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There are many passages of the Bible which teach us this duty, and warn us against the want of charity and mercy. It is, in fact, that duty which we owe to our neighbour, and which is founded upon the love of God. He that despiseth his neighbour, sinneth; but he that hath mercy on the poor, happy (or blessed) is he.* And again: He that oppresseth the poor, reproacheth his Maker; but he that honoureth him, hath mercy on the poor.\ The righteous considereth the cause of the poor, but the wicked regardeth not to know it.$ Both the law and the prophets speak the same language on this subject. The poor shall never cease out of the laivd; therefore I command thee, saying, Thou shall open thine hand wide unto thy brother, to thy poor, and to thy needy in thy land.§
The Prophet Daniel, in his faithful address to the king of Babylon, gave him this excellent counsel, when he admonished him to rule with righteousness, and to have a proper regard to the wants and necessities of the poor. Wherefore, O king, let my counsel be acceptable unto thee, and break off thy sins by righteousness, and thine iniquities by shelving mercy to the poor; if it may be a lengthening of thy tranquillity. The argument of the prophet was plainly this: that if the king had a proper regard for the poor, and relieved their wants, God would regard him with favour and approbation according to his Divine nature. We are strictly
* Prov. xiv. 21. f Prov. xiv. 31.
% Prov. xxix. 7. § Deut. xv. 11.
commanded to do good to all men, and especially to them who are of the household of faith; which teaches us that the pious poor have a double claim to our charity and compassion—as poor, and as religious: and it looks as if that man had but little goodness and religion in himself, who could suffer any human creature, much more one who fears God, to want the common necessaries of life, when it is in his power to supply them. Those who are brought into distress by poverty and affliction of any kind, may reasonably expect mercy and compassion from every true Christian, even if they have not a right to relief* by the law of the land. But no law f ought to be made contrary to this precept and this principle of the Christian religion, for every law of human policy ought to be enacted in a manner consistent with the Divine authority. This is strictly a matter of conscience, and applies to Christians of every denomination, who profess to make the law of God the rule of their conduct in this world. The service here required is,
Srdly, To walk humbly with thy God. Humility is the crowning virtue of the Christian character. We are taught not to arrogate any merit to ourselves, if we obey the doctrines of the Gospel. We cannot be justified by our own good works before a God of infinite perfection, nor atone for our sins by our own repentance, for future amendment of life will not expiate the guilt of past iniquities. But we are taught a far better and
* See Page 46. f Ibid.
safer system of religion, by walking humbly with our God. To walk with God, in scriptural language, signifies to be a true, a faithful, and an obedient servant of God. Thus it is said of Enoch, that he walked with God, and he was not; for God took him.* His piety and holiness were so great, that it pleased God whom he served with so much sincerity and zeal, to distinguish him, by translating him to heaven without suffering the penalty of death. We are also informed that NoaJi was a just man and perfect in his generation; and Noah walked with God.\ As a reward for hia faithful services, his Lord and Master saved him and his family in the ark from perishing in the mighty waters of the deluge. Thus we, like the righteous in all ages and countries who have gone the same way to heaven, are instructed also to walk with God; and what is of the greatest importance, we are, like them, to walk humbly with God. We are to bring all our thoughts and desires, as well as our actions, into subjection to his will. If we would obtain the pardon of our sins, and be at peace with God, we must become obedient to the voice of the prophet in the words of the text, in reply to the anxious inquiry of the penitent Israelite. We are to humble ourselves before God, and to seek his mercy through the Mediator. We are to look to Christ as the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world,\ and to trust in him as our atonement and righteousness, and as the only means
* Gen. v. 24. \ Gen. vi. 9. % John i. 29.
of reconciliation with God afforded to sinful men. This is that good and saving truth which God teaches u* here by the mouth of his prophet. He hath 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 that reasonable service which God has a right to require of all his rational, intelligent, and dependent creatures. This is the sum and substance of the Law of Moses and the Gospel of Jesus Christ. For thus God was pleased to address the Israelites in old time. And now, Israel, what does the Lord thy God require of thee, but to fear the Lord thy God, to walk in all his ways, and to love him, and to serve the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul; to keep the commandments of the Lord, and his statutes, which I command thee this day, for thy good ?*
Many of the prophets speak exactly the same truth as Micah, and especially the Prophet Hosea, who saith, speaking in the name of the Lord, For I desired mercy, and not sacrifice; and the knowledge of God more than burnt-offerings. + This agrees also with what our Lord himself taught his disciples, when he said, Every man that liath heard and learned of ilve Father cometh unto me, i. e., by faith, seeking for salvation.% He taught also the same doctrine as the prophet on another occasion. When one acknowledged that there is one God,
* Deut. x. 12, 13. f Hos. vi. 6.
f John vi. 45.
and tliat to love the Lord with all the heart, and his neighbour as himself, is more than all burnt-offerings and sacrifices, he declared that he was not far from the kingdom of God. We see then the same system of religion revealed to both Jews and Christians, the same in the spirit if not in the letter; and we see also that it is a wise and salutary system, adapted to promote the glory of God, and the eternal welfare and happiness of mankind. What remains for us to do but to follow the directions of the prophet, To do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with our God. The way of salvation is so plainly revealed to us, that we are without excuse if we perish for lack of knowledge. Every humble and honest inquirer after truth may learn to know it by the light of Divine revelation, ff he will but seek and inquire concerning it. There is now no difficulty in distinguishing truth from error, except what arises from our loving darkness rather than light. Let us then attend to the reading and preaching of the word of God; let us lay aside our indifference, and repent of our neglect and abuse of the means of grace; let us learn to understand what the Lord requires of us; let us forsake every refuge of lies, and endeavour to do justly and to act rightly. Wherefore putting away lying, speak every man truth with his neighbour ;* and, Whatsoever we would that men should do to us, let us do even so to them. In the next place, Be ye merciful, as your heavenly Father also is merciful.f Let all bit
* Ephes. iv. 26. f Luke vi. 36.