« FöregåendeFortsätt »
made lies our refuge, and under falsehood have we hid ourselves. False opinions make sinners feel careless and secure; and a sort of faith in the devil, a belief in lying excuses for sin, embolden them still to go on, and to err more and more from the right way. Men know very
well that the third commandment forbids making use of the name of the Almighty on trivial occasions; and yet how frequently is the commandment despised and violated, without the least feeling of remorse, because people believe that it is a sufficient excuse that they mean no harm! But meaning harm, or not meaning harm, is not at all noticed in the commandment. Mean harm to whom? How could men harm the Almighty, in their sense of harm ? If it be intended that they mean no harm to their neighbour, the excuse is equally fallacious. This commandment speaks of man's duty to his Maker, not of his duty to his fellowcreatures. It commands us to reverence, in our speech, the divine name; and we violate that precept whenever we use it with irreverence. The precept is very express“ Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain, for the Lord will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain.” Now, the lie, or false opinion, which people commonly believe, is, that they will be held
guiltless," because they swear, or invoke the divine name, out of merriment, or from surprise, or from habit, without direct malice; none of which excuses can be reasonably inferred from the precept as at all availing.
This is but one example of many other false opinions that cause men to err, and persist in sin with an easy conscience. Men believe, or half believe, with now and then slight misgivings, such excuses for sin, and a neglect of duty towards God, as would not impose on a mere fool, if they referred to duties owing himself.
Men who have a right to command, properly enough insist on strict, prompt, and implicit odedience, and admit of no silly excuses; and shall the high commands of righteous Heaven be despised and disregarded, and the divine authority insulted by silly excuses, and man yet be “guiltless,” in direct contradiction to the divine declara
tion! Were it not the fact that man appears to believe such lying absurdities, it might be supposed impossible that he could so far deceive himself, or be such a dupe to the deceiver of mankind.
Another false opinion very prevalent is, that young men may be vicious with impunity—that youth is an excuse for vice; but it is an opinion not at all countenanced in the Bible, any more than that it is excusable for persons, in certain situations, to disregard the divine laws: as for example, that strict morality does not apply to sailors or soldiers, or to politicians, or to great generals and conquerors. In some of these cases the parties would not plead for an entire exemption, but that various forms of wickedness are excusable in them, from their peculiar circumstances; and a little sophistry may be employed to support the pretext : but when examined by the holy law revealed in the Bible, all such pretexts will prove to be a part of those lies which cause men to err. (Isa. xliv. 20.) “A deceived heart turns man aside, that he cannot deliver his soul, nor say-is there not a lie in my right hand ?"
Even the ministers of religion are not free from being the dupes of false opinions, and the defenders of them, by which they confirm others in their wicked ways, and destroy instead of saving men. Thus saith the Lord, “ I have seen folly in the prophets of Samaria, who have caused my people Israel to err; for both prophet and priest are profane; the land is full of adulterers, and because of swearing the land mourneth. I have seen also in the prophets of Jerusalem an horrible thing; they commit adultery, and walk in lies; they strengthen also the hands of evil doers, that none doth return from his wickedness.” (Jer. xxiii. 10–14.) And how do they strengthen the hands of evil doers ?- by bad example, and by “walking in lies,” or defending false opinions.
You see how impartial the Bible is. Some people have represented it as made up kingcraft and priestcraft ; but it is as severe against wicked kings and magistrates, and wicked prophets and priests, as against wicked poor men; and therefore the accusation is not true. The Bible
evidently contains the righteous will of the most high and heart-searching God, before whom all craft, and hypocrisy, and false excuses, are naked and open to view; and by whom they are abhorred, and will be punished, unless men, by repentance and application to the Saviour, prepare to meet their God.
In farther confirmation of what I have now said, concerning the impartiality of the Bible, the sin next pointed out, in the 2d chapter and lst verse of Amos, is bribery and oppression. The magistrates sold the righteous for silver, and the poor man for a pair of shoes. Then, the smallest bribe, even the value of a pair of shoes, would induce the magistrates to give up a poor man to the will of his merciless oppressor. Of this sin, I believe British magistrates are remarkably free. The laws will not permit it; and the poor man's cause is heard as well as the rich, and evenhanded justice dispenses the same law to both. In private life wicked masters will be tyrannical; and bad servants will neglect their duty, in minute cases, which the law of man cannot well reach: but these sins are known in heaven.
