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which frequently lead Men to Outrage and Violence. And therefore a greater Punishment is annex'd to this, than any of the former ; and that is, to be in danger of Hell-fire : which signifies not only the incurring of the teniporal Punishments of this Life, but the eternal Torments hereafter in Hell, represented by the Fire of Tophet in the Val. ley of Hinnom. But here we may note again, that 'tis not every calling another Fool, that brings Men into this danger ; for Solomon calls the wicked Man Fool throughout the whole Book of Proverbs ; and St. Paul said to him that doubted of the Resurrection, Thou Fool, that which thou Sowest is not quickend except it die, 1 Cor. 15. 36. And he elsewhere rebuk'd the Galatians, saying, O foolish Galatians, asking, who had bewitch'd them, that they should not obey the Truth? Gal. 3. 1. But the faying Thou Fool here, is with a desire or design of vilifying, deriding, or scoffing at another ; which moves to Vindication and Revenge, and is many times an Occasion of Murder : for which reason our Saviour interprets it as forbidden in this sixth Commandment, that fays, Thou shalt not kill.
And therefore our blessed Saviour, to prevent all these Dangers and mischievous Consequents, exhorts Christians to consider and remove all these Occasions, especially before they enter upon the sacred Acts and Duties of Religion ; saying in the next words, Therefore if thou bring thy Gift to the Altar, and there remembrest that thy Brother bath ought against thee, leave there thy Gift before the Altar, and go thy may; first be reconcil'd to thy Brother, and then come and offer thy Gift. Where the bringing the Gift to the Altar, relates to all the Offerings and Sacrifices under the Law, which were requir'd to be offer'd on the Altar, either for the Atonement of Sin, or the Commemoration of Mercies receivid : fuch were the Sin-Offering, the Peace-Offering, the Freewill-Offering, together with the daily and yearly Sacrifices; all which tho requir'd as Duties, yet were callid and accepted as Gifts. Such likewise are the Christian Sacrifices and Oblations requir'd now under the Gospel, as Prayers, Praises, Fastings, Thanksgivings, hearing the Word, and especially receiving the holy Sacrament; all which when we offer up in the Church, or at the holy Table, we are said to bring our Gift to the Altar.
And when we do fo, and there call to mind, that our Brother hath ought against vis; that is, that we have been angry with him without a cause, or that we have abus' or
Nander'd him, or fix'd any ill Titles or Characters upon hin, or any way hurted him in Body, Goods, or Name; what then? Why, leave there thy Gift (faith our Saviour) before the Altar, and go thy way; first be reconcild to thy Brother, and then come and offer thy Gift : that is, betake thy self with all speed to the Person thou hast thus injur'd, and use all means to obtain his Pardon, by acknowledging thy Fault, and making all poslible Reparation, that he may be friends with thee, and so be perfectly reconcil'd to each other. Till this be done, God will accept of no Gift at thy hands; and when thou hast thus done, then come and offer thy Gift : not that thou art to leave the Duty undone, or make this an Excuse for thy not offering the Gift at all; for that would be to excuse one Fault with another, which would not extenuate, but enhance the Guilt of both: but thou art rather to hasten the doing of the one, that thou may st be the better fitted for the doing of the other: for he that is not yet reconcil'd, must not carry away his Gift, but leave it before the Altar, and go and be reconcild, and then come and offer his Gift; then may he conpleat his intended Sacrifice, and the Oblation shall not only find Acceptance, but come up with a sweetsmelling Savour. So that the Sense of this Advice is, that before we enter upon any Religious Duty, we are to enter into our felves, and see how we stand affected towards our Neighbour ; and if we find any thing aniss, we are to empty our Souls of all Grudges, Prejudices, and Surmises, and in all our Addresses unto God to come with Hearts fill’d with Love, Peace, and Reconciliation with all Men,
And this is to be done out of hand, without delay, which as in most cases, so more especially in this is very dangerous; and therefore we should not defer a matter of so great weight and neceflity, upon which all our Acceptance with God depends, but set about it presently, before it be too late. So we are exhorted in the next words :
Agree with thine Adversary quickly, whilli thou art in the way with him; left at any time the Adversary deliver thee to the Judg, and the Judg deliver thee to the Officer, and thou be cast into Prison; verily I say unto thre, thou sialt by no means come out thence, till thou hast paid the uttermoft Farthing. Where the guilty Person in this kind is represented under the Notion of a Debtor, both to God and Man; to God by breaking his Law, to Man by invading his Proper: ty. Now Debtors being still expos'd to great Dangers, all such Offenders are here advis'd to agree and compose their matters with God and Man, both whom they have made their Adversaries; with God by Repentance, with Man by Reftitution. And because the deferring of these things will increase both the Danger and the Difficulty, they are here call'd upon to do it quickly, while they are in the way, and Terms of Accommodation and Agreement may be had; left by delays they be, before they are aware, brought