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" What do ye more than others ?" — Matt. v. 47.
It has sometimes been asserted that there was a difference, a difference which was capable of being perceived, a difference which it was important and necessary to mark, between the statements of divine truth which are contained in the several parts of the New Testament.
In agreement with this notion, the gospels have been held up in distinction to the epistles. The discourses of our Lord have been described as differing in tone from the writings of his apostles. A separate and peculiar character has been ascribed to each, and the excellencies of one have been used to depreciate the glories of the other. Moral truth has been claimed for one, doctrinal accuracy has been ceded to the other ; and though it might seem hard to say how one of these qualities could be separated from the
other, or how truth could be independent of itself, the pride of human reason has endeavoured to avoid the homage which was required by faith, by professing an earlier attachment, a more implicit devotedness to moral obedience; and by asserting a preference of that which was practical in statement to that which was doctrinal. To favour this subterfuge the morality of the gospel has been held up to the admiration of the world by those who shrink from belief in its doctrines ; and men have acknowledged in our Lord " the teacher sent from God," who could not or who would not perceive in him the ' Lamb of God which taketh away the 436
sins of the world." In other cases, an attempt has been made to represent the instruction contained in the gospel narratives, as more simple and appropriate than that which is laid down in the epistles ; and that portion of Scripture, from
which our text is taken, the sermon on the mount, has been described as including all that was necessary for man to know. We need not shrink from the conclusion. Let but this portion of Scripture be interpreted as it ought to be ; let it but be read with that spiritual mind and that eye of faith which is necessary ; and we may admit, that all that is needful for man to know may be discovered and discerned in it, or at least may be deduced from it. But f)ecause the experienced eye may perceive in one part of Scripture the forms of that wisdom which is specifically revealed in other places, it is neither wise nor dutiful to reject the residue ; nor if one part of revelation supposes or anticipates the remainder, can that be & reason why the part should be used to supersede the whole.
But we are also told that there are differences in men which require a different mode of teaching; tiiat there is a childhood in the spiritual life which requires milk for its nourishment, as well as a
manhood or maturity of life which requires strong meat ; and it is asserted that the former species of nourishment is to be found in the simpler statements and plainer exhortations which are contained
AN IMPORTANT IXQl'IRY.
in the gospel narratives. It is there said undoubtedly, and it should be read with thankfulness and praise, that our Lord " taught the people as they were able to bear it;" that he adapted his instruction to the state of his hearers, and communicated the truths which he came to teach, in the way of gradual disclosure. Something of this process we may probably perceive in the tone of his discourses ;
and whatever we may think of the recorded statements of those discourses, such, we may confidently suppose, would have been the character of his ordinary teaching.
But little does he know of the word of God or of the power of God, who can doubt the possibility of combining the simplest moral truth with the .profoundest doctrinal verity ; of making the person taught " wiser than his teachers ;" and of " perfecting praise even out of the mouths of babes and sucklings." In the Avisdom of God it is easy to accomplish that which seems impossible to man. He, who in the twilight of the morning opens that flood of light which is to spread the splendour of noon over the world ; he, who encloses in the infant the germ of those talents which are to "wield the reins of empire; he, who once concealed the very glories of the Creator of the universe in the child Jesus; he, can surely give instruction in a way, which shall adapt itself to every state of
man ; can form hut of the same material milk for babes, and strong moat for those of maturer age; and olVer in his word a spiritual manna, which sliall bo suited to the taste, as well as adapted to the wants of all who fisod upon it.
Let it be admitted then, that in this memorable discourse there are truths presented of the simplest character and in the simplest form. Tiint hinders not, but that trnths of the profoundest nature may be likewise found there. Let it be Buppost'd that onr Lord adilressed himself on this occasion to a multitude of simple and uninstructt'd hcan-rs, and "spake as they could bear it." That hinders not.
wise man may be overwhelmed by truths which he meets with, and which his reason is unable to comprehend ; while the child, who reads in faith and in the spirit of prayer, shall be made " wise unto salvation" by what he learns.
