Images de page

flander'd him, or fix'd any ill Titles or Characters upon him, or any way hurted him in Body, Goods, or Name; what then? Why, leave there thy Gift (faith our Saviour) before the Altar, and go thy way; first be reconcil'd to thy Brother, and then come and offer thy Gift: that is, betake thy felf with all speed to the Perfon thou haft thus injur'd, and ufe all means to obtain his Pardon, by acknowledging thy Fault, and making all poflible Reparation, that he may be friends with thee, and fo be perfectly reconcil'd to each other. Till this be done, God will accept of no Gift at thy hands; and when thou haft thus done, then come and offer thy Gift: not that thou art to leave the Duty undone, or make this an Excufe for thy not offering the Gift at all; for that would be to excufe one Fault with another, which would not extenuate, but enhance the Guilt of both: but thou art rather to haften the doing of the one, that thou may ft be the better fitted for the doing of the other: for he that is not yet reconcil'd, muft not carry away his Gift, but leave it before the Altar, and go and be reconcil'd, and then come and offer his Gift; then may he compleat his intended Sacrifice, and the Oblation fhall not only find Acceptance, but come up with a. fweetfmelling Savour. So that the Senfe of this Advice is, that before we enter upon any Religious Duty, we are to enter into our felves, and fee how we ftand affected towards our Neighbour; and if we find any thing amifs, we are to empty our Souls of all Grudges, Prejudices, and Surmifes, and in all our Addreffes unto God to come with Hearts fill'd with Love, Peace, and Reconciliation with all Men.

And this is to be done out of hand, without delay, which as in moft cafes, fo more efpecially in this is very dangerous; and therefore we fhould not defer a matter of fo great weight and neceflity, upon which all our Acceptance with God depends, but fet about it presently, before it be too late. So we are exhorted in the next words:

Agree with thine Adverfary quickly, whilft thou art in the way with him, left at any time the Adverfary deliver thee to the Fudg, and the Judg deliver thee to the Officer, and thou be cast into Prifon: verily I fay unto thee, thou shalt by no means come out thence, till thou hast paid the uttermoft Farthing. Where the guilty Perion in this kind is reprefented under the Notion of a Debtor, both to God and Man; to God by breaking his Law, to Man by invading his Proper

0 3


ty. Now Debtors being ftill expos'd to great Dangers, all fuch Offenders are here advis'd to agree and compofe their matters with God and Man, both whom they have made their Adverfaries, with God by Repentance, with Man by Reftitution. And because the deferring of these things will increase both the Danger and the Difficulty, they are here call'd upon to do it quickly, while they are in the way, and Terms of Accommodation and Agreement may be had; left by delays they be, before they are aware, brought before the great Judg of Heaven and Earth, and he deliver them over to the Sergeant or Officer, that is, to Death or the Devil, to be caft into the Prifon of Hell; where their Torment will be endless, eafelefs, and remedilefs, not being able to be releas'd or come out thence, till they have paid to Divine Juftice the utmoft Farthing: which being never able to do, they muft for ever fuffer, because they can never fatisfy. This will be the Cafe of all that harbour any Malice or Hatred in their Heart, and therefore let us not put off this great bufinefs of reconciling our felves to God and Man: now is the time allotted us for that purpose, the prefent time is all that we can call our own; and if we neglect that, we may have caufe for ever to repent, but perhaps never have time to repair our Folly. Be wife therefore in time, and agree with thine Adversary quickly, whilft thou art in the way with him, left thou be fhortly fent there, where tho thou canft not pay the least, yet the utmoft Farthing will be exacted from thee.

This is the whole of this Day's Gofpel; which may teach us,

1. To carry our Righteoufnefs above and beyond that of the Scribes and Pharifees: they were curious about the Outfide, and were fair and beautiful without, but within full of Filth and Rottennefs. But let us endeavour to cleanfe the Heart, aud fee that matters be right within. They tuck to the Letter of the Law, without minding the true Intent of it; but let us look more to the fpiritual Senfe and Meaning of it, and obferve it in the full Extent of it. They condemn'd grofs Sins, and conniv'd at lefs; and if they abftain'd from the outward Act, could allow them felves in the inward Motions, Occafions, and Tendencies to it but let us lay the Ax to the very Root, and cut down every Branch of Iniquity. They refted in the external Acts of Religion, as of Prayer, Fafting, and Almfgiving,


without regarding the true Ends or Manner of performing them; but let us look more to our Aims and Intentions in thefe Duties, that they may be rightly directed to the Glory of God, and the Good of our own and others Souls. In a word, the Pharifees were proud, partial, and hypocritical in their Righteoufnefs; and therefore let us exceed them in the Humility, Integrity, and Sincerity of ours: for fince Heaven and Happiness lie beyond the Bounds and Extent of their Righteoufnefs, we muft inevitably perish and mifcarry with them, if we go not farther than they.

