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ordinances of the law of Moses, but spread from land to land, and are handed down from generation to generation, and, wherever the Gospel is known, serve as a guide of life and practice to all classes and conditions of mankind? Their peculiar character is, that the apostles, doing as their Master had done before them, when they gave a rule for what was to be done in any case or on any occasion, were not satisfied with giving the bare rule, but to the rule added the principle, which was the ground of its wholesomeness and worth. Now between a mere rule, which is the applying of a principle to some particular case, and the principle itself, there is just the same sort of difference as between bread and wheat. Let me beg you to attend to this comparison, on which I mean to dwell for a while, as I hope by the help of it to render an important truth clear and almost easy to you.
A rule, which has been drawn up for any particular purpose, may be likened to a loaf of bread: a principle on the other hand is like a handful of wheat. Every rule that is worth anything must be taken from a principle, just as a loaf of bread is made of wheat. For the wants and uses of the moment a rule is more serviceable than a principle; just as, when a man is hungry, bread is more welcome than wheat. For bread is wheat ready pre
pared for the sake of satisfying hunger: we have only to take and eat it. Hence for a hungry man a crust of bread is better and handier than so much unground wheat. Yet will any body say on this account that bread is a better thing than wheat? Suppose a man were going to some far country, where no corn grows, which would he take with him? bread, or wheat? Suppose a sailor were thrown with his family on a desert island, which would he wish for? for bread, or for wheat? Assuredly a single handful of wheat would be a greater godsend to the poor castaway than a whole shipload of bread. Why so? Because he
could plant the wheat, and could not plant the bread. The bread after a time would grow mouldy and be spoilt. The wheat, if it were sown, and proper care were taken of it, would grow, and flourish, and spread, until large fields were covered with it: and generation after generation might be fed by the produce of the single handful.
This is the great advantage which wheat has over bread. Bread may feed us for the moment; but, when once eaten, it is gone for ever. Wheat on the contrary will bear seed: it will increase and multiply: after one crop has had its day, and been reaped, and stored in the barn, and consumed, another crop, provided seed be
preserved, will spring up and so long as the earth itself lasts, so long will corn last also. Thus too is it with rules and principles. A rule is like a loaf of bread. It is a ready, handy application of a principle, a principle made up for immediate use. By rules we govern or rule children. We say to them, "Do this," or "Don't do that" because it is easy for them to understand a plain order; but it is not always easy to make them understand the principle or reason of it. When the child however comes to be a man, he puts away childish things. He wants a new set of rules adapted to his new state: for the rules of childhood he has outgrown, so that they no longer fit him. The rules which belong to one stage of life, are many of them ill-suited to other stages of life. In like manner the rules which belong to one class of men, or to one people, or to one age of the world, may not suit another class of men, or another people, or another age of the world. Hence different ages and different nations require different rules. To take an instance, the rule, or ordinance, or rite of circumcision, which St Paul talks so much about, was suited to the nonage of religion: accordingly God appointed it as a rule or ordinance to be observed by the Jews, who were living, so to say, in the infancy and childhood of religion. But when religion
came of age, when by the blessing of Jesus Christ it reached its full growth and stature, it away circumcision as a badge of its child
Now if every age of the world, and every people, and every class and order in society, and every stage of life, requires each its own rules, and if the rule which suits one will not suit another, how was God ever to give mankind rules enough to live by? What book is large enough to hold the countless swarms of them that would be wanted? Supposing that such a book had been written, it would have taken men their whole lives to read and learn it. What a hard matter too would it have been to pick out the rule needed for every particular occasion! The time for acting would have gone by, while we were making out what it behoved us to do. Therefore God, when he was graciously pleased to give us a law which was to serve, not for one country and one people, but for the whole world, did not give us an endless string of rules to be followed according to the letter in each particular case, but gave us the principles which are the ground and sources of all rules, and from which the rules are to be drawn. Even as for the nourishment of our bodies he has not given us bread, but wheat, leaving it for us to sow the wheat, and,
when it has come up, to reap it, and to thresh it, and to grind it, and to bake it into bread, or cakes, or what we please; in like manner for the strengthening of our souls has he set before us what is good and right, not for one man more than another man, or for one country more than another country, or for one age more than another age, but for all men, in all countries, and in all ages and having given us thus much, having given us the seeds of all rules, he has left us in great measure to grow the rules for ourselves: he has left us to apply the principles to particular cases, and to draw the rules for each case out of them. Thus, when he did away the ordinance of circumcision, at the very time when he took away the rule, he vouchsafed to give us the principle of that rule in its stead. When he abolished the rite by his apostle, St Paul, he declared the meaning of the rite he told us that the thing signified was the circumcision or purifying of the heart: and having thus shewn us this great and high principle,—a principle which concerns all mankind, and will concern them all until the end of the world, since all men have hearts to purify, and hearts that greatly need to be purified,—he has left it to the judgement and conscience of each of us to apply the principle to his own wants, and to frame rules for himself accordingly. Do we