« ÎnapoiContinuați »
who are aspiring to that crown of immortality and glory which is reserved in heaven for the faithful servants of God. And what a noble and exalted view does not this impart to us of the character of the Eternal Father, the great Creator of the Universe and of all that is therein contained. Instead of prescribing an unceasing and direct homage to God, our Superior and our Maker, by whose word we were brought into the world, and on whose Almighty will our very existence and continuation here depend, and that, in obedience to such command, we should neglect our fellow creatures by looking on them as undeserving our care and attention, the Sacred Gospel of Jesus enjoins us to establish our title to
like the good Saa heavenly inheritance, by doino maritan; by regarding every one as our neighbour, and by treating our neighbour as ourselves !
By this we see, that the very submission which the Omnipotent exacts from us is intended to produce our own mutual and reciprocal advantage. To love God, and to disregard one's neighbour, is a notion altogether inadmissible into the mind of the true and genuine Christian. Nay, brethren, the selfish and designing individual to whom the injunction of our text was in the first place addressed, knew full well that the love of God altogether depended upon the love of his neighbour. And for such reason was it that he endeavoured in the first place to prove that he had performed this latter part of God's commandments. What then shall we say to that divine dispensation, which looks to the happiness of man, not as subservient to, but as at least accompanying, if not taking the precedency of homage and submission to the Almighty. Would the most rigid moralist, who ridicules the gospel of Jesus, and looks upon it as repugnant to those feelings of friendship and good will which are due from men, one towards another, dare to assert, on mature and unprejudiced investigation, that these are not kept in view by its Divine Founder, as though they were objects of the most paramount and important interest? It cannot be denied, that did the Christian dispensation possess nothing but its own intrinsic merits, nothing but its own moral precepts and its own well-appointed regulations, even these, unaccompanied by those indisputable evidences of its divine origin, would be amply sufficient to entitle it to our highest commendation; and to recommend it to the reception of all wise and benevolent men.
In reference to the view which we are now taking of our subject, it may not be improper to recall your recollections to the memorable observation of our Lord, that “the Sabbath is made for man, and not man for the Sabbath.”
No one who places the least reliance upon the authenticity of the Old Testament, can deny that this sacred institution wag appointed to the honour of the Almighty. One would, therefore, naturally conclude that the interests of the Eternal, (if such an expression may be here allowed,) rather than the interests of man, would have held the first rank, when considered in reference to this divine institution. The above mentioned declaration of our Saviour, however, leads us to a different conclusion, and we at once infer from it, that all the honours and adoration which man presents to his Maker on the weekly recurrence of the Sabbath, are intended to promote his own peculiar and individual benefit: “The Sabbath is made for man,” that is, the homage and adoration which on this sacred occasion are offered to the Almighty, are intended for the advantage of him who offers, rather than for that of him who receives, the honours. And it is in a sense precisely analogous to this, that we have thought ourselves justified in interpreting the words of our text.
The duty of man hath been admitted by the lawyer, no less than by our Lord, to consist in loving the Lord God with the most unbounded love, and in loving one's neighbour as one's self.
Now on a certain occasion, mentioned by St. Matthew, either the same, or bearing a close resemblance to that which we have been considering, a Pharisee, who was a lawyer, is represented to have thus accosted our Lord: “Master, which is the great commandment of the law ? Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.” In what, however, I would ask, does this likeness consist. They are both of them distinguished by the numerals first and second. The likeness, therefore, can only consist in the
magnitude of importance which attaches itself to the second equally with the first. The second is like unto it. The second is great, that is to say, in the same manner as the first is great. Here, then, is another instance, in which the interests of man are considered as deserving attention equally with the honour and love of God. From the close proximity, therefore, of these two commandments to each other, and from the first order which we always find allotted to the duty which we owe to God, we can only infer that the performance of the first and great commandment can only be attained, by preparing a way to arrive at it, through the performance of the second, The love of God, therefore, altogether depends upon the love of our neighbour. And it was with this conviction that St. John gives the following recommendation to those to whom his first general epistle was addressed: “Beloved,” says the devout Apostle, “ let us love one another.” And then, farther on, he declares the impossibility of loving God without attending to this necessary preparatory step: “ If a
I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar: and this commandment have we from God, that he who loveth God, love his brother also.”
It cannot therefore be denied, brethren, that the duties of men towards each other, are one of the two leading precepts in the gospel of Christ. And though the love of God may be the first and great commandment in the gospel, in the same manner as it is in the law, yet is the importance of the love of
our neighbour, which is designated as the second, most fully established, as being a necessary preliminary to the performance of the first. And in these duties, which are enforced in the words of our text, as well as in various other portions of the Scriptures, if properly considered, we have a most striking internal testimony of the truth of the gospel as delivered by Jesus. The duties, indeed, are essentially different-one being the love of God, and the other the love of our neighbour. They are likewise different as to the degree of love which is due to either party. Yet is the importance of the second considerably enhanced by its being necessary to arrive at the first. Well, therefore, did our Saviour act, when he directed the lawyer thus, in the words of the text, “Go and do thou likewise.” This injunction, as we must have already seen, applied solely to the second of the two duties which have so frequently forced themselves upon our notice. The interrogator of our Lord was enjoined to follow the example of the good Samaritan, in shewing a humane and benevolent disposition to his fellow creatures, without any reference whatever either to the place of their abode, or the degree of hatred or friendship which might have existed between their respective countries. By so doing, he would be giving encouragement to a practice which, if brought into general use, could not fail to alleviate, in a most material degree, the ills and misfortunes to which our common nature is subject. By so doing, he would the most effectually prepare within himself