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bation of an infinite God, barely screens us from his displeasure. It informs us, above all, that if Christ had not lived, we must have been left in a most deplorable state of ignorance about the nature of our duty—that if he had not died the most strenuous endeavours to perform it must have been inefficacious. By presenting this view of our own wretchedness, it puts a check on the rebellious, presumptuous spirit of man, and it invites us to contemplate this character of Christ, in order to inspire us with better and juster sentiments.
If then we raise up within ourselves a spirit of humility and meekness—if we resign to every appointment of Providence with tranquillity and cheerfulness, we shall have acted up to the commands of our blessed Master, and advanced in our imitation of him to the highest summits of virtue which man can reach. We may be secure of admittance into those mansions where our imperfections will be removed, our pious purposes strengthened, our capacities of moral excellence enlarged, and where, by endless progression in holiness, we shall be growing more and more to the fulness of the stature of the man of God.
We may then look to that hour when the Christian warfare shall be succeeded by the Christian triumph-when our patience will be rewarded with the most transporting happiness, and our bumility crowned with the most exalted glory, if the same mind, the same heart, be in us which was in Christ Jesus.
MATTHEW xxii. 39.
And the second is like unto it, thou shalt lore thy neighbour
as thyself Though the authority by which Religion demands our obedience is peculiar to itself, yet the precepts by which it regulates our conduct, are founded on the great and immutable laws of rectitude, on the constitution of human nature, and on the correspondence of that constitution with the various events of human life. The Scriptures, it is well known, accommodate their phraseology to the apprehensions of the bulk of mankind, who have neither leisure nor ability for profound research and accurate discrimination. They direct us to practise such duties as are approved by every uncorrupt person to whom they are proposed.
are proposed. But they neither amuse our curiosity nor exercise our judgments by investigations into final causes, nor by curious disquisitions upon the absolute and comparative force of our affections, and upon the appearances which they exhibit in a mixed or in a separate state. These disquisitions and those investigations are indeed properly and solely the province of our own reason; and when conducted with a serious regard to the discovery of truth and to the interests of virtue, they illustrate the propriety of every rule which Christianity has laid down for the improvement of our minds, of every check which is thrown upon our unsocial or selfish pursuits, of every command which is given to purify and elevate the soul by the love of God, or to soften and expand it by the love of man.
In the chapter of the text a lawyer, or one of those persons who professed to be skilful in the law of Moses, and to resolve any difficulties concerning it, had, for the purpose of tempting Christ,
, inquired of him, “what was the first commandment?" He thought, probably, that the founder of a new religion would betray some freak of singularity, or some sally of zeal in a new dogma, which might invalidate the pretensions, or contradict the precepts, of the Jewish Legislator, and if such a dogma had been brought forward, he was prepared, no doubt, to represent Jesus as a teacher who subverted the established notions of morality, and encroached upon the sacred anthority of the law. He received, however, an answer which equally disappointed his cunning, and mortified his malevolence ; for Jesus said to hiin, “ Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, 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. On
these two commandments hang the law and the Prophets.
Now the words of the second commandment, which, no less than those of the first, were so judiciously adapted to the particular occasion upon which our Lord pronounced then, point out also the benevolent character which pervades every part of the Christian dispensation itself, every end for which it professes to be designed, and every direction which is employed to attain it. When explored to their deepest principles, and pursued to their most remote consequences, they reconcile us to the appointment of that physical evil, which, in the present constitution of things, is necessary even to the production of moral good. They show that all our better affections may be so improved, and our lower so corrected, as to become severally instrumental in working out the utmost possible happiness which in this mixed and imperfect state is placed within our reach. And this will appear plainly to every one who considers the importance, the extent, and the purity of benevolence, as taught in the Scriptures. For when Jesus connects the love of our neighbour with the love of God, he shows that piety is defective and unavailing without active virtue. When he represents the love of ourselves as the measure of our love to others, he carries up our best social faculties to their highest point of excellence. When he directly enjoins the exercise of the benevolent affections, he indirectly forbids the indulgence of the malignant; for his words, you will do well to observe, refer to a passage, in which those affections are openly contrasted, and in which the one are expressly condemned, and the other as expressly approved. “ Thou shalt not avenge, says Moses, nor bear any grudge against the children of thy people; but thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.” Of this duty then we cannot admit that it makes only a subordinate and incidental part of our Lord's instructions ; for it is inculcated by him repeatedly, and under circumstances too, which mark its importance more distinctly than if it had been stated merely in the form of a general declaration that Moses had so taught, or of a general direction that we should so act. It was produced, you see, for the confutation of the insidious lawyer, who questioned Christ upon
the great fundamental articles of religion. It was produced and explained to the confusion of the rich young man, who supposed himself to have kept all the commandments from his youth up, and yet was deficient in the true spirit of charity. It was produced to the satisfaction of the ingenious scribe, who inquired seriously, who answered, say the Scriptures, discreetly, and was by Jesus Christ himself pronounced to be not far from the kingdom of God. It is called a brief but comprehensive saying by St. Paul. It is dignified by the title of the royal law in the Epistle of Saint James. In short, it appears, both in the estimation of Christ and his Apostles, to have been the test of all faith, and the very bond of all virtue.
Religion can only be considered as a great mean of some great end; that end, whether you view it as a physical effect, or a moral reward of an improvement,