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angry men enjoy their own opinions; and instead of employing their time and thoughts about matters which tend only to stir up their passions, and cannot profit them, to mind their own business; and above all, to mind “the one thing needful,” which is so seldom thought of amidst all our heats and contests, if not about trifles, yet trifles in comparison. While we are engaging with such warmth and eagerness about the affairs of this life, it might abate our fervour to consider how little a time we have to sojourn here, and how great a work we have upon our hands ; and of what moment it is to go cool and quiet hence, if ever we hope to find a place within the calm and peaceful mansions of the blessed.
3. And lastly, a word or two about private differences between man and man, and then I shall have done. These are many and various, and would be of dangerous consequence to the public, were it not that under a wise and good government, when gentler methods fail, they may at length be judicially and authoritatively determined. This is the best human means to keep a wicked world in order : it secures in a great measure the outward peace of society, and makes some amends for the want of universal justice and charity. Were the rules, before given, universally received and practised, there would be less occasion for judicial proceedings; but since this is a happiness not to be expected on this side heaven, and that as the world is now, there could be no comfortable living without courts of justice, we may be highly thankful, that in a case of so great necessity, we have so good a remedy. A peaceable man however will yet be tender of having recourse to a method that is designed only as a reserve for the last extremity. He will bear some time, and suffer wrong ; pass by little trespasses, and overlook some injuries ; rather than bring trouble and expense upon, and occasion ill blood amongst his neighbours. Small damages may be sustained, and even greater losses may be repaired, but it is hard ever to repair a breach of charity. He will therefore, though the cause be weighty and considerable, try all gentle methods first to win over an adversary; and if matters can thus be amicably adjusted, and the point secured, he obtains his right and keeps a friend at the same time, and neither endangers his own nor another's charity. If, after all, the fairest offers of accommodation be rejected, and he must submit to a smaller evil to prevent a greater; he will still remember to proceed as
becomes a man and a Christian; with no hatred and revenge towards his adversary, with no railing and bitterness, but with an upright intention, and a calm and sedate temper of mind. He will use none but fair and just methods; will suborn no witnesses ; nor attempt to practise upon juries ; will not disguise the real truth, nor act against it; will seek justice only, and abide by it. And when at length his cause shall be decided by a competent authority, though it should happen to be against him, he will patiently and readily submit to it, and not take upon him to censure the proceedings of the court, or to be wiser than his judges. Or if sentence shall be given in favour of him,
, he will not insult or triumph over his adversary, but be willing and ready ever after to do him any good offices, and to live in entire peace and friendship with him. With these cautions, and with this temper, Christians may go to law with Christians, and be blameless. Yet I must observe, that however one of the contending parties may be of this temper, yet it rarely, or perhaps never, happens that both are so. For if neither desire any thing but what is fair and honest ; if they are both willing to comply with any peaceable measures, and are in perfect charity with each other; it is hard to imagine how any quarrel can arise between them, or however proceed so far as to a judicial hearing There seems to be but one case where this can happen: and that is, when the matter of controversy is very intricate and perplexed, and the reasons seemingly equal on both sides. Here both may amicably consent to refer the matter to a legal trial, and so finally determine it. And yet even in this case, there is another more friendly and less expensive way, which may do as well; and that is taking private counsel of men learned in the law, and submitting to an arbitration. But enough of this.
Having thus briefly endeavoured to lay down the rules and measures of a peaceable conduct both general and special; I shall now close all with a consideration or two, to induce us to the observance of them. We are born into a world, where there is no such thing as joy, comfort, or security, but in peace and unity. Histories of times past may inform us, reason may persuade us, or experience convince us, that divisions are always destructive and pernicious, are the presages and causes of approaching ruin ; and however some may take delight in them for a time, who were the first authors of them, yet at length they fall heavy on their own heads, and are fatal to themselves. None are gainers hereby at last, but the common enemy of mankind; whose business it is to set us at variance with each other, that he may the sooner and the more effectually destroy all. Consider further, that we are sent into this life in order to a better, and are here only in a state of trial and probation. While we are striving and contending with each other about trifles, the great business of religion is almost at a stand, and nothing in a manner done to pre pare for eternity. Life is short, time wears away, and death approaches, and all our great matters are to come hereafter. A few years must end our petty differences : we must sleep in the dust together, and within a while awake to judgment. Then what profit shall we find in all those vain janglings and contentions with each other; begun in folly, nursed up by pride, and at length ending in misery, eternal misery? May these and the like considerations serve to moderate our heats, and teach us to “
put away from “us all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil“ speaking, with all malice; to be kind one to another, tender“ hearted, forgiving one another, as we hope that God for “ Christ's sake may forgive us."
The Duty of loving our Neighbour as Ourselves,
MATTHEW xxiii. 39.
The second is like unto it : Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.
THE whole sentence or context runs thus : “ Thou shalt love To the Lord thy God with all thy heart," and so
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.” My present concern is with the commandment to love our neighbour, which is a duty second and similar to that of the love of God. It is second only, or subordinate to the first, and therefore not of equal rank, order, dignity, or obligation with it: but still, because it is second to it, and like it, it is also of high rank, order, dignity, and obligation, and only short of the highest commandment of all, in which both this and every other commandment or duty centers. There is this honour done even to the second commandment, though it resolves into the first, that it is here represented as one of the two main beams upon which all other duties hang : not that any thing really hangs upon the second, which hangs not on the first also, (for the second depends upon the first, but this second is so considerable both in value and extent, that our Lord was pleased to place it in that distinct view, and to set it in that honourable light, in order to recommend it the more strongly to the attention and affection of the hearers. On these two commandments hang all the rest : every duty is summed up and comprised in the love of God, and the love of our neighbour. There are some self-duties, which may be thought to make a third chief head; and Divines have frequently branched out the several duties incumbent upon us, into our duty to God, and our duty towards our neighbour, and our duty towards ourselves. Neither is that threefold distinction without its use, for the help of the memory, or for clearing our conceptions. Nevertheless it is very certain that even those self-duties do, in some view or other, hang upon both the other: for temperance and chastity, and other the like self-duties, shew our obedience towards God, and render us the more beneficial to men ; and therefore do resolve at length into the love of God, and the love of our neighbour : so true is it, universally, that upon these two commandments hang all the rest.
These few general things premised, for the clearer understanding what our Lord was pleased to take notice of, as common to them both; I now proceed more distinctly to what properly concerns the second of the two : “ Thou shalt love thy “ neighbour as thyself.” It is not said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength : no, that would have been carrying the point too high, and scarce have left any sufficient note of distinction between what we owe to man and what we owe to God only. But it is said, “Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself ;” which is high enough, and is both an awakening and an affecting description of the love enjoined, as shall be shewn in the sequel. In discoursing further, it will be proper,
1. To shew what neighbour, in the text, means. II. To explain what it is to love one's neighbour as one's self.
III. To lay down some considerations proper to enforce the duty here enjoined.
I. The word neighbour primarily and properly signifies one that is situated near unto us, or one that dwelleth nigh us.
But by use and custom of language, the same word neighbour has been made to signify one that we are any way allied to, however distant in place, or however removed from the sphere of our conversation or acquaintance. When a certain lawyer, a Jew by nation and religion, insidiously put this question to our Lord, “ Who is my neighbour ?" our Lord replied to him in the way