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tion loveth knowledge,' chap. xii. 1. The law of the wise is a fountain of life, to depart from the snares of death,' chap. xiii. 14. Let the righteous smite me, it shall be a kindness; and let him reprove me, it shall be an excellent oil, which shall not break my

head,' Ps. cxli. 5. May God always continue a succession of such righteous men, and may he incline our hearts to profit by their instructions! To him be honour and glory for ever. Amen.



MATTHEW xxiii. 23.

Wo 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.

They will, afford matter for two discourses;
the first on the chief virtues, and the last on
the least, or, more strictly speaking, the less
Some preliminary remarks,
however, are absolutely necessary for our
understanding the text.


1. The word that should determine the sense, is equivocal in the original, and signifies sometimes to exact tithes, and at other times to pay them. It is used in the first sense in Hebrews, the sons of Levi have a commandment to take tithes of the people;' and a little after, 'he whose descent is not counted from them, received tithes of Abraham,' chap. vii. 5, 6. But, in the gospel of St. Luke, the word which we have elsewhere rendered to receive tithes, signifies to pay them, I give tithes,' says the Pharisee, of all that I possess,' chap. xviii. 12.

The ambiguity of this term has produced various opinions concerning the meaning of our text. The most laborious and the most.

WE frequently meet with a sort of people
in the world, many of whom neglect the
chief virtues of religion, and supply the want
of them by performing the least articles of
it; and others, who perform the chief duties,
and neglect the least. Observe one man,
who cherishes a spirit of bitterness, and is
all swelled with pride, envy, and revenge;
by what art has he acquired a reputation of
eminent piety? By grave looks, by an affect-
ed simplicity of dress, by an assiduity in the
exercises of public worship. See another,
who is all immersed in worldly affairs, whose
life is all consumed in pleasure, who neglects,
and who affects to neglect, both public wor-
'ship and private devotion. Ask him how he
expects to escape in a well-regulated society
that just censure which irregular actions, and
a way of living inconsistent with Christian-
ity, deserve. He will tell you, I am a man
of honour, I pay my debts, I am faithful to
my engagemenrs, I never break my word.

We are going to-day, my brethren, to at tack both classes of this inconsistent sort of people; and to prove that the practice of small virtues cannot supply the want of the chief; and that the performance of the chief virtues cannot make up for the omission of the least. These points are determined by Jesus Christ in the text. On the one hand, he denounces a wo against the scribes and Pharisees, who scrupulously extended their obedience to the Mosaical law of tithes to the utmost limits, while they violated the more indispensable precepts of morality. On the other hand, he does not intend to divert, the attention of his disciples from the least duties by enforcing the greatest. ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone.' As if he had said, your principal attention, indeed, should be directed to equity of judgment, to charitable distribution of property, and to sincerity of conversation; but, besides an attention to these, you should diligently discharge the less consider-Ye pay tithes of mint, anise, and cummin, able duty of tithing, and other such obliga- and have omitted the weightier matters of tions. These are two propositions which I law. These ought ye to have done, and not will endeavour to explain and establish. to leave the other undone.' It agrees better

These vantage


learned of the ancient expositors, I mean St. Jerome, is said to have taken the term in the first sense. According to this hypothesis, Jesus Christ paints the Pharisees here in colours, which have almost always too well suited the persons to whom governments have intrusted the business of taxgathering. Inhumanity has almost always been their character. Ye tithe mint, anise, and cummin, and ye omit judgment, mercy, and faith.' As if he had said, you tithe inconsiderable herbs, and you do not reflect, that it is incompatible with principles both of equity and mercy to tithe inconsiderable articles, from which the proprietors derive little or no adIt is not right, that these things should be subject to such imposts as governments charge on articles of great consequence.


We embrace the sense of our translators, and take the word to signify here pay tithes. This sense best agrees with the whole text.

also with the following words, Ye strain at, a gnat, and swallow a camel.' This is a proverbial way of speaking, descriptive of that disposition of mind, which inclines men to perform inconsiderable duties with a most scrupulous exactness, and to violate without any scruple the most essential articles of religion. The hypocrisy of the Pharisees would have been less remarkable in an inhuman exaction of tithes, than in a parade of paying them with a rigid nicety. Accord ingly, it is a Pharisee who speaks the words Just now cited from St. Luke, and who reckons scrupulosity among his virtues. 'God, I thank thee, that I am not as other men are. I fast twice in the week, I give tithes of all that I possess,' that is to say, I pay tithes of those things which seem to be too inconsiderable to be tithed.

2. Our second remark regards the law of tithes. Tithes were dues payable to God, and they consisted of the tenth of the produce of whatever was titheable. The Jews pretended, that the example of Abraham, who paid to God, in the person of Melchisedec, his minister, a tenth of the spoils which he took from the confederate kings of the plain, ought to have the force of a law with all his descendants. To this mysterious circumstance they refer the origin of tithes. Natural religion seems to have inculcated among the pagans the necessity of paying this kind of homage to God. We meet with examples among the heathens from time immemorial. With them tithes were considered as a sacred tax. Hence Pisistratus, a tyrant of Athens, said to the Athenians, in order to obtain their consent to submit to his authority, Inquire whether I appropriate tithes to myself, and do not religiously carry them to the temples of the gods. We will not multiply quotations. It shall suffice to say, God declared to the Israelites, that the land of Canaan was his, as well as the rest of the world; that they should enjoy the produce of the land, but should be as strangers and pilgrims, and have no absolute disposal of the lands themselves. In the quality of sole proprietor he obliged them to pay him homage, and this is the true origin of tithes. All the tithe of the land, whether of the seed of the land, or of the fruit of the tree, is the Lord's,' Lev. xxvii. 30; that is, tithe belongs to God of right, and cannot be withheld without sacrilege.

There were three sorts of tithes, The first kind was appointed for the support of the Levites, and was wholly devoted to that purpose, except a fifth, which was taken out for the priests. This was called by the Jews the first tithe, the provision for God, because it was dedicated to the maintenance of the ministers of the temple. Bring ye all the tithes into the store-house, that there may be meat in mine house,' Mal. iii. 10. Hence the Jews thought themselves free from this kind of tithe, when they had no temple.

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There was a second sort of tithe. Every head of a family was obliged to carry it himself to the temple at Jerusalem, and to eat it there. If he were prevented by distance of habitation, he was allowed to redeem this tax, that is to say, he was allowed to pay an

equivalent. A law to this purpose is in Deuteronomy, Thou shalt eat before the Lord thy God, in the place which he shall choose to place his naine there, the tithe of thy corn, of thy wine, and of thine oil, and the firstlings of thy herds, and of thy flocks, that thou mayest learn to fear the Lord thy God always. And if the way be too long for thee,' that is to say, if the tithe would take damage in carrying, then shalt thou turn it into money, and shalt carry it into the place which the Lord thy God shall choose,' chap. xiv. 23. 25.


The third sort of tithes were called the tithes for the poor. These, it was supposed, were paid to God, because his benevolence had, if I may speak agreeably to an expression of Jesus Christ, incorporated them with himself. Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me,' Matt. xxv. 40. This tithe was paid every three years. 'At the end of three years thou shalt bring forth all the tithe of thine increase the same year, and shall lay it up within the gates. And the Levite, because he hath no part nor inheritance with thee, and the stranger, and the fatherless, and the widow, which are within thy gates, shall come, and shall eat, and be satisfied; that the Lord thy God may bless thee in all the work of thine hand, which thou doest,' Deut. xiv. 28, 29.


But what principally regards the sense of our text is, that the law had not precisely determined what things were titheable. It had only expressed the matter in general terms. This had given occasion to two opinions among the Jews, that of the scrupulous, and that of the remiss. The remiss affirmed, that only things of value were titheable. The scrupulous, among whom the Pharisees held the first place, extended the law to articles of the least importance. Their rituals ordained, that all eatables were titheable, and in this class they put the inconsiderable herbs mentioned in the text. They are all specified in the Talmud. Jesus Christ declares himself here for the opinion of the Pharisees; but what he blamed, and what he detests was, that they dispensed with the great duties of religion, under pretence of performing these, the least; and this is the subject we are going to examine.

I. We will define the great duties of religion.

II. We will unmask those hypocrites, who by observing the small duties of religion, pretend to purchase a right of violating the chief articles of it. We will endeavour to develope this kind of devotion, and to show you the inutility and extravagance of it.

I. What are the chief duties of religion? or, to retain the language of my text, what are the weightier matters of the law?

In some respects all virtues are equal, because the foundation of our obedience is the same, that is, the majesty of the Supreme Legislator, who prescribed all. A man who should coolly and obstinately violate the least important duties of religion, would be no less guilty than he who should violate the most essential articles of it. His violation of the least ought to be accounted a violation of


the greatest, because by sinning in the manner just now mentioned, he would subvert, as far as he could, the ground of al! virtues. great and small. St. James says, whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all,' chap. ii. 10, and the reason he assigns is, the same God has prescribed all, For he that said. Do not commit adultery, said also, Do not kill.' Now, adds the apostle, if thou commit no adultery, yet if thou kill, thou art become a transgressor of the law,' ver. 11. that is to say, thou subvertest the foundation of the law, that forbids adultery which thou dost not commit, as well as that which forbids murder which thou dost commit. In this respect, then, he virtues and vices are equal. In this view, there is no room for distinction between the more and the less important duties of religion.

the means that lead to the end. We shall briefly explain these five rules, and shall leave them to your mature deliberation.

