The commandments "Do not commit adultery," "Do not murder," "Do not steal," "Do not covet," and any other commandments, are summed up in this one decree: "Love your neighbor as yourself."
I. JUSTICE. Justice is the bond of human society. To do to others as we may reasonably expect them to do to us is indeed the golden rule which conserves all security and peace among men. To be just towards them is to respect their rights, And what are the rights of man? God has set them forth strongly, in their essentials, in that Decalogue which was the Divine code of justice for a barbarous nation. Think of them - rights without which life amongst others would be intolerable.
1. The right of life. "Thou shalt not kill." Sacredness of existence; but frailty. So precious, and yet so easily destroyed. And in wantonness, or in malice, man may destroy his brother-man. But the "Thou shalt not kill" sounds in his ears, a spoken law of God: the right of life must be conserved.
2. The right of sacred relationship, dearer than the right of life. "Thou shalt not commit adultery." Organic union of men. Relationships interwoven into human nature husband and wife, parent and child, brother and brother. The conjugal relation the foundation of the rest. Any tampering with this relation is, in its degree, adultery, and loosens the whole relational fabric; any violation of the sacrament of this relation, "They twain shall be one flesh," is in the highest degree adultery, and goes far to destroy the whole relational fabric. But the "Thou shalt not commit adultery" sounds in our ears, a spoken law of God: the rights of sacred relationship must be conserved.
3. The right of property. "Thou shalt not steal." An instinctive acquisitiveness in man; he lords it over the world. This acquisitiveness sanctioned by God: "have dominion." Same acquisitiveness, perverted from its proper use, may lead us to acquire that to which we have no right, to "steal" the property of our brother. But the "Thou shalt not steal" sounds in our ears: God utters his sanction of the sacredness of property.
4. Fundamental to all these main rights of man is the right to be secure from even the unlawful desire of a brother. "Thou shalt not covet." For "out of the heart proceed," etc. (Matthew 15:19). So to covet another's life, or wife, or property, even in the first faint beginning of desire, is to allow the lust from which all evil flows; and, as against "sin in its beginning," the "Thou shalt not covet" of God is uttered with solemn emphasis as the last commandment.
II. LOVE. The last commandment? Nay, for Christ has said, "A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another." We have seen how this is the bond of the new brotherhood in Christ; it is set forth here as the Christian's own safeguard of the rights of man. As a man amongst men you must respect the rights of men, i.e. you must fulfil the law; as a Christian amongst men you must love them for the Lord's sake, and so you assure your respect for all their rights, for "love is the fulfilment of the Law." Need this be proved? Law says sternly, "No ill to one's neighbour;" love says, "Give all good." Ah! here is a yet Diviner impulse, and covering a broader ground. And the Christian will be content with nothing less than this Diviner impulse and broader ground. But if there be the higher impulse, the lower shall be secure; if there be the wider range, the narrower shall be covered. Yes; love men, and you will work no ill. The importance of justice amongst men demands that, as good citizens, we see to it that justice is everywhere advanced; hence our parliaments, our courts. But that justice may be advanced, to say nothing of yet higher ends, let us, as Christians, cherish this principle which constitutes the second great commandment, "Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself." - T.F.L.
Thou shalt not commit adultery... and if there be any other commandment, it is briefly comprehended in this... Thou shalt love thy neighbout as thyself.
I. THE WHOLE LAW.
II. THE LETTER AND THE SPIRIT.
III. OUR NEIGHBOUR AS OURSELVES.
(J. Lyth, D.D.)I. THE OBJECT OF THE AFFECTION. Love of our neighbour, or benevolence, seeks the good of others, and in its noblest form is the perfection of God.
II. ITS PROPER EXTENT. "As ourselves." This implies —
1. That it is to be of the same kind. We have a common interest in others and in ourselves.
2. That it is to bear a certain proportion to our love for ourselves. What this proportion is to be is not easily decided, for affection is not easily measured; but as to actions, the expression of affection, the more others occupy our thoughts the better, provided we neglect not ourselves.
3. That it is to equal our love for ourselves, No ill consequences can ensue from this, for —(1) Men have other affections for themselves not felt for others.(2) They are specially interested in themselves.(3) They have a particular perception of their own interest, so that there is no fear of self neglect.
III. ITS INFLUENCE ON OUR GENERAL TEMPER.
1. To produce all charitableness.
2. To fit men for every relation and duty.
3. To moderate party feeling.
4. To prevent or heal all strife.
IV. WHAT IT INCLUDES — all virtue. It prompts men —
1. To seek the greatest happiness of all, which is itself a discharge of all our obligations.
2. To the practice of all personal virtues — temperance, etc., and certainly a neglect of these virtues implies a deficiency of love to others.