The text before us, the text to which your attention is to be drawn, presents an instance of this sort. It contains an appeal which might be made with propriety to the simplest hearer of the simplest gospel truths; an appeal, which we might make to any one, who had but the slightest acquaintance with the elements of religion : and still it is an appeal, which I humbly believe may be made with profit to the most enlightened, the most advanced Christian. It is an appeal, which rises with the condition of the hearer ; and which grounded on the perpetual and necessary connexion between privilege and duty, follows man through all the degrees of his advancement; and reminding him at every stage, "of the rock from which he was hewn, of the hole of the pit from which he was digged," subdues the pride and self-sufficiency of his nature by the memorials of his dependence and responsibility.
It is to this text then I have now to beg your attention ; and conscious that it involves an application of truth most important and most extensive, I entreat the prayers of those who hear me, that the weakness of man maybe supplied by the teaching of the Spirit, and that the word may be blessed to all our souls.
" VV'hat do ye more than others 1" Thus spake our Lord, at that time, to those who professed themselves his fol lowers ; who had come to him out of Judea and Galilee; who had expressed a rosnlntion to renounce the sins of their former life, and to live as his disciples, " soberly, righteously, and godly in this present world." The appeal he nmdo was founded on a principle which no man ventures to impugn ; that increase of knowledge, larger measures of conviction, involve the necessity of more exact
but that the moat advanced (Jhristian ' obedience ; that much is reijuired Irom
may find room for meditation, and ini- him to whom much has bern given ; and provement in the words ; or that th" [ that increase of means implies increasQ
THE RRITISII PUI.PIT.
of responsibility. This truth, simple as it seems, bears on itself the marks of eternity. It extends to every degree of state. It belongs to every age. The Jew, just awakened from the darkness which covered his people, heard it then ; and the apostle, who had " seen things which it was not lawful for man to utter," might have heard it afterwards ; and each might have bowed under the sense of a responsibility which they could not
deny. The Christian child feels its power now when a mother's exhortations are based upon its application ; and tiie Christian minister must not hope to soar above its reach, however elevated he may be above others in spiritual or intellectual advancement.
As such then I would use it first in reference to Christians generally, in reference to all those who profess the gospel of Jesus Christ, and are in name and privileges considered as his disciples ; I would use it first in this sense, and say to all who hear me, " What do ye more than others'?"
If God has chosen you from all the nations of the world, to be a peculiar people to himself; if we are justified by the name you bear, and the knowledge you possess, and the covenant relations in which you stand, in addressing you as "a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a peculiar people :" If God has opened to j'^ou things hidden
from the foundation of the world ; if your eyes see, and your ears hear, the things which prophets and kings desired to see and did not see, and to hear and did not hear : nay, if we may say to some, " eye hath not seen nor ear heard, neither hath it entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him ; but God hath revealed them unto us by his Spirit :" If we are permitted to address a Christian congregation, a Christian people, in terms like these ; then must we not add ; if God has done ¦ so much for you above all the other children of Adam, what do ye more than they 1 In the heathen world, amidst much that was evil, much that was loathsome, there were not wanting " things lovely and of good report." They had their
splendid sins. They had, it is true, but a faint and clouded light to walk by ; the dim light of human reason, darkened by all the exhalations from the corrupt na-
ture of man ; and it was by this faint and feeble help they endeavoured to discern amidst the tumult of the world, the essential differences between right and wrong. But to the guidance that they had, some of them were faithful. The natural affections were not extinguished ; a sense of truth was felt ; the excellence of purity was admitted ; and in the midst of general defilement and wretchedness, the eye dwells with wonder on some bright spots of disinterested integrity and warm affections, and marvels how it was that they who knew so little should do so much.
If then we turn to a Christian community, and find men satisfied with those external observances which self-interest suggests as expedient; if we find a nominal disciple of Jesus Christ dwelling with complacency on the soberness of his habits, on the integrity of his dealings, on the warmth of his natural affections ; may we not say to such as these, did not even the heathen so 1 Do we not
hear of well ordered societies, and attached families ; of the charities of parent and child, of husband and wife, of sovereign and subject, among them 1 Nay, do we not hear of integrity and temperance, of exemplary self-denial and eminent purity of conduct among those who had never enjoyed the light of gospel truth, or been encouraged by the promise of eternal life ; and if this be so, what do ye more than they 1 What do ye, who have received so much, and who have heard so much ; what do ye more than others ¦? What does this Christian country, this Christian family, this Christian husband, this Christian father, this Christian son, offer in his conduct, which might not find its parallel in Greece or Rome ; among those who never heard the sound of the gospel, nor tasted the sweetness of Christian privileges? Are you sober 1 So were they. Are you honest 1 So were they. Are you tender in domestic relations, faithful to trusts, diligent and useful 1 So were
AN IMPORTANT INQUIRY.