before the great Judg of Heaven and Earth, and he deliver them over to the Sergeant or Officer, that is, to Death or the Devil, to be cast into the Prison of Hell, where their Torment will be endless, easeless,, and remediless, not being able to be releas'd or come out thence, till they have paid to Divine Justice the utmost Farthing: which being never able to do, they must for ever suffer, because they can never satisfy. This will be the Case of all that har bour any Malice or Hatred in their Heart, and therefore let us not put off this great business of reconciling our felves to God and Man: now is the time allotted us for that purpose, the present time is all that we can call our own; and if we neglect that, we may have caufe for ever to repent, but perhaps never have time to repair our Folly. Be wise therefore in time, and agree with thine Adversary quickly, whilst thou art in the way with him, left thou be fortly sent there, where tho thou canst not pay the least, yet the utmost Farthing will be exacted from thee,
This is the whole of this Day's Gospel; which may
1. To carry our Righteousness above and beyond that of the Scribes and Pharisees: they were curious about the Out. fide, and were fair and beautiful without, but within full of Filth and Rottenness. But let us endeavour to cleanse the Heart, aud see that matters be right within. They Ituck to the Letter of the Law, without minding the true Intent of it, but let us look more to the spiritual Sense and Meaning of it, and observe it in the full 'Extent of it. They condemn'd gross Sins, and conniv'd at less; and if they abstain'd from the outward Act, could allow them, selves in the inward Motions, Occasions, and Tendencies to it: but let us lay the Ax to the very Root, and çat down every Branch of 'Iniquity. They rested in the external Acts of Religion, as of Prayer, Fasting, and Almsgiving,
without without regarding the true Ends or Manner of performing them; but let us look more to our Ainis and Intentions in these Duties, that they may be rightly.directed to the Glory of God, and the Good of our own and others Souls. In a word, the Pharifees were proud, partial, and hypocritical in their Righteousness; and therefore let us exceed them in the Humility, Integrity, and Sincerity of ours : for fince Heaven and Happiness lie beyond the Bounds and Extent of their Righteousness, we must inevitably perish and miscarry with them, if we go not farther than they.
2. Let our Obedience to God's Laws extend to the whole Design and Intention of them : In the affirmative Precepts, let it reach to all the Means, Motives, and Incens tives requisite to the Observance of them; in the negative Precepts, let it take in all the Occasions, Steps, and Tendencies to the breach of them. Particularly in keeping the fixth Commandment against killing, here mention’d, let us avoid all rash and causeless Anger, all Malice and Hatred, that naturally lead to it; for Malice is a frequent Occasion and Forerunner of Murder, and St. John tells us, that he that hateth his Brother is a Murderer, 1 John 3. 15. for Hatred is attended with a Desire of taking away the Object of it, either by himself or another. Moreover, let us avoid all virulent and opprobrious Speeches, such as calling our Brother Racha, or Fool, a vain, empty, witless, and wica ked Fellow; which commonly provoke to Rage, and draw on Murder. In short, Let all Bitterness, and Wrath, and Anger, and Clamour, and Evil-Speaking be put away from iis, with all Malice ; especially when we draw nigh to holy things: and be kind one to another, tender-hearted, forgiving one another, as God for Christ's Sake bath forgiven us ; reconciling our selves to our greatest Foes. And let that be done quickly, left it be too late; and so by living in Peace and Charity with God and Màn here, we shall live in eternal Peace and Joy with both hereafter : which God grant, 6C,
The EPISTLE for the Seventh Sunday after
Rom. vi. 19, to the end. 1 speak after the manner of Men, because of the Infirmity of your Flesh; for as ye have yielded your Members Servants to Uncleanness, and to Iniquity unto Iniquity, even so now yield your Members Servants to Righteousness unto Holiness, &c.
HE Service for this Day befeeches the Lord of all
Power and Might, who is the Author and Giver of
all good things, to graft in our Hearts the Love of his Name, to increase in us true Religion, to nourish us with all Goodness, and of his great mercy to keep us in the fame.
The Epistle for the Day is the latter part of the fame Chap- ter, from whence that for the last Sunday was taken ; where
the Apostle having shew'd his new-converted Romans the Efficacy of Christ's Death for the killing of Sin, and the Virtue
of his Resurrection for the quickning them to a Life of Righ- teousness, he exhorts them to conform to both, by dying to the one, and living to the other. To which end, he here in the close of the Chapter accommodates himself to their Weakness, and labours to convince them of the great danger of their former sinful Courses, and likewise of the Safety and Happiness that is to be found in the ways of Righteousness.
1 Speak after the manner of Men (faith he) because of the Hinfirmity of your Flesh : meaning, that he condescended to express there weighty Matters to them, in Terms and Similitudes suited to the Weakness of their Capacity and Uns deritanding ; setting forth their Duty to Christ by the known Relentblance and Relation of Master and Servant, d by the valsar Terms of Liberty and Bondage, to