Page images

has two objects: Love to God for what he is in himself, and for the blessings he gives us; and Love to Man, for God's sake.

The love we owe to God is to be expressed in four ways; and these are set forth in the first four Commandments.

The first Commandment is, "Thou shalt have no other gods but me." This requires us to know and confess the true God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, as the only living God, and our God, in opposition to all idolatry; it requires us also to love and adore him, as the Author of our being, and the Source of our happiness; and this commandment is broken, not only by worshipping other gods, but by setting up idols in our hearts, by excessive self-love, or love of creatures, relations, money, or gratifications of the flesh; so that, according to this, there are many atheists, living without God in the world; and many idolaters, worshipping the


The second Commandment forbids all worship of images; and requires us to worship God in the way he has appointed; but, alas! how many wholly neglect and despise his worship!-how many worship God with various superstitions and inventions of men!-how many others forget that God is a Spirit, and must be worshipped in spirit and truth! What levity and folly do many mix with their pretended devotions! But in vain do we thus mock God, and play the hypocrite, drawing nigh to him with the lips when our hearts are far from him. The reason, added to this commandment, "For I the Lord thy God am a jealous God," &c., shows how extremely displeasing to him it is to neglect his worship, or worship him in an improper manner; and that he will resent this sin, not only to the persons who commit it, but to their posterity also.

The third Commandment forbids the taking the

Lord's name in vain ;-but oh! how awful is the common practice of cursing and swearing! We may truly say, "Because of swearing, the land mourneth." The breath of some men is nothing but blasphemy;

"their throat is an open sepulchre ;"-the stench of their profaneness is infinitely worse than that of a stinking carcase; and many who do not use the most horrid oaths, will cry out, O Lord! O God! O Christ! God bless us! Lord have mercy! &c. &c. But however common this practice is, let all men know, that God declares "he will not hold them guiltless that take his name in vain.' Oh! consider what a great God we have to do with !—and let his name never be mentioned without a serious pause, allowing us time to think who he is, and that he is greatly to be feared.

The fourth Commandment respects the religious observation of the Lord's Day, or Christian Sabbath. We can never enough admire the goodness of God in the appointment of it. Persons should prepare for it, by having every thing in readiness, as much as possible, that no part of it, especially the morning, which is the best part of it, should be lost. All unnecessary works are to be laid aside; no journeys, no visits, no settling accounts, writing letters, nor paying and receiving wages. The whole day, from morning till night, should be spent in acts of religious worship, public and private, except so much as must be employed in works of necessity and mercy.

Oh! how awfully is this holy day profaned by idleness, by needless journeys and visits, by wilfully staying away from public worship, or by persons going to church merely to meet with neighbours for worldly business, or to show their new clothes; by going to public-houses, by reading newspapers, or by mere worldly vain discourse and amusement! Now the breach of this commandment, and of

the three former, evidently proceeds from want of love to God. If we loved him as the best of beings, we should love his day, revere his name, and prize his worship. And have we not broken all these commandments? Have we not reason to cry, in the words of the Liturgy, "Lord, have mercy upon us, for having broken these laws, and incline our hearts to keep them in time to come"?

Proceed we now to the second table of the law. The last six Commandments respect our love to our neighbours. The sum of all is, "Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself."

The fifth Commandment respects our nearest neighbour, our relations, our parents. These have the care and expense of our education;-we can never repay their kindness. We should honour them by obedience to their directions, and by treating them with the greatest respect; and that not only in childhood, but in youth and riper years; we should study to preserve their reputation, to alleviate their infirmities, and, if necessary, to support them in old age.

This command also includes all relative duties, whether to superiors, inferiors, or equals; it includes the duty that servants owe to their masters, and subjects to their governors; it forbids mere eye-service, wasting the property of superiors, or being unfaithful in what they commit to our trust.

The sixth Commandment directs us how to show our love to our neighbour, by a regard to his life and health; and it forbids not only actual murder, but anger, hatred, malice, and other murderous tempers; for, "whosoever hateth his brother is a murderer," 1 John iii. 15. "Whosoever saith to his brother, Raca, (thou vile fellow,) or thou fool, shall be in danger of hell-fire;" so our Lord declares, Matt. v. 22. All unjust wars, fighting, quarrelling, ill usage, or provocations, which may hurt the health

and life of another, are forbidden. Many aged parents are murdered by the base conduct of their children;-many wives are murdered by the drunkenness, idleness, and abuse of their husbands; and many poor children are murdered by the neglect and wickedness of their parents. Selfmurder is also hereby forbidden, no man having a right over his own life any more than over that of his neighbour;-but the worst of all is soulmurder. Parents who neglect to instruct their children, and who are examples of vice to them; drunkards, whoremongers, and adulterers, who allure others to sin with them,-all these are soulmurderers.

The seventh Commandment respects the love of our neighbour, with regard to purity of heart, word, and deed. It forbids not only the actual adultery of married persons, but all fornication, lasciviousness, and wantonness. Every lustful thought, word, or look, makes a person an adulterer in God's sight: for so Christ himself explains his commandment, in Matt. v. 28. "Whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her, hath committed adultery with her

already in his heart." All private uncleanness, known only to God and conscience, and practised, perhaps, by those who pass for chaste and virtuous people, is forbidden. Immodest dress tends to the breaking of this law; as do lewd books, novels, plays, songs, and pictures. In a word, this commandment requires the most perfect purity in heart, speech, and behaviour, and an endeavour to promote the same in others.

The eighth Commandment directs us how to show our love to our neighbour, by a regard to his property. It forbids taking to our own use what belongs to another. Covetousness has led men to invent a thousand ways to cheat and defraud. Those who deceive in selling by false weights and mea

sures; those who run in debt, without the prospect of paying again; those who oppress the poor; servants who neglect their business, or waste their master's property, are all thieves in God's esteem. This command extends much farther than human laws can reach; and requires that we should treat our neighbour, with respect to his property, as we could wish to be treated by him.

The ninth Commandment respects our love to our neighbour in his reputation or good name. Not only taking a false oath before a magistrate, but all lying, slandering, and evil speaking, is forbidden; and oh! how is the world filled with this!—and what is the greater part of common conversation but a wanton breach of this law? We ought to be as tender of another man's character and reputation as of our own; and to avoid all such remarks, reports, censures, and ridicule, as we should be unwilling to receive from others.


The last Commandment enjoins the love of our neighbour, by requiring us to be content with our condition; forbidding us to envy or grieve at the good of our neighbour, or wish to deprive him of it, that we may enjoy it; yet, it goes much farther, and forbids the most secret wish of the heart to obtain anything that God forbids; and this is particularly the commandment that St. Paul speaks of in the text:-" I had not known lust," saith he (ver. 7), except the law had said thou shalt not covet." When this commandment came with power to his mind, he saw that the secret workings, and first motions of inordinate affection, were sins. Before he saw this, he thought all was well; for he was free from gross and outward offences; he was what the world calls a good liver; but this commandment showed him the sins of his heart. He found the law was spiritual,-reaching to the thoughts and desires of the heart: and thus, “sin,


« PreviousContinue »