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and of that peace of God which passeth all understanding. But what is still worse, we not only deprive them of the truest comforts of the present life, but we cut off all their hopes of happiness in the next; we take from them the only sure ground of pardon and acceptance, the death and merits of a crucified Redeemer: we bar up against them the gates of heaven, into which but for us they might have entered, and perhaps consign them over to everlasting perdition. Is not this beyond comparison the greatest injury that one human creature can inflict upon another ? And does it not justly merit that severe sentence which our Lord has pronounced against it 2 Let then every one keep at the utmost distance from this most atrocious crime. Let every man who commits his thoughts to the public, take especial care that nothing drop even incidentally from his pen that can offend those whom our Saviour calls little children that believe in him ; that can either stagger their faith or corrupt their hearts.
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Let every father of a family be equally careful that nothing escape his lips in the unguarded hour of familiar converse, that can be dangerous to the religious principles of his children, his friends, or his servants; nothing that tends to lessen their reverence for the sacred writings, their respect for the doctrines, the precepts, or the sacred ordinances of religion, or raise any doubts or scruples in their minds respecting the truth or divine authority of the Christian revelation. I mention these things, because even the friends of religion are sometimes apt, through mere inadvertence or thoughtlessness, to indulge themselves in pleasantries, even upon serious subjects, which though meant at the time merely to entertain their hearers, or to display their wit, yet often produce a very different effect, and sink much deeper into the minds of those that are present (especially of young people) than they are in the least aware of More (mischief may sometimes be done by incidental levities of this kind, than by
grave discourses or elaborate writings against religion. I have dwelt the longer on this interesting topic, because few people are aware of the enormity of the sin here reproved by our Lord, of the irreparable injury it may do to others, and of the danger to which it exposes themselves. But when they reflect, that by the commission of this crime they endanger the present peace and the future salvation of their fellowcreatures, and expose themselves to the woes which our Lord has in the passage before us denounced against those from whom these offences come, they will probably feel it their duty to be more guarded in this instance than men generally are; and will take heed to their ways, that they offend not either with their pen or with their tongue. I now go on with the remaining part of our Lord's admonition to his disciples. *... After having said in the 7th verse, “Woe unto the world because of offences; for it must needs be that offences come ; but
but woe to that man by whom the offence cometh; ” he then adds, “Wherefore if thy hand or thy foot offend thee, cut them off and cast them from thee; it is better for thee to enter into life halt or maimed, rather than having two hands or two feet to be cast into everlasting fire; and if thine eye offend thee, pluck it out and cast it from thee; it is better for thee to enter into life with one eye, rather than having two eyes to be cast into hell fire.” Our Saviour here applies to the particular sin which he was then condemning, the very same words which he had used before in his sermon on the Mount with reference to the crime of adultery; and the meaning is this: The heinous sin against which I have been here cautioning you, that of offending your christian brethren, of causing them by your misconduct to renounce their faith in me or to desert the paths of virtue, has its origin in your depraved appetites and passions; as in the present instance
instance it is your ambition, your eagermess after worldly honours and distinctions, which it is to be feared will give offence and scandal to those that observe it, and may impress them with an unfavourable idea of that religion which seems to inspire such sentiments. You must therefore go at once to the root of the evil, you must extirpate those corrupt passions and propensities that have taken possession of your hearts, though it may be as difficult for you to part with them as it would be to pluck out an eye, or tear off a limb from the body. For it is better that you should renounce what is most dear to you in this life, than that you should suffer those dreadful punishments in the next, which I have told you will assuredly be inflicted on all impenitent offenders, and more particularly on those
who offend in the way here specified. He then returns to the main subject of his exhortation: “take heed that ye despise not one of these little ones; for I say unto you, that in heaven their angels do