love yours, perhaps, because they may be better than mine. But mine are such an odd set of neighbors and I try to love them and for all I do they do but return insults.” So much the more room for heroism. Would you be some feather-bed warrior, instead of bearing the rough fight of love? Sir, he who dares the most–shall win the most. And if rough be your path of love, tread it boldly and still go on–loving your neighbors through thick and thin. Heap coals of fire on their heads and if they are hard to please, seek not to please them but to please your Master. And remember if they spurn your love, your Master has not spurned it and your deed is as acceptable to Him as if it had been acceptable to them. “You shall love your neighbor.”
Now if this love for our neighbor were carried out–love, real love–it would prohibit all rash anger. Who is ever angry with himself? I suppose all wise men are now and then and I suspect we should not be righteous if we were not sometimes angry. A man who is never angry is not worth a button. He cannot be a good man who will often see things so bad that he must be angry at them. But, remember, you have no right to be more angry with your neighbor than you are with yourself. You are sometimes vexed with yourself and you may sometimes be vexed with him if he has done wrong.
But your anger towards yourself is very short-lived–you soon forgive your own dear self. Well, you are bound just as soon to forgive him and though you speak a rough word, if it is too rough, withdraw it and if it is but rough enough, do not add more to it to make it too much so. State the truth if you are obliged to do it, as kindly as you can. Be no more stern than there is need to be. Deal with others as you would deal with yourself. Above all, harbor no revenge. Never let the sun set on your anger–it is impossible to love your neighbor if you do that.
Revenge renders obedience to this command entirely out of the question. You are bound to love your neighbor–then do not neglect him. He may be sick, he may live very near to your house and he will not send for you to call on him. He says, “No, I do not like to trouble him.” Remember, it is your business to find him out. The most worthy of all poverty is that which never asks for pity. See where your neighbors are in need. Do not wait to be told of it but find it out yourself and give them some help. Do not neglect them. And when you go, go not with the haughty pride which charity often assumes. Go not as some superior being about to bestow a benefaction.
But go to your Brother as if you were about to pay him a debt which nature makes his due and sit by his side and talk to him. And if he is one that has a high spirit, give him not your charity as a charity. Give it to him in some other way, lest you break his head with the very box of ointment with which you had intended to have anointed him. Be very careful how you speak to him–break not his spirit. Leave your charity behind you and he shall forget that–but he will remember well your kindness towards him in your speech.
Love to our neighbors puts aside every sin that is akin to covetousness and envy and it makes us at all times ready to serve, ready to be their footstool, if so it must be, that we may be so proved to be the children of Christ. “Well,” says one, “I cannot see that I am always to forgive. You know a worm will turn if it is trod upon.” And is a worm to be your example? A worm will turn but a Christian will not. I think it foul scorn to take a worm for my example, when I have got Christ. Christ did not turn–when He was reviled, He reviled not again. When they crucified Him and nailed Him to the tree, He cried, “Father, forgive them.” Let love, unconquerable love, dwell in your bosom. Love which many waters cannot quench, love which the floods cannot drown. Love your neighbors.
And now we have done with this command when we have noticed how we are to love our neighbor. It would be a good thing if some ladies loved their neighbors as much as they loved their lap-dogs. It would be a fine thing for many a country squire if he loved his neighbors as much as he loved his pack of hounds. I think it might be a high pitch of virtue if some of you were to love your neighbors as much as you love some favorite animal in your house. What an inferior grade of virtue, however, that appears to be! And yet it were something far superior to what some of you have attained to.
You do not love your neighbor as you love your house, your estate, or your purse. How high then is, “Love your neighbor as yourself,” the Gospel standard? How much does a man love himself? None of us too little, some of us too much. You may love yourself as much as you please but take care that you love your neighbor as much. I am certain you need no exhortation to love yourself. Your own case will be well seen to, your own comfort will be a very primary theme of your anxiety. You will line your own nest well with downy feathers if you can. There is no need to exhort you to love yourself. You will do that well enough. Well, then, as much as you love yourself, love your neighbor. And mark, by this is meant–your enemy–the man who opposes you in trade and the man of another class. You ought to love him as you love yourself.
Oh, it would turn the world upside down, indeed, if this were practiced. A fine lever this would be for upsetting many things that have now become the custom of the land. In England we have a caste almost as strong as in Hindustan. My Lord will not speak to anyone who is a little beneath himself in dignity. And he who has the next degree of dignity thinks the tradesman infinitely below him. And he who is a tradesman thinks a mechanic scarcely worth his notice. The mechanics according to their grades have their castes and classes, too. Oh, for the day when these shall be broken down! When the impulse of the one blood shall be felt and when as one family each shall love the other and feel that one class depends upon the other!