2. Let our Obedience to God's Laws extend to the whole Design and Intention of them: In the affirmative Precepts, let it reach to all the Means, Motives, and Incens tives requifite to the Obfervance of them; in the negative Precepts, let it take in all the Occafions, Steps, and Tendencies to the breach of them. Particularly in keeping the fixth Commandment againft killing, here mention'd, let us avoid all rafh and caufelefs Anger, all Malice and Hatred, that naturally lead to it; for Malice is a frequent Occafion and Forerunner of Murder, and St. John tells us, that he that hateth his Brother is a Murderer, 1 John 3. 15. for Hatred is attended with a Defire of taking away the Object of it, either by himself or another. Moreover, let us avoid all virulent and opprobrious Speeches, fuch as calling our Brother Racha, or Fool, a vain, empty, witlefs, and wicked Fellow; which commonly provoke to Rage, and draw on Murder. In fhort, Let all Bitterness, and Wrath, and Anger, and Clamour, and Evil-speaking be put away from us, with all Malice; efpecially when we draw nigh to holy things and be kind one to another, tender-hearted, forgiving one another, as God for Chrift's fake bath forgiven us, reconciling our felves to our greatest Foes. And let that be done quickly, left it be too late; and fo by living in Peace and Charity with God and Man here, we fhall live in eternal Peace and Joy with both hereafter: which God grant, &c,

[blocks in formation]
[ocr errors]


The EPISTLE for the Seventh Sunday after


Rom. vi. 19, to the end.

I Speak after the manner of Men, because of the Infirmity of your Flesh; for as ye have yielded your "Members Servants to Uncleanness, and to Iniquity unto Iniquity, even fo now yield your Members Servants to Righteousness unto Holiness, &c.


HE Service for this Day befeeches the Lord of all Power and Might, who is the Author and Giver of all good things, to graft in our Hearts the Love of his Name, to increase in us true Religion, to nourish us with all Goodness, and of his great mercy to keep us in the fame.

The Epiftle for the Day is the latter part of the fame Chapter, from whence that for the laft Sunday was taken; where. the Apostle having fhew'd his new-converted Romans the Efficacy of Chrift's Death for the killing of Sin, and the Virtue of his Refurrection for the quickning them to a Life of Righteousness, he exhorts them to conform to both, by dying to the one, and living to the other. To which end, he here in the clofe of the Chapter accommodates himself to their Weakness, and labours to convince them of the great danger of their former finful Courfes, and likewise of the Safety and Happiness that is to be found in the ways of Righteoufnefs.

I Speak after the manner of Men (faith he) because of the Infirmity of your Flesh meaning, that he condefcended to exprefs thefe weighty Matters to them, in Terms and Similitudes faited to the Weakness of their Capacity and Un derstanding; fetting forth their Duty to Chrift by the known Refemblance and Relation of Mafter and Servant, and by the valgar Terms of Liberty and Bondage, to

which they were much inur'd. Or elfe his complying with the Infirmities of their Flesh, may be meant of his laying on them the moft eafy and moderate Burdens, requiring the least that in any reafon could be requir'd of them; and fo it fignifies his dealing with them in the mildeft and most equitable manner, by reafon of the Weakness of their Flesh, which could not yet well bear any greater Rigour or higher Expreffions. That this is the moft probable Senfe of those words, appears by what follows; where the Apoftle feems to tell them, that all he would at prefent require of them is, that as ye have yielded your Members Servants to Uncleanness, and to Iniquity unto Iniquity, that is, have gone on from one degree of Sin unto another; even so now yield your Members Servants to Righteoufnefs unto Holiness, or go on from one degree of Vertue unto another. The Senfe whereof is, that they fhould be as diligent now in the Service of Christ, as they had been formerly in the Service of Sin, and as careful to ufe their Members to the purposes of Holiness and Vertue, as they had formerly been to yield them up to vile and brutifh Affections. This in all reafon (he tells them) he must require of them, and would as yet ask no more, tho in ftrictness of Juftice he might require them to be far more exercis'd and delighted in the Service of God, than ever they were in the Service of Sin; forafmuch as the Service of the one is highly honourable and advantageous, and the Service of the other bafe and deftructive; and he might with all reafon exact more Care and Sollici tude to fecure to them Heaven and Happiness, than they ufed before to run headlong to Hell and Damnation. But the Apostle here would have the Diligence of his new Con verts in the ways of God to equal only their former Industry in the ways of Sin, till they were farther advanc'd, and then they would fee reafon enough that it fhould far exceed it.

And this he would have them the rather do, because (faith he) when ye were the Servants of Sin, ye were free from Righteoufnefs. When you yielded up your felves to the Service of your Lufts, Righteoufnefs or true Religion had nothing of your Service; what reafon then is there, that Sin fhould have any of your Service now, when you have wholly devoted your felves to the Service of God? If Sin and Satan had all then, having chang'd your Mafter, why should not God and Chrift have all now? Sure the Rules of Juftice will oblige you to abftain as ftrictly now


« PrécédentContinuer »