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man of one of thy brethren within any of thy gates in thy land which the Lord thy God giveth thee, thou shall not harden thine heart, nor shut thine hand from thy poor brother. But thou shalt open thine hand wide unto him, and shall surely lend him sufficient for his need in that which he wanteth. This law extends even to the losses which are incidental to property. Thou shalt not see thy neighbour's ox, or his sheep, go astray, and hide thyself from them; thou shalt in any case bring them again to thy brother. And if thy brother be not nigh to thee, or if thou hnow him not, then shalt thou bring it to thine own house; and it shall be with thee till thy brother seek after it, and thou shalt restore it to him. again.* In like manner shalt thou do with every lost thing of thy brother's. Thou mayest not hide thyself; that is to say, make ignorance a pretence for not exercising charity and benevolence towards him. Thou shall not see thy brother s ox, nor his ass, fall down by the way, and hide thyself from them; that is to say, take no notice of them. Thou shalt surely help him to lift them up again; the meaning of which is, that in whatever thy brother, or fellow-creature stands in need of, such help as it is in thy power to afford thou shalt not refuse to help him.
Thus we are taught to act in the common occurrences of life, and much more so in the concerns of eternal importance. When a man himself goes astray, and errs from the way of truth and safety, it requires a higher
* Deut. xxii. 1.
degree of compassion and charity to restore such a one to the way of salvation from which he has departed. The conclusion then to be drawn from these Scriptures is evidently this: that a hard-hearted, and cruel, and selfish disposition, is not a Christian disposition; that as Christians, it is our duty fo seek occasions of usefulness, and never to overlook those that come in our way, either by our inhumanity or neglect. I come now as I proposed,
III. To show the great reasonableness and excellency of this rule.
There is the most perfect agreement between reason and religion, with respect both to the duty and the happiness of mankind. Whatever we are commanded to do, either by the Law of Moses, or the Gospel of Jesus Christ, tends ultimately to increase our happiness. In like manner, whatever is forbidden in the Law of God, will be found the ultimate cause of misery even in this life. We may therefore conclude with certainty, that the Law of God is holy, just, and good, and that hit commandments are not grievous. Our duty in this, as well as in every other instance, will be found to be a reasonable service. The great reasonableness also of this rule appears in this; that it is so universally acknowledged, as to be made the standard of equity and justice, not only in the common transactions of life, but also in the due administration of the laws of our country.
But there is no need of any other argument to prove the excellence of this rule, than what our blessed Saviour has said to enforce the observance of it, for this is the Law and the Prophets. This is the substance of all that is written in the Law, or by the Prophets, concerning the duty of man to man. The Law commands us to love our neighbour as ourselves; and it is recorded in the Prophets, that God will have mercy and not sacrifice; by which we are taught to understand, that God is better pleased with acts of kindness to one another, than with the most ostentatious services. For he hath shewed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the Lord thy God require of thee, but to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God.* Here we have the sum and substance of true religion; and if we have any practical regard for the Scriptures, we shall acknowledge our obligation to obey them. I shall only add, that this rule, by its simplicity and plainness, speaks to the understanding and conscience of every one, and that the greatest advantages would arise from the due observance of it in all the relations of life. Seeing, then, the reasonableness and excellence of this divine precept, let us resolve, by the grace of God, to make it the rule of our lives; that whether others do, or do not, observe it in their behaviour towards us, we will not fail in the performance of it towards them, and in no case whatever think ourselves dispensed from it as a sacred duty. Let us not suppose that the Gospel releases us from obedience to the moral law, since our
blessed Saviour himself has explained and enforced it so strictly, as well as his Apostles. But let us remember that heaven and earth shall pass away, sooner than one jot or tittle of the word of God shall fail ;* and that we shall be all judged at the last day by this rule of unchangeable righteousness.
• Matt. v. 18.
THE CHARACTER AND BLESSEDNESS OF THE MERCIFUL.
Matthew V. 7. Blessed Are The Merciful, For They Shall Obtain
THE Gospel of Jesus Christ is a revelation of mercy to mankind. Its object and design are to reconcile sinners to God, through the death of his Son, and to teach them to be merciful to others, as they hope to obtain mercy themselves. This truth is evidently taught by our Lord in the words of the text, and is confirmed by him in several other passages; and every faithful follower of Jesus Christ will endeavour to imitate his goodness and loving-kinduess to men. True faith is a living and active principle, which, while it forbids all malice, hatred, and revenge, at the same time produces holiness and every good work. The only sure and certain evidences of true faith are to be found in its effects, and especially in the practice of that charity which arises from a sincere profession of the Christian