Love worketh no ill to his neighbourI. LOVE IS ESSENTIALLY AN ACTIVE PRINCIPLE.
II. WORKS NO ILL.
1. In deed.
2. In word.
3. In thought.
III. MUST WORK GOOD.
1. Wherever it has opportunity.
2. To the extent of its ability.
IV. IS THEREFORE THE FULFILLING OF THE LAW.
(J. Lyth, D.D.)
I. "LOVE WORKETH NO ILL TO HIS NEIGHBOUR." This is a broad truth. One's neighbour is primarily the one near — the near dweller, any one with whom we have to do. Christ has for ever answered the question, "Who is my neighbour?"
1. The spirit of this statement strikes a blow at all kinds of business which injure one's neighbour. It meets the servant and the master, the maid and her mistress; it enters the counting-house and the workshop; it confronts the lawyer and his client, the physician and his patient, the pastor and his people. It enters the social circle and hushes the voice of the slanderer. It stands like an incarnate conscience across the track of the vile wretch who would rob youth of purity and glory. It lifts a voice against the man who destroys his neighbour with strong drink. It thunders its condemnation in the ear of the gambler. It lifts before us the great white throne, and enables us to anticipate its final decisions.
2. This law of love also opposes all forms of bad example. The man who desecrates God's day, disbelieves God's book, and disobeys God's Son, is an enemy to his neighbour. No man has a right to set a bad example before men. The man who misleads the young may blight the lives of coming generations.
3. This law reaches those who are only negatively good. No man has a right to remain in that position. Your good name, while you remain in that attitude to God, makes your influence the greater and your condemnation the heavier. Have you accepted Christ as your personal Saviour? Then come to the Church. For the sake of your neighbour come into the ranks. Confess Christ; march in line with His people. Thus will you work no ill to your neighbour.
II. But it is clearly implied that LOVE WORKS WELL TO ONE'S NEIGHBOUR. This is a step in advance. It cannot rest in the mere negative condition. Love does not simply do no ill; it does well. It understands that to withhold good when it might be done, is as truly sin as to devise evil. Paul (1 Corinthians 13.) shows that it is the principle without which all other gifts are worthless. The Corinthian chapter is the inspired commentary on the Roman text. What a world this would be if this love dominated all the actions of men! Social life would be regenerated; commercial life be consecrated; heaven would be begun on earth.
(R. S. Macarthur, D.D.)
I. THE BEST EXPOSITOR OF THE LAW. It teaches us to keep it —
1. Conscientiously as in the sight of God.
2. Sincerely with the whole heart.
3. Fully in every point.
4. Perfectly, not merely negatively.
II. THE BEST KEEPER OF THE LAW. It fulfils it with —
2. All its strength.
(J. Lyth, D.D.)I. REACHES THE FULL EXTENT OF THE LAW.
1. It keeps the whole law; not only its prohibitions, but also its precepts.
2. Keeps it perfectly, not only with the hands, but with the heart.
3. Is never weary.
II. MAKES ITS PERFORMANCE EASY.
1. It draws help from a Divine source.
2. Supplies Divine strength.
3. Guarantees the Divinest reward.
(J. Lyth, D.D.)
I. TEACHES EVERYTHING.
1. It unfolds the spirit of the law.
2. Strengthens the voice of conscience.
3. Resolves all difficult questions.
II. DOES EVERYTHING.
1. Is not contented with the appearance.
2. Does not stop short half-way.
3. Seeks not for reward.
III. REWARDS EVERYTHING.
1. The good intention.
2. The secret act.
3. The greatest sacrifice.
(J. Lyth, D.D.)soul of every outward duty, and a cause that will produce these as effects.
I. LOVE IS THE SUBSTANCE OF THE DEMANDS OF THE LAW; it is their very essence and quintessence.
1. A tree may have a thousand branches, and ten thousand leaves, all of them having a different direction and shape; but they all arise out of life. So all the commandments are but the outward forms of an inward spirit, and that spirit is love.
