Thou shalt not avenge, nor bear any grudge against the children of thy people, but thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself: I am the LORD.
~ Leviticus 19:18
And he answering said, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind; and thy neighbour as thyself. And he said unto him, Thou hast answered right: this do, and thou shalt live.
~ Luke 10:27-28
For this, Thou shalt not commit adultery, Thou shalt not kill, Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not bear false witness, Thou shalt not covet; and if there be any other commandment, it is briefly comprehended in this saying, namely, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. Love worketh no ill to his neighbour: therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.
~ Romans 13:9-10
If ye fulfil the royal law according to the scripture, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself, ye do well:
~ James 2:8
Let every one of us please his neighbour for his good to edification.
~ Romans 15:2
As we have therefore opportunity, let us do good unto all men, especially unto them who are of the household of faith.
~ Galatians 6:10
For if ye love them which love you, what reward have ye? do not even the publicans the same? But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you;
~ Matthew 5:46, Matthew 5:44
How Ought We to Love Our Neighbours as Ourselves, by John Milward. The following contains an excerpt from his work.
And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.
~ Matthew 22:39
The apostle bids us consider Christ, “who endured such (that is, so great) contradictions of sinners against himself” (Hebrews 12:3). It was from a great spirit of this kind, that his adversaries used to propose so many captious questions to him. We find him no less than three times opposed in this one chapter: First, by the disciples of the Pharisees and the Herodians, about the lawfulness of giving tribute unto Caesar, again, the same day by the Sadducees, with a question about the resurrection, which they denied. When he had so well acquitted himself of both these, that the first marvelled and left him, and the last were put to silence, behold he is again set upon by the Pharisees, who seem to have chosen out one of their number to oppose him with a question, “Then one of them, which was a lawyer, asked him a question, tempting him” (v.35). The same person is by another evangelist called a scribe, “one of the scribes came (Mark 12:28).
There were two sorts of scribes among the Jews, namely, scribes of the people, who were actuaries in and about matters of public concernment; and scribes of the law, whose business was to read and interpret the Law of God unto them. Such a one was Ezra, who is said to be “a ready scribe in the Law of Moses” (Ezra 7:6), and upon this account they are said to sit in Moses’ seat. Of this last sort was the person in the text, as plainly appears by joining both evangelists together: Mark says he was heis ton grammateon, ‘one of the scribes’; Matthew says he was nomikos, ‘a lawyer’; if we put them both together, they say he was a scribe of the law. And the question that he tempted Christ with is concerning the law: “Master, which is the great commandment in the law?” (v.36). He who was able at twelve years of age to dispute with the doctors in such a manner as that all that heard him marvelled at his understanding and answers, was not likely at this time to go far to seek for an answer to such a question. We have him therefore speaking roundly and directly to it, “Jesus said unto him, ‘Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind’; this is the first and greatest commandment; and the second is like unto it: ‘Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself” (verses36-39). The later part of this answer falls under our present consideration: “Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.” This is said to be like unto the first, in other words, a great commandment, because as it comprehends all the duty we owe to God directly, so this includes all that duty we owe to man.
The Jewish doctors were accustomed to calling it ‘the universal great precept’; sometimes also the head’; sometimes the foot of the law,’ alluding possibly to the total sum in accounts. For as in adding many particulars together, if you begin below, and go upward, the total sum is set above, and called the head of the account; if above, and proceeding downward, it is set below, and called the foot of the account, containing in it as much as all the rest. Even so, if you begin at Moses and go down to the prophets, or at the prophets and go up to Moses; of all that is spoken by any, or all of them, about our duty to man, this is the sum, “Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.”
When Christ commanded his disciples to love one another, he charged them with many things in that one thing: “These things I command you, that you love one another” (John 15:17); and who can tell how many things are required of us in this one thing? Whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report all these whatsoevers are required in it, yea, whatsoever else that is good and virtuous (Philippians 4:8); if there is any virtue, any praise, it is comprehended in this one command, “Love one another,” and also in this saying, “Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.”
