Imágenes de páginas
[merged small][merged small][ocr errors]

their points of honour, as we are with ours; with the truth of this monstrous indictment and elevate as indignant a voice against the - that you live without God in the world; worthlessness of him who could betray the that however you may be signalized among secret of their association, or break up any your fellows, by that worth of character of the securities by which it was held to which is held in highest value and demand gether. And, in like manner, may we be amongst the individuals of a mercantile sothe members of a wider combination, yet ciety, it is at least without the influence of brought together by the tie of reciprocal in- a godly principle that you have reached the terest; and all the virtues essential to the maturity of an established reputation ; that existence, or to the good of such a combi- either the proud emotions of rectitude which nation, may* come to be idolized amongst glow within your bosom are totally untincus; and the breath of human applause may tured by a feeling of homage to the Deityfan them into a lustre of splendid estima- or that, without any such emotions, Self is tion; and yet the good man of society on the divinity you have all along worshipped, earth be, in common with all his fellows, an and your very virtues are so many offer. utter outcast from the society of heaven- ings of reverence at her shrine. If such with his heart altogether bereft of that alle-be, in fact, the nakedness of your spiritual giance to God which forms the reigning condition, is it not high time, we ask, that principle of his unfallen creation--and in a yon awaken out of this delusion, and shake state of entire destitution either as to that the lying spirit of deep and heavy slumber love of the Supreme Being, or as to that away from you? Is it not high time, when disinterested love of those around us, which eternity is so fast coming on, that you exform the graces and the virtues of eternity, amine your accounts with God, and seek

We have not affirmed that there is no for a settlement with that Being who will such thing as a native and disinterested so soon meet your disembodied spirits with principle of honour among men. But we the question of what have you done unto have affirmed, on a former occasion, that a me?-And if all the virtues which adorn sense of honour may be in the heart, and you are but the subserviences of time, and the sense of God be utterly away from it. of its accommodation_if either done altoAnd we affirm now, that much of the ho- gether unto yourselves, or done without the nest practice of the world is not due to ho- recognition of God on the spontaneous innesty of principle at all, but takes its origin stigation of your own feelings-is it not from a baser ingredient of our constitution high time that you lean no longer to the altogether. How wide is the operation of securities on which you have rested, and selfishness on the one hand, and how limit that you seek for acceptance with your Maed is the operation of abstract principle on ker on a more firm and unalterable founthe other, it were difficult to determine; dation? and such a labyrinth to man is his own This, then, is the terminating object of heart, that he may be utterly unable, from all the experience that we have tried to set his own consciousness, to answer this ques- before you. We want to be a schoolmastion. But amid all the difficulties of such ter to bring you unto Christ. We want an analysis to himself, we ask him to think you to open your eyes to the accordancy of another who is unseen by us, but who is which obtains between the theology of the represented to us as seeing all things. We New Testament and the actual state and know not in what characters this heavenly history of man. Above all, we want you witness can be more impressively set forth, to turn your eyes inwardly upon yourthan as pondering the heart, as weighing selves, and there to behold a character the secrets of the heart, as fastening an at- without one trace or lineament of godlitentive and a judging eye on all the move- ness—there to behold a heart set upon toments of it, as treasuring up the whole of tally other things than those which constiman's outward and inward history in a tute the portion and the reward of eternity book of remembrance; and as keeping it there to behold every principle of action in reserve for that day when, it is said, that resolvable into the idolatry of self, or, at the secrets of all hearts shall be laid open ; least into something independent of the auand God shall bring out every secret thing, thority of God-there to behold how worthwhether it be good, or whether it be evil.less in their substance are those virtues Your consciousness may not distinctly in- which look so imposing in their semblance form you, in how far the integrity of your and their display, and draw round them habits is due to the latent operation of sel- here a popularity and an applause which fishness, or to the more direct and obvious will all be dissipated into nothing, when operation of honour. But your conscious- hereafter they are brought up for examinaness may, perhaps, inform you distinctly tion to the judgment seat. We want you, enough, how little a share the will of God when the revelation of the gospel charges has in the way of influence on any of your you with the totality and magnitude of doings. Your own sense and memory of your corruption, that you acquiesce in that what passes within you, may charge you charge; and that you may perceive the



