Deuteronomy 10:12.And now, Israel, what doth the Lord thy God require? After having expounded each Commandment in its order, it now remains for us to see what is the sum of the contents of the Law, and what the aim and object of its instructions. For Paul elicits its true use, when he declares that its end is
“charity, out of a pure heart and of a good conscience, and of faith unfeigned,” (1 Timothy 1:5,)
since even then it had its false interpreters, who, he says, had “turned aside unto vain jangling,” when they swerved from that object. Now, as it is contained in two Tables, so also Moses reduces it to two heads, that we should love God with all our heart, and our neighbor as ourselves; for, although he does not unite the two in one passage, yet Christ, by whose Spirit he spoke, ought to suffice to explain to us his intention, (Matthew 22:37;) for, when He was asked what was the great Commandment of the Law, He replied that the first indeed was, that God should be loved, and the second like unto it, regarding the love of our neighbor; as if He had said, that the whole perfection of righteousness, which is set before us in the Law, consists of two parts, that we should serve God with true piety, and conduct ourselves innocently towards men according to the rule of charity. The same is the sense of Paul’s words, for the faith, which is there called the source and origin of charity, comprehends in it the love of God. At any rate, the declaration of Christ stands sure, that nothing is required of us by the Law, but that we should love God, together with our neighbors. From hence a short and clear definition may be laid down, that nothing is required unto a good life except piety and justice. (174)
Paul, indeed, seems to add a third clause, when he says, that
“the grace of God hath appeared, teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world,” (Titus 2:11, 12;)
but this σωφροσύνη, (soberness,) is there added as the seasoning, so to speak, of a just and pious life; and assuredly no one will prove that he aims at holiness and integrity, unless by living chastely, honestly, and temperately. Thus, where the service of God is omitted, (175) and the doctrine of the Law confined to the love of our neighbor alone, it is not so much that religion is put out of sight (176) ( sepelitur,) as that the proof of it is made to rest on serious self-examination; for since it is the way with hypocrites to cover themselves with ceremonies as with a mask of sanctity, whilst they are puffed up with pride, burn with avarice and rapacity, are full of envy and malice, breathe out threatenings and cruelty, and are abandoned to filthy lusts, Christ, in order to disperse these clouds of pretense, declares that the three chief points in the Law are “judgment, mercy,” and fidelity, (177) ( Matthew 23:23;) and elsewhere, discoursing of the righteousness of the Law, He makes no mention of the First Table. ( Matthew 19:18.)
For the same reason, Paul calls charity the fulfillment of the Law, (Romans 13:8,) and elsewhere, “the bond of perfectness.” (Colossians 3:14.) Still, nothing was further from their intention than to draw us away from the fear of God, that we might devote ourselves to our duties towards men, as I have already shown from another passage, where Christ, in summing up the Law, begins with the love of God. And Paul, where he teaches that we should be altogether perfect, if faith works in us by love, (Galatians 5:6,) does not omit the cause and principle of a good life. And thus are reconciled the passages which else might appear contradictory, via, that holiness is perfected in the fear of the Lord, when
“we cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit,” (2 Corinthians 7:1;)
“all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself,” (Galatians 5:14;)
that is to say, because our piety cannot otherwise make itself clear by certain proof, unless we behave justly and harmlessly towards men. (178) Again, since “our goodness extendeth not to” God, so it is perceived what our mind is by our performance of the duties of the Second Table, as it is said in the Psalm,
“my goodness extendeth not to thee, but to the saints that are in the earth, in whom is all my delight,” (179) (Psalms 16:2;)
for how will any one boast, (as John says,) that he loves God, whom he does not see, if he loveth not his brother with whom he is familiarly united? (1 John 4:20.) Since, therefore, falsehood is thus detected, God exercises us in piety by mutual charity; and hence John concludes, that
“this Commandment have we from him, That he who loveth God love his brother also.” (1 John 4:21.)
Before, however, I say any more of these two precepts, we must observe the end of the Law as it is described by Moses; “Now, Israel, what doth the Lord thy God require of thee, but to fear the Lord thy God, to walk in all his ways, and to love him, and to serve the Lord thy God with all thy heart and all thy soul?” For, although he further eulogizes the Law, because it prescribes nothing which nature does not itself dictate to be most certain and most just, and which experience itself does not shew us to be more profitable, or more desirable than anything else, still, at the same time, he reminds us what is the means by which it is to be kept. (180) Therefore he sets before us at the same time the fear and the love of God; for, inasmuch as God is the Lord, He justly desires to be feared in right of His dominion; and, inasmuch as He is our Father, He requires to be loved, as it is said in Malachi 1:6. Let us learn, therefore, if we would set ourselves about keeping the Law, that we must begin with the fear of God, which is hence called the “beginning of wisdom.” (Psalms 111:10; Proverbs 1:7, and Proverbs 9:10.) But, since God has no pleasure in extorted and forced obedience, love is immediately added. And this deserves to be well weighed, that whereas there is nothing pleasanter than to love God, still it always occupies the first place in all His service. Surely he must be more than iron-hearted who is not attracted by such kindness; since, for no other cause, does He invite and exhort us to love Him, than because He loveth us; nay, He has already prevented us with His love, as is said in 1 John 4:10. Meanwhile, we may at the same time gather, that nothing is pleasing to God which is offered “grudgingly or of necessity; for God loveth a cheerful giver.” (2 Corinthians 9:7.) It is true that Paul is there speaking of alms-giving; but this voluntary and hearty inclination to obey, such as we see in good and ingenuous children, who take delight in subjection to their parents, ought to be extended to all the actions of our lives. And assuredly the reverence which is paid to God flows from no other source than the tasting of His paternal love towards us, whereby we are drawn to love Him in return; as it is said in Psalms 130:4, “There is forgiveness with thee, that thou mayest be feared.” Whenever, then, we hear what Scripture constantly inculcates; “O love ye Jehovah, (181) all ye his meek ones!” (Psalms 31:23.) let us remember that God shews Himself loving towards us, in order that we may willingly and with becoming cheerfulness acquiesce in what He commands.
The perfection which is here required shews with sufficient clearness how far we are from a thorough obedience to the Law. We are commanded to love God with all our heart, and soul, and strength. However much we strive, our efforts are weak and imperfect, unless the love of God has possession of all our senses, and all our desires and thoughts are altogether devoted to Him, whilst all our endeavors are also directed to Him alone. But every one is abundantly convinced by his own experience, in how many ways our minds are carried away to vanity; how many corrupt affections creep over us; how difficult it is for us to restrain and overcome the evil motions of our flesh. Surely the very best wrestler, with all his strivings, is hardly able to make advances in this spiritual warfare; and if it be a great attainment not to faint altogether, certainly none will dare to boast that he comes near the mark which is set before us in the Law. In short, whenever worldly snares and foolish appetites insinuate themselves upon us, we must so often feel that some part of our soul is empty of the love of God, since otherwise nothing repugnant to it would penetrate there. The word heart here, (182) as elsewhere, is not used for the seat of the affections, but for the intellect; and, therefore, it would have been superfluous to add διάνοιας, as the Evangelists have done, unless for the purpose of removing all ambiguity; but because this signification was not commonly in use among the Greeks, they have not hesitated to add a word of their own in explanation. Those, however, who are well acquainted with the teaching of Moses, are not ignorant that the word heart is equivalent to mind; for he elsewhere says, “The Lord hath not given you an heart to understand, (183) and eyes to see, unto this day,” ( Deuteronomy 29:4;) but the expression would have been obscure to the Greeks, as being unusual in their language. (184)
Be the first to react on this!