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Mortification of Sin a reasonable Duty.
MARK, ix. 43, 44, 45, 46, 47, 48. If thy hand offend thee, cut it off: it is better for thee to enter into life maimed, than having two hands to go into hell, into the fire that never shall be quenched; where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched. And if thy foot offend the, cut it off: it is better for the to enter halt into life, than having two feet to be cast into hell, into the fire that never shall be quenched; where their worm dicth not, and the fire is not quenched. And if thine eye offend thee, pluck it out: it is better for thee to enter into the kingdom of God with one eye, than having two eyes to be cast into hell fire; where their worm dieth
not, and the fire is not quenched THE service, which religion requires, is
a reasonable service. It demands of us nothing, but what our own reason, if suffered fairly to judge, must approve; nothing, but what is for our good, and tends to increase our happiness. If some of God's commandments seem to us to be grieyous, they only seem, they are not really so. If
they bid us do any thing, which is now unpleasant to our feelings, it is only to save us in the end from something, which it will be far worse to bear.
There is in the text a striking instance of the truth of this remark. Our SAVIOUR was enforcing a very painful duty; one which he knew that men would be most unwilling to perform. And how did he enforce it? By shewing that it is a profitable duty. It is one which we cannot neglect, without manifest injury to ourselves.
Painful as it may be, it will be our interest and happiness to perform it. • We surely cannot but listen, with seriousness and attention, to a command, which comes thus recommended to our notice.
In discoursing on it, I shall set before you, 1. The Duty here enjoined.
II. The Argument, by which it is enforced.
I. The Duty here enjoined is thus described in the text. “ If thy hand or thy foot offend thee, cut it off; if thine eye offend thee, pluck it out." So that in explaining the duty it will be necessary to shew, what is the case supposed : what is the state of the member here spoken of: when the hand or the foot may be said to offend. To of .. fend, in the language of scripture, frequently means to put any thing in the way of a person, which may cause him to fall ør.stumble. Hence, by a common figure of speech, whatever may prove a snare or temptation to any one, whatever may be the occasion of drawing him into sin, is said to offend him. Thus St. Paul uses the word, when he says, " It is good neither to eat flesh, nor to drink wine, nor any thing whereby thy brother stumbleth, or is offended, or is made weak."* Thus Christ also used the word, when he said to the disciples of John the Baptist, " Blessed is he, whosoever shall not be offended in me;" and again, to his own disciple Peter, "Get thee behind me, Satan, thou art an offence unto me.”+ The apostle, by urging Jesus to avoid the cross, was a snare and temptation to him. And in this sense the word is used in the text. The member is said to offend, when it proves an occasion of sin. The case supposed is this; that the hand, or the foot, or the eye, become a snare and tenptation to us: that they are a continual occasion of our committing sin, and bringing guilt upon our souls. Now in this case, what is to be done? What is the duty required of us ? We must part with the offending member. However painful the operation, however severe the loss may be, we must undergo
the pain, we must submit to the loss. There is no choice left to us in the matter. We must not consult our feeling. We must " not confer with flesh and blood.” One thing only is to be done. Cut off the hand or foot. Pluck out the eye-Such is the duty here described. But how then are we to understand this duty ? Are we to suppose, that our Lord meant us to take it in its plain literal meaning? Did he intend, that we should really cut off our hand or foot, and pluck out our eye ? Doubtless he designed in this particular instance to lay down a general rule. He designed to shew us how we are required to act in every case like that which he had stated. Every thing, which may prove a stumbling-block in our way, must be treated, as the offending member is to be treated. Be it what it may, be it something as useful as a hand, as serviceable as a foot, as dear and precious as an eye; be it something, a separation from which will be as painful as a separation from a part of our body ; yet if it be a snare and temptation to us: if it be an occasion of sin, it must be parted with. There is no other course to be fol. lowed. Self must be denied. The fleshly lust must be crucified. The evil habit must
be rooted out. The unlawful gain must be given up. The beloved idol must be renounced. In short, the duty here enjoined, is the Mortification of sin. Now, that this is a very painful and difficult duty cannot be denied. Our LORD himself knew that it would be so.
The way in which he describes the duty, shews us what he thought of the pain and difficulty attending it. He would not have compared it to the cutting off of a hand or foot, or to the plucking out of an eye; if he had not known that a compliance with his command would be a very severe operation. He does not however on this account withhold the command. Painful as the duty is, he still enforces the discharge of it. Let us
II. The argument by which he enforces it.
His argument is shortly this ; that it is better for us to do what he enjoins. And why better? Because not to do it, will certainly bring on us greater evils hereafter. And it is better to suffer a present evil, however great, than by avoiding it to incur a greater evil in the end. It is thus that men reason and act in common things. They will endure present loss in the hope of future gain. They will sow with toil now, in the prospect of reaping at some