« PrécédentContinuer »
men for ever to fulfil its demands. This written moral law is a clear copy of the law of nature; because there is not one rule contained in it, of the truth of which a man's conscience does not assure him. And in order to understand what influenced God to commit the moral law to writing, we need only to keep in remembrance the miserable and corrupt state into which sin has thrown mankind. For we have seen, that man, unenlightened by the blessings of the gospel, has but a dark idea of God and of virtue; and that, in consequence of his natural propensity to evil, he often excuses his own faults, and not unfrequently covers an evil disposition with fair speeches, and a good disposition with evil ones: thus, for instance, he calls meekness, cowardice; piety, superstition; and inconsiderate rashness, magnanimity. On this account, God, in order to prevent the false interpretations of men, was pleased to make known his own law in writing, that in it every one might for ever behold, as in a glass, what he ought to do, and what to avoid.
What is the foundation of the Law?
The whole law and all the commandments are founded on two things,-on love to God, and love to our neighbour.
In the ten words of Moses are contained the ten commandments, of which the first four teach us how we ought to love God, and the other six how to love our neighbour. This division was confirmed by our Saviour himself, when, in answer to the Pharisees, he referred to two commandments, love to God and to our neighbour; and then concluded, " on these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets," Mat. xxii. 40. And indeed, he that loves God and his neighbour, obeys all the commandments. For he that loves God with all his heart, will sincerely serve him, and glorify his name at all times, and on all occasions will exhibit the marks of his pious reverence of the Supreme Being. Also, if a man love his neighbour, will he not render to every one all due respect? will he refuse to help him who is in need, or dare to appropriate to himself that which belongs to another, or hurt and offend another in his life or honour, by word or by deed, or even in thought? Real love will never permit a man to do such things; and hence love is called "the fulfilling of the law, and the bond of perfection."
What is duty in the case of two opposite obligations interfering?
Here it is necessary to observe, that between
these two chief duties, namely, love to God and love to our neighbour, there sometimes takes place, as it were, a kind of war; that is, it happens that it is impossible to preserve love to yourself or to your neighbour, without infringing the love of God. For example: I am bound by the law of nature to preserve my life; but it happens, that, in order to preserve my faith in God inviolate, I am obliged to offer my life in sacrifice. The law of conscience obliges us also to honour our parents, to obey the higher powers, to love our wives and children; but it not unfrequently happens, that it is impossible to observe the demands of godliness otherwise than by leaving our parents, and refusing obedience to the higher powers, when they issue edicts contrary to the commands of God, or when parents endeavour to lead their children from the way of salvation, which frequently was the case in the time of Christian persecutions. In such cases, love to God should overcome all other considerations, so that we ought to forget ourselves, and consider even the most precious things of life as nothing, so soon as they obstruct our love to God and our own salvation. And in this sense, our Saviour spoke these words: " If any man come to me, and hate not his father and mother, and wife and children, and brothers and sisters, yea, and his
own life also, he cannot be my disciple;" John xiv. 26. This, the chosen vessels of Christ have actually been enabled to do, accounting all things but loss, that they might obtain Christ. In this consists, the renouncing of the world and of self.
The same interference in the claims of opposite duties may also take place in the love we are called to shew to our neighbour; for under this designation, all men are comprehended. Some, however, are my neighbours, in a higher sense of the expression, than others; thus for instance, a parent or relation is nearer to me than a person unknown or a stranger; a brother in the faith is nearer than an unbeliever; a countryman than a foreigner; a benefactor and friend than an enemy. We are bound in duty, according to the commands of the gospel, to love all these, and to seek to do them good; however, when we cannot do good to them all taken collectively, we ought to respect one before another; as for example, our relations are to be preferred to a stranger, a believer to an unbeliever, &c. And the apostle exactly commands us to make this distinction: Gal. vi. 10, "Let us do good unto all men, especially unto them who are of the household of faith;" that is, who agree with us in the faith. And in another place, 1 Tim. v. 8. “But if any provide not for his own, and specially for
those of his own house, he hath denied the faith, and is worse than an infidel." The very same remarks may be applied to the love we bear to ourselves. Though naturally, our love to ourselves is great, and we are bound to love our neighbour as ourself, and not more; nevertheless, love to the general good, that is, to the best interests of society, ought to be respected in a still higher degree than love to one's self.
The first commandment teacheth us, that we ought to believe in our hearts and confess with our mouths, that there is but one God; and that our belief in his divine attributes, should be conformable to what we are taught of them in his word.
Of the unity of God, and of his other divine attributes, we have already spoken in the beginning of the First Part in Section v. where we have proved, both from reason and revelation, what conceptions we ought to have of the majesty of God. Therefore, when our conceptions respecting God correspond with what is there stated, then we obey this first commandment.
Those who transgress against this commandment are:
1. Atheists, who, with inexcusable wickedness, dare to say that there is no God. But as the