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Thirdly. What awful discoveries and separations will be made on the last day! How many will be found at the left hand whom we had expected to see at the right; and how many in the converse of this. The Pharisees were separatists from the common people, under the idea of being more holy than others. And, is it not to be feared, that many who have professed more sanctity than their neighbours, will be found to have less? And that some who have affected religious seclusion from the mass of mankind, will at length be mingled with the wicked in one general sentence of express condemnation? There are men, whose appearance of piety has been less splendid in the exterior garb, but who will doubtless be found of the Judge in peace. There are others, whose knowledge of the sacred writings, and whose semblance of vital religion have placed them high in the Church on earth, who will, from want of real principle, be sentenced to "depart.', And I do fear that there are not a few of this description
persons in what is denominated the Christian world. A profession of religion is now very cheap. The odium which was once attached to it is much diminished; and, by the softening down certain harsh features of the religion of our forefathers, it is not only made to appear less forbidding, but, to a certain extent, amiable. The distance which was once so broad, and so long thought wholly impassable, between a serious attendance on the duties of religion and the world, is not only reduced, but almost annihilated. In fact, a profession of the gospel is more than tolerated; it is, in a variety of respects, become fashionable. But while this conciliatory spirit may be viewed with complacency on the one hand, is there not some ground of alarm on the other? Are not, for this very reason, the friends of religion in eminent danger of compromising their principles, and of being imposed upon by men who have nothing more than the form of godliness?
And is it, my brethren, saying too much, to remark, that there are doubtless many public men, as well as private Christians, in the visible Church, who "have no part or lot in the matter" of eternal happiness? But the chaff and the wheat, the tares and the grain, must be separated at last. Be it, therefore, your daily prayer, and your constant care, to "approve yourselves unto God." Your professions are great, let your purity, sincerity, and entire devotedness to the service of your Lord, be even greater than these.
And, last of all, I remark, how important to place our righteousness in its proper place. I have said, in the course of the preceding remarks on this verse, that a righteousness which surpasseth that of the Scribes and Pharisees," is the indispensable condition of our salvation: I do not now recal the observation; but I would drop you a caution against mistaking it. Never imagine, either that you can "work out" this righteousness in your own strength; or that having obtained it, it becomes the ground of your final happiness in heaven. You must regard it as the course to which you are called by the gospel, obliged by the love of Christ, and by which you are meetened for the society of "the spirits of the just" above. It is a debt due, in gratitude, to divine goodness, and not a work of merit for future blessings. It is performed only by divine assistance, and does not, therefore, deserve any thing as a reward at his hand. And finally, remember that your purest deeds of Christian virtue are so mingled with imperfection, as to require rather the mercy of the Saviour, to render them acceptable to God, than to be considered as possessing any worthiness in themselves. Let us, therefore, follow the direction of our blessed Instructor: "So likewise ye, when ye shall have done all those things which are commanded you, say, We are unprofitable servants: we have done that which was
our duty to do."* The method of salvation is fully stated by St. Paul, in the words which I now utter, and with which I shall close: "But after that the kindness and love of God our Saviour toward man appeared, not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost; which he shed on us abundantly, through Jesus Christ our Saviour; That being justified by his grace we should be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life.”+
Luke xvii. 10.
Titus iii. 4—7.
MATTHEW v. 21, 22.
"YE HAVE HEARD THAT IT WAS SAID BY THEM OF OLD TIME, THOU SHALT NOT KILL; AND WHOSOEVER SHALL KILL, SHALL BE IN DANGER OF THE JUDGMENT.
BUT I SAY UNTO YOU, THAT WHOSOEVER IS ANGRY WITH HIS BROTHER WITHOUT A CAUSE, SHALL BE IN DANGER OF THE JUDGMENT: AND WHOSOEVER SHALL SAY TO HIS BROTHER, RACA, SHALL BE IN DANGER OF THE COUNCIL: BUT WHOSOEVER SHALL SAY, THOU FOOL, SHALL BE IN DANGER OF HELL FIRE."
HITHERTO our Lord had stated the law in general; now He begins a series of observations on some of the most palpable and dangerous errors, which had obtained among the people, with a view to their correction. Having told his hearers, that He was not come to destroy, but to fulfil all its claims, He now proceeds to establish the truth of his declaration: and there is strong probability, that He intends all the instances selected in the following verses of this chapter, as so many cases in which the righteousness of his disciples must exceed that of the Scribes and Pharisees. The one which is now to be considered, is taken from the sixth commandment; and is the first of five which we propose respectively to explain, and apply for our Christian instruction and advantage. May
the Divine Spirit, whose special office it is to take of the things of God, and show them unto the soul, give us a sanctified heart, and an enlightened judgment, that we may so hear and understand, as to be " wise unto salvation." Amen.
Three things require our present attention,
I. THE LAW OF MURDER, AS IT WAS UNDERSTOOD BY THE JEWS.
II. THE SAME LAW, AS IT IS EXPLAINED AND ENLARGED UNDER THE GOSPEL; AND,
III. THE APPLICATION WHICH WE SHOULD ENDEAVOUR TO MAKE OF THE SUBJECT TO OURSElves.
I. THE LAW OF MURDER, AS IT WAS UNDERSTOOD BY THE JEWS.
Allow me, however, to offer one explanatory observation, before I enter on the immediate exposition of this particular. The Saviour had this moment given a fearful intimation of the defective nature of the morality of the Scribes and Pharisees; and He proceeds to submit a species of evidence, in proof of the fact, to their consideration, which would most completely substantiate all the charges preferred against them in this respect. The principal error, indeed, on which He insists, and for which He so severely censures them, was, their confirming all the prohibitions of the moral law to the actual commission of crime; whereas they were intended to reach even to "the intents and purposes" of the heart. It therefore appears highly necessary, not only for the sake of correcting the errors of the Jewish expositors, but for all men, without exception, that this important truth should be clearly laid down at the commencement of the new dispensation. Too apt are we to forget the spiritual meaning of the law of God; and it was, therefore, a boon much to be