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Religion lies in these two general Commandments; That in these all particular Duties and Precepts are founded ; That nothing can be of any Obligation in Religion, but as it relates either to the Love we owe to God, or the Love we owe to our Neighbour. In speaking to these Words, I shall,
First, Shew you the true Meaning and Import of them; and,
Secondly, Make some useful Remarks on the whole.
In St. Mark's Gospel the same Thing is faid in different Words, though to the same Effect. The Words parallel to the Text are these : There is none other Commandment greater than these, Mark xii. 31: That is, There is nothing in Religion of an higher Obligation than these two Precepts: All the Duties of Religion must be governed by these two Principles : Beyond them there is nothing greater, nothing to limit or restrain them ; but by them must every thing else be limited and restrained. The Reason of this is plain : For, the Relation between God and Man being once known, the first Conclusion is, That we ought to love the Lord our God with all our Hearts, with all our Souls, and with all-our Minds; that is, to the utmost of our Power: And, until this general Principle
be be established, the particular Duties owing to God cannot fall under our Consideration. There is no Room to inquire after the proper Instances of expressing our Love to God, till the general Obligation of loving God be known and admitted. The same Reason holds likewise as to the other general Head of Religion, the Love of our Neighbour : Fór. the Relation between Man and Man, and the common Relation of all to one great Master, being supposed, the Result is, That we ought to love our Neighbour as ourself ; that is, to do all we can to promote the Happiness of each other : And, unless we have this general Sense, we cannot be concerned to know in any particular Case what is the proper Instance of Love which we ought to shew towards our Neighbour. - But, these general Principles being once established, the particular Duties flow from them naturally. The Love of God, and the Love of our Neighbour, if carefully attended to, will easily grow into a complete System of Religion. The Duties of Religion are all relative, regarding either God or Man; and there is no relative Duty that Love does not readily transform itself into upon the mere View of the different Circumstances of the Persons concerned. Love, with regard to a ...Z 4
Superior, becomes Honour and Respect, and Thews itself in a chearful Obedience and a willing Submiffion to the Commands of Authority: Love, with respect to our Equals, is Friendship and Bene olence: Towards Inferiors 'tis Courtesy and Condescension: If it regards the Happy and Prosperous, 'tis Joy and Pleasure, which Envy cannot corrupt : If it looks towards the Miserable, 'tis Pity and Compassion; 'tis a Tenderness which will discover itself in all the Acts of Mercy and Humanity.
In negative Duties this Principle is no Jess effectual than in positive. Love will not permit us to injure, oppress, or offend our Brother : It will not give us leave to neglect our Eetters, or to despise our Inferiors : It will restrain every inordinate Passion, and not suffer us either to gratify our Envy at the Expence of our Neighbour's Credit and Reputation, or our Lust by violating his Wife or his Daughter; but it will preserve us harmless and innocent: For Love worketh no Ill to its Neighbour. This Deduction of particular Duties from this general Principle was made by St. Paul long since: Owe no Man, says he, any thing, but to love one another: For he that lovethanother 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, Rom. xiii. 8, &c.
This Notion of Love, as being the Fulness of the Law, and of all the Commandments being comprehended in this Saying, Thou Malt love thy Neighbour as thyself, will lead us to the true and natural Interpretation of a Paslage in St. James, which, as it is commonly understood, is liable to great Difficulties and Objections, and to those who have plain Sense, and can follow it, must appear absurd : Whosoever, says he, shall keep the whole Law, and offend in one Point, he is guilty of all, Chap. ii. Ver. 10. This is a Position something strange, that an Offence against one Law should be a Breach of all Laws, however different they are in Kind and Degree; that he who commits Adultery, for Instance, should therefore be guilty of Murder and Robbery, and other the like heinous Offences nothing related to the Sin of Adultery. But let us consider the Apostle's Reason in the next Verse: For. he that said, Do not commit Adultery, said als, De
not kill. Now, if thou commit no Adultery, yet, if tb-u kill, thou art become a Transgressor of the Law. This Reason, as Interpreters commonly expound it, amounts to this : All Laws are founded upon one and the fame Authority of God; therefore every Offence against any Law is a Contempt of the Authority upon which all Laws depend; and therefore every Act of Disobedience is a Breach of the whole Law, becaufe subversive of that Authority upon which the whole Law stands. But there are many Objections against the Reason thus stated : First, 'Tis liable evidently to all the Difficulties of the Stoics’ Paradox, That all Offences are equal : For, if the Guilt of Sin depends, not upon the Nature and Circumstances of the sinful Action, but upon the Authority of the Lawgiver, then every Sin, being an Offence against the same Authority, is of the same Guilt and Heinousness; and there will be no Difference between killing your Neighbour and your Neighbour's Horse; for he that has forbid you killing your Neighbour, has likewise forbid you doing any Act to the Hurt and Detriment of your Neighbour. Secondly, The Apostle's Inference in the latter Part of the Verse does not answer to the Principle laid down in the former Part: