« AnteriorContinuar »
tising, in littles, at the work of secret appro- which ought to warn and to scare away, are
restraint, and a human terror, in operation. / events, his attribute of truth stood commitThere is disgrace and civil punishment, tol ted to the fulfilment of the threatening; and scare away. There are all the sanctions the very insignificancy of the deed, which of that conventional morality which is sus-provoked the execution of it, gives a subpended on the fear of man, and the opinion limer character to the certainty of the fulfilof man; and which, without so much as ment. We know how much this trait, in the recognition of a God, would naturally the dealings of God with man, has been the point its armour against every outrage that jeer of infidelity. But in all this ridicule, could sensibly disturb the securities and the there is truly nothing else than the grossrights of human society. But so long as ness of materialism. Had Adam, instead of the disturbance is not sensible--so long as plucking one single apple from the forbidthe injustice keeps within the limits of den tree, been armed with the power of a smallness and secrecy-so long as it is safe malignant spirit, and spread a wanton havoc for the individual to practise it, and, borne over the face of paradise, and spoiled the along on the tide of general example and garden of its loveliness, and been able to mar connivance, he has nothing to restrain and to deform the whole of that terrestrial him but that distinct and inflexible word of creation over which God had so recently reGod, which proscribes all unfaithfulness, joiced-the punishment he sustained would and admits of it in no degrees, and no modi- have looked to these arithmetical moralists, fications then, let the almost universal a more adequate return for the offence of sleep of conscience attest, how little of God which he had been guilty. They cannot there is in the virtue of this world; and see how the moral lesson rises in greatness, how much the peace and the protection of just in proportion to the humility of the masociety are owing to such moralities, as terial accompaniments—and how it wraps a the mere selfishness of man would lead sublimer glory around the holiness of the him to ordain, even in a community of Godhead--and how from the transaction, atheists.
such as it is, the conclusion cometh forth II. Let us now attempt to unfold a few more nakedly, and, therefore, more impresof the practical consequences that may be sively, that it is an evil and a bitter thing to drawn from the principle of the text, both sin against the Lawgiver. God said, " Let in respect to our general relation with God, there be light, and it was light;" and it has and in respect to the particular lesson of ever been regarded as a sublime token of faithfulness which may be educed from it. the Deity, that, from an utterance so simple,
1. There cannot be a stronger possible an accomplishment so quick and so magillustration of our argument, than the very nificent should have followed. God said, first act of retribution that occurred in the “ That he who eateth of the tree in the history of our species, “And God said unto midst of the garden should die." It appears Adam, Of the tree of the knowledge of good indeed, but a little thing, that one should and evil, thou shalt not eat of it. For input forth his hand to an apple and taste of the day thou eatest thereof, thou shalt it. But a saying of God was involved in surely die. But the woman took of the the matter-and heaven and earth must pass fruit thereof, and did eat, and gave also unto away, ere a saying of his can pass away; her husband with her, and he did eat.” and so the apple became decisive of the fate
What is it that invests the eating of a soli- of a world; and, out of the very scantiness tary apple with a grandeur so momentous ? | of the occasion, did there emerge a sublimer How came an action in itself so minute, to display of truth and of holiness. The bebe the germ of such mighty consequences? ginning of the world was, indeed, the period How are we to understand that our first of great manifestations of the Godhead; and parents, by the doing of a single instant, not they all seem to accord, in style and chaonly brought death upon themselves, but racter, with each other; and in that very shed this big and baleful disaster over all history, which has called forth the profane their posterity? We may not be able to and unthinking levity of many a scorner, answer all these questions, but we may at may we behold as much of the majesty of least learn, what a thing of danger it is, principle, as in the creation of light, we beunder the government of a holy and inflexi-hold of the majesty of power. ble God, to tamper with the limits of obe- But this history furnishes the materials dience. By the eating of that apple, a clear of a contemplation still more practical. If. requirement was broken, and a distinct | for this one offence, Adam and his posterity transition was made from loyalty to rebel- have been so visited-if so rigorously and lion, and an entrance was effected into the so inflexibly precise be the spirit of God's region of sin--and thus did this one act administration--if, under the economy of serve like the opening of a gate for a torrent | heaven, sin, even in the very humblest of of mighty mischief; and if the act itself was its exhibitions, be the object of an intolera trifle, it just went to aggravate its guiltmance so jealous and so unrelenting—is the that, for such a trifle, the authority of God Deity be such as this transaction manifests could be despised and trampled on. At all I him to be, disdainful of fellowship even with
the very least iniquity, and dreadful in the him who is awakened thereby, that, unless
teousness of Christ is without a flaw, and fan and to perpetuate his hostility against there he is invited to take shelter. Under sin; and all the powers of the gospel enable the actual regimen, which God has esta- him, more and more, to fulfil the desires of blished in our world, it is indeed his only his heart, and to carry his purposes of hossecurity-his refuge from the tempest, and tility into execution. In the case of every hiding place from the storm. The only genuine believer, who walks not after the beloved Son offers to spread his own un- flesh, but after the spirit, do we behold a spotted garment as a protection over him ; fulfilling of the righteousness of the law--a and, if he be rightly alive to the utter na- strenuous avoidance of sin, in its slightest kedness of his moral and spiritual condition possible taint or modification-a strenuous he will indeed make no tarrying till he be performance of duty, up to the last jot and found in Christ, and find that in him there titile of its exactions-so, that let the unis no condemnation.
