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Lord said unto Satan, Hast thou considered my servant Job, that there is none like him in the earth, a perfect and an upright man, one that feareth God, and escheweth evil? Then Satan answered the Lord and said, Doth Job fear God for nought ? Hast not thou made an hedge about him, and about his house, and about all that he hath on every side ? Thou hast blessed the work of his hands, and his substance is greatly increased in the land. But put forth thine hand now, and touch all that he hath, and he will curse thee to thy face. And the Lord said unto Satan, Behold, all that he hath is in thy power.”
We here find, not only that the malicious and subtile accuser, takes it for granted on all hands, that a mere mercenary religion was really no religion at all; but we see the Most High himself, implicitly concedes, in the plainest manner, that if what Satan had insinuated were true, Job's character as an upright man, must be given up. For in answering this allegation of the adversary, the matter of fact only is disputed, and permission is given to put that matter to the severest trial.
The next passage which I shail mention, in proof that disinterestedness is essential to true benevolence, is one that respects the love of our fellowmen ; and is Matt. v. 43-47, where our Saviour says, “ Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbor and hate thine enemy : But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them who despitefully use you, and persecute you ; that ye may be the children of your Father in heaven : for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust. For if ye love them that love you, what reward have ye? do not even the publicans the same? And if ye salute your brethren only, what do ye more than others ? do not even the publicans so?"
Is it not asserted, or most manifestly implied, in these words of our great Teacher, that our love of others, if it at all resembles the divine benevolence, or is any evidence of our being born of God, must be disinterested ? or must not be of that kind which is excited merely by the goodness of others to us?
I will add, in direct scripture proof of this point, only the second great commandment ; “ Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.” This, in the lowest construction, must mean, that we are required to love others with the same sincerity, or to bear them the same kind of good will, that we do ourselves. Now, no man loves himself for the sake of his neighbor only: the command must therefore be understood as enjoining, that we love our neighbor, not merely for our own sake.
And as it is an evident doctrine of scripture, so it is a plain dictate of reason and common sense, that there is nothing of virtue in the love we bear to a fellow-creature, or of piety in our love of God, unless it be disinterested. No one feels obliged to another for a kindness done him, when he is well satisfied it was not out of any real good will to him, but merely from some selfish motive. And when we read in history, of actions apparently the most generous, they instantly lose all their glory, if it be discovered that the agent's own interest or honor, was his only inducement. The case is the same res. pecting the pharisaical devotee, or the vain-glorious martyr. Self-seeking, when it is seen, whatever may be the means, is not the thing for which a man is admired by his neighbor.
Indeed, to suppose self the primary principle, and only ultimate end, of the virtuous and good, is obviously to confound all real distinction between the best and the worst of characters. All men, and undoubtedly devils also, have self-love enough ; and are capable of all those actions and affections which have this only, for their basis. If, therefore, this
were the bottom principle in the virtuous and good, it is plain, there would be no essential difference of character between saints and sinners, or between the angels of heaven and devils in hell. All the difference would be merely circumstantial ; arising from the different conditions in which they are placed, the different treatment they receive, and the different ideas they have of the disposition of other beings towards them, or of their own interest.
Enough has been said, I think, to make it evident beyond all reasonable controversy, that the charity intended in the New Testament must be disinterested, as well as impartial, universal benevolence.
We will now inquire, as was proposed,
II. How this is the end of the commandment. On this, we must be brief.
By the commandment, I conceive is meant, the whole moral law. In this extensive sense the word is used, Psal. cxix. 96, “ I have seen an end of all perfection ; but thy commandment is exceeding broad.” Prov. vi. 23, “ The commandment is a lamp, and the law is light.” "Rom. vii. 9, “ I was alive without the law once ; but when the commandment came, sin revived, and I died.” And that this is meant by the commandment in our text, seems probable by what follows in the next verses: “ From which some having swerved, have turned aside unto vain jangling ; desiring to be teachers of the law,” &c. Nor is there any difficulty in seeing how what is here asserted of it will hold true, if we understand the commandment in this universal sense. For,
1. The end of the commandment is charity, as the design of God in every part of his holy law, was pure benevolence. Deut. vi. 24, “ The Lord commanded us to do all these statutes, to fear the Lord our God, for our good always, that he might preserve us alive."
2. The end of the commandment is charity, as true benevolence will lead us to feel and conduct in all respects, as the divine law requires. Christ is said to be the end of the law for righteousness to them that believe, because he hath fulfilled all righteousness for them. And in like manner, charity is the end of the commandment, because love is the fulfilling of the law. Had we an ultimate and supreme respect to the glory of God, and a proper concern for the good of our neighbor, we should keep all the ten commandments, with readiness and delight : and denying ungodliness and worldly lusts; we should live soberly, righteously, and godly ; as the grace of God that bringeth salvation teacheth. It is very obvious, that a due degree of impartial, disinterested, universal benevolence, would be an effectual restraint from every thing which the moral law forbids, and a prevailing excitement to all those duties and virtues, which either the law or gospel requires.
3. The end of the commandment is charity, as without this there can be no such conformity to law or gospel, in any of our actions or affections, as will partake at all of the nature of righteousness and true holiness. The apostle says, “ Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal. And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge ; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing. And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing.” He means there is nothing in any of these which is praiseworthy, or which will be recompensed at the resurrection of the just, if sincere love to God and men be totally wanting. And this is perfectly agreeable to reason and common sense. Certainly no gifts, nor beneficent offices, nor fortitude, nor flaming religious zeal, can please God, if we have no ultimate view to serve and glorify him. Certainly no action can have the least moral excellency, if the agent have no benevolent intention. Take away all true benevolence out of any thing which is esteemed a virtue, and you take away all the virtuousness of it, according to the feelings of every man's conscience. Let us try this with respect to justice. Let us suppose a judge that feareth not God, neither regardeth man but to avoid trouble or escape reproach, he does justice in some cases : or suppose him, from custom, to have contracted a habit of passing righteous sentences, so that he takes a kind of pleasure in it; but without any thoughts of serving God, or doing good. What virtue can there be in this, any more than there is in a pair of scales when they give just weight ? Let us try it with respect to truth. Is there any virtue in saying that which is true, without any benevolent or good design ? If so, then it must be a virtue to speak the truth to rocks and hills, when one is alone, and knows that no creature hears him. Speaking the truth in love, is virtuous : to speak it out of malice, is vicious : to speak it without intending good or ill, is idle and impertinent. The apostle says to the Ephesians,“ Putting away lying, speak every man truth with his neighbor.” And he enforces it by this very good reason ; " for we are members one of another.” The good of every society to which we belong, requires of us a sacred regard to veracity in all our words. Without this there could be no mutual confidence ; no administering justice ; no knowing what ought to be done for the decision of most controversies. But if we have no regard to the commandment enjoining it, nor to the end of the commandment--the good of society or of individu