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SERMON XCVI.

THE LAW OF GOD.

THE SECOND GREAT COMMANDMENT.

LOVE TO OUR NEIGHBOUR.

AND THE SECOND IS LIKE; NAMELY, THIS: THOU SHALT LOVE THY

NEIGHBOUR AS THYSELF. THERE IS NONE OTHER COMMANDMENT

GREATER THAN THESE.

MARK XII. 31.

In several preceding Discourses, I have considered the great duties of love, reverence, and humility towards God, and resignation to his will ; and given a summary account of the other duties of piety. I shall now proceed to an examination of the second commandment.

In this precept we are required to love our neighbour as ourselves.' In canvassing the duty here enjoined, I shall consider,

I. Its nature.
II. Its extent.

I. I shall make a few observations concerning the nature of this duty.

Before I proceed directly to this subject, it will be proper to remind my audience, that in the Discourse concerning love, considered as an attendant of regeneration, I exhibited it at length as a disinterested disposition; and in this particular place. With this habitual disposition in exercise, the resigned man will be quiet and satisfied, or at least supported, when others are borne down; and filled with hope and comfort, when worldly men sink in despair. All that dreadful train of fears, distresses, and hostilities, which, like a host of besiegers, assault the unresigned, and sack their peace, he will have finally put to flight. Safety and serenity have entered the soul, and the Spirit of truth has there found a permanent mansion. Whatever evils still remain in it, his delightful influence gradually removes, as cold, and frost, and snow vanish before the beams of the vernal sun. He will yield God his own place and province, and rejoice, that his throne is prepared in the heavens, and that his kingdom is over all.' His own station he will at the same time cheerfully take, with the spirit of a dutiful and faithful subject, or an obedient child ; and confide in the divine wisdom for such allotments as are best suited to make him virtuous, useful, and happy. In this manner he will disarm afflictions of their sting, deprive temptations of their danger, and his spiritual enemies of their success, by quietly committing himself and his interests to the disposal of his Maker. In this manner he will become effectually prepared for that glorious and happy world in which all these evils will have passed away;' and be succeeded by a new, divine, and eternal train of enjoyment. In this manner the work of righteousness' in his mind will be peace, and the effect of righteousness, quietness, and assurance for ever.'

Surely in such a state of things it must be the natural, the instinctive, conduct of piety to acquiesce in dispensations of this nature. Under the afflictions which it demands, and which of course it cannot but involve, we may and must at times smart, as a child under the rod, when administered by the most affectionate parental hand; but, like children influenced by filial piety, we shall receive the chastening with resignation and love.

3. Resignation is also a most profitable dutý.

The profit of this spirit is the increase which it always brings, of virtue and happiness. Our pride and passion, by which we are naturally and of choice governed, conduct us only to guilt and suffering. So long as their dominion over us continues, we daily become more sinful and more miserable, as children become, during the continuance of their rebellion against their parents. The first step towards peace, comfort, or hope in this case, is to attain a quiet, submissive spirit. That God will order the things of the world as we wish, ignorant and sinful as we are, cannot be for a moment believed. The only resort which remains for us, therefore, is to be satisfied with what he actually does; and to believe that what he does is wise and good, and if we will permit it, wise and good for us. To be able to say, “Thy will be done,' says Dr. Young, “ will lay the loudest storm;" whether of passion within, or affliction without.

Children, when they have been punished, are often, and if dutiful children, always more affectionate, and dutiful, and amiable than before. Just such is the character of the children of God, when they exercise evangelical resignation under his chastening hand. Every one of them, like David, finds it * good for himself that he has been afflicted ;' an increase of his comfort; an increase of his virtue and loveliness.

As this disposition regards events not yet come to pass, its effects are of the same desirable nature. For the wisdom and goodness, the fitness and beneficial tendency, of all that is future, the pious mind will rely with a steady confidence on the perfect character of God. With this reliance it will regularly believe that there is good interwoven with all the real as well as apparent evil which, from time to time, may take view exhibited its nature, so far as is necessary to this system. Nothing further will be needed under this head, except an explanation of the degree in which we are required to love our neighbour, expressed in the words ' as thyself.'

This phraseology has been very differently understood by different persons. Some have supposed it to contain a direction, that we should love our neighbour with the same kind of love, which is exercised towards ourselves. This plainly cannot be its meaning. The love which we usually and naturally exercise towards ourselves is selfish and sinful. Such a love as this may be, and often is, exercised towards our children, and other darling connections; and wherever it exists, is of course sinful, and cannot therefore have been commanded by God. At the same time, it is physically impossible that we should exercise. it towards our fellow creatures at large, the real objects of the affection required in the text, as I shall have occasion to show under the second head. Others have insisted, that we are required to love them in the same manner as ourselves. This cannot be the meaning. For we love ourselves inordinately, unreasonably, without candour, or equity ; even when the kind of love is really evangelical. Others, still, have supposed, that the command obliges us to love our neighbour in exactly the same degree in which we ought to love ourselves. This interpretation, though nearer the truth than the others, is not I apprehend altogether agreeable to the genuine meaning of the text. It has, if I mistake not, been heretofore shown satisfactorily, that we are in our very nature capable of understanding, realizing, and feeling whatever pertains to ourselves, more entirely than the same things when pertaining to others; that our own concerns are committed to us by God in a peculiar manner; that God has made it in a peculiar manner our duty to provide for our own, especially for those of our own households ;' and that thus a regard to ourselves, and those who are ours, is our duty in a peculiar degree. To these things it may be justly added, that we are not bound to love all those included under the word neighbour, in the same degree. Some of these persons are plainly of much greater importance to mankind than others; are possessed of greater talents, of higher excellence, and of more usefulness. Whether we make their happiness or their excellence the object of our love ; in other words, whether we

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regard them with benevolence, or complacency, we ought plainly to make a difference, and often a wide one, between them; because they obviously and exceedingly differ in their characters and circumstances. A great, excellent, and useful man, such as St. Paul was, certainly claims a higher degree of love from us, than a person totally inferior to him in these characteristics.

Besides, if this rule of entire equality had been intended in the command, we ought certainly to have been enabled in the natural sense to perform this duty. But it is perfectly evident that no man, however well disposed, can exactly measure on all occasions the degree of love exercised by him towards his neighbour, or towards himself; or determine in many cases whether be has or has not loved himself and his neigbbour in the same degree. It is plain therefore that, according to this scheme, we cannot, however well inclined, determine whether we do or do not perform our duty. But it is incredible that God should make this conduct our duty; and yet leave us, in the natural sense, wholly unable to perform it.

For these, and various other reasons, I am of opinion, that the precept in the text requires us to love our neighbour generally and indefinitely as ourselves. The love which we exercise towards him is ever to be the same in kind, which we ought to exercise towards ourselves ; regarding both ourselves and him as members of the intelligent kingdom ; as interested substantially in the same manner in the divine favour; as in the same manner capable of happiness, moral excellence, and usefulness; of being instruments of glory to God, and of good to our fellow-creatures ; as being originally interested alike in the death of Christ; and, with the same general probability, heirs of eternal life. This explanation seems to be exactly accordant with the language of the text. As does not always denote exact equality. Frequently it indicates equality in a general, indefinite sense ; and, not unfrequently, a strong resemblance, approximating towards an equality. There is no proof, that it intends an exact equality in the text.

In many cases, for example, in most cases of commutative justice, and in many of distributive justice, it is in our power to render to others exactly that which we render to ourselves. Here, I apprehend, exactness becomes the measure of our duty. The love which I have here described is evidently dis

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