« הקודםהמשך »
of your own country ; for I am the Lord your God.”
On the other hand, see the promises for well doing. See Lev. xxvi. 3, &c. "If ye walk in my statutes, and keep my commandments, and do thein; then I will give you rain in due season, and the land shall yield her increase, and the trees of the field shall yield their fruit. And your threshing shall reach unto the vintage, and the vintage shall reach unto the sowing time ; and ye shall eat your bread to the full, and dwell in your land safely. And I will give peace in the land, and ye shall lie down, and none shall make you afraid ; and I will rid evil beasts out of the land, neither shall the sword go through your land. And ye shall chase your enernies, and they shall fall before you by the sword. And five of you shall chase an hundred, and an hundred of you shall put ten thousand to flight. -For I will have respect unto you, and make you fruitful, and multiply you, and establish my covenant with you.—And I will walk among you, and be your God, and ye shall be my people.” Again the scene changes in this chapter, and the curses for disobedience are minutely recorded.
Now if we allow that these laws were of divine authority, which all our christian clergy do, what colour of reason is there in pretending that the judge of all the earth does not punish sin in this world. The whole history, contained in the scriptures, of the Jewish nation, seems to be an account of the blessings which God bestowed on that people in approbation of their obedience to his commands, and of the dreadful sufferings which they endured, as a recompense of their disobedience. But, we repeat it, there is not in all the writings of Moses and the prophets a single intimation of any reward for virtue or obedience which was yielded in this life, in a future state; nor is there any intimation of the punishing of the crimes committed here, in another world.
Will it be said that the gospel dispensation has
reversed this divine order, and put a stop to the punishment of sin, and the reward of righteousness in this life, and has reserved all this for a future state ? But why should people in ancient times be punished for their sins in this world, where they committed it, and we be punished in the future, where we have committed no crime? Furthermore, our blessed Saviour renounces all right to make such a change; he says, “Think not that I am come to destroy the law and the prophets, I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil.”
And it is worthy of our careful notice, that Jesus pronounced no other punishments on his enemies, the Jews, than was written in the law and the prophets.
St. Paul, in his epistle to the Romans has set the sense of the scriptures in a clear light, on our subject. See chap. 13, “Let every soul be sub unto the higher powers ; for there is no power but of God; the powers that be are ordained of God. Whosoever, therefore, resisteth the power resisteth the ordinance of God; and they that resist shall receive to themselves damnation. For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to evil. Wilt thou then not be afraid of the power? Do that which is good, and thou shalt have praise of the same: for he is the minister of God to thee for good. But if thou do that which is evil, be afraid ; for he beareth not the sword in vain; for he is the minister of God, a revenger to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil.” This testimony, my friends, is the true sense of the whole scriptures on the subject, and is in direct opposition to the superstition which contends that sin is not punished in this world. It is really unaccountable, why our christian clergy should allow the truth of St. Paul's declaration here cited, and yet contend that God does not punish sin in this life!
If we allow that our penal laws are consistent with the mind and will of God, and are his ordinances, then we acknowledge that when crimes are punished according to our laws, this punish
ment is the righteous judginent of God on the transgressor. But if we do not allow these laws to be the ordinances of God, then let us abrogate them at once; for what right have we to make laws to punish crimes in a state, in which God chooses not to punish them? To be consistent with this blind superstition which we are considering, there should be no law against crimes, or at least no penalties on the face of the earth! The thief, the adulterer, the murderer should have their liberty to go on and multiply crimes without any punishment until they come into that world where it is consistent with God's law to have then punished ! But the superstition under consideration contends that all this wickedness may be repented of one minute before the sinner goes out of the world, in which case he is to receive no punishment in the future world; so after all this system of terror amounts to no terror at all, for there are provisions in it, by which a man may live in sin to old age, and never be punished for the same neither in this world, nor in that which is to come.
Taking our leave of their vain traditions, let us auly attend to the means which are laid down in our text, whereby we may be blest with the enjoyments of life, and see good days. And,
1. Let us consider the tongue and the lips. These members, which are so vastly useful to mankind, are of a character which requires them to be kept under a constant restraint, lest with our tongues we speak evil and indulge our lips in uttering guile. You will easily perceive that a restraint on these members is equally such on the heart, for this restraint must be the moral dictate of the mind, so that the restraint is first on the inclinations, and the judgment acts in its own official character, enlightened by reason. If this restraint be not in the heart, the tongue and lips, being the organs of the mind, will be subservient to evil thoughts and desires ; but if an enlightened principle rule and restrain the desires of the mind, it also controls the
tongue and the lips, so that as there is no evil harboured in the heart, there is none to employ the organs. Our Saviour has informed us, that it is that which cometh out of the man that defileth him ; but if there be a proper restraint on the tongue and lips, that which defileth cannot break through, and therefore cannot defile.
Now look round you and ask where the man is who keeps the door of his lips, who speaks no evil, who utters no guile, and who, at the same time lives a wretched, miserable life ? Can you find such an instance ? No, my friends, you never will find such an instance in our world. You will find that those, who refrain their tongues from evil, and their lips that they speak no guile, that is, who never opened their lips to deceive, are the jewels of society, they are the precious ones of the earth; and let their temporal condition be what it may, the sun of peace is within, shedding his warming and enlivening rays through the vast regions of the soul.
2d. After the tongue and the lips are put under proper restraint, the next thing recommended is, that we shun evil and do good, that we seek peace and follow it.
Here we have good works recommended, and their reward plainly and clearly stated. A life of happiness and good days are promised as the reward, the sure reward of shunning evil and doing good, of seeking, peace and following it. The whole duty of man is here comprehended; for if we shun evil we shall do none, and if we do good, this constitutes us active and living members of society, and we are not only happy in ourselves, but we make others so likewise. Remember, it is not enough that we seek peace, but we must follow it,
which we shall shun strife and animosity, and come under the denomination of which the Saviour speaks and says; “Blessed are the peace-makere , for they shall be called the children of God.”
Once more, my friends, look round you and in
quire after those who shun evil and do good; and when you have found those who in any good measure are entitled to this character, then endeavour to ascertain whether they are the miserable and the wretched, or whether they enjoy life and see good days. The fact is, we all know, if we are willing to acknowledge the truth, that such people in society are more precious than fine gold. They are eyes to the blind, feet to the lame, health to the sick, wisdom to the foolish, knowledge to the ignorant, and bread to the hungry. They can say, by happy experience, “Great peace have they that love thy law, and nothing shall offend them.
Now look again, examine the black list of the profane and vicious, those who restrain not their tongues from evil, nor their lips from speaking guile, who shun not evil but live in sin, who neither seek peace nor pursue it; do they present a world of happiness? Do they see good days? Do you envy them their felicity ? No, you all know that the wickedness of the wicked is upon him. Go into a virtuous family, where order and decorum are preserved, where tongues and lips are kept under restraint, where peace is spoken and pursued, where evil is shunned and nothing but good acted, and there, my friends, is that which we all so much desire, HAPPINESS. The people enjoy life and see good days. And our text promises such a reward as this to all who will use these means, which are here recommended.
There may be two questions, which the hearer may desire to have answered.
1. Why should the whole duty of man be required, the reward stated, and nothing said concerning a future state of bliss ? Reply : Because, though the gospel brings life and inmortality to light, and clearly promises, that “as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive,” it no where informs us, that this state of incorruptible felicity and glory is the reward of our good works, but the gift of God in his Son.