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Our Saviour addressing his disciples saith, The words which I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life. This spirit and this life is the same yesterday, to-day, and forever, the same in all countries, and in all ages; nor can the alteration of times, places, or circumstances, have any effect thereon. The letter, however, is not thus invariable, nor is this of much consequence, as the life belongeth not to the letter, but to the spirit. It is the spirit we know which quickeneth.
Our blessed Master gave 'the first preachers of the gospel a particular charge to provide neither gold, silver, nor brass in their purses, nor serip for their journey, neither two coats, neither shoes nor staves; and though according to the Evangelist Luke, xxii. 36. he repeals or modifies this law, and
says, “ But now, he that hath a purse, let him take it, and likewise a scrip;" but after his first command, says nothing of shoes which can authorise his servants to wear them: yet it is not the spirit of his first command, that hath destroyed the letter, but the nature of the climate, combining with the custom of the country'; and I am persuaded that no person who has been led by the spirit to an acquaintance with our Saviour, and that revelation which testifieth of him, would think it necessary for a gospel preacher to cast away his shoes, in order to show his obedience to his divine Master ; yet, I do not know that a literal attention to this command would be so likely to produce unpleasant consequences, as the adoption of the injunction in your references. Yet, be the consequences what they might, if the letter of every ceremony was given to Christians, as the laws were given to the Medes and Persians, and if we could in no single instance discover that the first preachers or believers had deviated therefrom, had they been as unalterable as the truth by which they were accompanied, then, indeed, it would be as much our duty to attend to every punctilio of the letter, as of the spirit. But I am inclined to think if a shake of the hand, or an inclination of the head, should be as generally acknowledged an outward and visible sign of respect or regard in the west, as kissing was in the east, to greet each other with an holy shake of the hand, or an holy inclination of the head, that is, not to lie one to another, but to let these signs be true signs of unfeigned love and respect, would be coming fully up to the spirit of your references; and in this connexion, individuals might fully be subjected to the discipline of Christ's house. Psalm ci. 7. “ He that worketh de
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ceit shall not dwell within my house: he that telleth lies shall not tarry in my sight."
This Psalm, however, leads to the consideration of the Master of the house, in a very different point of view, as you will more clearly see, by looking over the Psalm in its connexion, particularly the third and sixth verses ; “ I will set no wicked thing before mine eyes : I hate the work of them that turn aside ; it shall not cleave to me.
“ Mine eyes shall be upon the faithful of the land, that they may dwell with me : he that walketh in a perfect way, he shall serve me.”
The great Author and Finisher of our faith, has given us, Matthew, xviii. 15, 16, 17. an excellent rule for Christians to walk by when associated together as members of the same society.
“ Moreover if thy brother shall trespass against thee, go and tell him his fault, between thee and him alone : if he shall hear thee thou hast gained thy brother.
“ But if he will not hear thee, then take with thee one, or two more, that in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established.
“ And if he shall neglect to hear them, tell it unto the church: but if he neglect to hear the church, let him be unto thee as an heathen man, and a Publican.".
A society of Christians led together by the spirit of God, and conducting by rules thus stamped by divine authority, would no doubt become exemplary. But when we.compare 1 Corinthians, V. 5. with the above cited passage, we are very much at a loss to know what the Apostle intended by giving the offending brother to Satan.
“To deliver such an one unto Satan, for the destruction of the flesh, that the spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus.” What was the punishment of the offenders; and what are we to understand by the destruction of the flesh, saving the spirit in the day of the Lord? Were any society to make this experiment, who did not in every particular answer the description given of the church in the fourth verse of this chapter, “ In the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, when ye are gathered together and my spirit, with the power of the Lord Jesus Christ.” If, I say, a church should be gathered together in any other name, or in any other spirit, than that which guided the apostles, or in any other
power than that of the Lord Jesus Christ, they might indeed excommunicate, and tell the offender they delivered him to Satan ; and so far they would be found conforming to the letter of the law of these directions; and thus all parties denominating themselves Christians, have from that time to this done; but how far they have acted a Christian part, in thus doing, let others judge. It appears to me, when God himself has withdrawn his spirit and presence
any institution, to take hold of the letter, or the form, is to touch a dead body. However, it is not the spirit that can destroy the letter ; on the contrary, we often find the letter continue, when the spirit is gone. Please to compare the five first verses of the seventh chapter of Matthew, which run thus :
« Judge not, that ye be not judged.
