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imitating his pernicious example. The Lord who gave himself for us, and to whom we profess to look as the author of eternal salvation to them that believe and obey him, rebuked, in the strongest language that could be used, the hypocrisy, illiberality, and licentiousness of his depraved countrymen according to the flesh;' and we must be strangers to the graces of his Spirit, and virtually apostates from his religion, whatever may be our pretensions to 'a name to live while we are dead,' if we contemplate vice, no matter where existing, with complacency, or choose the profane or the immoral for our companions. And withal,' says the apostle Paul, 'they,' that is, certain individuals or classes of individuals that he is describing, 'they learn to be idle, wandering about from house to house; and not only idle but tattlers also, and busy bodies, speaking things which they ought not.' Idleness is the parent and patron of many sins. It is equally destructive to the secular and spiritual interests of man. The human mind was formed for action, and if it be not directed to worthy objects, it will to a certainty employ itself on such as are base, degrading, and condemning.

It is a well ascertained fact, that persons who have not cultivated their understandings, and have no taste for reading, especially useful edifying reading, but who feel that they are designed by their Creator to do something, too frequently find subjects of exercise in the characters and affairs of their fellow-creatures. A more humbling view of our common nature, bad as it is, cannot be contemplated than that which is exhibited in a circle of busy bodies,' who have 'learned to be idle,' seeking pleasure-and what a pleasure! in conjecturing, hinting, asserting, and deciding respecting the state and fate of their neighbours. Here no man is safe, no character sacred. These judges have a shade to throw on the fairest reputation, an 'idle word' to whisper against whatever 'is true, honest, just, lovely, or of good report. One of the group assembled for mischief is led perhaps to profess his belief that such a one, naming him, means well, and is really, on the whole, a very decent sort of person. Another observes, that he had the same opinion till a certain circumstance, not worth mentioning, convinced him that he is no better than he should be. Now scandal is roused, the game is up, and each comes forward with his or her circumstance in supplement, till at last their victim is stripped of every estimable quality, and becomes a creature whom, if we paid any regard to their assertions, and would preserve our respectability, we will make it our study to avoid. In this inquisition,

as much entitled to the name of holy as any court under the special protection of the holy father of Rome himself, every art is practised to discover subjects of defamation; every torture applied to force the absent culprit to confess his guilt, and as in such a judicatory justice and humanity must not expect to find an advocate, a verdict is quickly brought in, judgment speedily given, sentence instantly pronounced, and the condemned character, without regret and without a sigh, delivered over to the proper authorities for execution. The effects of such conduct may be viewed in two aspects; as they affect those who 'speak idle words,' and the persons against whom they are spoken. This practice then degrades the rational powers of man as an intellectual being, and destroys also the sensibilities of the heart. If the failings, either real or supposed, of our brethren be the theme on which we delight to expatiate, how can we feel affection for them? How can we rejoice in their joy, and make their sorrows our own? How, in short, can we enjoy the true luxury of doing good? Again, let us consider the consequences of this 'evil thing, and bitter' on those against whom the idle words' are uttered. It is admitted that the really Christian portion of the community will not, on unexamined and insufficient grounds, give credit to reports circulated to the disadvantage of their fellow-christians. But that such reports have often their influence, we know from observation, and perhaps from experience cannot be denied. Is it then our wish to be followers of Christ in sincerity and truth? Let us guard against this sin which we have been contemplating. religion of the cross, by the mouth of its Author, declares every 'idle word' to be a crime for which we must give an account in the day of judgment. The characteristic of the gospel is love. This was to be the distinguishing badge of our holy profession, the indubitable evidence of our walking worthy of the high vocation whereby we are called.


'If we love one another, God dwelleth in us, and his love is perfected in us.' 'Love,' one of the brightest jewels in the believer's crown, 'thinketh no evil, rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth; beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things.' Let this divine grace then fill our hearts. Its presence will confer the purest joy, and its exercise show that the Sanctifier is preparing us for the society of those glorified spirits, who now 'perfected in love,' serve the Saviour 'who loved them even unto the death,' in the upper sanctuary.


