Whoever reads Paul's writings with attention, will find that, though he is a connected reasoner, yet he often suspends the chain of his argument, to introduce an incidental, but pertinent thought, or to dilate upon an occasional expression. Hence the parenthesis is more frequent in his, than in the other sacred writings. Through inattention to this circumstance, some passages in his writings seem obscure, which otherwise might be plain. There is an instance of this kind in Rom. ix. 2, 3. "I have great heaviness and continual sorrow in my heart, (for I could," or rather did," wish myself accursed," separated, "from Christ) for my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh." • Much pains have been taken to explain, what Paul meant, when he said, "I wished myself accursed, or separated from Christ for my brethren." Wheras in reality he said no such thing. The expression, "I did wish myself accursed from Christ," or separated from all connexion with him, is an incidental thought, naturally suggested by his subject; and it ought to be, as it is in some copies, and in some translations, included by itself in a parenthesis. Then the connected reading will be, "I have great heaviness and continual sorrow in my heart.......for my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh." That he might not be suspected of any prejudice against the Jews in foretelling their rejection from the covenant of God for their unbelief, he observed, that he himself was a Jew, was lately an unbeliever, and gloried in his opposition to Christ. The

same thought occurs again, chap. xi. i. "I say then, Hath God cast away his people, whom he foreknew? God forbid. For I also am a Jew, of the seed of Abraham."

We shall, at present, pursue these criticisms no farther; but shall subjoin two or three obvious remarks.

It is evident that the books of the New Testament must have been written in as early a period as has been assigned to them; for that Hebraistical kind of Greek, in which they are written, was not in use after the general dispersion of the Jews.

The peculiarity of style and diction, which runs through all the writings ascribed to Paul, proves that they were all the works of the same author.

The wisdom of Providence is conspicuous in ordering the books of the New Testament to be written in a language, which was soon to go out of national use; for a dead language remains the same; a living language, in a lapse of ages, is liable to changes. The sense of Scripture can therefore be more easily and accurately ascertained, than if the language, in which it is written, had been and continued to be, the living language of a particular nation.



No. 6.

Sixth Commandment.
"THOU shalt not kill."

LIFE is an inestimable blessing. On the improvement of it depends our future destination,

We cannot calculate the loss a person may sustain by being thrust, without warning, into the unseen state. The loss may be immense, the injury irreparable. Besides, society receives hereby a deep wound, being prematurely deprived of one of its members. Our relation to one another ought to restrain us from such atrocious deeds. We sprung from the same parents, and, being brethren, are bound to live together in unity. Injuries, which affect the lives of others, have from the first received the most marked expressions of the divine displeasure. From the creation of the world until the days of Noah, God was pleased to reserve the punishment to be inflicted upon murderers, immediately with himself. This appears from the history of Cain, whom he banished from the house of Adam, but would not allow his life to be taken. Cain dragged out his days in great misery. His mind agonized in reflection on what was past, no less than in the anticipation of what was to come. After the flood, the sword was put into the hand of civil magistrates, with directions that it should spare none, by whom such an act was perpetrated.* The murderer was ordered to be dragged from the city of refuge, nay from God's altar itself, and to be led, without the possibility of redemption, to certain death. Life is a gift, which God values at the highest rate, and guards with the severest penalties. When a murdered person was found, and the perpetrator not known, such steps were required to be taken,

Gen. ix. 5, 6.

as tended to excite the highest detestation of the crime.*

Our Lord, during his personal ministry, gave a comment upon the Decalogue. On the commandment which I am now explaining he is particularly full. Let us listen to the unerring Teacher, and imbibe divine wisdom from his lips. "Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not kill; and whosoever shall kill shall be in danger of the judgment. But I say unto you, That whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment; and whosoever shall say to his brother, Raca, shall be in danger of the council; but whosoever shall say, Thou fool, shall be in danger of hell-fire." The axe is here laid at the root of the evil. It aims at the rancorous thought, or rash expression. Let them be immediately restrained. God seeth not as man seeth. He recognizes the crime in embryo, and in that state demands its extirpation. To him, the malicious thought, or provoking word is displeasing. Let neither be indulged. The flame is yet under, but let it get the mastery, and you are undone. From a trifling disgust, the most serious and widely extended mischiefs have arisen. What reason therefore to keep the heart, and to put a bridle upon the tongue. Or should we ever be off our guard, and give too loose a reign, let us take the alarm, repairing as fast as we can the mischief, and being for the future more guarded and cautious. Weighing the crime in its progress from the first disgust to the

*Deut. xxi. 1-9.

perpetration of the most atrocious act, God has adjusted the severity of the punishment to the aggravations of the crime, and shall assuredly in his judgment be known to do right.

The court of Areopagus, so venerable among the Greeks, and so justly celebrated among all other nations for the wisdom and impartiality of its decisions, condemned to death the person against whom the intention to murder could be proved, even when that intention had not been carried into effect. Nay the symptoms of a cruel disposition were marked with care, and punished with great severity. A child, having been found taking a savage pleasure in wounding and maiming such insects as fell in his way, was by this court considered as one, from whom society was in danger. In guarding its welfare, therefore, they thought it their duty to order such a child to be cut off. The Indian tribes, we are informed, expiated murder in the following manner. The relations of the deceased, as the avengers of blood, seek after the murderer. But if he be not found, the blood of the first they meet is shed, however innocent, to atone for the guilty. In such instances we see great deviations from the law of God, and indeed whenever we are deprived of Scripture as a guide, we shall greatly err.

