consciousness that what we are saying is untrue, and must, therefore, be supported by some strong asseveration, or a want of reverence for divine things, which leads us to trifle with the name of God, or an idea that it is manly to bid defiance to the God of heaven. Or, still further, as the words may be rendered, "it cometh from the evil one" who is the source of all sinful feelings, and words, and deeds. The Devil knows well that the tongue is " an unruly member, full of deadly poison," and how can he more effectually ensnare men to their everlasting ruin, than by leading into the indulgence of a habit, which, more perhaps than any other, betrays a heart full of the deadliest enmity to God and holiness? That tongue which was designed to be the glory of man, and to be the instrument of shewing forth the praises of God, is employed in uttering the language of horrid blasphemy, and invoking the wrath of God, to come down upon the swearer's own head and upon the heads of others. What a spectacle must the blasphemer of Jehovah's name present to the holy angels! That name which is to them the object of adoring wonder, and admiration, and awe, made the sport of a reckless mortal on the brink of eternity! Tremble sinner,-thoughtless, inconsiderate man,-that thou hast ever dared, with these lips, with that tongue, to insult the Highest, the Holiest of all. And ye who profess to fear God, is it seemly that your conversation and whole deportment,

whether in word or in deed, should be any other than that which becometh the gospel of Christ? Ye are not your own. That tongue, which is naturally a fire, a world of iniquity, defiling the whole body, and setting on fire the course of nature while itself has been set on fire of hell, that very tongue has been purchased by the blood of Christ, that both in time and through eternity it might celebrate the praises of redeeming love. Learn then to sing the song of the Lamb even upon earth, and strive and pray that your speech may be always with grace, seasoned with salt.

But why so guarded in the talk of our lips? Is no scope to be given to the fervent imagination, the ardent, eager mind? Undoubtedly. A narrative may be beautifully depicted, and yet it may be faithfully true. But it must never be forgotten that every, even the slightest departure from the simplicity that is in Christ, cometh of evil. It is evil in itself, and springs from the evil one. Let every man then speak the truth, in all simplicity and in all sincerity, to his neighbour, remembering that into heaven, there shall enter nothing that defileth, that worketh abomination, or that loveth and maketh a lie.



MAT. V. 38-42.

THE Jewish Law is usually divided into three parts, the Ceremonial Law, the Moral Law, and the Civil, Judicial, or Political Law. In all its various branches, this wonderful system of legislation, dictated by God Himself, was completely perverted by the Scribes and Pharisees. The Ceremonial Law beautifully represented, as in a picture, the spiritual doctrines of the Christian dispensation, and pointed to Him, who, by His one offering, was destined in the fulness of time to perfect for ever them that are sanctified. Yet such was the blindness of the Jewish teachers, that they mistook the type for the antitype, the shadow for the substance; and represented salvation as flowing not from Christ, but from a careful observance of the rites and institutions of the Law of Moses.

The Moral Law, we might have supposed, would have surely, from its simple and comprehensive shortness, escaped the misrepresentations of these blind

teachers of the blind. But even the Ten Commandments, containing the sum and substance of all moral obligation, are so diluted and weakened by their false interpretations, that we have found our Lord selecting three of the plainest commands of the Decalogue-the sixth, the seventh, and the third-as flagrant instances of the mode, in which the Scribes could destroy the force of the simplest commandments of the holy law of God.

Nor were even the civil enactments of the Jewish code free from the false glosses of the Scribes. In this department, also, of the Mosaic institutions the people had been completely misled by those who professed to sit in Moses' seat, and the result had been, that the whole tone of society had undergone a melancholy change. Instead of that spirit of love which the law of God was designed to enforce, a spirit of malice, and enmity, and revenge had diffused itself widely throughout all ranks of the people, and was fast threatening to dissolve the ties which bound the community together.

V. 38. "Ye have heard, that it hath been said, An eye for eye, and a tooth for a tooth." Such was the well-known law of retaliation as laid down in Exod. xxi. 24 and 25, " Eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, burning for burning, wound for wound, stripe for stripe." Much has been

said of this law as if it were scarcely consistent with justice, and belonged only to a barbarous and uncivilized age. age. And yet is it not plain, that the very principle which this enactment involves, the proportioning of the punishment to the injury, is not only consistent with natural equity, but lies at the very foundation of the criminal law even of our civilised age? Nor does it appear that the law of retaliation, as laid down in the passage we have quoted from Exodus, was a compulsory mode of retribution. The public magistrate was bound, as he is even at this day, to act upon the principle of the law of retaliation, but he was not bound to act upon it in the precise mode in which the law is set forth. Thus it is said, Num. xxxv. 31, "Ye shall take no satisfaction for the life of a murderer," plainly implying that for lesser offences satisfaction might be taken. Josephus, accordingly, informs us that the law was understood as allowing a compensation in money, which was regulated in amount by the extent of injury sustained. And this very principle, it is well known, is recognised in the laws of our own country.

To understand, then, the remarks of our Lord upon the law of retaliation, we must bear in mind that it was laid down for the guidance of the civil magistrate alone. It would appear, however, that according to the teaching of the Scribes, it was lawful for a private individual to avenge his own wrongs, and instead of repairing to the civil magistrate, to apply the law of

« VorigeDoorgaan »