“For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again.
“ And, why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother's eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye ?
“ Or, how wilt thou say to thy brother, let me pull out the mote out of thine eye : and behold a beam is in thine qwn eye?
“ Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye ; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother's eye.”
Compare these verses with 1 Corinthians, v. 12. “ For what have I to do to judge them also that are without ? Do not ye judge them that are within ?
I am very far from desiring to set aside, or to neglect any positive command of my Redeemer. I am persuaded he spake as never man'spake ; grace and truth dwelleth in him. But although many of his positive precepts are set aside and totally neglected, yet I am far from believing he hath forsaken his house; and he who lives by faith, beholding what is invisible to the eye of sense, will see him walking in his house with a perfect heart. Psalm ci. 2.
But let us attend to a few of our Saviour's positive precepts, which, because they are calculated to bring glory to God and happiness to man, more than any regulation of which we have any account, should continue in form to the end of time. First, listen to the commands given by the Redeemer in the tenth chapter of Matthew, to preachers of the gospel: “ Heal Che sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, cast out, devils ; and into whatsoever city or town ye enter, inquire who in it is worthy, and there abide
till ye go thence; and whosoever shall not receive you, shake off the dust of your feet. Be ye therefore, wise as serpents, but harm- , less as doves. Beware of men, but when they shall deliver
you up, take no thought how, or what you shall speak. But when they persecute you in this city, flee ye into another."
Again, Matthew xxiii. 1, 2, 3, “Then spake Jesus to the multitude, and to his disciples,
“Saying, The Scribes and the Pharisees sit in Moses' seat:
« All, therefore, whatsoever they bid you observe, observe and do; but do not ye after their works : for they say, and do not."
Verse 9, “Call no man your father upon earth, for one is your Father which is in heaven." Verse 10, “Neither be
ye called master, for one is even Christ."
Again, In Luke xii. 22, 29, 33, "Take no thought for your life what
ye shall eat, neither for the body, what ye shall put on. “And seek not what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink, neither be ye
of doubtful mind. * “Sell that ye have, and give alms; provide yourselves bags which wax not old; a treasure in the heavens that faileth not, where no thief approacheth, neither moth corrupteth.”
To those who hear his voice the Saviour says, Matthew v. 16, 33, 34, 37, 39, 40, 41, 42, 44, 48, “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father which is in heaven,
“ Again, ye have heard that it hath been said by them of old time, Thou shalt not forswear thyself, but shalt perform unto the Lord thine oaths.*
“ But I say unto you, Swear not at all: neither by heaven; for it is God's throne, &c.
“ But let your communication be, Yea, yea; Nay, nay: for whatsoever is more than these cometh of evil.
“ But I say unto you, That ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also.
“And if any man will sue thee at the law, and take away thy coat, let him have thy cloak also.
“ And whosoever shall compel thee to go a mile, go with him twain.
“Give to him that asketh thee; and from him that would borrow of thee, turn not thou away,
“ But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which dem spitefully use you, and persecute you;
ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.”
Again, In the sixth of this gospel, 3, 4, 6, 7, 16, 17, 18, 19, 25, 31, 34:
“ But when thou doest alms, let not thy left hand know what thy right hand doeth;
“ That thine alms may be in secret: and thy Father, which seeth in secret, himself shall reward thee openly.
“ But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and, when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret, and thy Father which seeth in secret, shall reward thee openly.
16" But when ye pray, use not vain repetitions, as the heathen do: for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking.
“ Moreover, when ye fast, be not as the hypocrites, of a sad countenance: for they disfigure their faces, that they may appear unto men to fast. Verily, I say unto you, they have their reward.
“But thou, when thou fastest, anoint thine head, and wash thy
“ That thou appear not unto men to fast, but unto thy Father which is in secret: and thy Father, which seeth in secret, shall reward thee openly.
“Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal.
“ Therefore, I say unto you, Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on. Is not the life more than meat, and the body than raiment ?
“Therefore, take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed ?
“Take therefore, no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof."
Again, In the seventh chapter, 6, 21, “Give not that which is holy unto the dogs, neither cast ye your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn again and rend you.
“ Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven."