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OUR DUTY TOWARDS OUR NEIGHBOUR.
LUKE, X. 36, 37. Which now of these three thinkest thou was neigh
bour unto him that fell among the thieves ? And he said, He that showed mercy on him. Then said Jesus unto him, GO, AND DO THOƯ LIKEWISE.
In discoursing to you, my brethren, upon these words, as they relate to this summary of the second table of the law, set forth in the words of our Church Catechism, I shall follow the same method I adopted in the exposition of the former general account of our duty towards God; first, by mentioning the distinct heads which the answer contains, and dwelling upon each of them, in the way of practical instruction and exhortation : and secondly, by submitting such observations upon the genuine principle that must influence this duty, as may impart true value to the effects of it.
In reply to the question, “What is thy duty
“ towards thy neighbour 9” our Catechism informs us, it is to love him as myself. A stronger test of duty cannot be proposed; and the words which follow, confirm the spirit of this sentiment by a plain direction, which leaves no possibility of mistake : “ We are to do unto all men
as we would they should do unto us," under similarity of situation. This may truly be called the golden rule, or maxim, by which to regulate our conduct towards each other, in all con
It extends to every circumstance of thought, word, and deed, in which our neighbour can be affected by our deportment towards him. If mankind made this the measure of their general dealings with each other, justice, mercy, and good-will, would soon take place of oppression, selfishness, hard-heartedness, and malice ; the world would wear a very different appearance, from what it so often presents to us in the various transactions of this life ; and universal benevolence would spread its cheering influence throughout society.
Now, a purer and more infallible rule cannot be given, to keep this duty alive in our hearts, than, upon all occasions where we are called upon to exert it, to have immediate recourse to the decision we should be ready to make, were we ourselves the object of it. SELF, which is the predominant principle in man's pursuits, would then assist us in doing right, instead of blinding us from seeing the way that true bro therly love points out to us. By virtue of this rule the rich would be led to consider the state of the poor man ; the powerful would feel the exigencies of the friendless; the wise and wellinstructed would be instigated, from a consciousness of their superior advantages (instead of being puffed up by them), to employ their talents to the improvement of the ignorant and neglected, within the limits of their influence; the prosperous and cheerful would be inclined to weigh the forlorn condition of the unfortunate and afflicted; the healthy and strong.would be brought to compassionate those labouring under sickness or other infirmities; and lastly (and above all things), those who have tasted the
grace of God, who have felt the necessity of repentance, would cherish a sense of the sad and dangerous state of the unconverted : they would lose no opportunity of exhorting the blind, the hardened, and the profligate sinner, to forsake his wicked courses, and turn unto the Lord: they would pray earnestly, that the most abandoned persons might become such as they are themselves, in conviction of the evil nature and consequence of sin to the soul, and that they might be like themselves, as brands snatched out of the fire, and preserved harmless unto the day of the Lord. If this blessed spirit of the Gospel of love towards one another were cultivated with the sincerity and zeal that must be both wished and practised upon the Christian principle, in order to qualify us for any real pretensions to so pure a character as the disciples of Christ, we should soon experience its valuable effect upon all ranks, without distinction. What would operate upon the more wealthy and elevated characters of life, would in proportion extend to the very lowest orders of the community. Instead of beholding that narrow and selfish jealousy, that unnatural envy, and that spirit of grudging and malevolence, which too often pervade the minds of our poorep brethren; instead of that rancour which too many immediately discover, and are apt to cherish against each other, upon any notice being taken of their fellow-sufferers in need and misery, we should find that the sharpness of their own wants would act powerfully in raising a temper of benevolence towards objects of the same stamp with themselves. The gracious influence of this heavenly spirit of loving others as ourselves, and of doing unto men as we would they should do unto us, would correct, if not destroy, those malignant dispositions which now spread discord, strife, and ill will, amongst mankind; and in their room we should behold the exercise of peace, harmony, and generous fellow-feeling. In short, we should experience universally the effect of the Apostle's exhorta.
tion (Rom. xii. 10): we should be kindly affectioned one to another, in brotherly love, in honour preferring one another. But, alas! this is a state so nearly similar to the golden age and primitive innocence, that there is but little prospect of our ever seeing such a change in the corrupted heart and manners of the multitude: still, we are urged to strive after it: the pattern is set us; the commandment is gone forth; and in proportion as we are obedient, and use the means of imitating our blessed Lord's example, who did good unto all men, praying for his most bitter enemies, not returning railing for railing, but contrariwise blessing ; in proportion as we labour to recover that part of the image of God in our hearts, which is manifested in making no distinction as to general acts of mercy, for the love of Christ, but for his sake relieving the just and the unjust, in consideration of their being God's creatures, from a sense of our own unworthiness of his distinguished favours, and in order to obtain the report of good and faithful servants; so far shall we co-operate with God's merciful designs, in rendering this a state of trial and schooling for a better inheritance ; 60 far we shall fulfil his good pleasure, and help to forward our own happiness.
2. “ To love, honour, and succour father and mother,” is the next chargé contained in this general rehearsal of our duty to