Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB

God, repeat the doctrines of the and zeal for the traditions of their Gospel, reflect on their connexion, fathers. In the time of our Saviour, apply them to myself; and if I ad- most of the Scribes were of the sect dress myself to God in prayer, in the of the Pharisees: both parties zealname of my Redeemer, for these ously combined their efforts against mercies, I find that it contributes to the doctrines and mission of our tranquillize my mind, and I admire Lord; and on both was pronounced with gratitude the power of religion." many a fearful woe on account of (To be continued.)

their pride, selfishness, hypocrisy, and other disguised vices.

The righteousness of the Scribes FAMILY SERMONS.No. CXCI. and Pharisees was defective in va

rious particulars, and especially in Matt. v. 20.-For I say unto you, the following: that it was grounded

that except your righteousness upon unscriptural principles; that shall exceed the righteousness of it originated in unworthy motives ; the Scribes and Pharisees, ye shall that it was partial, instead of being in no case enter into the kingdom universal; and external only, instead of heaven.

of flowing from inward holiness and This declaration of our Saviour obedience of heart. to the Jews, in his Sermon on the 1. It was grounded upon umscripMount, must have appeared to his tural principles. Instead of referring hearers most extraordinary; for so to the unperverted oracles of God great was their national veneration as the guide of their lives, the for the two classes of persons here Scribes and Pharisees adopted rules mentioned, that a proverb was cur

of conduct of their own devising, rent among them, that, if two in- and some of which were in direct dividuals only were admitted into opposition to the precepts of Divine heaven, the one would be a Scribe revelation. Our Saviour charges and the other a Pharisee. But, if we upon them that they transgressed examine the circumstances of the the commandments of God by their case, we shall see that there was traditions. For example, one comample reason for our Lord's declara- mand of God was, that children

and in the course of our in- should honour their parents; and quiry we shall also learn the nature this was a duty so plainly inculcated of that righteousness which alone that no principle that opposed it can qualify us for the enjoyment of could possibly be consistent with the heaven. Let us then proceed to letter or spirit of Divine revelation. examine what was the righteousness But the Pharisees, in order to exof the Scribes and Pharisees, and cuse their covetousness and criminal in what respect it was defective in neglect of their parents when in the sight of God; and then apply distress, invented the unscriptural the subject to our own case, as pro- principle, that if they promised to fessed disciples of Jesus Christ. devote to the altar of God what

The Scribes were doctors or God himself commanded them teachers of the law of Moses; their "to bestow for the succour of a office was not only to write out pecessitous parent, their gift would copies of the word of God as they be accepted and their undutiful might be wanted, and carefully to conduct excused. “Thus," says our guard against mistakes in copying Lord, “ have ye made the coma record of such infinite importance, mandment of God of none effect but also to expound and apply its by your traditions." In vain under contents for the edification of the such circumstances they professed people. The Pharisees professed to to worship God,“ teaching for docbe strict observers of this law: they trines the commandments of men.” affected great sanctity of manners 2. Their pretended righteousness

tion;

was also defective on account of their professed obedience to some a its originating in unworthy motives. pretext for breaking others. They An instance of this we have just exhibited great zeal for the Sabbath, seen in their unnatural conduct but they devoured widows' houses; to their parents ; in which, while they fasted and prayed, but they they pretended zeal for the ser- were neither just nor truly charitavice of God, their real motive was ble; and if they did not positively either covetousness, or the vanity of violate a command, they heeded performing an ostentatious act of not that they were inattentive to its charity and devotion. Many other real spirit and meaning. instances likewise are on record. 4. But lastly, the root and source They gave alms, and stood praying of the defectiveness of their righin the corners of the streets, and teousness was, that it was external disfigured their faces when they only, instead of flowing from inward fasted, only that they might be seen holiness and obedience of heart to of men. It was right to give alms, God. Their form of religion was and to pray, and to keep the fasts wholly superficial; they were conappointed by the law of Moses; tent to cleanse the outside of the and to have omitted doing so would cup and of the platter, while within have been sinful; but the motives they were full of extortion and exfrom which the Pharisees performed cess. They drew nigh to God with these acts were utterly corrupt. their mouths, and honoured him with They sought honour one from an- their lips, but their hearts were far other, and not the honour that cometh from him. They were whited sepulfrom God; and so little did they chres, which appeared beautiful outconcern themselves about the spring ward, but within were full of dead and principle of their actions, that men's bones and all uncleanness. where an outward garb of religion Their faces were disfigured with would procure them the same public fasting, but their souls were not admiration as the reality, they were

humbled on account of their sins; willing to substitute the former for their lips uttered the language of the latter. Hence our Lord fre- prayer, but they felt no true peni. quently applies to them the appella- tence of heart, no gratitude to God tion of hypocrites; for their best for his mercies, no sense of their outward actions were founded upon spiritual necessities, no desire for base motives, such as vanity, self- the pardon of their transgressions. esteem, or covetousness--on any They did not consider the spiritual thing, in short, but true love to God character of God's law, which our and delight in his commandments Saviour explains $0 fully in this