true professors of the faith do what they Now, it is worthy of remark, that those will in the way of antinomianism, and let principles, which shut a man up unto the the enemies of the faith say what they will faith, do not take flight and abandon him, about our antinomianism, the real spirit of after they have served this temporary pur- the dispensation under which we live is pose. They abide with him, and work such, that whosoever shall break one of the their appropriate influence on his charac- least of these commandments, and teach ter, and serve as the germ of a new moral men so, is accounted the least-whosoever creation ; and we can afterwards detect shall do and teach them is accounted the their operation in his heart and life; so, that greatest. if they were present at the formation of a 2. Let us, therefore, urge the spirit and saving belief, they are not less unfailingly the practice of this lesson upon your obserpresent with every true Christian, through- vation. The place for the practice of it out the whole of his future history, as the is the familiar and week-day scene. The elements of a renovated conduct.' If it was principle for the spirit of it descends upon sensibility to the evil of sin which helped the heart, from the sublimest heights of to wean the man from himself, and led him the sanctuary of God. It is not vulgarizing to his Saviour, this sensibility does not fall Christianity to bring it down to the very asleep in the bosom of an awakened sinner, humblest occupations of human life. It is, after Christ has given him light-but it in fact, dignifying human life, by bringing grows with the growth, and strengthens it up to the level of Christianity. with the strength, of his Christianity, If, It may look to some a degradation of the at the interesting period of his transition pulpit, when the household servant is told from nature to grace, he saw, even in the to make her firm stand against the tempvery least of his offences, a deadly provo-tation of open doors, and secret opportuni. cation of the Lawgiver, he does not lose ties; or when the confidential agent is told sight of this consideration in his future pro- to resist the slightest inclination to any ungress_nor does it barely remain with him, seen freedom with the property of his emlike one of the unproductive notions of an ployers, or to any undiscoverable excess in Inert and unproductive theory. It gives the charges of his management; or when rise to a fearful jealousy in his heart of the the receiver of a humble payment is told, least appearance of evil; and, with every that the tribute which is due on every writman who has undergone a genuine process ten acknowledgment ought faithfully to be of conversion, do we behold the scrupulous | met, and not fictitiously to be evaded. This avoidance of sin, in its most slender, as well | is not robbing religion of its sacredness, but as in its more aggravated forms. If it was spreading its sacredness over the face of the perfection of the character of Christ, society. It is evangelizing human life, by who felt that it became him to fulfil allimpregnating its minutest transactions with righteousness, that offered him the first the spirit of ihe gospel. It is strengthening solid foundation on which he could lean the wall of partition between sin and obethen, the same character, which first drewdience. It is the teacher of righteousness his eye for the purpose of confidence, still taking his stand at the outpost of that tercontinues to draw his eye for the purpose ritory which he is appointed to defend, of imitation. At the outset of faith, all the and warning his hearers of the danger that essential moralities of thought, and feeling, lies in a single footstep of encroachment. It and conviction, are in play; nor is there is letting them know, that it is in the act of any thing in the progress of a real faith stepping over the limit, that the sinner which is calculaled to throw them back throws the gauntlet of his defiance against again into the dormancy out of which they the authority of God.. And though he may had arisen. They break out, in fact, into deceive himself with the imagination that more full and flourishing display on every his soul is safe, because the gain of his innew creature, with every new step, and new justice is small, such is the God with whom evolution, in his mental history. All the he has to do, that, if it be gain to the value principles of the gospel serve, as it were, tol of a single apple, then, within the compass
of so small an outward dimension, may as his person the worth and the lustre of a high much guilt be enclosed as that which hath minded integrity. It is delightful to think, brought death into our world, and carried it that humble life may be just as rich in moral down in a descending ruin upon all its grace, and moral grandeur, as the loftier generations.
