Let love be without dissimulation. Abhor that which is evil; hold to that which is good.
How many shun evil as inconvenient who do not abhor it as hateful; while yet the abhorrence of evil here demanded of us implies a great deal more than that shunning which satisfies, as we often think, every claim which can be made upon us. This vigorous abhorrence of evil has been the mark of God's saints and servants in all times, and from the very beginning. Let me rapidly gather a few notable proofs. More than forty years had elapsed since that treacherous murder of the Shechemites by Simeon and Levi; but with what a still lively abhorrence, as though it had been the crime of yesterday, does the aged Israel, on his death-bed, disclaim any part or share in that bloody act, and detect and denounce it: — "O my soul, come not thou into their secret; unto their assembly, mine honour, he not thou united." Then, too, in a life which made many flaws, I mean in that of Lot, the most honourable testimony which is anywhere borne to him is this, that he was "vexed with the filthy conversation of the wicked"; that he "dwelling among them, in seeing and hearing, vexed his righteous soul from day to day with their unlawful deeds." Still more plainly and signally does this appear in David. Hear him, as he is speaking before a heart-searching God — "I hate the works of them that turn aside"; "Do I not hate them, O Lord, that hate Thee?" with many more utterances to the same effect. The same voice finds its utterance in other Psalms, which, though they be not David's, yet breathe the spirit of David. "How often, for example, and how strongly, in the 119th Psalm — "I have vain thoughts"; or, again, "I beheld the transgressors and was grieved"; it was not, that is, a thing indifferent to him, but pain and grief that men are breaking God's law. And as with these, so no less with the righteous kings of Judah in later times — the Asas, the Hezekiahs, the Josiahs. What the others gave utterance to in word, these, as occasion offered, uttered and expressed in deed. But most signally of all this abhorrence of evil comes out in Him of whom it is written! "Thou lovest righteousness and hatest wickedness; therefore God, thy God, hath anointed Thee with the oil of gladness above thy fellows." That "Get thee behind Me, Satan," uttered once to the adversary in the wilderness, was the voice of His heart at every instant, was the keynote to which His whole life was set. If all holy men have felt this abhorrence of evil, it may be well worth our while to inquire whether we have any of this righteous passion in our hearts.
1. And first, how fares it with us in regard of our temptations? Do we parley and dally with them, and to have thus, as by a certain foretaste, some shadow of the pleasure of the sin without the guilt of it? Do we plot and plan how near to the edge of the precipice we may go without falling over? Or do we rise up against temptations so soon as once they present themselves to us, knowing them afar off, indignant with ourselves that they should so much as once have suggested themselves to our minds.
2. Again, the light in which a man regards the old sins into which he may have been betrayed is instinctive, as furnishing an answer to this question, Does he really abhor what is evil?
3. But another important element is this self-examination, whether we be abhorrers of evil or no, is this: In what language are we accustomed to talk of sin, and of the violations of God's law? Have we fallen into the world's way, taken up the world's language in speaking about all this?
4. But, once more, is the sin which is in the world around us a burden to our souls and spirits? Could we with any truth take up that language of the Psalmist, "I beheld the transgressors, and was grieved"? or, again, "Mine eyes run over with tears, because men keep not Thy law"? or that which found its yet higher fulfilment in the Saviour Himself, "The reproaches of them that reproached Thee are fallen upon me"? Or do we rather feel that if we can get pretty comfortably through life, and if other men's sins do not inconvenience or damage us, they are no great concern of ours, nothing which it is any business of ours to fight against? If it be thus with us, we have not yet learned the meaning of these words, "Abhor that which is evil." One or two practical observations in conclusion. Seeing then, that we ought to have this lively hatred of evil, that, tried by the tests that have been suggested, there are probably few, if any, among us who have it to the extent we ought, how, we may very fitly inquire, shall we obtain it? St. Paul tells us how, when in the same breath he bids us to "abhor that which is evil," and to "cleave to that which is good." It is only in nearer fellowship with God, and by the inspiration of His Spirit, that we can learn our lesson of hating evil. It is in His light only that we can see light or that we can see darkness. It is holiness that condemns unholiness; it is only love which rebukes hate. Here, therefore, is the secret of abhorring evil, namely, in the dwelling with or near the Good, and Him who is the Good. From Him we shall obtain weights and measures of the sanctuary whereby to measure in just balances the false and the true; from Him the straight rule or canon which shall tell us what is crooked in our lives, what is crooked in the lives around us.
Parallel VersesKJV: Let love be without dissimulation. Abhor that which is evil; cleave to that which is good.