Imagini ale paginilor

means of grace with due diligence and earnestness: "Seek, and ye shall find." This is a promise on the part of God, that the spiritual means, which we employ, shall infallibly produce, through His aid, their proper spiritual end. The phrase "knock, and it shall be opened unto you," is another expression to nearly the same purport; it serves particularly to show the reasonableness of prayer, and of all other means of grace, and the unreasonableness of neglecting them. As a man wishing to enter into a house knocks at the door, and is not otherwise admitted; so, if we would be received into CHRIST's kingdom, we must knock, that is, we must apply, according to the proper mode, for admission. And as he who is now without, may remain for ever without, if he do not knock at the door into which he wishes to enter; so may we remain for ever strangers to the blessings of the Gospel, if we do not seek, by prayer, and by the ordinary means of grace, to be admitted. If we ask, we shall have; but if we ask not, it is but reasonable that we should want the things most necessary to us. If we seek, we shall find; but if we seek not, we shall not gain the treasure: and if we knock, it shall be opened to us; but if we choose to take no means of entering, we shall remain without for ever. It is added, "or what man is there of you, whom if his son ask bread, will he give him a stone; or if he ask a fish, will he give him a serpent?" GOD here condescends to teach us His own willingness to hear our prayers, by referring to the willingness even of a common earthly parent, to grant the supplication of his children. Nay, the case is still stronger; For "if ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your Father, which is in heaven, give good things," (or as it is written in another place,) give His Holy Spirit-to them that ask him.

Having thus explained the passage, let us make some observations upon it. And, first, let us expose the error of those who are ready to complain of the hardship of the

Gospel. You think it hard perhaps to be required to renounce the world; to mortify your passions and affections which are upon the earth; and to attain the tempers and perform all the works required. You conceive of religion as of a hard service. But can that be properly called hard, which sufficient means are given us to accomplish? The Gospel is a system of means most admirably adapted to their end. Its doctrines, when duly believed, lead naturally to the practice which is required. The Gospel undoubtedly has much in it which is hard for flesh and blood; but we may observe, also, that it ceases to be hard, when a man has, by prayer, engaged on his side, the powerful help of God's Holy Spirit; and this Spirit GOD is as ready to bestow, as a parent is to give bread to a child that cries to him. True hardship consists in toiling at that for which no sufficient strength is afforded; in seeking that which we are without hope of finding; or in knocking importunately at a door which no one is willing to open to us. True hardship consists in being required, like the Israelites under Pharaoh, to make bricks without straw; or in being required to produce the fruits of the Spirit, while GoD is unwilling to give to our supplications the help of that Spirit, by which alone they can be produced.

This species of hardship is often experienced in the affairs of the present life; the men of this world often toil for that which there is little hope of attaining. The beggar asks, and asks again for some miserable pittance, which, after all his earnestness, it is more than probable that he will not receive. The man, who pursues preferment, employs all the means of obtaining it, though encouraged only by a faint hope. The covetous seek wealth; and the ambitious, honour; animated by no certain knowledge that they shall obtain them. It is not thus in spiritual things. CHRIST here assures us, that the search after these shall infallibly be crowned with success. Let us then labour, having this hope. God demands that we should use the means,means indeed which are suited to the very weak

ness of our state. To use them is our part; it shall be His, to make them effectual to their end.

But some will reply, "Is it not necessary that I should wait, till GoD inclines me to ask, to seek, and to knock ?" Has not CHRIST himself said, that "without me ye can do nothing ?”* And has not St. Paul also declared, that we are not sufficient of ourselves to think any thing as of ourselves but our sufficiency is of God?"†


We say, in answer, as we have said before, let us take care so to interpret one text of Scripture, that other texts may stand. Our present business is chiefly with the present text; and, therefore, it may be sufficient to remark in this place, that the passage before us breathes the very spirit of encouragement; and that we, therefore, unquestionably pervert it, if we deprive it of this spirit. How different are the plain unsophisticated precepts of CHRIST often found to be, from the same precepts with man's comment added to them. How clear and encouraging the one! How perplexing and discouraging the other!

Is not this precept a direction to ask without hesitation or delay without fear or distrust? What can be plainer than the words? But you reply, "I suspect, that there is something ambiguous in them." Was CHRIST then an equivocator? Can you imagine, that He used terms encouraging in their sound, and not in their real sense; terms involving some hidden meaning, which defeats the plainer one, and renders this apparently precious promise of none effect-terms which restrict to a few the encouragement apparently offered to all? Let us beware of thus discrediting CHRIST. He is best honoured when we believe His words in their natural and obvious sense, and venture our souls upon them.

But it is not a cold and listless manner of seeking spiritual blessings which will suffice. A cold prayer, indeed, is no prayer; and an idle search is no search. Our SAVIOUR spoke a parable to His disciples for the express purpose of

* St. John xv. 5.

† 2 Cor. iii. 5.

teaching them that it was only by importunity in prayer that they were to prevail. "My son," said Solomon, "if thou criest after knowledge, and liftest up thy voice for understanding; if thou seekest her as silver, and searchest for her as for hid treasures, then shalt thou understand the fear of the Lord, and find the knowledge of GOD."* May we then so call upon God, that we may be heard by Him. May we seek Him with all our hearts. Then shall we not fail to be made partakers of that Holy Spirit, which includes all spiritual blessings.



Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them: for this is the law and the prophets.

THIS is one of the golden rules given us by CHRIST. It is a rule easy to be remembered, as well as to be understood; and it is applicable to a thousand cases. It comprehends, indeed, when taken in its most extensive sense, our whole duty to our neighbour. The law of the Jews consisted of two parts, the one regarding GOD; the other, man. Duty to GOD is taught in the four first of the ten commandments; and duty to our neighbour, in all the following ones. these two commandments," says CHRIST, in another place, "hang all the law and the prophets." And here He says, "For this is the law and the prophets." The duty of man to his neighbour, was the whole subject now under consideration.



Let us proceed to explain the rule.


The same rule is expressed in another place

*Prov. ii. 3-5

thus: "Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself."* Inor dinate self-love is the great source of injustice. How universally does this prevail! Who does not prefer his own interest, his own pleasure, his own honour, to that of other men? When a man has these principles of inordinate self-love reigning in him, he will, of necessity, act unjustly, not in one instance, but in ten thousand not in matters of property only; but in questions of every kind between him and his neighbour. And while he commits all this wrong, he will be ignorant of it; for self-love blinds the eyes it makes that to seem just, which is utterly unjust; and it makes many an act which is no more than equitable, appear to be a deed of exalted virtue and generosity.

How important is it, then, to possess a principle of equity for the heart, and not merely a code of rules for the external conduct. "THOU SHALT LOVE THY NEIGHBOUR AS THYSELF." This is the great principle of Christian morality. Let us love our neighbour as ourselves; and, then, we shall feel for him as for ourselves; then, we shall do to others, as we would they should do to us. Indeed, he, who does generally to others, as he would that others should do to him, can hardly fail to love others as himself; for love is the only principle which can secure so high a practice. "Whatsoever ye would that men should do unto you, do ye even so unto them." Put yourself, then, in the place of your neighbour. Imagine yourself to be in all respects in his condition, and him to be in yours; and, then, ask yourself, How should I be likely to judge? How much should I be disposed to claim? In doing this, we should enter into a variety of considerations. We should imagine ourselves, for instance, to have been educated under the same prejudices with our neighbour; to be under his temptations, subject to his natural infirmities, possessed of no more than his share of information, and accustomed to dwell among his circle of friends and acquaintance. We

* St. Mark xii. 31.

« ÎnapoiContinuă »