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have passed away never to return; far less are they to be sought or found in the spirit of frenzied excitement, in a fanaticism for which no adequate er satisfactory reasons can be assigned.
A fifth feature of primitive Christianity is, “ The joy with which it inspired all who came under its influence.” It is only necessary to read the New Testament with attention, to perceive that this was an uniform effect of the Gospel. Those who proclaimed it called it glad tidings; those who received it felt it to be so. Whether it operated on a nation or on an individual, thus its influence appeared. When “ Philip went down to Samaria, and preached Christ in it, there was great joy in that city.' When he preached to a solitary eunuch in the desert, he sent him on “ his way rejoicing.” The disciples who believed at Antioch were filled with joy, and with the Holy Ghost. And the despairing gaoler no sooner received the Word of God than he rejoiced, believing in God, with all his house. Joy was not only the invariable effect of the reception of the Gospel, but of a kind and degree corresponding with the nature of the truth received, and the hope entertained. It was altogether spiritual and heavenly in its nature. Hence it is called, “ Joy in the Holy Ghost-joy in the Lord—joy in believing, in rejoicing, in hope-joy unspeakable, and full of glory.”
It was not a sudden glow of feeling, a transient emotion, partaking rather of the nature of passion than of sentiment. It was abiding and diffusive in its influence; the effect of a powerful and permanent cause; it was as lasting as it was exquisite, and distinguished from all terrestrial excitement. It entered into everything in which the believers engaged ; the most common concerns of life, as well as the acts of religious worship. They not only praised God, but did eat their meat with gladness and singleness of heart. It was, in fact, a state of mind, and not an exercise of the animal spirits; and thus it is open to all ; distinguished from natural buoyancy of feeling, the noisy mirth of enthusiastic excitement, and the clamorous effusions of worldly mirth. It arose from a source in which alone there is fulness of joy, and whose purifying influence is not less powerful than its blissful nature. The Gospel, as preached by the apostles, and received by those who rejoiced in it, was not a system of fine notions which pleased the intellect, but could not relieve the labouring heart of man, or alter, by its powerful operation, his wretched being. It commended itself to him as the medicine of his nature, by subduing the very seed of woe within him, and controlling the otherwise uncontrollable power of outward events upon him.
An investigation of the reasons why the Christians of modern times fall so far below the primitive believers in enjoyment, would lead us too far away from the chief object of the present discourse. I fear the causes will be found, not in any unwillingness on God's part to bless His people, or in any failure in the Gospel to afford enjoyment to those who revere and obey it, but in deficiencies and improprieties on our part. The more that any one seeks to God for consolation, the more of genuine consolation he will find in Him. The less that the comforts of the Gospel are felt to be necessary, the less powerfully will they operate. The more that men do for God, and the more that they suffer in His cause, the higher will be their enjoyment in Him. For as tribulation for Christ aboundeth, consolation by Christ will much more abound.
Another feature in the picture of primitive Christianity presented in the text, and it is the last I shall notice, is, “ The spirituality and devotion of the disciples." They were daily engaged in the temple, and in every house, in breaking bread and praising God; out of the abundance of their hearts their mouths spoke ; and as their hearts were filled with joy, the language of praise was its natural expression. An animated and enlivening devotion marked their characters and behaviour. For a time, at least, religion seems exclusively to have engaged their attention,
“Prayer, all their business,--all their pleasure, praise.” This was perfectly natural in their peculiar circumstances. When they thought on what they once were, on the transition which they had undergone, and on the hope set before them, they must have seemed like men that dreamed. “ Their mouth was filled with laughter, and their tongue with singing; and they said among their brethren, the Lord hath done great things for us, whereof we are glad."
It is in each of these features, then, separately considered, and in the harmonious aggregate of the whole, that we are furnished with that view of Christianity by which we may try how far our religion has fallen below the primitive standard, and to what points we ought to attempt its elevation. The consideration of the state of things which has been feebly described, and the comparison of the early and latter condition of true religion in the world, must produce the most humbling views of ourselves, our attainments, and our enjoyments. In impressive views of the truth—in devoted attention to the ordinances of the kingdom of God—in ardent attachment to each other—in the exercises of generosity and benevolence —in heavenly joy, and in pure and elevated devotion, the generality of the Christians of modern times fall greatly below the characters of the primitive believers, and beneath what might be expected from the distinguishing privileges which they enjoy.