'they. And if your standard of Christian practice is limited to these cold moralities, or to these impulses of natural feeling, " What do ye more than others," or how do the children of light differ from the children of darkness "?
I would carry the application of the doctrine farther. I would carry it next to Protestant Christians, to members of the church of England, to those who conceive that by the reformation they have shaken off a yoke of bondage, have regained their spiritual privileges, and are restored to the liberty, the glorious liberty of the children of God. In reject-
ing the traditions of men ; in making Scripture the test to which every statement of truth is to be brought ; in taking the word of God, the pure and undefiled "word, as the rule we are to follow, we seem to have struggled into light, to have recovered the free exercise of reason, and to have left the regions of darkness behind us.
If this, then, be the case with regard to privilege, with regard to knowledge, how stands the case with regard to practice ¦? If the tree is known by its fruits ; if men look for grapes on the vine ; if they expect good fruit from the vineyard which boasts a goodly stock; what may they not expect from a church, which has thrown off the trammels of darker ages ; from a church, which has reverted to the earliest standards, and which is "built on the foundation of apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the • chief corner-stone ]"
We may venture to assume that a
purer faith, a clearer view of divine truths, will produce a purer practice, a higher moral stamlard ; just as ignorance and error gradually but surely lead to superstition, idolatry, and vice.
If God then in his mercy has vouchsafed to us a light which is denied to other nations ; if we see the truth, and hold the truth, while others hardly see, or hardly hold it; what do wo more than they 1 What fruit can wo show of ' the privileges bestowed ; or how liavo we improved the talent that has been committed to our trust 1
To take ono instance out of many, it is
the boast of our church to have cleared the doctrine of justification from those erroneous views which the pride of human reason and the hardness of the heart of man had formed upon it. We rejoice in asserting that " we are accounted
righteous before God, only for the merits of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, by faith, and not for our own works or deservings." Nay more, we repeat the assertion, and say, " That we are justified by faith only, is a most wholesome doctrine, and very full of comfort." We delight to trace innumerable rays of truth concentrated in this statement of our church ; and to mark the way in which " God is shown to be just, and yet the justifier of them that believe on Jesus." But, my brethren, what is the result of this doctrine, and what is the effect which this knowledge of the grace of God produces 1 Do we see the hearts of those who profess this doctrine, bowed down with a sense of the mercy that has visited them ] Do we see our Protestant congregations worshipping in silent awe at the grace in which they stand, and lost in wonder at the freeness of the bounty, which has thus offered to those who believe, that which no labour of man could have obtained, no merits of man could have purchased ] Do we see
around us, do we feel within us, that peace with God which is named as the privilege, the inheritance of those who are justified by faith ] And is this faith, which we name, and name with reason, as the charter of our hopes, as the ground of our confidence, a faith wiiich overcomes the world, which sanctifies the alTections, and proves itself to be of God by tlie works wiiich it does within us 1
We dare not assert, wo would not say, that those from whom we have withdrawn, and who have not obtained those advantagt!S wo enjoy, are destitute of fruits of the Spirit. We know that devotednoss and zeal, that lovo for God and love for man, have beea beautifully exemplified in members of the church of Itnnie. Wo know that iho piety of those, whose views of that graca of (Jod whicli bringelh salvation, were indistinri and cloudy, has often been
THE BRITISH PULPIT.
