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you studied the writings of Moses, you would there have been informed, that God calls himself the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob; not a God of those who are dead and annihilated, but the God of the living: and if you had duly attend. ed to that which is written in the scriptures, you would not have denied the resurrection, nor would you have endeavoured to invalidate it by such a frivolous argument, as the question which you have proposed to me contains. I tell you therefore that you do greatly err.
Thus did our LORD vindicate and establish the doctrine of the resurrection ; his prudent defence of which certain of the scribes who were present, could not but applaud; and they expressed their testimony of it by saying, Master, thou hast well said. Hence we are to learn not to raise any cavils against the certainty of the resurrection, either from prejudice, ignorance, or ridicule of the scriptures.
The Pharisees, although they had been so lately baffled by CHRIST in the answer which he had returned to their question about the lawfulness of paying tribute to Cæsar, were not displeased at this con
futation of the Sadducees. The satisfaction, however, which they felt on hearing the defeat of the Sadducees, did not create in them the same admiration of Jesus, as it did in the multitude who were astonished at his doctrine, and heard him with delight. But when they heard that Jesus had put the Sadducees to silence, they were again gathered together, with a malicious design, no doubt, of bringing the Lord of life into difficulty and danger. And one of them in particular, who was also a lawyer, that is, an interpreter of the Mosaic law, tempting him, in order to make trial of his skill, if not with an insidious intention of bringing him thereby into disgrace with those, who differed in opinion about the question he meant to propose, said unto him, Master, which is the first and great commandment in the law ? Many divisions have arisen among us on this important question; for some will have the law of circumcision to be the great commandment, others the law of the sabbath, and others the law of sacrifices : but thou perhaps canst remove our doubts by enabling us to determine, whether we should give the preference to the moral or the ceremonial law.
This scribe most probably thought, that
CHRIST would be unable to answer his question to the entire satisfaction of all parties ; and little expected, that the answer would be such, as to draw from himself the strongest approbation of it. 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. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.
Thus did JESUS refer him to the moral part of the law, and lay the great stress on love to God and man; to establish which great points, he observed that the ceremonies of the law and the writings of the prophets entirely tended*. The justness of which decision, the scribe himself who proposed the question, could not but acknowledge ; and joined with him in preferring the great duties of piety to God and benevolence to man, to all whole burnt-offerings and sacrificest.
JESUS was so pleased with the scribe for thus approving of his decision, that he said unto him, Thou art not far from the kingdom of God, that is, thou art not far from being a Christian.
Whether this scribe took the hint, and made farther inquiries into the doctrines of Christianity, by which the moral law is greatly improved, we are not informed. But as we, my Brethren, are to derive improvement from this, as well as from every other occurrence recorded in the Gospel, “ Let us remember,” says the venerable Bishop of London, in his lately published Lectures, “ that, great and important as these two precepts confessedly are, they do by no means constitute the whole of the Christian system.”
“ In that” (for I will give you at length the concluding observations which that celebrated writer makes on the passage now under consideration) “ In that, meaning the Christian System, we find many essential improvements of the moral law, which was carried by our Saviour to a much higher degree of perfection than in the Jewish dispensation, as may be seen more particularly in his Sermon on the Mount. We find also in the New Testament all those important evangelical doctrines which distinguish the Christian revelation, more particularly those of a resurrection-of a future day of retribution-of the expiation of our sins, original and personal, by the sacrifice of CHRIST-of sanctification by the Holy
Spirit--of justification by a true and lively faith in the merits of our Redeemer. If therefore we wish to form a just and correct idea of the whole Christian dispensation, and if we wish to be considered as genuine disciples of vur Divine Master, we must not content ourselves with observing only the two leading cominandments of love to God and love to man, but we must look to the whole of our religion, as it lies in the Gospel ; we must endeavour to stand perfect in all the will of God, and in all the doctrines of his Son, as declared in the Christian revelation, and after doing our utmost to fulfil all righteousness, and to attend to every branch of our duty, both with respect to God, our neighbour, and ourselves, we must finally repose all our hopes of salvation on the merits of our Redeemer, and on our belief in him as the way, the truth, and the life*.”
Here then I shall conclude this lecture, hoping, after no long interval, to resume our meditations on the awful and momentous transactions of the days which remain to be brought under our consideration; and God grant, that what has already been delivered may never rise up
* Bishop of London's Lecture xviii.