Εικόνες σελίδας
PDF
Ηλεκτρ. έκδοση

only a little has been given, but a little will be required. Very good. Now if the objector will leave his objection to its fate, not thrust it forward, and then withdraw it to find a place of safety, fearing his argument has not arrived at the age of maturity, the difficulty, if any has existed, will vanish. The moment you produce a measure, or a scale, you destroy orthodoxy root and branch. The principle, if such a wretched notion deserves the name, is rotten at the core. Jesus Christ, the great Teacher of Ethicks, has settled the question for ever. In the parable (Luke xvii. 10,) Jesus says, "So likewise ye, when ye shall have done all those things which are commanded you, say, We are unprofitable servants; we have done that which was our duty to do." And the inspired Paul affirms of all men, "They are altogether become unprofitable." (Rom. iii. 12.) Reader, I will speak or write to you a parable:

A certain stranger walking from the Battery to the Astor-House, lost his purse, containing a large sum of money. A New York orthodox man, saw him lose it, picked it up, and following the stranger to his lodging-place, demanded, whether any man had lost a purse of money? The stranger hearing the inquiry, and having ascertained that his purse is missing, answers in the affirmative, and proclaims his loss. The orthodox man thereupon tendered the purse to its lawful owner, and demanded his reward. Pray, asked the stranger, how can you demand of me a reward as your right, for doing an act, the not doing of which would consign you to the State prison, as a felon; and your soul to your orthodox Hell, as a reprobate? Must I reward you for doing your duty? Will you ask me to pay you for keeping clear of felony, and escaping your State prison? Shall I pay you a bonus for avoiding your Hell? Is not your liberty worth more to you than this paltry purse is to me? Is not your soul of more value than money? Turning to the bystanders, the stranger exclaims-Why, the man is crazy! If any reward should be demanded, I am the man to ask it. I have, to be sure, saved my purse; but he has saved his soul from Hell, and his body from a prison !

There are two sides to the question, says the adage. Look at both sides. Behold things as they are, and things as they should be. A man loses an article of value. Well, an article valuable to one man, money, is of equal value to another. The finder can appropriate a valuable

;

article to his own use. The poor loser being aware of this fact, offers what the parlance of the orthodox world calls a reward, but, in the language of truth, a bribe. And the reason, too, how explanatory! A bribe may induce even a rogue to do his duty, for the sake of the bribe but not for the sake of truth, or the love of honesty. And this is orthodoxy, reader, stripped stark naked, and standing shivering before you. The rogue would have kept the purse, but the State prison and Hell met him on one side. On the other, a reward, that is, a bribe, coaxed him to do his duty. And he claims Heaven, because he did not keep the whole to himself. What a christian is this! There is no act that is morally wrong, that is not an antipode of an act that is morally right. It is wrong to keep the property of another when found-but it is right to return it to the owner. It is wrong in any man to injure his fellow-man; but it is right in any man to benefit his neighbour. Now there is neither an endless Hell to punish the man who keeps the purse, nor an endless Heaven to reward the man who returns the purse to its owner. In either case, the punishment and the reward would be disproportioned to the crime, and to the well-doing of the actor. I am aware that men teach a different doctrine. The Scriptures, however, are silent on the subject of any Heaven after death, in a future world, to be given to man as a reward, for any acts performed by him in this world.

But our text speaks of a reward. However, it is not to be given to the man who returns a purse, in expectation of receiving a bribe to compensate him for doing his duty. Reader, when you give a man a dollar, for labouring for you one day, you reward the man and he deserves his reward. And the reason for this is obvious: The man is not legally bound to labour for you, neither are you legally bound to give him the dollar in question. Now this is good, practical Arminianism. There is something for the man to do, to obtain the dollar. You promise the man a reward, viz: one dollar, for doing the something agreed upon. The man is stimulated to do the work, by the expectation of the promised reward. Well, the work is done-the man has received his dollar, and there is an end of the whole business. This is honest, common-senseArminianism. But the silly Arminian goes to work with his hands, for the God of Heaven; who never employed him, nor promised him any pay or reward for the labour which he is about performing. And wonderful to relate,

the Arminian, after a while, says, I have earned a great deal-he figures up his account, as the saying is, and strikes a balance, and brings JEHOVAH in debt so deeply, that it will take an endless eternity to cancel the debt! And then he boasts of his achievement! Common sense will tell any man, whose eyes are not blinded to all sense, that this Arminian balance sheet, is a complete piece of fraud.

Look at the measure: It is admitted on all sides, that much or little is required, and the ratio is according to the talents given. The ignorant nations I have referred to must be set down as very little indeed. But, on the other hand, there is no ratio, no measure or scale, when we talk of infinity, and of endless punishment, and endless reward, etc. This sum will neither work in ethics, reason, nor common sense. The Scriptures contain nothing which supports it; but much which denies and confutes the hypothesis. Even the wisest, most talented nations on the face of the whole earth, are immeasurably below infinity. There exists a ratio of comparison between the most enlightened, and the most ignorant nations of men. But, where is the measure of Infinity! What man's pretensions shall authorize the claim of a future and endless reward, for the acts of the worm of the dust, while in the dust?

