Imágenes de páginas



tising, in littles, at the work of secret appro- which ought to warn and to scare away, are
priation-those whose hands are in a state planted along the barrier; and when, in de-
of constant defilement, by the putting of fiance to them, the barrier is broken, man
them forth to that which they ought to will not be checked by any sense of honesty,
touch not, and taste not, and handle not at least, from expatiating over the whole
those who silently number such pilferments of the forbidden territory. And thus may
as can pass unnoticed among the perqui- we gather from the countless peccadilloes
sites of their office; and who, by an excess which are so current in the various depart-
in their charges, just so slight as to escape ments of trade, and service, and agency-
detection-or by a habit of purloining, just from the secret freedoms in which many do
so restrained as to elude discovery, have indulge, without one remonstrance from
both a conscience very much at ease in their own heart—from the petty inroads
their own bosoms, and a credit very fair, that are daily practised on the confines of
and very entire, among their acquaintances | justice, by which its line of demarcation is
around them. They grossly count upon trodden under foot, and it has lost the mo-
the smallness of their transgression. But ral distinctness, and the moral charm, that
they are just going in a small way to hell.) should have kept it unviolate--from the ex-
They would recoil with violent dislike from ceeding multitude of such offences as are
the act of a midnight depredator. It is just frivolous in respect of the matter of them,
because terrors, and trials, and executions, but most fearfully important in respect of
have thrown around it the pomp and the the principle in which they originate
circumstance of guilt. But at another bar, from the woful amount of that unseen and
and on a day of more dreadful solemnity, unrecorded guilt which escapes the cogni-
their guilt will be made to stand out in its zance of the human law, but on the appli-
essential characters, and their condemna- cation of the touchstone in our text, may
tion will be pronounced from the lips of be made to stand out in characters of se-
Him who judgeth righteously. They feel verest condemnation-from instances, too
that they have incurred no outrageous for- numerous to repeat, but certainly too ob-
feiture of character among men, and this vious to be missed, even by the observation
instils a treacherous complacency into of charity, may we gather the frailty of
their own hearts. But the piercing eye of human principle, and the virulence of that
Him who looketh down from heaven is moral poison, which is now in such full
upon the reality of the question ;, and He circulation to taint and to adulterate the
who ponders the secrets of every bosom, character of our species.
can perceive, that the man who recoils only! Before finishing this branch of our sub-
from such a degree of injustice as is noto-lject, we may observe, that it is with this, as
rious, may have no justice whatever in his with many other phenomena of the human
character. He may have a sense of repu- character, that we are not long in con-
tation. He may have the fear of detection templation upon it, without coming in sight
and disgrace. He may feel a revolt in his of that great characteristic of fallen man,
constitution against the magnitude of a which meets and forces itself upon us in
gross and glaring violation. He may even every view that we take of him-even the
share in all the feelings and principles of great moral disease of ungodliness. It is
that conventional kind of morality which at the precise limit between the right and
obtains in his neighbourhood. But, or that the wrong that the flaming sword of God's
principle which is surrendered by the least law is placed. It is there that “Thus saith
act of unfaithfulness, he has no share what the Lord” presents itself, in legible charac-
ever. He perceives no overawing sacred- / ters, to our view. It is there where the ope-
ness in that boundary, which separates the ration of his commandment begins; and
right from the wrong. If he only keep not at any of those higher gradations, where
decently near, it is a matter of indifference a man's dishonesty first appals himself by
to him whether he be on this or on that the chance of its detection, or appals others
side of it. He can be unfaithful in that by the mischief and insecurity which it
which is least. There may be other prin-brings upon social life. An extensive
ciples, and other considerations to restrain fraud upon the revenue, for example, un-
him; but certain it is, that it is not now the popular as this branch of justice is, would
principle of justice which restrains him from bring a man down from his place of emi-
being unfaithful in much.--This is given nence and credit in mercantile society.
up; and, through a blindness to the great That petty fraud which is associated with
and important principle of our text, this so many of those smaller payments, where
virtue may, in its essential character, be as a lie in the written acknowledgment is both
good as banished from the world. All its given and accepted, as a way of escape from
protections may be utterly overthrown. the legal imposition, circulates at large
The line of defence is effaced by which it among the members of the great trading
ought to have been firmly and scrupulously community. In the former, and in all the
guarded. The sign-posts of intimation, greater cases of injustice, there is a human

[merged small][ocr errors][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small]