found shining brightly and burning strongly. We know that their work and labour of love has been glorious and great, though they knew but little of that love which is made known to us ; and though they saw not all the freeness of the grace to uliich thoy trusted for redemption, they have loved much in return. But if we" see their error, if we mourn over the blindness which has happened to them in this respect, and wished that they were even as we are ; if we feel that in knowledge of the will of God, in acquaintance with the mysteries of his nature, and the riches of his grace, we stand immeasurably above them ; what do we jTiore than they 1 What has been the result of our clearer light, of our
deeper views ; or how have we shown by our works, the character of that purer faith by which we walk ]
Again, as Protestants we have renounced the vain distinctions which have been imagined as to sin. We know no difference between mortal and venial. We believe that all unrighteousness is sin, and while we know that there is pardon for the greatest sin in the blood of Christ, we dare not promise ourselves impunity for the least, without it. Instead of trusting ourselves, therefore, with confidence to the snares of Sat-an, and venturing on actions of any questionable character ; we act as men who are not ignorant of his devices, and who know the danger that belongs to the slightest deviation from truth. We are taught to " abhor that which is evil," however extenuated by circumstances, and however trivial in appearance. We have known that God requires the whole heart, and the whole mind ; that he accepts no divided service ; is satisfied by no external homage
or outward form ; but seeks " those to worship him, who worship him in spirit and in truth."
There are others whose views are different ; who assert a distinction in the nature of sin, for which we find no authority in Scripture ; and who lower its character by imagining that it is in the power of men to forgive it ; who think that alms-giving may do away with iniquity, or that a satisfaction may, in
some degree, be made by man for the transgressions he has committed.
We mourn over their error. We denounce theirdistictions asunscriptural and false. We can see the dishonour done to God; the wrong offered to the Saviour; the ruin of the soul, in the application of their system. We can see that the real character of sin, as an offence against God, is lost sight of by this statement.
We can see that the value of the Redeemer's sacrifice is depreciated by the terms on which forgiveness is offered. We can see that the wholesome horror of sin is diminished by this representation of its character, and that the soul is encouraged to expose itself to dangers by the means of recovery which are offered. We can see all this, we can condemn the error under which they live, we can show its consequences ; but what do we more than they 1 In what respect does our clearer knowledge, our purer faith regulate our practice 1 or in what degree does it raise it above theirs ? Is self-denial more exercised ¦? are the wanderings of the heart and the affections, those inlets of evil, those occasions of falling, more assiduously watched, more diligently controlled ? Does the graver view we take of sin lead to more of godly vigilance against its delusions, to more of godly sorrow for its influence, among us than among others 1 or is not sin committed as boldly, as presumptuously committed by those who believe that the
blood of Christ was shed for its forgiveness, as it is by those who think that they may purchase absolution for its commission ]
Alas ! why are we enlightened by the light of truth, if we are not to see the ways of truth more clearly ] why are we enabled to see the deceitfulness of these distinctions which have been imagined by others, if we are not to maintain a more holy walk, a more heavenly conversation ; or wliy are we to know more than others, if we are not to do more than they do ]
But again, we believe that there is but one mediator between God and man — the Lord Jesus Christ. We believe that God has sent him forth to be the propiti-
AN IMPORTANT INQUIRY.
ation for the sins of the whole world, so ; employed in carryino- the li^ht of
that whosoever believelh in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.
There are some who deny this doctrine. There are others who, by dividing the honour of the work, extenuate and degrade it. There are some who, denying the mediatorial office of our Lord, know him only as a teacher sent from God ; who, with a pcrverseness worse than that of Judaism, put this grace from them, and wilfully and ungratefully reject the ^eatest token of the love of God for man. There are others, who ascribe to our Lord only a part in the work which belongs to him. Who associate theasrency of others with his, and either address
him through their mediation, or imagine that their intercession is to be combined with his. The mercy of God has delivered us from these errors. In Jesus Christ we see " the Lamb of God that taketh away the sins of the whole world." In him we delight to trace that perfect sufficiency for the work which is ascribed to him, which alone gives reasonable confidence to our faith, and makes hope an anchor of the soul both sure and steadfast.
But if we thus see in Christ, what the Socinian does not see, or what the Romanist only sees imperfectly, what do we more than they 1 What ctTect has bei^n produced on our hearts and lives by this clearer vision of the Redeemer's glories?
