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As professing Christians, we are therefore bound, by the strongest moral and religious obligations, to observe the doctrines and duties which are taught us both in the Law and in the Gospel.
CHARITY THE END OF THE LAW OF GOD.
I. Timothy i. 5.
Now THE END OF THE COMMANDMENT IS CHARITY OUT OF A PURE HEART, AND OF A GOOD CONSCIENCE, AND OF FAITH UNFEIGNED.
The Apostle Paul wrote this epistle to Timothy, to instruct him in the government of the church which he had committed to his care. Timothy had been converted to the faith of Christ by the preaching of the Apostle at Lystra, and was, in consequence of his great attainments, appointed the first president or bishop of the church at Ephesus. The words of the Apostle at the beginning of this epistle clearly prove the superior station and authority of Timothy over the other teachers and ministers of the church; and they also prove that the superior ministers of the church have authority in matters of faith, so far, at least, as to prohibit any other doctrine than what is taught in the Scriptures of truth from being preached by the ministers of religion in the church. / besought thee to abide still at Ephesus,
when I went into Macedonia, that thou mightest charge some that they teach no other doctrine. It seems that even in the time of the apostles, there were some who taught erroneous opinions, and corrupted the truth of the Christian religion; and, to prevent these errors and corruptions from being prevalent, as well as to preserve the unity of the faith, and the order and government of the church, St. Paul wrote this epistle to Timothy: and if those who profess to be guided solely by the sacred Scriptures, would only take the Apostle for their guide, we should soon see an end to divisions and disputes; for the end of divine revelation is to promote peace and charity, faith and practical religion among men. Note the end of the commandment is charity out of a pure heart, and of a good conscience, and of faith unfeigned. To understand the true meaning of these words, we shall be led to consider,
I. The nature of the commandment of which the Apostle writes;
II. The end of it, which he here declares; and,
III. The principles from which that charity ought to proceed, which the Apostle recommends.
By the commandment we are to understand, 1 st, The moral law. The law of God is called a commandment in a particular sense, because it proceeds from a divine origin and authority. It is good in its own nature to be observed, as it contributes essentially to the welfare and happiness of mankind, as well as to the glory of God. Wherefore, saith the Apostle, the law is holy, and the commandment holy, and just, and good. Those who would set aside the moral law, as a rule of duty and a rule of life, stand opposed to the doctrine of the Apostle and the authority of God. They are ignorant of the important use of the law, which is intended to restrain the commission of sin, and to promote the practice of piety to God, and charity to men. But by the commandment here mentioned, we are to understand, in a more enlarged sense, 2ndly, The preaching of the Gospel. In order to publish the mysterious truths of the Gospel to the world, it pleased God, not only to reveal them to mankind, but also to send ministers for this purpose, and to establish a standing ministry in the church. Our Lord himself commissioned his apostles to preach the Gospel to every creature; and, it is added, They went forth and preached everywhere, the Lord working with them, and confirming the word with signs following. As our blessed Saviour and his apostles have declared what are the true doctrines of the Gospel, and what is the true church, it is decidedly wrong and unjustifiable to depart from those doctrines which they have taught, and to separate from that church which they have established, called the Catholic and Apostolic Church. By the commandment we may understand, 3rdly, The Christian religion in general. The Christian faith is expressly called the commandment of God by the Apostle, where he saith, This is his commandment, that we should believe on the name of his Son Jesus Christ. We may learn also from the declaration of holy Job, what revealed religion is in a general sense: Behold, the fear of the Lord, that is wisdom; and to depart from evil is understanding. This is written in direct opposition to the opinions and inventions of men; as our Lord said to his disciples, speaking of the Pharisees, But in vain do they worship me; teaching for doctrines the commandments of men; —where we may observe the contrariety of human to divine authority, and the marked distinction between the commandments of men and the commandments of God. We proceed to consider,
II. The end of the commandment, which is charity. If we understand the commandment to mean the moral law, as given to Moses on the Mount, we have only to consider the explanation of that law, as given by our Lord himself. When one of the Pharisees asked him, saying, Master, which is the great commandment in the law? Jesus said unto him, 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 com■ mandment, 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. We see that our Lord explained the moral law as teaching us our duty towards God, and our duty towards our neighbour—which is the true meaning of the word charity in its extensive scriptural sense. It is not confined merely to common charity to the poor, but extends to the love of God, as its origin and source. We love him