« السابقةمتابعة »
John vii, 51. Yea, a heathen could reply, when the chief of the Jewish nation desired to have judgment against his prisoner, “ It is no the manner of the Romans to judge any man, before he that is accused have the accusers face to face, and have license to answer for himself, concerning the crime laid against him."
13. Indeed we could not easily fall into sinful judging, were we only to observe that rule, which another* of those heathen Romans affirms to have been the measure of his own practice. “I am so far," says he, “ from lightly believing every man's or any man's evidence against another, that I do not easily or immediately believe a man's evidence against himself. I always allow him second thoughts, and many times counsel too.” Go, thou who art called a Christian, and do likewise, lest the heathen rise and condemn thee in that day!
14. But how rarely should we condemn or judge one another, at least, how soon would that evil be remedied, were we to walk by that clear
rule, which our Lord himself has taught us : “ If thy brother shall trespass against thee," (or if thou hear or believe he hath,] “ go and tell him of his fault between thee and him alone.” This is the first step thou art to take. “But if he will not hear, take with thee one or two more, that in the mouth of two or three witnesses, every word may be established.” This is the second step. “ If he neglect to hear them, tell it unto the church;” either to the overseers thereof, or to the whole congregation. Thou hast then done thy part. Then think of it no more, but commend the whole to God.
15. But supposing thou hast, by the grace of God, “ cast the beain out of thine own eye,” and dost now “ clearly see the mote or the beam which is in thy brother's eye,” yet beware thou dost not receive hurt thyself, by endeavouring to help him. Still - Give not that which is holy unto dogs.” Do not lightly account any to be of this number; but if it evidently appear that they deserve the title, then “cast ye not your pearls before swine.” Beware of that zeal which is not according to knowledge. For this is another great hinderance in their way, who would be * perfect as their heavenly Father is perfect.” They who desire this, cannot but desire that all mankind should partake of the common blessing. And when we ourselves first partake of the heavenly gift, the divine “evidence of things not seen,” we wonder that all mankind do not see the things which we see so plainly; and make no doubt at all, but we shall open the eyes of all we have any intercourse with. Hence we are for attacking all we meet without delay, and constraining them to see, whether they will or no; and by the ill success of this intemperate zeal, we often suffer in our own souls. To prevent this spending our strength in vain, our Lord adds this needful caution, (needful to all, but more especially to those who are now warm in their first love,) “Give not that which is holy unto the dogs, neither cast ye your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn again and rend you.”
16. "Give not that which is holy unto the dogs.” Beware of thinking that any deserve this appellation, till there is full and incontestable proof, such as you can no longer resist. But when it is clearly and indisputably proved, that they are unholy and wicked men, not only strangers to, but enemies to God, to all righteousness and true holiness; “Give not that which is holy," To ayov,--the holy thing, emphatically so called, unto these. The holy, the peculiar doctrines of the gospel, such as were hid from the ages and generations of old, and are now made known to us, only by the revelation of Jesus Christ, and by the inspiration of his Holy Spirit,--are not to be prostituted unto these men, who know not if there be any Holy Ghost. Not indeed that the ambassadors of Christ can refrain from declaring them in the great congregation, wherein some of these may probably be ; we must speak, whether men will lear, or whether they will forbear; but this is not the case with private Christians. They do not bear that awful character; nor are they under any manner of obligation to force these great and glorious truths on them who contradict and blaspheme, who have a rooted enmity against them. Nay, they ought not so to do, but rather to lead them, as they are able to bear. Do not begin a discourse with these upon remission of sins, and the gift of the Holy Ghost; but talk with them in their own manner, and upon their own principles. With the rational, honourable, and unjust epicure, reason of "righteousness, temperance, and judgment to come. This is the most probable way to make Felix tremble. Reserve higher subjects for men of higher attainments.
