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wonderfully studious and exact, while they were full of excess within, neither careful to observe the rules of honesty or humanity in their dealings with others, nor to moderate and keep within bounds their lusts and passions. Thou blind Pharisee,' proceeds our Saviour, blind as mistaking altogether the true nature and design of religion, cleanse first that which is within the cup, that the outside of it may be clean also ;' begin at the right end, and bestow the chief and first care in setting to rights thy heart, thy moral principles and practice, and then all thy outward piety will become thee; it will no longer be a hollow treacherous sanctity, but a real and acceptable purity. Much the same with this is what our Saviour goes on with in the next verse; ‘Ye are like unto whited sepulchres, which indeed appear beautiful outward, but are within full of dead men's bones, and of all uncleanness; even so ye also outwardly appear righteous unto men, but within ye are full of hypocrisy and iniquity ;' and then condemning them for their persecution of the prophets, which does not directly belong to this subject, he concludes with an expression, which is so exceeding strong, as he scarcely, only once, I believe, used on any other occasion, and which shows his absolute dislike and detestation of this pride of character ; .Ye serpents, ye generation of vipers, how can ye escape the damnation of hell ?"
There is another passage in the same gospel which is much to our present purpose. It is in the fifteenth chapter, and upon this occasion. The Pharisees came to Jesus with a complaint against his disciples for eating bread with unwashen hands, a point they were very exact in, not out of cleanliness, but on a religious account, and because it openly transgressed the tradition of the elders. Our Saviour, after retorting upon this charge of transgressing the tradition of their elders, by showing them that they by their traditions made vain the commandments of God, makes this remark upon the particular complaint before him; Not that which goeth into the mouth defileth a man, but that which cometh out of the mouth;' and after these words explains himself more fully to his disciples, as follows; •Those things which proceed out of the mouth come forth from the heart, and they defile the man ;' and specifies what vices they are which proceed out of the heart; evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, blasphemies, these are they that defile a man ; but to eat with unwashen hands defileth not a man.' It appears from hence, that the Pharisees accounted the breach of their religious ceremonies and observances to be the greatest guilt and defilement that a man could incur ; that our Saviour, on the contrary, maintained that these were no defilement in comparison ; that it was immorality and vice which spoil the inward principle; and that evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, and so forth, were the pollutions most real and most odious to God. So then, whether he met with those who thought all righteousness and religion consisted in forms and observances, or with those who thought there was no vice like the breach of such things, with both he dealt very freely, and told them that the first and great point to perform towards men was to love mercy and justice, and the first and great care to avoid actual vices; that in the sight and esteem of God, their strictness in matters of outward religion, was but hypocrisy, without some real virtue, and that the vices they were to fear and guard against were the defilements of sin.
There is one other declaration of our Saviour's to the same effect, and so clear as to need no sort of explanation. We find it in the twelfth chapter of St Mark. A certain Scribe came to our Saviour to ask him which was the first commandment of all. Our Saviour's answer is explicit ; • The first of all the commandments is, Hear, O Israel; the Lord our God is one Lord; and thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy mind, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength. This is the first commandment, and the second is like unto it; namely this, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. There is none other commandment greater than these. The Scribe replied, Well, Master, thou hast said the truth ; for there is one God, and there is none other but he, and to love him with all the heart, and to love his neighbour as himself is more than all the burnt offerings and sacrifices. And when Jesus saw that he answered discreetly, he said unto him, Thou art not far from the kingdom of God.' From this incomparable piece of conversation, which we shall do well to read over to ourselves, it appears, that a person who had so far overcome the common prejudices of his countrymen, as to acknowledge the superior excellency of the love of God and our neighbour to the most ostentatious acts of outward worship, burnt offerings and sacrifice ; that a person of this turn and temper of mind was not far from the kingdom of God.
From all these texts laid together, wė may venture to deliver it positively as our Saviour's doctrine, and, consequently as a matter of absolute certainty to us, that all hopes and attempts to please or pacify God, by outward piety and devotion, so long as we take upon us to transgress the laws of virtue and morality, are vain and groundless; and his repeating this doctrine so
often, and on so many different occasions, shows the stress he laid upon it, and how solicitous he was to have it rightly understood.
I will add to these a passage from the Old Testament, and which goes to prove that acts of worship, done in the manner
, and with the views we are speaking of, that is, to atone or make up for the neglect or breach of moral duties, are so far from being at all pleasing or acceptable to God, that they are regarded by him only as so much mockery of him; are odious and abominable to him. It is in the first chapter of Isaiah, and God is himself speaking to the Jews by the mouth of that prophet; “To what purpose is the multitude of your sacrifices unto me? saith the Lord. I am full of the burnt offerings of rams, and the fat of fed beasts; and I delight not in the blood of bullocks, and of lambs, or of he goats. When ye come to appear before me, who hath required
this at your hand, to tread my courts?
