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to his saints: but let them not turn again to folly."* From which it appears, that wicked men are as unwise as they are offensive to God: and also that true piety is an evidence of a well-seasoned and enlightened mind.
The third idea implied in the figure, is tendency to decay. Mortality seems to be the law of nature; all hasten to the mouldering corruption of the grave. The principle is common to the whole human family, "for what man is he that liveth and shall not see death?" The worm of dissolution lives in the vitals of every thing that is animated with the breath of life, both rational and irrational. There may, indeed, be something literal in the expression of the text. Doubtless, the material universe is preserved for the sake of "the salt of the earth." "Except the Lord of hosts had left unto us a very small remnant we should have been as Sodom, and we should have been like unto Gomorrah." But the figure principally denotes a moral corruption. Our knowledge of the nature of spirits is so slender, and our language so circumscribed, that we are compelled frequently to apply many expressions to the soul, which strictly belong only to the body. When health has left the physical frame, we say it is sick and diseased; and when life is fled, we say it is dead. We use the same figure, and the same language, to describe the dreadful disorders of the immortal mind. When the principle of love to God does not govern all its faculties, we say they are under a moral distemper, and are faint; and if the Divine Spirit breathes not "the breath of life" into it, we say it is "dead in trespasses and sins." There are many places in the Holy Scriptures where a sinful mind is called a corrupt one. "The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God. Corrupt are they, and have done abominable iniquity: there is none that doeth good." And again,
• Ps. lxxxv. 8.
+ Isaiah i. 9.
Ps. liii. 1.
"Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises; that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust."* But why do I enlarge on a topie so obvious? Every believer of these pages, and every serious observer of mankind, will readily admit these mournful truths-that the world without God and his word, is without savour, wisdom, or strength. I would have the unconverted portion of my audience, and I have my fears that this constitutes the largest part of all our public assemblies, faithfully apply these representations to themselves. Do ye imagine, brethren, there is any exception in your favour, and that, whatever may be the case with others, ye are not in such a dark and dying condition? Deceive not yourselves, for "we have turned every one to his own way." It is the moral estate, both of the prince and the peasantthe possessor of a continent, and the beggar at your door.
II. LET US NOTICE THE VALUABLE SERVICE WHICH THE FRIENDS OF CHRIST ARE REQUIRED TO PER
FORM IN RELATION TO IT.
Salt is applied to “Can that which And also to pre
A few words will explain this duty. make things savoury and wholesome. is unsavoury be eaten without salt?"+ serve from putrefaction, for which it possesses an inherent quality. Hence, a covenant which cannot be violated or overthrown, is called "a covenant of salt." The sentiment is, therefore, perfectly intelligible. In the same manner as salt prevents animal substances from decay, and makes them pleasant, so are we, by our good conversation, and Christian zeal, to labour to present men acceptable to God, as "a sacrifice of sweet smelling savour."
Before, however, I proceed to the more ample illustra
⚫ 2 Peter i. 4. † Job. vi. 6.
Numb. xviii. 19. and 2 Chron. xii. 8.
tion of this branch of the present discourse, allow me to remark on the beautiful propriety of this figure in an address to a Jewish auditory. Our Lord, beyond all question, alludes to the divine legation of Moses, in reference to the sacrifices which were offered in the temple. The command was express and binding; "With all thine offerings thou shalt offer salt."* Various conjectures have been hazarded as to the special object of this appointment. Some have thought it designed to make the sacrifice burn brighter; others, that it was intended to preserve the slaughtered meat from corruption, to which, in warm countries, it was particularly liable during the interval between the death of the victim and the hour of oblation. The Jews say, "salt was to season all their sacrifices, to signify, that the offerers preserved their souls from corruption, as salt did the sacrifice."+ Philo, a learned rabbi, says, "the sprinkling commanded, signified the perpetual duration of the sacrifices-rendering them incorruptible." But whatever was the reason of the legislative enactment, the assembly to whom the text was first addressed must, in general, be well acquainted with the fact of its existence. They knew, if their offerings were unseasoned with salt, they would be unaccepted of God; and they would therefore immediately see the point of the comparison,-that as salt made their Levitical sacrifices pleasant to the Almighty, so the followers of Christ were to mingle with a decaying world, to preserve it from final perdition, and bring it back to the likeness and glory of the God of love.
Now, in the farther consideration of this particular, let two things be carefully noticed.
First. The high character which we are required to maintain: "The salt of the earth." The expression is
* Lev. ii. 13,
+ See Dr. Whitby on Mark ix. 49.
applicable to the best of any thing, and shews us in this application, that there is a dignity in the true followers of Christ which is not to be found in the world at large." The righteous is more excellent than his neighbour;" however just and moral his neighbour may be. As the spirit which is extracted in the laboratory of the chemist, from herbs and shrubs, is their essence, and possesses more virtue than the dry material after the juice is expressed, so when they act up to their professions, they are the life and essence of the world. In this case of Christian consistency, they are the savour which gives every thing a holy and spiritual relish. And this principle respects both themselves and others: for we are commanded to maintain the vigour of religion in our own hearts, that we might communicate of that blessing to others. Thus we are directed to "have salt in ourselves, and peace one with another."* So likewise by St. Paul, Let your speech be alway with grace, seasoned with salt, that ye may know how ye ought to answer every man.”† Never are we so likely to exemplify the conduct which our Lord requires of us, and be a real blessing to our families and fellow-creatures in general, as when we are under the benign and fragrant influence of the gospel itself. If love to the Saviour, and a sense of obligation to his grace, do not fill our hearts, we shall not attempt much on the one hand, or effect much on the other. But if we are impregnated with the odour of truth, and have our spirits sweetly softened by its subduing power, "out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh," then we shall say, not with ostentation and pride, " Come and hear, all ye that fear God, and I will declare what he hath done for my soul." Then we shall be "ready to give to him that asketh a reason of the hope that is in us with
* Mark ix. 50.
+ Col. iv. 6.
Psalm lxvi. 16.
meekness and fear." And then also we shall be salubrious in our intercourse with others, and serve as well as please. For let it be faithfully remembered, and I cannot too distinctly state it, that we shall be most honoured of God in usefulness, when we are most like him in spirituality and purity. It is a general truth, that the most pious are the most successful in their endeavours of usefulness. Many a plain and untalented minister of the gospel has been the means of doing more good, and converting more souls" from the error of their ways," than some preachers of the most splendid gifts, and the profoundest erudition. I say not that the Almighty has never employed individuals as instruments to build up his church, and recover men from death to life, who have after all been" castaways;" but the reasonable and revealed rule of divine procedure is to be our guide, rather than its exceptions. Blind and enfeebled as our reason is, it nevertheless assures us, that when Christians are most like Christ, the servants most imbued with the tender and compassionate and devotional spirit of their Master, they are best qualified for the work of saving souls; and will, in all human calculation, be most useful in their endeavours to do so. For then their motives will be pure, their zeal steady, their concern for souls undissembled and earnest; and they will, "by the manifestation of the truth, commend themselves to every man's conscience in the sight of God."*
Secondly. Next to the establishment of our duty, it becomes us to ascertain how it may be performed. And here let me set before you four methods, in which, among many others, you may fulfil, under the divine blessing, your appointed character.
First, You are to be "the salt of the earth," by your active co-operation with other Christians, and with each
2 Cor. iv. 2.