For innumerable evils have compassed me about; mine iniquities have taken hold upon me, so that I am not able to look up: they are more than the hairs of mine head; therefore my heart faileth me,' Psal. xl. 12.

If the whole of this psalm be what a remarkable portion of it undoubtedly is, as we are informed in the epistle to the Hebrews, prophetic of the Messiah and of what he endured as our substitute, nay, the very language of Jesus himself before he was manifested in the flesh to expiate our guilt, we have here a most wonderful account of the manifold evils of sin, from which we should study to learn wisdom. We behold the Son of God as the Surety of his people given to him in covenant, and with all their transgressions bound up and laid on him, feeling and expressing the sentiments awakened in his mind by the sense of what the sins imputed to him deserved. He experiences the pressure of the whole load of guilt, original and actual. He sees through all their varieties of heinousness the particular breaches of the divine law, which go to sum up the amount of depravity derived and personally contracted by his elect. He regards conscience, roused from the slumber into which it had been cast by the accumulations of iniquities that had long oppressed it. He views the place appointed for the exercise of everlasting and undiminishing retribution, and all the unimagined and untold, because unutterable, agonies of which that place is the dreadful scene. He beholds the arrows of the Almighty drawn from the quiver, and directed by an unerring hand against the objects of his hot displeasure, 'the poison whereof shall drink up their spirits, without lessening by one moment's duration the tortures produced by the wounds which they inflict on the undying soul. And on surveying such a mass of horrors, the Saviour must have despaired of bringing salvation, had he not been God, the Father's equal, the head of all principality and power, 'the first and the last.' Such is the light in which this remarkable passage of a remarkable psalm should be viewed, if we would see and feel the truths contained in it in all their importance to man fallen, and to be redeemed only by one higher than the heavens "humbling himself, and becoming obedient unto death even the death of the cross.' And in this state, to a certain extent, must the believer be placed at the moment when the Spirit has convinced him of his sin and misery, and called him out of thick spiritual darkness into marvellous light. The sleep of moral death has been broken in upon

by the omnipotent agent, who alone can dispel its slumbers. The rational being who had long lain unconscious of his danger, has now his eye opened to the magnitude and multitude of the perils which surrounded him. What he once in his dreams supposed and believed to be pleasures worth the enjoying, are now found to be violations of God's commandments, destructive to God's righteous government, and exposing him to God's indignation. A complete change has been effected in his mode of apprehending objects presented to his mind. There are no longer any venial faults and trifling errors, formerly regarded as beneath the attention of a being so far removed from a world inhabited by necessarily fallible creatures, whom he has made what they are, and will not strictly reckon with for their unavoidable failings. Sin is sin in his estimation; and viewed by the new organ of vision through which he now looks, he sees and feels it to be 'exceeding sinful. He throws a humbling glance on the innumerable evils which encompass him,' each one of which compel him to exclaim with the first murderer, 'My punishment is greater than I can bear.' His conscience, touched, purified, and strengthened by its Lord, tells him, in a voice of thunder, that his 'iniquities have taken hold on him.' Humbled in the dust, and crying ont under a sense of his spiritual wretchedness, Unclean, unclean, he is not able to look up' to a holy God, or to raise his thoughts 'to the place where his honour dwelleth.' The longer he surveys the mass of iniquities rising up before his now busy memory, the more do they increase in number, and the more anxious he is that not one of them may escape his scrutiny. He wishes to know them all, to examine them all, to feel them all. There is now no disguising, no palliating, no attempting to lessen, not the most indistinctly formed intention to apologise for any one of them. Too long had he laboured to conceal them from himself, and when they refused to be concealed, to explain them away as matters of no importance. But the time of his visitation being come, and the Spirit working through the law, brought home to his conscience; the captive ready to be delivered, views himself as he really is, and from the conviction of guilt, and his felt and acknowleged inability to cancel it, his heart faints within him, and the unfeigned language of his cast-down and disquieted soul is; 'O wretched man that I am, who shall deliver me from the body of this death?' He now experiences that to be a truth worthy of all acceptation,' of which he was formerly ignorant; or if he has read or heard it, which he esteemed a fanatical figment, that he

