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appointment. Because their feeble understand- | pure doctrines of the word of life, placed those ings cannot comprehend all the designs and pur- on a level with or even above them, that are poses of the Almighty, in this enactment and that, in this and the other revelation of his will, and because this and the other injunction, although issuing from the throne of the Eternal, does not comport with their ideas of worship and obedience, therefore they mutilate and enlarge just as suits their own fancy. It was this spirit that gave rise to those traditions, that prevailed in our Lord's days, which the Jewish teachers regarded as of equal authority with the law of God, and by which they made void the law, yet which Christ reprehended with such just severity, in many parts of the gospel history.
Those traditions are enforced still; and it is because modern Jews hold to them with equal tenacity as they did in their fathers' days, and because these traditions are, in many parts, directly opposed both to the law and the prophets, that so little impression has, to this day, been made upon them by the preaching of the cross. Those who have lately come into contact with Jews tell us, that in arguing with them from the prophets, when you can tie them down to the simple truth, the plain revelation of God's will, they find the ground upon which they stand untenable, and they do feel that if the mere word of God, which we hold as the alone rule of faith, is exclusively to be adhered to, and appealed to, then their sentiments, in regard to the Messias, cannot be maintained, and they must of necessity yield. But then having recourse to the unwritten law, to their talmuds and traditions, which they regard explanatory of the written word, and of equal authority, they resist the truth, they are confirmed in their prejudices, they refuse to listen to the plain word of life, and the vail of error and delusion remains untaken away. And what an evident and palpable proof is this that human traditions, and the law of God, cannot subsist together; that if the one is true the other must be false, and that till such time as simple truth is allowed to operate, and all that it discountenances is swept away, error and all its soul-destroying attendants must prevail. How evident the truth of Christ's declaration, that human tradition must make void the law of the Eternal.
It is the same spirit of pride and presumption - which operated with the Jews, that has led the church of Rome also to maintain that certain doctrines have been handed down from apostolic times by tradition; that these traditions ought to be added to the holy scriptures, full and entire, to supply their defect. Thus it is that they have set aside, or corrupted, or invalidated the
of a most questionable nature, and degraded the whole revelation and worship of the living God. It might have been naturally expected that our Lord's views respecting Jewish traditions, and the language contained in this text, would have guarded all Christians from pursuing a course so plainly at variance with his will; but the most authoritative language will not restrain men of corrupt minds. Now what is this but to be wise above what is written-but to proclaim that man is wiser than God-that the worm of the earth is to dictate to the Almighty Sovereign of the universe in what manner he ought to be worshipped and obeyed? It is scarcely possible to conceive presumption and impiety more daring than this. Would that the words of our great Lord had been listened to when he adds: 'In vain do they worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men;' God's presence and blessing alone can render ordinances profitable, and that blessing is promised, and will be vouchsafed to the institutions of his own appointment; but no where is the blessing promised, or can it be hoped for, to inventions that are at variance with his own recorded will.
We are taught by daily experience that when an individual is withdrawn from the simplicity of the faith, and listens to the suggestions of a proud understanding, an unsanctified heart, and a vain imagination, it is hard to say to what excesses in sentiment and practice he will be carried; he flees from opinion to opinion, from fancy to fancy, without any fixed principle to guide him, any anchor to sustain his soul amidst the fluctuations and the war of opinions that prevail, till he is entangled in the mazes of error, and landed on the dark barren shore of unbelief. And as it is with individuals so it is with churches. Once question the validity and sufficiency of the word of God as a rule of faith and manners; once admit that additions may be made to the divine record, and there is no end to innovation; one arbitrary and designing man, one dictatorial and carnal council, laying claim to infallibility, may merge the pure word of life by carnal inventions; and thus it has fared with the church of Rome. For what is it that has given rise to all their errors, their soul-destroying doctrines, their absurd usages, and will-worship, but because they have taken away the only key of knowledge, have buried the unadulterated word of God in the rubbish of unwritten, unauthorized traditions? Their opinions and practices cannot bear the light of truth, and therefore they have shrouded it.
