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master, and we shall think but little of our Maker, or any thing belonging to him. His empire over our hearts must in short at all events be maintained. When this point is once secured, every inferior gratification that is consistent with his sovereignty, his glory, and his commands, is perfectly allowable ; every thing that is hostile to them must at once be renounced. This is a plain rule, and a very important one. It is the principle which our blessed Lord meant here to establish, and it must be the governing principle of our lives. Next to this in importance is another command, which you will find in the 12th verse of the seventh chapter; “All things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them ; for this is the law and the prophets.” As the former precepts which we have been considering relate to God, this relates to man; it is the grand rule, by which we must in all cases regulate our conduct P 4 towards towards our neighbour; and it is a rule, plain, simple, concise, intelligible, comprehensive, and every way worthy of its divine Author. Whenever we are deliberating how we ought to act towards our neighbour in any particular instance, we must for a moment change situations with him in our own minds, we must place him in our circumstances, and ourselves in his, and then whatever we should wish him to do to us, that we are to do to him. This is a process, in which, if we act fairly and impartially, we can never be mistaken. Our own feelings will determine our conduct at once better than all the casuists in the world. But before we entirely quit the consideration of this precept, we must take some notice of the observation subjoined to it, which will require a little explanation. “Whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them; for this is the law and the prophets.” The concluding clause, this is the law - and
and the prophets, has by some been interpreted to mean, this is the sum and substance of all religion; as if religion consisted solely in behaving justly and kindly to our fellow-creatures, and beyond this no other duty was required at our hands. But this conclusion is as groundless as it
is dangerous and unscriptural. There are duties surely of another order, equally necessary at least, and equally important with those we owe to
There are duties, in the first place, owing to our Creator, whom we are bound to honour, to venerate, to worship, to obey, and to love with all our hearts and souls, and mind, and strength. There are duties owing to our Redeemer, of affection, attachment, gratitude, faith in his divine mission, and reliance on the atonement he made for us on the cross. There are, lastly, acts of discipline and self-government to be exercised over our corrupt propensities and irregular desires. Accordingly in the very chapter we have - just
just been considering, we are commanded to seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness. We are in another place informed, that the love of God is the first and great commandment, and the love of our neighbour only the second ; and we are taught by St. James, that one main branch of religion is to keep ourselves unspotted from the world”. It is impossible therefore that our blessed Lord could here mean to say, that our duty towards our neighbour was the whole of his religion; he says nothing in fact of his religion; he speaks only of the Jewish religion, the law and the prophets, and of these he only says, that one of the great objects they have in view is to inculcate that same equitable conduct towards our brethren which he here recommended F. Let no one then indulge the vain imagination, that a just, and generous, and compassionate compassionate conduct towards his fellowcreatures constitutes the whole of his duty, and will compensate for the want of every
* James, i. 27. + See chap. xxii. 40. Rom. xiii. 8. Gal. v. 14. and Grotius on this verse.
other Christian virtue. This is a most fatal delusion; and yet in the present times a very common one. Benevolence is the favourite, the fashionable virtue of the age; it is universally cried up by infidels and libertines as the first and only duty of man; and even many who pretend to the name of Christians, are too apt to rest upon it as the most essential part of their religion, and the chief basis of their title to the rewards of the Gospel. But that Gospel, as we have just seen, prescribes to us several other duties, which require from us the same attention as those we owe to our neighbour; and if we fail in any of them, we can have no hope of sharing in the benefits procured for us by the sacrifice of our Redeemer. What then God and nature, as well as Christ and his apostles, have joined together, let no man dare to put asunder. Let no one flatter himself