Page images

to seek first, in decided preference to all other things, the kingdom of God and his righteousness, resting satisfied, that if we let sound religious principles regulate our conduct, even in the most trivial matters, we shall most certainly obtain all that is expedient for us, even of temporal provision;-to have a just and charitable regard towards our neighbour, a desire to be of service to him, and a Christian sympathy in all his concerns, whether in prosperity or adversity ;-to be contented with our own lot, whatever it may be, reflecting that all we possess is the gift of God; that we cannot merit the smallest of his of our fellow-creatures gifts; and that there are many who are not blessed with the same benefits which we enjoy, though their claims, with regard to comparative desert, may be far greater than our own.

§3. The sinful appetites primarily forbidden, areall covetous desires of obtaining what we cannot lawfully obtain, and excessive longing for that which is our neighbour's, even though we may properly possess it, if it be his will to alienate it for his house and whatever it contains,-his goods and chattels,-for his wife, either during her husband's life, or in anticipation of his death,-for his servants, so as to wish to withdraw them from their service, in which he has a temporary right,-for his cattle-those possessions which are conducive to his comfort or his pleasure, for any thing, in short, which may not seem to be included in these particulars, but which he has received as the gift of God, and to which, therefore, he has a proprietary title, not to be violated, even by a wish, without contempt of the Divine authority ;—inordinate love of riches, and greedy

desire to accumulate earthly possessions of any sort, or that covetousness, which by setting up an idol in the heart, by making temporal objects our chief concern, sins against the enactments of the First Table, and especially against the Second Commandment in it ;-trust in riches for ability and support, instead of that confidence in the living God alone, which he requires. All other kinds of concupiscence are no less interdicted than Covetousness, -all irregular desires, all unprofitable and pernicious thoughts and fancies,-all vain, excessive, and guilty attachment to the world, and earthly connections, -all envious, jealous, covetous, ambitious, proud, and sensual feelings :-these, if they arise in the mind, without consent of the heart, must be instantly repressed; but if they be suffered to continue and take root, if cherished and regarded with complacency and delight, become at once transgressions of the Tenth Commandment, even if they proceed no further, and are not brought forth in action ;-voluntary admission of the evil suggestions of the tempter, or of his agents, wicked and seductive men ;— such consent to unlawful desires and inclinations, as that they may produce unlawful deeds; which is equally criminal whether the effects actually follow the design or not;-the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, which consti tute the love of the world, that is incompatible with the love of God;-discontent and dissatisfaction with the property or station which Providence has assigned us ;-regret at the prosperity and exultation at the adversity of our neighbour ;-neglect of those social duties which oblige us to administer, according to our ability, to the welfare of others, and

to preserve and defend his property and reputation with as much vigilance as our own.

§ 4. The virtues and habits which tend to preserve the heart and mind from pollution or depravation are -herein to exercise ourselves, to have always a Conscience void of offence toward God and toward man; -Prayer for the influence of the Holy Spirit who alone can purify the hearts and affections of sinful men, who by his regenerating grace cleanses from the guilt of original sin, and by his sanctifying grace con. trouls the corruption of the heart, and enables those who seek his assistance to renounce the degrading service of the world, the flesh, and the devil;-humility with regard to our own deserts, and gratitude for the blessings we are permitted to enjoy through the bountifulness of our God.

5. The sins which foster and aggravate the lusts of concupiscence are-Pride, unworthy emulation, extravagance, luxury, artificial wants, neglect of the means of grace, worldly-mindedness, false views of worldly happiness, forgetfulness of God, ingratitude for mercies received, and indifference to those which are most valuable.

§ 6. It is not possible for man, while he continues in the flesh, to perform the whole law, even as it relates to external actions, perfectly and without omission; much less can he fulfil all that is required with regard to the regulation of his thoughts and desires; but he is nevertheless bound by the law to use his sincere endeavours to attain perfection, and to stand before his omniscient Judge as free from blame as

possible-which endeavours will mercifully be accepted for the sake of Christ, instead of faultless obedience. The Tenth Commandment, more perhaps than either of the others, convinces men of the real corruption of their nature, and of their disability to keep the pure and perfect law of God; humbles them under the sense of their liability to condemnation and eternal punishment; leads them. to prayer for the aids of grace; and drives them to have recourse to the merits and mediation of Christ the Saviour, to cover their defects and blot out their sins.

§ 7. In judging of the comparative guilt of different transgressions of the law, though they be all sinful and deserving of punishment, as committed against the will and majesty of God and against the happiness of man, yet we must consider that they are not all equally grievous, nor equally atrocious in the sight either of man or of God. They are not to be viewed in the same light, as to enormity, whether the advantages and consequent responsibility of the persons offending be great, or whether they be less, on account of age, experience, profession, or eminence in rank or qualifications; — whether the offence be committed against the Divine Majesty or less exalted authority-against superiors, equals, or inferiors of our own race;-whether the offence be in itself against a clear and positive command, against light, knowledge, conviction, warning, and conscience, or against a less obvious precept, in ignorance or heedlessness;-whether it consist in overt-act more or less displeasing to God and injurious to man, or in secret thoughts, inclinations, and designs, which are not carried into execution;-whether it be premedi

tated, wilful, presumptuous, and habitual, or the consequence of surprise and temptation, reluctantly committed, and unfrequent;-whether times and places which ought especially to be respected are violated by it, or no particular aggravation of this sort is to be imputed;-whether it be perpetrated in public, tending to bring scandal on religion, and to setting of bad example to others, or it be in private and not so likely to injure others by contamination or by leading them into the same evil through the excuse of precedent or fashion;-whether it be immediately or remotely injurious to others, or it be confined in its consequences to the perpetrator.

§ 8. Still it is to be remembered, that every transgression of the law, however qualified by extenuating circumstances, whether secret or presumptuous, is sin against God; and that the wages of sin is death. Every infraction of the Decalogue, either of its letter or its spirit, subjects the violator to the divine wrath, and incurs the liability to eternal punishment. But, though all sin be in its nature worthy of condemnation to eternal death, inasmuch as it is an offence against the majesty of Jehovah; all sin, except that "against the Holy Ghost," is at the same time capable of pardon, upon sincere repentance, and application to the merits and mediation of Jesus Christ. Even the most minute wilful deviation from the Gospel rule, in deed, word, or thought, must be repented of in order to be forgiven; and upon such repentance as is manifested by external amendment and conversion of the heart and soul to God, all transgressions, however flagrant, however subversive of the love of God above all things, and of our neighbour as ourselves, shall as

« PreviousContinue »