Like the Jews they have rendered the word vain | wisdom, as the diminishing any thing is insulting by their traditions. The word they may, like the his authority. God's law is perfect, his worship is Jews, retain, but it must speak as tradition directs, perfect, his work is perfect, his word is perfect; and though in theory it may be made a rule of faith his commandments concerning all things are right. only equal to scripture, in practice it becomes a The solemn words with which the book of the Rerule of faith paramount to scripture. velation is closed may with propriety be applied here: 'I testify unto every man that heareth the words of the prophecy of this book, If any man shall add unto these things, God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book; and if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the book of life, and out of the holy city, and from the things that are written in this book.'
How long this mystery of iniquity shall be allowed to work; how long the man of sin, who in sovereignty has been allowed for so many ages to delude and enslave such a vast portion of Christendom, shall be permitted to hold his sway, we cannot say. But this we can say, that of whatever duration his reign may be, it shall not be perpetual; for the Spirit of God teaches us that however firmly he may seem established by human power and human policy, his dominion shall be utterly eradicated. Truth shall beam in upon men's minds with resistless energy, and its most formidable enemies shall fall before it. O let us stand fast in the doctrines of the apostles-now meditating. The word of God,' it is said, let us reject every spurious and false opinion, let us pray earnestly to be kept in the love of the truth, and for that humble and spiritual mind which, through divine grace, is the best preservative against every fatal delusion.
"What thing soever I command you, observe to do it: thou shalt not add thereto, nor diminish from it,' Deut. xii. 32.
We cannot help noticing the uniformity of God's testimony on this subject. The Spirit utters the same language in the book of Proverbs that is expressed in the words on which we are
'is pure. Thou shalt not add unto his words, lest he reprove thee, and thou be found a liar,' thereby intimating that nothing must be added to or withdrawn from the record of eternal truth on any pretence whatever, nor under the sanction of any name, however great. No claim to infallibility, no authority of fathers or councils, no traditions of elders, no reasonings of philosophers, no dreams of enthusiasts, are to be listened to. It is in this way, by liberties taken with the divine record that heresies and false sentiments of every kind have arisen. Such innovators are declared to be liars; they now are lying under the displeasure of God, because of their falsifying and corrupting God's word, and they shall be subjected to final condemnation. How cautious should this make those who venture on translations of the scriptures, lest, by their conjectural criticism, they should be found corrupting instead of amending;
to expound the sacred scriptures that they utter nothing that is not in exact conformity with the plain undisputed will of God. Let them beware of saying, "Thus saith the Lord, albeit the Lord hath not spoken.'
THIS prohibition was by the Jews considered merely as warning them against making the slightest alteration of the text or letter of the law, and we have reason to bless God for such a view being taken of it, for it has preserved entire and incorrupt the sacred books. It has deterred even those who most openly violated the law, or ex-yea, how guarded should those be who are called plained away its meaning, or contended with each other about religious opinions and practices, from altering, adding to, or taking from the scriptures themselves the least jot or tittle. But this comes far short of the true meaning of the words. They have a reference not merely to the letter, but to the word and the worship of Godto man's belief and man's duty. And Moses, it may be observed, uses precisely the same words in Deut. iv. 2, in regard to the divine statutes that he does here in regard to divine worship. Nothing was to be added, as if it could be rendered more perfect; nothing was to be taken away, as if any part were superfluous. To add any thing to the command of God as binding on the conscience, and essential in religion, is affronting his
In following out the meaning of these words, and making a practical application of them, it may asked, how do they bear on our own faith and practice? Is there not a disposition, if not to enlarge, at least virtually to mutilate some parts of the word of God? Is there not an unwillingness to believe all that the Lord hath revealed? It is the case that some of the profound mysteries of religion are too hard to be understood, and because we cannot comprehend them, therefore we question their utility, we set
that he would lead us 'to esteem his commandments concerning all things to be right; to approve the things that are excellent, that we may be sincere and without offence unto the day of Christ."
