The second is this: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.' No other commandment is greater than these."
I. True RELIGIOUS INQUIRY IS ENCOURAGED BY CANDOUR AND SPIRITUAL INSIGHT ON THE PART OF RELIGIOUS TEACHERS. Matthew tells us that the Pharisees came together top the same place." when they saw the disscomfiture of the Sadducees; and "then one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question, tempting him, and saying." Mark introduces him as one of the scribes. In the one Gospel the motive and encouragement are represented as experienced by the Pharisaic party in general; in the other they are represented as individually felt and acted upon. There were, therefore, elements of earnestness and spirituality amongst the Pharisees, and these were called forth by our Saviours teaching. They were now in a more favorable attitude for receiving the truth than they had ever been before. As to the idea expressed by "tempting," it need not be understood in a sinister sense, but generally as proving, testing, etc. Our Lord did not crush the spirit of inquiry, but courted it. They felt that there was more in him than they could explain, and that his knowledge of Scripture was spiritual and profound, and therefore they wished to discover what he could possibly have to tell them that was not already taught by Moses or his prophetic exponents. He had all but converted his enemies and critics into his disciples. He had infected them with his own spirit of religious earnestness. Of this mood the "lawyer" was the mouthpiece. He pushes inquiry to its highest point, and desires to know the chief duties of religion.
II. THE BEST MODE OF ANSWERING SUCH INQUIRY IS THAT WHICH PRESENTS THE SPIRIT AND SUBSTANCE OF DUTY, OR TRUE RELIGION IN ITS UNITY AND UNIVERSALITY. "Deuteronomy 6:4. This is not given as a part of the Law of Moses, but as the principle of all service. Leviticus 19:18 contains a similar principle for all social duties" (Godwin). Passing over all matters of mere ceremonial, and questions of less or more, he lays hold of the spirit of the Law and presents it to his inquirer. It is out of the very heart of the hook of ceremonies (Leviticus) that the duty to neighbors is extracted. He declares "the three unities of religion:
(1) the one God;
(2) the one faith;
(3) the one commandment" (Lunge);
and compels the agreement and admiration of his questioner. "Note also the real reverence shown in the form of address, 'Master,' i.e. 'Teacher, Rabbi.' He recognized the speaker as one of his own order" (Plumptre). All religion is summed up by him in a "great commandment," viz. the love of God, and that is shown in its earthward aspect to involve loving our neighbor as ourselves. That true religion is not ceremonial but spiritual is thus demonstrated; and in quoting the highest utterances of the prophets, the scribe but endorses and restates the same doctrine. Teacher and inquirer are therefore theoretically one. But more is needed; and towards the attainment of this the stimulus is given, "Thou art not far from the kingdom of God. This meant that -
III. SUCH INQUIRY CAN ONLY BE SATISFIED AND CROWNED BY ACTING UPON ITS HIGHEST SPIRITUAL CONVICTIONS. The words are significant as showing the unity of our Lord's teaching. Now, as when he spoke the sermon on the mount, the righteousness which fulfils the Law is the condition of the entrance into the kingdom of God (Matthew 5:19, 20). Even the recognition of that righteousness as consisting in the fulfillment of the two commandments that were exceeding broad, brought a man as to the very threshold of the kingdom. It is instructive to compare our Lord's different method of dealing, in Luke 10:25-37, with one who had the same theoretical knowledge, but who obviously, consciously or unconsciously, minimized the force of the commandments by his narrowing definitions" (Plumptre). "The kingdom of heaven is, for the moment, pictorially represented as localized, like the ordinary kingdoms of the world. The scribe, walking in the way of conscientious inquiry, and thus making religious pilgrimage, had nearly reached its borderland. He was bordering on the great reality of true religion, subjection of spirit to the sovereign will of God" (Morison). This state can only be attained to by conversion, the identification of the sinner through faith with the righteousness of the Savior, and the indwelling of the Spirit of God. It is thus scientific conviction becomes moral, and we are able to carry into effect what we know to be true and right. - M.
Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.I. I SHALL MAKE A FEW OBSERVATIONS CONCERNING THE NATURE OF THIS DUTY. This phraseology has been very differently understood by different persons. Some have supposed it to contain a direction that we should love our neighbour with the same kind of love, which is exercised towards ourselves. This plainly cannot be its meaning. The love which we usually and naturally exercise towards ourselves is selfish and sinful. Others have insisted, that we are required to love them in the same manner as ourselves. This cannot be the meaning. For we love ourselves inordinately, unreasonably, without candour, or equity; even when the kind of love is really evangelical. Others, still, have supposed, that the command obliges us to love our neighbour in exactly the same degree in which we ought to love ourselves. This interpretation, though nearer the truth than the others, is not, I apprehend, altogether agreeable to the genuine meaning of the text. It has, if I mistake not, been heretofore shown satisfactorily, that we are in our very nature capable of understanding, realizing, and feeling whatever pertains to ourselves more entirely than the same things when pertaining to others; that our own concerns are committed to us by God in a peculiar manner; that God has made it in a peculiar manner our duty to "provide for our own, especially for those of our own households"; and that thus a regard to ourselves, and those who are ours, is our duty in a peculiar degree. To these things it may be justly added that we are not bound to love all those included under the word neighbour, in the same degree. Some of these persons are plainly of much greater importance to mankind than others; are possessed of greater talents, of higher excellence, and of more usefulness. Whether we make their happiness or their excellence the object of our love; in other words, whether we regard them with benevolence, or complacency, we ought plainly to make a difference, and often a wide one, between them; because they obviously and exceedingly differ in their characters and circumstances. A great, excellent, and useful man, such as St. Paul was, certainly claims a higher degree of love from us than a person totally inferior to him in these characteristics. For these, and various other reasons, I am of opinion, that the precept in the text requires us to love our neighbour generally and indefinitely as ourselves. The love which we exercise towards him is ever to be the same in kind, which we ought to exercise towards ourselves; regarding both ourselves and him as members of the intelligent kingdom; as interested substantially in the same manner in the Divine favour as in the same manner capable of happiness, moral excellence, and usefulness; of being instruments of glory to God, and of good to our fellow creatures; as being originally interested alike in the death of Christ; and, with the same general probability, heirs of eternal life. This explanation seems to be exactly accordant with the language of the text. "As" does not always denote exact equality. In many cases, for example, in most cases of commutative justice, and in many of distributive justice, it is in our power to render to others exactly that which we render to ourselves. Here, I apprehend, exactness becomes the measure of our duty. The love which I have here described is evidently disinterested; and would in our. own case supply motives to our conduct so numerous and so powerful as to render selfish affections useless to us. Selfishness therefore is a principle of action totally unnecessary to intelligent beings as such, even for their own benefit.
II. THE LOVE HERE REQUIRED EXTENDS TO THE WHOLE INTELLIGENT CREATION. This position I shall illustrate by the following observations: —
1. That it extends to our families, friends, and countrymen, will not be questioned.
2. That it extends to our enemies, and by consequence to all mankind, is decisively taught by our Saviour in a variety of Scriptural passages. It is well known that the Pharisees held the doctrine, that, while we were bound to love our neighbour, that is, our friends, it was lawful to hate our enemies. On this subject I observe(1) That the command, to love our enemies, is enforced by the example of God.(2) If we are bound to love those only who are friends to us, we are under no obligation to love God any longer than while He is our friend.(3) According to this doctrine, good men are not bound in ordinary cases to love sinners.(4) According to this doctrine, sinners are not ordinarily bound to love each other. From these considerations it is unanswerably evident that all mankind are included under the word neighbour.
3. This term, of course, extends to all other intelligent beings, so far as they are capable of being objects of love; or in other words, so far as they are capable of being happy.
4. The love required in this precept extends in its operations to all the good offices which we are capable of rendering to others.(1) The love required in this precept will prevent us from voluntarily injuring others.(2) Among the positive acts of beneficence dictated by the love of the gospel, the contribution of our property forms an interesting part.(3) Love to our neighbour dictates also every other office of kindness which may promote his present welfare.(4) Love to our neighbour is especially directed to the good of his soul.Remarks:
1. From these observations it is evident, that the second great command of the moral law is, as it is expressed in the text, "like the first." It is not only prescribed by the same authority, and possessed of the same obligation, unalterable and eternal; but it enjoins exactly the exercise of the same disposition.
2. Piety and morality are here shown to be inseparable.
3. We here see that the religion of the Scriptures is the true and only source of all the duties of life.
(T. Dwight, D. D.)I. EXPLAIN THE SECOND COMMAND.
1. Who is my neighbour?(1) Some regulate their charities by local habitation: for a stranger, or one afar off they have no compassion.(2) Some have a law of relationship. "What! assist the heathen while I have poor relations?"(3) Others confine charity to their own nation.(4) Others to the same religious profession.(5) Many think themselves justified in excluding enemies. The Jews understood the word neighbour to signify "thy friend."(6) The last rule of exclusion is that which relates to character. Even if notoriously vile, there is no plea for neglect: benevolence, under these circumstances, may often gain their souls! Is the inquiry still urged, "Who is my neighbour?" Every human being, without exception. "As ye have opportunity, do good unto all men." If redeeming love made the exclusions we make, where should we be? In hell; or, if in the world, without God and without hope. "Be ye therefore perfect, as your Father in heaven is perfect." Christianity makes distinctions, but no exclusions. With these distinctions, every man is your neighbour, and you are bound to fulfil towards him the duties of love.
