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morals that was ever known to the world. To quote all the texts which inculcate moral duties, would be both a tedious and unnecessary task, since the greater part of these are familiar to every reader of the Bible. Suffice it to observe, that all the duties which are injoined by the light of nature, are still more strongly confirmed and enforced by Christianity. The moral part of the Mosaical law our Saviour positively declares that he came not to destroy, but to fulfil.* That, in this declaration, he understood the vital and purifying spirit of that law, is evident from the words which he immediately subjoins. I say unto you, that unless your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the Scribes and Pharisees," which was chiefly confined to the external and ceremonial branch of religion, "ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven.” Indeed, from the very nature of the thing itself, it must be evident that the purer any scheme of religion is, in regard to its speculative doctrines, the greater tendency it must have to correct, to purify, and to exalt the morals of its professors. Our Saviour's sermon on the mount, when carefully considered in all its variety of precepts, comprehends a complete system of morality; embraces, in all its extent, every duty, whether strictly religious, or social, or personal ;
and exhibits it in that degree of purity which touches the principles and springs of action, and regulates the dispositions and affections of the heart. But he has comprised in a very narrow compass the substance of all moral obligation : “ Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. 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." Here it is evident that Christ states these precepts, as containing the main substance of the Jewish dispensation, as the grand objects to which the whole of its apparatus of rites and ceremonies was ultimately directed. He places duty on its true foundation, not on the external conduct, but on the internal principles of the mind; and in these he comprehends all that can possibly belong to the internal frame. He requires to love God with all the heart, with the utmost sincerity ; with all the soul, with the noblest expansion of sentiment; with all the mind, with the most careful and enlightened application of the intellectual faculties. He requires “ to love our neighbour as ourselves ;” not, in every case, with the game degree of affection, but with the same sincerity, and with the same attention to his interest and happiness, whenever we can promote them. He mentions not the duties which we owe to ourselves ; but, by stating our self-love as the measure of our benevolence, he both justifies its exercise, when properly limited, and enforces the peculiar duties which belong to the prudential class; because, without due attention to these, our benevolence itself cannot be properly directed. His apostle, however, has distinctly specified the three classes into which, according to the Christian scheme, human duty is divided, pointed out the preliminary step to the discharge of it, and displayed the grand incentive to its fulfilment. Nay, his words, in the passage in question, may be regarded as a brief summary of the whole gospelscheme. “ The grace of God,” says he, “which bringeth salvation, hath appeared unto all men, teaching us that, denying ungodliness, and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godlily in this present world ; looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God, and our Saviour, Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works." 6. That mercy and favour of God, which completely provide for the deliverance of men from the guilt, dominion, and punishment of moral corruption, and for their present and eternal happiness, have been promulgated to all nations. The voice of heaven calls on all mankind to abjure all impiety, every species of false religion, and those depraved desires and pursuits which degrade and ruin human nature; to practise the grand duties of temperance, moderation, and self-command ; of justice, benevolence, and universal charity; of love, devotion, and resignation towards their creator, preserver, and redeemer; and, withdrawing their souls from overweening attachment to this unsatisfactory and fleeting world, to raise and devote them to that blessed hope, and the glorious second appearance of the great God, and their Saviour, Jesus Christ, who
a Matt. xxii. 37-40. Mark xii. 30. Luke x. 27.
gave himself for them, to deliver them from the power and the punishment of all iniquity, of all moral depravity and perversion, and to purify to himself, out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation, a peculiar community, not only practising universal virtue, but devoted to it, and zealous for its prevalence to the utmost limits of the rational creation.”
Our Saviour, in his summary of human duty, begins, as the decalogue also does, with that which man owes to God, as the first in the order of importance, and as the true spring from which every other duty must proceed ; because the Deity, being the author of the human constitution, and of all the relations in which man is placed, must be the first object of human regard, and has, as the supreme legislator, prescribed every obligation by which our species can be bound. The divine Redeemer, who descended from heaven, makes moral obligation descend from the throne of God, and spread its influence over all the relations of man, acting on earth. His apostle, including every branch of duty which his divine master prescribes, proceeds in a different order, and seems to rise from earth to heaven. He takes man himself, as the point from which he begins the line of moral obligation; states, first, the duties which he owes to himself; then advances to those which he owes to mankind; and, lastly, ascends to those which he owes to God. The apostle Paul's classification appears, in a certain degree, similar to that of Cicero, with this important difference, however, in favour of the apostle's superior comprehension, that Cicero has entirely omitted the duties which are directed to the Supreme Being. As Paul's order, in the statement of obligation, differs only in appearance from that of Christ, and specifies what the latter has only implied, I shall, in my sketch of Christian morality, follow that classification, and begin with that branch which he has first mentioned.