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Having thus given you an account of the Text with respect to both the Principles of Religion refered to in it, the Love of God, and the Love of our Neighbour, I would now in the second Place, lay before Observations which seem to arise naturally from the whole.
The first is, That these two Principles, from which our Lord tells us all Religion flows, must be consistent with one another ; otherwise they could not both be Principles of the same Religion. The Love of God therefore can in no Case obligé us to act contrary to the Love of our Neighbour. Our Saviour has told us indeed, that the
Time would be, when some should think they did God good Service by destroying their Brethren: But I don't find the Religion or the Zeal of those Perfons much commended; but this very Character is given of them to thew how little they knew or understood their Duty. And yet, could such a Case ever happen, in which it might become our Duty to hurt our Neighbour in order to promote the Honour of God, it could not be a juft Character of false Zeal, to say that it made Men think they did God good Service by destroying or abufing their Neighbour ; because, upon this Suppofition, it might
happen to be the Character of true religious Zeal.
There is one Thing in our Saviour's Argument which may perhaps mislead Men in judging upon this Case, and which therefore may deserve to be particularly considered. Of the Love of God our Saviour says, it is the First and great Commandment: The Love of our Neighbour he styles the Second, like unto it. Now from hence perhaps it may
be infered, That the Love of God, which is the First and Great Commandment, is a Law of a superior Obligation to that which is only the Second, and
therefore in some Instances controul and over-rule it. From whence it would follow, That we might lawfully overlook the Love of our Neighbour, in obedience to the superior Obligation we are under to love God. Now, upon fupposition that our Duty to God and our Neighbour could ever interfere, I should readily allow that we ought to love God rather than Man: But our Saviour's saying the Love of God is the First Commandment, is no manner of Reason to thiảk that it ever is, or can be, inconsistent with the Second:
The Love of God is properly styled the First Commandment, in respect to God who is the Object of the Love, and because it is A a'2
indeed the Foundation of all Religion, even of that Commandment which is styled the Second. But this is so far from Newing that the Love of God may ever clash with the Love of our Neighbour, that it proves
the contrary ; for, if the Love of our Neighbour is deducible from the Love of God, it must ever be consistent with it.
I know very well that the antient Writers of Morality have not gone higher for Prin, ciples to build their Precepts on, than to the common Defires of Nature, and the several Relations of Man to Man: But that is their Fault; for they might have looked farther with very good Success: For, if we consider God as the common Father of Mankind, and (as from his Goodness and Impartiality we must needs judge) equally concerned for the Welfare of all his Children, we shall have a very sure Foundation for all the moral Duties. No Man, who thinks himfelf bound to love and obey God, can think himself at liberty to hurt or“ oppress those whom God has taken under his Care and Protection : No Man, who believes it his Interest as well as his Duty to please God, but must likewife believe it his Interest and Duty to be kind and tender towards those who are the Children of God, and in whofe Happiness
he is not an unconcerned Spectator. For this Reason the Love of God is called the First and Great Commandment; and for this Reason it never can be inconsistent with the Love of our Neighbour, which is the Second. In all Cases therefore where your Duty to your Neighbour is plain and clear, depend upon
it your Duty to God concurs with it. All Scruples to the contrary are wicked : Perhaps wicked Hypocrisy; for it is the greatest Indignity to God to use his Name, and pretend his Honour, to cover the Injuries you are doing to his Creatures, and your own Brethren.
The second Observation I would make from the Text is, That, our Saviour having declared that on these two Commandments bang all the Law and the Prophets, 'tis certain that nothing is or ought to be esteemed Religion, that is not reducible to one or other of these Principles.
But what then, you will say, must become of the Institutions of Religion, which, confidered in themselves, and according to their own Nature, are not properly to be refered either to the Love of God, or our Neighbour? For, if all that is Religion may be fo refered, it should seem that these Institutions, which cannot be so refered, are no Part of
Religion. It is certain that mere positive Institutions are not founded upon any moral Reason of the Actions themselves : If they were, they might easily be drawn from these general Precepts without the Help of a positive Command : For the whole moral Reason of Religion is either the Love of God, or the Love of our Neighbour; and to make any Thing else to be Religion, strictly speaking, that does not partake of this moral Reason, is Ignorance and Superstition. But then there is a very manifest Difference between Religion and the Means of Religion : And whatever is part of our Religion, and yet not so upon the account of the Moral Reason, can only be esteemed as a Means of Religion ; not ordained for its own sake, but for the sake of that Religion which is founded upon
moral Reason. This Distinction between Religion and the Means of Religion would be of use, if careful attended to: It would teach Men where to point their best Endeavour, and where to place their Hopes and Expectations : For, if your Zeal and Fervor be spent only upon the Means of Religion, and goes no farther, ye are still in
Sins. And from hence it is plain, that there can be no Competition between the Duties called