17. Neither “cast your pearls before swine.” Be very unwilling to pass this judgınent on any man; but if the fact be plain and undeniable, if it is clear beyond all dispute, if the swine do not endeavour to disguise themselves, but rather glory in their shame, making no pretence to purity, either of heart or life, but working all uncleanness with greediness; then cast not ye your pearls before them. Talk not to them of the mysteries of the kingdom; of the things which eye
hath not seen, nor ear heard ; which, of consequence, as they have no other inlets of knowledge, no spiritual senses, it cannot enter into their hearts to conceive. Tell not them of the exceeding great and precious promises, which God hath given us in the Son of his love. What conception can they have of being made partakers of the divine nature, who do not even desire to escape the corruption that is in the world through lust? Just as much knowledge as swine have of pearls, and as much relish as they have for them, so much relish have they for the deep things of God, so much knowledge of the mysteries of the gospel, who are immersed in the mire of this world, in worldly pleasures, desires, and
Oh cast not those pearls before these, “lest they trample them under their feet,"—lest they utterly despise what they cannot understand, and speak evil of the things which they know not! Nay, it is probable, this would not be the only inconvenience which would follow • it would not be strange, if they were, according to their nature, to "turn again, and rend you;" if they were to return you evil for good, cursing for blessing, and hatred for your good will. Such is the enmity of the carnal mind against God, and all the things of God. Such is the treatment you are to expect from these, if you offer them the unpardonable affront of endeavouring to save their souls from death, to pluck them as brands out of the burning.
18. And yet you need not utterly despair even of these, who, for the present, turn again and rend you.” For if all your arguments and persuasives fail, there is yet another remedy left, and one that is frequently found effectual, when no other method avails; this is prayer. Therefore, whatever you desire or want either for others or for your
own soul, “ Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you." The neglect of this is a third grand hinderance of holiness. Still we “ have not, because we ask not." Oh how meek and gentle, how lowly in heart, how full of love both to God and man, might ye have been at this day, if you had only asked ;-if you had continued instant in prayer! Therefore now, at least, “ ask and it shall be given unto you."
." Ask, that ye may thoroughly experience and perfectly practise the whole of that religion, which our Lord has here so beautifully described. It shall then be given you, to be holy as he is holy, both in heart and in all manner of conversation. Seek, in the way he hath ordained, in searching the Scriptures, in hearing his word, in meditating thereon, in fasting, in partaking of the Supper of the Lord, and surely ye shall find: ye shall find that pearl of great price, that faith which overcometh the world, that peace which the world cannot give, that love which is the earnest of your inheritance. Knock; continue in prayer, and in every other way of the Lord: be not weary or faint in your mind: press on to the mark: take no denial: let him not go until he bless you : and the door of mercy, of holiness, of heaven, shall be opened unto you.
19. It is in compassion to the hardness of our heart, so unready to believe the goodness of God, that our Lord is pleased to enlarge upon this head, and to repeat and confirm what he hath spoken. “ For every one,” saith he, “that asketh, receiveth ;" so that none need come short of the blessing ; “and he that seeketh,” even every one that seeketh “findeth” the love and the image of God; "and to him that knocketh,” to every one that knocketh, the gate of righteousness shall be opened. So that here is no room for any to be discouraged, as though they might ask, or seek, or knock in vain. Only remember always to pray, to seek, to knock, and not to faint. And then the promise standeth sure. It is firm as the pillars of heaven ;-yea, more firm; for heaven and earth shall pass away; but His word shall not pass away.
20. To cut off every pretence for unbelief, our blessed Lord, in the following verses, illustrates yet farther what he had said, by an appeal to what passes in our own breasts. “What man,” saith lie, “is there of you, whom if his son ask bread, will give him a stone ?” Will even natural affection permit you to refuse the reasonable request of one you love ? Or if he ask a fish, will give him a serpent ?" Will he give him hurtful, instead of profitable things? So that even from what you feel and do yourselves, you may receive the fullest assurance, as on the one hand, that no ill effect can possibly attend your asking, so, on the other, that it will be attended with that good effect, a full supply of all your wants. For “ if ye, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your Father which is in heaven,” who is pure, unmixed, essential goodness, “give good things to them that ask him ?” or, (as he expresses it on another occasion,) "Give the Holy Ghost to them that ask him ?" In Him are included all good things; all wisdom, peace, joy, love; the whole treasures of holiness and happiness; all that God hath prepared for them that love him.
21. But that your prayer may have its full weight with God, see that ye be in charity with all men. For otherwise, it is more likely to bring a curse than a blessing on your own head; nor can you expect to receive any biessing from God while you have not charity towards upon earth.
your neighbour. Therefore let this hinderance be removed without delay. Confirm your love towards one other, and towards all men. And love them, not in word only, but in deed and in truth. " 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."