It cannot be expected that in so short a time as is allotted to this exercise we should speak of all things contained in these words; we can but take up a few drops out of the ocean, or a handful of sand from the shore. It is only he that measures the waters in the hollow of his hand, and comprehends the dust of the earth in a measure (Isaiah 40:12), that is able to give us the true dimensions of them: as there is height and depth, a length and breadth in the love, so also in the law of God, which passes knowledge. This David acknowledged when he said, “I have seen an end of all perfection, but thy commandment is exceeding broad” (Psalm 119:96).
Neither is it our scope to speak of the words in the way of a treatise. We shall therefore give you the doctrine, and proceed with as much speed as well we may to the query, the resolution of which is our main business at this time.
Doctrine. It is the duty of every man to love his neighbour as himself. When God says, “thou shalt,” he intends you and I, and every other man, no matter what his rank, state, or condition may be.
Before we propound the query it will be requisite:
1. That we show who is our neighbour.
2. That we speak something of the lawfulness of a man’s loving himself.
3. That we lay down some conclusions which are to be taken along with us, as a thread that must run through the whole contexture of our ensuing discourse.
1. Who is our neighbour? Our neighbour is not only he who lives near to our habitation, in the same streets or city; nor he only that is of the same country, or nation that we are of; but every man, of what place, or nation soever he may be, whether he is one of our acquaintances, or a stranger; a friend or an enemy.
You find this question put somewhere to Christ himself by a certain lawyer (whether he is the same we have here in this chapter, it matters not), and there (Luke 10:25-37) you have Christ answering him by a parable, to this effect. A certain man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among thieves which stripped him and wounded him, and left him half dead. There came a priest that way who saw him, and passed by on the other side. After him, a Levite in like manner. But a Samaritan, seeing him, had compassion on him, bound up his wounds, and brought him to his inn. Now which of these three was neighbour to him? He answers, “He that showed mercy on him” (v.37a). What says Christ? “Go thou, and do likewise” (v.37b). It is as if he should have said, ‘You are a Jew, and as such, has little or no dealing with a Samaritan, or indeed with any man of another nation; there is a partition wall between you and them, so that you look on them as strangers (if not enemies), and none of your neighbours. But I tell you a Samaritan, or a man of any other nation, whatever he may be, is one of your neighbours, and therefore if he is in misery, and comes within your reach, be sure you show mercy to him.’
This God required of the Jewish nation of old. “If a stranger sojourn within you in your land, ye shall not vex him; but the stranger that dwelleth with you, shall be as one born among you, and thou shalt love him as thyself” (Leviticus 19:33-34). Yea, although he be an enemy, the case is the same, for so Christ resolved it, “Ye have heard that it hath been said, ‘Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy,’ but I say unto you, ‘Love your enemies’” (Matthew 5:43-44). “Ye have heard”: the scribes and Pharisees might have taught them thus, blotting the text with their false interpretation, but Christ better informs them, and wiping away their blots with his sponge, restores the law to its primitive beauty and perfection, “I say unto you, ‘Love your enemies.”
And does not the law say the same also? We find a very fair text in the law to this purpose, “If thou meet thine enemy’s ox or his ass going astray, thou shalt surely bring it back to him again. If thou see the ass of him that hateth thee lying under his burden, and wouldest forbear to help him, thou shalt surely help with him” (Exodus 23:4-5). Does God take care for oxen? For man’s sake doubtless this is written; and so it appears plainly in the text, “Thou shalt surely help with him; thou shalt bring it back again to him”; it was to be done, not only in mercy to the beast, but in love to the man.
Besides, how can we think that God would require us to bring back a straying ox and to relieve an ass oppressed with his burden, and lay no duty on us to a man in such a condition? Doubtless, if we are bound to bring back an ox that goes astray, we are much more obliged to bring back a man, when we find him going astray from God. And if we are to help an ass that lies under his burden, much more a man, when we see him oppressed with his.
We see then whom we are to account our neighbour: it is any man whomsoever, friend or enemy; that lives near to us, or at a greater distance from us.
2. We come now to speak of the second thing propounded, and that is, the lawfulness of a man’s loving himself. Every man may, yea, it is a duty lying on every man to love himself. This may seem strange, when we see self-love everywhere branded in the Scripture so that there is hardly any sin described in so black a character as this. It is a sin indeed, that includes many others in the bowels of it; we may say of it, as the apostle James does of the tongue, “It is a fire, a world of iniquity, it is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison” (James 3:8).