The first rule is taken from the origin of a virtue. One virtue originating immediately in primitive law is more important than another, an obligation to perform which is founded only on some particular circumstances; and such virtues as are immediate consequences of this law, are more impor ant than others that are only remotely conse quential

But this, which is incontestable in one point of view, is not defensible in another. There are some things in the law more important than others; because, though they all proceed from the same tribunal, yet the majesty of God, the lawgiver, was displayed in a more express and solemn manner, in ordaining some than others, so that he who violates the first kind of virtues, attacks this majesty in a more direct manner than he who is guilty of violating only the last.

The difficulty lies in exactly determining the rules by which these two classes of virtues have been distinguished. The time allotted for a sermon renders such a discussion impracticable. It is, if I may so speak, essential to all sermons preached in this pulpit, that they be discussed superficially We must accommodate ourselves to custom, and briefly, sketch out the present subject.

In order to ascertain what virtues ought to be arranged among the most important, and what among the leas, five things must be distinguished. 1. The origin of a virtue. 2. The duration of it. 3. Its object. 4. Its influence. 5. Its destination. From these distinctions arise five rules.

Primitive law is that class of maxims which derive their authority, not from revealed law only, but from the eternal truths on which they are founded, and from the nature of the intelligent beings to whom they are Such are these: a created intelprescribed ligence has no right to asume a freedom from the laws of his Creator: the Being who possesses supreme perfection, is alone worthy of Whatsoever ye would supreme adoration: that men should do to you. do ye even so to them,' Matt. vii 12: talents with which I am intrusted by another, ought not to be employed to gratify my particular caprice; but they ought to be so used as to enable me to give a good account of them to him who in trusted me with them, and directed the use of them. Multiply and enlarge these maxims, brethren; I only give you a clew. Virtues of this kind are far more important than others, an obligation to which is founded only on particular circumstances. Virtues of this last kind oblige only as consequences of the primitive law, of which I just now spoke; and they oblige more or less, as the consequences are more or less remote. To address consolatory conversation to a sufferer obliges only as a consequence of this primitive virtue, Whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them." comfort an afflicted man by conversing with hin, is a consequence more remote from this primitive virtue than to remove his afflict on by supplying his wants. Accordingly, the virtues of this consequential kind cease to oblige, when the circumstances that found Hence it sometimes the obligation cease. happens, these duties annihilate one another. to discharge We must often omit some others. We must defer, or wholly omit con solatory conversation, in order to procure and We must omit readminister real suppl es. lieving a stranger, in order to fly to relieve a fellow-citizen We must cease to relieve one to whom we are related only as a fellow-citizen, in order to attend to the relief of another, who is a member with us of the household of faith,' Gal. vi. 10, and so on.


2. Virtues anterior to particular circumstances subsist after those circ instances: and my second maxim is only the first in a different point of view. A virtue perpetuated to eternity is more important than another which is confined within the limits of time. Now, the virtues that go on to elet nity, are the same which oblige prior to all the particular circumstances of time. The two riles, therefore, unite; it is one propo, sed in divers views.


The first rule regards the origin of a virtue. A virtue arising immediately from primitive law, is more important than others, an obligation to which arises from some particular circumstances; and those which are inodiate consequences of this law, are more important than others, which are remotely consequential.

The second regards the duration of a virtue. A virtue that runs on to eternity, is more important than another, which belongs only to the economy of time.

The third rule regards the object of a virtue. A virtue, that has a great object, is more important than another which has an inconsiderable object.

The fourth rule is taken from the influence of a virtue. A virtue connected with other virtues, and moving along with itself very many others, is more important than another virtue which operates independently and


The fifth rule regards the end of a virtue. A virtue that constitutes the end to which all religion conducts us, is more important than other virtues, which at most only promote

Hear how St. Paul reasons to prove that charity is more excellent than all the miracu


lous gifts which God bestowed on the primitive Christians. He enumerates these gifts; God hath set in the church, first apostles, secondarily prophets, thirdly teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, governments, diversities of tongues,' 1 Cor xii. 28 But,' adds he, covet earnestly the best gifts: and yet I show unto you a more excellent way,' ver. 31. Then follows his encomium upon charity. Charity,' or love, 'never faileth: but whether there be prophecies, they shall fail; whether there be tongues, they shall cease; whether there be knowledge, it shall vanish away,' 1 Cor. xiii. 8. Moreover, he places charity not only above all miraculous gifts: but he sets it above all other virtues. And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three but the greatest of these is charity,' ver. 13.



