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the kindest friend to his most inveterate enemies, and bore and forgave more than any but himself could possibly do.
Let us, who are his disciples, abhor contention and revenge. Let us not prosecute every little injury to the utmost, nor govern ourselves by those false maxims of prudence and honour, which pride and self-love have introduced on the ruins of real Christianity. Let us not, even in the most legal methods, seek the punishment of those who have wronged us, except in circumstances in which we are in our conscience persuaded it will, on the whole, be greater charity to animadvert on the offence than to pass it by; and even then let us act in a calm and dispassionate manner, pitying and loving the persons of the injurious, even while, for the sake of society, we prosecute their crimes.
If this be our duty towards our enemies, how inexcusable are we if we are cold and insensible to our friends. And how much worse than publicans themselves, if we do not love them that love us, and do good to those from whom we have received it. Happy is that Christian to whom the God of nature hath given a heart so turned to sentiments of benevolence that, in all these instances, love is a law unto itself.
Yet let us remember, that the whole of our duty is not comprehended in these social regards. The great Author of our being, who hath endowed us with rational faculties, justly requires that we assert their empire over the meaner powers of appetite and passion. We see that he forbids not only gross enormities, as adultery (which, though so unaccountably spared by the laws of many Christian countries, the heathens themselves have condemned as a capital crime, and which some of the most barbarous nations have esteemed infamous,) but the unchastity of the eye and of the heart. Let us then earnestly pray that God would create in us a clean heart, and renew a right spirit within us, (Psalm li. 10;) and let us maintain a most resolute guard over our senses and our thoughts, remembering that there is no other alternative, but that the dearest of our lusts must be mortified and subdued, or our whole persons be cast into hell.
Elevate our affections, O Lord, to nobler objects than those which are suited merely to animal nature! Teach us to keep under the body, and bring it into subjection, (1 Cor. ix. 27,) that we may not finally be cast away from thy presence, and fall into that dreadful state where every drop of sinful pleasure will be recompensed with full vials of misery and despair!
MATT. VI. 1-18.
TAKE heed that you do not your alms before men, to be seen of them: otherwise ye have no reward of your Father which is in heaven. Therefore, when thou doest thine alms, do not sound a trumpet before thee, as the hypocrites do, in the synagogues, and in the streets, that they may have glory of men. Verily, I say unto you, they have their reward. But when thou doest alms, let not thy left hand know what thy right hand doeth: that thine alms may be in secret: and thy Father which seeth in secret himself shall reward thee openly.
And when thou prayest, thou shalt not be as the hypocrites are; 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. But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret, and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly.
But when ye pray, use not vain repetitions, as the heathen do: for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking. Be not ye therefore like unto them for your Father knoweth what things ye have need of, before ye ask him. After this manner therefore pray ye:
OUR FATHER which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen.
For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if ye forgive
not men their trespasses: neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.
Moreover, when ye fast, be not as the hypocrites, of a sad countenance: for they disfigure their faces, that they may appear unto men to fast. Verily, I say unto you, they have their reward. But thou, when thou fastest, anoint thy head, and wash thy face that thou appear not unto men to fast, but unto thy Father which is in secret: and thy Father which seeth in secret, shall reward thee openly.
Let us learn from these repeated admonitions of our blessed Redeemer what is the only acceptable principle of every religious action, namely, a desire to approve ourselves to God in it: and let us particularly bring it into the instances in which it is here recommended.
Our Lord takes it for granted that his disciples would be both charitable and devout. Let us cultivate both these branches of the Christian temper and avoid ostentation in both; as remembering the day approaches when every one of us must be made manifest in his true character before the tribunal of Christ. And, oh, what discoveries will then be opened upon the world! How many specious masks will be plucked off, that the hypocrite's character may appear in its native deformity! And, on the other hand, how many secret acts of piety and benevolence, which have been industriously concealed from human observation, will then shine forth in all their glory, celebrated and rewarded by God himself, who sees in secret, and whose eye penetrates all the recesses of our houses and our hearts!
There may our praise and our portion be! In the mean time let us with humble pleasure obey the call of our Divine Master, and be often addressing our heavenly Father in such language as he hath taught us; entering, for secret exercise of devotion into our closet and shutting our door, excluding (as far as possible) every thought which would interrupt us in these sacred and happy moments. From thence let our prayers daily come before the throne like incense, and the lifting up of our hands be as the morning and the evening sacrifice. (Psalm cxli. 2.)
Christ himself has condescended to teach us to pray. Attentive to his precepts, animated by his example and emboldened by his intercession, let us learn and practise the lesson. Shed abroad on our hearts, O Lord, thy Spirit of adoption, which may teach us to cry, Abba, Father? to draw nigh to thee with filial reverence and confidence and with fraternal charity for
each other, even for the whole family, to whom thou graciously ownest the relation! Inspire us with that zeal for thy glory which may render the honour of thy name, the prosperity of thy kingdom, and the accomplishment of thy will far dearer to us than any interest of our own! On thee may we maintain a cheerful dependance for our daily bread, and, having food and raiment, be therewith content. (1 Tim. vi. 8.) most solicitously seeking the pardon of our past sins and the influences of thy grace to preserve us from future temptations, or to secure us in them! And may our sense of that need in which we stand of forgiveness from thee, dispose us cordially to forgive each other, especially as thou hast wisely and graciously made this the necessary means of receiving our own pardon! Our corrupted hearts are too little disposed for these sentiments; but may God's almighty power produce and cherish them in us! and while the comfort is ours may all the glory be his, through Jesus Christ our Lord! Amen.
MATT. VI. 19-34.
LAY not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal. But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal. For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also. The light of the body is the eye: if therefore thine eye be single, thy whole body shall be full of light. But if thine eye be evil, thy whole body shall be full of darkness. If therefore the light that is in thee be darkness, how great is that darkness!
No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon. Therefore I say unto you, Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on. Is not the life more than meat, and the body than raiment? Behold the fowls of the air: for they sow not, neither do they reap, nor
gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feedeth them. Are not ye much better than they? Which of you by taking thought can add one cubit unto his stature? And why take ye thought for raiment? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin. And yet I say unto you, That even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. Wherefore, if God so clothe the grass of the field, which to day-is, and tomorrow is cast into the oven, shall he not much more clothe you, O ye of little faith? Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or what shall we drink? or wherewithal shall we be clothed? (For after all these things do the Gentiles seek :) for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things. But seek ye first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you. Take therefore no thought for the morrow for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself: sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof.
How kind are these precepts of our blessed Redeemer; the substance of which is indeed but this, Do thyself no harm. Let us not be so ungrateful to him and so injurious to ourselves, as to harass and oppress our minds with that burden of anxiety which he has so graciously taken off. Every verse and clause we have been reading speaks at once to the understanding and the heart. We will not therefore indulge these unnecessary, these useless, these mischievous cares; we will not borrow the anxieties and distresses of the morrow to aggravate those of the present day: but rather will we cheerfully repose ourselves on that heavenly Father who knows that we need these things, and has given us life, which is more than meat; and the body, which is more than raiment; and thus instructed in the philosophy of our heavenly Master will learn a lesson of faith and cheerfulness from every bird of the air and every flower of the field.
Let the Gentiles that know not God perplex their minds with unworthy suspicions, or bow them down to the ignoble servitude of Mammon, that base rival of our living Jehovah : but we, far from desiring to share our hearts and our services between two such contrary masters, will cheerfully devote