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MARK xii. 29.

And Jesus answered him ; The first of all the

commandments is, Hear, O Israel! the Lord our God is one Lord.

It was well said by a good man, that it is much better to speak with God, than of God. Religious disputes and controversies are too apt to divert men from the practice of piety and benevolence, which are the end of all true religion. For it is much easier to talk about our Maker, than to do the things that he requires of us; and few are dispassionate enough to oppose another's opinions, without entertaining at the same time a dislike to his person.

This disputatious spirit was the disease of the learned Jews in our Saviour's time. They spent their hours in their private studies most unprofitably, and their discourses also to the


people turned chiefly upon nice determinations which of the precepts of the law was to have the preference, instead of being careful to obey them all; whether their ceremonial law of outward services and ordinances, or the moral law of righteousness, justice, and benevolence, were to take place of each other? In which cases, they commonly decided against the plainest dictates of truth and goodness ; as, for instance, when they countenanced persons in giving their substance to the service of the temple and use of the priests, although they thereby let their parents starve ;

for which unnatural conduct our Lord upbraids them in the severest terms. (Mark vii. 7–13.)

The scribe, however, or doctor, to whom our Lord makes the reply which I have read to you, seems to have been of a better character than the generality of his profession, and to have made the inquiry, not in a captious way, but with a high opinion of the wisdom of Jesus, and a real desire of information. (ver. 28.) “ And one of the scribes came, and having heard them reasoning together, and perceiving that he had answered them well, asked him: Which is the first commandment of all ?"


Our Lord then being thus called upon to give his decision on so important a point, Which was the first commandment of all ? sets himself to do it with great solemnity:

“ And Jesus answered him ; The first of all the commandments is, Hear, O Israel! The Lord our God is one Lord : and thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength :--this is the first commandment. And the second is like, namely this : Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. There is none other commandment greater than these.”

The man was so struck with the wisdom and authority with which Jesus delivered himself, that he could not forbear declaring his high approbation of him; which showed a great degree of courage and integrity, when all the great, and all of his own order, were so bent against him. (ver. 32, 33.) « And the scribe said unto him: Well, Master! thou hast said the truth : for there is one God, and there is none other but He. And to love him with all the heart, with all the understanding, with all the soul, and with all the strength, and to love his neighbour as himself, is more




than all whole burnt-offerings and sacrifices."

Before our Saviour declared which was the first commandment of all, he laid down the doctrine of the divine Unity which relates to it; that there is but one Jehovah ! one person, one single intelligent Being who is God! and none other but He.

And you observe with what awful reverence he himself adopts, and refers them to the words of Moses their lawgiver, his predecessor, on whose foundation he built : “ Hear, 0 Israel ! Jehovah our God is one Jehovah :” not two or three Jehovahs, but one


We shall therefore do well to follow our Lord's method and example, in examining the foundations and evidence which we have for this great point, and primary article of all true religion, and considering some of the useful practical consequences which we are to draw from it. And

I. That there is a God and governor of all things ; giving life and being to all things, himself receiving none ; of boundless wisdom, power, and goodness. This most plainly ap


pears to the inquiring mind from our own existence and make, and that of the world about us, which must be traced up to some first intelligent powerful cause; unless we will absurdly maintain that any thing could make itself, could act before it had a being.

And that this great first cause of all things is one single Being, is apparent from the wonderful harmony, connexion, and mutual dependence of all things; from the wise and benevolent design with which every thing appears to be made ; and the more appears, the more things are searched into and examined ; from the disposition, for instance, and state of the air, the seas and winds, and their various uses for the service of man and beasts, and the vegetable world ; the exact situation, adjustment, and motions of the heavenly bodies, and the change of seasons thereby caused for the regular production of the fruits of the earth; the different talents and capacities of mankind all concurring for the general good. These, and many other like instances, obvious to the meanest capacity, and satisfactory to the highest, evince that all things spring from, and are under the direction of, one wise and good Being, to whom the universe is subject. 2 2


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