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indulge their anger against each other, in the same degree will God be angry with them: and he does this by alluding to the several Jewish courts of law, some of which took cognisance of the smaller offences, and others of the greater, each inflicting a proportionate punishment. The judgment was the lower court; the council was the next; and the word "hell-fire" stands for the highest punishment which could be inflicted by the highest court,—the punishment of being burnt alive.
Our SAVIOUR then proceeds to remark, that he who entertains in his mind any hatred against his brother, cannot be an acceptable worshipper of GoD:-a most important truth, and one which we ought to call to mind, as often as we engage in divine worship. If, therefore, He says, "thou bring thy gift to the altar, and there rememberest that thy brother hath aught against thee, leave there thy gift before the altar, and go thy way; first be reconciled to thy brother, and then come, and offer thy gift." He then advises those who have any quarrel, to agree with their adversary quickly; and by adverting to the present consequences, which, in this world, attend the delay of the reconciliation, suggests the line of conduct, which it is our highest wisdom to pursue.
Let us make some practical application of this part of the subject. The Pharisees offered up many a sacrifice to GOD, with hearts full of ill-will to their neighbours. Their religion was also on this account a religion which GoD abhorred: He will have a pure heart in his worshippers He will accept no worship for Himself, while His worshipper is at enmity with his neighbour. The Church of England expects her members to examine whether they are in charity with all men, before they venture to receive the sacrament. Nothing can be more seasonable than such an expectation. This passage, however, may suggest the propriety of questioning ourselves, on the same point, not only then, but, also, as often as we offer up our worship; since there is no part of it which is consistent with an
angry state of the heart. He that would acceptably worship GOD must also love his neighbour.
Are we then well assured that we indulge no malice or hatred? Is none of this seed of murder in our hearts ? Let it not satisfy us to say that we would not kill. This was the scanty morality of the Pharisees. This was their narrow way of explaining the law. CHRIST hath taught us a larger interpretation of it. Are we followers of CHRIST, and have we learnt from Him fully to examine ourselves on this point? Do we perceive the sin, even of an angry word or of an angry motion within the heart? Do we therefore watch the heart? Do we keep the heart (as David expresses it) with all diligence, knowing that out of it are the issues of life? Is our religion a religion of the heart, and not of the knee only, and of the lip? In vain do we repair to the house of God; in vain do we prostrate our bodies before Him; in vain does our tongue make even the fullest profession of our guilt; in vain is all our Christian confidence and hope; if we maintain a quarrel against any :-if we do not in our hearts love every man his neighbour: for he that hateth his brother," says the Apostle, "is a murderer; and ye know that no murderer hath eternal life abiding in him."*
These observations seem particularly applicable to persons of a very narrow and sectarian spirit; to those, I mean, whose religion, like that of the Jews, has rendered them severe, unsocial, and uncharitable. Men of this class are in great danger of carrying their religious hatred of some opposite sect, up to their very house of worship. It is true, that we should neither tolerate the heresies of any sect, nor the sins of any individual; we should nevertheless anxiously inquire, whether our religious opposition to the errors of men may not degenerate into hatred of them, and thus corrupt our religious service. Let us breathe, espe cially when we are in the house of prayer, a spirit of kindness
1 St. John, iii. 15.
and reconciliation towards all. Let us remember, that "love is of GOD;" and that he is the most likely to be both pure in his own worship, and right in his own creed, who most loves GOD and his fellow-creatures; "for he, that saith he is in the and hateth his brother, is in darkness, even until now:" and "by this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love, one towards another."
ST. MATTHEW, V. 27, 28
Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, thou shalt not commit adultery:
But I say unto you, that whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart.
WE have here another instance of the strict manner in which our SAVIOUR explains the law of Moses. The eventh commandment had said "Thou shalt not commit adultery;" and the Jews, after the example of the Scribes and Pharisees, seem to have considered actual adultery alone as forbidden by it; a crime which prudence, which reputation, which self-interest, which the most common regard to conscience might be sufficient to prevent; and which was far from common, even among many heathen nations. Was this then the whole sin which the religion of CHRIST was to forbid? Was it fit, or was it even to be tolerated, that the law of Moses should be so interpreted, that a man might fully obey that law, and yet be no better than many heathen? CHRIST in this passage gives a most extensive meaning to this law; and thus rescues it out of "But I the corrupt hands of the Scribes and Pharisees: say unto you, that whosoever looketh on a woman to lust
after her, hath committed adultery with her already in his heart." How awful is this saying! Is there not then an irregular thought, however deeply hidden in the heart, which can be indulged without the commission of this sin? How great is that purity to which we thus find ourselves called; and how are all men brought in guilty before God! "Blessed," our SAVIOUR had already said, are the pure heart; for they shall see God." The SON OF GOD came from heaven that He might purify the sons of Levi; and baptize men with the Holy Ghost and with fire; that He might put his law in their inward parts, and write it on the table of their hearts: He came to abolish that scanty and superficial system of morality, which the Scribes and Pharisees had established; and with which the people of all ages have been apt to satisfy themselves: He came to substitute, in the place of it, a religion which should govern the most secret thoughts, and should be seated in the heart; a religion which, by discovering to man the exalted nature of true purity, should also reveal to him his own corruption; should teach him, therefore, to come as a sinner to his God, and to trust in that Sacrifice which in due time was to be offered up for the sins of the world.
The words of CHRIST in this passage may seem strict. Let us, however, ask ourselves, whether the most effectual means of preventing the highest degrees of a sin, be not to check that sin in the first rising thought. Men commonly are betrayed into great crimes, nearly in the following manner. First, an evil thought occurs; and they indulge it, saying; "Surely, there can be no harm in allowing to my imagination so trifling a latitude as this." The sin is, at first, despised as too little to deserve regard. The evil thought having been allowed to enter, a second evil thought is added to the first. The mind is now possessed; and the imagination becomes inflamed. And, now, the temptation, which had been despised for its insignificance, appears so powerful (as Satan in this stage of the trial would persuade us) that it is no longer possible to resist it; and the same
sin, which was at first tolerated through presumption, is at last submitted to in despair.
How merciful then is our SAVIOUR in thus inspiring us with that fear of the risings of sin, by which we are led to resist its first assault. May we then learn to watch the heart. May we resist sin there. And may we remember that not only the sin here spoken of, but that all sin takes its rise in the same manner; and must be resisted in its first beginnings. May we direct our attention to the secret motions of our own minds. May GoD, by His Spirit, give us light to discern not only every licentious, but every envious, angry, vain, and self-exalting thought, every discontented and repining thought; and give us grace to suppress them, before they break out into words or actions. May He cleanse all the thoughts of our hearts by the inspiration of His Holy Spirit.
ST. MATTHEW, V. 29, 30.
And if thy right eye offend thee, pluck it out, and cast it from thee: for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell.
And if thy right hand offend thee, cut it off, and cast it from thee for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell.
OUR SAVIOUR in this passage, as in many others, speaks metaphorically. The right eye and the right hand are some of our most valuable members. They are so dear to us that no man would be willing to part with them, unless it were for the sake of saving his life. If, indeed the life can be saved by sacrificing one of these, and by no other means, then undoubtedly a man may be supposed wiling to