My brethren, what St. Paul said of miraculous gifts, and of some virtues, that they fail' in comparison with charity, an obligation to which continues forever, we say of a thousand particular practices, to which, indeed, you are obliged, but which are not to be compared with other great virtues, of the excellence of which we have been speaking, and which are weightier matters of the law.' All these particular circumstances will cease in another life: but these great virtues, to which we would persuade you to give the preference, will never cease. In heaven we can erect no hospitals, visit no sick people, wipe off no slander: but we shall be happily united by ties the most agreeable, the most close, and the most in dissoluble. In heaven we shall love one ano ther with sentiments the most sincere, the most lively, the most tender; because we shall participate the same God, propose to ourselves the same end, and be forever in the highest bliss. In heaven we shall have no temple: we shall eternally enjoy the presence of God. In heaven we shall not take hold of each other's skirts,' Zech. viii. 23, according to the expression of a prophet, saying, Come, and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord,' Isa. ii. 3: but we shall incessantly animate one another to celebrate the praises of the Author of our existence and happiness. In heaven we shall not approach a table to commemorate, by receiving a little bread and wine, our divine Redeemer, and to hold communion with God; but we shall be as closely connected with God as creatures can be to the Creator. Those virtues which approach nearest to them that are anterior to time, and to them that continue to eternity, are more important than others, to which circumstances of time oblige



3. Our third rule regards objects of virtue. A virtue that has a great object, is more important than those which have small objects. The answer of Jesus Christ to a fainous question in his time is well known. It was then warmly disputed, Which is the great commandment? Some rabbies said, it was that which appointed phylacteries; others affirmed, it was the law of circumcision; others again contended for that which appointed sacrifices. No, said Jesus Christ, none of these commandments merit the high

est place; 'the great commandment is, Thou
shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy
heart, with all thy soul, with all thy strength.'
This law admits of no dispensation, no limi.
tation, no concurrence

This law, I say, is indispensable: it binds
alike angels and men, and they are only de-
vils who, having precipitated themselves
by the greatest of all crimes into the greatest
of all miseries, are reduced to the dreadful
necessity of hating a God whose perfections
incline him to render them miserable.


This law is unlimited. Others are confined
to a certain sphere; they cease to be virtues
when they are carried to excess, and what-
ever carries us too far in performing one obli-
gation, retrenches another. Excessive jus-
tice runs into barbarity, and leaves no room
for the exercise of humanity. Excessive
penitence ceases to be repentance, degene-
rates into despair, and leaves no room for
faith in the promises of mercy made to us in
the gospel. Excessive faith ceases to be
faith, degenerates into superstition and pue-
rile credulity, and leaves no room for the
exercise of reason. But who can love God
in an extreme? A passion so noble can never
be too vehement, nor can its flames ever burn
with too much ardour.
This law is without concurrence. The
great object of our love admits of no rival in
the heart. In many cases we ought to sacri-
fice one duty, which has God for its object, to
another that has a neighbour for its object.
It would be better to absent one's self from
the external duties of religion, than to ne-
glect a dying parent. Love to God, in this
case, is not in opposition to love for a fellow-
creature. God himself requires us in such a
case to suspend a performance of ritual ser-
vice, and to bend all our attention to relieve
a dying parent. The love then shewn to a
dying parent is a necessary consequence of
loving God, of that primitive love from which
all other loves proceed. Whenever the love
of God and the love of our neighbour are in
opposition, so that we cannot perform the
last without neglecting the first, we need not
hesitate; love to God must be preferred be-
fore love to creatures. The most lawful at-
tachments become criminal, when they dimi-
nish, yea when they divide, the regard that
we ought to have for God. No man can
serve two masters.' 'He that loveth father
or mother, or son or daughter, more than me,
is not worthy of me.' Thou shalt love the
Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all
thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the
first and great commandment,' Matt. vi. 24;
x. 17; and xxii. 36, 37.

The objects of some virtues, which regard
our neighbour, are greater than others of the
same class. Charity which respects the life
of a neighbour, is greater than that which
regards his fortune. The charity which re-
gards his salvation, is greater than that
which regards his life; the objects are

The same may be said of virtues which regard ourselves. The rule is certain. A virtue which has a great object is more important than another which has a small object.