Yet it is to this direction we ought to endeavour to bring our sentiments, our feelings, and our conduct. Nothing but a return to first principles and practices will ever produce those glorious results which attached to the profession of the Gospel at the beginning. Every revival of religion must be tried by this standard, and weighed in these scales in its nature and effects. As it approaches to, or diverges from, what the apostles enjoined, and the consequences of their ministry illustrate, it demands our approbation or calls for our opposition.
There is no reason for despairing that sooner or later this glorious result will take place. The Spirit of the Lord is not straitened—the promise of heaven is sure—“Ask, and it shall be given; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened to you.” Let a high tone of religion be cultivated by every individual—let it be implored and exemplified in every family -devoutly maintained by every congregation and we shall be happier ourselves, more attached to one another, and more useful to all around. Already some progress has been made—all is not discouragement and evil —let us only persevere in faith, and prayer, and diligent labour, and sooner, perhaps, than we expect, the words of the prophet shall be fulfilled—the new heavens and earth which God shall create shall cause the former to be forgotten and not to come to mind. He will make Jerusalem a rejoicing, and her people a joy. When we shall not labour in vain, nor bring forth for trouble. When it shall come to pass, that before they call God will answer, and while they are yet speaking He will hear. “ The wolf and the lamb shall feed together, and the lion shall eat straw like the bullock, and dust shall be the serpent's meat. They shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain, saith the Lord.”
THE OBLIGATORY CHARACTER OF THE DECALOGUE. Thx uniform relations subsisting be- 1. The peculiar solemnity with which tween God and man, and among men, it was uttered.
For several days
prerequire an authoritative statement of vious to the giving of the Ten Comduties associated therewith. It is pro- mandments, the people were instructed bable that such a statement was made to sanctify themselves, and be in readiin the primeval state to Adam; other- ness for an extraordinary communicawise we are at a loss to account for the tion from their king. The Mount of wide diffusion of moral ideas in the Sinai was sanctified, and fenced in on world-bearing evidence, in their strong every hand. “ If so much as a beast resemblance to one another, of having touched it, it was stoned, or thrust proceeded from the same source. The through with a dart.” Around the only reasonable explanation of this cir- summit gathered clouds and darkness. cumstance is, that the oral communi- Thunders and lightnings added to the cations of duty, originally made by God awful grandeur of the scene. The sound to Adam, have been handed down from of a trumpet began to be heard, waxing generation to generation. And as to louder and louder, and continuing long. the imperfections of the moral codes of Such circumstances could only precede heathen nations, these of course are utterances of the most solemn nature easily accounted for by the contact and and important bearing. intermingling of the Divine teachings 2. The fact of these commandments with the corrupt sentiments of men in being graven in tablets of stone. God the course of tradition. All this is spake thus to Moses—"Come up to strongly implied in the words of Paul, me into the mount, and be there : and Rom. ii. 14, 15, to which the reader I will give thee tables of stone, and a may refer. As we trace downwards the law, and commandments which I have history of man, and behold God enter- written ; that thou mayest teach them." ing into a special and continuous rela- Ex. xxiv. 12. And of these tables it is tion with a particular people, we naturally specially said, in Ex. xxxi. 18," they expect to find, in the order of His govern- were written with the finger of God." ment, a re-utterance in a more perma- It is also worthy of observation, when nent form of the duties formerly enforced Moses cast them from him, and brake upon Adam in Paradise. Nor are we them in his anger for the people's disappointed. And if it be asked, How idolatry, how speedily God renewed are we to extract the grand and ever- them, giving him records like unto the binding principles of morality from the first. mass of law and requirement contained 3. The gathering of the tribes on in the Jewish records, we answer, that mounts Ebal and Gerizim confirms the in the Decalogue are to be found, in solemn importance the Israelites were a concise, comprehensive, and emphatic to attach to the Decalogue. After reform, the very statements we require. hearsing in substance the command
I. Let us endeavour to ascertain the ments delivered on Sinai, curses were light in which the Decalogue was re- invoked on all who should fail to obgarded by the Jews themselves. By serve the duties enjoined, to which the studying the history of that people, it is tribes assembled on Ebal emphatically easy to see that they recognised three responded “ Amen!" But, kinds of law, viz., political, ceremonial, 4. The language of Christ in various and moral. The two former were posi- places clearly distinguishes the Decative in their institution, and were only iogue as moral from the remaining of temporary obligation. While their laws of the Jewish government as political and ceremonial relations sub- either ceremonial or political. sisted, so long and no longer were the refer to Matt. V. 17, Think not that laws therewith connected in force. But I am come to destroy the law or the the latter-being founded in the un- prophets; I am not come to destroy, but changeable relations of men to their to fulfil." These words were probably Creator and to one another—was clearly spoken to quiet the fears of the Phariintended to have perpetual obligation. sees, who were anticipating innovations To see the plain distinction between the on the part of the man of Nazareth. Decalogue and the remaining laws of By the expression, “ destroy,” we may the Jewish economy, it is but necessary understand to "abrogate"—to deny to notice a few facts.