Lewdness, the source of so many calamities, even in this life, is next threatened with God's displeasure; and drunkenness, that brutalizing sin, which renders man beastly, or foolish, or mad; which unfits him for duty, destroys health, and wastes property; which makes children rob their parents, and husbands starve their families ; which makes a man a prey to vagabonds and villains, reduces him to beggary, brings him to highway robbery, or to murder, and to the gallows.
Further, the Prophet charges Judah and Israel with hard-hearted impenitence, in the midst of many calamities sent from heaven to chastise and to warn them. The Almighty sent famine, or a want of bread—“Yet have ye not returned unto me, saith the Lord.”—“I have withholden the rain, so that two or three cities wandered unto one city to drink water, but they were not satisfied; yet have ye not returned unto me, saith the Lord. I have overthrown some of your, and others were as a firebrand plucked out of the burning;
yet have you not returned unto me, saith the Lord.” This hard-hearted impenitence, notwithstanding both judgments and mercies, is a very common sin. Every deliverance from sickness or from death, or from any imminent danger, should lead us to serious reflection, to repentance and to prayer, to reformation, and to the Saviour. But a hard impenitent heart denies the goodness of divine Providence, and attributes mercies and blessings to good-luck, and afflictions to chance ; and, under this unhappy state of mind, man will not return to the Lord, nor submit to the hand that chastises him.
In the midst of this hard-hearted ungrateful impenitence, the prophet says, “The people of that time put far away the evil day,” and indulged in luxury and carelessness; they stretched themselves upon their magnificent couches, selected the best of the lambs and calves for intemperate feasts ; chanted to the sound of the viol, invented to themselves instruments of music, drank wine in bowls, and perfumed themselves with the chief perfumes; but they were not grieved nor concerned for the affliction of their poor and oppressed brethren, who suffered from famine, pestilence, and war.
And to sum up these sins, they hated the days appointed for prayer and religious instruction, and wished them gone, that they might make more money to consume upon their lusts; to sell corn, and set forth wheat with their unjust measures, and false balances to deceive and to defraud. And after all this, they hated him that rebuked them, and abhorred him that spoke uprightly.
Yet in the midst of all this wickedness, they kept up some form of religion for a fair pretext; they had certain holidays, and offered sacrifices, and sung anthems.
The wickedness, and folly, and hypocrisy of Judah and Israel, too much resemble what is the case in our own day; and the use we should make of the prophet's censures, is, for every man to examine his own heart, to judge himself, and prepare to meet his God.
The way to prepare, is not to try to cover over or hide our transgressions, for that is impossible. Nor must we
think, that because we have wholly, or almost forgotten many of our evil-doings, and our ways that have not been good, therefore, Heaven has forgotten them; nor should we set up the idle pretext, that we have not been "great sinners,” that we have had “ a good heart," or that we were “young," or any such-like excuses; for there is no proof that Heaven will admit such pretexts, but abundant proof may be produced from the Sacred Scriptures, and from reason, to the contrary. If
you ask me—“Then how shall we prepare ?” I answer, “Confess, and forsake your sins.” Arrangements are made by the divine goodness to allow of pardon to those who do so.
To explain what I humbly believe the Scripturės teach on this solemn subject, I will make a comparison, not as being exactly the same as the reality, but as something like it.
Suppese a man who cannot swim, in the midst of the ocean, struggling to keep himself up, and to save himself from drowning; unless some one help him, it is evident he cannot struggle long, and must eventually perish. But if a life-buoy be thrown out to him, and he sees it, and gets on it till a boat comes and picks him up, he will be saved. But if, through pride or perverse folly, , he will not avail himself either of the buoy or the boat, he will, by struggling, soon be exhausted, and must sink.
The drowning man resembles a poor sinner; the lifebuoy resembles our Saviour. The man who feels that he is perishing, who sees Jesus, and casts himself upon his Almighty arm, will be saved, and finally taken to heaven. The man who proudly or perversely thinks he can save himself, and will not receive the Saviour's assistance, must perish.
The man who gets on the buoy, resembles the Christian who believes in Christ Jesus; and the man who will not get on the buoy, resembles him who believes he can save himself, and so neglects or rejects Jesus Christ the Saviour. The one believes the truth and is saved, the other believes a falsehood and perishes. It is difficult to suppose any