« НазадПродовжити »
behind us recollections, which will encourage our friends to look up and to say,-They are at rest in Heaven?
world, how delightful is it, as the resort of all the good from all regions of the Earth! Are our steps tending thither; and, when we die, shall we leave
ILLUSTRATIONS OF PASSAGES
IN THE NEW TESTAMENT, WHICH REFER TO SENTIMENTS, &C. AMONG THE JEWS, IN
THE TIME OF OUR LORD.
[Continued from No. 6, Vol. 4th.]
Matth. v. 23, 24, fore if thou bring thy gift to the altar, and there rememberest that thy brother hath aught against thee; leave there thy gift before the altar, and go thy way; first be reconciled to thy brother, and then come, and offer thy gift.
It was a custom, and even a law among the Jews, that the sacrifices of persons who were considered as unclean, should not, during the time of this uncleanness, be brought to the altar; but should be reserved to the immediately following feast, either of the Passover, or of Pentecost, or of Tabernacles. In commanding the Jews therefore, when they brought their gifts to the altar of God, and, there remembered that their brother had aught against them, to leave their gift, and to go their way, and first to be reconciled to their brother before they offered their gift, our Lord referred them to times, when every Israelite who could be, was at Jerusalem; and when therefore every man, who should remember in the very moment when about to offer his gift, that he had injured any one, then even afar off,
could have opportunity of seeking reconciliation. They who were most widely separated at other times, were brought together at the seasons of the great feasts. It is to be observed also, that the oblation made by any one who had unjustly taken money, and even the smallest. sum, from his neighbour, and had not made restitution, was considered by Jews as vain; of no worth in the sight of God. But our Lord extends his precept to the comprehension of every offence and injury, committed by any one who would bring his gift to the altar. The emphasis of his command is on the expression, “and there rememberest that thy brother hath aught,—any thing whatever to allege against thee;" and he here teaches us, as he taught them who heard him, that it is in vain for us to bring any offering to God, if we feei not a sincere charity towards all mankind. He vainly wor ships God as a christian, who has not sought reconciliation with him whom he has injured; or who withholds forgiveness from the injurer.
The great object of this, as of many of our Lord's precepts, is to bring the whole soul into
ed a heavy sin, to leave un-
subjection to God; and every action of life into the circle of his service. All the offices of christian piety are designed to minister to our moral improvement; and then only is our morality in the spirit of the gospel, when it is sanctified by an ultimate reference to the will, and to the approbation of God. When we stand praying, we are to forgive, if we have ought against any; for if we forgive not, if we love not our brother, we cannot love God, nor are we ever permitted even to ask His forgiveness. Our sacrifice, whatever it be, must be unblemished by any depraved passion; by any corrupt desire. It must be offered with the whole heart, and with a heart which God will approve. Our Lord did not indeed teach the Jews, nor does he teach us, that offerings to God should be withholden, in all cases, till reconciliation is obtained with all who have been injured; for circumstances may for a long time, make mutual reconciliation to be utterly impracticable. But he taught them, and he requires of us, that in the heart of the worshiper of God, if he have injured any one, there should be no obstacle to reconciliation; that the earliest opportunity should be faithfully improved, of conciliating our offended or injured brother, and of making reparation of the injury we have done him. With a heart sincerely so disposed, we may humbly, and with a hope of acceptance, offer our gift.
Matth. v. 27-30. Ye have heard that it hath been said by them of old time, thou shalt not commit adultery. But I say unto you, that whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her,hath committed adultery with her already in his heart. And if thy right eye "offend thee, pluck it out, and
Not only among the Jews, cast it from thee; for it is but all nations, it was account-profitable for thee that one of
thy members should perish, and not thy whole body should be cast into hell. 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.
"The words, by them of old time," says Campbell," are not found in a great number of the most valuable MSS. and ancient versions, particularly the Syriac. The Vulgate indeed has them. Mill and Wetstein reject them." But some believe them to belong to the text, and to have been employed by our Lord, for the purpose of distinguishing the ancient interpreters of the law, from whom the traditions of the Jews were derived, from Moses, their great legislator. Our Lord, however, obviously to cite the precept of the Jewish law itself, from the 14th of Exodus; and it was because their sentiments on this subject were so very gross and depraved, that he so particularly and forcibly directed their attention to it.
And here have we not a very strong argument against those, who assert that Christ added no new precept to the law; but only taught the true sense and import of what the law required? The language of the law is, "thou shalt not commit adultery." Exod. xx. 14. The sentiment of Christ extends to the indulgence of the sight; to the most secret feeling of the heart. He says not, this is the spirit of the precept; or, thus should the
law be understood;' but, I SAY UNTO YOU. He is not only an interpreter of the law of Moses. He is a Teacher of what that law had not inculcated.
