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2. “ Whosoever shall break one of these least commandmients,” or oue of the least of these commandments.-" These commandments," we may observe, is a term used by our Lord as an equivalent with the Law, or the Law and the Prophets,which is the same thing, seeing the Prophets added nothing to the law, but only declared, explained, or enforced it, as they were noved by the Holy Ghost.
“Whosoever shall break one of these least commandments," especially if it be done wilfully or presumptuously :-One ;for “he that keepeth the whole law, and [thus] offends in one point, is guilty of all; ” the wrath of God abideth on him, as surely as if he had broken every one. So that no allowance is made for one darling lust; no reserve for one idol; no excuse for refraining from all besides, and only giving way to one bosom sin. What God demands is, an entire obedience; we are to have an eye to all his commandments; otherwise we lose all the labour we take in keeping somc, and our poor souls for ever and ever.
« One of the least," or one of the least of these commandments :-Here is another excuse cut off, whereby many, who cannot deceive God, miserably deceive their own souls. “This sin,” saith the sinner, “is it not a little one ? Will not the Lord spare me in this thing? Surely he will not be extreme to mark this, since I do not oflend in the greater matters of the law.” Vain hope! Speaking after the manner of men, we may term tliese great, and those little commandments; but, in reality, they are not so. If we use propriety of speech, there is no such thing as a little sin; every sin being a transgression of the holy and perfect law, and an affront on the great Majesty of Heaven.
3. “And shall teach men so. In some sense it may be said, that whosoever openly breaks any commandment, teaches others to do the same; for example speaks, and many times louder than precept. In this sense it is apparent, every open drunkard is a teacher of drunkenness; every sabbath-breaker is constantly teaching his neighbour to profane the Day of the Lord. But this is not all : an habitual breaker of the law is seldom content to stop here: he generally teaches other men to do so too, by word as well as example; especially when he hardens his neck, and hateth to be reproved. Such a sinner soon commences an advocate for sin : he defends what he is resolved not to forsake: lic excuses the sin which he will not leave, and thus directly teaches cvery sin which he commits,
“ He shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven ;"—that is, shall have no part therein. He is a stranger to the kingdom of heaven which is on earth; he hath no portion in that inheritance; no share of that “righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost.” Nor, by consequence, can he have any part in the glory which shall be revealed.
4. But if those who even thus break, and teach others to break, “ one of the least of these commandments, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven,” shall have no part in the kingdom of Christ and of God; if even these shall be cast into “outer darkness, where is wailing and gnashing of teeth ;" then where will they appear, whom our Lord chiefly and primarily intends in these words,--they who, bearing the character of Teachers sent from God, do nevertheless themselves break bis commandments; yea, and openly teach others so to ; being corrupt both in life and doctrine ?
5. These are of several sorts. Of the first sort are they who live in some wilful, habitual sin. Now if an ordinary sinner teaches by his example, how much more a sinful Minister,-even if he does not attempt to defend, excuse, or extenuate his sin ? If he does, he is a murderer indeed; yea, the murderer-general of his congregation. He peoples the regions of death. He is the choicest instrument of the Prince of Darkness. When he goes hence, “hell from beneath is moved to meet him at his coming." Nor can he sink into the bottomless pit, withont dragging a multitude after him.
6. Next to these are the good-natured, good sort of men; who live an easy, harmless life, neither troubling themselves with outward sin, nor with inward holiness ; men who are remarkable neither one way nor the other, -neither for religion nor irreligion; who are very regular both in public and private, but do not pretend to be any stricter than their neighbours. A Minister of this kind breaks, not one, or a few only, of the least commandments of God; but all the great and weighty branches of his law which relate to the power of godliness, and all that require us to “ pass the time of our sojourning in fear," to “work out our salvation with fear and trembling," to have our “loins always girt, and our lights burning,” to strive' or agovize “to enter in at the strait gate.” And he teaches men so, by the whole form of his life, and the general tenor of his preaching, which uniformly tends to sooth those in their pleasing dream, who imagine themselves Christians and are not; to persuade all, who attend upon his ministry, to sleep on and
Cike their iest. Tin marrel chevelure, it loutklie, ild then that follow him, withe together in everlastin burning!
7. Bui abore all these, in the wighest rank of the enemies of the gospel of Christ, are they who openly and explicitly “judge thie law itself, and “speak evil of the law;
Irlo teach men to break (2:07, to dissolve, to loose, to antic the obligation of) not one only, whether of the least, or of the greatesi, but all the commandments at a stroke; who teach, without any cover, in so many words,-“What did our Lord do with the law? Ile abolished it. There is but one duty, which is that of believing All commands arc iwtit for our times. From any demand of the law, no man is obliged now to go one step, or give away one farthing, to eat or omit one morsel.” This is indeed carrying matters with a high band; this is withistanding our Lord to the tice', and telling him, that he understood noi holl' to deliver the message on which he was sent. O Lord, lay not this siu to their charge! Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do!
