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The Moral Character of Man Iove to Man.

The Moral Character of Man Iove to Man.

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Published by glennpease

"And the second is like ttnto it, namely, Thou shalt love
thy neighbor as thyself."

Matthew xxii. 36.

"And the second is like ttnto it, namely, Thou shalt love
thy neighbor as thyself."

Matthew xxii. 36.

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Published by: glennpease on Feb 21, 2013
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial


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THE MORAL CHARACTER OF MAN IOVE TO MAN.FRANCIS WAYLAND."And the second is like ttnto it, namely, Thou shalt lovethy neighbor as thyself."Matthew xxii. 36.I have, in previous discourses, attempted to illustrate thefirst commandment of the law, and to prove that, judged byit, every man must stand guilty before God. I suppose it tohave been shown that we do not like to retain God in ourknowledge ; that this dislike is so intense as to lead us, by themost absurd idolatry, to violate the dictates of our understand-ing, in order to escape from the idea of an all-seeing and mostholy God.Taking these facts for granted, we proceed to consider thesecond commandment of the law, and to inquire whether mancan plead innocence on the ground of obedience to its re-quirements.Before, however, proceeding to consider this part of thesubject, a preliminary truth deserves a passing reflection. Itis obvious to every one who bears in mind our relations to God,that our obligation to obey him extends to every action of ourlives. We ourselves, our possessions, our faculties, our fellow-men with whom we are conversant, are not our own. God isthe universal Proprietor of all, for in him we live, and move,and have our being. He is the Father of all, and he justlyrequires us to treat our brethren, who, equally with us, are hischildren, as he shall command. And yet more, he is entitled6*66 MORAL CHARACTER OF MAN. , LOVE TO MAN.not merely to obedience in the outward art, but to filial obedi-ence ; that is, the obedience which springs from love. Hence,in all our transactions with our fellow-men, we are required torecognize the existence of both these commandments ù " Thoushalt love thy neighbor as thyself," and, " Thou shalt love theLord thy God with all thy heart." This latter principle, filialobedience to God, must enter as a motive into every actionbefore it can either lay claim to innocence, or deserve the praiseof the Creator. It is this sentiment alone that can sustain virtuewhen assaulted by temptation, or unite us by any tie of moralsympathy with our Father who is in heaven.You perceive, then, that every moral act, in order to meritthe praise of God, must be pervaded by the element of loveto him. If this element be wanting, I do not say that the actionis destitute of virtue, but I say that it is destitute of piety, andthat it would have been performed in just the same manner if there were no God. Such an action could never be pleasing
to God ; nay, more, by the amount of all this deficiency itwould be displeasing to him. Suppose, then, a man to obeyperfectly the second commandment of the law, while he waswholly indifferent to the most blessed God, nay, while he wasdeliberately cultivating in himself the habit of settled opposi-tion to his law ù must not the displeasure of the Most High restmost justly upon him ? But we have already shown that thislatter is actually the moral condition of man ; that the love of God is not in him, and that he does not like to retain God inhis knowledge. Hence it is, I think, evident that, were thesecond precept of the law faithfully obeyed, yet so long as manwas at enmity with God, he would still remain a sinner by reasonof the absence from all his actions, of the element of piety.We always judge in this manner respecting any other case.The keeping of one precept is no excuse for the violation of another. If a man obey the precept, " Thou shalt not kill,"this can in no manner justify him in the violation of theprecept, " Thou shalt not steal." Much less is the keeping of a minor and subsidiary precept a justification of the violationMORAL CHARACTER OF MAN. LOVE TO MAN. 67of a universal and all-controlling precept. If a man be guiltyof treason against his country, can he lay claim to perfectinnocence because he has always paid his debts ? The chief magistrate of a nation is under paramount obligations to con-form his whole conduct, both public and private, to the dictatesof justice, veracity, and patriotism. But suppose his wholeadministration is disgraced by acts of oppression, violence, andtreachery, ù can he be held innocent because he is proved to bea kind husband and an affectionate parent ? When, in yearslong gone by, it was urged against a monarch of GreatBritain, that he had repeatedly, and on deliberation, violated hiscoronation oath, and conspired to overthow the constitution of the realm, it was never held to be a justification of his conduct,to assert that he had taken his little children on his knee, andkissed them.I think, then, it may easily be granted, that while the loveof God is excluded from the heart of man, even though heshould love his neighbor as himself, he would still fall underthe condemnation of the law to which he was renderedamenable by his Creator.And here we may pause for a moment to observe that thisgeneral truth affords an easy explanation of the passage in theEpistle of James ù " Whosoever shall keep the whole law, andyet offend in one point, he is guilty of all." By this he meanssimply to assert that a single deliberate violation of any par-ticular precept of the law of God sets at nought the authorityof the Lawgiver, and demonstrates that the creature has usurpedthe place in our affections due only to the Creator. The love
of God is not in him, for, if it truly exist at all, it must besupreme, and hence, all his actions, being destitute of this ele-ment, are in the sight of God sinful, and, of course, deservingof his displeasure.Leaving this preliminary consideration, we proceed to in-quire what is the character of man when subjected to the testof obedience to the second precept of the law, " Thou shaltlove thy neighbor as thyself."68 MORAL CHARACTER OF MAN. LOVE TO MAN.Our Lord himself has explained the meaning of the termneighbor in this passage. It means man, eveiy man, everychild of Adam, the being to whom we are connected by noother tie than this, that he is a brother of the human family.We are commanded to love such a one as ourselves ; thatis, not as we do love ourselves, but as we may rightfullylove ourselves. To enter upon a complete analysis of thisprecept, and illustrate the various classes of actions which itrenders obligatory, would transcend the limits of this discourse.It will be sufficient to observe that self-love incites us to loveour own happiness upon the whole, and to desire the uninter-rupted enjoyment of those means which God has given us, inorder to secure it. It causes us to feel injured and aggrievedif the full enjoyment of these means is in any manner cur-tailed by our fellow-men. All this is innocent and proper.Now, in this manner we are commanded to love our fellow-men. We must as intensely desire that our neighbor may,without interruption, enjoy the means of happiness which Godhas bestowed upon him, as we desire to enjoy them ourselves ;and we must feel the same sense of wrong when he is injuredas we feel when we ourselves are injured. We can claimfor this precept no less comprehensive signification than this ;and I think that every man's conscience will bear witness that,thus interpreted, it really expresses the obligation existing be-tween man and his fellow-men.With respect to the natural disposition in man to obey thissecond precept, the Scriptures do not speak as definitely as inrespect to the first and great commandment of the law. Theyhave nowhere declared that the love of man is not in us, orthat we do not like to retain man in our knowledge. W'hilethey speak of our obedience to it as universally deficient, theydo not definitely find the limit of that deficiency. This wouldbe impossible, since, in respect, to this precept, our obediencefalls short of the praise of God in very dissimilar degrees. TheBible presents us with instances of men who have madevarious attainments in virtue, all, however, by acknowledg-MORAL CHARACTER OF MAN. LOVE TO MAN. 69ment, imperfect ; and also of men who have been in various

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