The debt of love

Daily Reading for July 15

The debt of love is natural and continual. We all owe it, and we owe it unto all. And unto whom we owe it we never pay it, except we acknowledge that we owe it still. In this debt of love we must consider why we must love, whom we must love, and lastly, how we must love.

We must love because God hath so commanded, and because it is the fulfilling of all his commandments. In our new birth or regeneration we are made brethren and fellow-heirs with Christ of God’s kingdom. As God therefore for ever loves us in Christ, so we ought to love our brethren for God, and in Christ, for ever. Love does no evil or hurt to any: he that loves his neighbor will not take away his life, will not defile his bed, will not steal or rob him of his goods, will not witness untruly against him, will not in his heart covet any thing that is his; “therefore is love the fulfilling of the law.” So you see great cause why we should enter into this holy and Christian band of love.

But whom must we love? “You shall love your neighbor. And who is our neighbor?” Not he only to whom we are joined by familiar acquaintance, by alliance, or nearness of dwelling; but whosoever needs our help, he is our neighbor, be he Jew or gentile, Christian or infidel, friend or enemy, he is our neighbor. To him we ought to be near to do him good. It is frivolous for you to object, He is mine enemy, he has in many ways wronged me, he has raised slanderous reports of me, he has practiced against me, spoiled and robbed me: how can I love him? If Christ had loved his friends only, he would never have loved you, when you were his foe. No man proposes him as a pattern to be followed, whom in his heart he dislikes. You dislike your enemy because he hates you: if you hate him, then you imitate the very thing which you hate. Love your neighbor therefore without exception, and love him as yourself.

From a sermon on “The Debt of Love” by Edwin Sandys, in The Sermons of Edwin Sandys, edited by J. Ayre (Cambridge: Parker Society, 1842).

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