2. Law does not fall so pleasantly on the ear as love. It is like a spiked wall between us and tempting fruit; or like the warning guide-post, "No road this way," precisely at the spot where the path seems to lose itself in the most enchanting scenery. But this is a false view of law. Love could not be the fulfilling of it if it were of this nature, but the abolishing of it. For what is law? A wanton restraint, a needless burden, the arbitrary exaction of a superior authority, and thus superfluous circumscription of our liberty, and wilful limitation of our pleasures? No! It is but such a limitation and restraint as secures for each man the largest sweep of liberty. It is true that if there were no human laws, certain individuals would be able to indulge their wills and passions over a much wider field; but what of the people generally? The man who can go beyond his just bounds of right, can only do so by invading the bounds of another. This is the essence of tyranny. Liberty can only live where law is the supremest thing. No man resents a just law, but he who is at heart an enemy to the righteous claims of his fellow-men. Law is a hedge; but no hedge is thorny and repulsive to a man who does not wish to break through and trample upon the sacred privileges of his neighbour.
3. Can you find a law of God which is in itself, and on all sides of it, a dark and repulsive thing? I know of no law of His which has not in its very heart this command, "Be happy." This has ever been the view of good men. "Oh! how love! Thy law! it is daily my delight." "Great peace have they that love Thy law." "Of law," Hooker has said, "there can be no less acknowledged than that her seat is the bosom of God, her voice the harmony of the world; all things in heaven and earth do her homage, the very least as feeling her care, and the greatest as not exempted from her power; both angels and men, and creatures of what condition soever, though each in differing sort and manner, yet all with uniform consent, admiring her as the mother of their peace and joy."
II. OBEDIENCE IS TO ARISE FROM LOVE.
1. There may be what men esteem the fulfilling of a law for which they have no respect. There is the fulfilling —(1) Which arises from fear, and despots may feel flattered and feel safer as they see a population pale with terror at their power. But that power is always the safest which inspires love. The law of God can never be obeyed through terror. Only think of a man obeying God because he dreads Him. Think of him saying, "If God were not as powerful as He is, I would set my heel upon His laws; but I am no match for Him, and therefore I submit and obey." Nay, you neither submit nor obey. You might do this in the case of an earthly king, whose laws are satisfied if they receive an external obedience. But God is a King and a Father, who says, "Thou shalt love"; not, "Thou shalt dread the Lord thy God." He is a Monarch whose laws you cannot obey except by loving Him. He clearly discriminates between what seems obedience and what is. "This people draweth nigh unto Me with their lips, but their heart is far from Me." You fathers know that it is not worth the name of obedience if your child serve you from dread of consequences.(2) Which is prompted by a mere sense of interest. This is little better than that we have just considered. Of course obedience brings sooner or later its own reward. But there is a great difference between pursuing a course which is profitable, and pursuing it because it is profitable. A faithful servant of a monarch may be paid for his service; but if he serves only for his pay, he is not a faithful servant. Will it be said that this seems to strike against the promises of the joys and glories of Heaven? No, they are far more gracious gifts than wages. When Christ says, "I will make thee ruler over many things," it is not because we have deserved it. And hence the saints in heaven cast their crowns at the feet of Him that sits upon the throne, saying, "Thou art worthy, O Lord," etc. And the crowns are not given to those who have served for gain; they are given to those who have served from love. The fulfilling of the law from love creates now its own heaven within the man.
2. The law of service is the law of love. This was so with Christ. "I delight to do Thy will, O God." And the service we render to Christ must be like that. "Lovest thou Me?" etc. And this truth applies equally to our relations to our fellow-men. "Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself." There is far too much of the spirit, in these times, which regards men as so many competitors on the great arena of life, each one feeling that he loses what another gains, and that he must do the best for himself, leaving the weaker to go unpitied to the wall. But Christ came to teach us a holier and more blessed law, viz., that we are all brethren, brethren in nature, brethren in Him, because He partook our nature, and "is not ashamed to call us brethren."
(E. Mellor, D.D.)I. THE NATURE OF TRUE LOVE. It is —
1. Universal, extending to being in general, or to God and all His creatures.
2. Impartial. It regards every proper object of benevolence according to its apparent worth and importance in the scale of being.
3. Disinterested. Mercenary love can never form a virtuous character.
II. TRUE LOVE IS THE FULFILLING OF THE LAW.
1. It conforms the heart to God. God is love. "Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect." If the moral perfection of man consists in conformity to the moral perfection of God, and the moral perfection of God consists in love, then love must be the fulfilling of the law.
2. It answers the full demand of the law. When a certain man asked our Saviour, "Which is the great commandment in the law?" He replied, "Thou shalt love," etc. So Paul says, "The end of the commandment is charity out of a pure heart." By this he declares that charity or true love fully answers the spirit and design of the law.
3. It makes us feel and act in every respect just as God requires. So far as we possess it, we shall both internally and externally obey every Divine command.
4. It restrains men from everything which God forbids.
(N. Emmons, D.D.)
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