le et


trueness of it, under the disguise of all | forgiven the sin of every one evil work of those hollow and unsubstantial accomplish- which he had aforetime been guilty, but inents, with which nature may deck her he is created anew unto the corresponding own fallen and degenerate children. It is good work. And therefore, if a Christian, easy to be amused, and interested, and in- will his honesty be purified from that taint tellectually regaled by an analysis of the of selfishness by which the general honesty human character, and a survey of human of this world is so deeply and extensively society. But it is not so easy to reach the pervaded. He will not do this good thing, individual conscience with the lesson-we that any good thing may be done unto are undone. It is not so easy to strike the him again. He will do it on a simple realarm into your hearts of the present guilt, gard to its own native and independent and the future damnation. It is not so easy rectitude. He will do it because it is hoto send the pointed arrow of conviction nourable, and because God wills him so to into your bosoms, where it may keep by adorn the doctrine of his Saviour. All his you and pursue you like an arrow sticking fair dealing, and all his friendship, will be fast; or so to humble you into the conclu- fair dealing and friendship without interest. sion, that in the sight of God, you are an The principle that is in him will stand in accursed thing, as that you may seek unto no need of aid from any such auxiliaryhim who became a curse for you, and as but strong in its own unborrowed rethat the preaching of his Cross might cease sources, will it impress a legible stamp of to be foolishness.

dignity and uprightness on the whole vaBe assured, then, if you keep by the riety of his transactions in the world. All ground of being justified by your present men find it their advantage, by the integrity works, you will perish: and though we of their dealings, to prolong the existence may not have succeeded in convincing you of some gainful fellowship into which they of their worthlessness, be assured that a may have entered. But with him, the day is coming when such a flaw of deceit- same unsullied integrity which kept this fulness, in the principle of them all, shall fellowship together, and sustained the probe laid open, as will demonstrate the equity gress of it, will abide with him through of your entire and everlasting condemna- its last transactions, and dignify its full tion. To avert the fearfulness of that day and final termination. Most men find, is the message of the great atonement that, without the reverberation of any missounded in your ears—and the blood of chief on their own heads, they could reChrist, cleansing from all sin, is offered to duce beneath the point of absolute jusyour acceptance; and if you turn away tice, the charges of taxation. But he has from it, you add to the guilt of a broken a conscience both towards God, and tolaw the insult of a neglected gospel, But wards man, which will not let him; and if you take the pardon of the gospel on the there is a rigid truth in all his returns, a footing of the gospel, then, such is the effi-pointed and precise accuracy in all his paycacy of this great expedient, that it will ments. When hemmed in with circumreach an application of mercy farther than stances of difficulty, and evidently tottering the eye of your own conscience ever reach- to his fall, the demand of nature is, that ed; that it will redeem you from the guilt he should ply his every artifice to secrete even of your most secret and unsuspected a provision for his family. But a Chrişiniquities; and thoroughly wash you from tian mind is incapable of artifice; and the a taint of sinfulness, more inveterate than, voice of conscience within him will ever in the blindness of nature, you ever thought be louder than the voice of necessity; and of, or ever conceived to belong to you. he will be open as day with his creditors,

But when a man becomes a believer, nor put forth his hand to that which is there are two great events which take rightfully theirs, any more than he would place at this great turning point in his his- put forth his hand to the perpetration of a tory. One of them takes place in heaven sacrilege; and though released altogether -even the expunging of his name from the from that tie of interest which binds a man book of condemnation. Another of them to equity with his fellows, yet the tie of takes place on earth-even the application principle will remain with him in all its of such a sanctifying influence to his per- strength. Nor will it ever be found that son, that all old things are done away with he, for the sake of subsistence, will enter him, and all things become new with him. into fraud, seeing that, as one of the chilHe is made the workmanship of God in dren of light, he would not, to gain the Christ Jesus our Lord. He is not merely whole world, lose his own soul.


The Guilt of Dishonesty not to be estimated by the Gain of it.

[ocr errors]

"He that is faithful in that which is least, is faithful also in much; and he that is unjust in the least, is unjust

also in much."-Luke xvi. 10.


