« AnteriorContinuar »
the promise of this life and that which is to come;” that there is, in particular, an ordinary connection between charitable judging on our part, and mild and gentle censures from others in the world; and that those who throw about censures at random, commonly meet with very cutting returns; and especially that great regard will be had in the future judgment of God to men's present conduct in this matter. That the neglect of this precept is a melancholy instance how little true Christianity is practised among those who profess it, when this notorious vice of uncharitable judging prevails so much every where. But I choose rather to shut up this discourse with some proper directions for guarding us against a censorious spiI’lt. Let it be a settled resolution with us, to maintain a good opinion of every man in particular, till we are obliged by evidence to quit it. This is a duty we owe to God and man; and our suspicions, especially our reflections, should never outrun or exceed the discovery men make of themselves. - Often recollect the evils included in censoriousness, and that are used to attend it; that it arrogates divine prerogatives, is a constant act of injustice to our neighbour, and a plain violation of the golden rule, of doing to others as we would be done unto. And, besides the retaliations to be feared from the resentment of men, and the righteous judgment of God for it, there is one thing fit to be often thought of by an ingenuous mind: that in the serious review of our spirits and actions conscience will never reproach us for having admitted too favourable an opinion of any man, but we shall always have reason to blame ourselves, when we find that we thought too hardly of him. We should carefully avoid and mortify the usual incentives to this temper. Idleness, and want of good employment, of ten leads people to this vile practice; many set up for judges of others, because they have nothing else to do. Selfishness and pride are common principles of censoriousness; men think too highly of themselves, and are strongly tenacious of their own interests; and imagining other people to stand in the way of their reputation or advantage, they know not how to lessen them but by detraction, and uncharitable censures. Vio
lent attachment to a party, is very often the parent of this crime.' ' The charity of some, like that of the Jews of old, is confined to those of their own way; and so they give themselves an unconscionable liberty to expose and blacken other people. This party-zeal has, in every age, been the foundation of the greatest excesses. Whereas, if we would but enlarge the community of love, as our Master has taught us to do, to all mankind, and our brotherly love to all that hold the Head, this would extinguish the desire of censure.
We should especially think frequently of the number and greatness of our own faults, and our need of allowances both from God and men. If we are not strangers at home, it is certain we are privy to many more irregularities and defects of our own, than we can be of any other man. If we are not conscious of the same enormous sins as some publicly commit; yet we must be sensible of very many particulars which will not bear a strict scrutiny, but need gracious indulgence from the blessed God daily: let us judge ourselves for these, and we shall be very tender in judging others. We cannot but discern many parts of. our own conduct, which are capable of an ill construction by other men, though we should be conscious of our own honest intention in them. How should we complain, if our neighbours should take them by the worst handle? Let not us then do so by them, but judge favourably and charitably, "lest we also be tempted."
Finally, think often, how gentle and long-suffering God has been to us already; and that if he enter into judgment with us, we can have. no hope for eternity; but that if tee judge ourselves impartially, and our neighbours charitably, we shall not be judged.
1 Cor. V. 8. [last clause.] But with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.
THE apostle had, in the seventh verse, represented Christ as "our passover sacrificed for us that is, in his becoming a sacrifice for us, he resembled the paschal lambs which were slain by the Israelites in Egypt. When God was about to accomplish the deliverance of his people out of the house of bondage, and Pharaoh was unwilling to let them go, God inflicted many judgments upon Egypt, and after others appointed a destroying angel to pass through the land, and to slay all the first born of every house, from the royal palace down to the meanest family. But he was pleased, in order to make a gracious distinction in the case of the Israelites from that of the Egyptians, to appoint them to slay a lamb for every house, and to sprinkle the blood of it upon the side-posts and upon the upper door-post of their houses, promising that, upon sight of the blood, the destroying angel should pass over and spare their families. Thus, while dime vengeance was hanging over the heads of sinners, God sent his own Son to shed his blood as a sacrifice, in virtue of which those on whom it is sprinkled, who are entitled to the benefit of it .according to the gospel-constitution, shall be graciously spared and passed over by God.