It were well if each would strive to help and love the other as he ought. My fine lady, in your silks and satins, you have gone to Church many a day and sat side by side with a poor old woman in her red cloak who is as good a saint as you could be. But do you ever speak to her? Never in your life! You would not speak to her, poor soul, because you happen to be worth more hundreds of pounds a year than she is shillings. There are you, Sir John, you come to your place and you expect everyone to be eminently respectful to you, as indeed, they ought to be, for we are all honorable men and the same text that says, “Honor the king,” says also, “Honor all men.”
And so we are bound to honor everyone of them. But you think that you, above all men, are to be worshipped. You do not condescend to men of mean estate. My dear Sir, you would be a greater man by one-half if you were not to appear so great. Oh, I say again, blessed be Christ, blessed be His Father for this Commandment and blessed be the world when the Commandment shall be obeyed and we shall love our neighbors as ourselves!
II. And now I shall have to give REASONS WHY YOU SHOULD OBEY THIS COMMAND.
The best reason in all the world is that with which we will begin. We are bound to love our neighbors because God commands it. To the Christian there is no argument so potent as God’s will. God’s will is the Believer’s Law. He does not ask what shall it profit him, what shall be the good effect of it upon others but he simply says, does my Father say it? Oh, Holy Spirit, help me to obey not because I may see how it shall be always good for me but simply because You command. It is the Christian’s privilege to do God’s Commandments, “hearkening to the voice of His Word.” But some other reason may prevail more with others of you who are not Christians.
Let me remark, then, that selfishness itself would bid you love your neighbors. Oh, strange that selfishness should preach a suicidal sermon but yet if self could speak, it might if it were wise, deliver an oration like this. “Self, love your neighbor, for then your neighbor will love you. Self, help your neighbor, for then your neighbor will help you. Make to yourself, O Self, friends of the mammon of unrighteousness, that when you need help they may receive you into abiding habitations. Self, you want ease–make yourself easy by treating everybody well. Self, you want pleasure–you can get no pleasure if those around you hate you. Make them love you, dear Self–and so shall you bless yourself.” Yes, even if you are selfish, I would you were so pre-eminently selfish and so wisely selfish that you would love others to make yourselves happy.
The shortcut to be happy yourself is to try to make others happy. The world is bad enough but it is not so bad as not to feel the power of kindness. Treat servants well. There are some of them that you can’t mend at all but treat them well and as a rule they will treat you well. Treat your masters well. Some of them are gruff and bad enough but as a class they know good servants and they will treat you well. There, now, if I would wish to be happy, I would not ask to have the wealth of this world nor the things that men call comforts. The best comforts that I should desire would be loving ones round about me and a sense that where I went I scattered happiness and made men glad. That is the way to be happy and selfishness itself might say, “Love your neighbor,” for in so doing you do love yourself. For there is such a connection between him and you that in loving him the stream of your love returns into your own heart again.
But I shall not assail you with such a paltry motive as that. It is too poor for a Christian. It should be too base even for a man. Love your neighbor in the next place, because that will be the way to do good in the world. You are philanthropists. Some of you subscribe to missionary societies. You subscribe to the society for orphans and other charitable projects. I am persuaded that these institutions, though they are excellent and good things, are in some respects a loss. For now a man gives to a society one-tenth of what he would have given himself and where an orphan would have been kept by a single family, ten families join together to keep that orphan and so there is about one-tenth of the charity.
I think the man who has the time is bound to give nothing at all to societies but to give himself. Be your own society. If there is a society for the sick, if you have enough money, be your own sick society. If you have the time, go and visit the sick yourself. You will know the money is well spent then and you will spare the expense of a secretary. There is a society for finding soup for the poor. Make your own soup. Give it yourself and if everyone who gives his half-a-crown to the society would just spend half-a-sovereign to give the soup away himself, there would be more done. Societies are good. God forbid that I should speak against them. Do all you can for them–but still I am afraid that they sometimes thwart individual effort and I know they rob us of a part of the pleasure which we should have in our own charity–the pleasure of seeing the gleaming eye and of hearing the grateful word when we have been our own social worker.
Dear Friends, remember that man’s good requires that you should be kind to your fellow creatures. The best way for you to make the world better is to be kind yourself. Are you a preacher? Preach in a surly way and in a surly tone to your Church, a pretty Church you will make of it before long! Are you a Sunday-School teacher? Teach your children with a frown on your face, a fine lot they will learn! Are you a master? Do you hold family prayer? Get in a passion with your servants and say, “Let us pray.” A vast amount of devotion you will develop in such a manner as that! Are you a warden of a jail and have prisoners under you? Abuse them and ill-treat them and then send the chaplain to them. A fine preparation for the reception of the Word of God!
