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will be but a poor tribute of affection, to love Jesus Christ more than father and mother, and brother, and husband, and wife, if they who stand in these several relations be not first affectionately beloved. And though on occasions of extremity, such as not unfrequently occurred in the times of the early converts, a man might be called upon to renounce his nearest relations for the sake of Christ, in our own times it will seldom be found but that one duty adds fresh sanction to the other, and that they are the best Christians who are most dutiful as children, most truly affectionate as parents, and most strictly observant of the duties and charities of wedded life. Judge not,” then “ that ye be not judged. For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged : and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again.” And learn from the sanctions with which this precept is enforced, that its violation is most highly sinful, and no less contradictory to the spirit of Christ's religion than any of those offences for
which you would so hastily condemn others.
III. From the preceding observations it is easy to collect a view of true Christian liberality, applicable to our intercourse with mixed society.
We must avoid all positive evil. We must stedfastly decline participating in any amusement, business, or undertaking, which is in its own nature sinful. For others, we must enter into them cheerfully, knowing that in them there is indeed temptation, but not a necessity of falling, and remembering that the trying of faith worketh patience, and that patience must have her perfect work in them who would be perfect and entire, wanting nothing. (See James 1. 3, 4.) And further, we must avoid the very appearance of evil. (Note XII.) But then let it never be forgotten, that uncharitableness is quite as great an evil, as any that is forbidden in the Christian code ; and its appearance is as much to be avoided as the appearance of any other unchristian quality.
With respect to persons, we must not neglect the ties of nature, except on some most urgent necessity; nor even deem lightly of the bonds of early friendship, though formed on other principles than those which now actuate our conduct. The feelings of others are to be consulted as well as our own. And those duties of society with which we find ourselves already engaged are to be carefully respected, and cheerfully and affectionately fulfilled. In these we are to be doubly anxious to believe all things, and to hope all things; (Note XIII.) doubly careful to abstain from exercising that kind of judgment, which is forbidden in the text. But in forming new friendships and extending the circle of our society, we may, without disobeying our Saviour's precept, exercise the same discretion and wisdom in furtherance of our main object, as the children of this world do in their generation. Without judging harshly, or pronouncing sentence on any person, we may judge favourably, as far as we can judge at all, of those whom we select for our
friends. We may pass by as unsuitable companions, those who according to human appearances are least likely to be helpmates in our Christian course. We may choose and prefer those whose conversation, pursuits, and inclinations appear most to agree with our own, in this most essential point of character. At the same time, we must ever remember, that herein we are liable to much error; and that we are sure to be deceived, if we reckon of any human being, that the actual state of his inmost soul can be by us discerned with certainty.
If these or any other reflections, should lead you to think less highly than you have done, of the friends to whom
you have lately most looked up, less highly I mean of their judgment, though not of their intentions, I hope that you will thereby be at least as much inclined to regard with more and more affection the friends whom you are by nature most bound to love. And may the result of the whole enquiry, whilst it lessens the confidence you place in yourself, or in
any human judgment on the subject, serve to enlighten your mind as to the wisdom of Him, who will bring many unto salvation whom mankind deem to be lost; to draw you into closer communion with that only Friend, who cannot deceive, and who will never fail; and to direct your views yet more earnestly unto that state, when we shall have our faith made knowledge, our hope exalted to enjoyment, and our charity perfected in everlasting love !