places of society ; that as true a dignity of It may appear a very little thing, when principle may be earned by him who in you are told to be honest in little matters; homeliest drudgery, plies his conscientious when the servant is told to keep her hand task, as by him who stands, entrusted with from every one article about which there is the fortunes of an empire; that the poorest not an express or understood allowance on menial in the land, who can lift a hand unthe part of her superiors; when the dealer soiled by the pilferments that are within his is told to lop off the excesses of that minuter reach, may have achieved a victory over fraudulency, which is so currently prac- temptation, to the full as honourable as the tised in the humble walks of merchandise; proudest patriot can boast, who has spurned when the workman is told to abstain from the bribery.of courts away from him. It is those petty reservations of the material of cheering to know, from the heavenly judge his work, for which he is said to have such himself, that he who is faithful in the least, is snug and ample opportunity; and when, faithful also in much; and that thus, among without pronouncing on the actual extent the labours of the field and of the work-shop, of these transgressions, all are told to be it is possible for the peasant to be as bright faithful in that which is least, else, if there in honour as the peer, and have the chivalry be truth in our text, they incur the guilt of of as much truth and virtue to adorn him. being unfaithful in much. It may be thought, And, as this lesson is not little in respect that because such dishonesties as these are of principle, so neither is it little in respect scarcely noticeable, they are therefore not of influence on the order and well-being of worthy of notice. But it is just in the pro- human society. He who is unjust in the portion of their being unnoticeable by the least, is, in respect of guilt, unjust also in human eye, that it is religious to refrain much. And to reverse this proposition, as it from them. These are the cases in which it is done in the first clause of our text-he will be seen, whether the controul of the who is faithful in that which is least, is, in omniscience of God makes up for the con- respect both of righteous principle and of troul of human observation-in which the actual observation, faithful also in much. sentiment, that thou God seest me, should Who is the man to whom I would most carry a preponderance through all the secret readily confide the whole of my property ? places of a man's history--in which, when He who would most disdain to put forth an every earthly check of an earthly morality injurious hand on a single farthing of it. is withdrawn, it should be felt, that the eye Who is the man from whom I would have of God is upon him, and that the judgment the least dread of any unrighteous encroachof God is in reserve for him. To him who ment? He, all the delicacies of whose prinis gifted with a true discernment of these ciple are awakened, when he comes within matters, will it appear, that often, in propor-sight of the limit which separates the region tion to the smallness of the doings, is the of justice from the region of injustice. Who sacredness of that principle which causes is the man whom we shall never find among them to be done with integrity; that honesty, the greater degrees of iniquity? He who in little transactions, bears upon it more of shrinks with sacred abhorrence from the the aspect of holiness, than honesty in great lesser degrees of it. It is a true, though a ones; that the man of deepest sensibility to homely maxim of economy, that if we take the obligations of the law, is he who feels care of our small sums, our great sums will the quickening of moral alarm at its slightest take care of themselves. And, to pass from violations; that, in the morality of grains our own things to the things of others, it is and of scruples, there may be a greater ten- no less true, that if principle should lead us derness of conscience, and a more heaven- all to maintain the care of strictest honesty born sanctity, than in that larger morality over our neighbour's pennies, then will his which flashes broadly and observably upon pounds lie secure from the grasp of injustice, the world ;--and that thus, in the faithful- behind the barrier of a moral impossibility: ness of the household maid, or of the ap- This lesson, if carried into effect among you, prentice boy, there may be the presence of would so strengthen all the ramparts of sea truer principle than there is in the more curity between man and man, as to make conspicuous transactions of human business them utterly impassable; and therefore, --what they do, being done, not with eye-while, in the maiter of it, it may look, in service-what they do, being done unto the one view, as one of the least of the comLord.
mandments, it, in regard both of principle And here we may remark, that nobleness and effect, is, in another view of it, one of of condition is not essential as a school for the greatest of the commandments. And we nobleness of character; nor does man require therefore conclude with, assuring you, that to be high in office, ere he can gather around I nothing will spread the principle of this