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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, 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 parable 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. Self-love, 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 comparison 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 ourselves. 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 to you, do ye even so to 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 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 t), that, great and important as these two precepts confessedly are, they do by no means constitute 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, 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 our Divine Master, we must not content ourselves with observing only the two leading commandments of love to God and love to men, 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, Lect. vii, pp. 93–95.
*Matt. vii, 12.
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.
I must now put a period to these Lectures for the present season; and, if it should please God to preserve my life for another year, I hope to finish my observations on the Gospel of St. Matthew, beyond which I must not now extend my views.
In the meanwhile, from what I have observed in the progress of these Lectures, I cannot help indulging an humble hope, that they have not been unattended with some salutary effects upon your minds. But when, on the other hand, I consider, that the time of year is now approaching, in which the gaieties and amusements of this vast metropolis are generally engaged in, with incredible alacrity and ardour, and multitudes are pouring in from every part of the kingdom to take their share in them; and when I reconect farther, that at this very period in the last year a degree of extravagance and wildness in pleasure took place, which gave pain to every serious mind, and was almost unexampled in any former times; I am not, I confess, without some apprehensions, that the same scene of levity and dissipation may again recur, and that some of those who now hear me (of the younger part more especially) may be drawn too far into this fashionable vortex; and lose, in that giddy tumult of diversion, all remembrance of what has passed in this sacred place. I must, therefore, most earnestly caution them against these fascinating allurements, and recommend to them that moderation, that temperance, that modesty in amusement, which their Christian profession at all times requires, and for which at this moment there are reasons of peculiar weight and force*.
To indulge ourselves in endless gaieties and expensive luxuries, at a time when so many of our poorer brethren are, from the heavy pressure of unfavourable circumstances, in want of the most essential necessaries of life, would surely manifest a very unfeeling and unchristian disposition in ourselves, and would be a most cruel and wanton aggravation of their sufferings.
This Lecture was given in April 1800, a time of great scarcity, and extreme dearness of all the necessaries of life.
It is true, indeed, that their wants have hitherto been relieved with a liberality and kindness, which reflect the highest honour on those who exercised them. But the evil in question still subsists in its full force, and is, I fear, more likely to increase than to abate for months to come, and will of course require unceasing exertions of benevolence, and repeated acts of charity on our part, to alleviate and mitigate its baneful effects.
Every one ought, therefore, to provide as ample a fund as possible for this purpose; and how can this be better provided than by a retrenchment of our expensive diversions, our splendid assemblies, and luxurious entertainments? We are not now required, as the young ruler in the Gospel was, to sell all we have, and give to the poor; but we are required, especially in times such as these, to cut off all idle and needless articles of profusion, that we may have to give to him that needeth."
And when we consider that the expense of a single evening's amusement, or a single convivial meeting, would give support and comfort, perhaps, to twenty wretched families, pining in hunger, in sickness, and in sorrow, can we so far divest ourselves of all the tender feelings of our nature (not to mention any higher principle), can we be so intolerably selfish, so wedded to pleasure, so devoted to our own gratification, as to let the lowest of our brethren perish, while we are solacing ourselves with every earthly delight? No one, that gives himself leave to reflect for a moment, can think this to be right, can maintain it to be consistent with his duty, either to God or man. And, even in respect to the very object we so eagerly pursue, and are so anxious to obtain, in point even of pleasure, I mean, and selfgratification, I doubt much whether the giddiest votary of amusement can receive half the real satisfaction from the gayest scenes of dissipation he is immersed in, that he would experience (if he would but try) from rescuing a fellow-creature from destruction, and lighting up an afflicted and fallen countenance with joy.
Let us, then, abridge ourselves of a few indulgences, and give the price of what they would cost us to those who have none. By this laudable species of economy, we shall at once improve ourselves in a habit of selfdenial and self-government; we shall demonstrate the sincerity of our love to our fellow-creatures, by giving
up something that is dear to us for their sake, by sacrificing our pleasures to their necessities; and, above all, we shall approve ourselves as faithful servants in the sight of our Almighty Sovereign; we shall give some proof of our gratitude to our heavenly benefactor and friend, who has given us richly all things to enjoy; and who, in return for that bounty, expects and commands us to be rich in good works, to feed the hungry, to clothe the naked, to comfort the sick, to visit the fatherless and widow in their affliction, and to keep ourselves unspotted from the world, unpolluted by its vices, and unsubdued by its predominant vanities and follies.