PREACHED BEFORE THE
THE OTHER LODGES
ANCIENT FREE MASONS,
By CHARLES INGLIS, D. D.
In GRAND LODGE
NEW-YORK, June 24, 5783
THAT the Thanks of this LODGE be immediately transmitted by the GRAND SECRETARY, to the Reverend Doctor INGLIS, for his SERMON, delivered this Day, at St. PAUL's Chapel, before this and the other LODGES of FREE and ACCEPTED ANCIENT MASONS, within the City of New-York, assembled for the Celebration of the Anniversary of ST. JOHN, Baptist: And that Brothers CUNNINGHAM, CLARKE, and FIFE, be a Committee to request a Copy of the same for the Press.
Extract from the Minutes,
The RIGHT WORSHIPFUL,
The REVEREND WILLIAM WALTERS
PROVINCIAL GRAND MASTER;
To the OFFICERS and MEMBERS
GRAND AND OTHER LODGES
FREE and ACCEPTED ANCIENT MASONS,
The following SERMON, preached before them, and published at their Request, is most respectfully inscribed,
Their very affectionate, And humble Servant,
New-York, July 7, 1783
A SERMON, &c.
I JOHN iv. 8. --
"GOD IS LOVE."
AT a time when discord has rent asunder the bands of Society, and filled the hearts of fellow subjects, neighbours, and even the nearest relatives, with bitter animosity; it is peculiarly incumbent on the Ministers of Jesus Christ, the Prince of Peace, to inculcate the doctrine of benevolence, which is the chief source of human happiness, and by the practice of which, we most resemble the supreme Being.
 NOR can any subject be more suitable for discussion before a Society which is cemented by brotherly love, and whose professed object is the discharge of those several duties which flow from benevolence.
THE doctrines of Christianity must ever be cherished, and held in high estimation by such a Society; for those doctrines breathe the tenderest benevolence and love, and direct us to do good unto all men [* Galat. vi. 10.]--they are streams that issue from the great fountain of light and love--their aim is to remove from mankind all malevolence and wrath, and unite them to God and to each other in the bonds of affection, peace, purity, and mutual good-will.
NOTHING can more strongly recommend benevolence than the assertion in my text--that "God is love." It is an argument which the Apostle uses to shew that we should love God, and be constantly employed in acts of benevolence to our brethren; nor can any argument be more conclusive.
PERMIT me then to enlarge on this point; and bear this in memory, that every instance which I shall adduce to evince that God is love, will also evince our indispensible obligation to love God and our brethren. The subject is most worthy of attention; it would probably be handled by a Member of your Society in a manner better adapted to your situation; but your candour will make allowance for one who cannot claim that distinction.
ST. JOHN, the author of the passage which I have chosen for my text, is called the Beloved Disciple; because he was the bosom friend, [9/10] and best beloved of all our Saviour’s Apostles. The reason of this may be traced in St. John's writings, every line of which is animated with the warmest love to God, and with the tenderest benevolence to man. From hence it appears that his disposition was meek, affectionate, tender, grateful and benevolent, which secured the peculiar love of his divine master; for such dispositions are most amiable among men--they are the most pleasing and acceptable in the sight of God.
ST. JOHN seems every where to be transported with a lively sense of God’s love and goodness to mankind; especially with that instance of it, in sending his Eternal Son to redeem us. On this theme he dwells with peculiar pleasure; and from thence he shews, as I observed before, how good the Almighty is--how much it is our duty to love him, [10/11] and to cherish a spirit of mutual charity and good-will to each other.
IN the verse preceding my text, he exhorts Christians to brotherly love; "for love," says he "is of God; and every one that loveth, is born of God, and knoweth God." As Christian love thus distinguisheth the children of God; so the absence of that love, the Apostle declares, evinceth a repugnancy, an estrangement to God, and an ignorance of his nature and will. "He that loveth not," continues the Apostle, "knoweth not God; for," adds he in my text, "God is love." Love is not only of God, one of his shining attributes; but absolutely and essentially, God is love.
IT is observable, that, although in sacred scripture, God is frequently styled holy, just, wise, powerful, and the like; yet he is not said, [11/12] in the abstract, to be holiness, justice, wisdom, or power, as he is said to be love in my text. This plainly intimates that love is his darling attribute, which sheds, an amiable lustre on all his other perfections, and is eminently conspicuous in every part of his procedure; nay, that it is the spring of all action in the deity, and essential to his nature.
