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acknowledge the noblest charity in the smallest gift, as wherever there is a willing mind, it is accepted according to what a man hath, and not according to what he hath not. (2 Cor. viii. 12.)
Let us imitate the candour of our blessed Redeemer; and be ready to be pleased with little services. The circumstances of mankind are such, that few have it in their power to do great matters frequently for the service of others: but the desire of a man is his kindness, (Prov. xix. 22.) the principles and circumstances of an action recommend it more than the appearance it may make; and a multiplicity of little kind offices, in persons frequently conversant with each other, are the bands of society and friendship. We ought therefore to preserve an habitual tenderness and generosity of mind, and be mutually willing to oblige and to be obliged by them.
To conclude; let us not despise the poor, since there are many of them who will in Christ's computation be found eminently rich in good works; many whose mite will, in the treasury of God, have the value of a talent, and will condemn the sordid parsimony with which many of the rich and great have cast their presents into it: while what the latter part with out of their abundance bears no proportion in the account of God to what the former freely spare from their necessity. Happy is it for every truly pious and benevolent mind that it is to give up its final account to him who searches the heart, and who is witness to those devout and charitable purposes which will always stretch themselves out beyond the limit of actions, and engage the charitable soul to wish more good than the power and revenues even of kingdoms could effect.
How evidently necessary is the operation of Divine grace to conquer the prejudices of a sinful heart; since even the preach ing of Christ himself, enforced by all his stupendous miracles, could not overcome those prejudices without it ! And how cautious should sinners be that they do not stop their ears to the joyful sound of the gospel, and shut their eyes against its glorious light; lest God should leave them to their own delusions, and in his righteous judgment seal them up under final blindness and impenitence! Then will they never be converted and healed; but die with that poison in all the faculties of their souls, which will make them for ever restless and miserable.
Can we find words sufficient to express the madness of these Pharisees, who, while they were in their consciences convinced that Jesus was the Christ, would not confess that conviction, and publicly pay their homage to him, because they loved the praise of men more than the praise of God? Strange infatuation of the human mind! that it should be capable of believing there is a God, and yet of preferring the creatures
before him and should sometimes imagine the vain breath of popular applause or popular censure so considerable, as that God should be offended to please man; and all the honours and rewards of his heavenly presence lost, to secure a little regard from those who are perishing in their crimes, and will ere long be themselves the objects of everlasting shame and contempt.
JOHN XII. 44-50.
But Jesus cried and said, He that believeth on me, believeth not on me, but on him that sent me. And he that seeth me seeth him that sent me. I am come a light into the world, that whosoever believeth in me should not abide in darkness. And if any man hear my words, and believe not, I judge him not: for I came not to judge the world, but to save the world. He that rejecteth me, and receiveth not my words, hath one that judgeth him: the word that I have spoken, the same shall judge him in the last day. For I have not spoken of myself; but the Father which sent me, he gave me a commandment, what I should say, and what I should speak. And I know that his commandment is life everlasting: whatsoever I speak therefore, even as the Father said unto me, so I speak.
Most important is that proclamation which our Lord made in the temple, and is still making to us in his word: believing in him, we believe in the Father; and seeing him, we see the Father. Let us be ready therefore to receive him out of regard to his Divine authority, as well as with a view to our own happiness; for without him we can have no access unto the Father, nor can we ever see him as a reconciled God.The sacred light which he diffuses around him is not intended merely to amuse our eyes with pleasing speculations, but to animate our hearts with holy affections, and to guide our feet into the way of peace. (Luke i. 79.) If we desire therefore to escape an abode in eternal darkness, and to see light everlasting, let us faithfully follow him: otherwise we are condemned already, and that word which he spake will become to us a savour of death unto death, (2 Cor. ii. 16), and will judge us in the last solemn and dreadful day, when it shall sentence those who would not be saved by it,
Let us now make that word the rule of our life which shall then be rule of our judgment. We may most comfortably venture our eternal all on the exact veracity of it. Christ has perfectly fulfilled the commission he received from his Father, as one that was faithful to him that appointed him; and stands so completely approved in his sight, that our only hope is that we also may be accepted in him, and find mercy and grace for his sake.
MATT. XXIII. 1—39.