8. The most surprising of all the circumstances that attend this strong delusiou, is, that they who are given up to it, really believe that they honour Christ by overthrowing his law, and that they are magnifying his office, while they are destroying his doctrine! Sca, they honour him just as Judas did, when he said, “Hail, Master, and kissed him." And he may as justly say to every one of them, “ Betravest thou the Son of Man with a kiss?'” It is no other than betraying him with a kiss, to talk oflis blood, and take away his crown; to set light by any part of liis lawr, under pretence of advancing his gospel. Vorindeed can any one escape this charge, who preaches taith in any such a manner as either directly or indirectly tends to set aside any branch of obedience ; who preaches Christ so as to disainul, or weaken in any wise, the least of the cominandmeats of God.
9. It is impossible, indeed, to have too bigh an estrem for " the faitlı of God's elect.” And we must all declare, “ By grace ye are seved through faith ; not of works, lest any mau should boast.” We must cry aloud to crery penitent siuner, " Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved." But, it the same time, we must take care to let all men kron', we esteem vo faith but that which worketh by love; and that we are not saved by faith, unless so far as we are delivered from the power as well as thic guilt of sin. And when we say, «« BcDiere, and thou stradt be savedl;" we do not mcan, “ Belicve,
and thou shalt step from sin to heaven, without any holiness coming between; faith supplying the place of holiness;” but, “Believe, and thou shalt be holy; believe in the Lord Jesus, and thou shalt have peace and power together : thou shalt have power from him in whom thou believest, to trample sin under thy feet; power to love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and to serve hin with all thy strength : thou shalt have power, by patient continuance in well doing, to seek for glory, and honour, and immortality ;' thou shalt both do and teach all the commandments of God, from the least even to the greatest : thou shalt teach them by thy life as well as thy words, and so 'be called great in the kingdom of heaven.'" · 1V. 1. Whatever other way we teach to the kingdom of heaven, to glory, honour, and immortality, be it called the way of Faith, or by any other name, it is, in truth, the way to destruction. It will not bring a man peace at the last. For thus saith the Lord, " I say unto you, That except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the Scribes and Pharisecs, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven."
The Scribes, mentioned so often in the New Testament, as some of the most constant and vchement opposers of our Lord, were not Secretaries, or men employed in writing only, as that term might incline us to believe. Neither were they Lawyers, in our common scuse of the word; although the word yoluxo is so rendered in our translation. Their employment had no affinity at all to that of a Lawyer among us. They were conversant with the laws of God, and not with the lairs of man. These were their study: it was their proper and peculiar business, to read and expound the Law and the Prophets; particularly in the synagogues. They were the ordinary, stated Preachers among the Jews. So that if the sense of the original word was attended to, we might render it, the Divines. For these were the men that made Divinity their profession : and they were generally (as their name literally imports) men of letters ; men of the greatest account for learning that were then in the Jewish nation.
2. The Pharisees were a very ancient sect, or body of men, among the Jews; originally so called from the Hebrew word va, which signifies to separate or diride. Not that they made any formal separation from, or division in, the National Church: they were only distinguished from others by greater strictness of life, by more exactness of conversation. For they were zealous of the law in the minutest points; paying titles of mint, anise, and cummin: and hence they were had in honour of all the people, and generally esteemed the holiest of men.
Many of the Scribes were of the sect of the Pharisees. Thus St. Paul linseif, who was educated for a Scribe, first at the university of Tarsus, and after that in Jerusalem, at the feet of Gamaliel, (one of the most learned Scribes or Doctors of the Lati', that were then in the nation,) declares of himself before the Council, “I am a Pharisee, the son of a Pharisce;” (Acts xxüi. 6;) and before King Agrippa, “ After the straitest sect of our religion, I lived a Pharisce.” (Chap. xxvi. 5.) And the whoic body of the Scribes generally esteemed and acied in concert with the Pharisees. Hence we find our Saviour so freqenily coupling them together, as coming in many respects under the same consideration. In this place they seem to be mentioned together, as the most eminent professors of religion; the former of whom were accounted the wisest,--the latter, the holiest of men.
3. What “the Righteousness of the Scribes and Pharisces rcally was, it is not difficult to determine. Our Lord has preserved an authentic account, which one of them gave of himself: and he is clear and full in describing his own rightcousness; and cannot be supposed to have omitted any part of it. He went up indeed “into the temple to pray; but was so intent upon his own virtues, that he forgot the design upon which he came. For it is remarkable, he does not properly pray at all: he only tells God bow wise and good he was.
“God, I thank thee, that I am not as other men arc, extortioners, unjust, adulterers; or even as this publican. I fast twice in the wreck; I give tithes of all I possess. His righteousness therefore consisted of three parts : First, saith he, “I am not as other men arc; I am not an extortioner, not injust, not an adulterer; not “cven as this publican : Secondly, “ I fast twice in the weck: " And thirdly, “ I give tithes of all that I possess.
“I am not as other men are.” This is not a small point. It is not every man that can say this. It is as if he had said, I do not suffer myself to be carried away by that great torrent, Custom. I live not by custom, but by reason; not by the examples of men, but by the word of God. “I am not an extortioner, not unjust, not an adulterer; however common these sins are, even among those who are called the people of God; (extortion, in particular,-a kind of legal injustice, Hot punishable by any human law, the making gain of