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other regards him as a mortal enemy, who endeavours to prevail with hiin to renounce a passion, in the gratification of which all his happiness depends.
Let us lay down the love of God as a foundation of all virtue. Let us love him chiefly, who is supremely lovely Let our hearts adopt the language of the Psalmist, Access to God is my supreme good. Whom have I in heaven but thee, and there is none upon the earth that I desire besides thee, Psal. lxxiii. 28. 25. Let us consider and avoid, as acts of idolatry, all iminoderately lively and affectionate emotions of love to creatures. Let us entertain only a small degree of attachment to objects, which at most can procure us only a momentary felicity. A favourite passion is a second disposi
tion of mind, that renders us guilty of a violation of the whole - law, even while we seem to violate it only in an inconsiderable part.
3. Finally, Intractable minds are condemned in our text. Docility is 'a touchstone, by which a doubtful piety may be known to be real, or apparent. The royal prophet describes in the fiftieth psalm such a rigid observer of the exterior of religion, as we speak of; a man, who has the name of God always in his mouth, and is ever talking of the holiness of his laws; a inan, always ready to offer whole hecatombs in sacrifice: but who has not patience to hear a representation of his duty, and an exhortation to perform it. The psalmist declares, all this appearance of devotion, if unaccompanied with docility, is useless, yea, more likely to arouse the anger of God than to obtain his favour. Thou wicked wretch ! says he, in the name of God, to this phantom of piety, who imposes on the church by his outward appearance, and who perhaps imposeth on himself; Thou wicked man; what hast thou to declare my statutes, or that thou shouldest take my covenunt in thy mouth, seeing thou hatest instruction? ver. 16. He authoriseth us to use the same language to some of you. Why this assiduity at church, why this zeal on solemn festival, why this fervour at the Lord's table, seeing you are unteachable; seeing you love none but vague maxims of virtue and holiness ; seeing you will not allow your casuist to enter into some details ; seeing every man loses your favour if he hints your foibles; seeing your tenderest, and most faithful friend would become suspected directly, yea, would seem an impertinent censor, the moment he should discover your faults, and endeavour to make you acknowledge and reform them?
My brethren! if we love virtue, we love all the means, that lead to it, and with peculiar pleasure behold them, who recommend it. Nothing is more opposite to that general devotedness to the laws of God, which my text prescribes, than a spirit iniinical against them, who have the courage to controul the passions. He, that turneth away his ear from hearing the law, even his prayer shall be abomination, Prov. xxviii. 9. Whoso loveth instruction loveth knowledge, chap. xii. i. The low of the wise is a fountain of life, to depart from the snares of death, chap. xiii. 14. Let the righteous smite me, it shall be a kindndess; and let him reprove me, it shall be an excellent oil, that shall not break my head, Psal. cxli. 5. May God always continue a succession of such righteous men, and may he incline our hearts to profit by their instructions! To him be honour and glory for ever. Amen.
THE GREAT DUTIES OF RELIGION.
MATT. xxiii. 23. Woe unto you, Scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites ; for ye
pay tithe of mint, and anise, and cummin, and have omitted the weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy, and faith : these ye ought to have done, and not to
leave the other undone. WVE frequently meet with a sort of people in the world, VV who some of them neglect the chief virtues of religion, and supply the want of them by performing the least articles of it; and others, who perform the chief duties, and neglect the least. Observe one man, who cherishes a spirit of bitterness, and is all swelled with pride, envy and revenge ; by what art hath he required a reputation of eminent piety? By grave looks, by an affected simplicity of dress, by an assiduity in the exercises of public worship. See another, who is all immersed in worldly affairs, whose life is all consumed in pleasure, who neglects, and who affects to neglect both public worship, and private devotion. Ask him how he expects to escape in a well-regulated society that just censure, which irregular actions, and a way of living inconsistent with christianity, deserve. He will tell you, I am a man of honour, I pay my debt, I am faithful to my engagements, I never break my word.