Bring no more vain oblations; incense is an abomination unto me; the new moons and sabbaths, the calling of assemblies, I cannot away with; it is iniquity, even the solemn meeting. Your new moons and your appointed feasts my soul hateth; they are a trouble unto me; I am weary to bear them. And when ye spread forth your hands, I will hide mine eyes from you; yea, when ye make many prayers, I will not hear; your hands are full of blood. Wash you, make you
; clean; put away the evil of your doings from before mine eyes; cease to do evil; learn to do well ; seek judgment, relieve the oppressed, judge the fatherless, plead for the widow.' This passage is very remarkable. Sacrifices, burnt offerings, oblations, incense, the feast of the new moons, sabbaths, the calling of assemblies, were all what God himself had commanded to the Jews. They were of his own appointing. Yet how does he speak of them in the place before us? To what purpose is the multitude of sacrifices? I am full of burnt offerings; I delight not in the blood of bullocks; your oblations are vain; incense is an abomination ; your new moons and your feasts my soul hateth ; I am weary of them.' And whence was all this? How came this change, as one may say, in God's esteem and opinion of these ordinances? He tells them, Your hands are full of blood.' And what were they to do to make God again propitious to their services? How were they then to make their acts of religion again acceptable to him? He tells them this also ; • Cease to do evil, learn to do well; seek judgment, relieve the oppressed, judge the fatherless, plead for the widow.' So the very acts of worship and devotion which God himself
had commanded, when they were made to stand in the place of justice, mercy, humanity, and the like, when they served as an excuse for neglecting or breaking through moral duties, became detestable in his sight.
The point we set out with was, that acts of outward piety and devotion signify nothing unless accompanied with real inward virtue and goodness; that they will in no wise make up for the neglect of moral duties; that they afford in the sight of God, I mean, no sort of reason or excuse for the practice of actual vice; and I think we have proved it to be our Saviour's doctrine to a demonstration, as well as what God himself had declared to the Jews long before our Saviour's time.
Psalm XXII. 28.
The kingdom is the Lord's, and he is the governor among the nations.
The doctrine conveyed to us in these words is that of a national providence; and it is a doctrine no less agreeable to reason than comfortable to the human mind. It must, therefore, afford us the highest satisfaction to find this truth confirmed by the sacred writers, in the clearest and the strongest terms. The scriptures are full of the most gracious promises to righteous nations, and of the most dreadful denunciations against wicked and impenitent kingdoms; and it is well known that neither these promises nor these threatenings were vain.
The history of the Jewish people, more especially, is scarce any thing else than the history of God's providential interposition to punish or reward them according as they obeyed or disobeyed his laws. And although we should admit that, on account of the peculiar circumstances of that people, and the unexampled form of their government, this case cannot be fairly compared with that of other nations, yet there are not wanting some which may. In the ancient world, there were four celebrated empires which rose one after another, and successively filled the age with astonishment and terror ; yet these, it appears, were nothing more than mighty instruments in the hand
of God, to execute his various dispensations of mercy, or of justice, on the Jewish or other nations; and to prepare the way gradually for the introduction of another kingdom of a very different nature, and superior to them all. Their rise and fall were predicted in the sacred writings, by Daniel most especially, chap. 7, 8, long before they existed ; and some extraordinary characters, Nebuchadnezzar, Cyrus, and others, were, though unknown to themselves, the instruments of the Almighty, raised up at certain appointed times, and furnished with great power, as well as other qualifications, to perform all his pleasure and fulfil his views; I am the Lord that maketh all things; that stretcheth forth the heavens alone; that spreadeth abroad the earth by myself ; that frustrateth the tokens of the liars, and maketh diviners mad; that turneth wise men backward, and maketh their knowledge foolish; that confirmeth the word of his servant, and performeth the counsel of his messenger. I form the light and create darkness. I make peace and create evil. I the Lord do all these things. Thus we see that what is considered as the common vicissitude of human affairs; peace and war, pestilence and famine, political changes and national revolutions, the passions of the wicked, the virtues of the good, the shining qualities of the great ; every thing, in short, that the world calls accident, chance, and fortune, are all, in fact, under the control of an invisible and overruling hand, which, without
any violation of the laws of nature, or the freedom of human actions, renders them subservient to the gracious purposes of divine wisdom in the government of the world.
We of this kingdom have been most remarkably favored with the visible protection of Heaven; and there are in our
; own history so many marks of a divine interference, that if we do not acknowledge it, we are either the blindest or the most ungrateful people on earth. Let me more particularly call your attention to the following very singular circumstances in some of the greatest events that have happened in this country.
Our separation from the church of Rome was begun by the passions of a prince, who meant nothing in the world less than that reformation of religion which was the consequence of it. The total dispersion and overthrow of what was profanely called the invincible armada was effected almost entirely by winds and tempests. That dreadful popish conspiracy, which seemed guarded by darkness and silence against all possibility of detection, was at last casually discovered by an indiscreet and obscure letter. At a time when there appeared no hope of ever recovering our ancient form of government, it suddenly