It is the fine poetical conception of a late which he suffers from it. He brings this poetical countryman, whose fancy too often moral question to the standard of his own grovelled among the despicable of human interest. A master will bear with all the character-but who, at the same time, was lesser liberties of his servants, so long as he capable of exhibiting, either in pleasing or feels them to be harmless; and it is not till in proud array, both the tender and the he is awakened to the apprehension of pernoble of human character—when he says sonal injury, from the amount or frequency of the man who carried a native, unborrow of the embezzlements, that his moral indiged, self-sustained rectitude in his bosom, nation is at all sensibly awakened. And that “his eye, even turned on empty space, thus it is, that the maxim of our great beamed keen with honour.” It was affirm- , teacher of righteousness seems to be very ed, in the last discourse, that much of the ho- much unfelt, or forgotten, in society. Unnourable practice of the world rested on the faithfulness in that which is little, and unsubstratum of selfishness; that society was faithfulness in that which is much, are very held together in the exercise of its relative far from being regarded, as they were by virtues, mainly, by the tie of reciprocal ad- him, under the same aspect of criminality. vantage; that a man's own interest bound If there be no great hurt, it is felt that there him to all those average equities which ob- is no great harm. The innocence of a distained in the neighbourhood around him; honest freedom in respect of morality, is and in which, if he proved himself to be rated by its insignificance in respect of matglaringly deficient, he would be abandoned ter. The margin which separates the right by the respect, and the confidence, and the from the wrong, is remorselessly trodden ungood will of the people with whom he had der foot, so long as each makes only a mito do. It is a melancholy thought, how nute and gentle encroachment beyond the little the semblance of virtue upon earth landmark of his neighbour's territory. On betokens the real and substantial presence this subject there is a loose and popular esof virtuous principle among men." But on timate, which is not at one with the deliverthe other hand, though it be a rare, there ance of the New Testament; a habit of cannot be a more dignified attitude of the petty invasion on the side of aggressors, soul, than when of itself it kindles with a which is scarcely felt by them to be at all sense of justice, and the holy flame is fed, iniquitous—and even on the part of those as it were, by its own energies; than who are thus inade free with, there is a when man moves onwards in an unchang- habit of loose and careless' toleration. ing course of moral magnanimity, and dis- There is, in fact, a negligence or a dordains the aid of those inferior principles, mancy of principle among men, which by which gross and sordid humanity is causes this sort of injustice to be easily kept from all the grosser violations; than practised on the one side, and as easily put when he rejoices in truth as his kindred up with on the other; and, in a general and congenial element;—so, that though slackness of observation, is this virtue, in unpeopled of all its terrestrial accompani- its strictness and in its delicacy, completely ments; though he saw no interest what- overborne. ever to be associated with its fulfilment;/ It is the taint of selfishness, then, which though without one prospect either of has so marred and corrupted the moral fame or of emolument before him, would sensibility of our world; and the man, if his eye, even when turned on emptiness such a man can be, whose "eye, even turned itself, still retain the living lustre that had on empty space, beams keen with honour;" been lighted up in it, by a feeling of inward and whose homage, therefore, to the virtue and independent reverence.

of justice, is altogether freed from the mixIt has already been observed, and that ture of unworthy and interested feelings, fully and frequently enough, that a great will long to render to her, in every instance, part of the homage which is rendered to a faultless and a completed offering. Whatintegrity in the world, is due to the opera- ever his forbearance to others, he could not tion of selfishness. And this substantially suffer the slightest blot of corruption upon is the reason, why the principle of the text any doings of his own. He cannot be sahas so very slender a hold upon the human tisfied with any thing short of the very last conscience. Man is ever prone to estimate jot and tittle of the requirements of equity the enormity of injustice, by the degree in being fulfilled. He not merely shares in

