« PreviousContinue »
tion of it could hardly be made, yet we are satisfied it is as frequently abused, as almost any precept which was enjoined by the Savior of men. The following ideas seem to be suggested by this subject.
1. The word "neighbor," in the text, is not to be understood in its ordinary acceptation, as implying "one who lives near another," in distinction from people more remote. Nor is it to be limited to one's friends, as it was by the Jews, when they said, "Thou shalt love thy neighbor, (thy friend,) and hate thine enemy." The word neighbor was employed by the Savior to express the common brotherhood of man. To this intent he mildly rebuked the expounder of the law, (as learned from Luke, chap. x.) who undertook to justify himself, in limiting his friendship to the Jews, to the exclusion of other nations. In an evangelical sense, all men may be considered as included in the term, "thy neighbor."
This doctrine will apply, also, to the different denominations of christians. Their different sentiments and forms of worship ought to have no more influence in exciting hard feelings towards each other, than the different occupations and employments of men in the same neighborhood. And we should think it extremely foolish, in people residing in the same vicinity, to defame and injure each other, because they could not all agree to follow one occupation for a livelihood.
2. How are we to apply the injunction in the text? Negatively, we may observe, it will not do for the confirmed bacchanalian, who has bathed in the river of dissipation till he has lost all regard for his own character, to present the inebriating cup to the lip of his friend, and urge him to drink, on the ground that he loves his neighbor as himself. Because it must be obvious to all, that being partially "beside himself," he is incapable of exercising a proper regard for any one.
The criminal, who has trampled under foot the good and wholesome laws of his country, and is brought before a court of justice, must not be allowed to plead the unlimited application of the text, and say to the judge or jury, If you had committed the crime alleged against me, you would not wish to be found guilty; therefore, "love your neighbor as yourself," and exonerate me. This would be a perversion of the command. Neither could the clerical "hypocrites," who reproached and persecuted the innocent Jesus, so avail themselves of this rule, when he boldly exposed their wickedness and hypocrisy, as to show that his dealings with them, were either imprudent or unkind. His proclaiming the universal love of God, and requiring men to love one another, did not render it improper for him to give them their true character. He never blamed them for giving a true description of him. No; it was their misrepresentations of which he complained.
But, affirmatively, the command, "thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself," is an excellent rule for all men, when in the unbiassed exercise of their reason. In their daily intercourse, they should endeavor to do as they would reasonably wish to be done by. It is the most salutary rule for those who are invested with authority; to prevent a misuse of powers, in oppressing the feeble and ignorant. Was this command written in living characters on the hearts of rulers, it would prevent much management and intrigue, by which the real interests of some part of the community are sometimes neglected or bartered away. If the rich possessed this love, they would not despise or oppress the poor. Professors of religion, also, would be governed by justice, mercy, and truth. But, mostly, when we take into consideration the infinite riches of grace and mercy, we shall, if we love others as ourselves, rejoice in their universal prevalence, and hail, with increasing
rapture, that auspicious morn, when the last sinner shall be subdued, and brought into a state of reconciliation and obedience to the Lord Jesus.
From the Universalist Magazine.
AN ADDRESS, DELIVERED BEFORE THE "CHARLESTOWN BEREAN SOCIETY," AT THEIR FIRST MEETING,
REV. C. GARDNER.
It has fallen to my lot, respected friends, to address you on this occasion;-and in performing the part assigned me, I shall propose as a suitable topic for consideration, the importance of religious inquiry.-Every thing that has a tendency to accelerate the advancement of divine truths, to diffuse liberal principles, and impart religious instruction, must be considered, by every christian and philanthropist, worthy of serious attention, and deliberate examination. It must be an object of sufficient magnitude and importance, to call into action all the energies and best feelings of the human heart; and stimulate to increased exertion every individual, who feels an interest in advancing the cause of moral virtue, and human happiness. Such being the case, we feel assured that our remarks will have a patient hearing, a candid examination, and, we hope, a suitable impression on every mind.
In order that we may learn the importance of religious inquiry, let us consider the glorious and sublime truths, which, as we believe, are inculcated in the scriptures of the Old and New Testaments. Consider too, the happy consequences resulting from them on the human mind:-And then consider how few there are, in comparison, that have been brought to a knowledge of them, and felt their effects. Many of you, I doubt not, can look back on the days that are past, and remember the time when you were ignorant of the divine plan,
which provides for the salvation of mankind, through the mediation of Jesus ;-and, if you can, contrast your present feelings with what they were then. Recollect what was the effect of that doctrine on your minds, which promised eternal life and salvation, only to a few; and then endeavor to realize the happiness which your present belief imparts. And if you can apprehend the difference, as I doubt not you can, you will perceive the importance of exerting yourselves in the cause you have espoused. You must know, by your own experience, that you cannot confer on any man a greater favor, than to bring him out of darkness into the light of divine truth. In comparison with this, what are the riches, the preferments, the honors, and the pleasures of this world! Place man in whatever situation you please; give him "every thing that his eyes desire," and let him "fare sumptuously every day," but if you withhold from him the "one thing needful," faith in the unbounded, impartial goodness of God, he must and will be wretched. In that moment, when reason urges him to turn his reflections within, and he complies, he will find a space, which sensual enjoyments can never fill; and be convinced that "all else beneath the sun," but truth and virtue, is "vanity and vexation of spirit."
If this be the fact, then, how important it is, that suitable means be put in requisition, to lead the minds of those that are wandering in darkness and error, into the "true light," reflected from the "Sun of Righteousness,” and to a "knowledge of the truth." The doctrine we believe and inculcate, requires the use of well-directed means, in order to build it up, and establish it in the world. Its nature and principles are such, however, that it does not require its advocates to descend to little artifices, and secret management, for its support. Every thing that it requires, may be done openly, fairly, and fearlessly. It discountenances every attempt of its
professors, to build themselves up on the ruin of others; and attaches no importance to insulated texts of scripture. It must stand, if it stands at all, on the broad basis, and permanent foundation of eternal truth; supported, on every side, by the immutable word of God. It must be built up, not on hay, wood and stubble, but on the "sure foundation," of which Christ is the "corner stone." It will then stand, in proud defiance, amidst the conflicting elements of this world, the storms of passion, and the furious blasts of anti-christian zeal.
In order then to build up the cause of liberal christianity, the cause we have espoused, we must "search the scriptures;" encourage a free and spirited inquiry into religious subjects; and elicit truth by mutual investigation. It is a well known fact, that many great and important truths have been discovered, by an open, fearless and unreserved investigation of theological subjects. Indeed, this has been the cause of all the light that has sprung up in the world, and all the discoveries that have been made in the science of theology, since the age of papal darkness. It is in consequence of this, that we are now permitted to acknowledge our disbelief of, and unite in putting down those doctrines which, in our apprehension, represent the Deity in an unfavorable, odious light. It is also from this cause, that we can, as a body of professed christians, sit down under our own vine and fig-tree, worshipping the Father of our spirits, agreeably to the dictates of our consciences, and there are none to molest us, or make us afraid. Surely then, the importance of religious inquiry cannot be doubted!
And when we consider the immense worth of those doctrines, so far as we have learned them, which are taught in the scriptures, we have a still more sincere conviction of the importance of religious inquiry. Religious truths, when obtained, we hold inviolably sacred; but we cannot get possession of them, without the use