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of the divine will, and contemplates the total destruction and mortification of all the sin that “ dwelleth within."
I will add, in the next place, that the righteousness of the Christian must exceed that of the Scribes and Pharisees in its impartial and comprehensive exercise. We have already seen the limited and partial nature of their obedience to the divine commandments; but we
must not pick and choose our duties,”* if we would be saved. The Pharisees "strained at a gnat and swallowed a camel.” They would excommunicate a man from the synagogue, for the slightest violation of the sabbath, but they would, notwithstanding, “oppress the hireling in his wages.” They most strenuously maintained the doctrine of the resurrection of the body and the immortality of the soul, against the Sadducees; but if any one chose to differ from themselves in matters of religion, they “shut up the kingdom of heaven against him.” Ah, my dear brethren, it is to be feared there is much of this partiality among us with respect to the precepts of truth. Do I say too much, when I express an apprehension, that some persons are so unwise as to imagine they can make an atonement for deficiency in one duty, by a surplus of attention to another? This is the very spirit of the righteousness which the Lord Jesus Christ condemns as altogether useless. Of what avail would it be for a man arraigned at the bar of justice to plead, that although he had not done justice to one man, he had been generous towards another? Would the excuse, or the plea, be allowed in arrest of punishment; or as a valid reason against the claims of a creditor? Let me, then, earnestly exhort you, as you value your salvation, to be universal in your devotedness to the will of God. The particular point referred to by our
• Bishop Hopkins.
Lord, may have respect to this sinful partiality of the Jews. They exalted one part of the law, while they threw aside the other. But not“ one jot or one tittle shall pass from the law till all be fulfilled.” Unite, therefore, the duty of honesty, of sobriety, of compassion, and charity, with the exercise of supreme love to God, and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. While you carefully practice one duty, guard against inattention to others. While you labour to promote the purity of the church of Christ, neglect not the purification of your own heart, or the custody of your “ own vineyard.” In all things " study to keep a conscience void of offence," “ that ye may stand perfect and complete in all the will of God.”*
And, finally, your righteousness must spring from higher motives than to be “seen of men,” and applauded by your fellow-creatures. The end which the Pharisees had in view, was the establishment of “ their own righteousness," rather than the glory of God and the good of man.
Nor is it enough that we shun ostentation, and renounce selfrighteous principles of action, we must be concerned to “maintain good works” from love to Him who “ died to purify us to himself a peculiar people.” On every ground of gratitude for temporal and spiritual benefits, from a regard to the will of God who requires it, for the sake of our own peace, and the everlasting interests of the soul, we are under the most powerful obligations to walk as "children of the light and the day.” The direction is plain; none can mistake it, but such as wilfully overlook or pervert it. “Whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as unto the Lord, and not unto men.”+
Such, then, are the leading points in which the righteousness of the Christian is to surpass “that of the Scribes and Pharisees.” Doubtless, there were some happy exceptions
to this general rule among these men; some bright spots to mitigate the darkness of the scene, and relieve the eye, in its range over the dreary wilderness. But, taken in their collective capacity, they were carnal and sensual in the ex. treme, and, as such, could not be saved.
And now allow me
II. TO OFFER A FEW REMARKS WHICH ARISE FROM THIS SUBJECT.
And, first of all, I remark, in what an advantageous light this subject places the religion of the Lord Jesus Christ. It is a religion of humility, beneficence, and love. It is a system of sublime morality; of celestial virtues ; of divine and unbounded benignity. Compare every other scheme which the anguish, or necessity, or even the wisdom, of the mightiest intellect ever devised, with the beautiful scheme of Christianity, and you will be constrained to acknowledge, in the language of the wise man, that the “wisdom of the latter excelleth them all, as much as light excelleth darkness."* There is nothing defective, nothing redundant in its provisions. It is the result of infinite kindness and mercy to man. Its triumphs, in the renovation of the wicked, and the moral illumination of the blind, are the song of its friends; the confusion of its adversaries ; and the grandest display of the divine perfections of its author—" the power of God, and the wisdom of God.” It is wholly complete. It supplies every good which the diversified cases of mental distress may require. It encourages the wanderer to return to his Father; the guilty to plead the mercy of his Sovereign; the wretched to seek relief from their sorrows in his pity; and the penitent to hope in his forgiveness and grace. But the principal point of excellence to which I now refer, as
• Eccles. ii. 13.
suggested by the foregoing reflections, is to be found in the surpassing rectitude it requires of Christians above that which the “Scribes and Pharisees possessed.” While the gospel, through the atonement of the Lord Jesus Christ, passes an act of oblivion on the past transgressions of those who “truly repent, and unfeignedly believe,” yet it gives no encouragement to sin for the future. It demands a holy life, as the genuine evidence of its being received, and appropriated, by the hand of faith, to all the saving purposes of the soul. There is no peace apart from purity; no religion that is not accompanied with the deliberate and cordial determination “to do justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with the Lord.” Nor is it of any sect or party whatever. “In every nation, he that feareth God, and worketh righteousness, is accepted with Him.*" It is not a mere shibboleth, or profession, which requires some arbitrary distinction, like the symbols of office; or the titles of honour, which are worn by the great, to designate and display it: but wherever its native influence is felt, it will exhibit every characteristic of love and virtue towards God and man. Yet, notwithstanding all this excellence, there are individuals so immersed in the mire of impurity, as to wish it untrue, and they have, therefore, endeavoured to prove it an imposition. Cruel men,—they would deprive a dying sinner of the only hope which can afford him the least relief in the most trying hour! Foolish men,--they have attributed a system of celestial morality, a code of infallible precepts, a scheme of unequalled benevolence and benefit, to a set of persons whom they describe as impostors! Therefore
“ Should all the forms that men devise
Assault my faith with treach'rous art,
And bind the gospel to my heart."
Acts x. 35.
Secondly. We learn from hence, also, the necessity of an impartial examination of our heart before God. Do you ask whence this ariseth? Are you not aware that " the heart is deceitful above all things,” and that we are in great danger of giving ourselves too much credit for righteousness? And does not every thing depend on the possession of a better title than that of those persons mentioned in the text? What, then, is our true character? Ah, perhaps to some of this assembly the question needs not be put! “ Some men's sins are open before hand, going before to judgment; and some men they follow after.”* The meaning is,-some men are such public offenders against God, that they are for that reason unequivocal characters; but others are so concealed in their iniquity, as to be never detected in the present world. These are the hypocritesthe Pharisees, in our congregations and churches. They are men who are more zealous to promote a party, than to spread the knowledge of Christ; and more concerned about some form of discipline, or mode of worship, than the salvation of a soul. My brethren, let us seriously examine our motives of action, and enquire into our temper and deportment. We are allowed a preference, and we enjoy it; but let us love our brethren, who bear the image of Christ of every name: and while we feel deeper solicitude for the prosperity of that part of the church which comes nearer, in our estimation, to the truth, both in discipline and doctrine; yet let us encourage every class of Christians by our prayers, and our support. And, besides all this, let us not be disproportionate in our duties. This was a principal evil of the Pharisees. Every thing is beautiful in its season and its place. “Then shall I not be ashamed when I have respect unto all thy commandments.”+