If we look to Christ as our only refuge from the wrath to come, where is our diligence in making our calling and election sure ill him ] If we believe that there is but one mediator between God and man, the man' Christ Jesus, why is
he not more openly confessed 1 If we believe that his is the only name whereby we may receive health and salvation, why are we not more zeahjus for the enlargf-ment of his kingdom ; why are wr
truth to those nations that are yet in darkness 1
If we were ignorant of that value which the soul of man derives from the gospel history; if we did not know that it was redeemed, not with corruptible things as gold and silver, but with the precious blood of Christ; if we did not thus admit as the great article of our creed, a doctrine which proves the inestimable value of the soul by the price paid for its recovery; Ave might be justified in our indiffi,>rence to the spiritual state of others, and might say " Am I my brother's keeper?" Or, if we were satisfied by a mere external profession ; if we conceived that the performance of certain forms
constituted religion, and placed men in the way of salvation; we might be contented to behold our own population nominally Christian, and might take uniformity of profession as a substitute for unity of spirit. But we are raised above these errors. We have received the truth as it is in Jesus. We know that without Christ the man is lost; and that " except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God." This we have received; this we profess; but " what do we more than others ?"
We hear of multitudes living without God in the world. We see our own brethren perishing from lack of knowledge. In the mean time, wo know the freeness of the gospel call, the blessings that are promised, the grace that is given ; we know all this, we profess to Itelieve all this, and yet, "what do we more than others 1"
But there is yet another application of the subject which tin- pri-senl occasion
prompts, and to which I turn with still dceprr feelings. We contcni|)lalti the light in which a (^lirislian walks, the advant;igts ho possesses in means of grace
not labouring with greater ililigence to ! and knowledge, beyond all that was eubring others to the knowledge of the sal- joyed before ; and feeling the connexion, vation that is in him 1 Why is it not i ihn nectsitary connexion, between pri-
our object, |)ersonal as wcdl as public, to extend lip! inlluenco of the gonpel 1 Why are not the resources of this Protestant kingilom devoted to the one Redeemer's cause, and our commerce Vol.. 1 — 3G
vilego and duly, we are drawn lo ajik the queHtion '• wh.il do yo moro than others t"
In the CTXHo of I'roiest.inl», wn hoo that lijjlil tthiuiug mure clo.irly and more du-
THE BHITISII PULPIT.
tinctly than on other men ; we see it drawn from the source of Vi^ht in tiie Scriptures; we see it leading to a profession more specific, and more distinctive ; and arguintr, as in the former case, from increase of knowledge to a clearer sense of duty, and a higher tone of practice, we are compelled to compare the standard we see in them, with that which is maintained in the world around them, and to ask again, " what do ye more than others'?"
If the men who heard the preaching of John the Baptist in the wilderness were ordered to bring forth fruits meet for repentance : If the men who heard our blessed Lord were directed to deny themselves, and to take up their cross daily and follow him : If those who have been admitted into the church of Christ have promised to renounce the world, the flesh, and the devil : If every increase of light shows us more of the sin there is in man, and of the holiness there is in God ; and every Christian privilege comes charged with its proportion of responsibility ; then, what shall become of us, who are called to minister in the word, and who have offered ourselves to others as messengers from God to man 1
" Wo is me, for I am undone ; because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of an unclean people ;" were the words of Isaiah, when he saw the Lord in his glory, and looked on himself as the messenger whom the Lord would
send. Such also must be the feelings of «very one who thinks of the ministry of the gospel, and contemplates himself as the instrument employed.
And yet we know, that when a live coal from the altar had been laid upon the prophet's lips, his tone was altered, his feelings were changed. The language of despair became that of confidence and hope ; and he who just before recoiled from the office proposed to him, exclaimed at once, " Here am I, send me !"
And thus it is vc'v.h us, my brethren. We know, that of ourselves we are not able even to think the thing that is right; and when we dwell upon the charge we
are called to fill ; when we survey the nature of our office, its labours, its responsibilities ; the consequences that must follow its discharge towards others,
and towards ourselves ; no language seems suited to the feelings of our hearts but that of the prophet, when he shrank with terror and dismay from the duty he was called to. " But our sufficiency is of God." We know that " we have this treasurain earthly vessels, that the excellency of the poAver may be of God, and not of man ;" and while we feel that his grace may be magnified in our infirmities, we dare not yield to the impression which might deter us from the work; nor refuse an office in which we may be the means of adding glory to his name.