22. This is that royal law, that golden rule of mercy, as well as justice, which even the heathen emperor caused to be written over the gate of his palace: a rule, which many believe to be naturally engraved on the mind of every one that comes into the world. And thus much is certain, that it commends itself, as soon as heard, to every man's conscience, and understanding; insomuch that no man can knowingly offend against it, without carrying his condemnation in his own breast.
23. “ This is the law and the prophets.” Whatsoever is written in that law which God of old revealed to mankind; and whatsoever precepts God has given, by his holy prophets, which have been since the world began; they are all summed up in these few words, they are all contained in this short direction. And this, rightly understood, comprises the whole of that religion which our Lord came to establish
24. It may be understood either in a positive or negative sense. If understood in a negative sense, the meaning is, " Whatever ye would not that men should do to you, do not ye unto them.” Here is a plain rule, always ready at hand, always easy to be applied. In all cases relating to your neighbour, make his case your own. Suppose the circum stances to be changed, and yourself to be just as he is now; and then beware that you indulge no temper or thought, that no word pass out of your lips, that you take no step, which you should have condemned in him, upon such a change of circumstances. If understood in a direct and positive sense, the plain meaning of it is, “Whatsoever you could reasonably desire of him, supposing yourself to be in his circumstance, that do, to the uttermost of your power, to every child of man."
25. To apply this in one or two obrious instances : It is clear to every man's own conscience, we would not that others should judge us, should causelessly or lightly think evil of us; much less would we that any should speak evil of us,-should publish our real faults or infirmities. Apply this to yourself. Do not unto another what you would not he should do unto you; and you will never more judge your neighbour, never causelessly or lightly think evil of any one; much less will you speak evil ; you will never mention even the real fault of an absent person, unless so far as you are convinced it is absolutely needful for the good of other souls.
26. Again : We would that all men should love and esteem us, and behave towards us according to justice, mercy, and truth. And we may reasonably desire, that they should do us all the good they can do, without injuring themselves; yea, that in outward things, (according to the known rule,) their superfluities should give way to our conveniencies ; their conveniencies, to our necessities; and their necessities, to our extremities. Now, then, let us walk by the same rule: let us do unto all, as we would they should do to us. Let us love and honour all men. Let justice, mercy, and truth, govern all our minds and actions. Let our. superfluities give way to our neighbour's conveniencies; (and who
then will have any superfluities left?) our conveniencies, to our neighbour's necessities; our necessities, to his extremities.
27. This is pure and genuine morality. This do, and thou shalt live. “As many as walk by this rule, peace be to them and mercy;" for they
“the Israel of God.” But then be it observed, none can walk by this rule, (nor ever did from the beginning of the world,) none can love his weighbour as himself, unless he first love God. “And none can love God, unless he believe in Christ; unless he have redemption through his blood, and the Spirit of God bearing witness with his spirit that he is a child of God. Faith, therefore, is still the root of all, of present as well as future salvation. Still we must say to every sinner, “ Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved :” thou shalt be saved now, that thou mayest be saved for ever; saved on earth, that thou mayest be saved in heaven. Believe in him, and thy faith will work by love. Thou wilt love the Lord thy God, because he hath loved thee: thou wilt love thy neighbour as thyself: and then it will be thy glory and joy, to exert and increase this love; not barely by abstaining from what is contrary thereto, from every unkind thought, word, and action, but by showing all that kindness to every man, which thou wouldest he should show unto thee.
SERMON XXXI.--Upon our Lord's Sermon on the Mount.
DISCOURSE XI. “ Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way,
that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat :
“ Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it,” Matt. vii, 13, 14.
1. Our Lord, having warned us of the dangers which easily beset us at our first entrance upon real religion, the hinderances which naturally arise from within, from the wickedness of our own hearts; now proceeds to apprize us of the hinderances from without, particularly ill example and ill advice. By one or the other of these, thousands, who once ran well, have drawn back unto perdition ;-yea, many of those who were not novices in religion, who had made some progress in righteousness. His caution, therefore, against these he presses upon us with all possible earnestness, and repeats again and again, in variety of expressions, lest by any means we should let it slip. Thus effectually to guard us against the former, “ Enter ye in,” saith he," at the strait gate : for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat: because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it." To secure us from the latter, “ Beware," saith he, “ of false prophets.” We shall, at present, consider the former only.
2. “Enter ye in,” saith our blessed Lord, at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat: because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it."
3. In these words we may observe, first, the inseparable properties of the way to hell : “ Wide is the gate, broad the way, that leadeth' to destruction, and many there be that go in thereat:" Secondly, the