their Divine authority”—"to set men
free from the obligation to obey them.” And thus does the Saviour, in the commencement of His ministry, vouch for the purity of the morality He shonld insist on in His future teachings. This verse is further explained by the 19th verse, “Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven: but whosoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven." This language cannot refer to political obligation-as the Jews had already ceased to exist in their distinctive national character. Nor can it refer to ceremonial observances, as Christ came to abrogate all such ; since to Him all the types of the old economy pointed. We are, therefore, compelled to regard it as referring to the Decalogue. This will appear in a yet more satisfactory manner by comparing the language of Christ with the words of the Apostle James, in his general epistle, ii. 10—“For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all." Now mark his illustration. “ He that said, Do not commit adultery, said also, Do not kill. Now if thou commit no adultery, yet if thov. kill, thou art become a transgressor of The LAW.” Were it necessary, a large number of like statements might be collected from the New Testament writers, which could in a similar manner be proved to refer only to the Decalogue. But the passages already quoted are sufficient evidence of the distinction asserted to exist.
II. Let me now proceed more directly to establish the perpetual obligation of the Decalogue as the embodiment of the moral law.
We might fairly consider this as an inference from the point just proved; but there are various considerations which give strength to the argument worthy of our notice. It is manifest that in giving a law comprehending moral duty to the Jews, God would not give an imperfect
We may take it for granted, that such a communication would be entirely accordant with the Divine character and perfections, as well as with the laws of buman nature. The Decalogue is not founded in any particular relation existing between God and a certain portion of His creatures. Its principles agree with the consciousness of all men every where, since no circumstances
or variety of circumstances can alter our position with respect to God-as our ruler-and as the being to whom we are responsible. The unchange ableness of Jehovah furnishes us with a view of the nature of His moral requirements, as well as with an argument for their perpetual obligation. In His law we naturally look for the transcript of His own mind. We expect to discover the things He approves, as well as the things He bates. And it would be the most daring blasphemy to assert or even think it possible for Him to make requirements of His creatures, which could at any time in their history be construed as inconsistent with the principles of His nature, or the perfections of His character. Applying this to the case in point-we dare not conclude otherwise, in respect to the Decalogue, than that it is perfect and immutably consistent with Himself.
But not only so; it is also agreeable to the nature and capacity of man. This is clear from an examination of its contents. It may be considered in two parts: the first comprising our duty to God, and the second our duty to man. Christ himself makes this division in His answer to the lawyer who came to try Him. See Matt. xxii. 35. The first four commandments of the Decalogue comprehend our duty to God; and in this place we are taught that love is the grand principle underlying it. It is obvious that love to God is a duty from which it is impossible for us ever to be absolved. It is, moreover, a duty unmistakeably adapted to our moral capacity. And respecting the last six commandments, forming the second division of the moral law, we have a lengthened commentary in the sermon on the mount, already quoted. Referring to that once more, we observe that Christ is reproving the Scribes and Pharisees for making impious distinctions in the Divine requirements, and consequently regarding certain duties as of little importance.