THEN spake Jesus to the multitude, and to his disciples, saying, The Scribes and the Pharisees sit in Moses' seat: All therefore whatsoever they bid you observe, that observe and do; but do not ye after their works for they say, and do not. For they bind heavy burdens, and grievous to be borne, and lay them on men's shoulders, but they themselves will not move them with one of their fingers. But all their works they do for to be seen of men. They make broad their phylacteries, and enlarge the borders of their garments, and love the uppermost rooms at feasts, and the chief seats in the synagogues, and greetings in the markets, and to be called of men, Rabbi, Rabbi.
But be not ye called Rabbi, for one is your Master, even Christ; and all ye are brethren. And call no man your father upon the earth: for one is your Father, which is in heaven. Neither be ye called masters: for one is your Master, even Christ. But he that is greatest among you shall be your servant. And whosoever shall exalt himself shall be abased; and he that shall humble himself shall be exalted.
But woe unto you, Scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye shut up the kingdom of heaven against men: for ye neither go in yourselves, neither suffer ye them that are entering to go in.
Woe unto you, Scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye devour widows' houses, and for a pretence
make long prayers: therefore ye shall receive the greater damnation.
Woe unto you, Scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye compass sea and land to make one proselyte, and when he is made, ye make him twofold more the child of hell than yourselves.
Woe unto you, ye blind guides, which say, whosoever shall swear by the temple, it is nothing; but whosoever shall swear by the gold of the temple, he is a debtor. Ye fools and blind: for whether is greater, the gold, or the temple that sanctifieth the gold? And whosoever shall swear by the altar, it is nothing; but whosoever sweareth by the gift that is upon it, he is guilty. Ye fools and blind for whether is greater, the gift, or the altar that sanctifieth the gift? Whoso therefore shall swear by the altar, sweareth by it, and by all things thereon. And whoso shall swear by the temple, sweareth by it, and by him that dwelleth therein. And he that shall swear by heaven, sweareth by the throne of God, and by him that sitteth thereon.
As an ear-ring of gold, and an ornament of fine gold, so is a wise reprover upon an obedient ear. (Prov. xxv. 12.) Christ was indeed a wise and faithful Reprover; but the ears of these Pharisees were disobedient and uncircumcised. Let us, however, who are his disciples, attend to these instructions of our heavenly Master, and avoid every thing which has the remotest tendency to what he here condemns with so just a severity.
Let not our zeal spend itself upon the externals of religion. Let us not impose heavy burdens upon each other; nor lay down rules for the conduct of others, by which we do not in like circumstances think fit to govern ourselves. Let us not impose our own decisions in a magisterial manner on our fellow Christians, nor affect to be called fathers, masters, and teachers; remembering that Christ alone is our Master, and God our Father, and that it is a dangerous presumption and folly to set ourselves in the place of either. Let us be upon our guard against that vain ostentation that would lead us to place any part of our happiness in precedence, and to value ourselves upon our rank, or upon any airy titles of honour, by which, perhaps rather by accident than merit, we are dis
tinguished from others; and which to a truly wise man, and especially to a humble follower of Jesus, will appear to be a very little matter. Let us desire that honour which arises from condescending to others, and serving them in love; that honour which springs from the Divine approbation, which it will be impossible to secure without unaffected piety. (John v. 44.)
God forbid that our devotions should ever be intended as a cloak of maliciousness, or as the instrument of serving any mean and vile purpose! Such prayers would return in curses on our own heads, and draw down on them aggravated damnation. God forbid that we should spend that time, and that ardency of spirit, in making proselytes to our own peculiar notions and party, which ought to be laid out in making them the servants of God through Christ! God forbid that we should delude ourselves or others by such idle distinctions in matters of conscience, as these which our blessed Redeemer has with so much reason and spirit exposed!
Let us retain the greatest reverence for an oath, and not accustom ourselves to trifle with any thing which looks like it. Let us consider heaven as the throne of God, and often think of the majesty and glory of that illustrious Being that sits thereon; for a sense of his continual presence will form us to a better temper, and engage us with a righteousness far exceeding that of the Scribes and Pharisees, to walk before him in all his commandments and ordinances blameless.
MATTHEW XXIII. 23-39.
WOE unto you, Scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have omitted the weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy, and faith: these ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone. Ye blind guides, which strain at a gnat, and swallow a camel..
Woe unto you, Scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye make clean the outside of the cup and of the platter, but within they are full of extortion and excess. Thou blind Pharisee, cleanse first that which is within the cup and platter, that the outside of them may be clean also.
Woe unto you, Scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites!