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of laws which he is bound to obey, and as, entitled therefore to his first and highest regard. He is to love the Lord his God “ with all his heart, with all his soul, and with all his mind:” and the chief test by which the Gospel orders us to try and measure our love to God is, the regard we pay to his commands.“ He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, says our Lord, he it is that loveth me *.” St. John, in still stronger terms, assures us, that " whoso keepeth God's word, in him verily is the love of God perfected-t." The love of our Maker then is neither a mere unmeaning animal fervour, nor à lifeless formal worship or obedience. It consists in devoutness of heart as well as purity of life; and from comparing together the different passages of Scripture relating to it, we may define it to be such a reverential admiration of God's perfections in general, and such a grateful sense of his infinite goodness in particular, as render the contemplation and the worship of him delightful to us, and produce in us a constant desire and endeavour to please him in every part of our moral and religious conduct. ' . . . . . ". John xiv. 21, '+ 1 John ii. 5. '
This is, in a few words, what the Scriptures mean by the love of God, and what our Lord here calls the FIRST AND GREAT COMMANDMENT. It is justly so called for various reasons; because He who is the object of it is the first and greatest of all beings, and therefore the duties owing to him must have the precedence and pre-eminence over every other; because it is the grand leading principle of right conduct, the original source and fountain from which all Christian graces flow, from whence the living waters of religion take their rise, and branch out into all the various duties of human life; because, in fine, it is, when fervent and sincere, the grand masterspring of human conduct; the only motive sufficiently powerful to subdue our strongest passions, to carry us triumphantly through the severest trials, and render us superior to the most formidable temptations.. .
Next to this in order and in excellence, or, as our Saviour expresses it, like unto it, is, that other divine command, “ thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.”
By the word neighbour is here to be understood, every man with whom we have any concern; every one who stands in need of our
kindness, kindness, and to whom we are able to extend it; which includes not only our relations, friends, and countrymen, but even our enemies; as appears from the părable of the good Samaritan. The precept therefore requires us generally to love our fellow-creatures as we do ourselves.
To this it has been objected that the precept is impracticable and impossible. Selflove, it is contended, is a passion implanted in our breasts by the hand of God himself; and though social love is also another affection which he has given us, yet there is no compa- . rison between the strength of the two principles; and no man can or does love all mankind as well as he does himself. It is perfectly true; nor does the precept before us require it. The words are not thou shalt love thy neighbour as much as thyself, but thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself; that is, thou shalt entertain for him an affection similar in kind, though not equal in degree, to that which thou entertainest for thyself. Our self-love prompts us to seek our own happiness, as far as is consistent with the duties we owe to God and to man. Our social love should in the same manner prompt us to seek the
happiness of our neighbour, as far as is consistent with the duty we owe to God and our selves. But in all equal circumstances, our love for ourselves must have a priority in degree to the love we have for our neighbour. If, for instance, my neighbour is in extreme want of food, and I am in the same want, I am not bound to give him that food which is indispensably necessary for my own preservation, but that only which is consistent with it. The rule in short can never be mistaken by any man of common sense. Our business is to take care to carry it far enough: nature will take sufficient care that we do not carry it too far. It is in fact nothing more than what we are taught by another divine rule very nearly allied to this, and which all men allow to be reasonable, equitable and practicable; “whatsoever ye would that men should do unto you, do ye even so unto them *." . .
This is precisely what is meant by loving our neighbour as ourselves; for when we treat him exactly as we would expect and hope to be treated by him in the same circumstances, we give a clear and decisive proof that we love him as ourselves. And in * Matth. vii. 19.
this there is evidently no impossibility, no difficulty, no obscurity,
These then are the two great commandments, on which we are told hang all the law and the prophets; that is, on them, as on its main foundation, rests the whole Mosaic dispensation ; for of that, not of the Gospel, our Lord is here speaking. To explain, establish, and confirm these two leading principles of human duty, was one of the chief objects of the law and the prophets. But it must at the same time be remembered (as I have shown at large in a former lecture *) that great and important as these two precepts confessedly are, they do by no means constitutė the whole of the Christian system. In that 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,
* Lect. vii. p. 190.