Unbelief and self-love are the immediate parents of all the mischiefs and abominations that are in the world, and therefore we have it set in the front of all the evils that make the last times perilous:
“In the last days perilous times shall come, for men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, without natural affection, truce-breakers, false-accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good, traitors, heady, high-minded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God.” 2 Timothy 3:1-4 And if you can find a larger catalogue of abominations that you have here set down to your hand, self-love is the mother of them all. It is this that makes all the stir that is in the world. It is this that disturbs families, churches, cities, and kingdoms. In a word, this is the grand idol that is set up to be worshipped all the world over, greater by far than Diana of the Ephesians, whom yet all Asia and the world were said to worship. It is that idol which every man must endeavour to take down, for until that is done, we shall find little peace within ourselves, or quietness among men.
Notwithstanding this, we must say that it is lawful, and a duty incumbent on every man to love himself. There is a two-fold self: a natural self, and a sinful self. The latter is to be hated, the other loved. We cannot hate sinful self too much, though it be to the destruction of it; this is that which we are bound to kill, mortify, and utterly destroy. Christ came into the world purposely to help and assist us in the destruction of it, “For this purpose the son of God was manifested, that he might destroy the works of the devil” (1 John 3:8). But we may lawfully love natural self, soul, and body, because these are the works of God, and therefore good.
He that came to destroy the works of the devil came to save the soul and body, the works of God. “The Son of Man is come to seek and to save that which was lost” (Luke 19:10). a.) A man may love his own body, and is bound to preserve the life of it, “No man ever yet hated his own flesh” (Ephesians 5:29). We read indeed of one out of the tombs, “who was day and night in the mountains, and in the tombs, crying and cutting himself with stones” (Mark 5:5); and of the idolatrous Baalites (who sacrificed to the devil, and not to God). “that they cut themselves, after their manner, with knives and lances, till the blood gushed out upon them” (1 Kings 18:28). But who in his right wits ever did such a thing? Or where did God require it at any man’s hands? The Lord forbids the Israelites to make such barbarous cuttings and manglings of their flesh (after the manner of the heathen) because they were his servants (Leviticus 19:28; 21:5). A man may sin against his own body many ways, as by excessive labour, neglecting to take necessary food or physick; intemperance, and the like. “He that committeth fornication, sinneth against his own body” (1 Corinthians 6:18).
b.) A man may and ought chiefly to love his own soul. Every man’s care should be that it may be well with his better part, both here and hereafter. And to this purpose it is everyone’s great concern.
1. To get into Christ, who is that ark in which only souls can be safe. They who after all the calls, invitations, and beseechings of God in the gospel, will persist and go on in impenitency and unbelief, are murderers of their own souls, and their blood will be upon their own heads: “He that sinneth against me, wrongeth his own soul; all they that hate me, love death” (Proverbs 8:36).
2. He that has closed with Christ must endeavour to abide in him, by putting forth fresh and renewed acts of faith. He must feed daily on the promises, which are the food of his soul; and look to it, that he keep alive the grace which is wrought in his heart.
The new nature, or spiritual self, is the best self we have, and should be most of all loved by us. They that have the charge of others’ souls are a part of their own charge: “Take heed of yourselves and to all the flock” (Acts 20:28). They who are under the inspection of others must look to themselves also, so John charges that elect lady and her children, to whom he wrote his second epistle: “Look to yourselves” (2 John v.8). As ministers must give an account of their flock, so every sheep of the flock must give an account of himself, “Every one of us shall give an account of himself to God” (Romans 14:12).
Question. If love to ourselves is not only lawful, but a duty; why is there no direct and express command for it in the Scripture?
