“Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; and every one that loves is born of God, and knows God.” 1 John 4:7
It were as much a libel upon the religion of Jesus to represent it as destroying the instincts of our sympathetic nature, as it were a dim conception of the Divine power of that religion, to suppose that it does not increase, to an intensity and tenderness almost infinite, the depth and power of those instincts.
It is generally admitted, that, compared with the Christian economy, the Old Dispensation was characterized by many essential and palpable features of terror and harshness and that those who lived under its sway would naturally imbibe the spirit of the economy to which they belonged. Yet, oppressive as appear to have been many of its laws, unfeeling many of its requirements, and harsh the spirit of its whole economy, we find in that dispensation some of the most real, tender, and touching exhibitions of sympathy springing from holy hearts, recorded in the Bible.
Who, as he wanders amid the vine-clad but deserted hills of Palestine, with a heart of cultivated affections, and an ear attuned to plaintive sounds, does not regard it as the sacred home of sensibility—its valleys and its mountains still vocal with the sighings of sympathy and the lamentations of love? There would still seem to vibrate the touching tones of Jacob, pouring forth the tenderness of his soul, for his beloved Rachel, and for his darling son. There, too, would seem yet to linger the mournful requiem of David for the fallen sovereign whom he venerated, for the faithful friend whom he loved, and for the unhappy son whose untimely death he deplored.
Could sympathy be portrayed in a picture more vivid, or embodied in words more heart-subduing, than this: “And the king was much moved, and went up to the chamber over the gate, and wept: and as he went, thus he said, O my son Absalom, my son, my son Absalom! would God I had died for you, O Absalom, my son, my son!” Such is a recollection of Palestine. And who can thus think of that hallowed land, and not associate with it all that is elevating, grateful, and touching in sympathy!
But another and a more sympathetic economy has succeeded. Christianity is the embodiment, the incarnation of love. It not only inculcates, but it inspires, it not only enjoins, but it originates, the most refined sensibility of soul. Sympathy is no by-law of Christianity, it is the embodied essence of all its laws; and Christianity itself is the embalmed sympathies of Him, in whom dwelt bodily the fullness of Divine and Essential Love.
If the ancient economy, with all its coldness, harshness, and severity, dedicated its temples and tuned its lyres, lent its holy oracles and consecrated the very scenes and scenery of nature, to the highest, noblest, and purest sympathies of the soul; surely the gospel will not frown or pour contempt upon the feelings, emotions, and breathings, which the law held precious and sacred.
Oh no! the religion of Jesus is the religion of love. It is the school of the affections; and it is only here that they are fully developed, sanctified, and trained. To love man as man should be loved, God must be the
first and supreme object of our love.