The sixth commandment, as explained by our Lord, is totally repugnant to a practice, which of late years has drenched our land in blood, and calls aloud for vengeance. Duelling can be excited and encouraged by him only, who was a murderer from the beginning. An affront, of

ten of the most trivial nature, must be expiated by meeting the antagonist in the field. If another injures me, it is a poor reparation, to put it in his power to murder my person, as he has already murdered my reputation. If I have given the offence, must nothing satisfy me, but to add the guilt of blood to the injuries already offered? Is this, in either case, consistent with the suppression of passion, the forgiveness of injury, and the exercise of meekness, so often inculcated by Christ and enforced by his own example? But why speak to such of Christ or his example? They know him not; they honour him not. In defiance of God's law, in defiance of Christ's doctrine; in defiance of the wrath which guards that law, and that doctrine; in defiance of hell, kindled for the punishment of those who take away their own lives, and the lives of others, their revenge must be gratified, and their blasted reputation blazoned abroad. The pretended honour often mentioned as rendering the practice necessary, is a gilding over indelible disgrace. If it be honour to writhe in pain; if it be honour to die accursed; if it be honour to be joined with murderers; this honour, O duellist, thou hast purchased; to this dignity thou shalt be advanced. Thy name is execrated in hea ven and on earth. If it be remembered at all, it shall be remembered with dread, as a beacon to warn future ages of hidden and destructive rocks.


(To be continued.)

[blocks in formation]



So far as my small experience will enable me to judge, I find among Christians, two opposite errors, equally prejudicial to pure and undefiled religion, and dangerous to the souls of men. These have been very happily delineated by the late pious and beloved Dr. Tappan. By publishing the following note to a sermon, delivered at Plymouth, January 5th, 1800, you may be instrumental in removing "the veil from the eyes of prejudice," and in correcting a mistake, which might otherwise have proved fatal to the everlasting peace of many; and at the same time you will gratify the wishes of one, whose "professed object is to promote general happiness, and to do good to the souls of his fellow-men."



"The connexion between the several branches of our religion, especially between its doctrines and duties, while it presents one distinguishing proof of its excellence and divinity, claims the unceasing and careful attention of its professors and teachers. The most lamentable errors and mischiefs have arisen from a disproportionate or exclusive zeal for certain parts of Christianity, detached from the system at large. This has frequently led one description of its votaries to magnify orthodox opinion at the expense of a gospel temper, to make faith swallow up charity, good feelings supplant good works, yea, an ungracious, ma

lignant zeal for the doctrines of grace to blast the genuine spirit and fruit of these very doctrines! It has led some to lay that stress on the appendages, which is due only to the substance of religion; to confine their heads and hearts within a small circle of favourite speculations, expressions and sounds; and to suspect, yea, positively condemn, as an ignorant or unconverted heretic, every Christian brother or preacher, who steps over this circle. But such persons should remember that as Christian divinity is one regular and immense whole, so each part has its claim on the evangelical instructor; that by duly attending to any one branch, he really befriends and enforces all the rest, as connected with it; that he cannot declare the whole counsel of God, if his dis courses be limited to a few darling topics; that he cannot do justice, even to the doctrinal part of the gospel, without largely explaining and urging its corresponding precepts; and finally, that it would be as absurd to charge him with making light of certain truths, merely because he does not interweave them with every sermon, as to infer that the compilers of the Westminster Catechism did not believe in the depravity of man, or the satisfaction of Christ, because they do not notice them in every answer, but expressly mention each, only in one answer out of an hundred and nine!

"To avoid this disgraceful and pernicious extreme, another class of believers seem fond of considering Christianity merely as a moral or practical system, enforced by the assurance of a future state. They consider

virtue as the sum and end of the gospel; and think the practice of it sufficiently secured by the precepts of our religion, which enjoin, under so awful a sanction, the highest moral attainments. But this extreme, though more refined, is equally dangerous with the former. It equally sep. arates what God and the nature of the thing have joined together. While it extols Christian precepts, it strips them of their main light, and life, and force. Though we grant that these precepts set before ùs a sublime pitch of virtue, we insist that the peculiar doctrines of the gospel, and these only, direct and oblige, encourage and enable us to practise it; and if these were set aside, the leading duties enjoined would have no obligation nor meaning. It is generally agreed, that Christian duty may be summed up in love to God, to Jesus Christ, and our fellow-men. But this love neither is nor can be excited merely by the precepts enjoining it; but it is produced and nourished by a cordial belief of those doctrines, which hold up the proper objects and incitements of it, or which exhibit the true character and relations of God, of Jesus Christ, of our human and Christian brethren. While these doctrines make us see and feel our corresponding obligations, they present motives which constrain us to fulfil them, and convey those divine influences, comforts and hopes, which render our obedi ence not only practicable, but fervent and delightful. They also give to our moral obedience a new and evangelical complexion, by connecting it with a deep impression of our ruin by sin,

and recovery by grace; by inspiring it with a proper respect to the revealed holiness and mercy of God, to the wonderful mediation and example of the Redeemer, and to the promised succours of his Holy Spirit. Is it not evident that Christian piety and morality must rise or fall, as these principles, which support and exalt them, are regarded or neglected?

"Those who would see, in a full and convincing light, the impor tant influence of these truths on practical religion, are referred to Evans on the Christian temper, or to Wilberforce's Practical View, &c."

[blocks in formation]

(Continued from page 17.)

THE most cursory survey of our churches will convince us, that, in their whole internal state, they are far removed from the sacred standard. Duties plainly inculcated by Scripture are omitted; while opinions and practices are common, for which there is no foundation in the word of God. The neglect of gospel discipline, in its various branches, is so prominent a feature in our churches, it has so marred their beauty, and opened a door for such disorders, that it cannot justly pass unnoticed.

In this survey it will be proper briefly to remark on a variety of irregularities, which are found in our ecclesiastical discipline, and which greatly obscure the primitive glory of our Zion.

Let us inquire, then, whether the members of our churches in

« VorigeDoorgaan »