Answer 1. There is no such need of an express command for this. Though the law of nature since the fall is very much defaced and obscured, that much of that which is our duty, is hardly discerned by us; yet there is no man whom the light of nature does not move to love himself. We find a law of self-preservation stamped upon the whole creation of God: it is plainly to be seen in all the creatures, whether animate or inanimate, and in man in a special manner. To this end, God has placed affections in man’s soul, that he might use them as feet to carry him forth readily to that which is good, and from that which is evil or hurtful to him. Hence it is, that when anything is represented as good, there is not only an inclination to it, but a pursuing of it: when evil and destructive, there is not only an aversion, but a flight from it. It is said of the prudent man that he foresees the evil and hides himself, and of Noah, that “being moved with fear, he prepared an ark” (Hebrews 11:7). And even Christ himself, who was altogether void of sin, when they sought to destroy him, withdrew himself; as he did hide himself at another time, when they took up stones to cast at him; thus he did until the hour came when he was to lay down his life according to a command that he had received from the Father. Answer 2. Although there is no direct and express command saying, ‘Thou shalt love thyself,’ yet all the commands of God do virtually and implicitly enjoin it. No man can comply with that first and great command of loving God with all his heart, but in so doing he loves himself, because in the fruition of God is a man’s greatest happiness. The same may be said of every other commandment in proportion; for as it is good in itself, so it will be found to be good for us. David found this to be true when he said that in the keeping of his commands there was great reward; and when he prayed that as God was good, and did good, he would teach him his statutes (Psalm 19:11; 119:68). Yea, all the promises and threatenings in the book of God do suppose that a man may and should love himself. In the promises, God shows us something that is good for us, and so draws us to himself, by the cords of a man. And when he threatens he shows us something that is evil, and bids us fly from present wrath or wrath to come. Whether he threatens or promises, it is that we choose the good, and refuse the evil. “I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing; therefore choose life” (Deuteronomy 30:19). It is the will of God that every man should make the best choice for himself, and every man does so when he is regulated in it by the will of God; the sum of which is this, that we love him above all, and our neighbour as ourselves.
3. We come now in the third place to lay down four short conclusions about our love to God, our neighbour, and ourselves.
a.) The first is this: that as God is to be loved above all other things, so he is to be loved for himself. “There is none good but one, that is, God” (Luke 18:19). None originally, independently, essentially and immutably good but he; and therefore he only is to be loved for himself. It was well said by one of the ancients, causa diligendi Deum, Deus est: modus, sine modo diligere (“The cause of loving God is God himself; the measure is to love him without measure’). b.) We may also conclude that creatures may be loved according to that degree of goodness which God has communicated to them; not for themselves, but for God, “who made all things for himself” (Proverbs 16:4).
As all waters come from the sea, and go through many places and countries, not resting anywhere until they return to the sea again, so our love, if it is right, has its rise in God, acts toward several creatures in due manner and measure, but rests in God at last, bringing in to him all the glory of that goodness which he has derived to the creatures, “Whatsoever you do, do all to the glory of God” (1 Corinthians 10:31). We may neither love ourselves or our neighbours for our or themselves, but for God, that God in all things may be glorified. I do not say that in every act of love we put forth, it is necessary that we actually mind the glory of God, but that our hearts be habitually disposed and framed to the glorify God in all.
c.) No man can love himself or his neighbour rightly while he remains in a state of sin. Until a man comes to himself, he cannot love himself or any other man as he ought. The reason is manifest from what was said before; he does not-he cannot-love either, in God and for God. When the prodigal came to himself (and not until then), he said, “I will return to my Father” (Luke 15:17-18).
Love is a fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22), and therefore is never found in any who are destitute of the Spirit. The grace of love flows from faith, and therefore the apostle prayed for the Ephesians, that they might have “faith and love from God the Father and our Lord Jesus Christ” (Ephesians 6:23). The most gracious souls on earth, though they may and do love God, themselves, and their neighbours truly and sincerely, yet by reason of the relics of corruption in their hearts, there are many defects in their love to God, and much inordinacy in their love to themselves and to their neighbour. As there is always something lacking in our faith (1 Thessalonians 3:10), so also in our love.
