« السابقةمتابعة »
department of his mind which seems a cabinet for the preservation of what is curious, rather than the reception of that which he has daily occasion to use.
The precepts of God occupy much of his thoughts, and engage much of his attention. The knowledge of them is continually revived, the remembrance of them refreshed, by daily mental recollections, by reiterated acts of attention, such as it becomes us to exert towards the counsels and ordinances of the Great Eternal. It is thus, and thus only, that knowledge becomes practical and influential; that the light which first pervades the intellect, descends into the heart and diffuses itself through all the faculties of the soul.
“ And these words,” said Moses, “which I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart: and thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up."*
The original word is extremely expressive,“ thou shalt whet them on thy children,” (or whet thy children upon them,] in allusion to the practice of giving the necessary edge to certain instruments, by continual friction with hard substances. Thus a good man whets the word of God on his own mind [so as to sharpen it] by successive acts of serious attention, [and thus acquire] an aptitude in applying it to its proper purpose. In the most busy and tumultuous scenes of life, it naturally occurs to his recollections, it instantaneously presents itself to his thoughts; while to the wicked the “judgements of the Lord are far above out of his sight,” and it is with great difficulty that he raises his mind to such high and holy meditations, and, after all, it is a painful and short-lived effort.
* Deut. vi. 6, 7.
3. The good man is impressed with a deep sense of the obligation of the law of God, accompanied with a sincere resolution of implicit and unreserved obedience. He is not only acquainted with the rules of duty, he does not merely make them the object of his serious and habitual attention : he accedes to the justice of their claims; his conscience is enlightened to discern their equity and their obligation; and he humbly but firmly resolves, in the strength of divine grace, to yield a practical compliance. Far from arraigning the precepts of God as too strict, too extended, or too spiritual, he entirely acquiesces in their justice and propriety, and turns the edge of his censure and reproaches on himself only. “O that my ways were directed to keep thy statutes !” He is perfectly satisfied that, however he may be “ carnal, sold under sin," “the law is holy, and the commandment holy, and just, and good."* He blames himself only, not the strictness of the precept; he laments the weakness and corruption of the flesh, not the purity of the divine command. Although he perfectly despairs of yielding such an obedience to its requisitions as shall justify him in the sight of God, he main
* Rom. vii. 12.
tains a steady and conscientious respect to all his commandments. Thy word,” saith David, a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path." “ I have sworn, and I will perform it, that I will keep thy righteous judgements."*
Holy resolutions are essential to a sincere obedience: they may become abortive by being framed in our own strength, and without “ counting the cost;" but, notwithstanding, they are a necessary preparation to the conscientious performance of duty. Nothing is more certain than that real religion is a reasonable and voluntary service ; he will never truly serve God who is not deliberately resolved to do so. Good resolutions bear the same relation to supright conduct] as the seed bears to the fruit.
All this, however, of itself, is indeed sufficient to form a slave, not a child—to produce a constrained and reluctant obedience, not the cheerful homage of a heart flowing with gratitude and love. The understanding may be enlightened, conscience awakened, and the external conduct reputable ; while the service of God is felt as an insupportable load, with difficulty sustained, though impossible to be shaken off.
Something more is requisite to render religion a delight, to convert wisdom's
into “ pleasantness,” and her paths into "paths of peace.”
4. To put the finishing stroke, then, to the character of a good man, let me add, once more, that
* Psalm cxix. 105, 106.
ways of his heart is inspired with a love to the law of God after “ the inner man.” Considered as a transcript of the divine perfections, as an expression of [God's] immaculate holiness, as the instrument of his sanctification, it is the object of his devoted attachment. The dispositions which it enforces are wrought into his heart; the inward bias of his mind is directed towards the holiness which it prescribes; and so intense is his approbation of all its requisitions, that the least alteration in it would give him pain. He longs not to have the standard of duty reduced to his level, but to have his own heart raised to its elevation. He would not wish for a law which connived at impurity, which commanded any thing short of moral perfection. [Its] immaculate holiness, to him, forms its principal attraction.
It is also entitled to our warmest attachment, on account of its beneficial tendency; it is adapted, in the highest degree, to correct every moral irregularity, and to diffuse order and happiness throughout the whole creation. In proportion as it is obeyed, it never fails to insure the “ peaceable fruits of righteousness.”
Hence those passionate expressions of attachment to the holy precepts of God, which abound in the writings of David, and particularly in the 119th Psalm. “ O how love I thy law !” My soul breaketh for the longing that it hath unto thy judgements at all times.”
“ I will speak of thy testimonies before kings, and will not be ashamed: and I will delight myself in thy commandments, which I have loved. My hands also will I lift up unto thy commandments, which I have loved ; and I will meditate on thy statutes.”
Its precepts may often do violence to the inclinations of flesh and blood, may often urge to laborious duties and painful sacrifices; sinful pleasures may be [desired], which unsanctified natures find as difficult to part with, as to “cut off a right hand, or to pluck out a right eye;" but still the manifest equity of its requisitions, and their evident subserviency to our best, our eternal interest, is such, that they are cordially approved. A congeniality of mind with the tenor of the divine precepts is experienced; whence arises a practical compliance, not so much the fruit of necessity, as the effect of inward vital principle. Herein is fulfilled the gracious declaration of the new covenant-“ But this shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel; After those days, saith the Lord, I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be my people.”* This is the great work of the Spirit on the souls of the faithful, the seal of God on the heart of his servants, and the distinguishing feature in the character of his children. Their love to the law produces grief at seeing it violated. “ Horror hath taken hold upon me, because of the wicked that forsake thy law.”+
5. In a good man, this attachment to the law of God, and to the rules of duty, is progressive, * Jer. xxxi. 33.
+ Psalm cxix. 53.