Page images
PDF
EPUB

through the effect of our corruption, which wants all the strength which it can derive from others; which is chilled yet more, when it can perceive but too plainly in them the marks of the same weakness.

To meet this evil, this unbelief arising from our natural corruption, to give to each of us the help which we singly need, the Church of Christ was instituted. For if, as we are brethren, we rendered to each other a brotherly aid, how great would be the confidence which we should catch from that visibly reflected in the hearts and lives of all around us; how real would God's presence be, how real His blessings and His promises, if all about us were living evidences to them, either in assured hope or in actual possession.

And if the whole Church with accordant utterance were to give out in action this most holy creed, this living confession of a true faith, where would unbelief be able yet to linger? What heart would be buried in such thick darkness as that such multiplied rays of God's Spirit should not disperse the gloom?

This were, indeed, a true creed, a holy unity; this would be to fulfil the purposes for which we were bound together in union. If we do not possess these, vain, and worse than vain, is any care after other creeds and another unity. All may speak

the same words, but they will be words and no more: the faith will be in the tongue, and not in the heart; we shall not really help each other, but hinder.

Rugby CHAPEL,
March 20th, 1836.

(Fifth Sunday in Lent.)

SERMON IV.

WARS OF THE ISRAELITES.

DEUTERONOMY, vii. 2-4.

Thou shalt smite them, and utterly destroy them; thou shalt make

no covenant with them, nor show mercy unto them: neither shalt thou make marriages with them; thy daughter thou shalt not give unto his son, nor his daughter shalt thou take unto thy son. For they will turn away thy son from following me, that they may serve other gods.

THERE is, perhaps, no point on which the weakness of human nature is more clearly shown, than in the difficulty of treading the right path between persecution on the one hand, and indifference to evil on the other. For although we are, it may be, disposed according to our several tempers more to one of these faults than to the other; yet I fear it is true also that none of us are free from the danger of falling into them both. Not certainly that this can happen at the same time, and

D

towards the same persons; but if we have to-day been too violent against the persons of evil men whom we do not like, this is no security against our being to-morrow much too forbearing towards the practices of evil men whom we do like; because we are all apt to respect persons in our judgments and in our feelings; sometimes to be too severe, and sometimes too indulgent, not according to justice, but according to our own likings and dislikings.

Nor is it respect of persons only which thus leads us astray, but also our own particular sympathy with, or disgust at, particular faults and particular characters. Even in one whom we may like on the whole, there may be faults which we may visit too hardly, because they are exactly such as we feel no temptation to commit. And again, in one whom we dislike on the whole, there may for the same reason be faults which we tolerate too easily, because they are like our own.

There is yet a third cause, and that a very common one, which corrupts our judgment. We may sympathize with such and such faults generally, because we are ourselves inclined to them; but if they happen to be committed against us, and we feel the bad effects of them, then we are apt to judge them in that particular case too harshly. Or again, we may rather dislike a fault in general, but when it is committed on our own

side, and to advance our own interests, then in that particular case we are tempted to excuse it too readily

There are these dangers besetting us on the right hand and on the left, as to our treatment of other men's faults. And if we read the Scriptures we shall find, as might be expected, very strong language against the error on either side. A great deal is said against violence, wrath, uncharitableness, harsh judgment of others, and attempting or pretending to work God's service by our own bad passions; and a great deal is also said against tolerating sin, against defiling ourselves with evil doers, against preferring our earthly friendships to the will and service of God.

Of these latter commands, the words of the text, and other such passages relating to the conduct to be pursued by the Israelites towards the nations of Canaan, furnish us with most remarkable instances. We see how strong and positive the language is : “ Thou shalt smite them, and utterly destroy them; thou shalt make no covenant with them, nor show mercy to them :" and the reason is given, “ For they will turn away thy son from following me, that they may serve other gods.” It is better that the wicked should be destroyed a hundred times over, yea, destroyed with everlasting destruction, than that they should tempt those who are as yet innocent to join their

« PreviousContinue »