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Of our duty towards our Neighbour, and of the relative honour which we owe to him, as our Parent, Prince, Teacher, Husband, Master; of a higher rank, or a greater age; with the duties of such Persons towards us.
1. Q. What do the commandments of the second table respect?
A. Our duty towards our neighbour.
2. Q. What is the general foundation of our duty towards our neighbour?
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which shews what that inward affection is, which every one ought to have for his neighbour; the other how we ought to regulate our outward actions towards each other. Matt. xxii. 39. The second is like unto it, thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. . vii. 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.
3. Q. Is a man obliged, in all cases, to do all that for his neighbour, which he would desire his neighbour should do for him?
A. Yes, certainly, provided the rule be but rightly stated, and duly limited by us: otherwise it may prove a snare rather than a guide to us.
4. Q. How then do you suppose that this rule is to be understood by us?
A. We must first set ourselves in our neighbours place, and then put it to our consciences; were his case our own, what would we desire that one in our circumstances should do for us, and then conclude, that we ought to do the same for him. Thus, for example, if a poor man ask an alms of us, we must not think that we are at liberty to refuse him, because we neither need nor desire that any one should relieve us; but we must bring his case home to ourselves, and suppose that were we in his circumstances, poor and destitute, would we not then think it reasonable that one in our circumstances should relieve us; and that will shew us that therefore we ought to relieve him.
3. Q. But must we then, after such a change of circumstances, absolutely do to others whatsoever we would, in the like circumstances, desire that they should do to us?
A. 1 do not say that neither: men may desire what is unlawful, and then in conscience of our duty to God, we must deny them. They may desire what is unreasonable, or may be greatly inconvenient to us; and, in such cases, though we owe a duty to our neighbour, yet we must retneinber that we owe a duty to ourselves too; and must consider our own interests as well as those of our neighbour. If a man should fall into such circumstances as to need my telling of a lie, or forswearing myself to bring him safely out of them, though I should be so wicked as to desire, in the like case, that another would do the same for me, yet I am not therefore obliged by this rule to do this for him; because neither ought I to desire such a thing of another, nor ought any other to desire it of me, or do it for me.
Again, should a man desire me to be bound with him for a considerable sum of money, which J cannot pay without great damage to myself, aud prejudice to
my family: though I should perhaps wish that bad I the same occasion that this man has, another would be bound for me; yet because the desire is unreasonable, and such as in duty to myself, and my family, I ought not to comply with ; neither am I obliged by virtue of this rule, to answer his desires in it.
6. Q. What then do you take to be the true import of this rule?
A. That whatsoever I could justly and reasonably desire of another man in my circumstances; and it would become him, in charity, to do for me, the same I ought to do for my neighbour, and thereby make it manifest, as the other rule directs, that I do, indeed, love him as myself.
7. Q. To how many commandments has God reduced our duty towards our neighbour ?
A. To six; which make up the whole of the second table.
8. Q. What is the first of these?
A. Honour thy father and thy mother, that thy days may be long in the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee.
9. Q. What is the proper extent of this commandment ?
A. It expressly regards only our natural parents; but the reason of it extends to all sorts of persons who are in any respect our superiors, and to whom we owe any singular honour upon that account; and to the most of which the very `name of fathers is given in the IIoly Scriptures.
PROOFS SUBJOINED.— * Gen, xlv. 8. So now it was not you that sent me hither, but God : and he hath made me a father to Pharaoh, and Lord of all his house. Job, xxix. 16. I was a father to the poor ;
and the cause which I knew not I searched out. Judg. xvii. 10. And Micah said unto him, Dwell with me, and be unto me a father and a priest, and I will give thee ten shekels of silver by the year, and a suit of apparel and thy victuals, xviii. 19. And they said unto him, Hold thy peace, lay thine hand upon thy mouth, and go with us, and be to us a father and a priest. 2 Kings, ii. 12. And Elisha saw it, and he cried, My father, my father, t/ie chariot of Israel and I he horsemen thereof. And he saw him no more. v. 13. And his servants came near, and spake unto him, and said, My father, if the prophet had bid thee do some great thing, wouldest thou not have done it? How much rather then, when hesaith unto thee, Wash and be clean. vi. 21. And the king of Israel said unto Elisha, when he saw them, My father, shall I smile them? shall I smile them? xiii. 14. Now Eitslm was fallen sick of his sickness, whereof he died. And Joash, the king of Israel, came down unto him, and wept over his face, and said, Omy father, my father, the chariot of Israel, and the horsemen thereof. Isa. xlix. 23. And kings shall be thy nursing fathers, and their queens, thy nursing mothers. 1 Cor. iv. 15. For though ye have ten thousand instructors in Christ, yet have ye not many fathers: for in Christ Jesus, I luive begotten you through the Gospel.
10. Q. What are the chief relations to which this commandment may be referred?
A. They are especially these following: first, of children towards their parents: second, of subjects towards those who are in authority over them: third, of scholars towards their governors: fourth, of ordinary Christians towards their ministers: fifth, of servants towards their masters: sixth, of wives towards their husbands: seventh, of younger persons towards the aged: and, eighth, of those who are in slower degree, towards such as are in a higher place of state and dignity.
11. Q. Does not this commandment require some return of duty from those who are upon any of these accounts to be honoured by us.
A. In the equity of it, it certainly does: and therefore as it is our duty to honour them, so it is no less their duty to behave themselves, as their relation requires, towards us.
] 2. Q. What do you mean by honouring of such persons?
A. Not a bare formal respect; but with that, all that love, duty, and obedience; all that help and service, which they may justly expect from us, and which our own reason tells us we ought to yield to them.
Proofs Subjoined.—Eph. vi. 1,2. Children, obey your parents in the Lord: for this is right. Honour thy father and mother, which is the first commandment with promise. Col. iii. 20. Children, obey your parents in all things: for this is well pleasing unto the Lord. 1 Tim. v. 3, 17, 18. Honour widows that are widows indeed. Let the elders that rule well be counted worthy of double honour, especially they who labour in the word and doctrine, vi. 1, 2. Let as many servants as are under the yoke count their own masters worthy of all honour, that t/ie name of God and his doctrine be not blasphemed. And they that have believing masters, let them not despise them, because they are brethren; but rather do them service,