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wrong, we do not feel that we are miserable, we do not know that we are in danger. Insensible from habit and thoughtless from ignorance, men take it for granted all is right, and the anger that warns them and the love that invites them to return, pass alike unheeded. It is most difficult to know in what way such persons may be addressed, or what can be urged, since nothing seems to apply to them: they answer to every thing as Israel to his God, “Wherein shall we return? Wherein have we robbed thee?” Let such be warned at least by the reply that followed where that plea was urged—“Ye are cursed with a curse.” God is defrauded of his due-his due of love, and gratitude, and obedience: in hearts where he has a claim to be first, he is last and least regardedwhere he has a right to rule, his will is not consulted for his bounties he is not thanked, for his power he is not feared, for his mercy he is not remembered, for his commands he is not obeyed. If a fellow-creature were to appeal against us that we had defrauded him of his right, we should be ashamed at the suggestion, and feel our honour attainted and ourselves disgraced, till we could answer the demand or prove it an unjust one. But when God accuses us, as perpetually throughout his word he does, that we have defrauded him of his due as our Creator and Redeemer, and resisted his claim upon us as his creatures, we will not listen ; we will not even examine into the account, how it stands between us : but think it enough in perverse and stupid indifference to answer, “Wherein shall we return ?
Wherein have we robbed thee?” It were wiser surely to listen awhile to the accusation, weighing our past lives against the fust demands of God, and measuring our character and principles by his most holy law: that if we are indeed so much in debt, so much in error, we may
in some way obtain remission of the debt and return from the error, or ever the fatal curse shall be pronounced. The self-justifying plea, however boldly urged, will never be accepted.
SAVIOUR’S SERMON ON THE MOUNT.
LECTURE THE FOURTEENTH.
And when thou prayest, thou shalt not be as the hypo
crites are; for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men. Verily
Verily I say unto you, They have their reward. But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly. But when ye pray, use not vain repetitions 'as the heathen do: for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking. Be not ye therefore like unto them: for your Father knoweth what things ye have need of before ye ask him. After this manner therefore pray ye :-MATT. vi. 5_9.
THERE is in the first part of the text an allusion to customs and corruptions among the Pharisaic Jews that cannot be complained of in our days. It is not our habit, as it was theirs, to be seen in an attitude of devotion, as if absorbed in prayer, in the publick corners of the city for the sake of gaining the reputation of superior sanctity—such a reputation could certainly not so be won; ridicule, and suspicion of insanity, is all we could expect to gain by that sort of hypocrisy. Their prayers likewise in the synagogues, where all were allowed to teach and to pray aloud, and where the professors of an ostentatious piety made constant exhibition of it before the people, bore no resemblance to the manner of our publick worship. But it is true of this, as of every other precept of the Gospel, that however the custom to which it alludes may change or pass away, the spirit that was betrayed in that custom survives it, so as to make the divine precept as much needed as before-the outward expression may be altered, the motive that directed it remains the same; and no lesson of divine wisdom, no precept of the divine word, ends its admonition with those who heard it first; it stands engraven in the records of eternal truth, obligatory for ever on all who read it, and it will be necessary, and it will be true, as long as time endures, and man wears the sinful garment of mortality: that garment may change its colouring, but the material is the same-hypocrisy in devotion may have an altered form, but it is still hypocrisy—and wherever there is any true religion to take the pattern from, there will be the counterfeit that, from its resemblance, passes current among men, but is not what it passes for. And to make application to ourselves of this remark, as there has not been at any period a more extensive profession of religion, we hope we may add, more of its reality, in this country, so there assuredly has not been a period when we were in so much need of this warning precept of the holy Preacher: the inducements to ostentation in religion never were greater than they are now, or the danger of deceiving ourselves as well as others more imminent.
The times have been, when from far other motives than those suggested here, the disciples of Christ were indeed compelled to offer up their prayers in secret-in the secrecy of some cold, dark cavern, at midnight, where death was the penalty of detection. And other times there have been, and those within the memory of some, when the man who would make many prayers must make them in the privacy of his chamber, or be content to forego his reputation among men, and be dealt with as a lunatic or a deceiver. Ridicule, and mockery, and contempt, were all the glory he could win of earth; and men would call him hypocrite if his Father did not. There was no temptation then to an ostentatious display of religion: nature's suggestion was to hide the despised treasure in our bosoms, and make no exposure of a derided faith. To do otherwise was an effort of holy courage, and doubtless acceptable to Heaven as a sacrifice of interest and feeling for the Gospel's sake. Those days are passed. Religion walks now in silken shoen, and has her pathway in the sunshine of the world. Men write her life, and register her death, and chronicle her sayings—the prayers that ske makes in secret are hunted out of her scrutoir-her lonely meditations betake themselves in gilded coverings to the chambers of the wise and great-whether admixed with the residue of humanity in a regenerate bosom, or with the ardent simplicity of an honest heart, publicity is at this day the dominant character of religion. She may not walk the path of distinction but with a crowd for ever at her heels-nor in the darkest corner of the lowliest hovel can she hide herself from the notoriety that pursues her. Let a humble cottager be talked of in a neighbourhood for her piety, and she may hold a levy in her chamber to compete in worth, if not in numbers, with the greatest of her neighbours : and childhood and poverty win themselves renown upon their master's work. It is not our present task to speak of this, whether it is good or evil-but as every peculiar state of society has its peculiar dangers, it becomes us to give watchful warning, or rather I would say to take it, each one for ourselves, against the especial temptation to which circumstance and character expose us. The warning we need never more than to apply—for we may find it always ready in the written word of God. He foresaw every thing, he provided for every thing-as well for the season when our prayers might win us praise of men, and we should so be tempted to become hypocrites before God, and gain credit for the principle we have not, as when they might expose us to the loss of our best and dearest upon earth, and so we might be induced to become hypocrites before men, and deny the Master we are pledged to
As in the one case the prophet Daniel, for our ensample, opened his windows and set wide his doors, and in sight of the idolators of Babylon, three times a day addressed the God of Israel—so in the other case, we are commanded to go into our closets, and shut the doors about us, and pray to our Father which is in secret. However there may be individual cases of difficulty and danger, and there are many, in the open professions of piety now, we are persuaded that the latter precept is that we need the most we have more inducement to an ostentatious display of piety, than to a cowardly concealment of it. Let us dwell then, with deeply fixed attention, on these our Saviour's words, and carefully look into their meaning in application to ourselves.
The Pharisees professed a great respect for religion; even a more strict and conscientious compliance with its precepts than was evinced by other men-but it was for such religion, and for so much of religion only, as was in reputation among their people: could any law of Moses have been pointed out to them that among the Jews was held in disrepute, they had surely rejected and refused it, rather than forfeit the good opinion of their countrymen. Well therefore might the God of Israel pronounce them hypocrites, in that they professed to serve him, when in fact they did but serve their own opinions and their own reputation, and would have refused him any service that did not compete with these. And then, beside the limit put to their false service, they were hypocrites even in that they rendered for the object of their prayers was that men should know they prayed. Doubtless the secret prayer, the lonely meditation, if any such there were, was abridged and hurried to afford more time for these publick exbibitions of their piety-doubtless, the longer became their prayers in the corners of the streets, the shorter became they in their closets; and the more anxious they grew that their devotions should be ob.