2. What is my duty to my neighbour? It includes:(1) The dispositions we are to cultivate and the conduct we are to observe towards him in all the intercourse and transactions of ordinary life. It, includes(2), as already remarked, the benevolence we are to exercise towards our neighbour in distress; because then he is more particularly the object of regard and affection. If the text were more obeyed there would be far less evil in the world.(3) The endeavours we ought to make for the salvation of the soul.
3. What is the measure of duty to your neighbour? "To love him as yourself." Self-love is thus lawful and excellent, and even necessary. It is not the disposition which leads unregenerate man to gratify vicious appetites and passions. This is rather self-hatred. Nor that which leads us to grasp at all advantages, regardless of the consequences to others. This is selfishness. But that principle which is inseparable from our being; by which we are led to promote our own happiness, by avoiding evil and acquiring the greatest possible amount of good. This is the measure for our neighbour. While avoiding everything that would injure him in body, family, property, reputation, seek to do him all the good you can, and do it in the way in which you would promote your own welfare.Now, how does a man love himself?
1. Tenderly and affectionately. Then so love your neighbour. While helping him, never show sourness of countenance or use asperity of language.
2. Sincerely and ardently. This will make him prompt and diligent, in everything he thinks, for his good. "Say not unto him, go and come again, and tomorrow I will give, when thou hast it by thee." Our opportunities for doing, as for getting, good are precarious. Now is the accepted time.
3. Patiently and perseveringly. So if we do not succeed by one means we try another, keeping on to life's end. Consider how varied the means which God employed with you. Having thus explained the text, let us,
II. ENFORCE IT. In doing this, we make our appeal.
1. To authority. His, who is Lord of all.
2. To example. Example is of two kinds. First, those we are bound to imitate: these are strictly patterns for us. Secondly, those which, though we are not obliged to follow, yet, for their excellence, are worthy of imitation.
3. To the connection and dependence which subsist between us and our neighbour. We are parts of one and the same body, and each is expected to contribute to the general good.
4. How much present pleasure arises from the exercise of this duty. This is present pleasure; and have we not present advantages too? Is not charity a gain?
5. Advert to the future recompense of benevolence.(1) The love of our neighbour originates in, and is always connected with, the love of God.(2) That benevolence must not infringe upon justice. No man should give in alms what belongs to creditors.(3) The most proper objects are often those who are least willing to make known their distress.
(John Summerfield, M. A.)
I. To show WHAT NEIGHBOUR, IN THE TEXT, MEANS. The word neighbour primarily and properly signifies one that is situated near unto us, or one that dwelleth nigh us. But by use and custom of language, the same word neighbour has been made to signify one that we are any way allied to, however distant in place, or however removed from the sphere of our conversation or acquaintance. From all which it is plain, that in construction of gospel law, every man whom we can any way serve, is our neighbour. And as God is a lover of mankind at large, so ought every good man to consider himself as a citizen of the world, and a friend to the whole race; in real effect to many, but in good inclination and disposition, and in kind wishes and prayers, to all. So much for the extent of the name, or notion of neighbour.
II. Next, I am to explain, WHAT IT IS TO LOVE OUR NEIGHBOUR, OR ALL MEN, AS WE LOVE OUR OWN SELVES. There is the more need of frequent exercise this way, because indeed selfishness is originally sown in our very nature, and may perhaps be justly called our original depravity. It shows itself in the first dawn of our reason, and is never well cured, but by a deep sense of religion, or much self-reflection. From hence may appear our Lord's profound wisdom and deep penetration into the darkest recesses of man's heart; while to the precept of loving one's neighbour, He superadds this home consideration, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. Not so highly, or so dearly, as you love yourself (for that is not expected) but as highly and truly as you could reasonably desire of him, if his case and circumstances were yours and yours were his. Judge from yourself, and your own just expectations from others, how you ought to behave towards them, in like cases and circumstances.
III. Having thus competently explained the precept of the text, it remains now only, that in the third and last place, I LAY DOWN SOME CONSIDERATIONS PROPER TO ENFORCE IT.
1. First, Let it be considered, that this second commandment, relating to the love of our neighbour, is so like the first, relating to the love of God, and so near akin to it, and so wrapp'd up in it, that they are both, in a manner, but one commandment. He that truly, sincerely, consistently loves God, must of course, love his neighbour also: or if he does not really love his neighbour, he cannot, with any consistency or truth, be said to love God.
