« ÎnapoiContinuă »
selves, and acceptable to God, but it cannot allure those who do not behold it. The Christian who retires from the world, and shuts himself up in secrecy, resembles the soldier who wears the uniform of his regiment, but declines combat with the enemy; and who would have support from his country without doing anything for its protection and welfare.
There is one plain end stated in the text, to which all our actions are to be directed:—It is the glory of God. And our works will lead others to glorify Him, if they accomplish their conversion to Christ. The world in general entertains an unfavourable opinion, both of the understandings and motives of such as embrace evangelical truth. It becomes them, therefore, to counteract this impression by the lustre of an unblemished life; thus maintaining good works for necessary purposes. If you profess a belief in Christianity, you should evince a readiness "always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear: having a good conscience; that whereas they speak evil of you, as of evil doers, they may be ashamed that falsely accuse your good conversation in Christ.”* In short, there is a variety of ways in which the light of the Christian, derived from his Lord, has tended to the glory of God. In some cases it has glorified Him by the visible display of his grace. Thus, when the report of
the Gentiles reached the ears of certain of the brethren, it is said that "they glorified God, saying, Then hath God also to the Gentiles granted repentance unto life."† "When Barnabas came to Antioch, and had seen the grace of God, he was glad, and exhorted them all, that with purpose of heart they would cleave unto the Lord."+ And frequently the zeal of some hath provoked many.
Thus, it is said of the Thessalonians, that they were ensamples to all that believe in Macedonia and Achaia."* One Christian church, living up to its privileges, and shining as a light in a dark place, has aroused other churches to a sense of duty, and they have eventually glorified God, by following the same course. There has been often, in this respect, a powerful action in the moral world; so that the zeal of one body of Christians has constrained others to be zealous likewise.
But I must close. You profess to be his children, and He calls himself your Father. It becomes you, therefore, not to decline the service which He claims at your hands; or disgrace, by indolence and inconsistency, the sacred relation. And finally, be encouraged by the consideration, that the exhortation affords a triumphant argument in behalf of the truth and purity of the gospel. An impostor would have sought the covert of secresy rather than the eye of day for the propagation of his system: but your cause will bear inspection, embrace it cordially, and diffuse it widely. Amen.
* 1 Thes. i. 7.
MATTHEW v. 17, 18.
"THINK NOT THAT I AM COME TO DESTROY THE LAW OR THE PROPHETS: I AM NOT COME TO DESTROY, BUT TO FULFIL. FOR VERILY I SAY UNTO YOU, TILL HEAVEN AND EARTH PASS, ONE JOT OR ONE TITTLE SHALL IN NO WISE PASS FROM THE LAW, TILL ALL BE FULFILLED."
My brethren, it is of infinite importance that we should be preserved from the natural self-sufficiency of our minds, and that we come as little children to their instructor, whenever we open the pages of the Bible, or listen to the publication of their contents. From what painful and injurious mistakes would the church have been preserved, had all her members adopted this method in their professed enquiries after "the truth as it is in Jesus." But the evil has been, that men have but too commonly formed certain opinions, and embraced certain peculiar views, which they are determined to uphold and defend; and then they commence an unsparing attack on all such passages of the sacred volume as lie most obviously against their scheme, and bear the hardest on their unscriptural and favourite doctrines. And perhaps it would be difficult to find any single portion of the word of God that has been more "wrested" by the cunning devices of mistaken and
wicked men, than that which states our perpetual obligation to observe the moral law as the rule of action in all our intercourse with each other. You will, my hearers, I hope, receive this remark in a spirit of love, and endeavour to profit by it, as we proceed to the serious and faithful investigation of the great subject on which we are now entering.
All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: that the man of God may be "But perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works." while all scripture comes from the divine fountain of truth, and while every chapter it contains, for that sufficient reason, must be important and useful, as parts of a whole, yet I deem it perfectly consistent with this admission, to consider some portions of the sacred writings of greater moment, in the matter of Christian faith and doctrine, than others. For example: the scripture that relates the crucifixion of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the great mediatorial end to be accomplished thereby, is of more essential value than that which records the penitence and the pardon of the dying thief, or the cruel martyrdom of Stephen, the first of the primitive band of disciples who sealed the truth with his blood. And among the most important sections of inspired truth, that part of this divine sermon which contains the Saviour's strictures on the moral law, and its misinterpretation by the Jews, must be placed. All sensual and earthly, these Judaizing expounders never fully understood it, and could not, therefore, effectively enforce it. If it be an accredited maxim, that "a lewd interpreter is never just," as one of our admired bards has observed, then the people might have looked in vain for a faithful exposition of the divine code from such
teachers. To correct their mistakes, and exhibit this perfect transcript of the divine will and perfections in its true sense, the Saviour now enters upon what we may describe as the third part of this most valuable portion of revelation.
The two verses which I have read as my text may be viewed as the preface to what follows in this chapter. The transition of the celestial speaker from the preceding topics is perfectly natural. Hitherto he has discoursed on those lovely virtues which are, at once, the source of true happiness, and the essence of acceptable piety, wherever they dwell. Now these sentiments were entirely opposed to all the doctrines which the people were accustomed to hear from the lips of their guides; and they were likewise contradictory of all the favourite expectations which they had cherished respecting the deliverance of Israel from oppression and slavery, It is therefore highly probable, that they were beginning to suspect that this divine preacher was teaching them things contrary to the law of God, which was given on Sinai, and therefore he could not be the true Messiah. To obviate these suspicions, and remove every impression of this kind, he proceeds to erect the broken and abused law on its proper foundation, and to declare his unequivocal determination to maintain, under all circumstances, its imperial authority. "Think not that I am come to destroy the law or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil. For verily I say unto you, till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled.”
In the explanation and application of this subject, let us consider the four points of instruction which these words contain.
I. THE SYSTEM OF RELIGION то WHICH THE SAVIOUR REFERS. THE LAW AND THE PROPHETS."