[ocr errors][merged small]

the revolt of the general world against suchought not to be measured by the former; outrageous departures from the rule of but that he who is unfaithful in the least, right, as would carry in their train the ruin shall be dealt with in respect of the offence of acquaintances or the distress of families. he has given to God, in the same way as Such is the delicacy of the principle within if he had been unfaithful in much. him, that he could not have peace under The first reason, which we would assign the consciousness even of the minutest and in vindication of this is, that by a small act least discoverable violation. He looks fully of injustice, the line which separates the and fearlessly at the whole account which right from the wrong is just as effectually justice has against him; and he cannot broken over as by a great act of injustice. rest, so long as there is a single article un- There is a tendency in gross and corporeal met, or a single demand unsatisfied. If, in man to rate the criminality of injustice by any transaction of his there was so much the amount of its appropriations to reduce as a farthing of secret and injurious reser- it to a computation of weight and measurevation on his side, this would be to him to count the man who has gained a double like an accursed thing, which marred the sum by his dishonesty, to be doubly more character of the whole proceeding, and dishonest than his neighbour---to make it spread over it such an aspect of evil, as to an affair of product rather than of princioffend and to disturb him. He could not ple; and thus to weigh the morality of a bear the whisperings of his own heart, if it character in the same arithmetical balance told him, that, in so much as by one iota with number or with magnitude. Now, of defect, he had balanced the matter un- this is not the rule of calculation on which

fairly between himself and the unconscious our Saviour has proceeded in the text. He · individual with whom he deals. It would speaks to the man who is only half an inch

lie a burden upon his mind to hurt and to within the limit of forbidden ground, in the make him unhappy, till the opportunity of very same terms by which he addresses the explanation had come round, and he had man who has made the furthest and the obtained ease to his conscience, by acquit- largest incursions upon it. It is true, that ting himself to the full of all his obligations. he is only a little way upon the wrong side It is justice in the uprightness of her atti- of the line of demarcation. But why is he tude: it is justice in the onwardness of her upon it at all? It was in the act of crosspath; it is justice disdaining every advan- ing that line, and not in the act of going tage that would tempt her, by ever so little onwards after he had crossed it-it was to the right or to the left; it is justice spurn- | then that the contest between right and ing the litileness of each paltry enticement wrong was entered upon, and then it was away from her, and maintaining herself, decided. That was the instant of time at without deviation, in a track so purely rec- which principle struck her surrender. The tilinear, that even the most jealous and mi- great pull which the man had to make, was croscopic eye could not find in it the slight in the act of overleaping the fence of sepaest aberration: this is the justice set forth ration; and after that was done, justice had by our great moral Teacher in the passage no other barrier by which to obstruct his now submitted to you; and by which we progress over the whole extent of the field are told, that this virtue refuses fellowship which she had interdicted. There might with every degree of iniquity that is per- be barriers of a different description. There ceptible; and that, were the very least act of might be still a revolting of humanity unfaithfulness admitted, she would feel as if against the sufferings that would be inflicted in her sanctity she had been violated, as if by an act of larger fraud or depredation. in her character she had sustained an over- | There might be a dread of exposure, if the throw.

dishonesty should so swell, in point of In the further prosecution of this dis- amount, as to become more noticeable. course, let us first attempt to elucidate the There might, after the absolute limit beprinciple of our text, and then urge onward tween justice and injustice is broken, be anto its practical consequences—both as it re- other limit against the extending of a man's spects our general relation to God, and as encroachments, in a terror of discovery, it respects the particular lesson of faithful- or in a sense of interest, or even in the reness that may be educed from it.

| lentings of a kindly or a compunctious feel1. The great principle of the text is, that ing towards him who is the victim of inhe who has sinned though to a small amount justice. But this is not the limit with in respect of the fruit of his transgression, which the question of a man's truth, or a provided he has done so, by passing over a man's honesty, has to do. These have alforbidden limit which was distinctly known ready been given up. He may only be a to him, has in the act of doing so, incurred little way within the margin of the unlawa full condemnation in respect of the prin- ful territory, but still he is upon it; and the ciple of his transgression. In one word, God who finds him there will reckon with that the gain of it may be small, while the him, and deal with him accordingly. Other guilt of it may be great; that the latter principles and other considerations, may