The true import of this passage, says Taylor, can only be understood, by considering the closely covered state of the eastern women, under their veils; wherein being totally concealed, they offer no occasion of being looked upon; but would take it as the greatest insolence, should their veils be drawn aside. Understand, therefore, the passage thus. "You have heard that it was said in ancient times, thou shalt not commit adultery. But, I say unto you, that my purer principles forbid any advances towards that crime; any commencement of what may lead to it. Whoever removes the veil to look on woman, whether married or unmarried, has sullied his spiritual purity, and is. guilty.
There can be no doubt with any reflecting mind, but that the propensities of our nature must be subject to regulation. The question is, where the check ought to be placed; upon the thought, or only upon the action. In this question, our Saviour, in the text here quoted, has pronounced a decisive judgement. He makes the control of thought essential. Internal purity, with him, is every thing. And this is the only discipline which can succeed. A moral system, which prohibits actions, but leaves the thoughts at liberty, will be ineffectual, and is therefore unwise; for every moment
that is spent in meditations upon sin, increases the power of the dangerous object, which has possessed our imagination.
The desire of evil, which leads its possessor to offend against the laws of morality, Jesus, in symbolical language, calls the right eye, and the right hand; and as it is better that a member, however ornamental or useful, when infected by a disorder that endangers the whole frame, should be amputated, though it leaves the body maimed and unseemly; so it is better that any favourite passion, which is the disease of the soul, should be eradicated, rather than be suffered to spread the contagion, and thus to occasion its moral death, and its future punishment.
Other moralists judge of men by their actions. Christ brings them before a more awful and correct tribunal, and
judges them by their feelings and motives. Fornication and adultery, with other evil actions, proceed from desire, and desire is seated in the heart; and he who habitually cherishes any impure affection, and wants only an opportunity of gratifying it, is as guilty in the sight of God, as if he had committed the deed. It is to the heart, therefore, that our Lord constantly directs our attention; and the heart he constantly enjoins us to guard, as the primary seat of good and evil. It is not to be doubted then, but that many will be punished for crimes that were never done, but only intended; and many rewarded for virtues which, for want of opportunity, have never ripened into action.
In the Disciple for April appeared an essay styled "Report of God's treatment of the first murderer." The editor having given his opinion that the writer was a person of talents, and approved his sentiments, I enter with diffidence upon the task of animadvert. ing them. I am however encouraged by a belief, derived from your liberality in admitting strictures upon editorial and communicated articles, you that labour for truth rather
Taylor's Fragments, p. 224. Wolzogenius, Campbell, and John Jones on the text. ley's Evidences, Vol. 2d. of his works. Bost. Ed. p. 229.
REMARKS ON THE REPORT OF GOD'S TREATMENT OF THE
For the Christian Disciple. than for a system, or a party.
The subject of capital punishment is exciting great attention in the civilized world. Writers of celebrity are engaged in the discussion, and it is quite possible that a future and more enlightened age may outlaw them entirely. But premature, overstrained condemnations of them may frustrate the object in view. It was with deep regret therefore that I saw introduced into your pages what I deem illogical and injudicious re
marks upon this topic. An attempt is made to prove from the scriptures that God forbade inflicting death upon murderers, and that he has denounced vengeance on those who should take away the life of a murderer. No evil can arise from temperate discussions on this important theme. But while a great majority of mankind believe in the utility of capital punishments, and statesmen and christian moralists are divided in opinion respecting their necessity and lawfulness, it appears highly reprehensible to lessen the respect due to the laws of the land, and to magistrates, by denouncing the vengeance of the Almighty upon the makers and administrators of these laws.
ularly when the written law bears date subsequent to the record of the precedent. If you will turn to the " reports of Moses," Exodus, xxi. chap. you will find that when our race had increased in numbers, and God had seen fit to enact laws for the government of his people, He declared that " he that smiteth a man, so that he die, shall be surely put to death." Not only so; death was denounced upon the smiters merely of their parents, upon kidnappers and slave dealers, upon all who cursed their parents, &c. We see then that the authority is on the other side, and that God authorized taking away life for life.
Your essayist instances God's trial and punishment of Cain, and argues from the clemency shown to the first murderer, that life was not to be taken, even from a man slayer. He says truly that “civil tribunals pay great, veneration to ancient usages and immemorial customs; and especially to precedents taken from higher courts in similar cases." it not going too far to say that this example stands recorded for our imitation ? When Cain slew Abel the world was in its infancy, the crime was committed in the only family on earth, and God did not see fit to appoint the parent the executioner of his son. Besides, it is also a custom of courts of judicature implicitly to obey a statute in preference to any precedent, partic
But the writer of the essay
goes farther. He says God left on record "a most solemn declaration and warning to civil magistrates, and all others, not to shed the blood even of a murderer ;" and this is the proof, "Whosoever slayeth Cain, vengeance shall be taken on him seven fold." Because God, for purposes unknown to us, saw fit to spare Cain, and set a mark upon him, or gave him a sign, that no one should slay him, and afterwards decreed that murderers should be put to death, are we to understand that the "precedent" is solely obligatory upon mankind now, and that it is unlawful to inflict death as a punishment for murder? What reasoning! To threaten the vengeance of the Almighty on magistrates for administer ing the laws of the land appears to me highly repreher