THE Supreme Being, considered as self-existing from all eternity, must be possessed of every possible perfection, and in an infinite degree. By creative power, those perfections were displayed; for whilst the deity was retired, as it were, in the awful solitude of his own perfections, and creation existed not; those perfections could be objects of contemplation to himself only. It was love and goodness which moved him to call other beings into existence, that he might communicate [12/13] happiness to them; that they might share, in some degree, in his perfections; partake of his felicity, and serve and own him as the author of their existence, and of that portion of happiness which they enjoyed.
THUS, when contemplated by his creatures, love appears to be the predominant attribute of the deity; for to it they owe their existence, with every concomitant blessing, and it is what most endears the Almighty to them. His infinite justice, wisdom, power, and other attributes, command our reverence and homage; they fill us also with terror, and bid us approach him with diffidence and awe. But his infinite love softens those terrors, removes that diffidence, and presents him in the amiable character of an affectionate father and friend, always anxious for our welfare--always striving to crown [13/14] us with benefits: And thus it is our boast and happiness that God is love.
WHEN Almighty love was exerted in creation, its effects were extensive, vast, stupendous, and worthy of the great Architect. Numberless worlds were instantly reared by his all-powerful hand. This planet, this earth which we inhabit, is a small--a very small portion of his domain. The whole system in which our earth revolves, is but a speck, as it were, in the boundless creation of God. Worlds rise above worlds--systems stretch beyond systems, further than thought can soar, or imagination follow: Through all these, harmony and order prevail; these, therefore, proclaim the goodness of the creator, and testify that God is love.
IF we survey those objects that are near us, and more within our reach; if we view [14/15] the scene that surrounds us, consider the scale of being in which we are placed, and the exertions of divine benevolence for our present and future happiness, we shall clearly perceive that God is love.
LOOK at this earth, and the traces of divine goodness every where meet your eye. All the works of God were pronounced "very good" at their creation--such they were, and such they are at this day. Behold this globe, covered with land and water; visited with alternate changes of day and night; of various seasons; and all ministring to the support, to the comfort and happiness of its numberless inhabitants.
IF we take a survey of animated nature, what an endless variety of living creatures do we see! Earth, air and water teem with life! There is not an individual of all those countless [15/16] tribes, which has not instincts adapted to its state; whose several parts are not perfectly suited to the purpose for which they were designed. All these partake of the divine bounty, for they are all furnished with the means, and actually enjoy all the happiness of which they are capable. Divine, inexhaustible goodness has made a rich provision for their well-being in the several states, in the various scales of being, where divine wisdom has placed them. Their condition proclaims aloud that God is love.
BUT man stands forth a distinguished monument of divine love: He was made a little lower than the Angels--those pure and bright morning stars that surround the throne of God, and are swift ministers to execute his commands in every part of the wide creation. Man is endued with an immortal spirit, capable of knowing and serving God; [16/17] and when duly prepared by holiness and virtue in this state of trial, will finally ascend, take a place among his elder brethren, the Angels in Heaven, and there shine in glory through an endless eternity.
THROUGH all the works of God, we perceive a regular-gradation--one part rising in perfection above another; which evinces him to be .a God of order as well as love. Between the spiritual and material worlds, there would be an immense chasm, did not man fill it up: Man accordingly is the link which unites those worlds, and thereby preserves the due gradation which is everywhere observable.
EVEN in the state of man, this gradation or progress is discovered--he advances from nature to grace--from grace to glory. His mind by culture, and the influence of divine grace, [17/18]--is gradually expanded, and ripened as an higher degree of perfection. And it is probable, that there is as great a difference between men in the enlightened and improved state of grace, and men in the dark hate of nature, as there is between men in the former state and Angels, or between men in the latter state and some brutes. [* The difference here alluded to, is what arises from the culture of man, who is a complex being, consisting of soul and body, and from the want of that culture; but does not relate to the nature of the human soul, and that of brutes which are totally and essentially different.]
