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over two or three generations only for the purpose of again returning, the same spirit of wickedness and jealousy which had shewn itself in the person of Cain, again presented itself to the great-grandchildren of the faithful and devout Abraham, and urged them to meditate the slaughter of their brother, the favourite son of their venerable father, who had been destined by the Almighty to preserve them, in a subsequent period, from destruction. The habits of disobedience to the divine commands, of ingratitude and idolatry, which the descendants of these displayed, not only during their bondage in Egypt, and their protracted wanderings in the wilderness, but even afterwards when they had attained the summit of their wishes, when they had reached the land of their fathers and become formed into a distinct and powerful nation, are indeed facts of sad and indisputable notoriety. As a fair and even a favourable specimen of human nature, they bear witness to the lamentable truth, that the change must indeed have been great which the heart of man had at some time undergone, after the moment when he first came perfect out of the hands of his Almighty Creator.
I have already observed that the moral obligations imposed upon the Jews, were of a less precise and a less perfect description, than those which were subsequently imposed upon the disciples of the Redeemer. The duties enjoined by the law, were but an epitome of those which the Gospel requires. And after the remarks which have been
just made, on the gradual and corrupt change of our nature, the reason of this may be perceived without difficulty. The information which is well suited to a person of mature years, would be ill adapted to the same being in a state of infancy or childhood. The law was therefore a "schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ." The duties which this enjoined were consequently few and general, when compared with those inculcated by the Gospel. Jesus Christ, however, did not come to destroy the law, but to fulfil it. There was, therefore, no opposition between the Law of Moses and the Gospel of Christ, only the latter was more perfect and more complete than the former. St. Paul, in speaking of the graces which alone were suitable to the perfecting of the Christian character, exclaimed thus: "Faith, hope, and charity, these three." An exclamation, it is true, which represents to us the amazing purity and perfection of the Redeemer's kingdom; yet does it fully harmonize with the injunction, contained in the concluding portion of our text :-" to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God."
You have already seen, brethren, on the testimony of the Old Testament, the true and undoubted word of God, that mankind having taken their start from any point of comparative purity and perfection, have not ascended higher, nor even remained stationary, in respect of their moral character, their duty to the Almighty, and their knowledge of him; on the contrary, they have become worse, they have invariably degenerated into a state little better than that
of the brutes that perish. Now I beseech you to mark well this fact, because without doing this, you will not be enabled duly to appreciate the value of our text as applied to ourselves. Man then, I repeat, in a state of natural impurity, and unredeemed by Divine Grace, loses all knowledge of the Creator, and thereby becomes reduced to a level with the beasts of the field. Recollect, moreover, that the natural instinct of the brute tribes prompts them to revenge any injury that is offered them, as far as they have it in their power, for the sake of revenge alone, and for the gratification which this affords them. Such a practice as this too well agrees with our own feelings, to allow us in any way to doubt of its applicability to mere animal instinct. The Almighty, therefore, being well acquainted with the feelings of fallen and imperfect man, was graciously pleased to humour his prejudices in this respect, and to allow him to exact an equal compensation for an injury sustained, provided he did not imitate the worse practices of brutes, by being himself the aggressor in an act of violence against another. When however our Lord appeared, the purity of his institutions would no longer admit of so imperfect and so incomplete a morality as this. "Ye have heard," said he, "that it hath been said, an eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth: but I say unto you that ye resist not evil." And if the Christian should plead his human imperfection as unequal to the performance of that, which was not imposed upon the disciple of Moses merely because
he was unable to perform it, in such a case I would refer him to the declaration which the Almighty once made to St. Paul: "My grace is sufficient for thee my strength is made perfect in weakness." The Christian, therefore, instead of indulging in so unbecoming a complaint, ought rather to imitate the language of the just named Apostle, and with him exclaim, "by the grace of God I am what I The power, indeed, with which the Christian is invested, is infinitely greater than that which was given to men before the advent of Jesus. He has been baptized "unto the Holy Ghost." He has been regenerated and "born anew of water and of the Spirit." His whole composition, in short, has been changed and renewed; by such means is he enabled to do things to which the Jew was altogether unequal, and for such a reason is he expected in his strength to do more than the Almighty thought proper to exact from the Jew in his weakness. "Unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required: and to whom men have committed much, of him will they ask the more."
Now, let us endeavour, bearing in mind the foregoing observations, to apply the words of our text properly and correctly to ourselves. The prophet Micah very justly rebuked the Jews for performing a few of the least essential and the least important of God's commands, at the same time that they systematically neglected many of the most important of these, to which the former were altogether preparatory and subservient. The persons with whom
the prophet remonstrated, however, after all that can be advanced against them, did more, nay, they did infinitely more than a vast number of Christians, men whose nature has been changed, to whom so much additional power has been given by the gracious and ready help of the Holy Spirit, and from whom much more is in consequence expected. Many are the particulars respecting our moral and religious duties which are recorded in the New Testament, as express injunctions of our Lord and Saviour: but I will ask, whether many persons do not satisfy themselves with the performance of a very insignificant portion of these? whether they do not consider the giving of a few pence in charity to their needy brother, or a lukewarm and perhaps an irregular attendance in the house of God, as a sufficient warranty for the neglect of all others, as a species of composition satisfactory to themselves and equally satisfactory to the God who is entitled to every thing that they possess, or that they have within their power? What, however, is to be objected to in the conduct of those to whom the prophet applied the words of our text, if a parsimonious charity and an unwilling attendance in the assembled congregation be sufficient to secure the approbation of the Almighty? The testimony of the prophet proves that they were in the habit of dedicating their possessions to the honour of God, and of worshipping him in his holy temple. "Wherewith shall I come before the Lord, and bow myself before the High God? Shall I come before him with