You have poor around you–you say you wish to see them elevated. You are always grumbling about the poverty of their dwellings and the meanness of their tastes. Go and make a great stir at them all–a fine way that would be to improve them! Now, just wash your face of that black frown and buy a little of the essence of summer somewhere and put it on your face and have a smile on your lip and say, “I love you. I am no cant but I love you and as far as I can I will prove my love to you. What can I do for you? Can I help you over a stile? Can I give you any assistance, or speak a kind word to you? Methinks I could see after your little daughter. Can I fetch the doctor for your wife now she is ill?”
All these kind things would be making the world a little better. Your jails and gallows and all that never made the world better yet. You may hang men as long as you like. You will never stop murder. Hang us all, we should not be much the better for it. There is no necessity for hanging any–it will never improve the world. Deal gently, deal kindly, deal lovingly and there is not a wolf in human shape but will be melted by kindness. And there is not a tiger in woman’s form but will break down and sue for pardon if God should bless the love that is brought to bear upon her by her friend. I say again, for the world’s good, love your neighbors.
And now, once more, love your neighbor, for there is a great deal of misery in the world that you do not know of. We have often spoken hard words to poor miserable souls. We did not know their misery but we should have known it, we should have found it out. Shall I tell you, my Friend landlord, you went yesterday to get a warrant against a poor woman that has got three children. Her husband died a long while ago. She was three weeks late in her rent. The last time, to pay you, she sold off her late husband’s watch and her own wedding ring. It was all that she had that was dear to her and she paid you. And you went to her the next week and she begged a little patience and you think yourself highly exemplary because you had that little patience.
“The woman,” you have said, “I dare say, is good for nothing. And if not, it is no particular business of mine whether she has got three children, or none–rent is rent. And business is business.” Out she goes directly. Oh, if you could have seen that woman’s heart when she stood penniless and houseless and knew not where to send the children for the night, you would have said, “Never mind, my good woman, stay there. I cannot turn a widow out of house and home.” You did not do it yourself, did you? No but you sent your agent to do it and the sin lay on you just as much for all that. You had no right to do it. You had a right in the eye of man’s Law. But God’s Law says, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”
A young man called upon you a little time ago. He said, “Sir, you know my little business. I have been struggling very hard and you have kindly let me have some things on credit. But through the pressure of the times, I don’t know how it is, I seem to be very hard up. I think, Sir, if I could weather the next month I might be able to get on well. I have every prospect of having a trade, yet if I could but have a little more credit, if you could possibly allow it.” “Young man,” you have said, “I have had a great many bad debts lately. Besides you do not bring me any good security. I cannot trust you.”
The young man bowed and left you. You did not know how he bowed in spirit as well as in body. That young man had a poor old mother and two sisters in the house and he had tried to establish a little business that he might earn bread and cheese for them as well as for himself. For the last month they have eaten scarcely anything but bread and butter and the weakest tea has been their drink and he has been striving hard. But someone poorer than he seemed to be, did not pay him the little debt that was due to him, and he could not pay you. And if you had helped him, it might have been all well with him. And now what to do he cannot tell.
His heart is broken, his soul is swollen within him. That aged mother of his and those girls, what shall become of them? You did not know his agony, or else you would have helped him. But you ought to have known. You never should have dismissed his case until you had known a little more about him. It would not be business-like, would it? No, Sir, to be businesslike is sometimes to be devil-like. But I would not have you business-like when it is so. Away with your business! Be Christianlike. If you are professors, seek to serve God in obeying His command–“You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”
“No,” says another, “but I am always very kind to the poor.” There is a lady here who has got a tolerable share of money to spare and to her, money is about as common as pins. And she goes to see the poor. And when she gets in, they set her a chair and she sits down and begins to talk to them about economy and gives them a tolerably good lecture on that. The poor souls wonder how they are to economize any more than they do–they eat nothing but bread and they cannot see that they can get anything much cheaper. Then she begins to exhort them about cleanliness and makes about fifty impertinent remarks about the children’s clothes.
“Now,” says she, “my good woman, before I leave you I will give you this tract. It is about drunkenness. Perhaps you will give it to your husband.” If she does he will beat her, you may depend upon it. “Come now,” she says, “here is a shilling for you.” And now, My Lady thinks, “I love my neighbor.” Did you shake hands with her? “No, Sir.” Did you speak lovingly to her? “Of course not. She is an inferior.” Then you did not obey this command, “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Shall I tell you what happened after you left? That woman as soon as ever you were gone began to cry. She started off to the minister for consolation. She said to him, “Do you know, Sir, I am very thankful to God that I have had a little relief given me this morning but my spirit was almost broken. Do you know, Sir, we used to be in better circumstances.