We come now to the question, ‘How ought we to love our neighbour as ourselves?’ For the resolution of this question, we shall first lay down these two general propositions:
1. In the same things wherein we show love to ourselves, we ought to show love to our neighbour.
2. After the same manner that we love ourselves, we ought to love our neighbour.
1. First, in and by the things we do and may show love to ourselves, we ought to show love to others. It is not possible to enumerate all the particular instances wherein we show love to ourselves; it shall suffice therefore that we speak of such things as are inclusive of many more. We shall reduce them to these four heads:
a.) Our thoughts of, and the judgment we pass upon ourselves.
b.) Our speeches concerning ourselves.
c.) Our desires after that which is good for ourselves.
d.) Our actual endeavours, that it may be well with us.
a.) Let us consider what thoughts we have of, and what judgments we pass upon ourselves. We do not ordinarily, nor ought we at any time to censure ourselves with too much rigour and severity. We are indeed required again and again to judge ourselves, and it is our duty to do it strictly and severely; yet we ought not without just cause to judge or condemn ourselves for anything, nor are we very forward so to do. Our love to our neighbour should be exercised in this manner also; if he does or speaks anything that is capable of a double sense and interpretation, let us take it as done or spoken in the best sense it is capable of, unless the contrary does manifestly appear by some convincing circumstances, for it is the property of charity to think no evil. We may be much more bold to judge ourselves than others; we are privy to our own principles, from whence our words and actions flow, and to our own intentions in all we speak or do. But the case is otherwise when we take upon us to judge others; their principles and intentions are known only to themselves until they some way or another declare them. The heart, being the hidden man, is known only to God, “before whom all things are naked and open” (Hebrews 4:13), and to a man’s self, “What man knoweth the things of a man, save the spirit of a man which is in him?” (1 Corinthians 2:11). Moreover, inordinate self-love has often too great an influence on the judgment we pass upon ourselves, and the corruption of our wills and affections on the judgment we pass upon other men; that we seldom judge aright. As he that has the jaundice, be the object never so white, judges it yellow (his eye being ill disposed); so the eye of the mind, being affected with the corruption of the heart, puts another colour upon that which is most candidly spoken or done. Were our hearts principled with true love to others, we would be as cautious about the judgment which we pass on them, as about that which we pass upon ourselves; and there is great reason we should be even more cautious, from the aforementioned considerations.
b.) We show our love to ourselves in and by our speeches concerning ourselves, and it is our duty so to do. As we ought not to pass too severe a judgment on ourselves, in our own minds, so we may not speak that which is false of ourselves; and it is seldom known that any man’s tongue falls foul upon himself. Yea, our love to ourselves is and ought to be such as not to suffer our tongue to blab and send abroad all the evil we certainly know by ourselves.
It is our duty then in the same manner to show our love to others. Our tongue, which is apt to speak the best of ourselves, should not frame itself to speak the worst we can of our brethren. The apostle charges Titus to put Christians in mind of this, among other duties, to “speak evil of no man” (Titus 3:2). There are several ways and degrees of evil speaking: [1.] The first and most notorious is when men are spoke against as evildoers, for doing that which is their duty to do, when they are condemned for that for which they ought to be commended. Thus was Jeremiah dealt with in his time. When he faithfully declared the mind of God to the people, “Come,” say they, “and let us smite him with the tongue” (Jeremiah 18:18). The same lot had John from Diotrephes, who prated against him with malicious words because he had written to have the brethren received; a work of Christian love and charity, which he had no heart unto (3 John vv.9-10).
To speak evil of others for that which is their duty is a common thing among men; and too ordinary among some professors. If they are told of a truth, or exhorted to a duty that does not agree with their private opinion, and comport with their carnal interest, how do their hearts rise, and their mouths begin to open against such as declare it to them. We may well conceive that the apostle Paul observed some such thing in his days, when we find him beseeching Christians to “suffer the word of exhortation” (Hebrews 13:22), and the apostle Peter also, by his charging them “in hearing to lay aside all malice, and all guile and hypocrisies, and envies and evil speakings” (1 Peter 2:1).
2. A second way of evil speaking, and a great sin against love and charity, is when men raise up false reports of others, or set them forward when others have maliciously raised them. To offend in this kind is a great breach of a Christian’s good behaviour, as the apostle intimates when he said, “that they be in behaviour as becometh holiness, not false accusers” (Titus 2:3). It does not at all become the profession of a Christian, whose Master is the God of truth, to speak that which is false of any man whatsoever, and therefore these false accusers are call diabolos, by a name which is usually given to the devil.