2. It may further be considered (which indeed is but the consequence of the former) that by this very rule will the righteous Judge of all men proceed at the last day; as our Lord Himself has sufficiently intimated in the twenty-fifth of St. Matthew.
(D. Waterland, D. D.)
(Forbes.)I. ENDEAVOUR TO EXPLAIN TO YOU THE NATURE OF TRUE LAUDABLE SELF-LOVE AND SHOW YOU WHAT IS NOT MEANT BY IT. The mistakes to which we are generally liable as to this matter; and then what we are to understand by self-love, in what respects it is our duty.
1. That it is not self-conceit, an extravagant opinion of our own qualifications, and an unreasonable esteem and value for ourselves.
2. By self-love I do not mean self-indulgence, allowing ourselves in the gratification of sensual appetites without restraint or control, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and giving liberty to our own inclinations and passions however irregular and unbounded.
3. Neither does this duty consist in taking care only for the body, in employing all our thought and care, spending all our pains, and all our time in making provision for our subsistence in the world.
4. By loving ourselves, I do not mean what we may call selfishness, a confining our regard and concern wholly to ourselves, minding our own pleasures, or our own interest, not caring what becomes of others, what difficulties they go through, what miseries they suffer. For a further explication of this duty of love to ourselves, take the following particulars.(1) It must be regulated by love to God, and our relations and obligations to Him.(2) The measure of our love to ourselves must likewise be adjusted by the love and duty we owe to others; just as the love of others to themselves should be such as is consistent with their love and duty to us.
II. OUR LOVE MUST EXTEND TO OUR WHOLE SELVES, BODY AND SOUL.
III. TRUE LOVE TO OURSELVES MUST HAVE RESPECT TO ETERNITY AS WELL AS TIME. The arguments for rational religious self-love are such as the following.
1. The excellent nature of the soul requires a regard for ourselves, and a concern for our own welfare, and particularly for the true happiness of the soul.
2. To love ourselves, and to show a concern for our own welfare is a natural duty.
3. Your eternal salvation depends upon your serious concern for yourselves.
4. Consider the love of God to souls, manifested in his declarations of goodness and mercy.
5. How great is the loss of the soul! It is shameful folly and ignorance to think that any pleasure you can find in the way of sin will in any measure compensate it: What is a man profited.
PeopleDavid, Herodians, Isaac, Jacob, Jesus
TopicsCommand, Commandment, Fellow, Greater, Law, Love, Lovest, Namely, Neighbor, Neighbour, None, Thyself
Outline1. Jesus tells the parable of the tenants
13. He avoids the snare of the Pharisees and Herodians about paying tribute to Caesar;
18. convicts the Sadducees, who denied the resurrection;
28. resolves the scribe, who questioned of the first commandment;
35. refutes the opinion that the scribes held of the Christ;
38. bidding the people to beware of their ambition and hypocrisy;
41. and commends the poor widow for her two mites, above all.
Dictionary of Bible ThemesMark 12:31
1175 God, will of
2363 Christ, preaching and teaching
2048 Christ, love of
5381 law, letter and spirit
7552 Pharisees, attitudes to Christ
2057 Christ, obedience
LibraryGod's Last Arrow
'Having yet therefore one son, his well-beloved, he sent him also last unto them.'--Mark xii. 6. Reference to Isaiah v. There are differences in detail here which need not trouble us. Isaiah's parable is a review of the theocratic history of Israel, and clearly the messengers are the prophets; here Christ speaks of Himself and His own mission to Israel, and goes on to tell of His death as already accomplished. I. The Son who follows and surpasses the servants. (a) Our Lord here places Himself in …
Alexander Maclaren—Expositions of Holy Scripture
Not Far and not In
The Marvels of Holy Scripture, --Moral and Physical. --Jael's Deed Defended. --Miracles vindicated.
Obedience to God the Way to Faith in Christ.
The Unity of the Divine Being
For the Candid and Thoughtful
The First and Great Commandment
Observing the Offerings and Widow's Mites.
A Serious Persuasive to Such a Method of Spending Our Days as is Represented in the Former Chapter.
The Cross as a Social Principle
Whether to the Words, "Thou Shalt Love the Lord Thy God with Thy Whole Heart," it was Fitting to Add "And with Thy Whole Soul, and with Thy Whole Strength"?
The Tribute Money
Christ and the Sadduccees
The Discerning Scribe
The Widow's Mite
Talks with Bohler
The Room was Like and Oven
The Morality of the Gospel.
In Reply to the Questions as to his Authority, Jesus Gives the Third Great Group of Parables.
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