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THE RULE OF DUTY TOWARDS OTHERS.
MATT. vii. 12.
12. “Therefore, all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to
you, do ye even so to them; for this is the law and the prophets." In the law delivered to the Jews by Moses, a man's conduct towards his neighbour is regulated ; and numerous provisions are enacted to prevent cruelty and wrong dealing. The prophets enforce the same; and declare the anger of God against the nation because they had neglected these laws, and considered their own interests, not their neighbour's welfare. Our Lord lays down a precept, which, as He says, comprises in itself all that the law prescribed in regard to men's behaviour towards each other, and all that the prophets insisted on. This is the law-all the law is comprehended in this saying:—this is the prophets—by so acting ye will obey them :-whatsoever ye would that men should do unto you, even so do unto them. So that if a man desire to fulfil the will of God in his dealings with another, he need not resort to books, or to men who are learned in books; he need only inquire of himself, his own feelings, his own conscience ; then he will see the truth at once, and regulate his conduct by what he sees. A man loves himself too well, to do harm to himself; and if he treats his neighbour as he would himself be treated, he will do no harm to his neighbour. Let him transfer himself to his neighbour's place, and consider what in those circumstances he might expect—might justly and reasonably desire. Justly and reasonably. For the demand must be limited by reason, not dictated by covetousness. Lot, for example, could not justly have demanded as due to
him from another what Abraham yielded of his own accord : he could not expect the elder and the stronger
“ The whole land is before thee; if thou wilt take the right hand, then I will go to the left." Here Abraham granted, in his liberality, more than reason or justice could strictly have required. But, on the other hand, Naboth had a right to expect that Ahab should remain satisfied with his own possessions, when he found that Naboth’s conscience would not permit him to part with “ the inheritance of his fathers.”? The beggar who asks for alms, has no right to expect that his richer neighbour should change places with him. But he may justly expect that we 'turn not away our face from him,” but inquire into his case, and treat him as it deserves. He may be one who makes a trade of begging, and deserves nothing at our hands ; but he may also be one who is not to blame for the misfortunes which have brought him to indigence. The trading beggar, while he seeks relief, is conscious that he has no proper claim; the man who is not criminal, but unfortunate, may justly require us to judge of his feelings by our own.
Suppose, for instance, the case in our Lord's parable, of the man who “fell among thieves," and was left by the way side, naked and wounded. The priest and Levite would not have passed by if they had consulted their own heart as to what they would have wished under a like calamity, and might reasonably have desired. So, again, it might have been an unjustifiable claim if Lazarus had expected a chamber in the rich man's house, or a place at his sumptuous banquets. But he might justly look for “ the crumbs which fell from the rich man's table.” It would be absurd to expect that one who hires the labourer to reap his fields or build his castle, should transfer himself to the labourer's place, and work in his stead. But he must Gen. xiii. 7-9. 2 1 Kings xxi. 2, 3. 8 Luke x, 30-32.
4 Luke xvi. 21.
give no room for the complaint, “Woe unto him that buildeth his house by unrighteousness, and his chambers by wrong: that useth his neighbour's service without wages, and giveth him not for his work.”
6 Behold, the hire of the labourers who have reaped down your fields, which is of you kept back by fraud, crieth ; and the cries of them that reaped are entered into the ears of the Lord of sabaoth."
The common practice of the world is, in respect to PROPERTY, that “all seek their own." The rule ought to be: “ Look not every man at his own things, but every man also on the things of others :" consult his own interests so as not to affect the interests of his neighbour. St. Paul condemns falsehood and fraud on this ground ; saying, “Speak every man truth with his neighbour : for we are members one of another :"* and ought to be as unwilling to injure another as ourselves. The servant offends against this law who wastes his master's time; the master, who requires more of his servant than his due ; the seller, who misrepresents the quality of his goods; the buyer, who delays payment. None of these act towards others, as they would that others should act towards them. “ Nay, they do wrong, and defraud one another."
The same duty extends to the CHARACTER of our neighbour : sometimes the only property he has ; always the best property. No one desires that his own good should be evil spoken of, that his piety should be set down to hypocrisy; his charity imputed to ostentation. No one that has fallen into error, would desire that it should be blazed abroad, and supply fuel to the tongue of envy or ill will. All would wish that charity to be exercised towards themselves, which casts a veil over the offences of a brother, instead of disclosing them in the face of day; which, instead of supposing harm without sure proof,“ beareth all things, 5 Jer. xxii, 13.
6 James v. 4. 7 Phil, ii. 4. 8 Eph. iv. 25.
believeth all things, hopeth all things.' Such is the spirit in which we desire to be treated ; and they who have been “taught of God” the happy exercise of Christian love, will act in this spirit towards others.
But how justly may we utter David's prayer, and say, “Enter not into judgment with thy servant, O Lord, for in thy sight shall no man living be justified.” For who could bear to be tried by the letter of this law ? Where shall we find the man amongst us, whether he has been used as a servant to obey, or as a master to command; whether he has been used to deal with others as a buyer or seller; whether he has spoken, or forborne to speak, when his neighbour's character was concerned ;—where shall we find the man who has never transgressed the rule of doing unto others whatsoever he would that they should do to him ?
This, however, must be the rule by which we try and examine ourselves : this the standard which we set before us and desire to attain; for whatever is less than this, is contrary to the law and the prophets, and
comes short of the glory of God;" and is part of that corruption of our nature, which our Lord and great Example came into the world to atone for and
9 1 Cor. xii. 6.
I Rom. iii. 9.
THE WAY OF LIFE NARROW.
Matt. vii. 13, 14. 13. “Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is
the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in
thereat : 14. “Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth
unto life, and few there be that find it.” What is here declared, deserves our most serious attention, and must never be dismissed from our minds. It comes from Him who cannot deceive or be deceived
; and He says, strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it. He
says, that there are two ways, by which men are passing through this world to another; two different ways, and leading to different ends; that one of these is strait or narrow, found by few; the other wide and broad, and many go in thereat. Further, that the gate which few enter, is the gate of life; whilst the broad way which the many follow, leadeth to destruction.
This truth, however awful, agrees but too well with all we see and observe. Broad is the way that leadeth to destruction. Many paths unite and conduct to the same end.
Those must be in the way of destruction, who “ live without God in the world;" those who-whether blinded by ignorance, or perverted by false philosophy ;—whether occupied in business or immersed in pleasure, --still " have not God in all their thoughts," are regardless of his will, and do nothing to his glory.
Those must be in the way of destruction who live in the allowed practice of sin. “For this ye know, that no whoremonger, nor unclean person, nor covetous man, who is an idolater, hath any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God.”
Eph. v. 5.