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As further proof that Paul's meaning has been misapprehended, I may remark, that in the days of Ezekiel, God appealed to the reason and conscience of a wicked people to decide on the equity of his conduct towards them. “ Are not my ways equal ? Are not your ways unequal ?” But if the sinner is so deficient in intellect, that he cannot understand the meaning of God's words, of what use could be such an appeal ?
I may also remark, that the duty of every man is limited by the extent of his understanding. To love the Lord with all the understanding, is all that is required of any man, whether that understanding be great or small. Of course, if the natural man is so deficient in intellect that he cannot understand any of God's precepts, he is under no obligation to obey them.
In both the Old Testament and the New, the conversion of sinners is represented as the effect of divine truth on their minds. “The law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul. The testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple." Psalm xix. 7. "Being born again not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God which liveth and abideth forever.” I Pet. i. 23. Now if the unconverted, as such, are incapable of perceiving the true meaning of Scripture language, and consequently misunderstand it; then it must be by a false meaning of the word that they are converted. Of course, their conversion must be the effect of falsehood, and not of truth. For they are in an unconverted state
till the change occurs ; and it is by such views of the word as they have in an unconverted state that they are regenerated, or that the work of regeneration is commenced.
If men come into the world with a nature which renders them incapable of understanding the meaning of divine precepts, they are no more blameable for not perceiving their meaning, than is the man who was born blind, for not being able to distinguish the colors of the rainbow. Besides, when the precepts of a parent are conformable to truth, or to the precepts of God, an unconverted or disobedient child is just as liable to misconceive the meaning of a parental precept, as a precept of the gospel. If the child is naturally incapable of understanding a precept, why does the parent give it? When a reasonable parent perceives that a child has misunderstood his precept through a defect of intellect, or ignorance of the meaning of words, he of course excuses the child : so we may presume it is with our heavenly Father.
THE INJUNCTIONS AND EXAMPLE OF CHRIST.
My Christian Brethren,
Among the numerous injunctions of the Saviour there is perhaps not one which has been treat
ed with less respect or more frequently violated than the following:
“Judge not, that ye be not judged. For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged; and with what measure ye mete it shall be measured to you again." Matt. vii. 1, 2.
Luke has expressed the injunction, differently:
Judge not and ye shall not be judged. Condemn not, and ye
shall not be condemned.” Luke vi. 37.
How very little are these injunctions regarded by different sects of Christians in their treatment of one another! It will be pleaded that no one can suppose that Christ meant to prohibit all kinds and instances of judging. He could not mean to prohibit judicial decisions in courts of justice, and probably nothing was prohibited by these injunctions but what may properly be called rash and censorious judging or condemning one another. Be it even so. What then is rash and censorious judging ? If I judge and condemn my brother as a wicked man merely because he dissents from my opinion respecting some important texts which we both admit to be genuine Scripture, am I not chargeable with rash and censorious judging? Or if I say that it is owing to the wickedness of his heart that he dissents from me, is not this rash and censorious ? How often has the censoriòus accuser been the one in error ? Was not Jesus in the right, as to his opinion of what it was lawful to do on the Sabbath ? Yet on account of his healing on that day the Phar,
isees ventured to say
« We know that this man is a sinner.” Why then may I not be liable to a similar error when I thus judge my dissenting brother? If I am not inspired, how do I know that the error is not on my part? Or that my brother is less honest than I am in his inquiries after truth?
The reason given by Christ why we should forbear judging is deserving of notice. “ For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged; and with what measure ye mete it shall be measured to you again.” This I consider as similar to the admonition given to Peter, “ For he that taketh the sword shall perish by the sword.” It was not, I conceive, the intention of our Saviour to be understood in either case, that the wrong done would in every instance be retaliated ; nor that those who should retaliate would do right; but to forewarn his disciples of what would be the natural consequence of such rash and injurious measures. motive to forbear such conduct, he would have his disciples keep in view the common retributions of providence, even in the present state. Now what is more common than for censorious persons to be censured? Or for warriors, duellists and assassins, to perish by the sword, or suffer a violent death?
Another precept of Christ is this—" All things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them.” This precept is as applicable to judging one another as to any part of human conduct. But where is the Christian who “ would"
that his brother should impute supposed errors of opinion to the wickedness of his heart? If I would that others should forbear thus to judge me, then of course I should forbear thus to judge them. This is called the Golden Rule on account of its excellence. But alas, how often is it treated by professed Christians as of no worth at all!
I have still another precept of Christ to exhibit; but I shall first present his example ; because the other precept makes his example the rule of our conduct.
The dispute by the way. On a certain occasion, Jesus thus interrogated his disciples, “What was it that ye disputed by the way ? But they held their peace; for by the way they had disputed among themselves, who should be the greatest." Mark ix. 33-4. The circumstances of this case are remarkable. So also was our Lord's manner of treating his apostles on that occasion, while they were in gross errors of opinion. Though they had been for a considerable time in his family, and under his tuition, daily hearing his discourses and witnessing his miracles, they still retained the errors of education respecting the object of his mission and the nature of his kingdom. From various facts it is obvious that they supposed the Messiah was to be a temporal prince, that his kingdom was to be of this world, that he would reign on the throne of David, and deliver the Jews from their subjection to the Romans. As Christ