[blocks in formation]

restrain his progress to the very heart of heaven must be stormed ere one inch of
the territory, but justice is not one of them. entrance can be made into the region of
This he deliberately flung away from him, iniquity. The morality of the Saviour never
at that moment when he passed the line of leads him to gloss over the beginnings of
circumvallațion; and, though in the neigh-crime. His object ever is, as in the text be-
bourhood of that line, he may hover all his fore us, to fortify the limit, to cast a ram-
days at the petty work of picking and pur- part of exclusion around the whole territory
loining such fragments as he meets with, of guilt, and to rear it before the eye of
though he may never venture himself to a man in such characters of strength and sa-
place of more daring or distinguished atro-credness, as should make them feel that it
city, God sees of him, that, in respect of the is impregnable.
principle of justice, at least, there is an utter The second reason, why he who is un-
unhingement. And thus it is that the Sa- faithful in the least has incurred the con-
viour, who knew what was in man, and who, demnation of him who is unfaithful in much,
therefore, knew all the springs of that mo- is, that the littleness of the gain, so far from
ral machinery by which he is actuated, giving a littleness to the guilt, is in fact a .
pronounces of him who was unfaithful in circumstance of aggravation. There is just
the least, that he was unfaithful also in this difference. He who has committed in-

justice for the sake of a less advantage, has
After the transition is accomplished, the done it on the impulse of a less temptation.
progress will follow of course, just as op- He has parted with his honesty at an infe-
portunity invites, and just as circumstances rior price; and this circumstance may go
make it safe and practicable. For it is not so to equalize the estimate, as to bring it
with justice as it is with generosity, and very much to one with the deliverance, in
some of the other virtues. There is not the text, of our great Teacher of righteous-
the same graduation in the former as there ness. The limitation between good and
is in the latter. The man who, other cir-evil stood as distinctly before the notice of
cumstances being equal, gives away a dou- the small as of the great depredator; and
ble sum in charity, may, with more pro- he has just made as direct a contravention
priety be reckoned doubly more generous to the first reason, when he passed over
than his neighbour; than the man who, upon the wrong side of it. And he may
with the same equality of circumstances, have made little of gain by the enterprise,
only ventures on half the extent of fraudu- but this does not allay the guilt of it. Nay,
lency, can be reckoned only one half as by the second reason, this may serve to ag-
unjust as his neighbour. Each has broken/gravate the wrath of the Divinity against
a clear line of demarcation. Each has trans- him. It proves how small the price is which
gressed a distinct and visible limit which he he sets upon his eternity, and how cheaply
knew to be forbidden. Each has knowingly he can bargain the favour of God away from
forced a passage beyond his neighbour's him, and how low he rates the good of an
land-mark-and that is the place where inheritance with him, and for what a trifle
justice has laid the main force of her inter- he can dispose of all interest in his kingdom
dict. As it respects the materiel of injus- and in his promises. The very circum-
tice, the question revolves itself into a mere stance which gives to his character a milder
computation of quantity. As it respects transgression in the eyes of the world,
the morale of injustice, the computation is makes it more odious in the judgment of
upon other principles. It is upon the latter the sanctuary. The more paltry it is in
that our Saviour pronounces himself. And respect of profit, the more profane it may
he gives us to understand, that a very hum- be in respect of principle. It likens him
ble degree of the former may indicate the the more to profane Esau, who sold his
latter in all its atrocity. He stands on the birthright for a mess of pottage. And thus
breach between the lawful and the unlaw-l it is, indeed, most woful to think of such
fal; and he tells us, that the man who en- a senseless and alienated world ; and how
ters by a single footstep on the forbidden | heedlessly the men of it are posting their
ground, immediately gathers upon his per- infatuated way to destruction; and how,
son the full hue and character of guiltiness. for as little gain as might serve them a day,
He admits no extenuation of the lesser acts they are contracting as much guilt as will
of dishonesty. He does not make right ruin them for ever; and are profoundly
pass into wrong, by a gradual melting of asleep in the midst of such designs and
the one into the other. He does not thus such doings, as will form the valid mate.
obliterate the distinctions of morality. rials of their entire and everlasting con-
There is no shading off at the margin of demnation.
guilt, but a clear and vigorous delineation. It is with argument such as this that we
It is not by a gentle transition that a man would try to strike conviction among a
steps over from honesty to dishonesty. very numerous class of offenders in society
There is between them a wall rising up those who, in the various departments
into heaven; and the high authority of lof trust, or service, or agency, are ever prac-

ween right and and then it stant of time stirrender. 1 ad to make. Fa e fence of em one, justice and

to obstruct has Hent of the train

There might ription. There - of humann vuld be indet 3r depredan

Xposure, if the , in poud ure not rece

[blocks in formation]
« AnteriorContinuar »