3. There may be evil speaking in speaking of such evils as others are really guilt of, such as
i. First, when a man does industriously search out such things as are really evil in others for this very purpose, that he may have something to say against them. Of this David complains, “They search out iniquities, they accomplish a diligent search” (Psalm 64:6). It is a sign that malice boils up to a great height in men’s hearts when they are so active to find matter against their neighbours. Love would rather not see or hear of others’ failings; of if it does and must, busies itself in healing and reforming them to its power.
ii. They also are guilty (and more guilty of evil speaking than the former) who endeavour to bring others into sin instead of lacking matter against them. Thus the malicious Pharisees did their utmost to cause Christ himself (had it been possible) to offend, “urging him vehemently and provoking him to speak of many things, seeking to catch something out of his mouth, that they might accuse him” (Luke 11:53).
iii. A man may be guilty of evil speaking, and offend against the law of love, when he makes a fault greater than it is, when he represents a molehill as big as a mountain, thinking that he can never aggravate another’s fault too much. You may have seen how boys, by continually blowing with a reed in their nutshells, have raised a little bubble to the size of a small globe, which yet was but a drop of water stuffed with vapour; even so do some men blow up others’ faults until they seem very great. But if you examine them, you will find that that which made them so was only this, that they were filled up with the other’s malice. Some may think themselves excusable in this, as if they showed thereby their zeal against sin. But let them look more narrowly into themselves, and possibly they may find more malice than true zeal lying in the bottom.
iv. We may offend in speaking of the faults of others if we are not duly affected in speaking of them. It is too common a thing to speak of others’ sins in mirth and with some kind of rejoicing, as if we were tickled with it. All such rejoicing is evil.
If Christ should step into your company (as he did into the disciples while they were walking sadly with one another, Luke 24:17) and say unto you while you are speaking of other mens’ sins to make yourselves merry, “What manner of communication have you here?’ Could you approve yourselves to him in this manner? It was the fault of the Corinthians that when they heard of the great sin of the incestuous person, they were puffed up when they should have rather mourned (1 Corinthians 5:2).
v. A man may be guilty of evil speaking when he speaks of others’ faults if his end is not good, as when he does it to please another’s humour, or satisfy his own, or to lay the person spoken of open to contempt, or the like. Our end in speaking of others’ faults is not likely to be good if it is not the reforming of the persons themselves, or the securing and safeguarding of others from being hurt by them or ensnared by them.
c.) The third thing by which we show our love to ourselves is by our desires, which are always after something that is good (or conceived to be good) for us. Every man wishes himself well. If we should go through the congregation and ask every man what he would have, everyone’s desire would be after something that is good, or thought to be so. Then this is that by which we should manifest our love to others, even by desiring their good in all things as our own; that all things temporal and spiritual may prosper and succeed well with them, as with ourselves, to the glory of God and their eternal happiness that they may thrive in their estates, bodies, and souls as well as we in ours.
Thus it ought to be with us, even in reference to such as do not bear the same good will to us. It is our Lord’s command that we should pray for them that spite and persecute us (Matthew 5:44). And herein he has left us an excellent example; when his enemies were about that black piece of work, busying themselves in taking away his life, some piercing him, others blaspheming him, he breathes out this request for them, “Father forgive them, for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34).
The like copy is set before us in Stephen the protomartyr. While his adversaries were throwing stones thick about his ears, he kneeled down and prayed for them, “Lord lay not this sin to their charge” (Acts 7:60).
How contrary is the spirit of many that profess Christianity, to the spirit that appeared in Christ and the primitive Christians, who upon every provocation can be ready to desire the utmost evil to such as do offend them! Were not the Jews Paul’s greatest enemies wherever he went? Who was so cruel to him as his own countrymen? Yet see what desires were in his heart for them: “Brethren, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for Israel is that they might be saved” (Romans 10:1). And when he stood at the bar before a heathen judge, surrounded with many enemies, what are his wishes for them? He desires that they might all participate in the good he enjoyed, but not in the evil he endured, “I would to God that not only thou, but also all that hear me this day, were both almost, and altogether such as I am, except these bonds” (Acts 26:29). d.) Our love to ourselves appears by our endeavours. We do not content ourselves with wishings and wouldings, but we do actually and industriously endeavour, that it may be well with us. If a man is hungry, and his stomach calls for meat; or if he is pinched with cold, and his back calls for clothing, his hand is ready in all good ways to procure it. And so it is in all things else. By this therefore ought we to manifest our love to others, even by our endeavours in our capacity, and according to our ability to do them good, supplying their wants spiritually and bodily.