“This morning Mrs. So-and-So came and talked to me in such a way as if I had been a dog. Or as if I had been a child and though she gave me a shilling I did not know what to do. I wanted the shilling bad enough, or else I really think I should have thrown it after her. She did talk in such a way I could not bear it. Now, if you come to see me, Sir, I know you will speak kindly to me and if you give me nothing you will not abuse me and find fault with me. Oh,” she said, my heart is broken within me, I cannot bear this, for we have seen better days and we have been used to different treatment than this."
Now, My Lady, you did not love her. Your shilling, what was the good of it if you did not put a little love on it? You might have made it as good as a golden sovereign if you had spread a little love upon it. She would have thought far more of it. “Love your neighbors.” Oh! would to God that I could always practice it myself and would that I could impress it into everyone of your hearts. Love your neighbor as you love yourself.
And now the last argument I shall use is one especially appropriate to the Christian. Christian, your religion claims your love–Christ loved you before you loved Him. He loved you when there was nothing good in you. He loved you though you insulted Him, though you despised Him and rebelled against Him. He has loved you right on and never ceased to love you. He has loved you in your backslidings and loved you out of them. He has loved you in your sins, in your wickedness and folly. His loving heart was still eternally the same and He shed His heart’s blood to prove His love for you. He has given you what you want on earth and provided for you an habitation in Heaven.
Now Christian, your religion claims from you that you should love as your Master loved. How can you imitate Him, unless you love, too? We will leave to the Mohammedans, to the Jew and to the infidel, cold-heartedness and unkindness–it were more in keeping with their views. But with you unkindness is a strange anomaly. It is a gross contradiction to the spirit of your religion and if you love not your neighbor, I see not how you can be a true follower of the Lord Jesus.
And now I conclude with just a weighty suggestion or two and I will not weary you. My text suggests first, the guilt of us all. My Friends, if this is God’s Law, who here can plead that he is not guilty? If God’s Law demands I should love my neighbor, I must stand in my pulpit and confess my guilt. In thinking of this text yesterday, my eyes ran with tears at the recollection of many a hard thing I had spoken in unwary moments. I thought of many an opportunity of loving my neighbor that I had slighted and I labored to confess the sin. I am certain there is not one of all this immense audience who would not do the same if he felt this Law applied by the Spirit in power to his soul.
Oh, are we not guilty? Kindest of spirits, most benevolent of souls, are you not guilty? Will you not confess it? And then that suggests this remark. If no man can be saved by his works unless he keeps this Law perfectly, who can be saved by his works? Have any of you loved your neighbor all your life with all your heart? Then shall you be saved by your own deeds if you have not broken any other commandment. But if you have not done it and you cannot do it, then hear the sentence of the Law–you have sinned and you shall perish for your sin. Hope not to be saved by the mandate of the Law.
And oh, how this endears the Gospel to me! If I have broken this Law and I have–and if I cannot enter Heaven with this Law broken, precious is the Savior who can wash me from all my sins in His blood! Precious is He that can forgive my want of charity and pardon my want of kindness–can forgive my roughness and my rudeness, can put away all my harsh speaking, my bigotry and unkindness and can through His all-atoning sacrifice give me a seat in Heaven, notwithstanding all my sins! You are sinners this morning–you must feel it–my sermon, if blessed of God, must convince you all of guilt. Well, then, as sinners, let me preach to you the Gospel. “Whosoever believes in the Lord Jesus shall be saved.”
Though we have broken this Law, God shall forgive us and put a new heart and a right spirit into our bosom–whereby we shall be enabled to keep the Law in the future–at least to an eminent degree and shall, by-and-by, attain to a crown of life in glory everlasting.
Now, I do not know whether I have been personal to anyone this morning. I sincerely hope I have. I meant to be. I know there are a great many characters in the world that must have a cap made exactly to fit them or else they will never wear it. I have tried as near as I could to do it. If you will not say, “How well that applied to my neighbor,” but just for once say, “How well it applied to me,” I shall hope that there will be some good follow from this exhortation. And though the Antinomian may turn away and say, “Ah, it was only a legal sermon,” my love to that precious Antinomian. I do not care about his opinion.
My Savior preached like that and I shall do the same. I believe it is right that Christians should be told what they should do and that worldlings should know what Christianity will lead us to do. So that the highest standard of love, of kindness and of Law should be uplifted in the world and kept constantly before the people’s eyes.
May God bless you and be with you, for Jesus' sake!