We are going to-day, my brethren, to attack both classes of this inconsistent sort of people, and to prove, that the practice of small virtues cannot supply the want of the chief, and that the performance of the chief virtues cannot make up for the omission of the least. These points are determined by Jesus Christ in the text. On the one hand, he denounces a woe against the Scribes and Pharisees, who scru
pulously pulously extended their obedience to the Mosaical law of tithes to the utmost limits, while they violated the more indispensible precepts of morality. On the other hand, he does not intend to divert the attention of his disciples from the least duties by enforcing the greatest. These ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone. As if he had said, Your principal attention, indeed, should be directed to equity of judgment, to charitable distribution of property, and to sincerity of conversation : bur, beside an attention to these, you should diligently discharge the less considerable duty of tithing, and other such obligations. These are two propositions, which I will endeavour to explain and establish. They will afford matter for two discourses, the first on the chief virtues, and the last on the least, or, more strictly speaking, the less considerable. Some preliminary remarks, however, are absolutely necessary for our understanding the text.
1. The word, that should determine the sense, is equivocal in the original, and signifies sometimes to exact tithes, and at other times to pay them. It is used in the first sense in Hebrews, the sons of Levi have a commandment to take tithes of the people, and a little after he, whose descent is not counted for them, received tithes of Abraham, chap. vii. 5, 6. But, in the gospel of St. Luke, the word, which we have elsewhere rendered to receive tithes, signifies to pay thein, I give tithes, saith the pharisee, of all that I possess, chap. xviii. 12.
The ambiguity of this term hath produced various opipions concerning the meaning of our text. The most labosious, and the most learned of the ancient expositors, I mean St. Jerom, is said to have taken the term in the first sense, According to this hypothesis, Jesus Christ paints the Pharisees here in colours, which have almost always too well suited the persons, to whom governments have entrusted the business of tax-gathering. Inhumanity has almost always been their character, Ye tithe mint, anise, and cummin, and ye omit judgment, mercij, and faith. As if he had said, You tithe inconsiderable herbs, and you do not reflect, that it is incompatible with principles both of equity and mercy to tithe inconsiderable articles, from which the proprietors derive little or no advantage. It is not right, that that these things should be subject to such impoşts as government charge on articles of great consequence.
We embrace the sense of our translators, and take the word to signify here pay tilhes. This sense best agrees
with the whole text. Ye pay tithes of mint, anise, and cummin, and have omitted the weightier matters of the law. These ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone. It agrees better also with the following words, ye strain at a gnat, and swallow a camel. This is a proverbial way of speaking, descriptive of that dispostion of mind, which inclines men to perform inconsiderable duties with a most scrupulous exactness, and to violate without any scruple the most essential articles of religion. The hypocrisy of the Pharisees would have been less remarkable in an inhuman exaction of tithes, than in a parade of paying thein with a rigid nicety. Accordingly, it is a Pharisee, who speaks the words just now cited from St. Luke, and who reckons scrupulosity among his virtues. God, I thank thee, that I ani not as other men are. I fast twice in the week, I give tithes of all that I possess, that is to say, I pay tithes of those things, which seem to be too inconsiderable to be tithed.
2. Our second remark regards the law of tithes. Tithes were dues payable to God, and they consisted of the tenth of the produce of whatever was thitheable. The Jews pretended, that the example of Abraham, who paid to God, in the person Melchisedeck his minister, a tenth of the spoils, which he took from the confederate kings of the plain, ought to have the force of a law with all its descendants. To this mysterious circumstance they refer the origin of tithes. Natural religion seems to have inculcated among the pagans the necessity of paying this kind of homage to God. We meet with examples among the heathens for time immemorial, With them tithes were considered as a sacred tax. Hence Pisistratus, a tyrant of Athens, said to the Athenians, in order to obtain their consent to submit to his authority, Inquire whether I appropriate tithes to myself, and do not religiously carry them to the temples of the gods. We will not multiply quotations. It shall suffice to say, God declared to the Israelites, that the land of Canaan was his, as well as the rest of the world, that they should enjoy the produce of the land: but should be strangers and pilgrims, and have no absolute disposal of the lands themselves. In the quality of sole proprietor he obliged them to pay him homage, and this is the true origin of tithes. All the tithe of the land, whether of the seed of the land, or of the fruit of the tree, is the Lord's, Lev. xxvii. 30. that is, tithe belongs to God of right, and cannot be withheld without sacrilege.