THE constitution of the human mind, so wisely adapted to the state in which we are placed, and capable of a progressive improvement, affords a striking proof of the creator's goodness. The effect of man's mental powers, when exerted in arts and sciences, for the embellishment and comfort of life, are wonderful. How is the mind enlarged [18/19] and refined by mutual intercourse in Society, which is the state designed for man by Providence; and how are its tender and social affections strengthened! What harmony, order and blessings arise from that intercourse, where minds are cemented by love, that pure efflux from the great source of light and love, and the bond of union between all intelligent beings!
AND here it is most worthy of observation, that as God is love, and all his proceedings are regulated by love; so the happiness of his intelligent creatures must be in exact proportion to their resemblance and imitation of him, and as their disposition and conduct are influenced by love. In Heaven the purest and most unbounded love prevails; and there also the most consummate happiness is found. On earth, whatever portion of happiness is allotted to man, [19/20] can only be obtained by love to God, and man, and the practice of those several duties to which it leads. It is love that unites kindred souls in affection, harmony, and offices of mutual tenderness; and when this principle pervades Society, the greatest blessings which are attainable in Society, result from it.
ON the other hand, the absence of love, and prevalence of hatred, wrath and other dark passions which are its opposites, (ever productive of strife and confusion) are unfailing sources of misery and wretchedness to mankind. When men depart from that order which Heaven has established, their crime always carries its punishment with it. Behold them broke loose from the bands of love, which were designed to unite them, and promote their common welfare; and they breathe nothing but mutual ruin! Destroying [20/21] and destroyed, they become plagues to each other. The wild beast of the forest is not more savage than man, when he throws aside the law of love; nor is the pestilence more surely destructive to human life, than such a disposition is destructive to human happiness.
THUS whilst the Almighty has stamped the highest authority on the law of love, by making happiness the sure result of observing it, and misery the certain consequence of transgressing it; he also evinces by this constitution of things, that he himself is love.
BUT the brightest display of divine benevolence was exhibited in the redemption of man by Jesus Christ--Redemption affords the clearest and most triumphant proof that God is love. St. John expatiates at large [21/22] on this subject; it had taken full possession of his mind, and from this he chiefly infers that God is love. For immediately after my text, he adds--"in this was manifested the love of God towards us; because that God sent his only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through him. Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins." V. 9,10.
THIS instance of divine love will furnish a subject of praise and wonder to glorified spirits through eternity; nor can eternity exhaust the theme. How is the soul overwhelmed with awful astonishment, when it reflects on this transcendent act of love! And how readily does it join in the Apostle's declaration, that God is love!
 MAN, by transgressing his maker's law, fell into a state of corruption, sin and death; he became the object of God's displeasure, the certain heir of misery, and was lost to God and happiness. In this helpless, forlorn condition, almighty love hastened to his relief. Herein was the love of God manifested, that he sent his own eternal Son to be the propitiation for our sins, and that we, through him, might live.
HE who clothed the sun with light, and the moon with lustre--who formed the stars, and all the shining hosts of Heaven--He, whose powerful word called into existence this boundless universe, which is only a theatre where his love and goodness are displayed: Even HE took our nature upon him, and died upon the bloody cross, to bring us back to God--that loving, and beloved of God, we might partake of everlasting joy and felicity.
 NOR did the exertions of his love stop here: Exalted to his triumphant throne in Heaven, he makes continual intercession for us, and dispenses various other blessings. He sends the Holy Spirit to enlighten and sanctify us, and fill us with love, and joy, and peace. His kind providence constantly attends us, to guard us from impending danger and conduct us through this state of discipline and trial, to the Heaven which he hath purchased for us.
THESE are interesting, solemn truths, which fully evince that God is love: They should be constantly present to our thoughts; and they demand suitable returns of gratitude and love from us.
WE see the great God pouring forth his love through a series of ages, in such a manner and measure as his creatures are capable of [24/25] receiving it, or is most conducive to their happiness. We see that man is the peculiar object of this love, and distinguished in a variety of ways by its exertions.
HENCE, love to God is the supreme duty of man: He should love God with all his heart, with all his soul, and with all his strength. This is the first and great Commandment, founded on the unalterable relation and nature of things. This is the active spring of every other duty. An heart enflamed with love and devotion, will enable us to discharge with cheerfulness all other duties; and is, at the same time, the most acceptable sacrifice that we can offer to God.