Our Saviour then proceeds to enforce, in terms the most emphatic and particular, those duties of the Decalogue which had been underrated by them. To its prominent duties such as worshipping the true and only God, keeping the Sabbath, and others contained in the first table, allusion is not here made; the occasion not rendering such a re-declaration necessary. But even supposing that the New Testament is wanting in positive injunctions
bearing on certain duties, the practice reason for this we find recorded in the of the apostles and primitive Christians 23rd verse“ Tomorrow is the rest of affords ample direction as to the course the holy Sabbath unto the Lord; bake we should pursue. Recurring to the that which ye will bake to-day, and second table, how empbatic and signi- seethe that ye will seethe: and that ficant is the “ golden rule" of Jesus-- which remaineth over lay up for you to “All things whatsoever ye would that be kept until the morning." "And in the men should do to you, do ye even so to next verse we read, “ They laid it up them : for this is the law and the pro- till the morning, as Moses bade: and it phets”—Matt. vii. 12. This portion of did not stink, neither was there any our duty is also founded upon the grand worm therein.” Now here we have a principle of love. And what can be twofold miracle wrought in support of more accordant with the constitution of the observance of the Sabbath day. our moral nature than to love all men, We affirm that the language of the inand to love them as ourselves?
spired writer cannot be understood conIt will not, I think, be deemed un- sistently with any other theory than suitable or irrelevant to introduce in that the Sabbatic institution was one this place a few remarks on the observ- perfectly familiar to the Jewish people. ance of the Sabbath. As the principal It strikes me, that if this was the first object contemplated by men in en- announcement they received respecting deavouring to dispose of the Decalogue, the setting apart of one day out of has been to do away with Sabbath ob- seven, we should not have heard of any servance, a few special observations on disregarding it; more especially as it this point are necessary. I shall not came to them with its importance testidwell on the fact—though the argument fied to by the miracles already specified. is a strong one which may be deduced But, on the contrary, we find that from it—that onr physical and meutal “ there went out some of the people on interests require a day of rest; but shall the seventh day for to gather.” Now confine myself to the teachings of the this, to say the least, renders it exceedScriptures on this matter. It has been ingly probable that the institution of held by many that the Sabbath is purely the Sabbath was one which they were a Jewish institution, If this be the accustomed to observe: hence the discase, then all we can say is, that the obedience of some of the congregation 16th chapter of Exodus records an does not so much surprise us, more instance of an immense multitude re- especially as the severe penalties atceiving unhesitatingly, and without any tached to the neglect of it were anmark of surprise, a strange and peculiar nounced only for the first time after the ordinance, unparalleled in the entire giving of the Decalogue on Mount history of the Divine dealings with Šinai. We are justified, then, in conmen. Let me ask your attention for a cluding that the rest of the seventh day moment to that chapter. The children was one which had been observed for at of Israel had been journeying for about least a considerable time prior to the a month after their deliverance from deliverance of the Israelites from Egypt. Egypt. Arriving at the wilderness of How thoroughly consistent with this is Zin, they began to murmur against the theory of regarding it as commemoMoses and Aaron for bringing them out rative of God's work at creation, of the midst of abundance into a place consistency all the more striking when where it seemed they would soon lack the terms of the fourth commandment the common necessaries of life. To put are carefully weighed and considered. an end to their complaints, and to re- Admitting, then, Sabbath obligation to vive their drooping confidence, God sup- have been primarily imposed on Adam plied them with food in a miraculous in Paradise, the question remains to be
“ He rained down manna answered—Is it still binding upon us? upon them to eat, and gave them of the recollecting that in the time of Christ corn of heaven." This manna was to the seventh day ceased to be regarded, be gathered every morning-none of and the first day was substituted for it. it was to be kept over night, and what- It is to be observed, “that when it was ever was laid in store, in disregard of altered to the first day, it was not rethis command,"
bred worms and stank." pealing one Sabbath and giving another: But on the sixth day, a double portion it was simply lifting the light from the was to be gathered by each individual Jewish candlestick, which was the -“ two omers for one man;" and the seventh day, to the Christian candle