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THE DUTY OF MAN.
Micaii vi. 8.
He Has Shewed Thee, O Man, What Is Good; And
WHAT DOTH THE Lord REQUIRE OF THEE, BUT TO DO JUSTLY, AND TO LOVE MERCY, AND TO WALK HUMBLY WITH THY GOD.
We find from the preceding verses of this chapter, that the Lord had a controversy with his people; and the ground of this controversy was, their rebellion and ingratitude. God condescended to expostulate with his people, and desires them to assign their reasons, if they had any, for their having forsaken him, and neglected his worship. He reminds them, that he brought them up out of the land of Egypt, and redeemed them out of the house of bondage, and sent before them Moses, and Aaron, and Miriam, to guide and govern them in the knowledge and obedience of his laws. He reminds them also of other mercies and other deliverances, which they had either forgotten or abused. After this pathetic expostulation with the Jewish people, and this solemn reproof of their ingratitude and rebellion, they are introduced by the Prophet as humbly sensible of the baseness of their conduct, and desirous of making atonement and satisfaction for their sins. They are represented as anxiously inquiring, Wherewith shall I come before the Lord, and bow myself before the most high God? They were anxious to appease the anger of God, and to avert his judgments from them, to obtain his forgiveness, and favour, and blessing. If it were necessary, they plainly intimate they would bring the most numerous and costly offerings. They ask if God will accept of the ordinary sacrifices, such as they offered on other occasions, and such as were required in his law. Shall I come before him with burnt-offerings, with calves of a year old? Or else, does he expect a more costly offering, such as our kings have sometimes made upon extraordinary occasions. Will the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams, or with tei thousands of rivers of oil? We are ready to make such a sacrifice, if it will be accepted; or else, shall we offer up our own children, as some do, to appease the anger of their offended deities. Shall I give my first-born for my transgressions, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul? We do not refuse to do even this service, if it should be required of us. Now the answer to all this inquiry is contained in the words of the text: He has shewed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the Lord require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God. This is the most acceptable service to God; this is better than all the
sacrifices before mentioned. Let but this be done—let this duty be rightly performed, and the controversy is at an end, the difference is made up, the wrath of God is appeased; and he will show you favour, and will have mercy upon you; he will remove his judgments, and bestow on you the blessings of his providence and grace.
The subject is further illustrated at the conclusion of the chapter, where the Lord complains of the deceitfulness and insincerity of the people. Are there yet the treasures of wickedness in the house of the wicked, and the scant measure that is abominable? Shall I count them pure with the wicked balances and the bag of deceitful weights? It is in vain to think I shall be reconciled to those who continue to practise fraud and injustice, or that I shall approve of and bless those who persist in their idolatrous and superstitious worship. While the ordinances and decrees of Omri and Ahab, two of their most wicked kings, were kept and observed, the commandments of God were disobeyed, his worship neglected, and his word despised; and therefore it was that God determined to punish this ungrateful and rebellious people with his severest judgments. For the statutes of Omri are kept, and all the works of the house of Ahab. And ye walk in their counsels, that I should make thee a desolation, and the inhabitants thereof a reproach.
Such is the introduction of the subject which is given in the context; and I shall now proceed to explain the nature of the service which is here required of us, and to prove that it is a reasonable service, and what God has a right to require of us. We are required,
1st, To do justly. Justice is a very comprehensive, as well as a very important, term. It implies truth and honesty in all respects. It obliges us to speak the truth on all occasions, for nothing is more necessary to justice than the truth. We cannot do justly in any case without a knowledge of the truth; and if we know the truth, and do not speak it, we act most unjustly. Especially we do wrong and great injury to others, when we bear false testimony, or bring false accusation, against them. There is hardly any greater sin than that of perjury; and the love of scandal, and a disposition to slander our neighbour, is a direct violation of the law of God.
To do justly is also to act honestly on all occasions. Let no man go beyond or defraud his brother in any matter,* is expressly commanded as a positive duty, which cannot be dispensed with on any pretence. To injure the property or the character of another is an offence both against truth and honesty; and if we carry these principles out in a religious, as well as in a moral sense, we shall see that they extend to sincerity in our Christian profession, and in every act of worship. So far from objecting to the truth of the Gospel, or opposing its sacred and salutary doctrines, we are to receive them with all readiness of mind, and to be steadfast in
* 1 Thess. iv. 6.
maintaining them. We should remember that the only ground which was fruitful in the parable of the Sower, was that where the hearers of the word received the seed in hottest and good hearts. To do justly, therefore, is to act honestly and rightly, with a proper regard to truth, both in a moral and religious sense. We are here required, 2ndly, To love mercy. Mercy signifies Christian charity in its highest sense. It is benevolence and humanity exercised towards those who are in affliction or distress. Of course the poor, especially the aged, the sick, and the infirm, are the objects of this compassion and charity. Much of the goodness of the Christian character is included in that of the merciful man; and it was for this reason that our Lord declared, Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy. By the goodness of the Christian character, I mean that good feeling and disposition of mind, and that good-will towards our fellow-creatures, and more particularly towards such persons as are proper objects, which proceeds from the true and genuine principles of the Christian religion. The merciful man delights in alleviating the miseries of human life. He desires to imitate the example of a merciful God, who maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and settdeth rain on the just and on the unjust.* As we Jiave the poor always with us, it is our duty always to assist their endeavours, and to relieve their wants, as much as circumstances will admit and our means will afford.
# Matt. v. 45.