God has disposed men into several ranks; he has set some to move in a higher, some in a lower orb. He has dispersed his talents, to some more, to some fewer. They that are in a higher place, and have more talents, may and ought to do more than others. They that stand in a lower place, and have fewer talents, may and ought to do something for the good of others. Every man as he has received the gift (in whatsoever kind or degree it may be), so he must minister the same to the souls and bodies of others:
“If a brother or a sister be naked and destitute of daily food, and one of you say unto them, ‘Go in peace,’ notwithstanding you give them not the things that are needful to the body, what doth it profit?”
James 2:15-16 A man would find little profit in it himself, if he should feed himself only with good words and wishes. True love is not in word and tongue only, but in deed and in truth. Being contrary to this endeavouring others’ good is to stand up in the way and stop the passage wherein good should flow in upon them, and to be envious at the prosperity of others to attain it (if they were able) without our help. Many men think themselves not well unless it is ill with others; it is not enough for them to be happy, unless they see their brethren miserable.
2. We have seen now in what things we do and may show love to ourselves. We come now to speak of the manner of loving ourselves, and to show that after the same manner we ought to love others also. We do, or should, love ourselves holily (i.e. in and for God). We may not have a divided interest from God. Though God allows us to love ourselves, it must be in order to him, and to his glory. Our love to ourselves, as it must be regulated by the will of God, and extended or refrained according to that-So God must be our utmost end in it, whether it is exercised about the obtaining of things temporal or eternal, for body or soul. Salvation itself, although it is our end, must not be our last or utmost end, but that God may be glorified by it (as by all other things). Therefore in this manner we must love others, as God has an interest in them, and is or may be glorified by them; and there is no man in the world, but God is or may be glorified by him. Every man is a creature upon whose soul there is in a sort the image of God, and does him some service in the place wherein he stands. God called Cyrus (a heathen) his shepherd (Isaiah 44:28) and his anointed (Isaiah 45:1), and he did him eminent service in his generation. The same may be said of every other man in some degree and proportion. God has given him some gifts wherein he is and may be serviceable to him, at least in the affairs of his providential kingdom. Besides all men, having immortal souls within them, are capable of blessedness with God forever in the kingdom of glory. They who are at present enemies to God may be reconciled and made friends. What was the most glorious saint (now in heaven), but an enemy to God once, when here on earth? Says the apostle:
“We ourselves were sometime foolish, disobedient, serving diverse lusts and pleasures, living in malice, hateful and hating one another. But after that, the kindness and love of God our Saviour toward man appeared; not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost.” Titus 3:3-5
Objection. How could David then say, “Do not I hate them, O Lord, that hate thee? And am I not grieved with those that rise up against thee? I hate them with a perfect hatred” (Psalm 139:21-22). He says that he hated them perfectly, and approves himself to God in the thing, “Do I not hate them, O Lord?”
Answer. There is a twofold hatred, odium simplex, et odium redundans in personam, as the schools speak: a simple hatred, and a hatred redounding to the person. A simple hatred, which is the sin of any man, is our duty: “Ye that love the Lord hate evil” (Psalm 97:10); but to hate the person of the sinner would be our sin. As we are to “abhor that which is evil,” so we must “cleave to that which is good” (Romans 12:9).
David, who was a man after God’s own heart, knew how to distinguish between the sin and the person. See how he expresses himself elsewhere: “I hate the work of them that turn aside” (Psalm 101:3); not “them”, but “the work of them.” He hated their sin, saying, “It shall not cleave to
Hear him again, “I hate every false way” (Psalm 119:104). This shows us plainly that he hated sin perfectly. He hated sin so, as that it should not cleave to him. He hated it wherever he found it: “every false way”; for what is perfect hatred? Austin describes it very well, hoc est perfecto odio odisse, ut nec homines propter vitia oderis, nec vitia propter homnies diligas (“This is to hate with perfect hatred, not to hate men for their sins’ sake, nor to love the sin for the men’s sake’). This is one manner how to love our neighbour as ourselves; it must be holily.
