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extricate themselves in vain. How much more serious is delay, when every day, during which men cherish an unforgiving temper, increases their condemnation before God ? If thou fallest within the verge of his wrath, how shalt thou escape? Thou hast nothing at all to pay, and yet the uttermost farthing shall be required. Even when man is our adversary, prudence warns us to seek a timely reconciliation. But it is far more dreadful to remain with God for our adversary: who commands us to “follow peace with all men; to put off anger, wrath, malice :” and to put on “ kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, long-suffering : forbearing one another, and forgiving one another, if any man have a quarrel against any: even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye. * For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.
THE DANGER OF INDULGING EVIL THOUGHTS.
MATT. v. 27-30.
27. “ Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt
not commit adultery. 28. “But I say unto you, That whosoever looketh on a woman to lust
after her, hath committed adultery with her already in his heart.” ANOTHER instance is here brought before us, in which our Lord shows the defect of all teaching which does not reach the root of the evil. The sin forbidden here, is the unlawful indulgence of the passions. But the seat of this, as of all sin, is in the heart.
66 From within, out of the heart of man, proceed evil thoughts,
• 2 Tim. ii. 18.
5 Col. iii. 8—13.
6 Ch. vi. 14, 15.
adulteries, fornications." Little good, therefore, is done by merely restraining the outward action, while the desire or passion remains. Whoever would preserve his house from fire, must quench the embers before they burst into a flame.
Whoever would stop a flowing stream, must trace it to its source, and exhaust the fountain from which it runs. · An evil thought is the spark which kindles the raging fire. An impure
desire is the source from which the torrent flows, which when once it fills the heart can hardly be restrained. There, therefore, must the check be given. We must control our desires; we 66 must make a covenant with our eyes ;" we must abstain from all incentives to sin; we must avoid all such company as might ensnare us into it; all such places as might furnish a temptation to it. The process may be a painful process, and human nature may rebel; but it is needful, and must be consented to, at whatever sacrifice ; even though the sin may be as dear to us as a limb is valuable to the body, even though the renouncing it may be like the destruction of a right eye or a right arm. For this is the example set before us in what follows. 29. “And if thy right eye offend thee, [become the cause of thy offend
ing,] pluck it out and cast it from thee: for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body
should be cast into hell. 30. “ And if thy right hand offend thee, cut it off, and cast it from thee :
for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell.”
Here the case is supposed, that a sin may have been so long indulged, as to be a sort of second nature; a habit so long practised, as to have become a part of a man's self: a companion may have been so long cherished, that to separate from him is like the parting with a limb: an evil course may be the means of so much gain, that the loss of it would be a serious privation. Our Lord does not for this reason spare
1 Mark vii, 21.
the sin, or the cause of sin; on the contrary, He affirms that it is profitable for a man to renounce it, rather than retain it; for that there is no alternative between the renouncing it, and that “indignation and wrath, tribulation and anguish,” revealed against every man “ that doeth evil.” So a physician does not deny the value of a limb or the pain of losing it; but he still says, it is profitable for thee to consent to the privation, for life can be preserved on no other terms.
It was thus that John the Baptist reasoned with Herod, and authoritatively said, “It is not lawful for thee to have thy brother's wife.”
Herod, we told, “feared John, knowing that he was a just man, and a holy, and observed him: and when he heard him, he did many things, and heard him gladly." There seemed, then, some hope that he might be brought to repentance; and John urged him to the first step towards repentance; the putting away one whom he ought never to have taken. It might be like the cutting off a member from the body; but still it would be profitable ; for if he did not cut it off and cast it from him, he could not escape the everlasting destruction of hell. “On account of these things the wrath of God cometh on the children of disobedience." It would be profitable for him, even with the loss of all that in this world was dearest, to be walking in the way of life eternal, rather than with the possession of every earthly enjoyment to have no hope in death “but a fearful looking for of judgment, and fiery indignation,” which shall destroy the ungodly and the sinner. So the Ephesians judged. Herod heard the truth, but in vain; they heard it, and acted on it; for we are told concerning them, that “many of them that believed came, and confessed, and showed their deeds : many of them also which used curious arts brought their books together, and burned them before all men: and they counted the price of them, and found it fifty thousand pieces of silver.”
Eph. v. 6. 4 Acts xix, 18-20.
2 Mark vi. 14--20.
This is an example of the plucking out the eye, the cutting off the hand. These curious or magic arts were like a hand or an eye to the Ephesian converts. They were their living. But it was profitable for them to enter into life halt and maimed, to enjoy the favour of God though with the loss of earthly goods and gain, rather than after having enjoyed the advantages which this world could give them, to be cast out “for ever from the presence of the Lord and the glory of his power." It is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell.
With these awful words before their eyes, will any dare to plead the strength of habit, or the force of temptation, or the power of example, as an excuse for continuance in known and open sin ? The words of our Lord “set before us life and good, and death and evil :'and exhort us to “ choose life,” to “mortify the deeds of the body,” that “we may live.”
we may live." Corrupt nature will put forth many pleas; and these pleas might be listened to, if the danger were less urgent, or the risk less terrible. But there can be no hesitation. We must consent to amputation, or expect death. The wages of allowed sin is death, eternal death. “The righteous shall go into life eternal.” “ The pure in heart shall see God.” “The merciful shall obtain mercy.
But for the adulterer, the reveller, the revengeful, the covetous, “there is no inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God.”6
5 See Deut. xxx. 15—20.
6 Gal. v. 21.
DIVORCEMENT -SOLEMNITY OF OATHS.
MATT. v. 31–37.
31. “ It hath been said, Whosoever shall put away his wife, let him
give her a writing of divorcement:1 32. “But I say unto you, That whosoever shall put away his wife,
saving for the cause of fornication, causeth her to commit adultery; and whosoever shall marry her that is divorced committeth adultery.”
ANOTHER case is here specified, in which the allowed practice of the Jewish nation was either a perversion of their law, or altogether contrary to it. Moses had permitted marriage, under certain circumstances, to be dissolved : “suffered a man to write a bill of divorcement, and put a wife away." In consequence, divorces on the most frivolous pretences had now become disgracefully frequent. Our Lord corrects this evil by bringing things back to the original regulation ; for “ in the beginning it was not so.' from the beginning of the creation God made them male and female :" and ordained that “
a man should leave his father and mother and cleave unto his wife, and they twain should be one flesh.' Moses had relaxed this law, “ for the hardness of their hearts." There had been reasons connected with the Jewish people which made it fit to do so. The Son of God had now appeared to restore that which had been lost, and to rebuild that which was decayed ; to bring in all righteousness. And He uses the authority which He possessed-He, to whom all things were delivered of the Father- to restrain the liberty which Moses had allowed, and to re-establish the sanctity of marriage, as ordained of God in the time of man's innocency. That innocency, indeed, remained no longer, and it 1 Deut. xxiv. 1-4.
2 See Mark x. 4-8.