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is carnal, sold under sin.' He feels that he has altar in their stead, the scape goat that was to taken shelter in a refuge of lies, and that vain is bear away their sins into the wilderness, and the the help of man. He once imagined, nay, firmly object of the Father's displeasure, when, under a believed, that he was 'rich and increased in goods, sense of the hidings of his countenance which had and had need of nothing,' but his fond imagin- smiled on him from eternity, he exclaimed, on the ations are for ever dispersed into thin air; his ignominious tree,' in language the most fearful utterly groundless belief is for ever annihilated, that ever struck the ears of mortals or immorand the truth now made clear to his understand-tals, My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken ing, and impressed on his heart, is that he is me? The spirituality and holiness of the divine poor, and miserable, and blind, and naked.' In law were thus fully exhibited. The cup which this deplorable condition he finds himself, but the the Father had given him to drink was filled to Spirit who hath begun the good work, carries it overflowing, and the very dregs thereof he must on, directs his faith to an all-sufficient remedy, wring them out and drink them. He entreated and bids him listen to Jesus, giving him the his Father with strong crying and tears, to save him valley of Achor for a door of hope;' thus address- from that hour, though it was for that very hour ing him, 'I counsel thee to buy of me gold tried he came into the world; and in the prayer which in the fire, that thou mayest be rich, and white he here presents to him who heard, but who raiment that thou mayest be clothed, and anoint seemed as if he heard him not, he puts into the thine eyes with eye salve, that thou mayest see.' mouth of the believer in every age, the supplicaHappy are we if we have been thus dealt with tion which he also should address to the God of by God in the dispensation of his grace. In our his salvation. 'Be pleased, O Lord, to deliver circumstances the storm must go before the calm, me: O Lord, make haste to help me.' The very and sin felt as reigning unto death, before we can terms here employed to mark the state of the sing of mercy as well as of judgment. awakened and convinced transgressor's mind; the hurried tone of the expression; the repetition of O Lord,' so appropriate to his existing circumstances, and indicating such irrepressible anxiety for a favourable, comforting, strengthening, and



Be pleased, O Lord, to deliver me: O Lord, make soul-sustaining answer all prove, beyond the haste to help me,' Psal. xl. 13.

possibility of a single doubt, that the law has been set before him in its utmost extent, and in each and every one of its requirements, and that by it he is condemned. But the day has dawned and the Day Star has arisen in his heart. He beholds Jesus now revealed to him as travelling in the greatness of his strength, speaking in righteousness, mighty to save. He now feels the meaning of the declaration that a man shall be a hiding place from the storm, and a covert from the tempest. Christ is made savingly known to him as

In the view which we consider ourselves warranted to take of this prophetic psalm, we have here the divine speaker still in the character of Messiah, wounded for our transgressions, and bruised for our iniquity; stricken for our sakes, smitten of God, and afflicted.' He had tasted by anticipation the bitterness of imputed guilt: he had borne our griefs and carried our sorrows. He had undertaken the recovery of his chosen from the foundation of the world, and the aston-the chief among ten thousand and altogether ishing enterprise necessarily involved the assumption of the nature in which sin had been committed, though he was without sin; his being born, and that in a low condition, made under the law, undergoing the miseries of this life, the wrath of God, and the cursed death of the cross; his being buried, and continuing under the power of death for a time.' As our substitute then, he graciously condescended to be manifested in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh.' The powers of darkness were combined and arrayed against him. His agony in the garden showed the extremity of his mental sufferings as the voluntary daysman' between God and his people, the victim soon to be laid on the

