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Cease to do evil; learn to do well.-Ifa. i. 16.
WE have here the whole duty of man in two sentences. We are first to cleanse the heart from wickedness, and then to adorn it with virtues. The ground must be prepared, before the feed can be fown. But there is a manifold difference between these two operations, and the prophet seems to mark it. By the powers of nature, he seems to suppose we may cease to da evil. Conscience, in many cases, is a law unto itfelf; and, if it be attended to, will curb many of the great excesses of vice. We know it may, from the practice of several heathen worthies. -But though nature may, in a good degree, prevent our doing evil, something more is required to teach us to do well-something, as the prophet says, which we are to learn. Here the gospel comes in : it teaches us to spiritualize our affections, and to regulate all our actions by its holy precepts.
Happy is he who condemneth not himself in that
thing which he alloweth.-Rom. xiv. 22.
FEW men are so wicked as not to make some
The Scribes and Pharisees sit in Moses's feat. All,
therefore, what they bid you observe, that observe and do: but do not after their works; for they say, and do not.—Matt. xxi. 2.
This is a very severe cenfure of a very corrupt priesthood—a priesthood that gives instruction, without example. How far this censure of the Scribes and Pharisees characterizes the mi. nisters of our church, I should not wish to investigate. Numbers, no doubt, there are, who add example to precept: at the same time, we fear there are many who say, and do not. To instruct, is an easy matter. There is ready access, in this enlightened age, to instruction of various kinds, which may be easily given at second hand; and Moses's seat may be very well filled. But a holy example is a different matter. Here we cannot draw from others, as we may, topics of instruction. We must draw all from ourselves; and if future considerations have no weight with us, let us at least consider the scandal of talking and acting in different ways, and thus continually giving ourselves the lie.
This people honoureth me with their lips ; but their
heart is far from me.Matt. xv. 8.
HIS was spoken of the Scribes and Pharisees, whose religion went no farther than their lips.But it was the application of a prophecy, which may extend to this people, or that people, or any people, who treat God with their lips, and not with their hearts.—More or less, all our prayers, alas ! come under the prophet's censure. Who can keep his devotion so guarded, as never to suffer his thoughts to idle abroad? But when we keep the best guard upon them we can, in driving out all intruding thoughts, it may be hoped we may in a great degree escape the prophet's censure. He only is the guilty person, who deliberately makes the time of his devotion a time for thinking over any subject which may then occupy his thoughts—who can settle an account, in his mind, at church, or adjust the terms of a bargain—and have his lips alone in God's service.
What is a man profited, if he should gain the whole
world, and lose his own soul ?--Matt. xvi. 26.
E see how highly our blessed Saviour esti. mates the soul of man. All the gratifications which the whole world can afford, he tells us, are nothing in the comparison.—What then shall we say of the folly of those men, who sell their souls, in a manner, for nothing—for a few of the fugitive and guilty pleasures of this world? What shall we say of him, for instance, who sells his soul for a little knavish gain?-or of him, who sells it for the pleasure of getting drunk ?or, for the pleasure of cursing and swearing ?or, for any other of the short-lived pleasures of this world? For all these wretched commodities, we know, the soul of man is often bartered. Let us then be ashamed of so ruinous a trade; and take care to preserve faithfully fo noble a deposit as the soul of man, which our Saviour thought was more valuable than even the whole world of inanimate nature.