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could be furnished beforehand, as should make the path of duty always plain ; yet some points may be made out which may serve in no inconsiderable degree as landmarks. First, and above all, we should consider the strong approbation bestowed by God upon the conduct of Phinehas. We see zeal against sin displayed in the strongest possible manner—in a manner which indeed it would be great sin now to imitate,—but yet praised most highly. Observe, however, that it is zeal against sin, zeal against a clear breach of God's commandments, which is thus commended: it is not real against opinions, or in behalf of forms.
But zeal against sin, and for goodness, is beyond all doubt so strongly enforced in its principle, that we cannot be living as God's people should live, if we are wholly without it. This is the great point; and next, if we have the zeal, we have some rules also for its exercise. First, that those who have authority given them, are certainly bound to act up to their authority in the discouragement of sin. In this there is no choice left to them; want of zeal in such cases is a clear neglect of duty, or rather, I should say, it is a neglect of our Christian duty, under circumstances where the duty is plain, and the neglect without excuse. Secondly, the very least that Christian zeal can do in every one, is to take care not to encourage evil. We often do encourage it by laughing at it. Such laughter
may often be accompanied in our own minds with something almost amounting to contempt: we would on no account do ourselves the thing which we laugh at in others. This is true ; but yet the laughter does encourage ; because, though laughter may be sometimes allied to contempt, it is never allied to disgust; no man laughs at that which pains him. To laugh at sin, then, shows certainly that it does not give us pain; that we do not regard it as Christians should do; that is, as the most sad, and serious, and shocking thing in the world; the last thing in the world to be laughed at. Thirdly, Christian zeal must encourage every spark of real goodness and principle ; must forgive for its sake many awkwardnesses, many weaknesses; for it is the one pearl of great price which may well ennoble a rough or a mean setting. Let us but see something of a desire to serve God in earnest, and is not the character where this desire exists ennobled far beyond every other? It may not have agreeableness, it may not have cleverness, it may not have vigour; it may and must have many faults clinging about it: for where is he who is free from fault? But it is God's mark, and the seed of life eternal; and they who are God's cannot but love it; and they who love it not, may therefore well fear that they are not and will not be God's.
SERMON VIII. .
JUDGES, v. 24.
Blessed above women shall Jael the wife of Heber the Kenite be,
blessed shall she be above women in the tent.
The first question which it would be wise to ask concerning the two chapters which have been fixed on for the lessons from the Old Testament for this day's service, is this—“What is the benefit that we can or should gain from them?” This, indeed, is the question which we should ask ourselves with regard to every lesson read in the church, as a part of our public service; although in many cases it would be answered as soon almost and as easily as it could be asked. For instance, take the second lesson for this morning's service, (Mark ix.,) or almost any other chapter of the Gospels, and it is manifest that as the life of Christ is our great example, and as in the words of Christ
were contained all the treasures of wisdom for the guidance of man's heart and actions, so we can never doubt what good is to be gained from the record of His life, and the report of His words. Or again, in the second lessons for the evening service, which are taken from the Epistles of the Apostles to the different Christian churches, when we hear them declaring the truths relating to Christ, or encouraging their Christian brethren to all holy and virtuous living, we need not doubt what good is to be gained also from these. Or thirdly, when the lessons are taken from the writings of the Prophets, when we read the warnings delivered to the Jews when placed in circumstances so like our own ;—when we see good men holding fast by their faith towards God, and believing that it would be well at last with the righteous, although they were often grieved with the actual prosperity of the wicked ;—all this is full of most plain instruction to us, who are walking still by faith and not by sight, amidst so much of evil around us and within us. Here in these three cases, when the lessons are taken from the four Gospels, or from the Epistles, or from the Prophets, the benefit to be gained from them is for the most part clear to every one.
But with the historical books, except the four Gospels, the case is different. These are an account of men's actions towards God and towards one another, as well as of God's
dealings with them. They are an account, therefore, of that which is no certain example to us ; for the actions of men are sometimes good and sometimes bad; sometimes therefore to be followed and sometimes not. Yet although this applies to all histories of men's proceedings, yet it is the case with some much less than others. For instance, with regard to the Acts of the Apostles, although it is true that neither Peter nor John nor Paul are infallible examples, yet they were men so largely endowed with the graces of the Spirit as well as with the miraculous gifts, that in reading the Acts every one feels that he is reading an account full of direct instruction; there is matter of example for us in almost every page. Again, there are some portions of the Scriptures which contain a record, if I may so speak, of God's acts rather than of man's: such, for instance, as the account of the creation; of the flood; of the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah; of the deliverance of the children of Israel out of Egypt; and other such passages. Now, as on the one hand these are not recorded for us to do likewise,—for it is not ours to kill or to make alive, to create or to destroy,—so on the other, the dealings of God with His creatures must always be a solemn and improving matter for their thoughts ; and although He may neither punish nor deliver now exactly after the same manner as of old, by