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Jesus, according to the flesli. He was honoured by his heavenly Master with especial marks of favour. For it is evident from the book of the Acts, and from the Epistles of St. Paul, that, after the ascension of Christ, St. James was uniformly considered by the Apostles as it were the chief among them; and his opinion was regarded with particular respect (a). He became Bishop of the Church at Jerusalem; and in that station obtained by his zeal and integrity the surname of the Just. By the unbelieving Jews he was at length massacred. And, if the credit of authenticity may be assigned to the passage professedly quoted from Josephus by early Christian writers; so decidedly were the very enemies of the Apostle impressed by his piety, that the miserable destruction of the. city, which soon afterwards followed, was regarded by many of the Jews as a judgement from God for their guilt in putting that righteous Christian to death.
In the passage then which is now under consideration, you hear the words of the Holy Ghost delivered to you by the
(a) Acts, xii. 17. xv. 13. 19. xxi. 18. I Cor. xv. 7. Gal. i. 19. ii. 9. 12.
mouth of, perhaps, the most eminent of the Apostles..
I propose, under the Divine blessing, first, to explain the meaning of the text: in the next place, to illustrate by examples the reasonableness of the doctrine which it conveys: and, thirdly, to prove that the doctrine is not peculiar to St. James, but is the universal doctrine-Jos the Scriptures.
I. Whosoever Jhall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point; he is guilty of all.
What is the truth which in these words St. James designs to affirm? Does he mean to aver, that the man who commits one sin virtually commits every kind of sin? He means no such absurdity. He knew that, although one transgression commonly draws on other and various and greater offences; a sinner may perpetrate several kinds of wickedness without plunging into all kinds. Does he maintain that a person who has yielded to one sin, needs not to hesitate as to indulgence in more? The Apostle never purposed to contradict the Scriptures. He knew that every additional sin cries for additional punishment. Does he imply that the man who deliberately
breaks breaks any one of the commandments of the Gospel i& necessarily excluded from salvation? God forbid! For how then should any man be saved? The Apostle well.knew that to every true penitent mercy is extended through Christ. What then is the fact, which he declares? He declares this fact: that the man, who sins against any one branch of the divine law, sins against the authority of the whole law, and against the lawgiver of the whole. He declares that the divine law is not to be taken piecemeal: that it is not an assemblage of unnconnected commandments flowing from different sources, and guarded by different sanctions ; but one entire work, in all its parts proceeding from the will and vindicated by the power of the fame Author. He declares that God who, by his law, said, Do not commit adultery, said also, Do not kill: that whosoever commits adultery offends against the authority of Him who also said, Do not kill: that however widely the nature and circumstances of actions may vary the degrees of their guilt, whosoever commits any one sin rebels against the law and the majesty of Him, who has equally forbidden every sin. He declares that no one is a true Christian, 1 '. who who does not purpose and labour to keep the whole law: that every person who wilfully perseveres in any one habitual transgression, and hopes to escape the penalty of rebellion, because he observes many of the commandments of God, will find himself, .at the day of judgement fatally disappointed.
II. Perhaps this declaration of the Apostle founds in your ears unreasonable. "Is it not "sufficient," you reply, "if 1 obey most .*' of the ordinances of God? If I disregard "one, am I to lose the benefit of observing . I' all the rest? Will no allowance be made "for some one evil disposition or practice, "to which I am particularly tempted? If ;" I fight strenuously and successfully against "nineteen sinful habits; must I be con"demned, if I should be overcome by the •'* twentieth?" You will recollect that, when it is affirmed that the violation of one part of the law of God will exclude a jean from the kingdom of heaven, notwithstanding his obedience to the other partsj we speak of a man, whose breach of one . of the divine commandments is knowingly, :and wilfully, and perseveringly indulged. : With this recollection fully present in your ^^•j. .. . stund,
rhind, proceed with me to examine, by the consideration of some parallel examples, whether a person who thus disobeys any one part of the divine law can be a sincere follower of JesuS Christ.
Suppose one of your neighbours to be punctual in obeying all the laws of the land with one exception; but to be obstinate in the transgression of that particular statute.' He abstains, for instance, from offering violence to his fellow-subjects. He enters not into plots against the Government. He submits to every personal service, which his country requires of hirri for her defence. He undertakes and executes any public function, to which his station renders him liable. He pays his taxes, in general, with honesty. But there is one particular tax, which he cannot be persuaded to discharge. He acknowledges that the tax is equitable and proper; and that he is lawfully called upon to pay it. He is again and again entreated to pay it. He is reminded that he owes that tax to his country: that to fefuse payment is to febel against the laws and to resist his rightful governors: that, if he pefsists in the refusal, justice must take its course against him. Solicitations and argument are lost , Vol. II. Q_ upon