Obrázky na stránke
PDF
ePub

rule of interpretation, which the passage now recited sets before us. 6Thou shalt love the Lord thy God, with all thy heart; and thy neighbour as thyself.” This rule, as I then observed, our blessed Saviour derived and adopted from the precepts of Moses ; whose followers, hitherto, did not appear to have discovered the value of this sublime lesson. I then proceeded to expound, upon that principle, the Commandments of the first Table, comprising our duty towards God; and also, the fifth, or first of the second Table, containing our duty towards earthly superiors; exemplified by that which we owe to our parents.

Our attention will now be claimed by the remaining Commandments of the second Table.

. From the negative terms, in which these Commandments are conceived, it might appear to be their design, merely to protect the person, the domestic comforts, the property, and the character of our neighbour from direct and gross violation ; but, whoever examines them, with the recollection, that he is bound to love his neighbour as himself, will feel, at every step, that he is here virtually called upon, not only to abstain from injuring him, but, on every occasion, to adopt that line of conduct towards his neighbour, by which his reasonable enjoyment of those blessings may be positively promoted : and, while he thus acknowledges the duty of assisting him in the attainment of temporal good, will so much the more hold himself bound to lend him all possible aid in the pursuit of his future and spiritual welfare, in proportion as the value of the body is exceeded by that of the soul, and that of time, by eternity.

Let us, then, resume the application of these principles to the letter of the Commandments.

Of all the injuries which a man can inflict upon his neighbour, the most revolting to the feelings of humanity, though perhaps not always the most pernicious in its consequences, is that of taking

An instinctive horror of bloodshed seems to be impressed originally upon every mind. How, then, shall any Christian endure to shed the blood of one who is emphatically his brother, and for whose salvation his Lord and Saviour bled upon the cross? Yet it is certain, that, under the malign influence of ungoverned passions, this natural reluctance is frequently

away his life.

overpowered ; and even, that human life, on some occasions, is wasted with wanton and barbarous prodigality.

Murder, therefore, has been fixed upon, in the sixth COMMANDMENT, as the object of express and direct prohibition : but it is obvious that the purpose of this command, taking it as merely negative, cannot be less than to protect the person of our neighbour from every species of injury. It requires, perhaps, no inspired rule of interpretation, to discover, that whatever wilful act may tend, in any way, to shorten the days of another, or to deprive him of the use or comfort of his limbs, must be a breach of this Commandment: nor is it difficult to perceive, that every temptation, wilfully thrown in his way, to injure his health by acts of intemperance or excess, is a wanton contempt and disregard of his life.

But, will the Christian rule—the rule of love -be satisfied with abstaining from these personal injuries; and will it stop short at mere negative duties? Will not sincere benevolence proceed, on all just occasions, and in every reasonable degree, to exert itself in guarding him from the

assaults or malicious designs of others; and in promoting the health, soundness, and vigour of his body, so nearly connected with that of his mind ? The love of ourselves, we all certainly feel, is by no means limited to the desire of avoiding all actual suffering or inconvenience : and, if this be really made (as we are taught to make it) the standard of our love towards our neighbour, we shall be anxious to procure, for him also, the enjoyment of every positive comfort, to which the perfection of his health and bodily faculties may be essential ; and the attainment of that honourable and vigorous “ length of days,” which is so often and expressively described as “ a good old age.” Malignant passions, on the contrary, far from leaving room for any delight in the prosperity of another, make every advantage, which he possesses, a distinct source of jealousy and envy: and the very wish to witness the extinction of his comforts, or to see any evil befal him, is characterised in the Scriptures as a species of murder : “Whoso hateth his brother,” says St. John, “ is a murderer.

But, if the life of the body is held thus pre

cious ;-if the design to destroy it excites so much horror, when exposed, and incurs so deep a stain of guilt, even when harboured in secret: what shall be thought of those, who, as far as lies in their power, murder the soul of their neighbour? -who, while they corrupt his body with allurements to intemperance, are poisoning his mind with profane and immoral discourse ;-with such notions and principles, as make virtue and vice appear indifferent in his eyes; opinion a bubble, and religion a jest? Yet, how many may be found, who unfeelingly inflict this deepest and most atrocious of all injuries, upon one, whom they call their friend; while, perhaps, if the destruction of his body, to the contemplation of which they are less accustomed, were abruptly proposed to them, they would not think of it without shuddering!

The next branch of human concerns, in which the authority of a Divine command has been interposed, is the strong interest, which every man feels, in the affections and chastity of his wife; and every woman, in that of her husband. The name of husband or wife describes that inseparable

« PredošláPokračovať »