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words of the text as a subject for our present meditations, has been to ascertain whether the rebuke which the prophet Micah applied to the Jews, might with equal, or perhaps with less propriety be applied to any of us. Were a question of this nature to be proposed to me, my answer would be, that many of us here assembled are quite as culpable as were those who were the primary objects of the prophets reproof; and on the other hand, that small are they in number whose irregularity and neglect in the performance of God's commands, would not in some, though it may be a smaller degree, merit a similar censure.
The whole duty of a Christian is undoubtedly summed up
in the concluding words of our text. The particulars of this duty are of course to be found enumerated with a greater degree of nicety and precision in the New Testament of our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ, than in that portion of the revealed word which comprehends the writings of Moses and the prophets. The reason of this is, that the Almighty, in his unbounded condescension and mercy, did not exact from his creatures the whole of the moral duties at once. Owing to the transgression and fall of our first parents, man became sadly degenerate and corrupt. parison with the perfect goodness of God, in comparison even with his own previous state of purity and innocence, “his heart," to adopt the language of the Psalmist, “became deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked.” It was under the influ
ence of an ungodly spirit of jealousy and ill-will, which had been imparted to him by the archdeceiver, Satan, as a necessary consequence of his disobedience to the divine will, that Cain, the firstborn of our race, was prompted to destroy his brother Abel. It is clear, therefore, that man's nature became changed; from having been pure and perfect, it became impure and imperfect; it became loathsome and abominable in the sight of Him whose eyes were too pure to behold iniquity. Nor, indeed, did the human species become improved as they advanced in age and experience. On the contrary, the more remote were the branches from the parent stalk, which, at least, had been at one time perfect, that is, the more distant were the lives of men from that of their forefather Adam, who had both seen and conversed with the Almighty before he had foolishly disobeyed his command, the more disobedient and corrupt does he seem to have become ; so that in the time of the patriarch Noah, God saw the impossibility of reclaiming mankind from their state of wickedness and sin! One only and dreadful alternative remained, which was to destroy them from off the face of the earth, which they had polluted and disgraced. Noah and his family, however, were different from the rest of their species, and on account of their comparative goodness were saved from the universal destruction, and from them a new race proceeded; still did the same degeneracy ensue. The descendants of Noah, like those of Adam, seem to have advanced in
sin in the same ratio as their lives were nearer to or more remote from that of their ancestor who had escaped the deluge. Abraham, therefore, was selected as a superior mortal, as the father of another race, in order that, among the whole of his creatures, a small and insignificant portion at least might continue their allegiance to Jehovah, and acknowledge Him as their Creator and Preserver. Again, however, did the influence of Satan increase and prevail; an influence which had never been destroyed, though, in some few cases, as we have seen, it had been by no means ineffectually resisted by the personal character of the individual, aided by the superintending power which it is evident that God has never withdrawn from
any of his creatures, until their own wilful and unnecessary wickedness has rendered them undeserving of its continuance. The race, therefore, which were descended from Abraham increased in sin and in forgetfulness of God, in the same measure as did the descendants of Adam and of Noah; that is, the more remote was the age in which they lived from that of their peculiar ancestor, whose personal righteousness had procured him many in- terviews with, and an accurate knowledge of God, the more extensive and irresistible did their wickedness appear. Great as must have been the reputation for righteousness of Isaac and Jacob, still must they be admitted as inferior to that of their father Abraham. However this may be, like a foul leprosy, like an hereditary disease which had passed over two or three generations only for the purpose of again returning, the same spirit of wickedness and jealousy which had shewn itself in the person of Cain, again presented itself to the great-grandchildren of the faithful and devout Abraham, and urged them to meditate the slaughter of their brother, the favourite son of their venerable father, who had been destined by the Almighty to preserve them, in a subsequent period, from destruction. The habits of disobedience to the divine commands, of ingratitude and idolatry, which the descendants of these displayed, not only during their bondage in Egypt, and their protracted wanderings in the wilderness, but even afterwards when they had attained the summit of their wishes, when they had reached the land of their fathers and become formed into a distinct and powerful nation, are indeed facts of sad and indisputable notoriety. As a fair and even a favourable specimen of human nature, they bear witness to the lamentable truth, that the change must indeed have been great which the heart of man had at some time undergone, after the moment when he first came perfect out of the hands of his Almighty Creator.
I have already observed that the moral obligations imposed upon the Jews, were of a less precise and a less perfect description, than those which were subsequently imposed upon the disciples of the Redeemer. The duties enjoined by the law, were but an epitome of those which the Gospel requires. And after the remarks which have been just made, on the gradual and corrupt change of our nature, the reason of this may be perceived without difficulty. The information which is well suited to a person of mature years, would be ill adapted to the same being in a state of infancy or childhood. The law was therefore a “schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ.” The duties which this enjoined were consequently few and general, when compared with those inculcated by the Gospel. Jesus Christ, however, did not come to destroy the law, but to fulfil it. There was, therefore, no opposition between the Law of Moses and the Gospel of Christ, only the latter was more perfect and more complete than the former. St. Paul, in speaking of the graces which alone were suitable to the perfecting of the Christian character, exclaimed thus: “Faith, hope, and charity, these three." An exclamation, it is true, which represents to us the amazing purity and perfection of the Redeemer's kingdom; yet does it fully harmonize with the injunction, contained in the concluding portion of our text :-“to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God.”
You have already seen, brethren, on the testimony of the Old Testament, the true and undoubted word of God, that mankind having taken their start from any point of comparative purity and perfection, have not ascended higher, nor even remained stationary, in respect of their moral character, their duty to the Almighty, and their knowledge of him; on the contrary, they have become worse, they have invariably degenerated into a state little better than that