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The words of the gospel are clear: "Out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies;" Mat. xv. 19. Therefore, in this commandment, God, by condemning every evil desire, cuts down evil at the root, and dries up the flood of iniquity at the very fountain head. Thus, the fifth commandment requires, that we should render due honour to the higher powers, and this commandment, that we should always be well disposed towards them in our hearts. The sixth commandment forbids the taking away our neighbour's life, and this forbids the very desire of so doing, or every internal emotion of anger towards him. According to the seventh, we must refrain from every unlawful fleshly lust; this forbids the very inclination to this evil. The eighth and ninth commandments forbid the taking away of another's property, and injuring his good name by evil speaking, and this forbids the very thoughts of so doing.
Conclusion of the explanation of the commandments.
In this salutary law of God's commandments, are contained eternal truths, which form the perfect rule of a godly life. O how happy are those who delight in the law of the Lord, and meditate
on it day and night! who rejoice in the embraces of virtue, and find the reward of their own good deeds within themselves, that is, peace of conscience! And this consideration exceeds every other object that can be desired, that the God who loveth them will continue to love them eternally, and will be united to them in a state of inconceivable bliss, according to these words of our Saviour: "If a man love me, he will keep my words: and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him."
Notwithstanding, though we should make ever so great advances in fulfilling the commandments of the Lord, and whatever degree of progress we may make in virtue, yet, when we consider, that all this is the fruit of divine grace, and that all our virtues are mixed with imperfections, we have not the least cause of self exaltation; but rather to keep in continual remembrance the words of the gospel: "When ye have done all those things which are commanded you, say, We are unprofitable servants; we have done that which was our duty to do."
Woe to the despisers of the holy will of the Lord, who, preferring sensual pleasure to spiritual, turn away from divine virtue, and, like dumb beasts, live the slaves of their own corrupt
passions. Even their present existence is more like death than life; but this evil is the more terrible, on account of its not ending with this life; for it subjects them to judgment in another, where the law itself will be the witness and judge of all their actions, even that very law which they now despise. For, according to the apostle, "as many as have sinned in the law, shall be judged by the law," Rom. ii. 12.
The co-operating influence of divine grace is necessary to the keeping of God's commandments; which, like every other good, is obtained through prayer.
Man being, in a spiritual sense, weak indeed, and unable of himself to choose that which is good, (as we have sufficiently shewn above), needs the all powerful grace of God to make up these deficiencies, by elevating his mind to the understanding of saving truth, and directing his heart to desire and attain real happiness. Of this the gospel not only informs us, but assures us, that our gracious God is always ready to help us in this work, which is so necessary to make us truly happy. "Without me," saith our Saviour, "ye can do nothing;" for, "As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide
in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me,” John xv. 5. And, in agreement with these words of the Master, is the reasoning of his chosen vessel, 2 Cor. iii. 4, “And such trust have we through Christ to God-ward: not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think any thing as of ourselves; but our sufficiency is of God."
This gracious assistance of our weakness to enable us to fulfil the will of our Maker, is not only necessary in spiritual concerns to direct us aright on our way to eternity, but in all things which respect even the present life. For the Lord is the Supreme Governor of all things, and he, from the light of his holiness, beholds all, and grants unto every creature a fit and proper portion of enjoyment, according to his infinite wisdom and goodness. In reference to this, St James has written, That "every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of Lights." Therefore, in order that we may always be assisted by the liberal gifts of our heavenly Father, we ought to offer up our hearty desires to him, and by sincere prayers knock at the door of his mercy. It is true that God knoweth before we ask what we stand in need of, and knows also what is proper to bestow upon us; but though this is the case, it frequently happens that a man does not receive
even that, which otherwise he would have received, had he, by fervent prayer, out of a pure heart, brought his inclinations to agree with the will of his gracious Maker.
What is Prayer?
Prayer is an offering up of our desires to God, and the supplication of spiritual good from him. That our prayers may be accepted of God, and effectual, it is necessary,
1. That we ask of him those things which he has prescribed in his word. For as a man who is unenlightened by the Holy Ghost cannot know in what his real happiness consists, so he is also unacquainted with what he should ask in his prayers. The great apostle confirms this, Rom. viii. 26, "The Spirit also helpeth our infirmities, for we know not what we should pray for as we ought; but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered."
The Holy Spirit in his word, has revealed to us, that we ought first of all to seek the kingdom of heaven, and the righteousness thereof, that is, the means by which it is obtained. that we should beg for this salvation of our souls immediately from God, that is, with the undoubted assurance, that this our petition is pleasing to