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betrayed into the toils of the adversary. We know that a subjugation of the passions has ever been a prominent doctrine of heathen philosopby. In fact it may be said to be a moral axiom of the law of nature. Its necessity even to the harmony and well-being of civil society is obvious and universal. But if to subdue the passions actually improves a man for this world, must it not also improve him for the next, since it is only in this world that any improvement can take place among us, and what is morally good here can lose nothing of this quality hereafter! It is cutting off these sinister affections that constitutes that circumcision of heart which renders the true disciple of Christ“ all glorious within,” and fits him for the welcome of his Saviour to his feast in heaven. But it is now time to consider, lastly, that our obedience to the divine precepts must be, not simply according to the letter, but according to the spirit of God's holy law.
It is certain that the simple letter of the divine law does not always express the full extent of its requisitions ; since where it only expressly forbids the actual commission of a crime, it forbids also by implication the desire to commit it; so that in some instances they who encourage a wish to transgress any of God's commands are as morally culpable in his sight as those who actually do transgress them. In fact they are virtually violated by both. “ Having eyes," as the Apostle expresses it, " that cannot cease from sin ;” an expression which shows us that the very eye may be the agent of guilt, and therefore demands a vigilant superintendence.
When God propounded his laws, it was mot before he had imparted to us an understanding to appreciate and comprehend them. Our consciences clearly point out how they are to be obeyed, and we can always make ourselves fully sensible when we do obey them in “spirit and in truth,” and when we do not. No man, for instance, can imagine, if he only refrain from committing a capital offence from the fear of forfeiting his life to the laws of his country, that he is innocent in the sight of Him who“ knoweth the heart."
He never can persuade himself that there is no sin in the evil intention, or that there is no responsibility attached but to the personal act. There is therefore something more required of us than literal obedience to the positive law; we are bound to observe all that it implies as well as all that it expresses, and we should remember that the rewards of our obedience are not single or defined, but various, extensive and universal.
The religion of Christ directs us to prepare for the next world by a steady and uniform course in this; by a correction of the will as well as by a forbearance in deed, for the kingdom of God is not “meat and drink, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Ghost.” The ancient pharisees we find were scrupulously exact in performing the literal injunctions of their law, but they were mere formalists in reli. gion and latitudinarians in morals, and our blessed Saviour has sufficiently declared the vanity of their pretensions, the fallacy of their claims to God's favour, and by consequence the certainty of their punishment in another world, who have only maintained and practised an outward religion in this. It is clear that true religion rests not in the letter of the law," but goes to the spirit of it, and inclines the heart to an uniformly unreserved compliance with the will of God, as we may sufficiently learn from the information which he has himself given us upon this point: “neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision, but a new creature.”
If the heart be not interested in the service of religion, it must be manifest to every reasonable understanding that the strictest observance of its forms only can never render it profitable to us, because the vital efficacy of religion lies no more in the outward observances, by which it is characterized, than the life of a human body does in the clothes which cover it; and yet forms are as necessary to the one as clothes to the other. Let us bear in mind that “ God is a spirit, and they therefore that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth.” An involuntary worship is in effect no worship, and a mere ceremonial obedience to God's law is an insufficient and therefore a profitless obedience. The relation which exists between our Creator and us demands from us a sincere, a heartfelt, a spiritual devotion towards him.
Let us then never cease to remember, and to remember it too with corresponding feelings of gratitude, veneration and love, that “we are circumcised with the circumcision made without hands in putting off the body of the sins of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ: buried with him in baptism, wherein also we are risen with him, through the faith of the operation of God, who hath raised him from the dead."
OUR DAILY BREAD.
Matt. CHAP. VI. VERSE 11.
Give us this day our daily bread.
At the first view this will perhaps seem a superfluous petition to those who may imagine they have the power of realizing the object of it, and therefore need not pray for what they can command the means of procuring. Such persons, however, will do well to recollect that
man does not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.” Thus there is a spiritual nourishment daily necessary for our souls, which wealth cannot procure, as well as a daily food for our bodies, which it can.
Without the one the other can be no blessing; and as God could not command us to pray for what would not be a positive benefit,