Our text affirms of a reward. This is positive. But, negatively, Jesus Christ, the author of our text, does not affirm of the reward, that it shall be something in another and a future world, for something performed in this world. Men gratuitously supply the matter of their own creeds, to help out the Scriptures, and enable them to speak the language of sectarianism. We are all bound to receive the truth as Jesus taught it. If our creeds and confessions of faith, are found to contain discrepances, when brought to the test of the Scriptures, we certainly are not authorized to alter the Scriptures, and force them to conform to our notions of things. Now the affirmation of Jesus, as contained in our text, is positive as to the reward. But it is alike positive of the act, or performance of the party to whom the reward has been promised. I wish the truth would bear me out in saying, that this part has been overlooked. I fear that a different account of the matter would nearer comport with the truth. Let us compare the text, reader, with things as they are, in our day and generation, and see what is the true state of the case.

Our text contains the positive instructions, or, if you please, you may say, command of Jesus Christ, that "When thou prayest"-not, sometimes when thou prayest-nor, when you may think proper, all circumstances favouring and having no particular objection theretonor, when your church, or religious fraternity to whom you may belong from choice, shall not direct you differently:"But, thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and, when thou hast shut thy door, pray," &c. The context which immediately precedes our text, is full to the point, as to the occasion of teaching men how to pray, &c. Jesus first affirms, negatively-" And when thou prayest, thou shall not be as the hypocrites." He then describes how they, the hypocrites, pray; assigning the motive which induces hypocrites to pray. He says of them, "for they love to pray standing in the Synagogues, and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men. Verily, I say unto you, They have their reward." Nothing can be plainer than this. They have their reward-they are seen of men, this is their reward. They earn their reward, as much as the man earns the dollar that labours for it, and receives it. And here we have the negative side of the question, which is quite as positive and unequivocal as is the affirmative side. And there is a reward in both cases; with this difference, that when men pray to be seen of men, their reward is from men. They get their pay where they do their work. But the case is different, when the motive as well as the act is different; and not otherwise. This distinction should not be lost sight of, for it strikes a death blow to the root of hypocrisy ; and exposes the tricks and chicanery of modern pretenders. How many people outrage every principle of humanity, in their zeal to "worship God with their hands," in their Temples, which they impiously pretend are holy, and sanctified, and are no less than the gate of heaven! The mother will abandon her sick, or helpless infant, to go to a place where God is, that she may worship him with her hands. The command of the person who officiates as the head of her religious clan, is allpowerful. The command of Jesus Christ, in opposition, is nothing worth.

The command of Jesus is, " pray to thy Father which [who] is in secret." It is unnecessary to quote the Lord's Prayer, to prove that Jesus taught men to use no phraseology in addressing the Deity in prayer, incompat

ible with the relation that exists between a parent and his offspring, "Say, OUR FATHER." Not address the Deity as a slave, trembling beneath the power of a sanguinary tyrant. And Jesus affirms, that the consequence shall be, if men pray in secret to their Father who is in secret, that their "Father who seeth in secret shall reward thee openly." It would be very singular if the prayer should be in the present tense and world, and the reward in the future tense and world.

As this subject is one of great importance, and error of all kinds is fatal to the peace of man, let us scrutinize the phraseology, reader, and see whether it is possible that the conclusions I have arrived at are erroneous. Consider the relation of things: Is there not a necessity for a careful comparison of things, one with another, to prevent mistake? Are we not governed by facts and reason, in the most common concerns of life, when we are free from the excitement of passion, and at liberty to see things as they are, without interfering with opinions or prejudices? Certainly. Why, then, should men proceed differently, when more important things engage their attention? Are a man's intellectual faculties intended solely for the decision of minutia, and affairs of little moment? Surely, the greater the concern, the greater should be the care of investigating it. All the powers of a man's mind should be called into the service, and that every-day proof which satisfies, because we know the evidence to be correct and true, should be an auxiliary in more important concerns. Fortunately for us, reader, we are not left at random, to the contingents of this or that man's conjecture. I will exhibit the truth as Jesus exhibited it, by an appeal to facts of universal notoriety.

Our text is a part of Christ's Sermon on the mount. The relation which is the hinge on which the whole subject must turn, is that of Father. The relation of Father necessarily involves that of offspring; and vice versa. Jesus, after instructing men to pray to their Father in heaven, and to pray in secret, because their Father is in secret, and seeth in secret, and not to pray as hypocrites, or as ignorant men pray, illustrates the character of God the Great Father, by an appeal to his works. Then Jesus makes an appeal to men, who are fathers. But he makes this appeal to men as evil men. He takes the strong ground, that if evil men who are fathers, are kind to their offspring, that God is as much more considerate of his

« ΠροηγούμενηΣυνέχεια »