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Christian fortitude to give diligence to our duty in due season, to bruise the root well, at first, when the vice buds; and then, what shoots it makes afterwards, from the inveterate bad quality of the plant, will be more easily cleared away *. This is an admonition of great import, and therefore I could not refrain from giving it you in this place.
Secondly, This commandment not only enjoins us to take the utmost care that what we say be true, but even by our manner of delivery, by our particular observations upon it, or otherwise, relating the circumstances of any case, we do not give cause to other persons to mistake us; and the admonition of St. Peter, on this particular, will be a valuable receipt to keep in mind : He that will love life, and see good days, let him refrain his tongue from evil, and his lips, that they speak no guile. (1 Ep. iii. 10.) And to the same good effect is the Psalmist's description of him who shall obtain an inheritance in God's kingdom, even he that backbiteth not with his tongue, nor doeth evil to his neighbour, nor taketh up a reproach against him. (Ps. xv. 3.)
* There are two branches of the vice, against which this commandment is particularly levelled, which must not be overlooked, as they are the spontaneous growth of the parent sin, and early appear in the habits of youth ; viz. exaggeration and equivocation: by the first, is meant the enlarging in any relation of matters, making them appear more than they really are, whether good or bad; and the other is usually employed to lessen or disguise the crime of falsehood, by which artful duplicity of the speaker the hearer is intended to be deceived; and as they both deviate from the strict standard of TRUTH, they cannot be too carefully attended to, and early discountenanced.
Thirdly, It requires us to be charitable, both in what we hear and say of other men, for the most essential reason, which ought mightily to govern us, because our own happiness is so much concerned in our having that judgment measured to us, that we have shown to others, whether of severity or mercy.
Fourthly, Instead of adding to the failings of our neighbours, and blackening their reputation by falsehoods, it commands us to defend them as far as fairly we can, hoping the best, and softening the worst: to this end let us recollect the conduct of the thief on the cross, who rebuked the railing malefactor for reproaching an innocent character, while he was suffering justly. Thus, how many are for tearing the mote out of a brother's eye, though so blind or unfeeling as not to perceive the beam in their own! But where the opportunity does not offer, of pursuing the above conduct, the duty the commandment requires of us is, to hold our tongue, at least not to heighten the fault where we are under a necessity of speaking. Thus shall we fulfil the perfect law of charity, and demonstrate that we have so much of the spirit
of grace, as to be ready to show love and goodwill to all men.
And now, my brethren, though I have been rather full in this Lecture, I am in good hopes none who seriously consider the dark nature and sad consequence of these sins, and how happy it would be for all mankind, both individually and socially, if they were less common, will think me over-tedious on so important a subject. I shall now conclude with an earnest and affectionate exhortation to all who are unhappily inclined to any of these most wicked habits, that they will humbly and fervently implore God's grace, and the intercession of their blessed Redeemer, to enable them to correct and forsake such dispositions with all speed, praying for power to bridle the tongue, that unruly member, which defileth the whole body, and setteth on fire the course of nature, and is set on fire of hell (James, iii. 6); for this will be the consequence of living in them; dreadful, surely, beyond all conception-far worse than parting asunder of soul and body; since God declares, in his vision to the Apostle, in the text, that all liars shall have their portion in the lake that burneth with fire and brimstone, which is the second death.
It is a sin, you have seen, that not only brings shame and sorrow with it here, but, what is of far more weighty consideration, the soul that thus continues to offend, till it is summoned hence, is inevitably subject to the wrath of God; for into the city and kingdom, in which the glory of God delighteth, and of which the Lamb is the light and happiness, there shall in no wise enter any thing that defileth, or that maketh a lie.
May God bless this most awful warning to the purifying of all our hearts and minds from all ungodliness and deceits of men, having our loins girt about with truth (Eph. vi. 14); for, by mercy and truth, iniquity is purged (Prov. xvi. 6): therefore, henceforth, speaking the truth in love, may God give us grace so to walk in all manner of holiness, that we may pass from this scene of trial, trouble, and imperfection, into that which endureth for evermore, where truth and peace are met together. God grant this may prove the happy lot of all present, for the sake, and through the merits of Jesus Christ. To whom, &c,
“ Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour's house,
“ thou shalt not covet thy neighbour's wife, “ nor his servant, nor his maid, nor his ox, “ nor his ass, nor any thing that is his."
ROMANS, VII. PART OF VERSE 7. I had not known sin, but by the law; for I had
not known lust (or unlawful desires of any kind), except the law had said, THOU SHALT NOT COVET.
THERE is a difference between this last commandment of the second table, and all the others, which it may be proper to observe to you: in the former, mention is only made of the particular sins therein forbidden, though we are tanght by our blessed Saviour's explanation of them, that they include every degree of the crimes therein contained, and every temper and behaviour that may lead to the commission of them. But this tenth commandment is distinguished by expressly forbidding every motion of evil in the heart; and, as it is placed at the end