« PrécédentContinuer »
THE END OF THE COMMANDMENT, AND THE IMPORTANCE
OF KEEPING IT IN VIEW.
Now the end of the commandment is charity out of a pure heart, and of a good conscience, and of faith unfeigned : from which some having swerved, have turned aside unto vain jangling.”—1 Tim. i. 5, 6.
THERE is a metaphor in these
words (more apparent
in the original than in the translation), drawn from the subject of archery. The word rendered "swerving" denotes the missing or going wide of the point at which an arrow is aimed. By “the commandment” is probably meant the whole code of God's Precepts, whether under the Law or the Gospel. These precepts are very numerous; but many as they are, they may all be reduced under two great heads,-nay, they may all be summarized under one head, Charity or Love. The aim of every commandment, of the whole code of Precepts, is love to God and man, love flowing out of a heart purified by faith in Christ's Blood and sanctified by Christ's Spirit, and out of a conscience which makes
echo that the heart is indeed thus purified and sanctified. Those religious teachers who do not place this before them as the aim of all Divine Precept, are apt to go very wide of the mark, and to engage their listeners with unprofitable controversial questions. The samo idea as to the main bearing of Divine Precept is given us by Our Lord in His answer to the lawyer's question, “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 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." (The imagery here is taken from the custom of fixing in the brickwork of Oriental houses large nails, upon which to suspend various domestic utensils.) And St. Paul in his Epistle to the Romans has the same idea in yet another form: “Owe no man any thing, but to love one another: for he that loveth another hath fulfilled the Law. Love worketh no ill to his neighbour; therefore Love is the fulfilling of the Law." Thus Love is represented in Holy Scripture, sometimes as the contents or filling up of God's precepts, sometimes as the mark or butt to which every precept is directed, sometimes again, as the stay and support upon which every precept is suspended. It is a great testimony to the importance of the doctrine thus announced, that it is thrice solemnly reiterated in
different parts of Holy Scripture, and under different forms of expression.
It is obvious that in order to solid proficiency in any kind of art, the student must first be furnished with a clear answer to the question, What is the object,—the end to be reached ? Take the art of oratory, for instance. What (in brief) is the thing to be done by the orator, the end at which he must aim? Let us say that it is to persuade the audience to adopt or refrain from a certain course of action. If he can persuade them to do what he advises, he hits the mark, he reaches the end of the art,-in a word, he succeeds. But if, after having heard him, they act in a way opposite to that which he recommends, he goes wide of the mark,—his speech is a failure. And this is a good subject to draw the instance from, because as a fact both speakers and hearers often do make much the same mistake as to oratory, which, as I shall presently show, is universally made as to Religion. Too often, for example, is a fine sermon thought to be, not that which gives a spur to the wills of the hearers, not that which induces them to set about reforming their lives, and becoming good people, but that which merely explains a difficult text of the Bible, or which goes towards settling a controversial question, or which, not even possessing merits as high as these, has merely fine language and flowers of rhetoric to recommend it. Now it is clear that the perception of the true end is the first step towards setting the practice right. I have done something towards rectifying my preaching, if I have settled it in my own mind that, on the one hand, I shall fail utterly, unless I send the audience away with a desire for, and an impulse towards, spiritual improvement, and that, on the other, I shall succeed perfectly, if I do send them away with such a desire and impulse, even if my sermon should settle no controversy, should explain no merely speculative difficulty, and should be absolutely wanting in fine words and in all the graces of style. St. John was a true orator in his old age, when from his infirmities he was unable to say no more than this, "Little children, love one another,” because the antecedents of that holy and venerable Bishop, and the deep and living sympathy with which he uttered the words, really moved the hearers to comply with the precept, and their feuds sank to rest at the sound of his voice.
Let us take an instance from another art, where there may perhaps be some doubt as to what should be the artist's object. What is the end of painting, the aim which the painter must set before him? Is it to deceive the spectator, to give him a false impression, to make him imagine that the painted object is a real one? It would seem that the ancients thought so from the story current among them of the trial of skill between Zeuxis and Parrhasius, in which one of them painted a bunch of grapes so like nature, that the birds came and pecked at them, and the other a curtain so like real drapery, that his brother artist called on him to draw the curtain and exhibit his picture. Or is the end of painting not
to deceive, but to please the spectator by a faithful imitation of Nature,—an end which is incompatible with deception; for if the spectator is to be affected with pleasure by the fidelity of an imitation, he must, of course, be aware that it is an imitation, and not the reality? And, again, how is Nature to be imitated by the painter? Servilely, and in a matter-of-fact way, line upon line, feature by feature?
Or shall we say rather that there is a soul in Nature, a soul in every countenance, ay, and a soul in every landscape, which struggles for a fuller development, and to which it is the painter's business to give expression ? In other words, is a photograph the very highest style of imitative art, because it is true in the letter? or is a portrait of Raffaelle's or Murillo's infinitely higher than any photograph can be, because it is true not so much in the letter as in the spirit ? It is not to my point to answer these questions, but only to call attention to the fact that they may be asked, and answered differently. And an artist who intends to paint successfully must have a clear answer to them in his mind before he begins. He must resolve himself on the question, "What is the true object of my art? Is it to produce deception? Is it to please persons by a faithful imitation of Nature? And if so, what is a faithful imitation? Is it a servile copy, like the Chinese imitation of pottery, which reproduces the flaws and the cracks; or is it the development of a feature which in the original seems to yearn for expression?" If this point be not settled