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lovely;' as saying to them that are in darkness, Go forth, and to the prisoners, Show yourselves;' as pressing his invitations to come to the fountain of living waters, and offering pardon and peace, grace and glory, without money and without price.' Hence prayer is his new exercise-humble, faithful, earnest, and importunate prayer. The life of God is begun in the soul, and it is by communion with God that this life is sustained. Old things are passed away,' and it is by fellowship with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ, that they are prevented from returning. Imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, have been cast down, and it is by a conversation habitually

in heaven that they are kept in subjection to the | are fully satisfied that there is no ground of obedience of Christ. The enemies of the Chris- safety for us as sinners, but an interest in the tian's progress in holiness have been subdued by blood of sprinkling, and the renewing of the 'the Spirit, who worketh effectually in them that Holy Ghost.' But it is more difficult to learn believe,' and it is by the communications of the the important and indispensable lesson, that there same Almighty agent perseveringly sought and is enough for condemnation in the mere fact of given in answer to the prayer of faith that they our being 'unprofitable servants. The apostles are restrained. The object of the Saviour's love of our Lord had been told of their privileges, and is now taught experimentally; the use of the knew that they possessed them. They had Saviour's parable to establish and illustrate the implored their Master to increase their faith, and important truth, that men ought always to pray it was increased. They had professed the most and not to faint.' After many anxious wrestlings devoted attachment to his cause, and had hitherto with the angel of the covenant, the Lord may followed him through good report and bad continue to hide his countenance from his servant, report.' They were endued with miraculous gifts, though he is devoted to his fear.' He still holds and had believingly and efficiently exercised them. back the face of his throne, and spreads his cloud They had encountered persecution, and many danupon it.' But the believer knows that there is gers in his service, and were to engage with still 'the hiding' of his grace as well as of his power.' more formidable trials before they finished their Like the widow in the gospel, he ceases not from appointed course, and entered into the joy of his entreaties. He becomes more fervent in his their Lord. Still they were to confess, that solicitations; more unrestricted dependence is when they had done all those things which they placed on his advocate's sufficiency; more un- were commanded, and enabled to do, we are unwearied applications are made to the Spirit of profitable servants, we have done only that which holiness. The gloom is dissipated, and the sun it was our duty to do.' It ought, then, to be a of righteousness again rises on him, with healing matter of the utmost consequence, for us to conin his wings.' All his past trials are now seen in sider how we really stand in this respect in the the light of mercies, by which his faith and sight of God, from whom we have received all patience were proved. A once reconciled God, our blessings, whether they concern time cr is a reconciled God still; and the rescued soul can eternity. We are too apt, and remarkably willnow say, from the full and abiding enjoyment of ing, to be deceived, on this subject of such his blessedness, Thou hast turned for me my vital importance to us Christians in name, and mourning into dancing; thou hast put off my laying claim to the Christian's advantages, and sackcloth, and girded me with gladness to the cherishing the Christian's expectations. We end, that my glory may sing praise to thee, and are disposed to rest contented with our present not be silent. O Lord my God, I will give attainments; and though we would tremble at thanks unto thee, for ever and ever.' the very thought of being in the number of such as draw back into perdition,' we are far from being so anxious as we should be, to press toward the mark, for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.' Though the expression may be singular, there is no progress in our course of well doing. We have faith, but there is little diligence to add to our faith, virtue, and knowledge, and temperance, and We have seen that our sins are innumerable, and patience, and godliness, and brotherly-kindness, highly aggravated by the favourable circum- and charity.' We forget the declaration of the stances in which we are placed, connected with apostle, immediately subjoined to his injunction the opportunities of religious improvement which of practical religion, exhibited in these fruits of we have neglected or despised. How inadequate the Spirit. For if these things be in you, and soever may be our conceptions of what a life of abound, they make you that ye shall be neither faith on the Son of God actually is, we all admit barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our that the Lord has deservedly a controversy with Lord Jesus Christ.' It would be well for us us, and that if he were strict to mark our also, to ponder attentively the following words of iniquities, we could not stand before him. If the same inspired servant of God, in the gospel we have been brought to a knowledge of the of his Son: But he that lacketh those things is truth, and tasted of the good word of God, we blind,' sinfully blind to the extent of Christian


'So likewise ye, when ye shall have done all those things which are commanded you, say, We are unprofitable servants,' Luke xvii. 10.