them aside; and thus in as far as these incompre- | scribe the revelation of God as to our faith, and hensible truths are concerned, we actually sup- practice; and let it be our habitual prayer to God, press what is revealed and commanded. Such a course is very much akin with that of the Jews and papists in regard to their traditions. But it should be borne in mind that, were there no difficulties in divine revelation, we might question whether it descended from heaven; for in treating of things divine, it must of necessity treat of many subjects that lie far beyond the reach of the human intellect; of truths that are so mysterious, as to be placed beyond the capacities and comprehension of even the highest intelligences. There are mysteries in revelation which may require an eternity to explore, and may lead even those who stand in God's presence, after myriads of ages shall have rolled away, to exclaim in adoring wonder: Who by searching can find out God?' The grand question is, Are they revealed? and if revealed, they may be believed, though never fully understood; and if revealed, if forming a part of the divine word, they must be received, they must be credited.
The same thing may be said of the precepts of the word. God has made known and inculcated these that they might be obeyed, in all their extent, and in all their spirituality. They must be regarded as holy, just, and good, and they must be observed without any reservation. Many profess to esteem the commandments of the Lord to be right in some things, and yield obedience to a certain extent, but when they think of the breadth of the commandment, and the spirituality of the law, that it takes cognizance of the heart, that it admits of no sin, whether inward or outward; that it requires full and perfect obedience; that it demands the surrender of the whole man, the sacrifice of every lust, the giving up all, soul, body, and spirit to the Lord-then they conceive that the law is too strict, and God's requirements too rigid and severe, and they wish them set aside, or if not abrogated, at least relaxed. Some duties they will perform, but in the observance of others they must be excused; some sins they will avoid and forsake, but as to the relinquishment of others they must be forgiven. They do not say, What will the Lord have me to do, to sacrifice or to suffer? They do not make unconditional surrender of themselves to the Lord. Now what is this but in actual practice to diminish, to circumscribe the law of God, and to a certain extent nullify its requirements? While we profess then to reprobate Jews and papists in their reverence for traditions and in their superstitious worship, O! let us see that we do not practically identify ourselves with them in our disposition to circum
For thou shalt worship no other God: for the
How strong must have been the propensity of the children of Israel to idolatry, when the Almighty introduces the subject so frequently, and threatens it so fearfully. If any people under heaven had revolted at such indignity offered to the Sovereign of the universe, it was the nation of the Jews. They were brought into such close contact with God, he lived in the midst of them, he day by day afforded them such plain demonstrations of his power and favour, they had such clear notions of his true character, and such distinct intimations of his will, that one would have thought it impossible for them to choose any other God but the Lord, and to worship him in any other way than he himself enjoined. And yet there never was a nation, even the most ignorant, uncivilized, and brutish, that manifested a stronger and more unconquerable tendency to turn the truth of God into a lie, than did this chosen people of God. What a melancholy proof do they afford of the deep depravity and desperate wickedness of the human heart. God reminds them of their constant provocations—and now that they were about to enter Canaan, and witness the manners and customs of its inhabitants, he warns them against being corrupted and led astray by their sinful practices, and he commands them to destroy their altars, break their images, and cut down their groves. These were gross affronts to the true God, they were degrading to human nature, and, says Jehovah in the most authoritative manner, ‘Thou shalt worship no other God.'