3. Their professed obedience, even discourse. If they did not commit when it did not expressly contradict theft, or murder, or adultery, they the letter of the commands of God, viewed it as no sin to indulge in fell short of the standard of true dispositions, and to throw themrighteousness by being scanty and selves in the way of temptations, partialin its application. They would which would naturally lead to those tithe the smallest herb, or keep up crimes. Yet amidst all, far from a ceremonial custom, or conform being humbled on account of the to the dictates of an unimportant defectiveness of their character, they tradition, with scrupulous exactness, regarded themselves, and expected while they deliberately neglected that others should regard them, as the weightier matters of the law, persons of eminent sanctity: they judgment, mercy, and faith;. love boasted of their virtues, they. to God and love to their neighbour. thanked God that they were not as They had not respect to all God's other men; and they depended upon commandments; and they made their own false and worthless righ,

514.Jant hora 189191)

[ocr errors]

teousness for acceptance with their every member of the human race, omniscient Creator.

since the fall of Adam, is wholly But it is abundantly clear, that defective, and unable to stand the a righteousness such as has been scrutiny of Divine justice. described could not be pleasing to But there is another sense of the Him who searcheth the heart and word in which we may, and must, trieth the reins. It failed in every personally become partakers of what particular which characterises the is implied in the term “ righteousobedience which God requires. It ness" before we can be admitted to was hollow and superficial; a mere the kingdom of heaven; namely, that name, a form, a ceremony; not the holiness of heart and life “ without dictate of a filial spirit, but a servile which no man shall see the Lord.” routine of heartless observances; It is in this view that the word is to not springing from a principle of be considered in the text; which love to God and reverence for his does not relate immediately to our laws, but only to serve their own claim to heaven by the death and unworthy and sinful ends. The merits of Christ, but to our meetword of God abounds in severe ness for it, by a newness of nature, reproofs against such vain and hypo- a change of heart, effected in us by critical pretensions to religion. the power of the Holy Spirit, and

We need then a righteousness far accompanied by the fruits of righabove that of the Scribes and Pha- teousness in our character and conrisees before we can enter into the duct. In this sense, as well as in kingdom of God. Now, there are our trust in the merits of our Retwo senses in which the word righ- deemer, and not in whole or in part teousness is used in Scripture in in any supposed merit of our own, connexion with the justification and must our religion exceed that of the salvation of mankind. In one of Scribes and Pharisees. these senses Christ " is made unto Here then is a wide field for selfus righteousness :" we are justified examination. Does our religion freely by faith in him, without any exceed that of the hypocrite and claim of merit; and hence this righ- the formalist? Is it grounded on teousness is called “the righteous. Scriptural principles ? Does it flow ness of faith," and, with reference to from Scriptural motives ? Does it its Author, “ the righteousness of extend universally to all God's comGod." This, and this only, is our mands ? Has it its root in the heart, claim to heaven : in point of merit, as the offspring of faith and love, we must utterly renounce our own and the parent of holiness, obedience, righteousness; we must confess and and good works? Some, alas ! of feel ourselves to be miserable sin- those who call themselves disciples ners, justly deserving God's wrath of Jesus Christ, fall short even of and condemnation, and unable, by the Scribes and Pharisees themany goodness of our own, to pur- selves. They have as little of the chase the rewards due only to per- outward decencies as of the inward fect obedience. To attempt to justify purity of religion. They practise ourselves in the sight of God, to no self-denial ; they neither pray extenuate our sins or magnify our nor give alms; they shew no revesupposed virtues before him, would rence for the word of God, and be the height of arrogance and neither in the letter nor the spirit folly. Our only hope must be in keep his commandments. Of such, his free mercy in Christ Jesus ; our the sin and danger are too plain, only petition, “ Lord be merciful to and admitted by all, to need that me a sinner.” In this sense of the we should at present dwell upon word, not only the righteousness of the subject. But it is not enough the Scribes and Pharisees, but of that we escape this open licentiousness of character; we must go trusting to our own righteousness much farther if we would be right as the ground of our hope, which at last. Our righteousness must ex- must be placed on the merits of ceed not only that of the avowed our Saviour only; nor, on the other infidel or profligate, who indeed hand, thinking ourselves in the profess none, but also that of the way for the attainment of the proScribe or the Pharisee, of the mere mise while we are destitute of that decent observer of outward morali. holiness which alone can make us ties and the forms of religion. We meet for the inheritance of the must be new creatures, transformed

saints in light. in the spirit of our minds, and renewed after the image of Him who hath created us, and called us to