duty, and cannot see afar off,' what is requisite | done by us, is cast from us as an impious imaginto the completion of the Christian character, and ation, and cordially and rejoicingly do we unite hath forgotten that he was purged from his old with an eminent saint in exclaiming, 'Not unto sins,' not merely that he might guard against their us, O Lord, not unto us, but unto thy name again obtaining dominion over him, but that being give glory, for thy mercy, and for thy truth's freed from their burden, and standing fast in the sake.' liberty wherewith Christ hath made him free,' his path, being that of the justified, might be as the shining or dawning light, which shineth more and more unto the perfect day. Let us read the doom of the slothful servant,' who, when he was entrusted with the sum which his lord saw fit to commit to his management for all is of grace, nothing of debt lest any man should boast,' -instead of improving it as he was bound to do by the solemn command of his master, who may justly do what he pleaseth with his own, went and digged in the earth, and hid his lord's money. He did not squander it. He did not abuse it; but he did not use it, and that was sufficient for his conviction and condemnation. Take from him the pound, and give it to him that hath ten pounds. For I say unto you, That unto everywhose tender mercies are over all his works.'


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'Then said he unto the dresser of his vineyard, Behold, these three years I come seeking fruit on this fig-tree, and find none: cut it down; why cumbereth it the ground,' Luke xiii. 7. NONE of us can plead against the rectitude of this sentence, or urge any reason why it should not be immediately executed. We justly deserve to be cut down, whatever may be the palliations to which we have recourse, arising from the belief that we are not flagrant sinners, and therefore not to be thus summarily dealt with by a God

one who hath' improved what he has already Have our improvement in religious knowledge, received, shall be given;' there is duty for duty, and our progress towards the measure of the because there is grace for grace; and from him stature of the fulness of Christ, been at all proporthat hath not' improved what has been as gratu- tionate to the privileges we have enjoyed, and to itously entrusted to him, even that shall be taken the advantages which we believe to be almost away from him. 'But these mine enemies, who exclusively our own? Can we look back on the would not that I should reign over them, bring years that are past with feelings of satisfaction hither and slay them before me.' The terms of and delight flowing from the testimony of our the law are express. There is no misunderstand-consciences, that in simplicity and godly sincerity ing them. If thou wouldst enter into life, keep the commandments.' But then if entering into life depended on keeping the commandments, the ' everlasting doors would never be lifted up' to admit one soul to the glories and the joys of heaven. For supposing the precepts of God were observed as completely as we can possibly imagine them to be obeyed, still the truth meets us; and there is no gainsaying it; we have done only what we are bound to do, as the creatures of the universal Lord, the hourly pensioners of his bounty, and the subjects of his government, owing all we have and all we hope for, to him, on whom we have no claim whatever for any thing.

But though the law is utterly worthless as the means of saving the sinner, it is indispensable as a rule of life. When the conviction of this truth has been deeply wrought in the mind, and strengthened, and kept in lively exercise, and in still enlarging activity by the Spirit of God, then every root of self-justification is eradicated. The ground on which this antichristian principle was attempted to be raised, is undermined. All reliance on any thing done, or capable of being

we have had our conversation in the world; and do we anticipate in the years that may yet be in reserve for us, a recurrence of the pleasures which we have already derived from a sense of God's favour, secured to us by the Saviour's sorrows, and from the performance, through the Spirit's operation, of those duties which have ever evidenced and cheered the followers of Jesus? We are esteemed respectable, strictly honest, and even regular in our attendance on Christian ordinances. And yet with all our respectability, honesty, and regularity, the great proprietor of the spiritual vineyard has visited during every hour which has elapsed, since we knew perfectly well what the Lord required of us, seeking fruit and may have found none. We cannot, ourselves being judges, complain that we have not been frequently warned and admonished. We have been addressed in the language of kindness, and invited, affectionately invited, to seek the Lord while he may be found, and to call upon him while he is near.' He has shown himself to many of us in all his winning loveliness. He has given us every thing richly to enjoy.' He has preserved unbroken

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