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followed in their steps! Still, it is true, we have the utmost encouragement “to repent and be converted, that our sins may be blotted out," however we may have heaped up matter for humiliation, and, by our former negligence, have incurred especial need to "give all diligence to make our calling and election sure;" for “God is not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.”* But in a careless and impenitent state the expostulations and warnings of Holy Writ address us with a most awful urgency :-“For how shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation !"+ " It had been better for us not to have known the way of righteousness, than after we have known it, to turn from the holy commandment delivered unto us.”
But many, it is hoped, amongst us—would it might be said all !--are practically concurring with the divine purpose, however much our need of increased activity and perseverance, in promoting the renewal of our minds after the image of Christ; treasuring his words in the heart, and seeking the aid of his Holy Spirit. Let us, then, apply the subject as an incitement to entertain still higher views of the peculiar privileges derived to us from the
* 2 Pet. iii. 9. + Heb. ii. 3. 2 Pet, ii. 21.
knowledge of the Gospel, and the establishment of Christian ordinances, and of the corresponding extent of our obligations. Let us hold ourselves as predestined and capacitated to be new creatures; in the language of St. Peter, “a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a peculiar people, that we should show forth the praises of Him who hath called us out of darkness into his marvellous light.”* And with such a persuasion of our character and destination, may we recoil from sinful practices of any kind, as though by consenting to them we were voluntarily resigning the incalculable advantages of a civilized state, and relapsing into barbarism, consenting to become savages;-rather, making an infinitely worse exchange ;-for what is our share in the benefits of civilization-our heritage in the fruits of science and learningof a merely intellectual cultivation, compared with our part in that redemption of our species which has been accomplished by the Son of God—which, of culprits before the Almighty, and outcasts from his kingdom, hath given us the inheritance and confidence of his children; made us “ heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ!”+ * 1 Pet. ii. 9.
* Rom. viii, 17.
MATT. XXII. 39.
Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.
It must be evident, on the least consideration, that this commandment assumes the existence of a preestablished standard of moral rectitude as the basis of universal happiness; without a reference to which standard, it conveys a sense most deficient and unsatisfactory. In other words, the injunction to love our neighbour as ourselves takes for granted a law by which the love of ourselves is to be governed—à rule by which our own good is to be sought, our own happiness advanced and perfected :-unless, indeed, we premise that the selfish principle in man, or the desire of his own advantage, is guided by infallible wisdom, and uniformly determined to that mode of thinking, and that course of conduct, which secures to him his purest and most enduring felicity. But no such wisdom, no such worthiness, can be predicated of the love of self. To say nothing of the positive ignorance and speculative errors which beset mankind in the pursuit of happiness, and the endeavour to better their condition, the love of self is a perverse and wayward propensity : the will to be happy is itself averse to the light of reason, and imperfectly subject to the power of truth; and not, in every instance, because we are wanting in benevolence, or indifferent to the welfare of another. The commandment, we say, to “love our neighbour as ourselves," must be based on a preexisting determinate rule of righteousness.
Accordingly, St. Paul, in his Epistle to the Romans, instructs us that our obedience to this commandment is equivalent to a fulfilment of the divine law relative to our fellowcreatures :--" He that loveth another hath fulfilled the law. For this, Thou shalt not commit adultery, Thou shalt not kill, Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not bear false witness, Thou shalt not covet; and if there be any other commandment, it is briefly comprehended in this saying, namely, Thou shalt love thy neighbour'as thyself. Love worketh
no ill to his neighbour: therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.”* St. James also has given us an identical explanation of the precept under consideration. Indeed, our Saviour himself had previously and most expressly declared the commandment to “ love our neighbour as ourselves,” to be one of those two great ordinances which sustain and comprehend the entire law of the Creator :“ 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.”up
Here then must occur the momentous reflection, that the love which we are commanded to extend to our neighbour is in strict conformity with the love of God: that the two great commandments, on which is suspended the whole law, must never be detached or stand alone in our thoughts and estimation; but regarded as inseparable columns supporting the entire edifice of religion and virtue. It must be evident that the love of our neighbour as ourselves may be in direct opposition
* Rom. xiii. 8. † Matt. xxii. 40.,