But they did degrade themselves by worshipping other gods; they did act in opposition to his express command, Thou shalt have no other gods before me;' they did forget God's solemn declaration, Confounded be all they that serve graven images;' they did defile themselves, by incorporating with their religious homage all the abominations of the Gentile nations. And it is
sion of Him whom the Father heareth always. While we are chargeable with no outward idolatry, let us see to it that no heart idolatry can be laid to our charge. Is it not the case with
most remarkable that any professing to be Chris- | shaken, reliance on the mediation and intercestians, with all the Jewish idolatries before them, with all the fearful denunciations of heaven sounding in their ears, with the view of all the dread threatenings of the Almighty carried into effect, and professing a religion that is simple and spirit-many-is it not the case with us-that the ual in its worship, should have been led into the same, and even grosser delusion; yet this is the case with the church of Rome. The time was when that church was distinguished for its purity and stedfastness; but now it has, through lapse of time, degenerated and sunk so fearfully, that its impurity and corruption is every where spoken of.
God has, however, expressed his abhorrence of all such practices as are inconsistent with spiritual worship. He is a Spirit, and must be worshipped in spirit and truth, and has told us that men worship him in vain when they teach for doctrines the commandments of men. He is a jealous God, his name is Jealous. The covenant he made with Israel was a marriage covenant. He regarded idolatry as adultery-his glory he would not give to another. We know what has befallen the Jews on account of their idolatry, and we know from the divine record what judgments are in store for the idolatrous church of Rome. 'Her plagues shall come in one day, death and mourning and famine; and she shall be utterly burnt with fire: for strong is the Lord God who judgeth her.'
We pretend not to worship any other God, save the Lord Jehovah; we profess not to seek to God through the mediation of any other, save the one Mediator betwixt God and man, the man Jesus Christ; we are not characterised by that idolatry that is chargeable on Jews, and the votaries of a degrading superstition. But is it not matter of deep lamentation, that, in this land of bibles and churches, on which the light of the Reformation has dawned, there are multitudes who pay to God no homage, who neither worship him in private nor in public, neither adore him in one form or other? Though there is a false worship to be avoided, there is a true worship to be given. And oh, let not such neglecters, such despisers, imagine that they shall escape the righteous displeasure of God. But then, while we do profess to honour God, and worship him in the way he hath appointed in his word, it is for us to inquire whether, in the worship of God, the homage of the heart is given —whether we draw near to him with a true heart, and in the full assurance of faith-whether under a deep sense of our own utter unworthiness and sinfulness, we do cherish an undivided, an un
creature does usurp, and has obtained, in our affections, the place to which the Creator and Redeemer has a righteous claim? Pleasure in one form or other is hunted after as the chief good, the world in its different avenues is sought after as the better inheritance; and are not friends and children idolized and worshipped, while God is neglected, and neither loved nor adored supremely?
And oh, let it ever be remembered, that of the idolatry of the heart the Lord is most jealousthat he is grievously displeased with the giving that to another which he is most solicitous to retain! Has not the wrath of God been seen going forth against such idolaters? Neglect, and shame, and contempt, following those in a present life, who were worshippers of earthly honour and fame; poverty and want often assailing those who bowed at the shrine of mammon; disease and wretchedness covering those who made a god of their belly and gloried in their shame? And how often have we heard the mourner bewail that his gourd was smittenthat the idolized object of his affections, which stole away his heart from God, has been taken? Such is the manner in which the jealous God testifies his displeasure here; but, alas! if there is not a return to the living God, this is nothing but the prelude-the warning shower before the coming storm. Idolaters shall not inherit the kingdom of God-nay, they shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone, which is the second death.
'But as for me, I will come into thy house in the multitude of thy mercy; and in thy fear will I worship toward thy holy temple,' Ps. v. 7. THE house of prayer is the place to which the longing eyes of the godly are directed, and their ardent desires drawn. Whatever others may do, says the pious soul, whatever may be their sources of enjoyment, whatever their places of resort let them repair to the haunts of pleasure, to the scenes of amusement, to the tents of wickedness, as for me, I will come into thy house, I will worship towards thy holy temple.