Our love to ourselves is, or should be, orderly. We must first and chiefly love our souls, and then our bodies. The soul is of far greater worth than the body. A world of things for the body will stand a man in no stead if his soul is lost, and where the soul goes, either to a place of bliss or torment, the body must follow after. And therefore when we are charged to take heed to ourselves, we are charged to keep our souls diligently: “Only take heed to thyself and keep thy soul diligently” (Deuteronomy 4:9). If the soul is safe, all is safe; if the soul is lost, all is lost.
Endeavour that it may be well with him in every respect, both as to his body and outward estate, but chiefly that his soul may prosper, and his outward concerns, as they may be consistent with that third epistle of John, “I wish above all things that thou mayest prosper, and be in health, as thy soul prospereth” (3 John v.2).
a.) We must seek the conversion of those that are unconverted, lest their souls be lost forever. If we can be instrumental in this, we show the greatest love imaginable. To give a man bread when he is hungry, or clothing when he is naked, is something; but to convert a soul to God is a greater kindness by much. “Brethren, if any one of you do err from the truth and one convert him, let him know that he shall save a soul from death” (James 5:19-20); he speaks of it as a great thing, when he says, “Let him know, that he shall save a soul from death.”
b.) We should show our love to the souls of others by seeking and endeavouring to the increase of their faith, holiness, and comfort. As we should not be content to go to heaven alone, but carry along with us as many as we can, so we should not satisfy ourselves to see them creep lamely thither, but gird up the loins of their minds for them, that they may more strenuously and with the more cheerfulness and comfort walk thither. Thus John endeavoured to bring the saints to higher degrees of fellowship with God: “That which we have seen and heard, declare we unto you, that you also may have fellowship with us; and truly our fellowship is with the Father and with his son Jesus Christ” (1 John 1:3). They had this fellowship before in measure and degree, but he would bring them to higher degrees of it, as appears by what follows: “These things I write unto you that your joy may be full” (v.4).
c.) Does not our love to ourselves go out freely? What we have at hand we are ready to take, when we stand in need of it. The wise man observed it to be a gift which God ordinarily gives to the children of men, “to eat and drink and to enjoy the fruit of all his labour that he taketh under the sun all the days of his life” (Ecclesiastes 3:13). In the like manner we should go forth to others. If our neighbour stands in need of forgiveness, we should forgive freely, as we expect God or man should forgive us. If he needs a gift from us, we should give freely, and open our hearts readily to supply his wants according to the ability God has given us, as we expect that God or man should give it to us if we were in the like necessity. The apostle commends the Macedonians for this, that when their brethren stood in need of their charity, “to their power, yea and beyond their power, they were willing of themselves” (2 Corinthians 8:3). To give freely and readily adds much to the goodness of a good work. The way to be rich in good works is to be ready to distribute, willing to communicate (1 Timothy 6:18).
d.) We love ourselves unfeignedly; no man conceals his intentions with himself, or endeavours to feed himself with good words only, but is very real and cordial to himself in all things. And thus it is required that we should be so to others. God desires truth in the inward parts (Psalm 51:6); he would have us true to him, and true to one another. “My little children, let us not love in word, neither in tongue, but in deed and in truth” (1 John 3:18). “Let love be without dissimulation” (Romans 12:9). Outward and dissembled love is little better than inward and real hatred. If blessing is only in the mouth, cursing is not likely to be far from the heart, “They bless with their mouth, but they curse inwardly” (Psalm 62:4). Such a blessing with the mouth had Christ from the Pharisees: “Master we know that thou art true, and teachest the way of God in truth, neither carest thou for any man; for thou regardest not the person of men” (Matthew 22:16). Very well said, “but Jesus perceived their wickedness” (v.18). They came with words of love and respect to cover the wickedness of their hearts, and lacked that inward affection that Titus is commended for toward the Corinthians (2 Corinthians 7:6-7).
e.) We do not only love ourselves truly and sincerely, but with some fervency. There is always some heat as well as heart in love to ourselves. You may observe it ordinarily, that when self is concerned in anything, the affection which is moved about it has some heat in it.