Sidor som bilder
PDF
ePub

we love ourselves; and that too, out of regard to our common relation to the same Creator, who has made both of us what we are; and therefore like each other.

It is a natural impulse and effect of the principle of love, as fixed on any object, that what we love we wish to resemble as much as possible, and to imitate as closely as we can. If then we truly love the God and Father of all, who is kind and beneficent to all, we shall be naturally inclined to be kind and beneficent to his creatures and our fellowcreatures, also; that we may prove how sincerely we love, and how much we desire to please him, by imitating that conduct with which he is best pleased himself, and of which he sets the example. Those too, whom we see to be beloved by the object of our affections, where his affections, as placed upon them, in nowise interfere with our own, as fixed upon him, it is natural, should be beloved by ourselves. The best way of rendering ourselves dear unto him, whose favour and affection we are most anxious to engage in our own behalf, is by testifying our regard and concern for those whom he holds dear to himself. If then we love God, and he loves all mankind, our first impulse, in seeking to please him, and to obtain his affection for ourselves, will be to love all mankind likewise. Do we love God as the common Father of all mankind ? then are we bound to love all mankind as his children in common, and as our brethren in particular: just as the love which children naturally owe to their parents, and naturally render to them, in the first place, is the foundation of the mutual affection which they are expected to feel for, and to exhibit towards each other, in the next.

It may appear, at first sight, that the words, “ Thou shalt love thy neighbour, as thyself,” are intended to define the obligation of the duty; and place the groundwork of the love of our neighbour upon a compulsory motive to the love of ourselves. But this is not the case. The words, as thyself, do not specify the principle of the duty in the abstract; but the rate, the degree, the ratio or measure of its application in practice. We are not commanded to love our neighbour because we love ourselves, whether in this or in that proportion; but we are commanded to love our neighbour as we love ourselves, just as much as we love ourselves—that so we may love him in such and such a proportion.

And this leads us to observe, that it is taken for granted we shall, and we must love ourselves; that there will, and there can be no need of any special precept to that effect ; agreeably to the apostle's assertion, “ That no man ever yet hated his own flesh,” that is, himself". The foundation, then, of the third class of duties—those which concern ourselves, and being added to the other two, make up the sum total of all that is due to God, to our neighbour, and ourselves; is laid in the constitution of our nature, and is identified with our instincts. Now the constitution of our nature in all its innate and innocent propensities, is the will of God; and it might easily be shewn that the basis of those duties which moral agents owe to themselves--the duties of sobriety, continence, self-preservation, and the like—is as much the love of God, because as much a regard and deference to the will of God, as the groundwork of

[blocks in formation]

those which they owe to God himself or to their neighbour. It cannot be said that Christianity, in its peculiar motives to action, discards all reference to self; or considers it incompatible with the most refined and disinterested morality. On the contrary, it makes the kind and degree of our feelings towards ourselves, the proper standard of the conduct which we ought to pursue towards others; the sole, the absolute and authoritative measure of the degree of sympathy, which we ought to entertain for our fellow-creatures. Doubtless this is both to sanction the feeling of self-love, as right and proper in itself; and also to divest it of selfishness, properly so called —to make it social and comprehensive in the highest degree. The best man, in the evangelical view of goodness, is he who acts most regularly and invariably towards others, as he would wish others, in like circumstances, to act towards himself; and such an one, it will readily be admitted, in the judgment of an enlightened morality must be the most perfect and exemplary of social characters.

In fixing on the love of self, too, as the rule and measure of right in the discharge of external or social obligations, the morality of the gospel made choice of a standard, at once absolute and adequate. It is, what every practical rule should be, clear and simple—intelligible to the meanest capacity, and matter of instinct not of deduction: it is fixed and invariable, being liable to no exceptions and needing no corrections, according to circumstances, or the difference of cases, but being applicable alike to all cases. It is always at hand and ready for use; one, which we carry about with us, and as often as we want can instantly refer to. It is certain and infallible—never except purposely, capable of misdirecting us, never except wilfully, capable of being mistaken by uso.

• It has been made a ground of reflexion on the perfection of Christian morality, that it lays no stress upon the much cried up classical virtues of friendship and patriotism; or rather studiously keeps them out of sight. That it does so is undeniable; and that in doing so, it has acted wisely, and as was to be expected from its own character, might easily be shewn. I know not upon what foundation these two supposed virtues rest; what there is in the former, to distinguish it from selfishness ; or in the latter, to make it stop short of the modern phantom, universal benevolence—the supposed sum and substance of virtue and morality. If we divest ourselves of prejudice, and contemplate these two virtues, stripped of the false glare in which they appear through the light of classical associations—judged of by their practical consequences, they deserve the name of splendid vices, instead of substantial good qualities. But the truth is, they are both too contracted for the noble scope

of Christian principle-which absorbs every partial feeling in an expanded and comprehensive love of all mankind. It is peculiar to friendship, to transfer the affections of self to one ; to patriotisın, to a part of mankind; to Christian charity, if not in an equal degree, (for that is neither possible, nor incumbent to be done,) yet in their just relative proportion, to all. This teaches us to regard even enemies in some sense, as friends; strangers, as neighbours; every man, as a countryman. It represents all mankind as making up one large family, of which God is the common Father, every individual human being is a member, and all are brothers of each other.

Homo sum, humani nihil a me alienum puto;" is a sentiment which can possibly be felt as it ought, and acted upon as a ruling principle, only by a Christian.

The words, αγαπήσεις κύριον τον θεόν σου εξ όλης της καρδίας σου, και εξ όλης της ψυχής σου, και εξ όλης της ισχύος σου, και εξ όλης της diavoias cov—contain no redundancy of sentiment, as may at first sight appear to be the case. Kapdia being considered to denote the seat of the moral and nobler affections, and yoxs of the animal or sensual; lo xùs being understood of the bodily powers and faculties, and Právoia of the intellectual; all together they describe

It was with singular propriety, that as interrogated by a Jew on each of these occasions, and when laying down the rule of duty as binding upon Jews, our Lord cited such terms or conditions of acceptance, as were professedly contained in their law. Whether, indeed, the Law either actually or virtually held out the promise of eternal life, on such and such conditions, is a question we need not enter into. It is sufficient to know, that with a view to whatever personal result, it required unqualified obedience and absolute perfection, from those who by the covenant of works were subjected to it; it demanded every thing on their part, or it would bestow nothing on its own.

“ Do this, and thou shalt “ live,” was the substance of its stipulations and its promises P; as “ Do this, and thou shalt live,” is the language of our Saviour's reference to each of them. the complex of human nature, in the integrity, yet the severalty, of its component parts. And all these being to be devoted to God, the tenor of the precept is to inculcate a sublime morality, peculiar to the Law and the Gospel : that which St. Paul expresses by our doyen depareia, the presentation both of soul and body, as a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable and well-pleasing, to our God and Maker. Such a consecration would extend to the meanest, as well as the highest functions of our being: sancti. fying all and elevating all, as acts of religious adoration, of homage and duty, on the part of the creature towards its proper Creator ; so that whether we ate or drank, or whatever we did, we should do all as his creatures, and as in obedience to his will and appointment, and therefore for his glory—who made us. What would this be, but to make the whole of existence a perpetual office of praise or prayer ; every spot a temple; every man a priest; every act of life, whether within or without, whether in thought, word, or, work, a sacrifice ? p“ And I

gave
them

my statutes, and shewed them my judgments, which is a man do, he shall even live in them.” Ezek. xx. 11.

« FöregåendeFortsätt »