4. Our fourth rule regards the influence of


what madness animates thee! wretch! who spreadest the poison of thy corruption, not only through thy own circle, but through all the countries where thine infamous productions go; infecting not only thy contempora ries, but all others who succeed thee; what punishment proportioned to thy malice can be inflicted on thee! Miserable wretch ! methinks I distinguish thee hereafter in the crowd of victims, which the vengeance of God sacrifices in hell. Methinks I see thee amidst the unworthy captives, whom thy writings subdued to Satan, and I hear them address this frightful language to thee: Thou barbarian! was not enough for thee to delight thyself with error and vice, didst thou aspire at the glory of giving a relish for it! Was it not enough to exclude thyself from eternal happiness, must heaven also be shut against us, by thine abominable maxims as well as thy pernicious example! Was it not enough to precipitate thyself into those flames, must we be drawn after thee? Thou wast our betrayer in time, and we will be thy tormentors through all eternity.

Finally, the last rule to distinguish virtues the most important of others of inferior importance, is taken from the end of each. A virtue that constitutes the end to which all religion conducts us, is more important than other virtues which at most are only means to lead to the end. What is the end and design of all religion? Can there be one among us so great a novice in the school of Jesus Christ as to want an answer to this question? Let us hear St. Paul, Christ loved the church, and gave himself for it, that he might sanctify it, and that he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle, or any such thing, but that it should be holy and without blemish,' Eph. v. 25—27. This is the end of religion. In order to obtain this end, we are dedicated to God in baptisin as soon as we are born. In our infancy we are inspired with a piety of preju dice in hope that in time we may imbibe a rational piety. As soon as our minds unfold their powers we are taught to know our Creator. As we ripen in years and knowledge, tutors are provided for us, and we are conducted to places of public worship erected to the glory of our Creator: there being assembled we are invited to celebrate solemn festivals; there we are taught whence we came and whither we go, what we are and what we ought to be, what we should believe, and what we ought to practice: we are led by the exercise of prayer to the source of all that assistance which is necessary to enable us to surmount the obstacles which nature, example, and habit, in spite of an education the most rigid and holy, oppose to our sanctification ; there we are made to ratify, by engagements the most solemn and binding, at the table of the Lord, all that had been promised for us at our baptism. Now what are all these practices? Are they not means to conduct us to the end of religion? Let us then put every thing in its proper place; let us value the means only as they lead to the end; and let us not imagine, when we have lost sight of the end, that we do any thing to purpose by continuing to make use of the means

virtues. Every virtue connected with other, virtues, and drawing after it many more, is greater than any single and detached virtue. The influence of virtues proceeds in some cases from the relations of him who performs them, and in others from the nature of the virtues themselves.

The virtues of a minister of state, and those of a minister of Christ, are of far greater importance in the execution of their offices than the other virtues of the same men which they practice as private persons in the comparative obscurity of their families. It is a very virtuous action in a statesman to provide good tutors for his children; but it is a far more virtuous action in him to prefer able professors in a university. The first influence only his family, and last the whole state. The same reasoning holds in the caso of a minister of Christ, and of every other person, always proportioning, however, the duty to the relation that each bears in the world.

Sometimes the influence of a virtue is essential to the nature of the virtue itself. It is a virtue to bestow on a beggar a sum suflicient to free him from the necessity of begging; but it is a far more virtuous action to put him in a capacity of supporting himself; for by this means he is not only freed from the temptations of poverty, but from those of idleness, the parent of all vice and misery. By this means, you make a good member of society, a good father of a family, a good Christian in the Church, and so on.

What has been said on the difference of virtues, both in this and in the former rules, may be applied to the difference of vices. Vicious actions of extensive influence ought to be considered as more odious than others of confined effects. It is certainly a detestable action to utter, in excesses of debauchery, any maxims injurious to religion and good manners: but it is incomparably more detestable, coolly and deliberately to pen, print, publish, extend, and perpetuate these maxims. There is no pretext specious enough to palliate the permission of such publications, as there are no colours black enough to describe the audacious authors of such books.

No, neither that spirit of toleration, which produces such innumerable blessings where it reigns, nor that freedom of coinmerce, which, where it is allowed, enriches nations, and renders them so flourishing and formidable; no, no pretext can palliate the liberty, or rather the licentiousness that we deplore. The law of God ordained that a blasphemer should be stoned, and this law was executed in all its rigour by the Jewish legislature. Have Christians more right to blaspheme God than Jews had? Has the Christian magistrate a greater right to exercise indulgence towards blasphemers than Jewish magistrates had?

But if no pretext can be invented to palliate a permission of such publications, who can furnish colours black enough to describe the publishers of them? Thou miserable wretch, who, in order to obtain the empty reputation of an author, and to acquire the false glory of writing with vivacity and beauty, coverest thyself with real infamy,

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