« AnteriorContinuar »
pressed with the most urgent necessities, stand at a gloomy distance, and refuse to ask? What folly and madness is this? It is highly incumbent on all who have neglected this duty, to consider their ways, to treasure up our Lord's words in their hearts, and daily, with fervent prayer, approach the throne of that God, who is willing to hear, and able to help, in every time of need. And when we seriously reflect on this excellent Prayer proposed by the Son of God, and are admiring the vast extent of divine mercy and forgiveness, we ought to remember, that in this Prayer, we are reminded of our duty to forgive one another; and we may learn from hence, that a mild, placable, forgiving spirit, is not only well-pleasing to our heavenly É. but has a o tendency in its own nature, to prepare us, in the habitual temper of our minds, for the forgiveness of God.
The next point, which our Lord treated on, in his admirable sermon, was the duty of fasting. In this part of his discourse, he severely blamed the conduct of the Pharisees, who made the greatest ostentation of their religion, and were particularly fond of mortification and fasting. Hence that they might be remarked for superior degrees of strictness and sanctity, and appear to men of the most recluse and mortified disposition, they disfigured their faces, and appeared with sad and sorrowful countenances; but our Lord enjoins us not to perform our religious exercises, with design to be seen of men, but, with all uprightness and sincerity of heart, to regard the omnipresence of our heavenly Father, who seeth in secret and will reward openly all his faithful worshippers. The divine orator then turned his discourse to another subject, and inculcated the necessity of heavenly-mindedness on his attentive and respectable audience. So vastly important in their nature, and extensive in their duration, are the concerns of the soul above those of the body, that it is the highest wisdom of man, closely to attend to heavenly things, and at all times to give them the preference to the frail and fleeting trifles of this present world. Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, said the heavenly Teacher, where moth and rust doth corrupt, aad where thieves break through and steal ; but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through and steal : for where your treasure is, there will your heart be also. The shortness and uncertainty of our abode in this present state, with the many disasters which may happen to us, and take away our worldly possessions, should excite us not to put our trust or confidence in any thing which belongs to this world ; it is greater wisdom to contemplate on heavenly things, to consider their superior excellency, and the extent of their duration, with such a fixed and unremitting attention, as may work in the soul an habitual desire after them, and prepare us in the prevailing temper of our minds, for the enjoyment of them. s * Our Lord was more the earnest in recommending this heavenly-mindedness to his hearers, because it was a doctrine which they had not been used to hear from their former teachers. The Jewish doctors were in general, strangers to the blessedness and glory of an happy eternity. The rewards promised to the keepers of the law, were chiefly of a temporal nature; and as it was the gospel of CHRIST, which brought life and in7mortality to light, the doctrine of eternal happiness • was the peculiar province of our Redeemer; and that they might not suppose that the heavenly mindedness which he recommended, was consistent with a covetous and anxious desire after worldly riches, our Lord informs them that these things are directly contrary to each other. No man, says he, can serve two masters; for either he will love the one and hate the other, or clse he will hold to the one, and despise the other : ye cannot serve God and mammon /
trine by ascertaining the universality of the providence of God, and his paternal care over the least and meanest of his creatures. Behold, says he, the fowls of the air: for they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns ; yet your heavenly father feedeth them. Are ye not much better than they 2 If the providence of God extends to the meanest and most insignificant of his creatures, and his wisdom hath so conducted his wide creation, that there is abundant provision made for the fowls of the air, and the beasts of the field, shall his creature man, whom he hath placed at the head of his lower creation, and made the object of his peculiar care, be over anxious and careful, or gloomy and discontented for fear he should not be able to procure food and raiment : How unworthy is this of his superior reason, and how dishonorable to his great Maker, and most bountiful Benefactor! Thus the divine Teacher led the most ignorant and illiterate of his hearers to entertain great and sublime ideas of God and his providence ; and gave them a more elevated and extensive view of the nature of his government than had been taught in the schools of the philosophers: for though they believed that there was a God, and that he made and governed the world, they had but very dark and confused notions of his particular providence, as it relates to the state of every individual in his creation. This, our great Redeemer gave them to understand, was fixed by the universal Governor, with more exactness and precision, than was generally imagined, and less in the power of individuals to alter, by their utmost anxiety and care. Which of you, says he, by taking thought, can add one cubit unto his stature ?
The illustrious preacher then proceeds from the animal, to the vegetable part of the creation, and infers the absurdity of anxious and vexatious cares concerning raiment. Con it be supposed that the great Being, who spread fresh verdure over the fields, and adorns them with those flowers which shine brighter than the golden embroidery which glitters on the purple robes of kings, will not provide raiment for his own people * Will he thus clothe the inanimate, and neglect the noblest part of his creation? Consider, said the exalted Redeemer, the lilies of the field, how they grow, they toil not, neither do they spin ; and yet I say unto you, that even Solomon, in all his glory, was not arrayed like one of these. Wherefore, if God so clothe the grass of the field, which to-day is, and tomorrow is cast into the oven, shall he not much more clothe you, O ye of little faith? Lét these considerations excite you, he adds, to be easy and quiet, patient and resigned to the allotments of Providence. Seek Jirst the kingdom of God and his righteousness. Make it your first great concern, to pursue the interests of your immortal souls, and rest not till you have obtained a rational and scriptural satisfaction, that your eternal interest is safe; and, when this great blessing is obtained, be not anxious or vexatiously careful concerning the things of time and sense, but rest assured, that all these things, so far as necessary to your supreme good, shall be added unto you.
The exalted Redeemer, now drawing towards the conclusion of his discourse, proceeded to forbid all rash and uncharitable judgment, either with regard to the general characters, or particular actions of men. This is an evil of the most attrocious kind ; innocence and virtue often suffer, and, however sorry the slanderer may be for the wrong done, the injury cannot be repaired. No character is more hurtful to society, and no person more hateful to God and man, than the slanderer; and our Lord intimates that both God and man will resent the injury done to his creatures. Judge not, said he, that ye be not judged. If you judge charitably, said the kind and compassionate, the meek and . benevolent Saviour of mankind; if you make allowances for the frailty of human nature, ond are ready to pity and pardon those who have offended you, both your heavenly Father, and your fellow-mortals will
deal with you in the same manner. But if you are always ready to hear, and eager to spread slanderous reports; if you put the harshest construction on every action : if you are pleased to hear of another's misconduct, or misfortunes, and never touched with the feeling of your brother's infirmities; if you take all opportunities to injure him in the opinion of mankind, or pursue him with inexorable and implacable resentment ; if you are a stranger to mercy or forgiveness, no mercy or forgiveness will you find, either from of. fended Omnipotence, or injured and insulted man.For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged ; and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again.
In order to prevent mankind from passing rash and censorious judgment, our great Redeemer advises them to look unto themselves; and if they would carefully advert to their own errors and failings, they would find less time, as well as less desire, to censure the rest of mankind. It frequently happens, that those persons who are most ready to censure and condemn their fellow-creatures, and most eager to search out, and expose the failings of others, art not the most blameless themselves: but frequently more culpable than the persons whom they are so ready to accuse. ..It is therefore with the highest reason that our great Redeemer exhorted his hearers to look unto themselves, and carefully mend their own faults, which would be of greater service to them, than endeavouring to expose and scandalize those who are better than they. And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye, and considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye; or how will thou say to thy brother, let me pull out the mote out of thine eye; and behold, a beam is in thine own eye. Thou hupocrite, first Cao out the beam out of thine own eye, and then shal! thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of * ** t/her's eye. O