FROM the love of God to us, St. John infers our obligation to love our brethren: "Beloved," says he, "if God so loved us, we ought also to love one another." No inference [25/26] can be more just; for the diffusive love of God, is, at once, a motive and example to love our brethren, who, equally with us, are objects of his love. The inference is further confirmed by the Apostle’s reasoning in the same place--"He that loveth not, knoweth not God;" that is, he, whose heart is not expanded with benevolence to others, has not a due apprehension, or practical knowledge of God, of his nature and will: The disposition of such a person is most opposite to God, for God is love.
IN short, benevolence or love is the ornament of human nature; it is the cement and strength of Society, and the prolific root from which every blessing springs. To the exercise of this virtue, we are especially called by the Gospel, by the example and precepts of Jesus Christ. Love is the distinguishing [26/27] characteristic and badge of his Disciples. "By this," says he, "shall all men know that ye are my Disciples, if ye have love one to another." [John xiii. 35.] The new and special Commandment that he gave his followers, was--"that they should love one another; as he loved them, that they also should love one another." [Ibid. v. 34.] But he extends the sphere of our benevolence, by shewing it should comprehend ALL--even our enemies, and others that might seem undeserving of it. In this sense it is that he enjoins his Disciples--"be ye, therefore, perfect; even as your father which is in heaven, is perfect." [Matth. v. 48.]
I TRUST it will be your constant endeavour, as it is my sincere wish--that brotherly [27/28] love, and every other virtue which adorns or dignifies human life, may distinguish your Society and its several Members--that you may comprise in the circle of your love, all that are objects of love to that God, whose mercies are over all his works--that the law of Christ may be your rule, and your actions squared by the precepts he has delivered--that divine wisdom may be your guide, which was present with the Almighty, when he "prepared the Heavens, and set a compass upon the face of the depth" [Prov. viii. 27.]--that you may so regulate your conduct as to bear the awful scrutiny, when "judgment is laid to the line, and righteousness to the plummet"[Isaiah xxviii. 17.]—that you may always meet others on the level of condescension and humility: In fine, that you may, through divine grace, "be fellow-citizens [28/29] with the Saints--built upon the foundation of the Apostles and Prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner-stone; in whom all the building, fitly framed together, groweth unto an holy Temple in the Lord." [Ephes. ii. 19, 20, 21.] Thus disposed, thus supported, and acting in this manner, you will be prepared for every event--divine love, the pillar on which you securely rest--divine truth, the anchor of your steadfast hope.
PROVIDENCE hath been pleased to cast our lot in a most trying, tumultuous period; which requires every help, afforded by religion, to animate and strengthen us in our Christian course. God only knows whether we shall ever meet again in this Church, on an occasion similar to the present. [It was expected at this time, that New-York would be speedily evacuated; and from the state of public affairs, that most of the Loyalists must depart with the British army.] Our consolation is, [29/30] that whenever we go, or wherever we re, we shall still be in the hands of God, and under the influence of his paternal love. The violence of man cannot deprive us of those blessings.
WE shall have the works and word of God to delight and instruct us; the providence of God to guard and protect us; the Spirit of God to comfort and sanctify us; the promises of God to animate and confirm us; the peace of God to settle and compose us; the love of God to enflame our hearts with reciprocal love to him, and benevolence to our fellow creatures. [* The Author is indebted for some of the sentiments contained in this paragraph, to the Rev. Mr. Hunter, who lately published two volumes of discourses that are excellent.]
LET us then, without murmuring or despondency, confide in his goodness, resign ourselves to his will, and rest upon his love; assuredly [30/31] knowing that we are equally near him, equally under the shadow of his wings, in whatever part of the earth we make our abode. And as his love operates through all nature, and in every instant of time; so our love to him should be unceasingly exerted; our benevolence should be exercised on every object that occurs, and on every occasion that presents itself. Let even our enemies share in that benevolence; and we shall hereby manifest ourselves to be children of the most High, "who is kind to the unthankful and the evil;" [Luke vi. 35.] we shall also evince the rectitude of our principles, and the integrity of our hearts, by our superior Christian conduct.
MAY the Almighty, by his grace, enable each of us to act thus; and may we experience the blessings and consolation resulting from it.