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


[merged small][ocr errors][ocr errors]

the very least iniquity, and dreadful in the him who is awakened thereby, that, unless
certainty of all his accomplishments against God himself point out a way of escape, we
it-if, for a single transgression, all the are indeed most hopelessly sunk in con-
promise and all the felicity of paradise haddemnation. And, seeing that such wrath
to be broken up, and the wretched offen- went out from the sanctuary of this un-
ders had to be turned abroad upon a world, changeable God, on the one offence of our
now changed by the curse into a wilder- first parents, it irresistibly follows, that if
ness, and their secure and lovely home of we, manifold in guilt, take not ourselves to
innocence behooved to be abandoned, and his appointed way of reconciliation-if we
to keep them out, a flaming sword had to refuse the overtures of Him, who then so
turn every way, and guard their reaccess to visited the one offence through which all
the bowers of immortality-if sin be so very are dead, but is now laying before us all
hateful in the eye of unspotted holiness, that free gift, which is of many offences
that, on its very first act, and first appear-unto justification-in other words, if we
ance, the wonted communion between hea- will not enter into peace through the of-
ven and earth was interdicted-if that was fered Mediator, how much greater must be
the time at which God looked on our spe- the wrath that abideth on us?
cies with an altered countenance, and one! Now, let the sinner have his conscience
deed of disobedience proved so terribly de- schooled by such a contemplation, and
cisive of the fate and history of a world--there will be no rest whatever for his soul
what should each individual amongst us till he find it in the Saviour. Let him only
think of his own danger, whose life has learn, from the dealings of God with the
been one continued habit of disobedience? first Adam, what a God of holiness he him-
If we be still in the hands of that God who self has to deal with; and let him further
laid so fell a condemnation on this one learn, from the history of the second Adam,
transgression, let us just think of our many that to manifest himself as a God of love,
transgressions, and that every hour we live another righteousness had to be brought in,
multiplies the account of them; and that, in place of that from which man had fallen
however they may vanish from our own so utterly away. There was a faultless
remembrance, they are still alive in the obedience rendered by Him, of whom it is
records of a judge whose eye and whose said, that he fulfilled all righteousness.
memory never fail him. Let us transfer the There was a magnifying of the law by one
lesson we have gotten of heaven's jurispru- in human form, who up to the last jet and
dence from the case of our first parents to tittle of it, acquitted himself of all its obli-
our own case. Let us compare our lives gations. There was a pure, and lofty, and
with the law of God, and we shall find that undefiled path, trodden by a holy and
our sins are past reckoning. Let us take harmless Being, who gave not up his work
account of the habitual posture of our souls, upon earth, till ere he left it, he could cry
as a posture of dislike for the things that out, that it was finished; and so had
are above, and we shall find that our wrought out for us a perfect righteousness.
thoughts and our desires are ever running Now, it forms the most prominent annun-
in one current of sinsulness. Let us just ciation of the New Testament, that the re-
make the computation how often we fail in ward of this righteousness is offered unto
the bidden charity, and the bidden godli-all-so that there is not one of us who is
ness, and the bidden long suffering--all as not put by the gospel upon the alternative
clearly bidden as the duty that was laid on of being either tried by our own merits, or
our first parents—and we shall find, that we treated according to the merits of Him who
are borne down under a mountain of ini- became sin for us, though he knew no sin,
quity; that, in the language of the Psalmist, that we might be made the righteousness
our transgressions have gone over our of God in him. Let the sinner just look
heads, and, as a heavy burden, are too unto himself, and look unto the Saviour.
heavy for us; and if we be indeed under Let him advert not to his one, but to his
the government of Him who followed up many offences; and that, too, in the sight
the offence of the stolen apple by so dread-of a God, who, but for one so slight and so
ful a chastisement, then is wrath gone out insignificant in respect of the outward de-
unto the uttermost against every one of us. scription, as the eating of a forbidden ap-
- There is something in the history of that ple, threw off a world into banishment, and
apple which might be brought specially to entailed a sentence of death upon all its
bear on the case of those small sinners who generations. Let him learn from this, that
practise in secret at the work of their petty for sin, even in its humblest degrees, there
depredations. But it also carries in it a exists in the bosom of the Godhead no
great and a universal moral. It tells us that toleration; and how shall he dare, with the
no sin is small. It serves a general purpose degree and the frequency of his own sin,
of conviction. It holds out a most alarming to stand any longer on a ground, where, if
disclosure of the charge that is against us; he remain, the fierceness of a consuming
and makes it manifest to the conscience of fire is so sure to overtake him? The righ-

[ocr errors][merged small][merged small][merged small]


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

[ocr errors][merged small]

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

« AnteriorContinuar »