Having believed then, we speak. Having received mercy, we faint not. A dispensation of the gospel is committed unto us. Christ must be preached ; the world must be warned ; and whatever may be our sense of our own unworthincss, our message, as ministers of the gospel, must be delivered, and prayers and tears must testify to the sincerity with which it is urged. And it will not be delivered in vain ! We know him
who hath said, " I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee." We remember the word which says, " Lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world ;" and while we remember that whatever be the hand which planteth, or the hand that watcreth, it is God that giveth the increase ; we need not doubt the success of the message, on account of the weakness of the messenger by whom it is uttered.
But let that weakness be what it may, let the consciousness of infirmity, of unfitness be what it may ; if ever it happen, that that live coal from the altar, the remembrance of him who is the propitiation for our sins, be laid upon our lips, as it was upon the lips of the prophet: if it ever happen, that the words are heard by us which were heard by him; if it be said, " Lo, this hath touched thy lips, and thine iniquity is taken away, and thy sins purged ;" if a sense of the love of God be shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost, which
AN IMPORTANT INQUIRY.
he hath given us ; what is there to check or to hinder us. The love of Christ will then constrain us ? Zeal for him who did so much for us ; gratitude to him who suffered so much for us ; will overcome every other feeling. We shall rejoice in the privilege of confessing him before men; and like the apostles, we shall give with great power our witness of the Lord Jesus. Let us look then from ourselves, where there is so much to dishearten, so much to dispirit; and let every eye be fixed on him in whom are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. Let us think little of
what we may be able to do for him, but think much of what he has done for us. Let us lose sight of our own insufficiency in considering the largeness of his mercy, the greatness of his power; and while we thus give ourselves to him who calls us; though we be the least of all saints, yet to us may be the grace given, to preach to others the unsearchable riches of Christ.
BENEFIT OF A RELIGIOUS TRACT.
At an Auxiliary Tract Society held in the neighbourhood of London, the following interesting anecdote was narrated by the Rev. Edward Parsons : —
" A member of parliament, now entered mto his rest, was in the habit of appropriating the early hours of the Sabbath to the distribution of these little messengers of mercy. On one occasion, as he called at a house which he had visited
for the purpose of leaving a tract, he was told by an elderly fenialo, whom ho liad before seen at this habitation of misery, that a young man up-stairs wished to see him. Ho was introduced accordingly to a room at the top of the house, where he found the young man stretched on a bed of sickness. After some conversation with him respecting the state of his mind.
he ascertained that he was the son of a highly respectable and pious individual ; and that he had left the paternal roof in order to avoid restraint. A course of licentiousness had brought him to the borders of the grave, and he was now anxious, having obtained the pardon of his Maker, to secure the forgiveness of his father. TJie gentleman went, according to the directions of the invalid, to the father, and introduced his business with him in the following manner: "You have a son I believe, sir.'" — " Mention him not to me," said the dejected father ;
" he has been for a long time my grief, and. shame, and sorrow : he will bring down my gray hairs with sorrow to the grave." — "I have seen him," said the gentleman. ""When'?" inquired the father, anxiously. " A very short time since," replied the gentleman; "he is penitent for his conduct, and his only wish is to obtain your pardon." They hastened together to the house where the wanderer had found a resting-place. When the door was opened, the sufferer lifted up his head, and as he perceived his father, his eye glistened with the hope of regaining his favour, and his tonorue ejaculated the desire of his heart. The event proved that his hope was not fallacious, nor his plea for forgiveness in vain. The father ran, like the parent of the prodigal son, to embrace his long-despaired of but repenting child. The son again repeated his hope that he might, in addition to the pardon of the Almigiity throujjh a crucified Redeemer, receive the forgiveness of his parent; this request was iininediately granted, and they both wept together.
The feeble constitution of the young man, however, was not able to bear so much excitement; he fell from the embrace of his aged parent, and then once more lifting his eycH to heaven, he closed them again, and expired.
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