St Paul, having thus represented Christ as our paschal Lamb, goes on to press the duty of Christians, in language alluding to the Jewish passover.
The Jews kept a festival throughout all their generations, in thankful remembrance of this great and gracious deliverance. So, says he, "Let us (Christians) keep the feast."
And it was a circumstance very particularly enjoined in the celebration of the passover, that they should eat it with unleavened bread. The Hebrew word Matsoth, which is so rendered, strictly imports as much as pure and sincere bread, that is, unmixed with leaven. In allusion to this, the apostle exhorts Christians to keep the feast with a qualification that answers to that figure. As the Israelites were to remove leaven out of their houses before the passover, so we should lay aside "the old leaven," the " leaven of malice and wickedness," all sorts of known sin, either in corrupt affection, or sinful practice, and keep the feast with the unleavened bread qf sincerity and truth. Christ himself warns his disciples against hypocrisy, under the same allusion of leaven, Luke xii. 1. "He began to say unto his disciples first of all, Beware ye of the leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy."
We may understand the apostle, by the phrase of " keeping the feast," to have .the Lord's supper particularly in his eye, which is to Christians just such a commemorative sign of the sacrifice of Christ, as all the Jewish passovers in after ages were of that in. Egypt. And so the text would be a direction to us for the frame which is especially necessary in observing that particular' festival.
But I apprehend, with the general stream of interpreters, that the apostle had not his eye so much to that ordinance in particular, as to a Christian course in general, correspondent to the Jewish passover; as if he had said, 4 Let your whole lives be like their passover, an exercise of praise, and service, and obedience to God, as it becomes those who are redeemed by Christ from so great evils, and by so great a price; but then see that all be done with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.
After all this has been said of the Christian temper iri the general characters of it, and in the principle branches of which it consists, I would, in the last place, consider some qualifications which should run through every branch of the Christian temper; and this passage is a proper foundation for discouvsing on that with which I choose to begin, sincerity, for it is here recommended as a property requisite in the whole of onr Christian obedience.
In the prosecution of it, I would shew,
I. The nature of gospel sincerity. And,
II. Our engagements to see that this be a qualification of all the exercises of the Christian temper and life.
I. Let us inquire into the nature of gospel-sincerity.
Two words are used in the text, I apprehend to signify the same thing. The former, translated sincerity, is as much as to say, * a thing which may be best judged of in the clear sunshine.'* A counterfeit will not bear the light, but that which is true will; such is sincerity. Or, it may be an allusion to "the judgment passed upon grain when it is winnowed; whereby that which is valuable is separated from the rest. Sincerity t will bear sifting, and will appear the better for it. The other word X signifies reality, in opposition to that which is feigned, or a mere appearance. And when sincerity and truth are recommended by the emblem of unleavened bread, or pure and unmixed bread, they denote simplicity, which we find joined with "godly sincerity," 2 Cor. i. 12. The word translated simplicity, § signifies, being without folds, a metaphor that intimates an open and undisguised behaviour. It was the character of Jacob, that he was "a plain man," Gen. xxv. 27. The Greek version imports || a man not formed, or shaped, that is, to serve a turn. Sincerity is the same thing which the scripture so often expresses by uprightness, and is opposed to guile and hypocrisv, which we are called to lay aside, 1 Pet. ii. 1. The description of the blessed man is given from his sincerity, Psal. xxxii. 2. "In whose spirit there is no guileand so is Nathanael's, John i. 47- "An Israelite indeed, in whom there is no guile."
Now, religious sincerity will comprehend in it the following particulars.
* 'Rihixgwf, qu T$ ttXrj K(it6fitvo;. Constantin. Lex. f Uipa To xyvisdai f« ru i/Xto seu tiXiTo&ai. Notes Hesychium, edit. 1658. f aXriiia. $ ArXOriif. || Air?.arof.