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to-day, will be a stern reality at no distant period : and you who are young and strong cannot tell how soon health and strength may fail, and the judge be beside you also. From this house of prayer you will issue forth, if God pleases, to mingle with the crowd, and engage in the business of life. You will witness errors, which fashion authorises; and it is for you to determine, if you will obey the caprice of fashion, or the commandments of the Almighty. You will see vices in which too many indulge, and have to decide, whether you will follow the multitude to evil, or come out from among them. You will see irregularities, which custom has sanctioned into laws, and have to consider, whether you will be conformed to the world, or to the will of heaven. And may your choice be so made, and in such good season, that when you shall appear before the Saviour in his glory, you may be greeted as good and faithful servants, and invited to enter into the joy of your Lord.
If ever there was a practical proof that God is love, and that his commandments are enjoined with a view to our happiness, is it not contained in this monition to do the works, and this promise to reward the exercise, of our love one to another: “ Inasmuch as ye did it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye did it unto me.” On this principle of charity let us “ labour to have always a conscience void of offence toward God and toward men.” Let us do good, and daily renew the inner man by a lively, regular, uniform obedience to God's will. To the heart itself practice is a more cogent teacher than theory and precept: its discipline is more exact, its influence is more powerful, its exercise more regular and habitual. And may God grant his Holy Spirit to direct us to what is right, and just, and holy; to sustain us in the discharge, and finally crown us with the recompense, of Christian duty !
THE FIRST COMMANDMENT.
EXODUS, xx. 3.
THE ten commandments are comprised in two tables, as God gave them to Moses, “ two tables of stone." In the beginning they had been written in the souls of men, but soon were defaced and obliterated; and, as if to denote the corruption of human nature, the Creator found it better to intrust his laws to the marble than to us, and thought them more secure, engraven on senseless and crumbling tablets, than on our hearts. The first table enjoins our duty to God, and ends at the conclusion of the commandment concerning the Sabbath. The second table teaches our duty towards our neighbour. Our Lord himself sanctioned this division, when the lawyer “ asked him, Which is the great commandment in the law ? Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.” 1
1 Exodus, xxxi. 18.
“ Thou shalt have none other gods but me.” This is the first commandment.
The preceding words describe the God we are to obey, and with the description set forth two great motives of obedience. “ I am thy God," said the Almighty to the Israelites :—thy God, that is, to fight for you, and sustain you.“I am thy God, which brought thee out of the land of Egypt:"— who have already wrought so great wonders for your deliverance --who have a claim upon your gratitude for the past, as well as upon your hope for the future. And these ties, both of gratitude and of hope, bind us yet more strictly than the Jews. We are the spiritual Israel, and true heirs of the promises. He is our God by a more excellent covenant than he was theirs. That people wandering in the wilderness was but a type of the Church of Christ militant on earth. That slavery in Egypt was but a type of the bondage to sin and death, from which Christ has redeemed us all. That promised land was but a type of a higher and better Canaan, to which we hope to attain by the guidance and grace of God.
1 Matt. xxii. 37.
2 Deut. i. 30.