« EdellinenJatka »
possessions ; for we think our principle of action is good, and so that every one opposed to it is bad. Party-spirit makes us forget that we, as well as others, are seldom free from error; we become exasperated by opposition; and thus our minds are prepared to receive and circulate calumny. In the present day harsh and uncharitable constructions are interchanged between members of our own Church; each party exaggerates or invents rumours to degrade the other in public estimation; each is assailed by the envenomed heart and tongue of its opponent; and between both truth suffers, and fellowship is lost. And so those who profess, and sincerely profess, a desire to promote and enlarge the kingdom of Christ, are led by differences and animosities to effect much that will destroy it.
A Christian would do better to reflect more upon his own miscarriages, and make it a rule, when he hears of any sin committed by another, to examine his own life, and see how near he may have approached the precipice over which his neighbour has fallen. Shame for his own errors will then serve as a covering for those of his brother: he will occupy himself with his own affairs, instead of being busy with other men's ; he will be more slow to listen to slander against others, because he makes that the occasion of self-reproach; and he will not be so engrossed with self-love, as to be pained at hearing another praised.
Abstain, then, from calumny, reproaches, and detraction, for the sake of Christ's Church, and the peace of it ; for the sake of your brethren, who might be discouraged or exasperated ; and for the sake of yourselves, who may be reviled and slandered in your turn, and so maddened into malice and hatred. Curb that little member, which is so powerful to evil, that it has been said to defile the whole body; and which may be powerful to good, as our communications are good and charitable one to another. “Behold, we put bits in the horses' mouths, that they may obey us; and we turn about their whole body. Behold also the ships, which, though they be so great, and are driven of fierce winds, yet are they turned about with a very small helm, whithersoever the governour listeth. Even so the tongue is a little member, and boasteth great things.” “And every kind of beasts, and birds, and serpents, is tained, and hath been tamed of man.” But an unruly tongue can no man tame. The venom of the serpent may be extracted, the jaws of the lion may be disarmed, and the tigress may be reclaimed from her fierce nature; but the talebearer and slanderer no precaution can deprive of his weapons, no care can subdue, and no kindness can win, to lay aside his malignity. “Who, then, is a wise man, and endued with knowledge among you ? let him shew out of a good conversation his works with meekness of wisdom.”
THE TENTH COMMANDMENT.
Exodus, xx. 17.
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.
In the tenth commandment, as if to crown those that forbid sinful actions, desires which instigate to crime become the subject of consideration. The best means to prevent the commission of sin is to avoid the conception of it in the heart; and to deter us from the perpetration of evil, the Almighty has seen fit to prohibit evil concupiscence. To suppose that desires are indomitable, to imagine that men cannot reduce them to subserviency, and by resolute and perse
vering discipline confine them within the rules of virtue and religion, is to impute to the Christian a feebleness, with which, through God's mercy, he is not afflicted.
The very fact, that God commands him not to covet, is an evidence of the control he can exercise over his thoughts, and the affections of his heart: for the Almighty does not trifle, and order that which cannot be performed; the legislation of heaven is not futile, to enact that which cannot be obeyed. It may not, in many cases, be an act of simple volition. It may cost an arduous and protracted struggle, to overcome what has grown upon indulgence, and fortified itself in habit. Images and longings rise unbidden in the breast, that has long been their accustomed seat. Yet constraint will extirpate them in the end; and vigilance will eventually close the door against evil, even in the most retired chambers of a man's heart. Of his own strength indeed he can do nothing. But by the aid of that blessed Spirit, who first