A day spent there is better than a thousand any | nothing but reverence and godly fear. What is where else. And why is it so? Just because it but a poor worm of the earth, a fallen, guilty, God is made known there; because the exercises that occupy him there, and the enjoyments that are tasted there, are suited to his renewed nature, and grateful to his spiritual taste.
polluted rebel falling prostrate before the great, the self-existent I AM, recognising its own nothingness, and Jehovah's greatness and glory? what is it but an acknowledging mercies, which There are different exercises and duties, in are wholly unmerited; confessing sins, which, but which we engage in the house of prayer, all need- for divine mercy, must have sunk it in perdition; ful, all important and essential, but worship is entreating for pardon and forgiveness, for which, the chief. Many may imagine that the preaching in itself, it has no plea; and, as a needy beggar, of the word, and listening to the words of life, are supplicating favours wholly of grace, and for the special duties of sabbath-day and sanctuary which it has nothing to give in return? Does service. They are imperative duties, and too this view of things bespeak any thing but the highly we cannot prize them. If we would most profound humility and godly fear? There grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord can be no worship without this frame of mind. and Saviour Jesus Christ, we must wait on God Devotion, without it, is a perfect contradiction. for the purpose of hearing what the Lord will 'God resisteth the proud, he seeth them afar off. say to us; if we would hope to be sanctified and It may be the case, it is the case, that fools ripened for heaven, it must be by a preached rush in where angels fear to tread. Thoughtless gospel, by the operation of the truth on the inconsiderates, proud self-righteous spirits, come heart. These are duties, and eternally impor-into the divine presence, and take upon them to tant duties, but they are not the chief, the lead-speak unto the Lord in all the pride and vanity ing, duties of temple service. It is prayer and of their heart, without any feeling of solemnity. praise that form the acts of worship; and, therefore, they must be regarded as the chief and the most solemn duties to which we are summoned. In the reading and hearing of the word, God addresses us; we listen to him: but in the acts of prayer and praise, we lift our souls to God, we speak to the divine Majesty, we solicit the ear of the Hearer of prayer. And oh, in what an interesting and exalted position is the creature of a day placed, in these sacred exercises! He is, in this way, brought into close contact with the Almighty; he comes as into the immediate presence of God; if he feels aught, he realizes the divine presence, he places himself before God. He prays, and God hears; he asks, and God bestows; he confesses, and God forgives; he entreats, and God blesses.
But in order that our worship may be profitable and acceptable, we must take good heed to the spirit and frame of mind by which we are animated. Keep thy foot when thou goest to the house of God.' The spirit of reverence and godly fear must possess us, if we would serve God with acceptance. 'In thy fear will I worship,' says the Psalmist. If men were fully aware what is meant by worship-if they bore in mind what they themselves are, or if they reflected on the nature of that Being with whom they have to do in worship, it would be impossible for any thing but humility, and reverence, and awe, to possess the heart in the acts of devotion. Prayer, in its varied acts, of adoration, thanksgiving, confession, and petition, bespeaks
Such individuals are rejected, their sacrifices are an abomination in the sight of God! Oh, may I ever stand in awe, when sisted in God's immediate presence; and when brought into God's house of prayer, may I be enabled to make Jacob's words my own, How dreadful is this place, this is none other but the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven.
But who may venture into the divine presence -who has confidence to come before God in the hope of acceptance? No man, relying on what he is, or what he has done, may stand in the holy place, and lift his eyes heavenward. Except we had seen a way to the holiest of all opened up, which was shut, we had no more dared to take one step into the awful presence of God, than to rush into the devouring flame. Our encouragement lies wholly out of ourselves— it is to be found in the mercy of God—‘I will come in the multitude of thy mercy.' The mercy that is unbounded, the mercy that passeth all understanding, is the foundation of our hope, and the source of our comfort, in every thing wherein we have to do with God. Still, unlimited, unmeasurable, as that mercy is in the divine mind, it can only be exercised in a righteous way, it can only flow in a righteous channel, and that channel is Christ. Mercy, in all its various manifestations, reaches the sinner only through Christ-Christ has sheathed the sword that guarded the approach to the tree of life-Christ hath opened up the way to the holiest of all— middle Christ has removed every obstacle, every