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Let us now consider how far we are to apply this passage to ourselves.
And, first, it shall be allowed, that the same persecution, to which the Apostles and early Christians were exposed, by n means threatens us. The world is now governed by better laws and this is one reason why the modern Christian does not experience the same degree of ill-treatment: another reason is, that the faith of CHRIST has now been established. The Christian minister of this day does not like the Apostles, proclaim a faith entirely new; he does not oppose as they did, all the professed opinions of men. Still, however, the case is not altogether changed. Persecution indeed has, generally speaking, ceased; but opposition to the Gospel of CHRIST (we mean the Gospel preached and practised in its primitive purity and strictness) certainly has not. It is but too plain, that the world at this day is not truly Christian; and that, even in Christian lands, the majority are very unchristian people. Vice and wickedness prevail openly in many places. Practical infidelity is in the hearts of thousands who fancy themselves to be true believers and every where we meet with unchristian maxims, sentiments, and customs. It is, therefore, as plain a duty in the modern Christian to resist the stream of the world, as ever it was in the primitive one. Like the prophets of old, he has to bear his testimony on the side of GoD and holiness; amidst a multitude of gainsayers. He has not to expose, like the Apostles, his back to stripes, and his life to martyrdom. But since he is delivered from these greater trials, let him the more cheerfully endure the smaller. Let him not fear to assert his Christian singularity, to resist the corrupt customs of this generation, and to avoid those amusements of the world which are accommodated to its unchristian taste, and are unbecoming the purity and strictness of the Gospel. Let him refuse, in short, in a thousand instances, to do as others do; and let him practise many things which others, deeming them unnecessary strictnesses, do not care to practise. Let him
sometimes reprove others for their sins,—a duty which is indeed quite indispensable in Christian ministers. Finally, let him, who has as yet experienced no opposition, examine whether his faith and his practice be not accommodated to the taste of the world in a manner quite unauthorized by Scripture; and if the dread of opposition have been the hindrance to his profession of a purer Christianity, let him remember who hath said, "Except a man take up his cross daily, he cannot be my disciple;" and " except a man forsake even his father and mother and wife and children (when they are his hindrance in the Gospel,) yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple." And again, "Whosoever shall be ashamed of me and of my words, of him shall the Son of man be ashamed, when He cometh in the glory of his Father, and with his holy Angels."
ST. MATTHEW, V. 13, 14, 15, 16.
Ye are the salt of the earth: but if the salt have lost his savour, wherewith shall it be salted? It is thenceforth good for nothing but to be cast out, and to be trodder under foot of men.
Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill, cannot be hid. Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candle
stick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house.
Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.
How high an idea of Christianity does our SAVIOUR here present to us. Christians are the "salt of the earth." In them ought to be that savour by which the whole world is to be seasoned. Again, Christians are the "light of the world." By them is the moral darkness of this wicked world to be enlightened And again," they are like a city
set upon a hill." They are to be conspicuous to all around, for their superior virtue and excellence. Such did CHRIST, when He was on earth, require his disciples to be; and such in fact they were, in the first ages of the Church. In these degenerate days an opinion prevails, and even among many who call themselves Christians, that we should not be particular in any respect; that we ought not to profess any more religion than our neighbours; that it is presumptuous to suppose that we can enlighten others; and illiberal to think that our own mode of faith is the best. But how inconsistent is such language with these sayings of CHRIST! Are we not required to be singular? It is to be feared, that they, who entertain sentiments so lowering to the character of religion, are the persons who are condemned in the latter part of the thirteenth verse. I mean that they are salt which has "lost its savour," Christians without the spirit of Christianity; and, just as salt, which has become tasteless, is only "fit to be cast on the ground, and trodden under foot of men," so are these ordinary and insipid Christians fit only to be cast out of the Christian Church.
Let us now, more particularly, consider the duty required by these words of CHRIST. Undoubtedly it is not intended by them that we should be ostentatious in our religion; for we are commanded to be "poor in spirit" and to be meek and lowly in heart. CHRIST, nevertheless, must mean to insist that there should be such a character and tone in our religion, as shall distinguish us from the world. He expects the difference between us and other men to be so great, that other men shall be struck by that difference. This is the manner in which He has ordained that the work of converting mankind shall be carried on. Our light is so to shine before men, that they (seeing our good works) may glorify our Father which is in heaven. CHRIST has appointed preaching to be one of the means of extending His kingdom: but He has not more plainly directed ministers to preach, than He has com
manded private Christians so to shine by their life and conversation that men may thereby be brought to the knowledge of the Gospel. A Christianity, therefore, which has in it nothing particular, which exhibits no other virtue than that of many infidels, which allows its professors to conform themselves to the world, and in no respect rises above mediocrity, is no Christianity in His sight: for how can he, who has none of that higher virtue which attracts notice, be compared to "a city set on a hill which cannot be hid?"-How can he, who never endeavoured by the brightness of his example to enlighten the circle of his worldly neighbours, be likened to "a candle which is set upon a candlestick, and giveth light to all that are in the house?"-And how can he, who does not differ from the mass of mankind, be compared to salt, by the virtue of which the rest of the world is to be seasoned? Such persons should stand reproved by these sayings of CHRIST: and, indeed, there is scarcely a sentence in this Sermon on the Mount, which might not reprove them.
But we may also apply this passage to the case of some seriously disposed persons; we mean to the case of those who are so engrossed by the consideration of the remaining corruptions of their nature, and so fearful both of ostentation in religion, and of self-righteousness, that they do not enough consider themselves as called by Christianity to an open profession of their faith, and an open exercise of their good works. It is true, that we are directed to let our alms be in secret, and not let our left hand know what our right hand doeth. But are we not instructed in this passage, that we are to resemble a candle, which men do not put under a bushel, but on a candlestick, that it may give light to the whole house? There is, therefore, a middle way between Pharisaical ostentation, and a false and studied humility. Our works should be seen, though they should not be done in order to be seen. They should be so far plain and public, that men may be led by them " to glorify our Father which is in heave
May our light in every respect shine before men! may we, as citizens of the government under which we live, as husbands and wives, as parents and children, as masters and servants, fulfil the duties of our several stations in a manner so exemplary and striking, that all those who are acquainted with us may acknowledge how excellent a thing it is to be a Christian.
ST. MATTHEW, V. 17-19.
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 nowise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled.
Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and
shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven but whosoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.
ONE error of the Jews, and one ground of their prejudice against CHRIST, consisted in an opinion that He was come "to destroy the law and the prophets :"-that is, to overthrow whatsoever Moses and the prophets had said. CHRIST here declares that He came for the very contrary purpose: "I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil."
The religion of Moses came from GOD. The one, therefore, could not be contrary to the other. CHRIST was not the rival, or the enemy, of Moses; and consequently, it ought not to be supposed, that the Jews who joined themselves to CHRIST, apostatized from their own lawgiver.
It is true, that, after the coming of CHRIST, many cere monies belonging to the former dispensation were abolished; for these were no longer necessary. They had been