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“ Have mercy upon me, O God, after “ thy great goodness, according to the mul“ titude of thy mercies do away mine of“ fences. Wash me thoroughly from my “ wickedness, and cleanse me from my sin; “ for I acknowledge my fault, and my sin “ is ever before me. Make me a clean “ heart, O God, and renew a right spirit “ within me. Cast me not away from thy “ presence, and take not thy Holy Spirit “ from me. Thy rebuke hath broken my “ heart, I am full of heaviness ; I looked “ for some to have pity on me, but there “ was no man, neither found I any to com“ fort me. My God, my God, look upon “ mé: why hast thou forsaken me, and art “ so far from my health, and the words of “ my complaint ? I cry in the day-time, « and thou hearest not: and in the night
season also I take no rest. Turn thee -“ unto me, and have mercy upon me, for I 66 am desolate and in misery. The sorrows “ of my heart are enlarged, O bring thou “ me out of my troubles. Look upon my “ adversity and misery, and forgive me all “ my sin. Thine arrows stick fast in me, 6 and thy hand presseth me sore: for my 5 wickednesses are gone over my head, “ and are like a sore burthen, too heavy “ for me to bear. I am brought into so “ great trouble and misery, that I go “ mourning all the day long. My heart 6 panteth, my strength faileth, and the 66 sight of mine eyes is gone from me."*
It is hardly in the power of language to express greater agony of mind than this; and no one, surely, that reads these passages, can wish to undergo the misery there described. It is impossible for him, if he is of a sound mind, to make so wretched a bargain for himself, as to plunge voluntarily into the crimes of the royal penitent, that he may afterwards taste the bitter fruits of his contrition and remorse ; or (what is still worse, and what no sinner can be secure against) that he may die without repenting at all, and rush into the unceasing torments of " a worm that never dies, and so a fire that is never quenched.”
* Ps. li. lxix. xxv. xxviii. &c. &c.
JAMES i. 27.
PURE RELIGION, AND UNDEFILED BEFORE GOD
AND THE FATHER, IS THIS, TO VISIT THE FATHERLESS AND WIDOWS IN THEIR AFFLICTION, AND TO KEEP HIMSELF UNSPOTTED FROM THE WORLD.
IT should seem as if Religion was here
made to consist only of two parts ; CHARITY or BENEVOLENCE respecting others, and PURITY or SELF-GOVERNMENT respecting ourselves. The first of these, Benevolence, is characterized to us by singling out one of the strongest of our social affections, compassion towards the distressed, which, in the beautiful language of Scripture, is called visiting, that is, relieving “ the father“ less and widows in their affliction;" a mode of expression very common to the sacred writers ; especially when they are describing the virtue of Charity, which is almost constantly represented by one or other of its most striking features.
The other part of Religion, here specified Self government, is very distinctly marked out by the phrase of “ keeping “ himself unspotted from the world;" which plainly means a total abstinence from the immoral practices and unlawful pleasures of the world ; a strict command over our irregular appetites and passions; an abhorrence of every thing that tends to debase our nature, and contaminate our souls
But it must immediately occur to every one, that, besides the two branches of Religion here enumerated, there is a third, of which St. James takes no notice. And it may appear, at first sight, a little extraordinary, that an Apostle of Christ, when he seems to be giving a formal definition of his Master's Religion, should omit what has ever been esteemed a most essential part of it, Piety, or the love of God. But, although this duty is not expressly mentioned, yet it is evidently implied, in the text, which recommends such Religion only as terminates ultimately in God, such as is pure and undefiled “ before God and the “ Father.” And the reason why St. James did not more particularly insist on this point was, because he had no occasion to press it on the persons to whom he was writing. That acts of piety were necessary, they readily owned ; but they were too apt, it seems, to think, that scarce any thing else was necessary; and that, provided they were punctual and exact in their devotional exercises, they might be allowed to relax a little in the government of their passions, and the duties owing to their neighbour. St. James, therefore, pointing the whole force of his admonition against this dangerous error, and passing over those religious observances, on which they were already disposed to pique themselves too much, reminds them in the text, that, although God was indeed to be worshipped, yet it was to be not only with their lips, but in their lives; that Religion, that even Devotion itself, did not consist merely in calling upon God's name, but in obeying.