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which the hypocritical and self-righteous Pharisees exercised, will readily be condemned in the present day, since it is quite out of fashion among us. Such fasting is justly deemed useless. We leave it to be practised by the ignorant Papists, whom we, as Protestants, profess to pity for their folly; and to whom we ought, indeed, to show compassion, if we have opportunity, for they greatly need it; while we should be thankful that we are better instructed. But is there nothing practised among us, which is made to answer the same purpose, that of obtaining the praise of men? A fatal laxity as to the profession of religion is indeed too evident in numbers. But is not the opposite of this, a formal attendance on the ordinances of public worship, in order to be seen of men,49 rather than to worship the heart-searching God, prevalent also ? If this be our object in coming to the house of God, our end may be attained by the approbation and respect of our fellow-creatures; who, as they know not our hearts, may give us credit for principles which we do not possess. But if we aim no higher than to have the praise of men, we shall lose the most important end of the means of grace; which is, the enjoyment of intercourse and communion with our heavenly Father in Christ Jesus, and obtaining a right knowledge and love of Him, and a good hope for eternity. Let us then examine our own hearts, and see what is the end which we propose to ourselves by our presence in the house of God; that we may not deceive ourselves by offering merely lip service to Him who demands the worship of the heart; and so fall short of obtaining the benefit for which the means of grace are conferred upon us. 52
48 John xii. 43.
19 Matthew xxiii. 5.
While our Saviour warned His disciples against adopting the hypocritical practices of the Pharisees, He showed them how they might derive benefit from the observance of the injunctions which were imposed upon the people by those who sat in Moses' seat. But thou, when thou fastest, anoint thine head, and wash thy face; that thou appear not unto men to fast, but unto thy Father which is in secret ; and thy Father, which seeth in secret, shall reward thee openly. As if He had said, Attend to this tradition of the elders from a principle of regard to God; observe it as seeing Him who is invisible ;50 and He will graciously notice your obedience to Him, and you shall obtain the benefit
desire. But if we propose to ourselves merely human ends in making a profession of religion, we are not likely to obtain any higher reward than that at which we aim. The ordinances of
50 Hebrews xi. 27.
the house of God were instituted for the purpose of giving us an opportunity of worshipping Him who is a Spirit, in spirit and in truth.51
Here we are called upon to humble ourselves at His footstool, confessing our sinfulness with contrition of heart; and to implore His pardoning mercy; to praise Him for His goodness of which we are partakers, and to pray for its continuance; and to hear what He has revealed in His holy word for our instruction, and admonition, and consolation, that it may prove to be the means of our salvation. If we are destitute of these blessings we shall have our labour only for our pains, as it respects God; although the human reward may be obtained, which has been the real object that we have proposed to ourselves. But oh! how grievous will it be found, to have had the means which God has appointed for receiving His grace, and to have made use of them, and yet to fall short of obtaining the blessing; to be cheated out of it by Satan, when it appeared to be just within reach. The idea of so grievous a disappointment, as this will prove to many hearers of the word of God and worshippers in His holy temple, should lead us to deep searchings of heart, and earnest inquiry whether we derive real spiritual benefit from the means of grace: whether we worship God in spirit and
51 John iv. 24.
52 | Corinthians xiv. 3.
in truth ; whether we are doers of the word, and not hearers only.53
From the consideration of the different motives which influence mankind, some doing all their works to be seen of men, and to obtain their
applause; and others acting as in the sight of God, as seeing Him who is invisible, and desiring to please Him; our blessed Saviour proceeds to make a comparison between earthly and heavenly treasures; and to speak of the perishable nature of the one, and the durability of the other. He thus exhorts His disciples, Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal; but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through and steal. In ancient times it was customary for the rich to lay up treasures of costly garments, and to pride themselves upon the great variety which they had in store. These, the more numerous they were, were of course the more liable to be moth-eaten. St. James addresses such persons, Go to now, ye rich men, weep and howl for your miseries that shall come upon you ; your riches are corrupted, and your garments are moth-eaten ; your gold and silver is cankered, and the rust of them shall be a witness
53 James i. 22.
against you, and shall eat your flesh as it were fire. Ye have heaped treasure together for the last days.
The custom of amassing stores of corn is also referred to by our Lord Jesus Christ in His parable of the rich man whose ground brought forth plentifully ; and who said, I will pull down my barns and build greater, and there will I bestow all my fruits and my goods.55 The word rust in our Saviour's exhortation, denotes the injury which stores of grain are liable to receive. Garments were liable to be spoiled by the moth, corn to be injured by the rust, gold and silver to be stolen by thieves ; and thus the possessors of these earthly treasures might be disappointed of the benefit which they expected to derive from them. How great is the folly of endeavouring to amass a great abundance of these perishing things; since a man's life consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he possesseth :55 though, from the eagerness with which they are sought after, one might suppose that it did.
But the Apostle assures us on the other hand, that they that will be rich fall into temptation, and a snare, and into many foolish and hurtful lusts, which drown men in destruction and perdition. It is the advice of Divine wisdom, Having food and raiment, let us be therewith content.56 This is all that is absolutely necessary;
54 James v. 1-3. 55 Luke xii. 16, 18, 15. 56 1 Timothy vi. 9, 8.