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LOVE, THE FULFILLING OF THE LAW.
ROMANS Xiii. 8-10.
He that loveth another, hath fulfilled the law. For this,Thou shalt not commit adultery, thou shalt not kill, thou shalt not steal, thou shalt not bear false witness, thou shalt not covet, and if there be any other commandment, it is briefly comprehended in this saying, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. Love worketh no ill to his neighbour; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.
THE foundations of that goodly edifice of law and duty, which the commandments, when put together, form, having been already treated of in my former sermons; I shall now proceed briefly to examine the upper parts of the building. You have had your duty to God set before you. You have been taught that covetousness is a worship of Mammon, that
lust is a worship of Belial, that malice and revenge is a worship of Moloch, and that consequently they who indulge these, or indeed any other evil desires and evil passions, sacrifice, as St Paul expresses it, to devils. So that these three mother vices, hatred, sensuality, and covetousness, are all clean contrary to that first and great commandment, "Thou shalt have none other gods but me." Here then is one great foundation laid for the edifice of law and duty, which I will call the foundation of piety. But further, what you owe to your parents has likewise been set before you and in speaking on that point, so much was said about the great evil and danger of self-will and pride and disobedience, and the opposite graces of self-denial and humility and obedience were so urged on your minds, that here another great foundation was also laid, which I will call the foundation of self-abasement.
Now these two foundations are not only broad and deep enough to support the whole weight of our duty both to God and man; they are also capable of furnishing a great part of the materials for the building. For just as the builder, who would build solidly, must build the whole of goodly stone, hewing the materials for his foundation and for his superstructure out of the same
quarry, so is it in religion. Here too, after selfabasement has sunk the ground deep, and piety has laid its foundations solidly,-here too, after the man has been emptied of his wilful self, and filled with the will of God instead,-the same principles of godliness and self-denial are requisite to carry up the building heavenward. Without godliness to carry it on, the building is like to come to a stand: without straight and strict and severe lines of self-denial and humility, to keep every act and thought in its place, the building will be sure to bilge somewhere. The walls will have their weak side; a skilful eye will discover a swelling out in it, like a breach ready to fall; and sooner or later it will come down. So important are the two principles of godliness and self-abasement, not to the foundations merely, but likewise to the whole edifice of duty.
Well, then, supposing these principles laid in and provided for you, what more is wanting to complete the edifice? Only the cement of love. Therefore, instead of taking you through the last five commandments, one by one, I have chosen a text from St Paul, which classes all the five together, and declares them to be all included under the universal law of love. "He that loveth another (says that apostle) hath fulfilled the law.
For this,-Thou shalt not commit adultery, thou shalt not kill, thou shalt not steal, thou shalt not bear false witness, thou shalt not covet, and if there be any other commandment,-it is briefly comprehended in this saying, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself." Thus far what the apostle says must be plain and clear to all. No man can have any difficulty in understanding, that, if we love a man, we shall not try to kill him, nor to draw the affections of his wife from him, nor to rob him, nor to tell lies of him, nor to do him any other injury. So far all is clear. But St Paul goes a step further. "Love worketh no ill to his neighbour; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law." Love is the fulfilling of the law: what does that mean? To fulfill a thing is to fill it full, so that no part of it is left void or empty. Thus we pray in the Communion Service, that all who have partaken of that holy communion,-all, that is, who have partaken of the body and blood of their Saviour Christ, spiritually set before them in that holy sacrament,―may be fulfilled, or fully filled, with God's grace and benediction. We pray that they may be brimfull of grace and blessings, so that no part of them may be left empty of grace, no part of them unguarded and unhallowed by the Spirit of our Lord and Saviour. This is the meaning of fulfilling. It is an image taken
from a cup filled as full as it can hold; and it is applied, both in Scripture and in the language of common life, to a great number of things. In the book of Exodus we read, that Pharaoh's taskmasters required the children of Israel, after the straw had been taken from them, to fulfill their daily task in making bricks as before: that is, they were required to give in fully as many bricks as they had been accustomed to make during the time when straw was given to them. The tale, or quantity, of bricks demanded of them was not to be diminished. In the same way, to fulfill a promise is to keep it fully and completely and so to fulfill a duty is to discharge it fully and completely, leaving no part of it neglected or unperformed.
After this we shall have no difficulty in perceiving how much St Paul means by fulfilling the law. He means that we should do every thing it.
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requires of us to the very utmost. tually and exactly to give in every single one of the tale of bricks, or rather of the fine hewn stones, which God demands from us toward building up the edifice of duty. We are not to break, or to neglect, or to overlook any part of any one of the commandments, under the pretense that it is a little one, that it is a trifle, that it cannot signify, that there is no good in being too particular,-re