« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »
It is the object of the following Essays to indicate, as briefly and plainly as possible, what our duty is, and the conditions necessary for its performance. They are produced by those who belong to the humble walks of life, and who are dependent on their own labour for the bread that perisheth. This position is, perhaps, an advantage in dealing with the subject under consideration, as it enables the writer to take a practical view of the subject, guided of course by the light shed from the Holy Scriptures. Imperfections are to be found in each Essay ; but it may be that the deficiencies of one are supplied by some other writer. In presenting these Essays, therefore, besides the usefulness of showing the capacities of the working classes, a complete compendium is presented of the whole range of that most momentous matter—Man's Duty to his Neighbour,--and in the hope that their perusal will waken minds, now dormant, to reflection and action in the cause of God, their fellow men, and themselves, we give this work to the world.
MAN'S DUTY TO HIS NEIGHBOUR.
Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.
This is the first and great commandment.
Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thysell.-MATT. xxii. 37, 38, 39.
IN the above passage the Divine Teacher enunciates, in terms the most comprehensive and complete, the great and paramount duties of man; firstly, his duty to the great Being, to whose creative power and benevolence he owes his existence, his high destiny, and all those great intellectual and moral powers and affections which pre-eminently distinguish him; and socondly, his duty to his neighbour, whom he is
commanded to love as himself. And in considering these great precepts, it is worthy of particular note, as shewing the solemn nature of man's duty to man, that the same expressive term, love, is carried from the first to the second commandment, thus interweaving, as it were, and rendering inseparable, man's duty to God and to his neighbour. And, indeed, the two duties are inseparable.
The love of God, in the exercise of which we are commanded to exert the whole energy of our souls, differs only in degree from the love due to our neighbour. The love of God is that feeling of intense reverence and veneration which fills and animates the mind of man when in communion with the great Author of his being, the contemplation of whose attributes of infinite power, of wisdom, of goodness, and of mercy, naturally moves the soul to feelings of devotion more profound than all other objects of human meditation. Man's love to his neighbour is a sentiment necessarily less exalted and intense, and exhibits itself in acts and feelings of kindness, good-will, friendship, affection, tenderness, and the like. But though these latter duties are of a more humble nature, their full performance is not the less necessary, as we have seen, to meet the requirements of God's will. It is true that upon man have been lavished the choicest gifts of God's goodness. Endowed with an immortal soul, his destiny stretches into and connects him with eternity. Honours and privileges unknown to earth he is invited and entreated to accept, upon conditions, involving, indeed, much self-denial and spiritual discipline, but the faithful performance of which is not only quite within his power, but conducts him by the paths of peace, to the blissful presence of his Maker. In the powers of his mind, also, which enable him to contemplate, with wonder and delight, the countless evidences of Divine wisdom, goodness and power displayed in the stupendous works of the visible world, and teach him to look up from these to the great Source and Author of them all, we see how pre-eminently man has been distinguished. But notwithstanding all these high honours and exalted capabilities, man is, in many respects, a feeble and helpless being, and constantly in need of external aid and assist
In his health and strength he needs this succour; in his infancy, sickness and old age it is indispensable to his being. If it had pleased God, man might have been gifted with powers within himself to serve all the purposes of his worldly existence; but unerring wisdom and goodness has ordained it otherwise, and out of man's necessities springs man's duty to man, and the Divine command “Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.”
Since, then, man owes to his fellow-man a duty second in importance only to that which he owes to his Maker, and the due performance of which, as a Divine command, is equally obligatory upon him, let us now direct our attention to those peculiar obligations which make up man's duty to his neighbour.–And first as to
“The just man walketh in his integrity; his children are blessed after him."-Prov. xx. 7.
The union of all the virtues in one person constitutes moral perfection. The connection of the virtues is so intimate and indissoluble ; they are so closely allied in their nature and object, that any neglect or violation of one, vitiates, to the same extent, the whole character. A man may, for instance, in the ordinary sense of the word, be just, but if to his justice he does not add mercy, his character is defective; in other words, he falls short of his duty to his neighbour, and therefore to God. But perhaps, of