Tothe Editorofthe Christian Observer. newness of life in the Gospel of his Son. Our guilt, if our religion does The first verse of the eleventh chapnot exceed that of the Scribes and ter of Hebrews is somewhat obscure Pharisees, will be even greater than as it stands in our version, in the theirs, because we have had clearer French Bible, and in the Latin vulinformation and more exalted pri- gate.-Faith, if considered as an vileges. “ If the word spoken by act or the reliance of the mind, can angels was stedfast, and every trans- neither be the substance, nor itself gression received a just recompense give suvsistence to the future things of reward, how shall we escape if hoped for. Still less can it be the we neglect so great salvation !" We evidenoe of things not seen, since are not taught, as the Jews were, belief, if rational and well-founded, through the medium of outward must be grounded on evidence perrites and ceremonies; but “the Son ceived and understood, and cannot of God is come, and hath given us be itself the evidence. an understanding, that we may know The Syriac version renders eleyxoc him that is true.” We are not under by 12:57 “ the manifestation of the rigour of the Levitical law, but things not seen,” and our translaunder the new covenant of grace tors have rendered eleyxon, John and mercy. Gratitude, therefore, iii. 20, by a word which responds as well as duty, should bind us to to manifest in the following verse, seek a complete conformity to the since light reproves, by making mawill of God. And, besides this, we nifest what is reprovable. have the gracious promise of the The apparent obscurity in the Holy Spirit, to enlighten our under- first clause, may probably be restandings, to purify our will, and to moved, by connecting it with the renew our hearts. We are not left close of the foregoing chapter. alone and unbefriended in our ardu- “ Now the just shall live (be susous contest with the world, the flesh, tained) by faith ; but if he draw and the devil; for if we pray for back, (leans no longer on the truth strength from above it will be of my word and promise,) my soul afforded to us according to our shall have no pleasure in him," shall necessities. And, to complete all, not approve him. But we are not we have the promise of a crown of of them who draw back unto perdi. glory that fadeth not away, reserved tion," (what follows is elliptical, and for the Christian in that blessed literally) “ but of faith to the salworld where nothing unrighteous vation of the soul," which, if it may or unholy can obtain admission. be rendered, but of them who keep Let us then fear lest we come short their hold by faith, to the salvation of that promise ; and let us ever of the soul, will be connected with keep in mind the necessary qualifi- the first verse of the next chapcation for the blessedness of heaven; ter : “ Even thầt faith which lays neither deceiving ourselves by hold of the substance of things hoped

for, and receives the manifestation tion to quit Jerusalem was the means of things not seen,"mois disposed to of safety pointed out in both sieges ; admit their evidence. It is said, in and consequently the heart being honour of the Bereans, Acts xvii. lifted up by a proud contempt of 11, 12, that they “ searched the the warning, would be the opposite Scriptures, to see if the things of of that obedient faith by which the which the Apostles testified were righteous were promised preservaso: therefore many of them believ. tion. But the passage in Habaked." So, in Antioch, chapter xiii. kuk, chapter ii. 4, I think, may be 48, as many as were thus dispos- thus translated literally,—“ Behold ed * to receive the words of eter- his soul which is lifted up (removed nal life, believed."

from its place) is not right," either Hence it very pertinently follows, as to internal or external position, that by this believing, “ the ancients“ but the righteous shall live in or obtained a good report," their faith by stability." If we consider that is recorded to their honour.

the Apostle was addressing the HeIf it is considered more answer- brews in general, this quotation, able to the original to preserve the in his Epistle, has great force, the word evidence, instead of substi. Christian Jews being considered as tuting manifestation, we may read, apostates by their unbelieving bre“ Now faith (lays hold of) the sub- thren.

C. L. stance of things hoped for, and of the evidence of things not seen;" and this I believe to be the true Tothe Editorofthe Christian Observer. sense of the passage, especially when we consider it to be a quota- By the faculty of speech man is tion from the Prophecy of Habak- distinguished from the brute creakuk, chapter ii. 4, where Dr. Po- tion, and is enabled to taste pleacock thinks it should be rendered, sures of a higher order than the “ his soul which faints, or is de gratification of appetite. It affords jected (through unbelief) is not up- him access to the delights of social right in him,"_but he does not and intellectual life, and the power give his authority for concluding of joining collectively in the still Sny and av to be the same, though more elevated pleasures of devotion; in some passages the transposition and it is the most ready medium of a letter must be allowed, and for communicating to others that fainting is a more congruous op- knowledge by which they also may

position to the confidence of faith, become acquainted with these blessthan being lifted up” appears to ings. be. Yet, if an unbelieving pre- But the gift of speech is capable sumption of safety, notwithstanding of producing very different and opthe predictions of the near approach posite effects to these; and so strong of destruction, either from the is the tendency to the latter, that Chaldeans or Romans, be intended the tongue is described by unerring by the Prophet, and intimated by wisdom, as “a world of iniquity," the Apostle to bis incredulous in which there is a fire kindled by countrymen, lifted up," by vain hell, enflaming the course of nature, confidence, is a proper expression. and defiling the whole body with It is remarkable, that the direc- unhallowed desires.

We are in all things prone to of• It is certain that Terazpívo signifies to fend against the commands of God; order or dispose, as a general does his men for an engagement; and thus, Rom. xiii. 1, that we are taught by inspiration,

but so peculiarly so in our speech, St. Paul speaks of existing authorities, as ordained of God, though we cannot

that “ if any man offend not in suppose they were all men approved of word, the same is a perfect man, God

able also to bridle the whole body."

« ZurückWeiter »